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U.N. Rights Envoy Says Cambodian Democracy Under Threat


FILE-UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Cambodia Rhona Smith speaks during a press conference at her main office in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016.

In a statement on Thursday, Smith said the dissolution of the Cambodia National Rescue Party would raise serious concerns about how representative Cambodia’s parliament was.

Rhona Smith, U.N. Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Cambodia, on Thursday warned that Cambodian democracy was under threat after the government started a process to dissolve the opposition party ahead of next year’s general election.

In a statement on Thursday, Smith said the dissolution of the Cambodia National Rescue Party would raise serious concerns about how representative Cambodia’s parliament was.

“I am also concerned that the government is doing this under the guise of the rule of law,” she added.

“Rule of law is about more than the mere application of laws. All laws must respect human rights and must reflect the principles of fairness, justice and public participation. Otherwise, it becomes rule by law, not rule of law,” she added.

"Modern Cambodia was established as a multi-party liberal democracy, respectful and protective of human rights. Its Constitution sought to prevent a return to a single-party state. Those who drafted the Constitution were all too well aware of the consequences of one-party rule.”

Hun Sen on Wednesday announced publicly his intention to hand out the CNRP’s 55 seats to minor parties that won only a tiny percentage of the popular vote in the 2013 election after the interior ministry filed a complaint to the Supreme Court that is likely to lead to the CNRP’s dissolution.

Cambodians are scheduled to go to the polls again next year in a vote that is likely to be seen as lacking legitimacy following a concerted campaign by Hun Sen’s government to remove all opposition.

Meas Ny, a political commentator, said the moves against the CNRP, whose president was arrested on questionable charges in early September, showed the contempt for the Cambodian voter in the eyes of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.

“It’s wrong to withdraw the seats representing the votes of more than three million people,” he said. “It’s like they’re taking the trust of half of the country and are dividing it up to be eaten like a cake.”

Hun Sen, however, argues that the moves are intended to uphold the rule of law.

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