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Government repudiates UN criticism

THE Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday dismissed United Nations criticisms of legal proceedings against Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Mu Sochua, describing the case as an “internal affair” of Cambodia.

“The Cambodian government absolutely rejects the statements made by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said.

“This defamation case has been through the court procedures, so this is an internal affair of Cambodia.”

In a biweekly press briefing in Geneva on Tuesday, UN spokesman Rupert Colville said Mu Sochua’s case was an example of the courts being used as a “blunt instrument” to silence freedom of expression.

“The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay is seriously concerned about the conduct of recent defamation proceedings against a prominent opposition politician in Cambodia,” Colville said.

“We believe this highly politicised case appears to show an alarming erosion of both freedom of expression and the independence of the judiciary in Cambodia.”

In August last year, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court convicted Mu Sochua of defaming Prime Minister Hun Sen and ordered her to pay a total of 16.5 million riels (around US$3,928) in fines and compensation. The charges were upheld twice on appeal, and Mu Sochua could face jail if she refuses to pay the fines, which are due this month.

Koy Kuong said it was unclear whether Cambodian officials would take the issue up directly with the UN, following a recent series of spats with the global body.

Last week, the ministry warned Christophe Peschoux, head of the local office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, that he had overstepped the bounds of his mandate by criticising the country’s deportation of two Thais on June 5.

In March, Foreign Minister Hor Namhong threatened to expel UN Resident Coordinator Douglas Broderick after his office issued a statement concerning the government’s Anticorruption Law.

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