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UN rights expert urges key reforms in Cambodia

UN rights expert urges key reforms in Cambodia

Vitit Muntarbhorn, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, also said that the hereditary succession to power raised serious concerns with respect to human rights, democratic principles and the international rule of law.

Mr. Muntarbhorn and other rights experts had previously described the lead-up to and the outcome of the July polls as “extremely disconcerting”, amid restrictions and harassment targeting political opponents and the media.

In August, Hun Manet became the country’s new Prime Minister, taking over from his father, Hun Sen, who led the country for more than three decades.

Human rights benchmarks

The call by Mr. Muntarbhorn coincided with the presentation of his report to the UN Human Rights Council, in which he assessed progress towards 20 key human rights benchmarks.

“A key challenge for implementing human rights benchmarks lies in the intergenerational power shift in the country, which is intertwined with the political and electoral processes and coupled with the restricted civic-political space,” he said.

Among the 20 benchmarks, 12 were found to be off target, and three with variable levels of implementation. Five benchmarks, such as improving access to education and allocating additional resources to the social sector, were considered on target.

Use of draconian laws

Mr. Muntarbhorn also received reports of continued attacks, unjustified arrests and prosecutions of human rights defenders, journalists, political dissidents and others critical of the authorities.  

“The use of draconian laws creates challenges for individuals working on human rights and environmental issues, as they face significant pressure when interacting with authorities,” he said.

Many human rights defenders and environmental activists have remained in detention since the beginning of 2023, with their numbers increasing compared to the previous year.

“Various political dissidents are being held in distant prisons, raising concerns about their freedom and well-being,” Mr. Muntarbhorn said, calling for the immediate release of those detained and for the charges against them to be dropped.

Independent expert

Special Rapporteurs are appointed by the UN Human Rights Council and form part of what is known as its Special Procedures. The experts are mandated to monitor and report on specific thematic issues or country situations.

They serve in their individual capacity, are not UN staff and do not receive a salary.

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