Finland’s rights claim rebuffed

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
An Sokkhoeurn, Cambodian ambassador and permanent representative to the UN in Geneva. Cambodia’s UN Office in Geneva

Cambodia's Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva, An Sokkhoeurn, has expressed deep disappointment with an official statement by the Finnish delegation that human rights situation in Cambodia continued to deteriorate.

Sokkhoeurn rejected the claims – made following the passage of a law and accompanying sub-decree to control Covid-19 and other contagious diseases – during the 46th Session of the Human Rights Council’s General Debate on Agenda Item 10 on Technical Cooperation on March 23.

“We note with utter dismay that Finland refuses to review the state of human rights in Cambodia through an objective, open-minded and depoliticised lens,” he said.

Finland’s delegate Kirsti Kauppi had made the statement on March 22 during an earlier session of the same conference that was highly critical of Cambodia’s human rights records.

“We call for the government of Cambodia to cooperate with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in order to ensure full respect for all political and civil rights while finalising their draft law on measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and other diseases, and to make this cooperation a promising example [for future actions],” she said.

In response, Sokkhoeurn said it was ironic that Finland – which had just lately invoked national lockdown measures and declared a state of emergency restricting its citizens’ fundamental freedoms at home – demand that Cambodia show more respect for civil and political rights.

Sokkhouern said the delegate’s call for Cambodia to cooperate with the OHCHR clearly demonstrated Finland’s disregard for basic reality given that Cambodia has a long and active history of such cooperation.

“Cambodia’s open and constructive engagement with the OHCHR is manifested through the nearly three-decade presence of its country office in Cambodia – since 1993, which makes it the longest-tenured such office in the entire world,” Sokkhoeurn said.

He went on to recount how in December 2020 Cambodia had renewed its memorandum of understanding with the OHCHR, proving the Kingdom’s resolute commitment to advancing all categories of human rights through cooperative UN programmes and initiatives.

The law on Covid-19 recently promulgated in Cambodia adheres to the principles of the rule of law and takes into consideration both the necessity of the measures and the proportionality of them as a response to the Covid-19 threat, he explained.

Sokkhoeurn said: “This legislation does not aim to persecute anyone, but to shield the lives of Cambodian citizens and encourage the responsible participation of everyone in society in the pursuit of securing public health and saving precious lives.”

He said only the Cambodian people would have the final word in assessing the state of democracy and human rights within the Kingdom and their voices would be reflected through electoral outcomes that the international community should endeavour to respect.