CPP Lawmaker: PM May End His Support of UN Rights Office

Prime Minister Hun Sen may not extend the mandate of the UN’s human rights office in Cam­bo­dia if the office does not work more closely with the government, CPP law­maker Cheam Yeap said Mon­­day.

Conditions for Hun Sen’s continued support of the UN office could include greater cooperation with the government’s human rights com­mittee, which is headed by Hun Sen’s advisor Om Yentieng, said Cheam Yeap, adding that the UN could offer “constructive criticism” with recommendations and seek greater comment from the gov­ernment.

“So far the [UN] office is closer to the NGOs than the government and has relied more on the NGOs’ re­ports,” he said. “It is not fair to do so.”

Louise Arbour, the UN’s High Com­missioner for Human Rights, was scheduled to arrive in Siem Reap province on Monday eve­ning to start a weeklong visit.

Arbour arrives as relations be­tween the office of the High Com­missioner for Human Rights in Cam­bodia and the government have been severely tested.

In March, Hun Sen denounced hu­man rights envoy Yash Ghai and called for him to be sacked after he told a news conference that one man in Cambodia held too much power and that human rights had suf­fered as a result.

“The UN office’s report should have been as detailed and balanced as the EU’s report,” said Cheam Yeap, referring to a less withering as­sessment by a European parliamentary mission in April. “As soon as Yash Ghai steps on the first step, the stairs break,” Cheam Yeap add­ed.

The European delegation initially crit­icized Ghai for his downcast as­sessment of human rights in Cam­bo­dia, but later wrote to clarify that they supported and re­spected the work of the rights en­voy.

OHCHR officials declined to comment on Cheam Yeap’s re­marks Monday.

The mandate of the UN rights of­fice in Cambodia would normally be up for review in June. How­ever, in March the UN replaced its Human Rights Commission with a new, 47-mem­ber Human Rights Council. It is not clear when the council will take up the office’s mandate in Cam­bo­dia, according to Henrik Sten­man, deputy OHCHR director in Cam­bodia.

Asked Sunday if Cambodia would support a continued OHCHR presence, Om Yentieng referred questions to the Foreign Affairs Ministry. A spokesman for the ministry de­clined to comment Monday.

Yeng Virak, executive director of the Community Legal Edu­cation Cen­ter, said he found Hun Sen’s hos­tility toward Ghai to be  “very worrying” and was concerned that the UN’s office could be hindered in its work.

“I am afraid,” Yeng Virak said. “But I really encourage [OHCHR] to do what they’re supposed to do.”


Related Stories

Latest News

The Weekly DispatchA weekly newsletter from The Cambodia Daily delivering news, analysis and opinion to your inbox. Published every Friday at 11:30am. Sign up today.