Geneva, 2 June 2022 - We are disturbed by the pattern of threats, intimidation and obstruction targeting opposition candidates ahead of communal elections in Cambodia on 5 June.
Candidates have faced numerous restrictions and reprisals that have hindered their activities, with imprisonment of a number of candidates that appears designed to curb political campaigning. Four days before the election, at least six opposition candidates and activists are in detention awaiting trial while others summonsed on politically motivated charges have gone into hiding.
The latest bout of political obstruction follows on from the systematic shrinking of democratic space documented by the UN Human Rights Office over recent years which undermines fundamental freedoms and the right to participate in public affairs.
After communal elections in 2017, the then main opposition party, the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP), was dissolved. Some 118 senior party members had their political rights – including the right to run for office – suspended for five years. Scores of opposition political leaders left the country, while others have since faced trial.
Among the 17 political parties registered for Sunday’s elections, the current main opposition party, the Candlelight Party, in particular, faces a paralysing political environment. Its candidates say they are reluctant to register complaints for fear of facing retaliatory legal proceedings or being struck from the ballot.
We remind the Royal Government of Cambodia of its obligations to uphold human rights as set out both in the country’s own Constitution, as well as in the eight international human rights treaties to which Cambodia is a State Party. The right to participate in public affairs is essential to the full realization of other human rights, and necessitates, in particular, effective protection of the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.
We call on the Royal Government to ensure this year’s communal elections take place in a safe and peaceful environment that promotes political plurality and respect for fundamental freedoms.