Annan Backs Embattled Human Rights Envoy

UN Secretary-General Kofi An­nan issued a statement on Thurs­day backing his Special Repre­sentative for Hu­man Rights in Cambodia Yash Ghai, and calling on the government to cooperate with the UN on human rights.

Government spokesman and Minister of Information Khieu Kan­harith responded that the government would be willing to work with Ghai in the future, if the UN fires its staff at the local office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Hun Sen has lashed out at Ghai several times in recent days, after Ghai held a press conference critical of the government’s record on human rights on Tuesday.

“The Secretary-General trusts the Cambodian authorities will continue to offer their cooperation to the Special Representative and to the Cambodia Office of the High Com­missioner for Human Rights,” the UN said in a statement.

He noted that the mandates of the UN’s human rights envoys to Cambodia were established in 1993 by the international community, and that these mandates have been renewed in full consultation with the government.

“This is in recognition both of the continuing need for this essential work in Cambodia and of the contributions made by different Special Representatives, who have carried out their duties with independence, integrity and expertise, as well as by the Office of the High Commis­sioner,” the statement reads.

UN High Commissioner for Hu­man Rights Louise Arbour also is­sued a statement Thursday calling on the full cooperation of Hun Sen’s government in monitoring human rights in Cambodia and “ensuring that the standards accepted by the government are observed.”

Khieu Kanharith on Friday blasted the local office of the UN center for human rights. “They are the most lazy staff the UN has,” Khieu Kanharith said. “Yash Ghai is new and they gave him the wrong information,” he said. “We would consider working with him if the UN fired that local staff.”

“This is an old song, maybe it was a good song ten years ago,” he said of Ghai’s criticism. “He does not know about how many judges were disciplined…about the assistance from donors we have accepted to draft new laws.”

The UN center for human rights’ Cambodia Coordinator Margo Pick­en declined comment on Khieu Kanharith’s remarks.

On Thursday, the Asian Human Rights Commission issued a statement condemning Hun Sen’s verbal attacks on Ghai, and endorsing Ghai’s controversial finding that too much power has been concentrated in the hands of one unnamed in­di­vidual. “Democracy in Cambodia re­mains stillborn,” AHRC said. “While previous special representatives have made hundreds of recommendations, none of them have been implemented. The donor community must review this lack of implementation.”

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