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Official Denies Statements at US Rights Hearing

A Foreign Affairs official dismissed as false statements made to US Congress by Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Mu Sochua, in a human rights hearing last week.

Mu Sochua’s description of a country where democracy was a “façade” was meant “only for cheating the Cambodian people,” said Uch Borith, a secretary of state for the ministry, told reporters at a press conference after meeting with US Ambassador Carol Rodley.

He also denied reports on a Web site called KI media that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would send a delegation to investigate rights issues.

The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission invited three prominent Cambodians to testify on Thursday, after noting a worrying trend in the erosion of rights and freedoms in the media.

Mu Sochua and another opposition lawmaker had their parliamentary immunity revoked earlier this, as the courts pursued lawsuits against them by senior officials; and at least one opposition journalist is in jail after accusing senior officials of corruption.

Meanwhile, a US congressman said Cambodian government representatives should have been invited to the hearing last week should the US wish to see changes in Cambodia’s human rights record.

“I do not believe that holding a hearing that gives voice to the opposition party and excludes the ruling party is the way for us to proceed in affecting change in Cambodia,” Eni Faleomavaega, a Democrat from Samoa, said in a statement issued on the day of a hearing conducted by Tom Lantos Human Rights commission. “I also do not believe that any Commission should usurp the role of the US Department of State or the diplomatic relations we have established between our two countries.”