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.”


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