WASHINGTON DC - More than 100 Cambodians rallied before the UN headquarters in Geneva Tuesday, protesting human rights abuses in Cambodia and demanding free and fair elections in 2013.
Demonstrators came from as far as France and Belgium to join the protest, held to coincide with a meeting of the UN’s Human Rights Council.
In that meeting, the UN’s human rights envoy to Cambodia, Surya Subedi, delivered his latest report on Cambodia.
The report, based on a visit to Cambodia earlier this year, recommends that Cambodia reform its election procedures and respect human rights “before, during and after the casting of votes.”
Following the delivery of his report, Subedi accepted a petition from the Cambodian protesters calling for the return of opposition leader Sam Rainsy for 2013 elections and demanding an improvement in the country’s rights environment.
Sam Rainsy remains in exile, though supporters say his return is critical to free and fair elections next year.
Demonstrators in Geneva carried placards and photographs of Prime Minister Hun Sen and his wife, Bun Rany, condemning dictatorship and corruption.
“In Cambodia, we barely talk about freedom, because it is basically like a shadow they created for us,” Ly Peung, one of the demonstration organizers, told VOA Khmer. “Where there is democracy, the ruling Cambodian People’s Party will destroy it. Patriots are made into traitors.”
Loun Sovath, a Buddhist monk and land rights activist, attended the demonstration. “What I want is a Cambodia that respects human rights as its main principle,” he told VOA Khmer. “They should not primarily resort to power to create injustice, neglecting peace and happiness of its citizens. It is a violation of both the law on human rights and Buddha’s teaching.”
In his report, Subedi called for improved rights and democracy, and said right violations, forced evictions and repressed expression were all issues of concern. That includes the use of the penal code and the courts to prosecute those who go against powerful business interests or government.
Government spokesman Phay Siphan called Tuesday’s protest “a pity” and “a political show.” Sam Rainsy is welcome to return to Cambodia, he said. “It is merely his own choice.”
“Sam Rainsy knows very well what kind of attitude he should behave with to find a political solution,” Phay Siphan said. “There have been political solutions in the past. Be we all hate the powerful are always above the law, so why is it also the case with Sam Rainsy?”