UN Rights Envoy Says Democracy Is Limited in Cambodia

Cambodia is falling short of the full liberal democracy enshrined in its Constitution, the government is becoming increasingly intolerant to constructive criticism and judicial, parliamentary and electoral reforms have been slow to take effect, according to U.N. human rights envoy Surya Subedi’s latest report on Cambodia. The wide-ranging report to the Human Rights Council in Geneva on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, which is dated Au­gust 5 but was drafted prior to the July 28 election, follows his eighth mission to the country in Decem­ber 2012, during which he was snubbed by members of the government, and his ninth mission in May, parts of which Mr. Subedi described as being “unpleasant.” This, his fifth report since taking up the post in March 2009, wraps up the findings to all of his previous fact-finding missions, which focused on judiciary, parliamentary and electoral reforms and the country’s policies regarding economic land concessions. … Mr. Subedi said that while the government had acknowledged these issues—something he saw as a “sign of progress”—there are still strides that must be made to ensure that the full democratization of Cambodia can be realized. “While the Constitution of Cam­bodia speaks of a liberal democracy, in reality the situation is akin to a limited democracy in many respects,” he said. “While the process of judicial, parliamentary and electoral reform has been slow, the Gov­ern­ment is yet to act on most of the recommendations relating to the granting and management of economic and other land concessions.” … Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said he agreed with Mr. Subedi’s assessment that Cambodia’s democracy is limited, but said, “I think that everyone who understands that with de­mocracy in this world, no one has the best one on Earth.” “[Mr. Subedi] is here to be a partner, not a policeman,” Mr. Siphan said. “He is not a professor on Cambodia. He is here to help Cambodia toward what everyone wants Cambodia to be. “Of course they say Cambodia’s democracy is limited—I agree. That’s why we need to partner together to improve that. Everyone is looking for stability and peace after the war.” As for how the relationship be­tween the government and Mr. Subedi would move forward, Mr. Siphan said, “we believe he has to build trust and confidence between himself and Cambodia and be together.”