Cambodia’s mission to the United Nations has rejected criticism by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) of Phnom Penh’s moves against media outlets and the closure of a U.S.-funded democracy promotion outfit.
In a statement on Monday, it said the comments from OHCHR were politically motivated and defended Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government.
“When law and regulations are violated, actions taken by the authorities to prevent the violations should not be explained as a threat or associated with the upcoming national election,” it reads.
“No organization or individual is permitted to manipulate the public, incite armed forces and readers to commit any form of violence.”
Last week, Cambodia announced it was closing the National Democratic Institute (NDI), a U.S.-funded democracy promotion group, suspending more than a dozen radio stations, and threatened the English-language Cambodia Daily newspaper with closure if it does not pay a more than $6 million alleged tax bill.
Liz Throssell, spokeswomen for the OHCHR in Geneva, said: “Ahead of next year’s general elections, we call on the government to guarantee full political and civil rights and media freedoms.”
Phay Siphan, a government spokesman, said the government was unconcerned with the statement from the OHCHR.
“The government has a duty to defend its sovereignty and its neutrality and prevent external invasion,” he said. “Therefore, the action is considered as a win for Cambodia and Cambodian citizens”.