A spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation expressed dismay at the US Department of State’s 2022 Human Rights Report on Cambodia, which alleged that the government generally did not respect the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

Ministry spokesman An Sokkhoeurn dismissed the report as "unfounded, biased, prejudiced and political in nature”.

“The US Department of State’s annual human rights report on other countries, including Cambodia, blatantly exposes a double standard in its practices, particularly the absence of a report on their own country,” he said in a March 23 press release.

“After 200 years of its own version of democracy, the US still encounters on a daily basis systematic human rights abuses, among them racism, hate crimes, mass shootings, police brutality, prison abuses, over one million pandemic-related fatalities, use of the death penalty and the lack of the right to abortion, to name just the major ones,” he added.

Sokkhoeurn said the report was simply a selective compilation of events based on unverified publications by foreign-funded NGOs, and he questioned the credibility of the sources used in those reports.

“The narrative on Cambodia is not balanced, objective or proportionate. It presumes the importance of civil and political rights over other rights, namely the rights to life, health, food, education and development.

"Such assumptions deviate from the UN standards which recognise that all human rights must be considered in a fair and equal manner, on the same footing, with the same emphasis,” he said.

The US State Department's country report, released on March 20, claimed that although the Cambodian Constitution guaranteed the freedom of peaceful assembly, the government generally failed to respect this right.

It cited a report published by a local human rights group claiming that in 2021, only 35 per cent of NGOs and trade union leaders believed they were free to assemble peacefully.

The report said that although the Constitution guarantees freedom of association, the government continued to restrict it, targeting specific groups it believed could be involved in political dissent.

It said the Constitution also provides for freedom of expression, including for members of the press and other media, but the government “greatly restricts” free expression, including by independent news media and other dissenting voices, and that many individuals and institutions report widespread self-censorship, particularly on social media.

Sokkhoeurn countered that freedom of expression remains alive and well in Cambodia, as evidenced by the high rate of mobile internet penetration, which he said has provided ordinary citizens with unhindered access to information from wide-ranging sources, including those critical of the government, as well as enabling them to file their grievances via social media platforms directly to the nation's top leadership.

“Their voices are further amplified by the robust presence of nearly 2,000 digital and traditional media outlets. The government continues to welcome lawful rallies and appreciates sincere criticisms from various camps,” he said.