Senator Says Poipet Field Still Has Mines

A field near Poipet where poor people evicted from their homes have been sent to live under a government resettlement program does contain land mines, according to Kem Sokha, chairman of the Senate’s commission on human rights.

Kem Sokha said he personally investigated the field Saturday and learned that deminers with the Cambodian Mine Action Center had located two mines as recently as Friday near new plots meant for resettlement.

The field has been at the center of an argument between Prime Minister Hun Sen and UN hum­an rights monitor Peter Leu­p­recht, who alleged in a report last month the government was settling poor people on a mine field.

Hun Sen dismissed the charge as a “stupidity.”

Kem Sokha’s charge comes as Cambodia prepares to celebrate International Human Rights Day with an official gathering today at Chaktomuk Theater. The international day of observance designated by the UN finds Cambodia more serious about protecting human rights than 10 years ago, but still struggling to meet world expectations, government officials and observers said Sunday.

The government has yet to approve a new agreement with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, which has run on an expired mandate for nearly one year. Negotiations on a new mandate continue, government spokesman Om Yentieng said.

“[Rights] are better generally and everybody takes part. Human rights workers have the courage to talk. The government generally cooperates with the NGOs regarding human rights,” Om Yentieng said.

Conditions have improved, but Cambodia still needs a UN presence, according to Kem Sokha. “Cambodian human rights do not meet the international standard,” he said.

Lao Mong Hay, executive director for the Khmer Institute of Democracy, said human rights have improved in Cambodia, but much work remains.

“Especially during the elections, security is continuously violated,” he said. “Another human right that has been continuously violated is the right to have decent wages to live on, especially for our government employees.”

He said Cambodia’s situation is not helped by Hun Sen’s outbursts.

“As a Cambodian citizen I wish our prime minister would be less arrogant. There should be no more confrontation between Cambodia and the UN or the prime minister,” Lao Mong Hay said.


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