UN Human Rights Envoy Accused of Favoring Opposition Party

Om Yentieng, president of the government’s Cambodian Human Rights Committee, yesterday accused U.N. human rights envoy Surya Subedi of pandering to the opposition party and trying to stifle the work of the national court system through his examination of Cambodia’s rights situation.

Mr. Yentieng, who also heads the Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU), likened Mr. Subedi’s latest reports on human rights in Cambodia to electioneering in favor of the opposition.

“I think that making these reports and broadcasting them like this is no different to an election campaign,” Mr. Yentieng told reporters at a workshop in Phnom Penh on how to apply to the U.N. Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC).

“What does [Mr. Subedi] think of Cambodia? Is it his opponent or partner?” Mr. Yentieng asked.

“Secondly, we think that if his speech comes after the opposition party [speaks out], then he should be an adviser for the opposition,” he said.

“Mr. Subedi has made reports and the evaluations are not good; they have an oppressive opinion and are oppressive of expert [judicial] officials,” Mr. Yentieng added.

On Tuesday, Mr. Subedi delivered reports on the situation of human rights and economic land concessions in Cambodia to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Both reports highlight the independent, unpaid envoy’s concerns about the electoral system and the impact that land concessions have on communities around the country.

The reports are based on fact-finding missions he made to Cambodia in December 2011 and May of this year. In both reports, Mr. Subedi said he was concerned that the judiciary was being used to criminalize those who sought to defend their land.

Despite his dislike of Mr. Subedi’s reports, Mr. Yentieng said it was unlikely that the U.N. envoy would be replaced.

“Even if we replace these people, they’re the same because they do the same job. We are not enemies with Mr. Subedi; we have met and talked normally like friends, but we have already said that he doesn’t listen,” Mr. Yentieng said.

Mr. Subedi’s predecessor as U.N. rights envoy, Yash Ghai, resigned from his position in September 2008 citing a tempestuous relationship with the government. Prime Minister Hun Sen and nearly all members of the Cabinet refused to meet with Mr. Ghai during his three-year term. Mr. Hun Sen had also publicly insulted Mr. Ghai, branding him “deranged” and calling for his dismissal by the U.N.

Mr. Ghai’s predecessor, Peter Leuprecht, also had a difficult time as Cambodia’s rights envoy, coming in for criticism from Mr. Hun Sen, who once called him “stupid” in a speech.

Mr. Yentieng was speaking yesterday at the Sofitel Hotel at a U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime workshop on implementing the U.N. Convention Against Corruption. At the workshop, Mr. Yentieng said 800 complaints were lodged with the ACU in the first eight months of the year, up from 700 last year.

Cambodia is a state party to UNCAC but not a signatory, and on September 11 established a steering committee with a view to signing on.

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