Global perspective Human stories

Unable to meet with Cambodian officials, UN expert stresses importance of dialogue

Surya P. Subedi, Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Cambodia.
UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré
Surya P. Subedi, Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Cambodia.

Unable to meet with Cambodian officials, UN expert stresses importance of dialogue

The independent United Nations expert on human rights in Cambodia today stressed the importance of dialogue, as he wrapped up his latest fact-finding mission to the country, during which he was unable to meet with Government representatives

“I believe that dialogue is the crucial way forward, and I have repeatedly underlined the importance of it with all stakeholders and particularly with the Royal Government,” said Special Rapporteur Surya P. Subedi.

“I very much regret that I was not able to interact with Government interlocutors this time, but expect to do so during my future missions. It is not clear to me why and how this situation came about,” he stated.

This is the eighth fact-finding mission to the country for Mr. Subedi, who has interacted with various actors in Cambodian society, including the Government, parliamentarians, the judiciary, civil society and development partners, during his previous visits.

“There have been occasions when we have disagreed on certain things,” he noted. “But we continued our dialogue to find a common ground and that is what I wish to do with the Government too.”

This time, he met with various stakeholders, including civil society, local communities, private citizens and Cambodia’s development partners. He travelled to Kompong Chhnang province and obtained first-hand information from the local communities about the situation of human rights.

The aim of the current mission, which began on 8 December and was at the invitation of the Government, was to explore the progress achieved on the implementation of the recommendations made in the Special Rapporteur’s previous reports on the judiciary, parliamentary reform, electoral reform and economic land concessions.

“I am a little surprised by the reaction to some of my recommendations,” he said. “In other countries, such recommendations are seen as being part of the normal national debate, and a frank but professional discussion would have ensured. The focus should remain on the substance of what I am recommending, and not on me as a person.”

Mr. Subedi noted that Cambodia continues to do well on a number of economic indicators, supported by political stability, and that the country appears to be on course to achieve some of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The eight MDGs, which world leaders have agreed to meet by 2015, set specific targets on poverty alleviation, education, gender equality, child and maternal health, environmental stability, HIV/AIDS reduction, and a ‘Global Partnership for Development.’

Mr. Subedi welcomed the introduction of a land-titling programme by the Government to provide secure tenure for thousands of Cambodians. However, he pointed to a number of concerns about its implementation, including a lack of transparency, its impact on indigenous populations and how communities are chosen to be titled.

He also voiced concern about the culture of impunity in Cambodia, and the long list of crimes for which no one has been brought to justice, as well as the situation of freedom of expression.

“A number of cases of intimidation and harassment of the people working in the media and human rights advocacy have been reported to me. Excessive use of the law on ‘incitement’ seems to be forcing people into self-censorship,” he stated.

Special rapporteurs are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.

Mr. Subedi, who was appointed in March 2009, will present his next report to the Council in September 2013.