Govt Officials Mum on Israel’s Motives for UN Rebuke

Government officials yesterday declined to speculate on the motives behind Israel’s sharp and unexplained rebuke of Cambodia’s human rights record at a UN meeting in Geneva last week.

During the general debate portion of a UN Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva last week, Israel accused Cambodia of everything from corrupt police that allow sex traffickers to go free to cracking down on political dissent, according to video of the meeting posted online by the UN.

“The independence and impartiality of the judiciary is also called into question,” said Walid Abu-Haya, the first secretary of Israel’s permanent mission to Geneva. He also called on the government to release the employee of a local rights group, sentenced to two years in jail last month for disseminating false information about Prime Minister Hun Sen and his CPP government.

In response, Cambodia’s second secretary to Geneva, Long Sokhan, fired back on Monday by defending Cambodia’s record of “achievement and commitment to human rights” and accusing Israel-a “country of great concern” for its own record-of hypocrisy.

In his brief remarks, Mr Abu-Haya also touched on alleged human rights abuses in Iran and North Korea, but offered no explanation for choosing to comment on the countries that he did.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan declined to speculate about why Israel would chose to highlight allegations against Cambodia, but said yesterday that its comments were based on “wrong information.”

“I don’t know the purpose of this criticism,” said Mak Sambath, deputy chairman of the Cambodian Human Rights Committee. “As a principle, each country has its own territory…. So they should not interfere in the internal affairs of our country.”

Both men referred further questions about Israel’s possible motives to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said he was too busy to comment, however, and referred questions back to the Human Rights Committee.

Requests for comment sent to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Israeli Embassy in Bangkok yesterday were not returned.

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