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2 Aug 2020

Danielle Keeton-Olsen & Ouch Sony, VOD

Cambodia: UN special procedures ask govt. for answers over intimidation of LICADHO senior staff following his comments on govt's COVID-19 measures

"UN Asked Government for Answers Over ‘Intimidation’ of Licadho Official", 28 July 2020

The U.N... publicly released a letter challenging the government over alleged “intimidation” against a Licadho official, as the government continued to attack the group for participating in “a network” of local and international organizations working to “fabricate” news about Cambodia.

Am Sam Ath, the rights group’s monitoring manager, was quoted by U.S.-run Radio Free Asia ... saying some arrests over Covid-19-related Facebook posts were likely politically motivated... later, Prime Minister Hun Sen warned that Sam Ath could be arrested over his comments.

The U.N. sent its letter to the government two months after the exchange. It seeks answers over government actions that could create a “chilling effect on freedom of expression.”

“[W]e are concerned that the public condemnation of and threat to arrest Mr. Am Sam Ath appear directly linked to his work in defence of human rights, and designed to curb the exercise of his right to freedom of expression and his right to defend human rights,” says the letter, written by four U.N. rapporteurs...

In its reply, Cambodia’s Permanent Mission to the U.N. said civil society officers including Sam Ath are protected against intimidation, but they need to file “precise information on the alleged intimidation” if they want authorities to take appropriate action...

As he opened a press conference ..., government spokesman Phay Siphan continued the warnings over “fabrications” as well as a recent wave of criticism against Licadho...

Naly Pilorge, Licadho’s director, told ... that the government should value the perspectives of civil society rather than try to suppress them...