Ministry: US rights report a reflection of self-denial

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The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation in Phnom Penh. Ministry of Foreign Affairs

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation has dismissed as regrettable a US report claiming that Cambodia had violated citizens’ rights last year.

A government spokesman and the Cambodian Human Rights Committee similarly rebuffed the assertions last week.

The ministry said the report, released by the US Department of State on March 30, was compiled unilaterally and arbitrarily and did not reflect the actual human rights situation in Cambodia.

The US alleged in the report that it had observed widespread legal impunity in Cambodian society for privileged persons who are wealthy or politically connected.

It also accused the Cambodian government of continuing to violate and restrict the fundamental human rights, freedoms and political rights of citizens.

In response, the Cambodian foreign ministry said the report lacked objectivity and suffered from serious shortcomings in terms of data accuracy and that it relied on outdated information.

“The report did not take an even-handed approach in its assessments by inflating certain rights over the others, rejecting national particularities and across-the-board gains of the Kingdom in wide-ranging domains of human rights,” it said in a statement on April 2.

The ministry added that any institution of the US government that wished to criticise Cambodia should not forget the enormous moral debt that the US owes to the Kingdom and its innocent population who endured its indiscriminate aerial bombardment during the US-Vietnam war in the 1970s.

The ministry’s statement further said the US did not live up to the principle that leadership in human rights must begin at home and that the annual report did not cover the US’ own rights records, which demonstrated a state of self-denial about its own human rights abuses.

The ministry continued that selective concerns about human rights and the weaponisation of human rights was an unfortunate trend that needed to be guarded against and curtailed if the US is going to promote and protect human rights as a global public good.

It quoted UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres as saying: “Human rights must never be a vehicle for double standards or a means to pursue hidden agendas.”

The ministry said Cambodia would continue to be unwavering in its commitment to pursuing a liberal multi-party democracy and upholding the rule of law and respect for fundamental freedoms in conformity with the Constitution.

Cambodian Institute for Democracy president Pa Chanroeun said it was typical for the government to refute the US’ human rights reports, though the situation in Cambodia had in fact worsened rather than improved.

“In my observation, from working directly with citizens and others, respect for human rights and democracy in Cambodia is not in good shape and it has declined to a worrisome degree, especially following the dissolution of the Cambodia National Rescue Party.

“I agree with the US findings because the report was well-researched and it used as its measuring tape statements found in the Cambodian Constitution and some of the substance of the Paris Peace Accords,” he said.