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Cambodia Warns UN to Change Rights Policy

Top officials Friday warned the UN Human Rights Commission’s Cambodia office to be more cooperative with the ruling government, following several visits of a UN envoy highly critical of the government’s rights commitment.

“We have had a Memorandum of Understanding with this office, and we’ll see if we need to renew the MOU when it expires,” Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said. “But our request is that the representative office of the Human Rights Commission implement what is in the MOU, and not more than that, just as what it is.”

UN special envoy Yash Ghai said following a visit in December that Cambodia’s rights abuses, weak judiciary and increasing land thefts could cause the populace to “rise up” against the government.

His visit was not officially recognized, and he met instead with rural villagers, human rights groups and political parties. His remarks angered the government, including Prime Minsiter Hun Sen, who has in the past sought Ghai’s removal.

The UN rights office has said it will adjust work procedures to “sit with the government and get the problems solved,” government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said. “Now we just wait and see if they can make it.”

“But on the whole we can shut down [the rights office] any time regardless of whether they are right or wrong,” he said.