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Kirby granted Royal audience

MICHAEL Kirby, the United Nations Secretary-General's Special Representative on

Human Rights in Cambodia, is due to visit King Norodom Sihanouk

today.

Kirby - in Cambodia for 10 days on his sixth visit - was anxious

that his Royal audience not be seen as an attempt to go over the heads of

Cambodia's democratically-elected leaders.

"I will not be mistaking the

King's role," Kirby said. "As he himself has repeatedly said, the King reigns

but does not rule.

"I would not intrude into what was not his proper

function. [But] his function includes being the guarantor of human rights for

Cambodians under the constitution and to bring his influence to bear in that

regard."

Kirby said he intended raising a number of issues with King

Sihanouk, including the draft press law which the King has urged be

changed.

He also intended to urge the King to push for a resolution to

the problem of Vietnamese-Khmer refugees trapped on the southern Cambodian

border.

Another issue he wanted to discuss was the need to combat the

spread of HIV/Aids in Cambodia.

"I will be appealing to the King to take

a personal interest in the struggle against HIV/Aids, which has the potential to

explode into an enemy even greater than the Khmer Rouge, a devastation greater

than that caused by Pol Pot."

Kirby, an Australian judge, will meet a

wide variety of government officials and aid agencies on his visit.

He

was due to visit Second Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday.

Kirby, who in

November presented a 120-page report on the state of human rights in Cambodia to

the United Nations, said part of his visit would be to prepare a "scorecard" on

the government's response.

"[But] I'm not here as a policeman. I'm here

to provide technical assistance and advice. I must be constructive in my

criticism but realistic in what can be expected."

Of the government's

human rights record, he said there were "some disappointments" but he remained

basically optimistic that improvements were being made.

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