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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Interview: Cambodia Political Climate Has ‘Potential to Prevent’ Free and Fair Elections

Sok Ry Sum (L) speaks with Rhona Smith (R) in Phnom Penh, Aug. 18, 2017.
Sok Ry Sum (L) speaks with Rhona Smith (R) in Phnom Penh, Aug. 18, 2017.

Interview: Cambodia Political Climate Has ‘Potential to Prevent’ Free and Fair Elections

RFA | 21 August 2017

Professor Rhona Smith was appointed as Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia by the United Nations Human Rights Council in March 2015 and completed her fourth official mission to the country on Aug. 18. During her 10-day visit, the envoy met with a wide range of stakeholders throughout society, including government officials, civil society organizations, political party leadership, and victims of human rights abuse in several provinces. At the end of her trip, she spoke with Sok Ry Sum of RFA’s Khmer Service about human rights, limits on the activities of civil society groups, and the political climate in Cambodia ahead of next year’s general elections:

Q: The years 2016 and 2017 are seen as not good years for human rights in Cambodia … what can you do or say to reassure human rights workers so that they can continue to do their work without so much fear for their safety?

A: With respect to civil society organizations, nongovernmental organizations and human rights defenders, it’s important to note that they have a legal right in terms of international human rights law to monitor, investigate and to stand up for human rights standards. It’s certainly the case that a number of civil society workers and nongovernmental organizations, as well as others, have reported to me concerns about the increasing repression they feel through the application of a wide range of different laws against them. There have also been a number of concerns that nongovernmental organizations are required to report to commune and district authorities all aspects of their activities, including who is attending educational training. This is contrary to the Ministry of Interior’s guidelines on the implementation of the Law on Peaceful Demonstrations.

I raised the matter with … the Minister of Interior, and he said that he was very happy to take responsibility for the fact that he was requiring all NGOs and civil society organizations to report all activities. I did highlight that the Law on Peaceful Demonstrations and the implementing guidelines did not require notification. The view from the Ministry of Interior, and at the provincial level, is that the justification is to ensure the security and allow for whatever the activity is to be undertaken. But I have raised concerns that that is contrary to the existing law.

Q: Ruling party members of parliament continue to pass and amend laws that are used to restrict the freedom of expression and political rights. The last one was on political parties, and right now people feel like opposition politicians are scared to speak out. With all of these restrictive laws, jailings, threats and attacking of NGOs, do you think this will affect the [ability to have] free and fair elections [in 2018]?

A: In the current political climate, when many political actors are feeling they are being intimidated, when there is a lot of rhetoric from politicians concerning violence, and threats of intimidation or return to civil war, I think it has certainly got the potential to prevent there being free and fair elections. However, this is currently August and I believe there is still time for the situation to improve.

In order to have full, fair, free and credible elections, it is necessary that all political parties in Cambodia have equal opportunities to present their views to the potential electorate and to undertake campaigning and electioneering activities, to have equal access to media, to have equal access to the population, and then for the people to make a free and informed choice without any threat or intimidation. And that would be summarizing the standards for a free and fair election. The credibility will then be established also with respect to voter registration and the actual conduct of the actual election. The other aspect relates to the period from now until the election.


  1. Anonymous12:50 PM

    Professor Rhona Smith should know that the evil Yuon/Vietcong master-minders killers from Hanoi are behind the Hun Sen's CPP and Hun Sen is a real puppet of Vietnam. She also needs to dig the dirty plans stemming from evil Yuon/Vietnamese secret agents (as Hun Sen's advisers and bodyguards) have been mostly behind all the problem in Cambodia society, Cambodian government, and hiding every corners in Cambodia to pretend to be Cambodian citizens, operating the corrupted businesses, illegally settled down in Cambodia under the legs of a Vietnamese puppet Hun Sen. She needs to find out and dig deeper that the Vietnamese master-minded killers in Hanoi may oust Hun Sen (just like Pol Pot who disagreed with the dirty and deadly plans from Hanoi) if Hun Sen might go to China, and then the evil Vietnamese master-minded killers from Hanoi and evil ghost Ho Chi Minh followers will create the second Killing Fields in Cambodia just like K5 and the past Killing Fields (1975-1979) in Cambodia. Then, Vietnamese master-minded killers in Hanoi and ghost Ho Chi Minh followers will set China and Hun Sen up for wrong doing and murderous plans in Cambodia instead. Evil Vietnamese master-minded killers from Hanoi and ghost Ho Chi Minh followers always play dirty trick and deadly plans to fool the world. How evil the Vietnamese nation is and their reputation will be going be very bad and disgusted on the international stage.

    Again, Hanoi master-minded killers and ghost Ho Chi Minh followers are very bad, real killers and committed crimes against Humanity.

    1. Anonymous8:52 AM

      Liar, you need to learn to write properly not rambling like an old frail mind. So much horrible things must have happened to you in the past, that's why you are so bitter and rambling like a sore-loser.

    2. Anonymous8:55 AM

      Minh Nguyen, Ra khỏi Campuchia!

  2. Anonymous11:23 AM

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  3. Anonymous11:27 AM

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