Cambodian Official Rejects UN Request for Update on Rights

cambodia-subedi-may-2013.jpg U.N. Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Cambodia Surya Subedi at a lecture to university students in Phnom Penh on May 21, 2013.

Cambodia’s top human rights official lashed out at a U.N. envoy Wednesday over requests for an update on the country’s progress on rights, criticizing the envoy of “ignoring” earlier government responses to international concerns.

Om Yentieng, president of the Cambodia Human Rights Committee, accused U.N. Special Rapporteur for Human Rights Surya Subedi at a press conference after their meeting of "not reading the committee’s report" on his concerns.

Subedi is on a week-long fact-finding mission to Cambodia to follow up on his last report issued to the U.N. in December, which pushed for electoral reforms, judicial independence, and an end to rights violations in the country, including forced evictions linked to economic land concessions.

Om Yientieng said the committee had replied to those concerns in a report sent to the U.N. human rights office in the capital Phnom Penh.

“We already explained our government’s positions,” he told reporters at the press conference.

“Because he asked me these questions again, this means Subedi didn’t read a single line [of our report].”

Subedi’s original report was prepared without government cooperation and is “like an arrow [aimed at Cambodia], shedding blood,” Om Yentieng said.

Subedi declined at the press conference to comment on the meeting, saying only that he would present his latest findings on Saturday and thanking Om Yentieng for his cooperation.

“I’ve received a lot of information, and will include this in my report and submit it to the United Nations,” Subedi said.

Cold receptions

Om Yentieng’s remarks were the latest in a series of cold receptions for the envoy since he arrived in Cambodia on Sunday.

Following a lecture Subedi gave at a university on Tuesday, hundreds of students unfurled banners urging an end to U.N. rights scrutiny of Cambodia and accused Subedi of supporting political opposition groups.

A day earlier, a group of moto-taxi drivers had protested in front of the U.N. offices demanding Subedi leave the country.

But the protests have sparked suspicions among nongovernmental organizations of being political stunts.

Cambodian NGOs decried the protests, with People Center for Development and Peace director Yong Kim Eng noting that Subedi’s critics appeared to have been “well organized” in advance.

“The students should reflect on [the content of Subedi’s] speeches,” Yong Kim Eng said.

Subedi, who has called for electoral reforms to be enacted in order for the upcoming July general election to meet international standards, met to discuss the vote.

On Monday, thousands of opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party supporters had demonstrated in Phnom Penh, calling for international pressure on Cambodia’s government to postpone July national elections and reform its electoral procedures, in line with recommendations made in Subedi’s previous report.

The demonstrators, led by Cambodia National Rescue Party deputy president Kem Sokha, marched to the offices of the European Union Delegation to Cambodia and the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights to seek support for their demands.

Reported by Leng Maly for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Richard Finney.

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