The Cambodian Human Rights Committee (CHRC) has reaffirmed that the Kingdom adheres to the “Peace First” policy just as the US stands by its “America First" mantra.
The CHRC’s statement apparently came in response to the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Cambodia, Vitit Muntarbhorn, who on October 6 issued a statement claiming that Cambodia was “backsliding” away from democracy.
In an 11-page update of the human rights situation and law enforcement in the Kingdom released on October 7, the CHRC said: “Each country always has different priorities. For example, the US' is 'America First', and Cambodia's is 'Peace First'”.
It said even the phrase “Thank you peace” – which can be seen on banners at the entrances of many public and private institutions across the country – has become the slogan of the Cambodian people for expressing their desire to live happily in peace.
“Therefore, any action taken for the purpose of undermining or attempting to undermine peace in Cambodia is not a matter of human rights or democracy, but it is illegal and against the Cambodian people’s common aspirations and against the Kingdom of Cambodia’s great interests,” it said.
The CHRC cited a wide range of aspects – from the cooperation with international human rights mechanisms, freedom of the establishment of associations and non-governmental organisations, access to information, press freedom, the case of former opposition leader Kem Sokha, among others – as examples of Cambodia's respect for human rights.
With regard to freedom of association, the CHRC said Cambodia currently has over 6,000 NGOs and the government remains committed to addressing their challenges through regular partnership forums.
For media freedom, it said approximately 2,000 media outlets, including those critical of the government, have been operating freely, in either traditional or digital platforms, with no prior censorship.
In his October 6 statement, the UN special rapporteur called on the Cambodian government to act on a number of fronts to expand civic and democratic space.
“Suspend draconian laws and reform them. Drop court cases and end the detention of those who disagree with the authorities. Restore political rights to members of the political opposition, and propel reconciliation. Share the power and end the monopoly,” he said.
In an apparent response without naming any certain individual or organisation, the CHRC flatly denied that Cambodia had violated human rights.
“The biased and groundless allegations made in the reports by certain anti-government political groups and organisations do not reflect the reality in Cambodia because these reports only summarise the events and draw inferences from the external image.
“They, that is to say, did not study the detailed causes that led to each incident, legal aspects and procedures, facts of offences and acts that are elements of offences, which leads to legal liability,” it said.