UN Envoy Discusses Beating of Lawmakers

The U.N.’s human rights envoy to Cambodia said on Tuesday that she raised the violent attacks on opposition lawmakers outside the National Assembly in October during the first day of official meetings for her latest fact-finding mission to the country.

Rhona Smith, who arrived Monday and leaves next Thursday, spent the morning with Nguon Nhel, the acting president of the National Assembly. She said they discussed a wide range of issues, including the attacks on opposition lawmakers Nhay Chamroeun and Kong Saphea, who were beaten and severely injured by protesters.

Wan-Hea Lee, country representative for the UN's human rights office, left, and Rhona Smith, the UN's special rapporteur on human rights in Cambodia, arrive at the Ministry of Justice in Phnom Penh on Tuesday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
Wan-Hea Lee, country representative for the UN’s human rights office, left, and Rhona Smith, the UN’s special rapporteur on human rights in Cambodia, arrive at the Ministry of Justice in Phnom Penh on Tuesday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

“The main issue I discussed was the need for the National Assembly to guarantee the security of all members of parliament at all times and the issues concerning the fact they were attacked so close to the building,” Ms. Smith told reporters.

Three soldiers were arrested for the attack and remain in provisional detention after being charged with intentional violence. The government has refused to say what unit the men were members of.

Assembly spokesman Leng Peng Long confirmed that the attacks were discussed on Tuesday.

“We have condemned the perpetrators, and the government has taken legal action on that issue,” he said.

After meeting with the ministers of culture and environment, Ms. Smith met with Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana to discuss ongoing reforms at the ministry.

Ms. Smith declined to say whether she had seen any improvement in the courts since her first visit in September but added that Mr. Vong Vathana had assured her that progress was being made.

“I think there’s often a difference between what the laws say and then the implementation, and His Excellency made it very clear they were working towards trying to translate the laws into the best possible practice to protect rights in Cambodia,” she said.

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