‘Aggressive Rhetoric From Both Sides’ Condemned by UN Rapporteur

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The U.N.’s rapporteur on human rights in Cambodia concluded her fact-finding mission on Thursday by saying she hoped for a change in the country’s “aggressive” political culture.

Rhona Smith wrapped up the 11-day visit to Cambodia — her seventh — by raising several concerns, but also taking a hopeful note on reforms.

“I am encouraged by some of the positive steps that have taken place since my last mission,” she said.

Smith called for the release of former opposition leader Kem Sokha from house arrest; a wider space for a free press; an end to arbitrary detention; and for the government to “avoid the excessive use of force” against peaceful demonstrations.

She also suggested that “the challenges of the current political situation” — which has seen the main opposition party dismantled and civil society come under threat — would be helped by toning down personal attacks.

“I am conscious of the frequently aggressive rhetoric from both sides and believe there is a need to change the political culture to one that focuses on issues rather than persons,” Smith said.

Sam Rainsy, the opposition leader in exile in Paris, has repeatedly called for military coups against Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Hun Sen, meanwhile, recently advocated a policy of “see one, beat one” when it comes to cracking down on meetings by members of the dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP).

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