UN human rights envoy Yash Ghai is due to arrive today for his fourth mission in Cambodia—a 10-day visit that will include a trip to Ratanakkiri province where he plans to meet with villagers and local authorities regarding several land disputes, officials said.
Christophe Peschoux, country representative for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said Friday that Ghai will be in Ratanakkiri from Sunday to Wednesday and meet with provincial authorities, court officials and civil society organizations in villages affected by disputes in that area.
“[Ghai] will meet with all parties involved,” he said.
According to a UN press release, Ghai has also requested meetings with Prime Minister Hun Sen, the ministers of Interior, Justice and Agriculture, as well as the chair of the Council for Legal and Judicial Reform.
Pen Bonnar, provincial coordinator for local rights group Adhoc, said that Ghai plans to meet Monday with Kong Yu villagers who are involved in a bitter land dispute in O’Yadaw district’s Pate commune with Keat Kolney, a sister of Finance Minister Keat Chhon.
Sev Khem, a Kong Yu village representative, said by telephone that Ghai’s visit was “good news.”
Suong Sophea, a Community Legal Education Center attorney for the villagers, said Ghai will meet with CLEC lawyers in Ratanakkiri on Monday morning before traveling to Kong Yu village.
“We are hopeful and strongly believe that his trip will receive interest from the public, the government and the court and gain attention to solve the matter between villagers and Keat Kolney properly,” he said.
Nab Bun Heng, Ratanakkiri provincial cabinet chief, said that he hadn’t received any information about Ghai’s visit, but that large gatherings would be prohibited.
“We will stop them if those villagers and Ghai are going to organize a big public meeting without asking permission from our authorities because it will affect public order,” he said. Ghai, he added, would be permitted to go door to door and meet with villagers in their homes.
Hor Ang, deputy provincial police chief, said he too was unaware of Ghai’s visit.
“I cannot say exactly whether we will stop him or not because we are not clear about his trip and how harmful it will be if he goes down to Kong Yu village,” Hor Ang said.
“Whatever we are going to do will be for public security and to prevent disorder,” he said.
Ratanakkiri Provincial Governor Muong Poy said he had been contacted about a meeting with Ghai, but would be out of town. He referred questions to Bou Lam, the deputy provincial governor, who declined to comment.
Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said there are limits to what Ghai’s visit to Ratanakkiri could achieve because only Cambodian courts can resolve land disputes.
“Not Yash Ghai, not UN human rights…. They have no right to solve disputes in my country,” he said.
A request is being processed for a meeting between Ghai and Interior Minister Sar Kheng, Khieu Sopheak added.