Statement demanding rights dismissed as ‘political ploy’

Some 268 people from different strata of society issued a joint statement on Monday expressing concerns over human rights, democracy and justice and called on the government for solutions.

However, government spokesman Phay Siphan dismissed the statement as merely a “political ploy”.

The group was made up of members of land, forest, fishing, farming and indigenous communities, human rights defenders, environmental activists, NGOs, teachers, civil servants, union members, sex workers, gays and lesbians, disabled people, youths, artists.

The statement obtained by The Post on Tuesday said that 268 people, half of whom were women, said they had discussed the challenges they faced and their concerns.

This had led to setting out priorities to be submitted to policymakers and leaders at both the national and local levels to find solutions.

It said the government only paid attention to economic development and failed to effectively implement mechanisms to ensure the respect of fundamental rights and freedoms.

“We hope that the voices and fundamental rights and freedom of citizens are fully respected and our concerns are resolved to ensure that all Asean development plans and policies place the interests of the citizens first.

“Policymakers, implementers and leaders of Cambodia and Asean member states must jointly seek an effective solution by not leaving anyone behind to ensure the living [standards] of Cambodian citizens and Asean nations are dignified,” the statement said.

Theng Savoeun of the Coalition of Cambodian Farmers Community said the government must open the space to allow freedoms.

It must ensure and improve the broadening of digital rights for all Cambodians as per international norms, like the protection of women’s rights, among others, including the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and International Conventions on Civil and Political Rights, he said.

Siphan said the statement was just a political ploy regarding the concerns of only a handful of people who opposed the Cambodian government’s policies.

He criticised some civil society organisations as behaving like puppets for foreigners who do not aim to help Cambodia.

On the contrary, Siphan said the government had held many public forums for civil society and citizens to engage in and help find solutions but they did not participate.

“NGOs gave up partnerships and did not participate. Discussions were not in good faith, which we cannot accept and it was regrettable.

“So those organisations that are presenting themselves as political victims to create an opportunity are only allowing themselves the opportunity to be victims,” Siphan said.