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PM criticised for stance on rights office

PM criticised for stance on rights office

A FRANCE-based NGO has condemned comments by Prime Minister Hun Sen during a meeting with visiting United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon last week in which he threatened to shut down the UN rights office and called for the removal of its chief.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong later said Christophe Peschoux, the long-time head of the Office of the High Commission for Human Rights, had acted as a “spokesperson for the opposition”.

The International Federation for Human Rights, known by its French acronym FIDH, called the remarks “another example of the government’s growing intolerance” and “the restrictive measures it uses to silence constructive criticism and peaceful dissent”.

“These baseless accusations against the OHCHR office emanating from the highest levels of government are indicative of the increasingly authoritarian tendency of the current regime,” FIDH President Souhayr Belhassen was quoted as saying.

Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, yesterday dismissed the FIDH statement. Phay Siphan also emphasised that Cambodia was not obliged to host the OHCHR.

“Cambodia does not have any mandate forcing it to have a human rights office,” he said.

He added that Peschoux had not adhered to his UN mandate, and had used the office “to attack, insult or oppose the government”.

Peschoux said via email yesterday that the OHCHR was “working with the government in a spirit of mutual respect, dialogue and cooperation”.

“In this spirit, in the past three years, we have developed our cooperation to unprecedented levels, and have provided technical assistance to the correctional reform, to the legal and judicial reform, the land reform and housing rights, the establishment of a national mechanism to prevent torture, Cambodia’s reporting obligations under the treaties it has ratified, and support to Cambodia’s preparation to the Universal Periodic review,” he said.

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