T HE government has sent another thinly veiled warning to the United Nations Center
for Human Rights, accusing Special Representative Michael Kirby of inappropriate,
unclear and unfounded assertions and of acting like a policeman.
In a letter in response to Kirby's latest report on Cambodia, Royal Government Secretary
General Nady Tan complained that the report included allegations "contradictory
with the reality."
He wrote that the report also did not reflect the "unchanging and firm commitment"
of the government toward human rights.
Tan's letter will be included in the report, to be presented to the UN General Assembly
on Nov 27, as the official government response.
It was the first direct government statement on the UNCHR since the Prime Ministers'
request in March that the center be "phased out" of Cambodia from the end
of this year.
In his report, Kirby - who is the UN Secretary General's Special Representative on
human rights in Cambodia, supported by UNCHR staff - criticizes a lack of government
response to his previous human rights recommendations.
He listed 19 "confidential" letters of recommendation on human rights issues
he had sent the government between Aug 1994-Aug 1995, at least 15 of which elicited
no final response or action by the government.
On other formal, public recommendations made in his five previous reports to the
General Assembly, "an initial assessment suggests that most of the recommendations...remain
to be implemented."
While noting the difficulties and lack of resources faced by the Royal Government
in re-establishing Cambodia's civil and legal systems, Kirby wrote that "Notwithstanding
[these] considerations, the failure of the government of Cambodia to acknowledge
and respond to the recommendations and reports of the Special Representative is less
Kirby's report made a raft of new recommendations, covering a wide range of areas
such as housing, press freedoms, the judiciary and children's rights.
It also referred to the expulsion of former Funcinpec MP Sam Rainsy from the National
Assembly and threatened expulsions of other MPs. In a section titled 'Right to be
elected and to take part in government', Kirby urged that "the expulsion of
members of the National Assembly, upon their removal [from] political parties...should
cease." He also called for establishment of the Constitutional Council "without
Nady Tan, in the government's letter of response, said he had hoped that information
provided by government officials would have given Kirby "a better understanding"
of the human rights situation.
Tan wrote that Kirby's report contained allegations against the government which
were contradictory to reality and outdated, and used words which were "not appropriate
and consistent with the political will and efforts made by the Royal government in
the implementation of and improvement" of human rights.
Some of Kirby's criticisms were "unclear and non-specific" and others appeared
to be based "only on rumor and hearsay."
Tan listed 14 areas of Kirby's report which the government disagreed with and asked
for amendments to be made.
He expressed particular disappointment that Kirby "seemed not to be satisfied"
over Rainsy's expulsion from the National Assembly and "still [included] this
matter in his report."
Tan concluded by saying that, while the government appreciated Kirby's efforts, his
report "should be written in a balanced manner."
The government had the impression that Kirby was acting as an "authoritative
law enforcement officer", while not providing "enough technical assistance"
to help improve human rights.
Kirby, an Australian judge who visits Cambodia periodically, is expected to raise
Tan's letter with the government when he next visits in January.
The UNCHR's Cambodia-based director, Daniel Premont, however, said this week the
letter did not symbolize a deterioration in relations with the government.
The main differences between UNCHR and the government related to "protocal and
interpretation of the facts", Premont said, and "there is no real disagreement
on the recommendations...it's a good development."
The center's current mandate expires in March next year, and Premont has previously
said that "if Cambodia wants us to leave, we will leave immediately."