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Hun Sen 'Defies' UN Rights Envoy

Prime Minister Hun Sen said in public statements Wednesday the UN special rights envoy to Cambodia, Yash Ghai, should be replaced, or the international body can expect no cooperation from him.

Ghai, who is from Kenya, completed a 10-day visit to Cambodia on Monday, claiming at the end that the rights situation remained poor and that people lived in fear of the government, courts and police.

He has said in the past that many of Cambodia's rights problems stem from Hun Sen's authoritarian control of the government.

"You raised only the negative points," Hun Sen said Wednesday, addressing the envoy without naming him during a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Phnom Penh. "If we speak of his country, it is 100 times worse than ours. Try to improve your own country first. Don't act too smart in Cambodia. I defy you, I defy your own country and I defy the United Nations."

Ghai is the second UN rights envoy in a row to have earned the ire of Cambodia's cantankerous premier, following the resignation of Peter Leuprecht, another critic of the government's human rights record.

Hun Sen said Wednesday UN Secretary-General Ban Kim-moon should replace Ghai.

"I would like to inform UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon that if he continues to assign this kind of person [as his rights representative], the Cambodian prime minister will not cooperate," Hun Sen said.

Rights workers said Wednesday the government should have met with Ghai during his visit. Instead, he was shunned, meeting only with civic groups and disaffected villagers, including victims of land grabs in the provinces.

"We are a democratic government, in which we announced that we respect human rights, so we should have come to meet him," said Van Sophath, a rights worker with the group Licadho. "Don't try to conceal, but seek solutions. That I think is a good image for Cambodia."