“Dialogue is the crucial way forward,” says UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Cambodia
“Dialogue is the way forward”
14 December 2012
GENEVA / PHNOM PENH (14 December 2012) – “I believe that dialogue is the crucial way forward, and I have repeatedly underlined the importance of it with all stakeholders and particularly with the Royal Government,” said today the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, Surya P. Subedi, who was unable meet with Government representatives during his eighth fact-finding mission* to the country.
“I very much regret that I was not able to interact with Government interlocutors this time, but expect to do so during my future missions. It is not clear to me why and how this situation came about,” the human rights expert stressed.
“Throughout my missions I have interacted with various actors in Cambodian society, including the Royal Government, parliamentarians, the judiciary, civil society and development partners, and there have been occasions when we have disagreed on certain things,” Mr. Subedi said. “But we continued our dialogue to find a common ground and that is what I wish to do with the Government too.”
The Special Rapporteur started last week a visit to the country, at the invitation of the Government, to explore the progress achieved on the implementation of the recommendations made in his previous reports on the judiciary, parliamentary reform, electoral reform and economic land concessions.
“I am a little surprised by the reaction to some of my recommendations,” he said. “In other countries, such recommendations are seen as being part of the normal national debate, and a frank but professional discussion would have ensured. The focus should remain on the substance of what I am recommending, and not on me as a person.”
Mr. Subedi noted that Cambodia continues to do well on a number of economic indicators, supported by political stability, and that the country appears to be on course to achieve some of the UN Millennium Development Goals.
The expert welcomed the introduction of a land-titling programme by the Government to provide secure tenure for thousands of Cambodians. However, he pointed out, “there are a number of concerns about the implementation of this land-titling programme such as a lack of transparency, its impact on indigenous populations and how communities are chosen to be titled.
Among other observations, the Special Rapporteur expressed his concern about the culture of impunity in Cambodia, and the long list of crimes for which no one has been brought to justice. “Impunity is corrosive. It erodes public confidence in the system of justice in the country, not only the judiciary but also the police and other law enforcement agencies,” he said.
“I am also deeply concerned about the situation of freedom of expression in the country,” the expert stressed. “A number of cases of intimidation and harassment of the people working in the media and human rights advocacy have been reported to me. Excessive use of the law on ‘incitement’ seems to be forcing people into self-censorship.”
“I am aware that the country is still mourning the death of the King Father Norodom Sihanouk,” he said. “In my view, this is also an opportunity to celebrate what he achieved during his life time for peace, stability, political reconciliation, democracy, rule of law and human rights and what Cambodia has achieved since the conclusion of the Paris Peace Accords in 1991.”
For the Special Rapporteur, this is a period to contemplate and demonstrate a new resolve to move forward in harmony and reconciliation for the greater good of the country. “In my personal view, leadership and statesmanship is about championing dialogue. The aim should be to build consensus and reconciliation of competing values and interests for the well-being of the entire nation,” Mr. Subedi underscored.
During his eight-day mission, the independent expert met with various stakeholders in the Cambodian society, including civil society, local communities, private citizens and development partners of Cambodia. He travelled to Kompong Chhnang province and obtained first-hand information from the local communities about the situation of human rights.
The Special Rapporteur will present his next report to the UN Human Rights Council at its September 2013 session.
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 in the United Kingdom.