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After meet, UN rep mum on politics

Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn meets UNOHCHR representative Wan-Hea Lee yesterday in Phnom Penh.
Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn meets UNOHCHR representative Wan-Hea Lee yesterday in Phnom Penh. Pha Lina

After meet, UN rep mum on politics

Keep out of Cambodia’s internal affairs.

This was the message delivered yesterday by Cambodia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Prak Sokhonn to country director for the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Wan-Hea Lee at a meeting to discuss cooperation.

The remarks, conveyed by a Foreign Ministry official, were in line with the government’s recent tough stance against the UN agency, which was threatened with expulsion last year until it signed a new memorandum of understanding highlighting sections of the UN charter regarding non-interference, as per a demand by Cambodian authorities.

Speaking after the meeting, Foreign Ministry spokesman Chum Sounry said the pair discussed work to improve Cambodia’s human rights record, widely decried by the international community.

Cooperation, however, came with conditions, he said.

“To improve bilateral cooperation and build the confidence of both sides, the senior minister asked OHCHR to pay attention to respecting Cambodia’s sovereignty and not to interfere in Cambodia’s internal affairs based on Article 2.7 of the UN Charter,” he said, referring to the non-interference clause.

Addressing reporters, Lee balked at questions about Cambodia’s current human rights situation and the recently revealed proposed amendments to the law on political parties, which critics say will dramatically curtail political rights.

She said such questions could be “explored” when Rhona Smith, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Cambodia, visits the country soon.

Via email later, Lee similarly declined to address the Political Party Law, and said she had agreed with Sokhonn to hold regular meetings to avoid having issues “snowball into larger problems”.

“We reviewed and, I believe, came to an understanding about the multi-faceted nature of the OHCHR mandate, which is always aimed at assisting the Government to improve its compliance with international human rights standards,” she wrote.

She added the office had “fully resumed” operations following a brief curtailment of programs before the long-stalled MoU was signed in November.

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