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Peschoux says government sidelined him

The ministry of Foreign Affairs last year asked other ministries to cease cooperation with the country head of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Christophe Peschoux, who will take a new position in Geneva in May, he said yesterday.

Peschoux, who has researched human rights in the Kingdom for OHCHR since the 1990s and took the office’s head spot in 2007, said the government made repeated requests to the UN last year seeking his ouster.

“There was a request last year by the government to replace me. That request was made to the [UN] high commissioner [for human rights Navi Pillay] in August and she declined on the grounds that there was no sufficient grounds,” he said.

That same request was made by Prime Minister Hun Sen in October to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who was visiting at the time.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs later sent a notice “to all government institutions that requested all of them to stop cooperating with me, and since then I have not had any access to government officials”, Peschoux said.

OHCHR sent a letter, obtained yesterday by The Post, informing the Ministry of Foreign Affairs last week that he would take up a new “senior position with global responsibilities” in Geneva, and be replaced on an interim basis by deputy representative James Heenan on May 2.

Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, declined to comment yesterday on Peschoux’s departure.

Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, said he was “deeply disappointed” by the move and expressed admiration for Peschoux.

“The contempt in which Christophe Peschoux is held by members of the Cambodian government is reflective of their general contempt for anyone bold enough to offer criticisms of their policies, acts and omissions,” Ou Virak said in a statement yesterday.

“While it seems that the UN human rights office in Cambodia will remain open for the time being, its independence is undermined when the government can have such a say in determining its make-up.”

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