I would like to clarify some points in the Phnom Penh Post article entitled "Detained
Chinese claim neglect" written by Phelim Kyne and published in your edition
of October 29 - November 11, 1999.
The article states: "Immigration officials later rebuffed attempts made by representatives
of United Nations Centre for Human Rights to gain access to the villa while UNHCHR
efforts to enlist the assistance of the International Committee of the Red Cross
for assistance were equally unsuccessful."
In fact COHCHR recieved authorization from the authorities to visit the villa on
Thursday 28 September. A team from the office went to the villa with a representative
of UN High Commissioner for Refugees and a medical team from Licadho. Full access
to the villa and the possibility of private interviews was granted.
In addition, the Deputy Chief of the Immigration Department, the Provincial Governor
of Kandal, the District Chief of Kien Svay and the Deputy Police Commissioner of
Kandal Province accompanied the team.
It is also important to clarify that our Office did not request the assistance of
the International Committee of the Red Cross to gain access to the villa, despite
what is said in the article.
I would be grateful if you would ensure these points are clarified in you next edition.
Rosemary McCreery, Director, COHCHR
The Post responds:
Ms McCreery notes that the COHCHR "received authorization from the authorities
to visit the villa on Sep 28." As late as October 27 her staff told the Post
that no authorization had been granted and indeed the officials did not raid the
villa till Octorber 17.
Attempts to clarify this point and others such as the long delay between the reports
of inhuman treatment at the villa and COHCHR action were unsuccessful.
When contacted about her letter Ms McCreery said she did not know anything about
its contents, explaining she "just signed it as head of the [COHCHR] office."
When asked if the Post could meet with her to discuss these matters she said she
did not have her appointment book with her but would call back. She did not.
The Post does apologize to UN employee Juan Pablo Ordonez regarding his comments
about approaches to the International Committee of the Red Cross for assistance.
These attempts were described in the article as "unsuccessful." Mr Ordonez'
actual comments to the Post after he said he had asked for "immediate"
assistance from the ICRC were they: "...will not get involved...they're useless."
The Post accepts Mr Ordonez has a different interpretation of the nature of "success"
and regrets any hurt this may have caused him.