UN Rights Envoy Meets With Interior Minister, Opposition Leader

Interior Minister Sar Kheng on Friday met with visiting U.N. human rights envoy Surya Subedi, who spent the first week of his 11th mission to Cambodia following up on electoral, labor and legislative reform.

The special rapporteur later met with CNRP Vice President Kem Sokha, who spoke about reform of the National Election Committee and the ongoing post-election deadlock with the ruling CPP.

Surya Subedi, left, the UN's human rights envoy to Cambodia, meets with Interior Minister Sar Kheng on Friday as part of his 11th mission to the country. Mr. Subedi is scheduled to report to the UN on the country's human rights situation later this year. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
Surya Subedi, left, the UN’s human rights envoy to Cambodia, meets with Interior Minister Sar Kheng on Friday as part of his 11th mission to the country. Mr. Subedi is scheduled to report to the UN on the country’s human rights situation later this year. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

Speaking after Mr. Subedi’s meeting with Mr. Kheng, which lasted about an hour, Por Pheak, deputy general secretariat and chief of the Interior Ministry’s international relations department, said Mr. Kheng had been asked about a number of issues including returning migrant workers from Thailand.

“[Mr. Kheng] said the government is facing this problem and is welcoming the return of people from Thailand,” he said of the exodus of at least 225,000 people back to Cambodia in the past two weeks.

“Primarily, we have paid attention to providing transport and food” to the workers fleeing potential unrest, he added. “We want to know the real situation—whether or not they intend to return…to Thailand or continue farming rice in the paddies.”

In a conversation that coincided with an announcement that the government would be subsidizing the cost of passports for migrant workers, Mr. Kheng also said officials were considering ways to minimize the number of workers getting in trouble because they don’t have proper documentation.

Mr. Kheng, who has taken part in negotiations with the CNRP on its boycott of the National Assembly, said talks are ongoing and that “the Cambodian People’s Party has clearly made its stance in negotiations that a resolution is in the best interests of the people and the nation.”

He defended the government’s decision to temporarily outlaw gatherings at Freedom Park, saying protesters had failed to respect the law.

During their two-hour meeting, Mr. Subedi and Mr. Sokha discussed the ongoing political deadlock, according to the CNRP leader.

“The big problem that we focused [on] was our stance to end the deadlock. We have told him the difference between the National Rescue Party and Cambodia People’s Party is regarding reform of the NEC,” Mr. Sokha told reporters after the meeting.

“The CPP wanted 50 plus one and CNRP wanted two-thirds,” he said, referring to the current sticking point in negotiations, which is how NEC members will be elected if the CNRP takes their seats in parliament.

“If there is no change to the NEC, we completely won’t join the National Assembly,” said Mr. Sokha. “[This is what] we told him.”

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