Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - 2012 hope for top UN rights body

2012 hope for top UN rights body

2012 hope for top UN rights body

The government has softened its stance against the UN’s human- rights office in Cambodia, with Foreign Minister Hor Namhong suggesting yesterday the agreement to allow it to remain here will be extended past its expiry date tomorrow.

This follows heated calls last year from Prime Minister Hun Sen that the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights be shut and its then-country representative, Christophe Peschoux, expelled for “acting as a spokesman for the opposition”.

Hor Namhong was conciliatory yesterday. Asked if the memorandum of understanding between the office and the government would be extended, he told the Post the government was reviewing it and said:  “I think there will be no problem.”

Staff at the UN rights office declined to comment, but acknowledged that they planned to show up for work next week.

Cambodian Centre for Human Rights president OU Virak said it would be “surprising” if the office was shut. “Given international pressure, Cambodia’s chairing of ASEAN next year, and its effort to gain a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council, it would be unwise if Cambodia did not extend [the MoU],” he said.

The US embassy reiterated its view that the office was vital.

“As Secretary [Hillary] Clinton said during her trip to Cambodia last year, the [office] is a very valuable resource.  Its work is important and we would like to see it continue,” Sean McIntosh, a public-affairs officer at the embassy, said.

“Co-operation between the UN and the Cambodian government assists in promoting human rights, ending the trafficking in persons, and upholding the rule of law.”

Ou Virak said the government had used the MoU as a tool to remove Peschoux, who had been an outspoken advocate for victims of rights abuses. Peschoux left Cambodia in May, saying his departure was voluntary.

“We all know the real reason [Peschoux left],” Virak said, adding that it was likely an announcement would be made soon naming Peschoux’s replacement. Since departing, his deputy, James Heenan, has led the office, which Virak said was “doing a pretty good job”.

Human Rights Watch also “strongly supported” the continuation of the office’s presence. Phil Robertson, deputy director of its Asia division, said it was critical to protecting human-rights defenders.

HRW “is strongly focused on ensuring that the human rights protection mandate [of the MoU] is continued”, he said.

The UN office’s ability to independently investigate rights abuses was critical, Robertson said, adding that it could alert others about the human-rights situation in Cambodia.


  • Chinese influx pushing locals, Westerners out of Preah Sihanouk

    Some within the Kingdom’s tourism industry have speculated that the recent influx of Chinese visitors may hinder domestic tourism as the price of accommodations in the coastal city of Sihanoukville continues to rise. Preah Sihanouk province, which has become a hotbed for Chinese investment

  • ‘Dire consequences’ from sanctions, warns AmCham

    American businesspeople in Cambodia have warned that any sanction against the Kingdom would have “dire consequences” that could push Cambodia even further into the arms of China. In a letter to US senators and representatives dated Monday, the American Chamber of Commerce Cambodia (AmCham) said

  • Preah Sihanouk beach developments halted

    After receiving an order from Hun Sen, Minister of Land Management Chea Sophara led a team of experts and relevant officials to Sihanoukville to call a halt to the illegal development of a beach. The prime minister ordered the Prek Treng beach in Otres commune

  • CPP: ‘Behave or Sokha suffers’

    The ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) spokesman warned Kem Monovithya on Thursday that her attempt to damage “national reputation and prestige” would lead to her father, Kem Sokha, receiving even harsher punishment. Sok Eysan issued the warning as Monovithya, who is the court dissolved