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

Multimedia Brussels Schools, Metro Reopen Under Heavy Guard

City remains under the highest threat alert level due to what authorities have described as a 'serious and imminent' threat of attack

Video Debt-ridden Refugees Await Onslaught of Lebanese Winter

Aid agencies are attempting to reduce potentially devastating consequences of freezing conditions and snowstorms that killed eight last year, including three Syrian refugees

UN Warns Air Pollution in Asia Pacific Has Rising Cost

Globally some seven million people a year die prematurely due to indoor and outdoor pollution with about 70 per cent of those deaths in region

This forum has been closed.
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.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs