Int’l Groups Defend Ghai After Criticism Row

Five prominent international organizations have come to the defense of UN special envoy for human rights in Cambodia Yash Ghai and called on the government to respect its commitment to the protection of its citizen’s rights.

Recent comments by Ghai about development, the judiciary, land-grabbing and forced evictions in Cambodia drew a heated response from Prime Minister Hun Sen and other officials who have declared that they will not work with the envoy.

US-based Human Rights Watch, the Asian Human Rights Com­mission, the Asian Forum for Hu­man Rights and Development, the International Federation for Human Rights and the World Or­ganization Against Torture said in a joint statement issued Tues­day they were deeply concerned by the government’s unwillingness to engage with Ghai. The envoy, the groups added, is “not an isolated maverick.”

“Ghai has drawn attention to critical concerns shared by the wider international human rights community,” the statement said.

“Hun Sen’s tirade against the UN is the latest in a long series of at­tacks and lack of cooperation with Ghai and the three UN Special Re­pre­sentatives who preceded him,” they added.

The statement also reiterated Ghai’s comments that Cambodia’s international aid donors, who commit hundreds of millions of dollars each year to the country’s development, should not silently condone the government’s policies.

Interior Ministry Secretary of State Nuth Sa An said Tuesday that he did not know why Ghai’s opinions of Cambodia were so negative.

Ghai and the human rights community in general are being too hard on the government, he added.

“We are lacking in certain areas but we are trying to correct that step-by-step,” Nuth Sa An said.

Secretary of State at the Council of Ministers Ngor Srun also said the criticisms were unfair.

“We have respected human rights,” he said, adding that he was scheduled to have a meeting with UN human rights officials on Friday.

Christophe Peschoux, country representative for the UN human rights office in Phnom Penh, confirmed that a special UN human rights consultant was currently ad­vising government and local groups about the establishment of human rights institutions.The consultation is part of the regular UN process, and not related to Ghai’s comments last week, Pe­schoux said.

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