Head of UN’s Human Rights Office Arrives Rights Visit

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson arrived in Cambodia Tuesday evening on the second stop of her three-country tour of Asia.

Although she declined to comment after disembarking her plane, she is tentatively scheduled to discuss legal and judicial re­forms, human trafficking and is expected to raise the recent “disappearance” of three asylum seekers under UN protection in Phnom Penh.

Thich Tri Luc, a Vietnamese dissident monk who was a member of the outlawed Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam, disappeared on July 25 and is feared to have been kidnapped.

Two Falun Gong practitioners, Li Gojun and Zhang Xinyi, his wife, were reportedly deported to China by the government on Aug 9.

The Falun Gong is a spiritual movement that is banned by the Chinese government.

According to Amnesty Inter­national, tens of thousands of Falun Gong practitioners have been detained by the Chinese authorities.

While some have been tried others have been sent to labor camps without trial, the report states.

The two Falun Gong asylum seekers have “person of concern” status from the UN High Com­missioner for Refugees while the Vietnamese monk had been granted UN refugee status, according to reports from support groups in the US and Paris.

Amnesty International on Tuesday blasted the government for allowing the Vietnamese dissident under UNHCR protection to disappear and for the alleged deportation of the two Falun Gong practitioners.

“Amnesty International is gravely concerned that the Cambodian authorities are failing to fulfill their obligations” as signatories to the 1951 convention on refugees, which prohibits the deportation or forcible return of an individual to a country where they could face the risk of human rights abuses, Amnesty Inter­national stated.

“The recent incidents of the forcible return of two Falun Gong members to China as well as the disappearance of a Vietnamese refugee are disturbing developments,” the statement says.

Amnesty International, which issued its statement the day Robinson arrived in Cambodia, called on the public to write letters to Prime Minister Hun Sen, co-Minister of Interior Sar Kheng and Undersecretary of State for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Long Visalo demanding that an investigation into whereabouts of the three refugees.

This is Robinson’s second visit to Cambodia.

During her visit in January of 1998, Robinson was publicly embarrassed by then-second prime minister Hun Sen, who introduced her personally to four Funcinpec-aligned military officers who were cited by a UN report as being killed.

The UN criticized the government for not investigating the killings thoroughly and for not bringing the perpetrators to justice.

The UN issued a statement 12 hours after the meeting between Hun Sen and Robinson, saying it made a “transliteration” mistake in its original report.

The UN later stated that one of the men Hun Sen introduced Robinson to had not been mentioned in the report, two had been reported as missing and another was mistaken for his brother, who was killed.

Robinson is scheduled to address the National Assembly today and meet with Prime Minister Hun Sen and co-Min­ister of Interior Sar Kheng. She is scheduled to leave for East Timor on Thursday.

Formerly the president of Ireland, Robinson was appointed to the UN’s top human rights position in June of 1997 and is scheduled to leave the position on Sept 11.

She will be replaced by Sergio Vieira de Mello, the former head of the UN mission in East Timor.


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