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In Geneva, Hun Sen Claims Human Rights Used as “Hostage” to Topple His Government

Prime Minister Hun Sen, left, shakes hands with Deputy Prime Minister Minister of the Interior Sar Kheng as they arrive to attend a ceremony for the 68th anniversary of the founding of the Cambodian People's Party, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Friday, June 28, 2019. (AP Photo)

The Cambodian leader, however, did not mention any specific countries.

Prime Minister Hun Sen accused “powerful countries” for using human rights as an excuse to topple his government.

Addressing the 41st Regular Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, Hun Sen spoke about the ‘positive progress’ that Cambodia has made in human rights and democracy since 1979 but “none of them” [Western countries] have given him “a compliment.”

Instead, Cambodia’s human rights situation has been “painted black” for what the premier called “political tools.”

The Cambodian leader, however, did not mention any specific countries. He only made references to the terms and conditions that those countries have used to pressure Cambodia, including the withdrawal of trade preferences and cutting aid in exchange for human rights and democratic practices.

“It is very strange that Cambodia was asked to strengthen her democracy, human rights and the rule of law,” he said adding “yet when the authority enforced the law, we were accused of restricting freedom of expression. Worse than this, some of those countries and institutions have taken matters relating to the human right as a hostage when discussing assistances or economic preferential treatment extended to Cambodia.”

After Cambodia’s Supreme Court dissolved the country’s largest opposition party in 2017, the European Union and the United States—the biggest export markets for Cambodia—have demanded Cambodia restore its human rights and democracy by threatening to withdraw their trade preferences.

Am Sam Ath, a monitoring supervisor for the local human rights group Licadho, disagreed with Hun Sen over the progress of human rights in Cambodia, saying that independent media in Cambodia is not fully free and former officials of the opposition CNRP party have always been intimidated until today.

“Those fundamental rights are still limited, especially political rights,” he said.

Rights watchdog Freedom House in late June further downgraded Cambodia’s human rights ranking to a score of 26 from 30 the year before.