In his last appearance at the Human Rights Council in Geneva in his capacity as the U.N.’s human rights envoy to Cambodia, Surya Subedi on Wednesday made a final plea to the government to embrace “independent institutions” in order to realize real reform.
“If I were to choose one recommendation as the sum of all others I have made during my time on the mandate, it would be that the government should reconsider its opposition to independent institutions,” he said.
“Only when such independence is guaranteed, of the judiciary, the National Election Committee and parliament itself, Cambodia will be on the path toward real reform.”
Mr. Subedi’s appearance comes exactly one month after the release of his sixth report on human rights in Cambodia, which found that while the country was moving in a positive direction, the use of excessive violence by state security forces and arbitrary bans on protest “ran counter to this trend.”
In his speech to the council, Mr. Subedi told member states that Cambodia had changed “a great deal” since he took up the post in 2009.
“The government has implemented some of my recommendations and has assured me some others are in the process of being implemented,” he said, adding that Cambodia is “currently in the process of peaceful transition” following last year’s disputed national election and the ensuing 10-month political deadlock.
Mr. Subedi said that since the ruling CPP and opposition CNRP have come together in the National Assembly, there was a “ray of hope that future elections might be freer and fairer than in the past.”
But the envoy warned that while Cambodia was in a state of political transition, the huma rights situation was still poor.
“The political environment may have changed in Cambodia, but the fundamentals of governance and human rights protection have not.”
Speaking after Mr. Subedi on Wednesday, Cambodia’s ambassador to the U.N., Ney Samol, said the government was making strides in the areas of electoral, judicial and parliamentary reform, and that negotiations to establish an independent human rights body were continuing.
Mr. Samol noted that Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ambitious land-titling scheme, launched in June 2012, has seen the issuance of some 3.5 million property titles.
The ambassador also thanked Mr. Subedi.
“The [government] thanks the special rapporteur again for his able, hard work, and assures him that we look forward to retaining a constructive engagement with him,” Mr. Samol said.
“We are also pleased with [the] overall assessment of [the] special rapporteur that, generally, the situation of human rights in Cambodia is moving forward on the right track.”