Geneva (26 July 2023) - UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk has expressed regret that the Cambodian general elections held on 23 July were conducted in a severely restricted space that negatively impacted on the rights of Cambodians to participate fully and equally in all aspects of the electoral process. Restrictive laws and policies hampered the registration and participation of opposition political parties and candidates, and opposition parties, trade unions, NGOs and media were targeted through criminal and other legal processes, threats, intimidation, and on occasion physical attacks.
“It is concerning that Cambodia has witnessed a constant shrinkage of democratic space in recent years, undermining fundamental freedoms and the right to participate in public affairs,” said Türk.
“Opposition political parties, activists, members of the media and others have faced numerous restrictions and reprisals that appear intended to curb political campaigning and to hinder the exercise of fundamental freedoms essential for free and fully participatory elections.”
In the lead up to the elections, the National Election Committee disqualified two leading opposition political parties, including the Candlelight Party. Immediately prior to election day, the government telecoms regulator ordered internet service providers to block the social media accounts of three media organizations deemed critical of the Government.
“I am concerned that these restrictions and other intimidatory measures created a chilling effect, that deprived people of credible sources of news and information when they needed to make informed choices in the exercise of their democratic rights,” said the High Commissioner.
“A vibrant strong and inclusive democracy that nurtures and respects a plurality of voices and opinions is fundamental to ensuring the respect and protection of human rights and is key to peaceful social and economic development. I urge the Government to address shortcomings, rectify deficiencies and engage in dialogue with all political parties and civil society actors to create an enabling and inclusive civic space for all Cambodians.”
The High Commissioner also urged the government to implement further measures to enhance the inclusion and participation of marginalized groups,
including women, indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, and youth, in a bid to foster a more inclusive and representative democracy.