First lady Bun Rany was named a “national champion” for women’s and children’s health by United Nations representatives in a ceremony today at the Peace Palace.
UN Population Fund regional director Nobuko Horibe said the advocacy role would complement the government’s existing efforts to meet its Millenium Development Goals by 2015.
Bun Rany, wife of Prime Minister Hun Sen, serves as head of the Cambodian Red Cross.
In her capacity as “national champion”, Bun Rany will “make regular visits to health centres across Cambodia, meeting with midwives and other health professionals, women and their families and community groups to advocate healthy motherhood”, the UN said in a statement today.
Casey McCarthy, a spokeswoman for the office of the UN resident coordinator, said the national champion position was not a standard role, having instead been formulated by members of the UN country team in Cambodia.
“Historically, [Bun Rany] has done very well in a leadership advocacy role on HIV-AIDS,” McCarthy said.
“She seemed like a natural choice.”
Son Soubert, a former member of the Constitutional Council and government critic, said the position could represent an attempt by the UN to smooth over its oft-contentious relationship with Hun Sen.
“I think maybe it’s a new type of diplomacy that the UN, in its own way, is trying to implement to have the favour of the wife, hoping that the wife has influence on the husband,” Son Soubert said.
He added that many officials in the government and at NGOs had already been working hard to improve the Kingdom’s health outcomes, suggesting that Bun Rany and Hun Sen could dip into their personal assets if they wanted to better address the issue.
“They could spend some of their surplus of money or sell their properties,” he said.