Cambodia: the Council must be prepared to take action to guarantee human rights and free & fair elections

Statement at the 49th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

Item 10: Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Cambodia

Delivered by Lisa Majumdar

This is a critical moment for Cambodia ahead of local elections this year and national elections next year.

The resolution adopted last session has not resulted in any tangible human rights improvements on the ground. The Cambodian government continues to invoke laws to arbitrarily restrict human rights, undermine and weaken civil society, and criminalise individuals’ exercise of their right to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.

Human rights defenders, activists and journalists are regularly subjected to harassment and legal action. Labour strikes by the Labour Rights Supported Union of Khmer Employees of NagaWorld (LRSU) have been disrupted and protesters met with state-sponsored violence, including sexual harassment, and arbitrary arrests. Cambodia’s highly politicised judicial system leaves defendants deemed a threat to the interests of the government with virtually no prospect of a fair trial.

The last round of elections, held in 2017 and 2018, were neither free nor fair. Since then, attacks on civil and political rights and the systematic dismantlement of any credible opposition have made Cambodia a de facto one-party State. Earlier this month, Cambodian courts convicted and sentenced 20 former members of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party to prison sentences of 5-10 years following a mass trial on bogus charges of incitement and plotting. Many other opposition activists are standing trial on politically motivated charges. Peaceful gatherings organised by families of jailed opposition activists to demand their release have frequently been met with excessive force by the authorities.

If the elections take place in the current climate, they will further entrench a ruling party which has proven that it will use any legislative or extra-legal means at its disposal to remain in power.

There are steps Cambodia can take to improve its human rights situation ahead of elections, which include removing restrictions on civil society; improving space for political participation; and ensuring that independent media can operate freely and without fear of reprisal.

This Council must be prepared to take further action on Cambodia should these not be met.

We thank you.

 Civic space in Cambodia is rated as repressed as by the CIVICUS Monitor 


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