There has been an alarming deterioration in the human rights situation in Cambodia over the last year. In advance of July elections, the Hun Sen government has arrested the leader of the opposition, dissolved the main opposition party, prosecuted and jailed human rights defenders and politicians, and closed or censored independent newspapers and radio stations. Cambodia’s judiciary is controlled by Prime Minister Hun Sen, who uses the courts as a political tool to imprison critics.
Mr. President, we welcome the joint statement delivered yesterday by New Zealand on behalf of more than 40 states calling for further consideration if the situation does not improve in the lead up to the elections and for a briefing by the High Commissioner before the June session, and the High Commissioner’s statement that such a briefing would be merited. The Council has so far failed to take meaningful action. Cambodia is on the path to once again becoming a one-party state. The gains over the past 25 years are at serious risk. Billions of dollars in development aid, including support for judicial reform and building the rule of law, are in the process of being rendered meaningless by an overt power grab. July’s election will lack legitimacy without the participation of the opposition. The High Commissioner should be mandated to report on the entire election period. The Council should demand the release of all political prisoners and reinstatement of all politicians and parties. The Council should not stand by idly as Cambodia descends into authoritarianism.