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Groups Worry UN Rights Office Could Close

Cambodian civic leaders plan to lobby the international community in a September push to keep the UN human rights office open in Phnom Penh.

Kek Galabru, president of the rights group Licadho, and Thun Saray, head of the rights group Adhoc, will both travel to Geneva, where the UN is headquartered, Sept. 7 to urge member countries not to eliminate the office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Kek Galabru said Thursday.

Many of the 47 member countries of the UN Human Rights Council do not support a special envoy to represent the UN secretary-general, not only in Cambodia, but other countries, she said.

Cambodia's rights record remains poor, Kek Galabru said, making the continued operations of a UN rights office here important.

The government of Prime Minister Hun Sen has had problems with UN rights envoys in the past, especially the special envoy of the secretary-general, Yash Ghai, a strident critic of the premier.

Yash Ghai has had his visa to the US restricted, and top officials, including Hun Sen, have refused to meet him on past visits.

Meanwhile, the UN rights office is in transition, with the former head of the commission, Luis Arbour, stepping down Sept. 1, to be replaced by Navanethem Phillay.

Kek Galabru said Thursday at least 12 European Union countries opposed the elimination of the rights office.