For 2nd Visit, UN Envoy Seeks Meeting With King Sihamoni

UN human rights envoy Surya Subedi is to begin a two-week visit to Cambodia on Jan 18, his second since being appointed in March of last year, and hopes to receive an audience with King Norodom Sihamoni and senior Cambodian jurists, officials said.

Sam Ratana, deputy director of international relations at the Foreign Ministry, said Foreign Minister Hor Namhong had already approved Mr Subedi’s second visit to Cambodia but was still reviewing a request to meet with the King, Prime Minister Hun Sen, and members of the Constitutional Council and Supreme Council of the Magistracy.

“We are awaiting the approval from our minister to decide whether to allow him to meet the other line ministers,” said Mr Ratana, adding that Mr Subedi is also seeking meetings with the ministers of Justice, Interior and Land Management.

During an initial bridge-building visit in June, Mr Subedi met with officials from the same ministries and with Mr Hun Sen.

Since Mr Subedi’s appointment, he and government officials have both sought to turn over a new leaf in relations that collapsed under the tenure of his predecessor, Kenyan law professor Yash Ghai.

However, it remains to be seen how long such diplomacy can withstand the nature of the human rights envoy’s work.

In his first appearance before the UN’s Human Rights Council in October in Geneva, Mr Subedi called on Cambodia to decriminalize defamation and to end the practice of suing and jailing government critics.

His suggestions were rejected out of hand as the National Assembly adopted the new penal code, which contains criminal penalties for defamation and the new crime of “insult.”

Christophe Peschoux, country representative for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, which is independent of Mr Subedi but acts as a secretariat during his missions, also said Mr Subedi will continue his efforts to familiarize himself with circumstances in Cambodia.

Mr Subedi’s mandate was extended for another year in October but he is not due to appear again before the Human Rights Council until September.


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