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UN Envoy, Burmese PM to Make Overlapping Cambodia Visits

The UN special envoy to Burma arrived in Siem Reap Wednesday on a three-day trip that will coincide with the visit Burma's prime minister, but officials said the two were unlikely to meet and denied Cambodia was playing an intermediary role.

UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari is on a regional trip to gauge the political position of Burma's neighbors following violent crackdowns on pro-democracy demonstrators in recent weeks, Agence France-Presse reported.

He was scheduled to visit Angkor Wat.

Lt. Gen. Thein Sien was scheduled to arrive Friday for bilateral talks with Prime Minister Hun Sen, the same day Gambari is scheduled to leave.

At the height of the pro-democracy crisis in September, Prime Minister Hun Sen called on Burma to avoid force in bringing order to protesters.

A spokesman said the government would not censure the leader on this visit.

"Normally, Cambodian culture never looks down on guests," spokesman Khieu Kanharith said.

Thein Sein, who was appointed prime minister in October, is to meet Hun Sen, Senate President Chea Sim and National Assembly President Heng Samrin.

Critics said the government risked losing democratic credibility in hosting Thein Sein.

"It means Cambodia is just like Burma, which affects Cambodia's dignity," opposition leader Sam Rainsy said.

Keo Remy, Vice President of Human Rights Party, said Cambodia should push harder to promote democracy.

"Burma should not be welcome in Cambodia, because the Burmese government has been internationally condemned," said Thun Saray, director of the rights group Adhoc. "This country has dramatically lost face."

"I would like to call on the government to reconsider this issue," said Seng Theary, executive director of the Center for Social Development. "I think by justice, morality and diplomacy, we're going lose more than we gain."

Khieu Kanharith said critics were not familiar with Asean doctrine, which is traditionally one of non-interference.

"Asean protocol does not arrogantly say, 'I'm gonna teach this or that,'" he said.