Ministry Blasts UN Over Rainsy Comments

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs again on Friday accused the U.N.’s human rights office of interfering in its sovereign affairs after the body demanded an explanation for government directives exiling opposition leader Sam Rainsy.

Wah-Hea Lee, country representative for the U.N.’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), said last month that the decision to ban Mr. Rainsy from returning to Cambodia was “unjustified and arbitrary” based on available information.

“The decision needs to be urgently explained—although the chances for any explanation to be considered acceptable by the U.N. Human Rights Committee are slim—or reversed,” she said.

In a letter dated Friday and sent to U.N. resident coordinator Claire Van der Vaeren, Foreign Affairs Minister Prak Sokhonn said the comments “crossed the red line of the UN Charter…underlining the respect for sovereignty and non-interference.”

The minister said the remarks, sent in an email to The Cambodia Daily, also violated the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which says that business with the government is to be conducted through ministries and not through the media.

“I have noted with deep regret that while the OHCHR has explicitly refused to mention the respect for sovereignty of Cambodia, its representative in Phnom Penh has continued interfering into the internal affairs of the Kingdom of Cambodia,” the letter said.

The memorandum of understanding between the Foreign Affairs Ministry and the OHCHR expired almost a year ago, and the government is refusing to renew it unless additional language is add­ed about respect for sovereignty and non-interference.

Mr. Sokhonn’s letter said that until a new deal is reached, the OHCHR had no legitimacy.

“In the absence of a valid Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Royal Government of Cambodia and the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the current operation and activities of the OHCHR in Cambodia, including those of its Country Representative, are not legitimate,” Mr. So­khonn said.

Ministry spokesman Chum Sounry declined to comment on what that meant for the office’s operations in Cambodia.

Ms. Lee did not respond to a request for comment.

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