Spokesman: PM Won’t Close UN Rights Office

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Thurs­day told visiting UN High Com­missioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour that the Cambodian government wanted to cooperate with the UN’s human rights office in Phnom Penh, not close it, a spokes­man for the prime minister an­nounced.

During the one-hour meeting at Hun Sen’s residence near Indepen­dence Monument, Arbour did not mention UN human rights envoy Yash Ghai, according to the premier’s spokesman, Eang Sophal­leth.

Ghai’s frank assessment of human rights in Cambodia drew an angry rebuttal from the prime minister in March. Both Arbour and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan subsequently expressed their support for Ghai. “Samdech [Hun Sen] will not close the UN office. If the office wants to continue, it is up to the of­fice,” Eang Sophalleth said.

“What the government wants is for the human rights groups to tell the truth about the work the government is doing, to show the facts and avoid just viewing Cambodia as hell,” he said.

Arbour asked Hun Sen to report to her directly if problems with the Phnom Penh Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights arose in the future, he added.

She also told Hun Sen that the world had not yet learned of im­prove­ments in human rights and the democratic process in Cambo­dia, Eang Sophalleth said.

Arbour’s spokesman Jose Diaz said Thursday that requests for comment were best left for a news conference scheduled for this morning.

Ny Chakrya, chief investigator with local rights group Adhoc, said he believes that Arbour supports Ghai’s report but is being diplomatic on her visit and does not want to dwell on the past.

“She wants the NGOs and the government to concentrate on the current situation,” he said.




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