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UN envoy Rhona Smith speaks with Foreign Minister Prak Sokhon yesterday in Phnom Penh.
UN envoy Rhona Smith speaks with Foreign Minister Prak Sokhon yesterday in Phnom Penh. Hong Menea

UN envoy Smith talks evictions

UN special Rapporteur Rhona Smith yesterday sat down with the company behind one of the Kingdom’s most high-profile land disputes, after earlier discussing human rights monitoring in her first meeting with Foreign Minister Prak Sokhon.

Smith’s afternoon meeting with a representative of the Ly Yong Phat Group followed a visit on Sunday to Kampong Speu, where she met with residents displaced by the LYP-owned Phnom Penh Sugar Company when it was granted an economic land concession there in 2010.

Eang Vuthy, executive director of land-rights NGO Equitable Cambodia, said Smith promised while there that she would raise concerns among civil society and community members about the company-led compensation process. While a large group of families recently accepted compensation in highly public fashion, others have claimed they were bullied into accepting below-market rates.

LYP Group representatives did not respond to requests for comment following the meeting. But Wan-Hea Lee, country representative for the UN human rights office (OHCHR) in Cambodia, described the sit-down as “productive”, saying the LYP representative was “receptive” to the rapporteur’s remarks, although no one within the UN would comment on the meeting.

A post on the OHCHR’s Facebook page said the meeting’s purpose was to allow Smith “to better understand the work of the companies towards resolving the on-going land disputes”.

Earlier in the day, Smith met Foreign Minister Sokhon for an “introductory meeting” at which the human rights situation in Cambodia was discussed. Both parties agreed that rights monitoring did not “threaten or compromise” the sovereignty of the country, per a post on the UN envoy’s Facebook page.

Speaking to local media, ministry spokesman Chum Sounry said the two had also discussed democratic rights, as well as Cambodians’ right to freedom of association and expression.

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