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 UN Envoy Pledges to Help Ease Political Tensions


UN Special Rapporteur, Rhona Smith, in the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Phnom Penh, October 12, 2016. (Hean Socheata/VOA Khmer)

UN Special Rapporteur, Rhona Smith, in the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Phnom Penh, October 12, 2016. (Hean Socheata/VOA Khmer)

Political analysts said relying on international pressure to improve the human rights situation would not provide long-term solutions.

​The U.N. envoy or human rights, Rhona Smith, on Wednesday met with the deputy leader of Cambodia’s main opposition party, pledging to help ease tensions with Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party.

Smith met Kem Sokha of the CNRP and discussed a range of issues, including legal cases that have been lodged against him and other opposition members and parliamentarians, according to an opposition spokesman.

Eng Chhay Eang, the spokesman, said Smith had said she would help to find a solution to the political stalemate that has gripped the country in recent months and seen the opposition boycott parliament amid a swath of lawsuits that are widely believed to be politically motivated.

“She said that she would try to work on this because this… she also said that the issues are related to the immunity of members of parliament and the judicial system. She believes that there will be a solution,” he said.

Smith’s visit came as the Phnom Penh Municipal Court sentenced Um Sam An, an opposition lawmaker, to two and a half years in prison for comments he made about about the demarcation of Cambodia’s border with Vietnam.

Hong Sok Huor, an opposition senator, also faces charges for claiming that Vietnam had encroached on Cambodian territory.

Smith did not respond directly to questions about the court cases against members of the opposition.

“I think there are a lot of issues to discuss to make sure that the constitution is applied correctly and Cambodian law is applied correctly and equally to all people,” she said.

Political analysts said relying on international pressure to improve the human rights situation would not provide long-term solutions.

Heang Sreang, an analyst, said politicians should seek to move away from expectations of foreign assistance.

“Khmer politicians must find a solution, or unity, by bringing the national interest to the table so there will be a compromise and an end to the problems,” he said.

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