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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Widyono secures another six months

Widyono secures another six months

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

here.

Widyono's mandate, which was to have ended April 8, has been

extended until October at the request of the Royal government.

Second

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."

He will

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

mistake."

"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."

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