The most serious human rights issues facing Cambodia are a lack of independence in the judiciary, an adversarial relationship between the government and NGOs, and concerns over land rights, new UN human rights envoy Surya Subedi said Thursday.
Those remarks were made at a news conference wrapping up his first visit to Cambodia, during which Mr Subedi praised the commitment of the Cambodian government to human rights, and described his numerous meetings with officials as “constructive.”
However, he said, “This country has so many human rights issues.”
The new special rapporteur for human rights added that he hoped to address those issues by opening a “channel of communication” with the Cambodian government.
Mr Subedi said that during his tenure as envoy, he hopes to explore the possibility of acting as a “bridge” between the government and civil society, encouraging better cooperation between the two sectors, which he acknowledged has been lacking.
“Both sides have said they are working in the best interest of the people,” he said. “If that is the case, how can I bring both sides together?”
Government spokesman and Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith agreed Thursday that land disputes and the court system are serious problems in Cambodia.
However, he said, “Out of 13 million people in Cambodia, only 30,000 people are involved in land disputes. This is only a small problem.”
He added that the government is trying to work through the court system to solve each land dispute, one by one. Mr Kanharith also said that Cambodia is looking to international examples to strengthen the country’s judiciary.
“In Cambodia, we have not enough judges and prosecutors, and the government is still reforming the court system,” he said, adding that the state had to build a court system from the ground up after the fall of the Khmer Rouge 30 years ago.