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Hun Sen Angered by UN Envoy’s Remarks

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday lashed out at the UN’s human rights envoy, who said last week he was “disappointed” he was not able to meet Hun Sen during a fact-finding mission this month.

The UN special rapporteur on human rights, Subya Subedi, gave a scathing review of Cambodia’s courts following his 10-day investigation, during which his appointment with Hun Sen was canceled.

Hun Sen said in a speech Monday he had been unable to meet because of a health problem, and he said the diplomatic word “disappointed” was disrespectful and could hurt future visits.

“I am very sorry that Surya P. Subedi used the word ‘disappointed’ for not meeting me,” Hun Sen said. “I think the word lacks the respect for the owner of the country and the leader of Cambodia, which has independence and sovereignty, and [the word] could also be looking down on Cambodians who voted for the [ruling Cambodian People’s Party], through the National Assembly, and for Hun Sen to become prime minister.”

Hun Sen has traditionally had a prickly relationship with UN rights envoys, and he cut off meetings entirely with Subedi’s predecessor, Yash Ghai, who was heavily critical of Cambodia’s human rights record.

“I did not escape the meeting with [Subedi],” Hun Sen said. “I had no other reason other than my own health problems, which caused an abrupt cancellation of the meeting.”

Subedi said last week he was not confident the courts could bring justice to the people of Cambodia. Subedi met with Foreign Minister Hor Namhong and senior government adviser Om Yentieng and will submit detailed recommendations to the UN’s Human Rights Council in September.

In his speech Monday, Hun Sen also took issue with Subedi’s assessment of the courts, which the envoy said lacked the resources, organization and willingness on the part of some judges to “command the confidence of the people.”

“We are not ignorant to the problems that devastate the country,” Hun Sen said. “You [Subedi], do not try to break through the door when the door is open, and don’t tell me that rain is falling when I’m standing under the rain.”