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UN independent expert proposes action plan to boost human rights in Cambodia

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UN independent expert proposes action plan to boost human rights in Cambodia

An expert on the human rights situation in Cambodia has released a 10-point agenda for the authorities, calling for the opening of political space and paving the way for democratic reforms.

UN Special Rapporteur Vitit Muntarbhorn announced the plan on Friday at the end of an 11-day visit to the country.

Despite Cambodia’s internationally recognized progress and ratification of most core human rights treaties, he noted that “general paradoxes” remain.

Since 2017, when the main opposition party was unjustly dissolved by judicial order, the country has been effectively under one-party rule, with all seats in the National Assembly held under this monopoly- he said.

Bright future, tough challenges

While in Cambodia, Mr. Mondhamphon visited a peaceful demonstration by workers at the NagaWorld casino, who have been protesting mass layoffs.

The rights expert traveled to Sihanoukville, where he met with local government officials to learn about local cybercrime and “secret groups” linked to human trafficking and other forms of exploitation.

He also met with communities displaced or evicted by land grabs and floods, largely due to “unbalanced development,” as well as opposition party members and independent commentators who faced harassment or legal action.

I am delighted to meet all those who have generously shared their time, ideas and experiences with me, with a warmth that is characteristic of Cambodia. This is a country with a bright future, but it faces many serious challenges ahead of next year’s general election. human rights challenges- he said.


Reform tough laws

The Special Rapporteur urges the Government to adopt his 10-point action agenda to improve human rights in the country,

It calls for opening up civic and political space by suspending and reforming draconian laws, ensuring election-related individuals are separated from political parties, and ending prosecutions of political opponents and human rights defenders.

He also recommends releasing all those currently in prison, dropping charges against those the authorities see as opponents, and improving the quality of law enforcement officers through appropriate selection, incentives and distance from political authority.

Victim trafficking in ‘hell on earth’

Human trafficking victims who are tricked into working for online scam companies in Cambodia are going through “hell on earth”, often resulting in torture and even death, Mr. Mundampong said. He proposed several measures to address the situation.

With Cambodia’s recent transition from a trafficking source country to a trafficking destination country, rights experts recommend applying existing telecommunications laws and proposed government programs to identify victims of scams and trafficking in a victim-friendly manner. He also suggested holding participatory public surveys.

Countries are now starting to realize the phenomenon [of trafficking into the country] and Cambodia needs to launch countermeasures more strongly, while welcoming international cooperation and support- he said.

About the UN Rapporteur

UN special rapporteurs like Mr. Montampon are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to report on specific country situations or thematic issues.

These independent experts work in their personal capacity and are neither United Nations staff nor paid for their work.

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