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Civic Groups Call on UN Rights Envoy for Help

Members of the opposition party and human rights groups launched an appeal Monday to the UN’s special human rights envoy to Cambodia to help them end abuses here, especially the theft of land from the poor and corruption and political influence in the courts.

The envoy, Yash Ghai, an outspoken critic of Prime Minister Hun Sen, is in Cambodia for a 10-day visit and is expected to meet with government officials and human rights groups.

Human Rights Party President Kem Sokha said groups were worried over human rights abuses, especially ahead of national elections.

“With the election getting close, we see concerns [and are] afraid that the situation will be tenser, with serious threats,” he said. While there was no clear measure on the number of “political rights violations,” such threats, harassment, assaults and murders were concerning, he said.

“There is impunity, and the authority in charge violates political issues, and the government never punishes it,” he said.

Koul Panha, director of the election watchdog Comfrel, said Ghai shoudl try to encourage the government to maintain a stable political environment, “and secure the upcoming election to proceed smoothly.”

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy welcomed the arrival of the envoy, who in the past has said too much power resides in Hun Sen.

Ghai comes as land grabbing from the poor and corruption in the courts remain looming issues, Sam Rainsy said.

Stronger laws could ensure judges were insulated from political pressure, said Sok Samoeun, executive director of the Cambodian Defenders Project.