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Govt blasts US over human rights report

Govt blasts US over human rights report

Ministry of Foreign Affairs claims charges of local rights violations are ‘unsubstantiated'.

THE Ministry of Foreign Affairs has lashed out at the US State Department's annual human rights report, denying its main charges and accusing Washington of hypocrisy following recent revelations that torture techniques were employed by US intelligence agents at secret prisons inside Thailand.

In a strongly worded statement released Friday, the ministry rejected the conclusions of the 2008 Country Report on Human Rights Practices, released February 25, which said Cambodian security forces were involved in extrajudicial killings and registered continuing concerns about land disputes and unlawful forced evictions.

  WE ARE CONTINUALLY WORKING TO ensure we LIVE UP TO OUR VALUES AND IDEALS.

"The [report] issued by the US State Department seems to be a routine that has nothing to do with human rights reality in Cambodia, and appears to be almost a carbon copy of the reports of previous years," the statement said.

"[It] contains a number of unsubstantiated assertions which appear to be relied upon misleading information supplied by certain organisations."

While the State Department's report acknowledged the government's passing of its anti-human trafficking law as a "positive" development, it also criticised the ruling party's domination of the three branches of government and its restrictions on freedom of the press, both of which were dismissed on Friday by the Ministry.

"It is very normal in democratic countries that a political party which wins a landslide victory in democratic elections has to lead the country," the statement said.

It added also that "there is simply never extrajudicial killing by security forces in Cambodia", describing such claims, based on research conducted by local rights group Adhoc, as "vulgar lie[s]".

No moral high ground

The statement also contained a veiled charge of hypocrisy, citing recent revelations US intelligence officials have tortured detainees during interrogations at US-operated jails in Thailand.

"If enforcing rules to maintain public order is construed as human rights violation, then what does one have to say in terms of human rights respect on the condition in the secret prisons of a certain country where torture of prisoners is practiced," the statement said.

The media reports referred to a New York District Court's March 2 release of documents showing US agents practised "enhanced interrogation techniques", including waterboarding, at its jails in Thailand.

But US embassy spokesman John Johnson denied the charges of hypocrisy, saying the Obama administration was taking action to "review" the practises of its predecessor.

"The three recent Executive Orders issued by President Obama regarding detention and interrogation policies and the closure of the Guantanamo detention facility indicate the seriousness with which the United States views our values," he said by email Sunday. Johnson also said the US strove to meet "high standards of accuracy and objectivity" in its reporting on human rights.

"We are continually working to ensure we live up to our values and ideals," he added.

Hang Chhaya, executive director of the Khmer Institute for Democracy, said he could understand the government's strategy of highlighting America's own rights abuses, adding that such standards should apply to all countries in equal measure.

But he added that the charge did little to diminish the importance of local violations.

"I think [US abuses] are something we need to discuss, [but] the nature of these two problems is different," he said.

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