WASHINGTON DC - Prime Minister Hun Sen attacked the UN's special envoy for human rights, saying he should return to his native Nepal and help that country, rather than criticize Cambodia's rights climate.
His statements follow the most recent report of the envoy, Surya Subedi, who told the UN Human Rights Council last month he is very concerned about ongoing rights abuses, including land grabs, and wants to see improved elections.
Local analysts say such continued reactions from Hun Sen, who often blasts the UN from his pulpit, are bad for the image of the country.
"Such reactions will cause many countries to stop trusting Cambodia, and think of it as a country that has no will to take the reports of the special rapporteur to implement," said Ou Virak, head of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights. "That will undermine our country."
The rapporteur's job is to analyze Cambodia's political and human rights environments and report to the UN, under part of the 1991 Paris Peace Accords. Nearly all the UN rights envoys who have undertaken the job have run afoul of Hun Sen, who refused to meet with Surya Sebedi on his last trip, in May.
Ou Virak said Hun Sen's reaction embarrassed Cambodia on the international stage, could put off international investors and hurt Cambodia's bid for a non-permanent seat at the UN Security Council.
Yap Kim Tung, head of the US-based Cambodian-Americans for Human Rights and Democracy, said Hun Sen's denial of Subedi's findings were unlikely to gain international credence.
"The government cannot just deny this" report, he said. "The problems in Cambodia are increasing, as the government arbitrarily [operates] without the balance of powers," Yap Kim Tung said.
Subedi could not be immediately reached for comment. In his report to the UN, he said many of Cambodia's problems come from a "failure to apply" its own laws. He also warned that ongoing land conflicts have "the potential to contribute to instability."
Hun Sen said the UN envoy had overstepped his role and that his views did not represent the UN. "Why so far have they said this is the recommendation of the UN?" he said. "Oh! One person is the UN? Wandering here and there, then making a report and demanding it be accepted?"
Cambodia is a sovereign state, he said, and the ruling Cambodian People's Party is in power after elections. "If the people don't need the CPP and don't vote for it, then you can do" your plan, he said, addressing Subedi.
Government spokesman Phay Siphan said Hun Sen's speech was not an objection to the UN itself but was "to protect the independence [and] integrity" of Cambodia.
Independent analyst Chea Vannath noted that Cambodia has compromised in the UN in the past, including allowing the Human Rights Office to continue to operate.
The UN typically does not confront its member states, she said, but can offer "concessions."
But she also said the government can find it hard to accept criticism when it makes officials appear that they don't know how to do their jobs.