August 18, 2017 / 10:19 AM / 2 years ago

U.N. envoy says Cambodia 'approaching precipice' amid threats of violence

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - A U.N. human rights envoy warned Cambodia on Friday it “appeared to be approaching a precipice” in the lead-up to a general election next year and called on the government to halt its violent rhetoric.

Prime Minister Hun Sen has repeatedly said that war could break out in the Southeast Asian country if his ruling party loses the election.

Hun Sen’s ministers have also warned of violence against anti-government protesters if they hold rallies over the election period.

“Such comments should not be made by government ministers, even in private, as they have no place in peaceful society, which still bears the scars of its turbulent history,” Rhona Smith, U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in Cambodia, told reporters.

“The general situation in the country remains tense. Cambodia appears to be approaching a precipice.

“It is my hope that moving forwarding, Cambodia will retreat from the precipice with no more threats of violence, quelling insurrections or war or racial inflammatory statements.”

At least 1.8 million people died from starvation, torture, disease or overwork under the 1975-79 Khmer Rouge “killing fields” regime.

Tension has risen with members of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) jailed in recent months. Rights groups have said they fear a surge in political violence in the run-up to the election.

Reporting by Prak Chan Thul; Editing by Nick Macfie

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