Cambodia’s ambassador to the UN has written to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon complaining about the human rights envoy to Cambodia, Yash Ghai, and questioning whether there is still a need for such an official.
In the latest chapter in an escalating war of words over comments by Ghai, who last week expressed dismay at the state of the country’s judiciary, land-grabbing and forced evictions, Ambassador Sea Kosal wrote that Cambodia had been “deeply upset with the aggressive behavior [of Ghai].”
In his Dec 18 letter to Ban, Sea Kosal also said that the government was considering whether a UN rights envoy was necessary, given that Cambodia was “moving smoothly and irreversibly to the path of respect of human rights, much better than many countries in the region where there are no special representatives on human rights.”
Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday appealed to television stations to broadcast stories about the human rights situation in Ghai’s home country Kenya, which the premier said was worse than Cambodia. “If you had spoken appropriately, I would have accepted it. But when you insult our origins, I insult your origins too,” Hun Sen said, in apparent reference to Ghai.
CPP National Assembly First Vice President Nguon Nhel said Thursday that there were valid reasons to reconsider the need for a UN special envoy, as Cambodian people already know their rights.
The presence of UN offices and representatives in an independent country requires a bilateral agreement between the government and the world body, Nguon Nhel said.
“[Ghai] evaluated the human rights issues without the [government’s] opinion,” he said, adding that the presence of an envoy from the UN would only continue if the government agrees with how he conducts his work.
The posting of UN rights envoys to Cambodia was agreed under Article 17 of the 1991 Paris Peace Agreements, which states that “after the end of the transitional period, the UNCHR [UN Center for Human Rights] should continue to monitor closely the human rights situation in Cambodia, including, if necessary, by the appointment of a special rapporteur.”
Ny Chakrya, chief of monitoring for rights group Adhoc, said the presence of a UN envoy for human rights was “priceless.”
“When the UN decides that the human rights situation here is good enough they will leave,” he said, adding that preventing the envoy from doing his work would hurt Cambodia’s international image.
Naly Pilorge, director of rights group Licadho, said the presence of an envoy was not a question of improvement compared to other countries, but one of obligation.
The police beating of monks outside the Vietnamese Embassy and the use of a fire hose to disperse peaceful marchers in Ratanakkiri this week is evidence of continued poor performance by the authorities on human rights issues, Pilorge added.
(Additional reporting by Yun Samean)