UN Concerned Over Suppression of Rights

The U.N.’s General Assembly released its latest round of recommendations to improve the human rights situation in Cambodia on Thursday following a review held last week in Geneva.

The statements made by delegations from 76 countries during the review urged Cambodia to fulfill its promise to establish an independent human rights body, implement reforms to create an independent judiciary, undertake sweeping electoral reforms, and improve protection of women and children.

A number of countries also counseled the government to restore the constitutional freedoms of assembly, association and expression following a violent suppression of demonstrations and dissent last month in which five protesters were killed, 23 imprisoned and dozens more injured.

“Promote a safe and favorable environment that allows individuals and groups to exercise the freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly and put an end to harassment, intimidation, arbitrary arrests and physical attacks particularly in the context of peaceful demonstrations,” the delegation from Switzerland recommended.

“Investigate impartially cases of use of excessive force against protesters and cases of killings during the recent demonstrations,” the Czech Republic recommended.

Maina Kiai, the U.N.’s special rapporteur on the rights to freedom of association and peaceful assembly, announced on Friday that he would visit Cambodia from February 5 to 7.

“The post-election protest movement in Cambodia has been remarkable in its size and persistence,” Mr. Kiai said in a statement. “This is a testament to the importance of the right to peaceful assembly, and I am deeply concerned by the authorities’ harsh crackdown over the past month.”

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said Sunday that the Ministry of Interior is monitoring the political situation, and would continue to selectively decide which groups are allowed to assemble and demonstrate.

“On that issue [freedom of assembly] we have to restore law and order, peace…and calmness first and [then] bring back [freedom of assembly],” he said.

Kheng Tito, spokesman for the military police, said in January that the freedom to demonstrate would not be restored until the elected opposition lawmakers end their boycott of the National Assembly by taking their 55 seats in parliament.

Mr. Siphan said Sunday that the ban does not apply to all groups equally.

“I think that some organizations still have the right to hold [demonstrations], but…not the CNRP and other related organizations,” he said.

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