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Cambodia says UN criticism not worthy of response

Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa
Published: Friday September 29, 2006

Phnom Penh- Any response to a stinging attack on Cambodia's human rights record by a UN envoy this week would be beneath the government, a senior official said Friday. Referring to the extremely critical address to the UN Human Right's Council in Geneva by envoy Yash Ghai on Wednesday, Cambodian government human rights advisor Om Yentieng said Ghai's hate had blinded him and it would not be appropriate to respond to the accusations, which he said were not based on fact.

"He wrote that report out of his own hate," Yentieng said. "It is simply not true. Cambodia is not like he says. It is beneath Cambodia to respond to people like this."

Ghai, who is UN Special Representative for Human Rights in Cambodia, told the council in Geneva that the Cambodian government had undermined the opposition and democratic process and that senior figures used public assets for the accumulation of personal wealth.

Last March, Ghai earned the ire of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen with similar allegations made at a press conference, prompting the government to accuse him of relying on opposition non-government organizations for his information.

But opposition groups welcomed Ghai's comments, saying there was truth in his report.

Leading human rights activist and founder of local rights group Licadho, Kek Galabru, said the report was "generally correct."

"I want the government to look for good ways to improve the human rights record in Cambodia. There is some way to go yet," she said.

Opposition Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian Son Chhay said that there had been some progress made in the area of human rights in Cambodia, but that it was insufficient.

"The change has been small. Cambodia has come forward, but not enough. The opposition is still not allowed enough voice, even though they allow me to sit in parliament," he said.

He said human rights abuses at a village level remained of particular concern, and especially in the areas of land ownership and land grabbing by the rich and powerful.

On Thursday, US Ambassador to Cambodia Joseph Mussomeli launched his own critical assessment of Cambodia's progress, also naming land grabbing as a major issue and saying that corruption was a major obstacle to Cambodia's development.

"Cambodia cannot afford the luxury of corruption," Mussomeli said, accusing the government of failing to show the political will to combat the problem.

© 2006 DPA - Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa