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UN Rights Officials Want Serious Rights Reforms, Opposition Says

Sam Rainsy, front center, the head of the main opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) waves to the crowd before entering Phnom Penh Municipality Court in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014. Sam Rainsy and his party's Deputy President Kem Sokha appeared for questioning at the court about their possible involvement in inciting violence and social unrest, after four garment workers were brutality shot dead by government armed forces, on Jan. 3, according to a CNRP lawmaker. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy says the international community is now pushing hard for serious human rights reforms in Cambodia.

Sam Rainsy, head of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, was this week in Geneva, where a UN human rights review of Cambodia took place.

The UN’s Human Rights Committee is asking for “judicial reform, elimination of corruption, respect of people’s rights to freedom of expression, and freedom of assembly,” he said. “But now [Cambodia] has not only failed to fulfill its promises, it is worse than before.”

Cambodia has gone through a spate of violence in recent weeks, with security forces cracking down on opposition and labor protesters, earning widespread condemnation at home and abroad. That has colored the country’s report to the Human Rights Committee during the review, Sam Rainsy said.

“They’ve stopped believing what the Cambodian government typically tells them,” Sam Rainsy said. “And now that the [government] wants to tell a lie and make empty promises again, they’ve stopped believing it.”

Cambodia has promised reforms over the last four years, but has failed to implement them Sam Rainsy said.

The recent crackdowns, including the detention of pro-labor activists in a remote facility this month, are more evidence of this, he said. “That’s why we’ve had urge donor countries to demand the release of the 23 detained workers and union representatives, and to stop the violence.”

Sam Rainsy was also in Geneva to meet with members of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, where, he said, “I reminded them that in Cambodia, there is no parliament.”

The Rescue Party has refused to join the National Assembly, claiming July’s elections were marred with fraud and that a recall is necessary. That makes Cambodia’s current National Assembly “unconstitutional,” Sam Rainsy said.

At least 120 lawmakers must be seated in the Assembly for it to be legitimate, he said. Currently, only 68 ruling Cambodian People’s Party representatives are sworn in to the Assembly.

“So I’ve appealed to all international parliaments: do not recognize the Cambodian parliament or communicate with the parliament of Cambodia today, which is a communistic parliament and unconstitutional,” he said.