Kem Sokha meets UN rights official

Source: Khmer Times

Rhona Smith (centre) with Kem Sokha. Supplied

The opposition CNRP yesterday met UN Rapporteur for Human Rights in Cambodia Rhona Smith, urging her to recognise and raise the issue of political suppression before the June commune elections.

CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said leader Kem Sokha met Ms Smith and raised concerns over the ruling CPP’s use of the National Assembly and courts to suppress political freedom prior to the elections, urging her to raise the issues with the government before next year’s general election.

“We told her our concerns about the political atmosphere that was seriously oppressive,” Mr Sovann said.

He cited  the amendments to the political parties law, NGOs law and harassment of human rights activists and oppositions members who remained in jail.

Mr Sovann said the political party law amendments were aimed at ending former CNRP leader Sam Rainsy’s political career, and that the new NGO law had given the government sweeping powers to monitor the activities of NGOs.

“The  CPP used the court system to suppress the opposition party,” he said.

CPP spokesman Sok Eysan dismissed the allegations.

“She might not fully understand the situation in Cambodia,” he said of Ms Smith’s outlook after meeting the CNRP. “There was no suppression.”

“The Law on Political Parties was amended so that all political parties cannot be involved with convicts, not just the opposition CNRP,” he added. “We are not worried about their meeting. It is her business.”

Mr Eysan said Ms Smith was like her predecessors. “They come to Cambodia with their own ideologies to colonise the Khmer and attack the government.”

Sam Kuntheamy, executive director of elections watchdog NICFEC, said Ms Smith’s current tour of the country was needed before next year’s national election.

“It will help the human rights situation in Cambodia,” Mr Kuntheamy said, adding that the CPP always denied human rights and political freedom abuses.

Ms Smith also met Interior Minister Sar Kheng yesterday.

Por Pheak, chief secretariat of the Interior Ministry, said they discussed the NGO law, high voter turnout in the commune elections, and prison overcrowding following the government’s anti-drug campaign.

“Of course, we have arrested about 10,000 people related to the drug campaign,” said Mr Pheak.

“However, the government is considering building more prisons.”


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