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UN Envoy Sees Little Improvement in Some Rights

U.N. special rapporteur Surya Subedi walks through a Cambodian national flag upon his arrival in a conference room at the U.N. headquarter in Phnom Penh, (file photo).

The UN’s rights envoy to Cambodia, Surya Subedi, wrapped up his fifth fact-finding mission to Cambodia on Friday, saying he remained concerned over land rights, forced evictions and the freedom of expression.

“While the general situation of human rights has progressed in certain areas, it has not improved much in others,” he said in a statement. “Because of the fear of possible charges of defamation, disinformation and incitement against them, many people such as journalists, human rights defenders and political activists seem to be resorting to self-censorship.”

Subedi also said he remains concerned about legal charges against land activists and people embroiled in land disputes.

“I am dismayed to hear about disproportionate use of force by law enforcement officials during peaceful protests by individuals involved in land disputes,” Subedi said, citing violence in demonstrations by Boeung Kak lake residents in April.

The rights group Adhoc has so far recorded at least 124 arrests in land disputes so far this year, with at least 18 people now in detention.

Subedi said the judiciary and parliament are not functioning as they should in a proper democracy, claiming that some people are denied fair trials, while rules of parliament have curbed free speech there and lessened healthy debate.

However, he said that he expected ongoing cooperation with the government on these and other issues.

Government spokesman Phay Siphan said Friday the administration was working on legal and judiciary reform, and he called the government and the UN “partners.”