C AMBODIA'S political and security status "is not 100 percent" and a UN presence
is needed to help promote stability, says UN diplomat Benny Widyono at the start
of his second six-month extension as the secretary general's representative
Widyono's mandate, which was to have ended April 8, has been
extended until October at the request of the Royal government.
Prime Minister Hun Sen made the request during his recent visit to UN
headquarters in New York, where he also discussed the request to close the UN
Center for Human Rights (UNCHR) in Phnom Penh.
Widyono and government
officials say the renewal has nothing to do with the UNCHR controversy.
Although praising "some solid achievements" such as economic growth and
the stability of the coalition government, Widyono said his next six months will
be spent monitoring several on-going challenges.
These include "an
ill-functioning judiciary system with adverse effects on law and order, in
particular on human rights and foreign and domestic investment."
also focus on "corruption... which in turn has repercussions on the budget" and
the low pay of soldiers and police, which he says threatens security and weakens
the fight against the KR.
"I don't make interventions. I just report to
New York," he said.
Widyono will have to carry out his reporting with
fewer staff. When he was first appointed in March 1994, he had 20 military
advisers. Later, they were reduced to three. Under this third six-month mandate,
only one advisor will be retained.
Initially, the UN representative was
supposed to act as the coordinator for all UN offices in Cambodia- including the
UNCHR and the UN Development Program.
However, developing countries at
the UN- known as the Group of 77 - rejected the plan because they feared
connecting the offices would lead to the UN imposing human rights and other
conditionality on development assistance.
That leaves him as a
behind-the-scenes monitor of political and security issues. His reports to
secretary general Boutros Boutros-Ghali are not made public and he does not
generally comment on on-going problems.
However, regarding the proposed
press law, Widyono told the Post he regrets its fore-runner, the UNTAC-drafted
penal code allowing jail terms for journalists, as "a big
"Personally, I feel civil suits with appropriate fines are
better than jail."
In a written statement to the Post, First Prime
Minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh welcomed Widyono's extension. "His continued
presence in Cambodia ensures that the watching world receives a wise, objective
and independent assessment of political developments in our country."
Foreign Minister Ung Huot said he expects this will be Widyono's last
extension in Cambodia. However, he hopes the representative's position will last
"maybe another ten years."