Departure puts into question future of UN rights office in Cambodia
a bitterly critical speech UN envoy Yash Ghai resigned as the UN
secretary general's special representative for human rights in
Cambodia, calling into question the fate of human rights reforms in the
"The government is now considering whether to close the UN office
[of human rights] or keep it operating after the formation of the new
government," Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith told the Post
Prime Minster Hun Sen publicly rejoiced at the departure of his
archfoe of the last three years, telling students at a graduation
ceremony that he was "prepared to work with any person assigned by the
UN but not Yash Ghai," for whom he had a personal dislike.
"Reviewing the impact of my reports... it is hard to see any change
for the better," Ghai said of his tenure, during which the Kenyan legal
scholar endured multiple personal attacks from Hun Sen over his
unusually blunt critiques of the government's human rights record.
He added he had received little support from the international community or the UN.
UN 'more incapable'
statement, made at the Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday, also
raises questions about the UN post's mandate, which is currently under
review by the council.
"The UN is proving more and more incapable of dealing with
countries like Cambodia, where the rule of law has collapsed," said
Basil Fernando of the Asian Human Rights Commission by phone from Hong
"The UN needs to back representatives like Yash Ghai who are struggling for change," he added.
"The UN does not understand human rights in countries where there is no rule of law," Fernando said.
"Most diplomats come from developed countries and don't know what
it is like to not have a working judiciary or constitutional law. Yash
Ghai tried to bridge this gap between local and international
understandings of human rights."
Naly Pilorge of the Cambodian rights group Licadho said that while
it was disappointing that Ghai had not received more support, this was
due to the fact that "the international community here and elsewhere
have political and economic interests [to protect]".
According to Ou Virak of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights
(CCHR), it is likely Ghai bowed to pressure in resigning, saying many
diplomats stationed in the Kingdom had not approved of the lawyer's
"They wanted him to be more diplomatic and play politics," he said.
He added he was concerned at the growing complacency of the international community.
and experts in Cambodia have a comfortable salary and a comfortable
lifestyle. They undermine how Cambodian people live and what they want."
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Cambodia declined to comment Wednesday.