Group Calls for Intervention by UN Rights Chief

The government’s poor performance on human rights requires ur­gent intervention from Louise Arbour, the UN’s visiting High Com­mis­sioner for Human Rights, the Bangkok-based human rights organization Forum-Asia announc­ed Tues­day.

In an open letter to Arbour, who ar­rived in Cambodia Monday evening for week-long visit, Forum-Asia’s Executive Director Anselmo Lee questioned the government’s commitment to human rights and of­fered detailed criticism of the government, saying that some of its ac­tions violated international law and were unconstitutional.

“Despite some pledges made publicly and recently at the donors’ meeting in March by the Prime Min­ister, there has not been concrete governmental reform to guarantee people’s fundamental rights and freedoms,” Lee wrote.

By allowing the recent eviction of families from Tonle Bassac commune’s Village 14, the government “has contravened both its promises and legal obligations” as a party to in­ternational human rights treaties, be­cause squatters have been denied ad­equate housing, personal security and privacy, Lee wrote.

Forum-Asia is “extremely alarm­ed” that some Cambodian judges se­lected for the Khmer Rouge tribunal lack both political independence and sufficient qualifications, and previously issued politicized rulings in favor of the government, Lee wrote.

Draft legislation to regulate freedom of assembly as well as the continued potential to use claims of def­amation to silence critics “call into ques­tion the government’s commitment to human rights,” Lee wrote.

The forum, a regional rights um­brella group, has member organizations in 14 countries, including Ad­hoc and Licadho in Cambodia.

Henrik Stenman, deputy director of the UN center for human rights in Phnom Penh, said the office re­ceived the letter and brought it to Ar­bour’s attention.

CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap was critical of the letter.

“Critics are only good at speaking and cannot do the job as well as Sam­dech Hun Sen,” he said.

“We have ratified UN conventions on human rights and respect all principles like other countries.”

Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Son Chhay said he supported Forum-Asia’s view.

“I think that’s a fair assessment and it gets to the target and to what has been happening in this country,” he said.

Son Chhay said he was not concerned that the government could block the work of the UN human rights office, despite threats from some government officials.

“The prime minister has been threatening to close down the of­fice many times in the past. He has nev­er succeeded in doing that be­cause he knows he has no right to do so,” Son Chhay said.

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