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Govt grilled at UN rights hearing

UN officials lashed out Monday at what they say is the government's lack of commitment to human rights, claiming it has done little to improve the Kingdom's adherence to international rights agreements, said David Pred, director of Bridges Across Borders Southeast Asia, an NGO that has been involved in Cambodian land-grab cases.

The comments came as Cambodia went before the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Geneva for a two-day rights review, according to Pred, who was present.

In his opening address, Sun Suon, Cambodia's ambassador to the UN, told the committee that respect for human rights was "a fundamental principle ... embodied in the [government's] main policies, as well as in the relevant plans for the sustainable development of the country".

But the 18-member committee questioned the government's commitment to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, ratified by Cambodia in 1992, citing forced evictions, land rights and deforestation as continuing concerns.

"Despite the public commitments of the government and the millions of dollars that have been invested by donors in reforms, there has been no progress in the most sensitive areas," said committee chairperson Philippe Texier.

Vice chairperson Ariranga Pilay also noted that the government's 167-page initial report to the committee contained "not a single word" on housing rights or forced evictions.

"There is ... nothing about the problem of forced evictions, which is a serious problem in your country," he said.

The committee also raised questions about the government's granting of agricultural land concessions, corruption and forestry protection.

Committee members expressed disappointment at the government's 15-year delay in preparing its initial report, and the fact that it did not send a special delegation to participate in the hearing.

"I appreciate that Geneva is far away from Cambodia [but] I was hoping that some people from your capital with specialised knowledge would be here so we could go into greater depth," said Walid Sa'di, vice chairperson of the committee.

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