The Cambodian government accepted 173 UPR recommendations but rejected key recommendations on civil and political rights. This is not surprising, as the Hun Sen government is in the midst of its biggest attack in a generation on the media, NGOs, opposition politicians, and critical voices. As an excuse for these violations, the government claims that the executive “does not interfere in the works of judges and prosecutors.”
The Cambodian people were deprived of free and fair national elections in 2018. After the government-controlled courts dissolved the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), the ruling Cambodian People’s Party took all the seats in the National Assembly, effectively turning Cambodia into a one-party state. Longtime opposition leader Sam Rainsy remains in exile after politically motivated convictions, while the CNRP president, Kem Sokha, remains under house arrest after a year in jail on trumped-up treason charges.
We are appalled to read the government’s false claim that there are currently no political prisoners in Cambodia; in fact there are more than 35. Since the beginning of 2019, local authorities and prosecutors have summoned over 145 former local opposition officials and activists. Activists and journalists continue to risk harassment and imprisonment for their work and bravely speaking out. Criticism of the government on Facebook has resulted in arrests.
During its previous UPR in 2014, the government committed to revise existing laws to meet international standards, but instead it has since adopted new repressive legislation and amended other laws to further restrict freedom of expression, assembly and association. This includes the NGO law, the Trade Union Law, the Telecommunications Law, a lese majeste clause in the penal code, amendments to the Constitution and a national decree allowing the authorities to remove and block content online on the basis of undefined and broad grounds. We are also concerned about the announcement of a “fake news” and cybersecurity bill, which could mean the end of online freedom in Cambodia.
The Cambodian government should reverse course and accept all UPR recommendations related to civil and political rights, including dropping all politically motivated criminal charges, releasing political prisoners, and amending or repealing repressive laws that restrict basic rights. This Council should hold them to account if they fail to do so.