Cambodia risks donor funding cuts if the Kingdom's "enormous" human rights
problems are not seriously addressed by the government, warns the United Nations
High Commission for Human Rights' Special Representative, Peter Leuprecht.
"If I were in the seat of government I'd be very worried...Over the years foreign
aid has gone down steadily and foreign investment has [also] gone down," Leuprecht
said during a Feb 21 Post interview. "I don't believe donors don't take human
rights seriously...Japan and the EU emphasize very much democracy and human rights."
Leuprecht's assessment of the threat posed by unchecked human rights abuses in the
Kingdom to future donor funding came during a Feb 16-23 visit to Cambodia, his second
since taking over from Thomas Hammarberg as UNHCHR's Special Representative in August
Unwilling to comment on whether he believed Cambodia's human rights situation has
worsened in the wake of the post-Nov 24 CFF crackdown ("...my opinion would
be nuanced and my time [as UNHCHR Special Representative] too short to say [the human
rights situation] is deteriorating"), Leuprecht says that a comprehensive report
he has submitted to the UN on Cambodia's human rights situation pulls no punches.
"When my report is [released] it will say that the [human rights] problems are
enormous," he said.
"Not just specific institutions [are at fault], but undiluted evil, poverty,
violence, corruption and lawlessness [threaten human rights]."
And while praising Cambodia's "vibrant civil society" in promoting and
defending human rights, Leuprecht emphasised that verbal attacks on Cambodian human
rights NGOs by Prime Minister Hun Sen in recent months had not gone down well with
"What strikes me is [Hun Sen's statements] can seem a bit uneven. I look at
[Hun Sen's] speeches...his Pursat speech [Dec 5 in which Hun Sen accused human rights
organizations of harboring CFF "terrorists"] gave rise to concerns in human
rights quarters, while his Human Rights Day speech raised hopes," Leuprecht
said. "These human rights NGOs are important contributors to [society] and in
my report I say we need to develop consensus on some basic values like pluralism,
democracy and respect for human rights [and] one of the ways to do this is ...constructive
and non-adversarial dialogue."
Leuprecht also made it clear that he had not overlooked recent public statements
by Hun Sen which were critical of UNHCHR and Leuprecht personally.
"I wrote to Hun Sen about this and I hope to get a reply," he said. "I
also raised the issue with Mr. Om Yen Tieng (Chairman of the govt Human Rights Committee)."
Leuprecht's report is expected to be released in four to six weeks.