The UN’s special representative for human rights urged the government to keep political violence in check as the country’s first commune elections approach.
In his first report to the UN, Peter Leuprecht, appointed by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in August 2000, called political violence in the upcoming elections “a serious danger.”
Prime Minister Hun Sen has been urged to send a strong message condemning acts of violence, Leuprecht wrote, but “this request was met with some skepticism on the part of the prime minister, who expressed the view that political violence does not occur in Cambodia.”
Last month, a CPP commune official was sentenced to 17 years in prison for the murder of a Funcinpec rival in Kampot province. In addition, opposition leader Sam Rainsy has repeatedly complained that his election hopefuls in the provinces are being threatened, beaten or murdered.
Om Yentieng, a close adviser to the premier and the chairman of the Cambodian Human Rights Committee, said Friday the elections “will show how much human rights and democracy have improved.”
“Human rights currently are thousands of times better than in Pol Pot’s time,” he said.
Leuprecht’s diplomatic report called on the government to eradicate political violence and “to send a clear and firm message condemning all acts of violence and intimidation related to political activity.”
The special representative urged the government to establish a “genuinely independent National Election Committee” to oversee the elections, now scheduled for February 2002.
Leuprecht’s report also touched on several other key human rights areas for Cambodia, including poverty, corruption and the country’s weak judiciary.
“The lack of independence of the judiciary is a serious obstacle to establishing the rule of law,” he stated.
(Additional reporting by Pin Sisovann)