News / Asia

Cambodia Lags on Land, Freedom of Speech Rights, Says UN Official

Surya Subedi, U.N. special rapporteur for human rights in Cambodia, speaks at a press conference in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, during a trip in February 2011 (FILE PHOTO).
Surya Subedi, U.N. special rapporteur for human rights in Cambodia, speaks at a press conference in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, during a trip in February 2011 (FILE PHOTO).

The United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Cambodia Surya Subedi wrapped up his fifth visit to Cambodia on Friday expressing concern about the lack of progress on land rights and freedom of speech in the country.

The main purpose of the visit - his fifth --was to assess how well parliament functions in upholding the rights of ordinary Cambodians.

On that score, he said that while human rights had improved in some areas, it had noticeably failed to do so in others such as land rights and freedom of speech.

Cambodia’s ruling party holds more than two-thirds of the seats in parliament. The opposition complains that allows it to push through legislation without taking anyone else’s concerns into account.

Opposition MPs that have spoken out on a number of issues in the past have found themselves stripped of their parliamentary immunity and even convicted for talking about issues of national importance. Subedi said that sort of action is not what democracy is about.

Subedi said he had discussed the topic of stripping parliamentary immunity with the head of parliament, the ruling party’s Heng Samrin, who replied that the legislature was merely following its own internal rules.

“But I am examining the internal rules and procedures themselves to see to what extent they are compatible with Cambodia’s international human rights obligations,” he said.

Subedi said there were some positive developments, such as the fact that government had consulted with civil society and trade unions on pending laws that would affect them.

But he warned that talking was not enough, adding that the government needs to demonstrate that it is incorporating the concerns of others.

During his stay, Subedi met senior government officials, as well as donors, representatives from civil society, members of the political opposition and ordinary Cambodians. He stressed that land and housing rights had been one of his major concerns since he took up the post of U.N. human rights envoy two years ago.

“The problem has not gone away," he said. "Land grabbing by the rich and powerful has been a problem, and economic and other forms of land concessions have affected the rights of the indigenous people living in rural areas.”

Subedi said he had met with citizens threatened by eviction, including residents from a site in Phnom Penh that was awarded to a ruling party senator.

“I am aware of their problem. I am sympathetic to their problem. I have made my representation at the highest level possible with the government. That was one of the reasons why I included in my recommendations that when people have a land dispute they should be able to go to court and receive fair and impartial justice," he said. "That was the reason why my last report was focused on the judiciary, on strengthening the independence and capacity of the judiciary.”

Subedi said a great deal of work was still needed in that area.

Cambodia's constitution provides for freedom of speech, but that right is often squashed by what authorities say is a need for public security.  Earlier this year, Subedi expressed concern that the space to express government criticism was narrowing.  He said he did not see the situation improving.

“The situation I am afraid has not changed in this country with regard to freedom of speech. That is where I would like to see some progress made,” he said.

Subedi will submit his report to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva in September.

You May Like

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge More

Nigerian Islamic School Tries to Combat Boko Haram

Kaduna school headmaster teaches his students that what militants are doing is are doing is 'a total misunderstanding of the Islamic religion' More

University Trains Students to Advocate for Deaf People Worldwide

Program prepares graduates to advocate internationally for access to education, jobs for people with disabilities More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid