Cambodian government breaching human rights law, claim UN experts
Geneva: The arrest and detention of at least 29 casino union leaders and activists during a strike that began on New Year’s Eve in Cambodia may amount to a breach of human rights law, independent human rights experts said today.
They claimed that many of the arrests of the mostly women strikers were conducted in a violent way and appear to contravene the freedoms of association, assembly and expression.
“The latest charges and arrests are of particular concern as the country gears up for commune elections this year, followed by national elections the year after. This sends a chilling message to Cambodian people on their space to assemble freely,” the experts said, urging officials to uphold their commitments to both international human rights and domestic law and provide full transparency in the proceedings of these cases.
In addition, the experts called on the Government to implement recommendations they have accepted during the 2019 Universal Periodic Review. which include a pledge to create conditions where “civil society, including human rights defenders, can freely carry out their work without interference or hindrance”.
The experts strongly condemned the manner in which the first arrests took place, after dark on a day where multiple other events diverted public attention. “This could be seen as an underhanded way to clamp down on fundamental human rights and impinge on the free exercise of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association,” they said, and called on the Government to explain the response by the police, and said they were following developments closely.
Trade union leaders and activists have been striking since December 18, 2021 against what they deem as the unfair dismissal of 365 Naga World casino and resort staff members, following unsuccessful negotiations with their employer, the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training and Phnom Penh Municipal authorities.
Nine people – seven women and two men – have so far been charged with ‘incitement to commit a felony’ under Articles 494 and 495 of the Cambodian Penal Code and remain in custody while the others have been released. These same provisions have previously been used to prosecute human rights defenders in the country.
The first arrests of nine people took place at around 8pm on 31 December. Continued strikes resulted in another 17 arrests on 3 January; while the three most senior union leaders, including its President Chhim Sithar, were separately arrested on 4 January on their way to join the ongoing strikes. Video footage of arrests shows police using what appears to be excessive force during the arrests.
“The pattern and manner of these arrests, after industrial action failed to be resolved quickly, appears to be an escalation in tactics used in previous cases that have occurred in Cambodia over recent years and resulted in the wrongful imprisonment of human rights defenders,” the experts said.
The Cambodian Constitution enshrines the right to strike and the rights to freedom of association, expression, peaceful assembly, press and publication, while Article 319 of the Cambodian Labour Law guarantees the right to strike. In addition, obligations set out in international human rights treaties to which Cambodia is a party, in particular the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), include the protection of freedom of expression (Article 19); the right to peaceful assembly (Article 21); and the right to freedom of association (Article 22). These must be respected and protected by the Cambodian authorities.
The experts are: Vitit Muntarbhorn, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia; Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; and Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, and Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia Professor Vitit Muntarbhorn had previously spoken out on the shrinking of civic and political space in the country.
– global bihari bureau
2 thoughts on “Cambodian government breaching human rights law, claim UN experts”
Hi there, You’ve done an incredible job. I’ll certainly digg it and personally suggest to my friends.
I’m sure they’ll be benefited from thjis web site.
Excellent items from you, man. I’ve taken note your stuff previously too and you are simply
extremely fantastic. I actually like what you’ve brought
right here, really like what you’re saying and the way wherein you say it.
You are making it enjoyable and you continue to take care
of to stay it sensible. I can’t wait to read far more from you.
That is actually a wonderful site.