Human rights workers and labor leaders in Cambodia have said they are hopeful that the UN’s rights envoy to Cambodia, Rhona Smith, will raise abuses and judicial reform during her visit to the country this week.
Smith began her latest fact-finding visit to Cambodia on Monday, where she plans to meet with government officials, civil society groups and members of the diplomatic community.
“I will also meet with representatives of the diplomatic community and from civil society organizations working with human rights and with specific interests in the areas of this mission, which focuses specifically on human rights and the Sustainable Development Goals,” she wrote in an email.
Unionists and labor leaders told VOA Khmer they hoped that Smith would raise issues including abuses by officials and judicial reform during the meetings.
Am Sam Ath, head of local rights group Licadho’s investigation unit, said Smith should focus on the general decline of the human rights situation in the country and the limiting of democratic space following the banning of the country’s main opposition party ahead of the general election in July.
He added that she could also raise the issue of the negative impact of Chinese investment.
“We knew already that the Chinese investments are different from the West; meaning [the Chinese investments] are causing impacts on human rights issues,” he said.
Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions (CCU), said Smith should also raise the issue of the possible withdrawal of Cambodia from the European Union’s preferential trade agreement, which could negatively impact workers.
“It’s not too late for the Cambodian leaders to review this and find a breakthrough if they have the will to put the interest of the people ahead of everything else,” he said.
Smith is due to leave Cambodia on November 8.
Phay Siphan, government spokesman, said Smith should not discuss issues related to investment during her visit as the government considered this issue beyond the remit of her work.
“Smith should shut her mouth, meaning let the government handle this,” he said, referring to Chinese investment and the EU trade scheme.
Chinese embassy officials could not be reached for comment.