Cambodia premier condemns use of rights as 'political tool'

Cambodia premier condemns use of rights as 'political tool'

GENEVA: Cambodia's premier Hun Sen condemned the use of human rights as a "political tool" in a UN speech on Tuesday (Jul 2), in his latest pushback against Western pressure over his government's record.

Hun Sen, who has ruled Cambodia for more than 34 years, has faced criticism over elections last year that were held without the opposition after the Supreme Court dissolved the party in the run-up to the vote.

In a speech to the United Nations Human Rights Council, he said rights issues were being used as a "hostage" in talks on economic ties.

His comments came after the European Union took steps earlier this year to cancel trade benefits that would hurt Cambodia's local garment industry, part of Brussels' response to the elections.

"We are deeply sad to learn that human rights have been used nowadays by some powerful countries as a political tool ... or an excuse for them to interfere in weaker states with sovereignty," Hun Sen said.

In addition to the EU criticism, US President Donald Trump's administration has also described the decision to dissolve parliament as "undermining democracy" in Cambodia.

Without naming Washington or Brussels, Hun Sen hammered states that accused Cambodia of violations, "even though human rights records in their own countries are filled with xenophobia, racial discrimination (and) mistreatment of immigrants".

And, in an attack on civil society critics, the Cambodian leader condemned NGOs that he accused of serving "as puppets to foreign interest".

Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party won all seats in parliament in the election, effectively turning the country into a one-party state.

Source: AFP/ec

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