School of Law

Obama backs Professor Subedi

9 January 2013 | Alex Greenwood

President Obama backs the agenda of the UN human rights envoy on Cambodia, Professor Subedi of the University of Leeds, calling on the Cambodian Government to heed his recommendations.

As the date of the parliamentary elections comes closer in Cambodia, the UN Special Rapporteur for human rights on Cambodia, Professor Surya P. Subedi of the University of Leeds, has received widespread international support, including from President Obama, in his dealings with the Cambodian Government.

While making the first ever visit by a US President to Cambodia in November 2012 to attend the US-ASEAN summit meeting in Phnom Penh, President Barack Obama called Cambodia’s lack of respect for fundamental freedoms an ‘impediment’ to a deeper relations between the two countries, adding that countries that do not uphold certain universal principles, such as respect for human rights, will have more difficulty integrating with the international community.

The Phnom Penh Post reported ('Rapporteur Backed: Rights or a rough ride, warns US', 14 December 2012) that the US State Department, in a letter sent on behalf of President Obama to a group of leading US senators concerned about the situation of human rights in Cambodia, stated that the US had called on the Cambodian Government to heed the recommendations of Professor Subedi.

Similarly, the European Parliament, the Inter-Parliamentary Union (an inter-governmental organisation of national parliaments of 162 countries), and the Senates of Australia and the Philippines have passed resolutions calling on the Cambodian Government to implement the recommendations made by the UN envoy.

After he produced four substantial and substantive reports on judicial, parliamentary and electoral reform and on the human rights impact of economic land concessions in the country, the UN human rights envoy has come under criticism from Prime Minister Hun Sen of Cambodia who has been in power since the 1980s. Professor Subedi had, in his reports, called for sweeping reforms to ensure the independence of the judiciary and free and fair elections in the country.

He has called for reform of state institutions and political reconciliation to take the country forward. In his reports, he has documented violations of human rights in the country and expressed his deep concerns, especially with regard to the violations of freedom of expression and land rights.

The leader of the main opposition party is in exile in Paris as he faces long prison sentence if he were to return to Cambodia. Mr Mam Sonando, the owner and director of independent radio station Beehive, was sent to prison for a twenty year sentence recently and Professor Subedi went to meet him in prison in the outskirts of Phnom Penh during his recent mission to Cambodia. 

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