The Royal Embassy of Cambodia to the United States of America has issued a statement about the general situation of human rights and freedom of expression in Cambodia.
The full statement posted today on the website of the Office of the Council of Ministers reads as follows:
“Statement of the Royal Embassy of Cambodia
to the United States of America
(Regarding the Freedom of Expression in Cambodia)
The Royal Embassy of Cambodia wishes to draw the public’s attention to the following facts related to the general situation of human rights and freedom of expression in Cambodia:
1. Cambodia is a pluralistic democratic society, where democracy and human rights are fully guaranteed by its 1993 Constitution. The Cambodian Constitution recognizes the freedom of expression and other fundamental rights. Since 1993, Cambodia’s state of democracy and the overall human rights situation have continuously made significant progress.
2. At present, Cambodia has thousands of civil society organizations, as well as free press and trade unions which have been operating in the country. Out of that number, Cambodia has at least eleven foreign human rights organizations, including the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the International Republican Institute (IRI), that are working mainly on human rights-related issues. Cambodia also has the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the regular visits by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights.
3. Moreover, with regard to freedom of the press, Cambodia has almost 600 newspapers, journals and magazines, 40 radio stations, and seven television channels. If this is not enough, the people of Cambodia also have unobstructed access to all kinds of foreign media, such as the Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Free Asia, Cable News Network (CNN), just to name a few. Local media supporting or leaning to the opposition party are allowed a complete freedom to publish and thrive in the country. Some of the media have been critical of the government on a daily basis. The people of Cambodia, therefore, enjoy freedom of the press and freedom of expression.
4. With respect to the recent court verdicts regarding defamations and disinformation are in compliances with the law established by UNTAC, as provided in Article 61 on “Incitement to Discrimination,” Article 62 on “Disinformation,” and Article 63 on “Defamation and Libel.” The sentences handed down by the court are aimed at protecting the individual rights, as well as the security and stability of the country. Like any democratic country in the world, Cambodia cannot let the proliferation of voluntary public defamation and disinformation intended to create social disorder, which is detrimental to the well-being of the society and the dignity of all citizens.
5. In any democratic society, the rule of law is fundamental, particularly in ensuring that people’s dignity and honor are well respected and protected. Freedom of expression is not absolute and does not allow one person to defame another person. It also does not permit a campaign of disinformation to take place repeatedly.”
6. In the face of this growing defamation and disinformation campaign to smear the reputation of the leaders, the Royal Government of Cambodia – like any other democratic governments – has the right to resort to justice and due process of law, such as in the cases of Mme Mu Sochua’s defamation against Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen and Hang Chakra’s engagement in the campaign of disinformation.
7. The recent verdicts by the Cambodian Court on both cases are in compliance with the existing laws in relation to those offences. The prevailing laws and regulations concerning defamation and disinformation exist worldwide, particularly in developed countries, in order to protect and guarantee the right to dignity and honor of everyone alike.
8. Therefore, democracy, respect of human rights and freedom of expression must be in compliance with the rule of law.
9. All of the facts above are a clear demonstration of Cambodia’s full commitment to the promotion, development and protection of human rights and other fundamental freedoms in the country.
10. With respect to land problems, Cambodia has a land law since 2001 aimed at determining the regime of ownership for immovable properties (land) and guaranteeing the rights of ownership of the land.
– The National Authority for the Resolution of Land Disputes (NARLD) was established in 2006 for the settlement of the land disputes.
– The RGC has put in place a “Social land concession policy” to provide to the landless and the poor people plots of land. Presently, approximately 4000 hectares of land in Kratie province, 870 hectares in Kampong Cham province and 3017 hectares in Kampong Thom province have been provided to them for housing and family farming.
– But in Cambodia, there are people who occupied the side-work and used some part of the street as a market place and illegally occupied public and private properties. There are also professional squatters who take illegal possession of state or private land, and then demand compensation before moving to occupy another public or private land.
– Here also, the RGC, on the one hand, has the obligation to secure social order, and, on the other hand, to provide land for people who are in the genuine need.”