An official website of the United States government

A Robust Civil Society is Necessary for Cambodia’s Advancement
Item 10: Interactive Dialogue with the SR for Cambodia
September 25, 2012

Statement by the Delegation of the United States of America
As Delivered by Eric N. Richardson

Human Rights Council 21st Session

Geneva, September 25, 2012

Madame President,

The United States thanks the Special Rapporteur, Professor Surya Subedi, for his presentation today and for his detailed and informative report of July 16, 2012, following his two visits to Cambodia.   We note that he was received by senior officials of the government, civil society, the opposition, and representatives of those affected by land disputes.

Professor Subedi, we join you in noting that Cambodia has made significant progress since the adoption of the Paris Peace Agreements and concur that it is an opportune time to reflect on the progress to date and to address remaining challenges.  You note in particular the need for electoral reforms, underscoring that gaps persist.  We share those concerns, including the effect the harassment of the opposition has had on the ability of alternative voices to be heard.  We support Cambodia’s aim of creating a multiparty democracy, but more needs to be done to create a level electoral playing field and achieve this goal in practice.  This might include, as you have recommended, establishing an independent National Election Committee.  It also includes ensuring all candidates have equal access to the media, and can organize, campaign, and speak out on sensitive issues without fear of politically motivated retribution.  The government should also allow Sam Rainsy to return to Cambodia and lead his party’s campaign.

  • How do you assess the government’s willingness to adopt electoral reforms, and how can the international community best support your call for reforms?

We appreciate your attention to the threats facing human rights defenders, civil society representatives, and journalists, and join in your call for the government to thoroughly and transparently investigate incidents of harassment and violence against them.  A robust civil society is necessary for Cambodia’s advancement.  We share your appreciation that the Prime Minister has suspended progress on the draft law on association and nongovernmental organizations, pending consultation with civil society, and ask that he reconsider the necessity of the law and make the suspension permanent.

You also note the challenges surrounding land issues, a concern we share.  In particular, we are concerned about the prevalence of forced evictions and land grabbing that has resulted in an increased number of land protests, as well as violence.  We encourage the government to put in place a dispute resolution mechanism that is independent, transparent, well-understood by all, and treats all Cambodians equally and according to the rule of law.

  • Given that land disputes and forced evictions continue unabated, what steps do you assess should be taken to diffuse the current tensions around these issues?

We thank you for your work and commend your accomplishments.  We urge the Cambodian government to continue its cooperation with you in the implementation of your mandate. Thank you.