GENEVA (27 December 2013) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, Surya P. Subedi, today reiterated his call for calm and restraint as demonstrations are now taking place daily in Phnom Penh.
“Demonstrations such as those of recent days and weeks are a new sight in Cambodia. I am pleased to see that the democratic space has increased to such extent that so many Cambodians feel comfortable to express themselves in the streets without fear of retaliation,” Mr. Subedi said.
The expert urged the authorities to continue to facilitate peaceful demonstrations and to exercise restraint towards protestors. He also called on the demonstrators, who include striking garment workers, as well as factory managers not to resort to violence.
“I once again appeal to all aides to exercise the utmost restraint and calm,” he said, adding that “tolerance and racial harmony is crucial for the future of democracy in Cambodia.”
With members of the opposition continuing their boycott of the Cambodian National Assembly, Mr.Subedi urged both political parties to resume negotiations to resolve the current political deadlock.
“Any dispute needs a credible mechanism for dispute resolution which is acceptable to both sides. Such a mechanism was missing and this is why frustrated opposition supporters have taken to the streets. It is imperative that both sides come back to the negotiating table,” he said.
Mr. Subedi also called for meaningful talks to resolve the current dispute over the minimum wage. All parties – the Government, striking workers, trade unions, the factories and buyers – needed to reassure the masses of protesting workers that they would develop a realistic wage structure, Mr Subedi said.
“The talks need to be based on concrete data that reflect the real cost of a dignified life respectful of human rights,” the expert said.
The UN Special Rapporteur expressed cautious optimism for 2014 as Cambodia faces numerous calls for reform from all sides. “I still believe that the recent election can mark a turning point in the process of improving the protection of human rights in Cambodia,” the rights expert said.
“There seems to be an emerging consensus that reform needs to take place in many sectors, including electoral management, justice, land management, labour, education and health care,” said Mr.Subedi, adding that there was a pressing need to develop effective ways of settling disputes.
“The opportunities are there. This is the moment to seize them and to translate promises of meaningful, structural reform into reality and I stand ready to assist the Government and the opposition party in this regard,” he said.
“I sincerely hope that the recommendations contained in my reports on judicial, parliamentary and electoral reform can provide useful guidance in this process,” he added.
(*) Check the Special Rapporteur’s latest report to the Human Rights Council (A/HRC/24/36): http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session24/Pages/ListReports.aspx
Professor Surya P. Subedi was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council as the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Cambodia in March 2009. As Special Rapporteur, he is independent from any government or organisation and serves in his individual capacity. He is currently Professor of International Law at the University of Leeds and a practising Barrister in the United Kingdom. He also is the editor of the Asian Journal of International Law (published by Cambridge University Press) and the Vice-President of the Asian Society of International Law.
UN Human Rights, country page – Cambodia: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/AsiaRegion/Pages/KHIndex.aspx
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