UN rights envoy 'saddened' by situation in Cambodia

Notes that poor members of Cham Muslim community struggling with 'access to clean water, sanitation and healthcare'

UN rights envoy 'saddened' by situation in Cambodia

World Bulletin / News Desk

The United Nations human rights envoy to Cambodia has wrapped up her third mission by lamenting the deterioration of the political situation in a speech peppered with references to the upcoming 25th anniversary of the Paris Peace Accords.

The accords marked the official end of the Cambodian-Vietnamese War in 1991, paving the way for Cambodia to establish a new constitution and hold UN-backed elections two years later.

The anniversary is to be held Oct. 23 -- a public holiday -- when the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party is hoping to hold a gathering in the capital.

 Rhona Smith, a professor of international human rights, said in prepared remarks Wednesday that the Cambodia of today is “very different” from the one that emerged from decades of conflict in the early 90s, and that “the time for the government to blame the troubles of the last century for the situation today is truly over”.

 The situation today, according to Smith, is one in which she is “saddened by the deterioration in the political situation” since her last mission in March.

 This time, police beat three people --including a human rights monitor -- during a World habitat Day march on the first day of her mission.

Smith said she had also visited two overcrowded men’s and women’s prisons; a detention center where homeless people are swept up off the streets and held “against their will,” and met with indigenous communities, where she noted that poor members of the Cham Muslim community are struggling with “access to clean water, sanitation and healthcare”.

At the prisons, Smith said she was refused meetings with five human rights workers awaiting trial for assisting the mistress of an opposition leader, and an opposition senator, who is accused of posting a fake Cambodia-Vietnam border treaty on his Facebook page.

 “With respect to the five detained individuals from ADHOC, I reiterate my call at the UN Human Rights Council that their charges should be proven or they should be released immediately with their case closed,” Smith said after claiming that the law is, in many cases, “applied in an apparently discriminatory or politicized manner”.

 In response to a question, Smith conceded that there is “no doubt that many elements of the Paris Peace Accords are not fully fulfilled in Cambodia”.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan told Anadolu Agency on Wednesday that Smith should “put the blame on her own organization, the UN”.

 “It was the UN’s job as UNTAC to disarm the Khmer Rouge soldiers, and they failed to encourage the Khmer Rouge to participate in the general elections. Besides that, the wishes from the signatories have been formulated in the constitution already,” he said.

 As for the political situation, Siphan denied any deterioration.

Self-exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy has “run away from home,” he said, and the ruling Cambodian People’s Party doesn’t have “any problem at all, except the persons who are involved in wrong activities that abuse the law.”

Smith's concerns about the failure to uphold the basic tenets of the accords coincided with the release of a separate statement by a consortium of NGOs on Wednesday, which said they were “deeply concerned” about the current climate in Cambodia.

 “The past year and a half has been marked by an increasing disregard for the democratic principles enshrined in the Paris Peace Accords,” the groups said.

“As Cambodia looks to elections in 2017 and 2018, there remains concerns that the situation, if neglected, will decline further, leading to a complete collapse of the settlement agreed in Paris a quarter of a century ago.”

 

Last Mod: 19 Ekim 2016, 16:45
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