Cambodia on Thursday rejected four recommendations for improving its human rights situation that it initially accepted earlier this year during its second universal periodic review at the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva.
It also “noted” 38 recommendations—meaning it has not committed to implementing them—some relating to freedoms of expression and assembly and excessive pre-trial detention.
The four rejected recommendations pertain to protecting press freedom by repealing the defamation article in the Criminal Code and a Press Law article on publishing false information; ensuring the right to education for all children in Cambodia, including those of Vietnamese origin; combating discrimination against children of vulnerable and marginalized groups; and doing more to address school dropout rates.
In January, 76 delegations put 205 recommendations to Cambodia, of which it initially accepted 171. On Thursday, however, Cambodia’s ambassador to the U.N., Ney Samol, said that number had changed upon further reflection.
“After conducting numbers of meetings with all stakeholders to carefully consider these recommendations, the Royal Government of Cambodia has decided to accept 163 recommendations out of the 205, accounting for 79.5 percent,” Mr. Samol said in a speech to the council, which had been delayed by a week.
Although Mr. Samol did not elaborate as to why these proposals were dropped, a document from his office to the council obtained on Wednesday night explains that this decision was made because “these recommendations are contrary to the Constitution and laws of the Kingdom of Cambodia.”
Nicolas Agostini, the delegate of the International Federation of Human Rights to the U.N., said by email that this was the first time a country has “un-accepted” recommendations made during its review.
“During its first UPR review [in 2009], Cambodia accepted each and every recommendation that was made to it. Implementation was close to non-existent. For its second UPR review, it seems there has been a change in strategy. In a sense, the Cambodian government is more straightforward in its defiance of international human rights standards,” Mr. Agostini said.
“Accepting [UPR] recommendations is all about political will. Today, the Cambodian government has sent a clear message that it does not intend to uphold the basic human rights of its citizens.”