Royal Pardon or Smart Strategic Move?
8 February 2006 12:00 am
While FORUM-ASIA welcomes the royal pardon granted to Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy, fellow opposition parliamentarian Cheam Channy and the release of human rights defenders earlier, it is concerned that these may be mere temporary concessions in the face of condemnation of the Prime Minister’s strong arm tactics by Cambodian and international civil society groups, foreign governments and top UN officials including the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Special Representative of the (UN) Secretary General to Cambodia. FORUM-ASIA feels these moves are aimed to pacify donors, in view of the upcoming donor meeting in March.Royal pardons to opposition leaders and release of activists should lead to more fundamental reforms in Cambodia
FORUM-ASIA welcomes the royal pardon granted to opposition leader Sam Rainsy and fellow opposition parliamentarian Cheam Channy, as we had welcomed the release of five human rights defenders last month.
We hope this could be first steps towards creating an atmosphere devoid of fear, threats and intimidations to ensure the active and constructive participation of all political parties and civil society groups, as this is the foundation of a vibrant, multi party democracy, rule of law and sustainable development.
However, while welcoming these positive moves, we express our concern that these may be mere temporary concessions in the face of condemnation of the Prime Minister’s strong arm tactics by Cambodian and international civil society groups, foreign governments and top UN officials including the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Special Representative of the (UN) Secretary General to Cambodia. We feel these moves may be a strategic move particularly aimed to pacify donors, in view of the upcoming donor meeting in March.
The tactics of the Prime Minister is obvious from his recent statement at the Graduation Ceremony of Build Bright University on 30 January 2006. Agence France Presse reported the premier as saying “My suggestion is to … just postpone (court proceedings) to keep the situation quiet” and “Just let things go quietly, but if you are rude, the court will summon you, so there will be another problem”. And he said this soon after he verbally promised to drop charges on the activists and US senate passed the resolution on Cambodia!
Freedom of expression and freedom of assembly are far from being guaranteed for Cambodian peoples, particularly those who hold dissenting views with the Prime Minister. As long as criminal defamation is not decriminalized, opposition politicians and human rights defenders are virtually at the mercy of the Prime Minister, who can slap defamation law suits, withdraw them and call for clemency anytime, at his whims and fancies.
The international community, particularly the United Nations, as well as Cambodia’s donors should not be satisfied with these soft concessions, and should demand that the Cambodian government fully commit to the eradication of corruption, and protect human rights as enshrined in the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Cambodia has ratified, the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders (1998) adopted by all UN member states including Cambodia and other international human rights standards.
For further information, please contact:
Anselmo Lee, Executive Director (+66 1 868 9178) (email@example.com)
Miwa Igawa, Cambodia Country Program (+66 2 391 8801) (firstname.lastname@example.org)