UN Approves New Human Rights Envoy to Cambodia

As anticipated, the U.N. Human Rights Council on Friday approved U.K. professor Rhona Smith as the new special rapporteur to Cambodia on human rights, replacing Surya Subedi, whose six-year term ends this month.

The rights council announced its decision in a statement at the end of its 28th session in Geneva. Ms. Smith, 45, is a professor of international human rights law at Northumbria University in the U.K. and a visiting professor at Pannasastra University in Phnom Penh.

The nominating body had named her the frontrunner for the unpaid job because of her “in-depth knowledge of the country, her extensive contacts with different Cambodian stakeholders and the human rights challenges faced by the country.”

Though Mr. Subedi enjoyed a less turbulent relationship with the government than his predecessors, his reports to the rights council on the country’s shortcomings were often criticized and dismissed by Cambodian officials.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said Sunday that Ms. Smith would also need approval from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which could not be reached.

Mr. Siphan said past rapporteurs had failed in the role “because those people don’t fully understand Cambodian culture and how Cambodians behave,” and accused them of treating the country like a student.

“We are a nation; we are not a classroom,” he said.

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