UN Rights Envoy Claims General Election ‘Not Genuine’ Without Banned Opposition Party

UN Rights Envoy Claims General Election ‘Not Genuine’ Without Banned Opposition Party


UN Envoy on Human Rights Rhona Smith at a press conference on human rights in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, March 14, 2018. (Hul Reaksmey/VOA Khmer)
UN Envoy on Human Rights Rhona Smith at a press conference on human rights in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, March 14, 2018. (Hul Reaksmey/VOA Khmer)

Rhona Smith said the government must immediately release the detained opposition leaders and lift a ban on the opposition taking part in the July 29 general election.

Rhona Smith, the UN’s special rapporteur on human rights in Cambodia, has said that the country’s forthcoming national election will not be “genuine” without the participation of the banned Cambodia National Rescue Party.

The CNRP was dissolved by the Supreme Court last November after its leaders were charged with treason for their alleged role in a foreign-backed plot of overthrow Prime Minister Hun Sen.

“No election can be genuine if the main opposition party is barred from taking part,” she said in a statement.

Smith stressed that the government must immediately release the detained opposition leaders and lift a ban on the opposition taking part in the July 29 general election.

“Those who currently rule the country have one final opportunity to reverse the current trajectory, and return instead to the constitutional path of multi-party democracy and genuine elections —ensuring a level playing field for all political parties,” she added.

The appeal to the ruling Cambodian People’s Party came on the same day that the National Election Committee (NEC) announced the start of official registrations for the election, which is due to be held on July 29.

However, Hun Sen defended the process, saying in a speech that any delay to the election would be unconstitutional.

“The constitution must be changed for a delay. The law must be changed for a delay. The National Election Committee has no right to delay [the election] because this procedure is set by the law we made,” he said.

“A dead person that passed away was burned without knowing the whereabouts of the bone. It will not survive. Only the real parties can stand for the election. Thus, [we] see it in black and white,” he added, referring to the CNRP.

Hang Puthea, NEC spokesman, said Smith may have misunderstood legal proceedings in Cambodia, saying “at least ten political parties intend to take part in the election.

Independent UN expert welcomes electoral reform agreement in Cambodia

Op-Ed: UNs

Independent UN expert welcomes electoral reform agreement in Cambodia

Surya P. Subedi, Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights in Cambodia. UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

6 March 2014 – An independent United Nations human rights expert hailed a five-point agreement reached today by Cambodia’s two main political parties to initiate electoral reforms in the country towards a more transparent process, and greater freedom of expression and right to public assembly.

“I welcome the agreements reached by the Joint Committee composed of members of the Cambodian People’s Party and the Cambodian National Rescue Party to proceed, among other things, on two concrete measures for electoral reform: to review the voter registry and to elaborate a draft law on the financing of political parties,” said Surya P. Subedi, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia.

“I hope with cautious optimism that progress toward the remaining unresolved issues would soon be made between the two parties.”

In a news release, Mr. Subedi stressed the importance of the agreement for the country, noting that the matters to be discussed by both political parties “are of concern to all Cambodians [and] are issues on which all Cambodians have the fundamental human right to express themselves, whether through demonstrations, marches or other means.”

Members of the opposition have been boycotting the Cambodian National Assembly since the middle of last year in a reported attempt to oust Prime Minister Hun Sen, whose win in July extended his 28-year rule, alleging vote-rigging and calling for a new election. The boycott escalated into demonstrations and deadly clashes with the police. A ban on demonstration was subsequently imposed in the Kingdom shortly thereafter.

Mr. Subedi welcomed the announcement made by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on 25 February to lift the ban. “Since its imposition, I have urged the Royal Government to remove the ban, which in my view was contrary to Cambodia’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and its own constitution,” he said, though expressing concerns that some demonstrations may “continue to be blocked,” and persons are “still routinely detained for distributing leaflets encouraging workers to strike.”

Stating that the right to demonstrate and mobilize people to take part in demonstrations is “part and parcel of the right to peaceful assembly,” he emphasized that “the practice of arbitrarily detaining persons until they thumbprint a document agreeing to refrain from participating in future demonstrations is a violation of multiple human rights and must cease.”

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