Saturday, January 18, 2014

Cambodia: UN expert urges political leaders to urgently return to negotiating table

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

UN - 17 January 2014 – A United Nations independent human rights expert today urged Government and opposition parties in Cambodia to immediately negotiate an end to the ongoing impasse, saying political reconciliation is the “only way forward” for the country.

Wrapping up week-long visit to Cambodia, Surya P. Subedi, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the country, stressed that the ongoing political and social tensions have a direct impact on the enjoyment of human rights by all Cambodians.

In statement issued by the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR), he said that “flexibility on both sides to reach a political compromise is needed.” The country, he noted, “has to begin its reform agenda, including judicial, electoral and parliamentary reforms” as outlined in his previous reports.

The UN expert said his meeting with Prime Minister Hun Sen was “frank, cordial and informative”. He praised the political leader for sending “an important signal to the international community that he is ready and willing to seriously address the human rights issues in the country by extending full cooperation during this visit and engaging in meaningful dialogue.”

He noted, however, that there has been a “worrying change from a tolerant to a repressive response of the Government to public protests.”

Earlier this month, military police opened fire on striking garment workers in Phnom Penh, reportedly killing at least four people. According to OHCHR, the strikes by garment workers pressing for higher wages added fuel to the political demonstrations organized since July by the opposition party to demand the resignation of the Prime Minister and a re-run of the election.

Mr. Subedi reiterated today his call on the Government to ensure a “thorough, credible and independent investigation” into the shootings, including who issued them and who carried them out.

The Special Rapporteur, who condemned the violence exercised by some demonstrations, also reiterated that any use of force by the Government must meet the tests of “necessity, legality and proportionality.”

He also urged the Government to overturn the current ban on demonstrations in force since 4 January, stressing that the legal basis and justification for such a ban was lacking.

Among other issues raised during his visit, and in meetings with officials, human rights experts, citizens and others, Mr. Subedi emphasized that the Government must work to ensure that the national minimum wage is set at a sufficient level to provide workers and their families with a decent standard of living, to be reviewed periodically, based on data, analysis and participation, not repression.

Independent experts or special rapporteurs are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back, in an unpaid capacity, on specific human rights themes. Mr. Subedi will present his next report to the Council at its September 2014 session.