S ENIOR US state department official Nancy Ely-Raphel recently completed a
48-hour visit to gather information for a human rights report on Cambodia that
will go before the US Congress.
It is an important report that diplomats
admit could "color" the debate on Cambodia's future aid from the United
However, sources told the Post that Ely-Raphel - whose "patch"
also includes Vietnam and Laos - is inexperienced in international human rights
issues and is being led to prepare a predominately "good news"
And... she forgot Prince Norodom Ranariddh's name.
a press conference just before her departure, Ely-Raphel was asked which
Cambodian government officials she had spoken to during her short
"I don't want to go into details of who I raised the issues with,
that's really part of our diplomatic dialogue," she said, adding to embassy
spokesman Frank Huffman: "I don't think the itinerary was made public was
"No," confirmed Huffman, "but I can't see a problem in saying who
they were." A list was produced and Ely-Raphel began: "the Minister of Foreign
Affairs, ahhh... the Prime Minister..."
The Prime Minister? "Which one?"
she was asked.
"Umm Ran... Rana...," Ms Ely-Raphel stammered, clearly
lost and looking over her shoulder for help from her
"Ranariddh?... the first Prime Minister?" chorused the
"The first Prime Minister," Ely-Raphel remembered
amid much laughter: "Forgive me, I don't have all the protocol down here... its
a little confusing."
Ely-Raphel admitted that the visit was her first, to
"familiarize" herself with the area's human rights issues.
Under US law,
the State Department prepare human rights reports on 193 countries in all.
Huffman said that Ely-Raphel's report "is a factor that can affect the debate
[on bilateral aid]." However, he said the report "did not have a direct
relationship" on the Congress decision whether to cut or increase funding -
though Ely-Raphel had earlier indicated that the US would not give money to a
country with a poor human rights record.
Ely-Raphel said she thought the
human rights situation in Cambodia had "improved" since the May 93 elections,
but there were areas of concern.
One concern was "press related", though
she said despite intimidation Cambodia's press remained vigorous. Other concerns
were "freedom of expression"; "serious" questions about the human rights
violations by the military and the Khmer Rouge; and the draft labor law which
she said ran contrary to international conventions and also to the Cambodian
Questions put to Ely-Raphel about a range of other problems
- the intimidation of journalists and MPs, the future of the UNCHR, allegations
of mistreatment of minorities - were all a "concern to her
Of the UNCHR, she said that all the officials she had spoken
to had assured her there was no problem and that "the center will indeed be
remaining in Cambodia."
She had also been told the criminal penalties in
the draft Press Law would be dropped but that the Khmer Journalists' Association
were worried that the civil penalties were too harsh.
that in many areas Cambodia's human rights record was superior to that of Laos
She said the Vietnamese government had voiced concerns about
the treatment and alleged persecution of Vietnamese nationals in Cambodia,
something she then raised with the Cambodian government.
She said the
Cambodian government told her that such cases could be dealt with under the
country's legal system. Ely-Raphel proceeded soon after to talk about the
inadequacies of Cambodia's legal system.