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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - 'Undiluted evil' imperils human rights: Leuprecht

'Undiluted evil' imperils human rights: Leuprecht

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Cambodia risks donor funding cuts if the Kingdom's "enormous" human rights

problems are not seriously addressed by the government, warns the United Nations

High Commission for Human Rights' Special Representative, Peter Leuprecht.

Peter Leuprecht

"If I were in the seat of government I'd be very worried...Over the years foreign

aid has gone down steadily and foreign investment has [also] gone down," Leuprecht

said during a Feb 21 Post interview. "I don't believe donors don't take human

rights seriously...Japan and the EU emphasize very much democracy and human rights."

Leuprecht's assessment of the threat posed by unchecked human rights abuses in the

Kingdom to future donor funding came during a Feb 16-23 visit to Cambodia, his second

since taking over from Thomas Hammarberg as UNHCHR's Special Representative in August

2000.

Unwilling to comment on whether he believed Cambodia's human rights situation has

worsened in the wake of the post-Nov 24 CFF crackdown ("...my opinion would

be nuanced and my time [as UNHCHR Special Representative] too short to say [the human

rights situation] is deteriorating"), Leuprecht says that a comprehensive report

he has submitted to the UN on Cambodia's human rights situation pulls no punches.

"When my report is [released] it will say that the [human rights] problems are

enormous," he said.

"Not just specific institutions [are at fault], but undiluted evil, poverty,

violence, corruption and lawlessness [threaten human rights]."

And while praising Cambodia's "vibrant civil society" in promoting and

defending human rights, Leuprecht emphasised that verbal attacks on Cambodian human

rights NGOs by Prime Minister Hun Sen in recent months had not gone down well with

the UN.

"What strikes me is [Hun Sen's statements] can seem a bit uneven. I look at

[Hun Sen's] speeches...his Pursat speech [Dec 5 in which Hun Sen accused human rights

organizations of harboring CFF "terrorists"] gave rise to concerns in human

rights quarters, while his Human Rights Day speech raised hopes," Leuprecht

said. "These human rights NGOs are important contributors to [society] and in

my report I say we need to develop consensus on some basic values like pluralism,

democracy and respect for human rights [and] one of the ways to do this is ...constructive

and non-adversarial dialogue."

Leuprecht also made it clear that he had not overlooked recent public statements

by Hun Sen which were critical of UNHCHR and Leuprecht personally.

"I wrote to Hun Sen about this and I hope to get a reply," he said. "I

also raised the issue with Mr. Om Yen Tieng (Chairman of the govt Human Rights Committee)."

Leuprecht's report is expected to be released in four to six weeks.

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