Government Deal With UN Hangs in the Balance

Although 10 months have passed since the expiration of the government’s agreement for cooperation with the U.N.’s human rights body, an official dodged discussion of the impact the lapse was having after a meeting in Phnom Penh on Tuesday.

Keo Remy, head of the government’s Human Rights Committee, said that while he found the partnership with the U.N.’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNOHCHR) valuable to Cambodia, he had no authority to weigh in on whether the memorandum of understanding (MoU) should be resumed.

Keo Remy, head of the government’s Cambodia Human Rights Committee, speaks during a meeting with U.N. human rights officials in Phnom Penh on Tuesday. (Hannah Hawkins/The Cambodia Daily)
Keo Remy, head of the government’s Cambodia Human Rights Committee, speaks during a meeting with U.N. human rights officials in Phnom Penh on Tuesday. (Hannah Hawkins/The Cambodia Daily)

“For me, I think that’s very important, but let the government decide,” he said after a meeting with U.N. representatives at the committee’s office. “The foreign affairs [minister], Prak Sokhon, he takes a look: Is it important? Should it continue?”

The MoU has been regularly renewed over the past two decades. However, this time around the two sides are stuck due to the government’s insistence on the addition of a non-interference clause.

Mr. Remy directed further questions about the MoU to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, whose spokesman could not be reached.

Mr. Remy said that during Tuesday’s meeting, he noted the U.N.’s waning influence.

“I informed them that the U.N. nowadays is decreasing in impact—losing trust from member countries in the U.N.,” he said. “Because of what? Because…when the U.S. says something, the U.N. follows.”

No less than 39 countries endorsed a harsh critique of the ruling CPP read out by the U.S. during the 33rd U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva last month, expressing various concerns over the deteriorating situation in Cambodia. In response, Cambodia’s envoy to the U.N., Ney Samol, said the government could not accept interference in its domestic affairs.

According to Wan-Hea Lee, country representative for the UNOHCHR, the previous MoU came to an end in December. It has not yet been renewed because the Cambodian government has “a different notion” than the U.N. regarding its role in the country, she said.

Ms. Lee said the government had requested that a new MoU specifically cite a U.N. Charter article stating that nothing within the code “shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state.”

The U.N. held that the entirety of its rules be abided by, emphasizing “the promotion and protection of human rights,” she said.

Ms. Lee said Tuesday’s meeting was “cordial.”

“While we may not see every issue in the same light and some issues are too complex to have been examined exhaustively today, I was pleased with the very frank and cordial nature of today’s meeting,” she said.

(Additional reporting by Kim Chan)

retka@cambodiadaily.com

© 2016, All rights reserved.