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

Ukraine Purges Interior Ministry Leadership With Pro-Russian Ties

Interior Minister Avakov says 91 people 'in positions of leadership' have been fired, including 8 generals found to have links to past pro-Moscow governments More

US Airlines Point to Additional Problems of any Ebola Travel Ban

Airline officials note that even under travel ban, they may not be able to determine where passenger set out from, as there are no direct flights from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone More

Nigerian President to Seek Another Term

Goodluck Jonathan has faced intense criticism for failing to stop Boko Haram militants 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.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid