UN Envoy Optimistic Despite Bitter Party Talk

Despite an increasingly bitter war of words between the ruling CPP and opposition CNRP, the U.N.’s human rights envoy to Cambodia, Surya Subedi, said Tuesday he was optimistic that the two parties would continue to work together constructively to advance the country.

“I was very pleased to hear…that the dialogue is continuing to carry out the reform needed to make democracy stronger, to make the rule of law more genuine, and for greater respect for human rights in this country,” Mr. Subedi told reporters after meeting with opposition leaders Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha at the National Assembly.

CNRP Vice President Kem Sokha, left, shakes hands with visiting UN human rights envoy Surya Subedi at the National Assembly on Tuesday as CNRP President Sam Rainsy looks on. (Pring Samrang/Reuters)
CNRP Vice President Kem Sokha, left, shakes hands with visiting UN human rights envoy Surya Subedi at the National Assembly on Tuesday as CNRP President Sam Rainsy looks on. (Pring Samrang/Reuters)

Only the day before, however, Prime Minister Hun Sen declared the already tenuous “culture of dialogue” between his party and the opposition to be over and warned seven CNRP lawmakers that their parliamentary immunity would not spare them a trial on charges of insurrection stemming from a violent July protest.

“It’s OK now to start challenging each other without the culture of dialogue,” Mr. Hun Sen said on Monday.

Mr. Sokha had recently accused the prime minister of destroying the country’s natural resources more than any leader in Cambodia’s history, but only after Mr. Hun Sen had equated all who oppose him with Pol Pot sympathizers.

Asked about Mr. Hun Sen’s remarks, Mr. Subedi said he would not comment until verifying them.

“But what I can see, the spirit of cooperation, the spirit of dialogue in the greater interest of the people of this country seems to continue.”

Following his meeting with the CNRP leaders, Mr. Subedi visited the Boeng Kak and Borei Keila communities—which remain embroiled in bitter land disputes with private developers—according to Wan-Hea Lee, representative of the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Cambodia.

“Mr. Subedi is expected to meet with senior government officials during the week,” Ms. Lee said in an email, adding that Mr. Hun Sen would not be among them.

“We understand that the prime minister is unable to meet with the special rapporteur during the current mission,” she said.

Mr. Subedi is on his final mission to Cambodia as the U.N.’s special rapporteur on human rights. His six-year tenure will end in March, at which point the U.N plans to appoint another envoy.

(Additional reporting by Zsombor Peter)

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Clarification: A previous version of this story attributed quotes from the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Cambodia to Bushra Rahman, the office’s communications specialist.

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