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UN envoy’s fairness questioned

6 surya subedi meeting chivoan

A tough week got a little tougher for UN human rights envoy Surya Subedi yesterday.

A day after pro-government youths bombarded him with abuse during the question-and-answer portion of a lecture at a local university, Cambodian Human Rights Committee president Om Yentieng offered a similarly frosty assessment of his visit.

Speaking at the Council of Ministers after a frank, two-hour meeting about human rights in the Kingdom, Yentieng, who is also head of the government’s Anti-Corruption Unit, blasted the special rapporteur’s recommendations.

“We have told him that if he raises recommendations like this, it is clear evidence that he has not looked at the report we sent him at all,” he said.

“We have [addressed his recommendations] point-by-point and sent that to him, but on the contrary, he has not even looked at one line [of our report],” he added, saying the government has already responded to many issues, such as the Boeung Kak evictions and economic land concessions, that Subedi continues to raise.

Subedi, who is currently on his ninth mission to Cambodia, last presented reports to the UN Human Rights Council in July and September last year, with recommendations largely focused on electoral reform and the human rights impact of land concessions.

Following the meeting yesterday, he remained tight-lipped on the specifics of what was discussed, pledging to speak more freely at a press conference on Saturday before he departs the country.

“All sorts of issues did come up . . . I’ve received so much information. I’ll process them, and they will be included in my report to be submitted to the UN human rights council,” he said.

Discussions between the Human Rights Committee and the local UN Human Rights Office were “moving forward” regarding Cambodia’s human rights report as part of the UN’s universal periodic review (UPR) process, due to be submitted later this year, he added, saying it was raised at the meeting.

Subedi added he was “hopeful” outstanding recommendations from the previous UPR cycle in 2009 would be implemented by the government before the review’s deadline.

Recommendations from Subedi never target the opposition, Yentieng said yesterday, claiming the Special Rapporteur should be examining opposition efforts to incite racism and anger over immigration and border issues.

“We said that in Europe, the football arbitrator has announced again and again [against] racial discrimination  . . . So this we have told him clearly, His Excellency’s report is of a weaker standard than the football arbitrators of Europe,” he said.

“His report is politically one-sided. He finds every way not to have a multi-party report, and these reports are used for political gain,” Yentieng added, comparing Subedi’s work to an “arrow shooting at one side of the government, causing the blood to flow slowly”. Civil society responded to Yentieng’s comments with little surprise yesterday, with Cambodian Center for Human Rights president Ou Virak likening his words to “a broken record”.

“It’s an old song. It’s a response that doesn’t surprise me at all. It’s an old official line used again and again by the government against any criticism of [its] human rights record,” he said.

“It’s problematic, because it tell us that there is no political will to acknowledge, and therefore there is no desire to address the problems, and so the violations will continue.”



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