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U.N. Rights Envoy To Visit Cambodia This Month

FILE: The U.N., Special Rapporteur Professor Rhona Smith speaks at a press conference on the situation of human rights during the end of her mission in Cambodia on Thursday 31st , March 2016 at the UN's office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights ( UNHCR) in Phnom Penh.

On a mission to Preah Vihear province in March to meet with local indigenous groups, her car was blocked by security forces.

Rhona Smith, the U.N. human rights special rapporteur to Cambodia, will make her third visit to the Kingdom later this month, a spokesman has confirmed.

The spokesman declined to elaborate on the details of her visit.

Smith succeeded the former rapporteur Surya Subedi in 2015 and has made two previous visits to Cambodia, in September 2015 and March of this year.

On those occasions she met with Prime Minister Hun Sen and other government officials, leaders of the opposition, civil society representatives and communities affected by rights alleged rights abuses.

On a mission to Preah Vihear province in March to meet with local indigenous groups, her car was blocked by security forces.

In the wake of the death of Cambodian political analyst Kem Ley – gunned down in broad daylight in the capital on July 10, Smith was urged by rights groups to speak out against the deteriorating human rights situation and political tensions.

She has twice described the tense political climate as having reached a “dangerous tipping point,” a phrase previously employed by her predecessor during mass demonstrations in the wake of the 2013 election.

Four staffers of local rights group Adhoc and a senior election official have been arrested on bribery charges related to an ongoing case against the deputy leader of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, Kem Sokha, a case that is widely seen as politically motivated.

Sokha was convicted last month and sentenced to serve five months in prison for failing to appear in court for questioning in the case, in which he is accused of having an extra-marital affair.

Sam Rainsy, the CNRP president, went into self-imposed exile in November 2015 to avoid a two-year sentence for defamation.

Last month, Smith used a U.N human rights council meeting to criticize the authorities over the apparent use of the courts to stifle opposition ahead of elections planned for next year and 2018.

Her visit this month comes after both parties made calls for a cessation of hostilities.