GOVERNMENT officials have accused the United Nations of “flagrantly interfering” in their affairs after the UN’s office in Cambodia expressed concern about last week’s swift passage of the Anticorruption Law.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, the UN Country Team in Cambodia expressed concern that the long-awaited law was made public just days before being tabled in parliament.
“The draft Anticorruption law should undergo a transparent and participatory consultation process to ensure that it is consistent with international standards,” the statement said.
“The UNCT also hopes and encourages the National Assembly and the Senate to debate the law, with the possibility to amend the draft if and where considered relevant.”
The statement drew the immediate ire of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which accused the UNCT of “exceeding the limit of their mandate” in Cambodia.
“No democratic country would be required to delay parliamentary debates on a draft law in order to allow time for further scrutiny by the opposition parties or the civil societies,” it stated. The statement requested that the UNCT refrain from acting as a “spokesperson” of the country’s opposition parties.
Cheam Yeap, a senior lawmaker for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, on Sunday repeated the government’s position that the UN statement had gone too far.
“The UN must not criticise the National Assembly for adopting this law, because it is the full right of the parliamentarians and represents the Cambodian people who voted for them,” he said. “When this law is adopted, it will be used for Cambodian citizens – not for the UN.”
One observer said the ministry had clearly taken the UN’s statement out of context, misinterpreting it as an attack.
“The government should at least acknowledge what the UN has said ... and recognise that it’s legitimate for the UN to criticise the handling of the debates,” said Hang Chhaya, executive director of the Khmer Institute for Democracy.
UNCT spokeswoman Margaret Lamb declined to comment Sunday.