During his five-day visit, UN rights envoy Surya Subedi should not expect to meet with Prime Minister Hun Sen, the premier warned yesterday, nor should he expect his recommendations to be considered overmuch.
Referring to the special rapporteur only as the “foreigner”, an irate Hun Sen said he was tired of being dictated to by outsiders.
“I listened to a foreign radio broadcast and heard there would be a meeting with the prime minister. No, I know nothing about that,” he said during a speech at the National Institute of Education, referring to a report by Radio Free Asia that said the rapporteur was expected to meet with the premier and King Norodom Sihamoni.
“I want to give a lesson to his subordinates, if there is no confirmation of the schedule, you should not reveal it to the public,” continued Hun Sen, adding that he was too busy to meet, and the King remained in mourning.
Subedi, who arrived Sunday night, will wrap up his mission tomorrow after spending the week charting how the government has heeded his recommendations for lessening a slew of human rights violations ranging from problems within the judiciary to elections to land rights.
But while Subedi has sought to remain diplomatic during his term, for his part, the permier appeared to have run out of patience for the process.
“I would like to advise you to learn about sovereignty. I am not under the [responsibility] of anyone. No one, not even the secretary-general of the UN can force me to follow him.
“Only my people have the right to [comment] on the government through elections,” said Hun Sen.
Stressing that he nevertheless remained open to outside ideas, the prime minister likened the process to that of a child being lectured.
“It does not mean we don’t listen to other’s ideas, but foreigners should not act as Cambodia’s boss and shouldn’t act as Hun Sen’s boss because Hun Sen is responsible [to answer] only before the National Assembly. I am not a primary school pupil,” he added.
Though Subedi has enjoyed a relatively smooth mandate compared with that of his predecessors, he too has contended with a fair share of criticism.
In September, following the publication of a report on land rights in which Subedi skewered government policy that put short-term economic gain for a few over long-term growth for the country, Hun Sen lashed out at the Leeds University law professor and urged him to aim his assistance elsewhere.
In an email, Subedi said he believed dialogue was the way forward.
“I have no intention of – and it is not a matter of – imposing anything on the government of this country. All I am trying to do as part of my job on behalf of the UN is to advise the government what its obligations are under international law and suggest a way forward in my capacity as an independent expert of the UN,” he wrote.
“I fully respect the sovereignty of this country and the government,” he added.
To contact the reporter on this story: Chhay Channyda at [email protected]