The new UN human rights envoy to Cambodia, who arrived Sunday hoping to meet with Prime Minister Hun Sen and to keep close tabs on the arrests of alleged rebels last week, made progress on both fronts Tuesday.
Envoy Peter Leuprecht emerged from an hour-long meeting with Om Yentieng, a Hun Sen adviser on internal affairs, to say only, “We have had a very full and frank discussion of all human rights issues” in Cambodia.
Om Yentieng said after the meeting that the Foreign Ministry is organizing a meeting between the Leuprecht and Hun Sen.
Leuprecht said on his arrival Sunday that he would “certainly ask for a serious inquiry” into last week’s armed conflict in Phnom Penh. As many as eight people reportedly died and more than 40 are in custody as suspected terrorists after men claiming to belong to an anti-government group attacked parts of the city.
Om Yentieng said he told Leuprecht that it is now a matter for the courts to decide who can meet with the suspects.
“The government controls the suspects for 48 hours only, but after that they are under the control of the courts,” he said. “If he wants to meet with the suspects, he can ask the courts.”
Municipal Court prosecutor Yet Chakriya said later that Leuprecht’s representatives were meeting with the suspects and their lawyers. Om Yentieng chairs the government Human Rights Committee, an organization that international human rights workers say rarely takes any action in rights matters.
He said Tuesday his committee will work closely with the UN envoy, and said he was pleased he had been able to clarify some misperceptions the UN may have about human rights in Cambodia.The UN, he said, seems to think that human rights did not exist in Cambodia before the arrival of Untac in 1992.
He said he told Leuprecht Cambodia has a long literary, cultural and religious tradition of human rights. “We make this clear to the UN all the time, but they never announce to the world,” he said.