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18th HRC Regular Session: Oral Statement on Cambodia

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18th Regular Session of the UN Human Rights Council

Item 10: Technical Assistance and Capacity-Building – Interactive
Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Cambodia, Mr. Surya Subedi

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Thank you, Madam President. FORUM-ASIA and its member organizations in Cambodia, the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC) and the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO), appreciate the report of the Special Rapporteur Mr. Surya Subedi (A/HRC/18/46), and strongly support the extension of his mandate. In particular, we share the Special Rapporteur’s continued concern over the situation of freedom of expression, assembly and association in Cambodia which has narrowed the space for journalists, human rights defenders, members of Parliament and political parties to freely conduct their legitimate work.

Mr. Subedi, we condemn the recent suspension of the Cambodian NGO Sahmakum Teang Tnaut (STT) by the Ministry of Interior for 5 months. No legal basis authorising such suspension has been communicated, rendering the government’s action to be completely arbitrary.[1] Furthermore, we express our deep concern over the draft Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organisations (LANGO) which, if passed in its current form, will only legalise restrictive measures infringing freedom of association, such as those applied to STT. The draft law fails to set clear criteria for the approval or denial of registration, thus leaving much room for arbitrary decision-making by the government. This is exacerbated by excessively burdensome registration requirements which particularly disadvantage community-based organisations with limited resources.[2] We reiterate our call that the government must abandon its efforts to promulgate this law as the 2007 Civil Code and the Law on Implementation of the Civil Code already provide a detailed legal framework for the registration and operation of associations and NGOs.

Mr. Subedi, we regret that your urgent appeal dated 14 September 2010 on the case of Leang Sokchouen and other three Cambodians has received no response from the government. Your sustained attention remains crucial in Leang Sokchouen’s case, which is being appealed to the Supreme Court. He was initially convicted on disinformation charges under Article 62 of the UNTAC Law and sentenced to 2-year imprisonment.[3] In an alarming development on 14 July 2011, the Appeals Court upheld the modification of the original conviction to “incitement” under Article 495 of the new Penal Code which was not in effect at the time of the alleged offense.

Lastly, in light of Cambodia’s upcoming Chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the ASEAN
Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) in 2012, we call on the government of Cambodia to demonstrate its serious will towards democracy and human rights, including by establishing regular and genuine consultation with civil society both at national and regional levels. Thank you, Madam President.
Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
Oral Statement Delivered by Ms. Pooja Patel


[1]   Joint Statement of 130 Civil Society Organisations, “We Are All STT: Civil Society and Private Sector Groups Condemn Government’s Arbitrary Suspension of Local NGO”, 21 August 2011
[2]   Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO), Briefing Paper, “Draft Law on Associations and NGOs: Comments on the Third Draft”, 29 July 2011
[3]   FORUM-ASIA, Oral Statement, 15th Regular Session of the UN Human Rights Council (13 September-1 October 2010), Item 10 Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Cambodia, 28 September 2010