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Hun Sen Asks UN Chief To Sack Local Rights Office Head

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, left, shakes hands with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, at the Cambodian Council of Ministers in Phnom Penh, on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Hun Sen called for the removal of the head of the UN's rights office here on Wednesday in meetings with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Hun Sen accused Christophe Peschoux, chief of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, of bias toward the opposition, Foreign Minister Hor Namhong told reporters after the meeting.

“He does not work for human rights issues with the government, but he works at being a spokesman for the opposition,” Hor Namhong said. “If [the UN] will not replace Chrisophe Peschoux, [the government] will shut down the UNHCHR office in Cambodia.”

Ban is on a two-day official visit that ends Thursday. Rights groups and other residents have looked for him to address what they say is a deteriorating rights situation in Cambodia.

Security forces broke up a demonstration ahead of the meeting on Wednesday, as more than 100 residents of Phnom Penh's Boeung Kak district and other groups sought to deliver a letter of grievances to UN chief.

Residents of the Beoung Kak lake community are in a protracted battle with a development company that has been filling in the lake and pushing residents from their homes.

Demonstrators at first held up banners calling on Ban to stop forced evictions and address housing rights. But police stormed into the crowd and confiscated them before the dignitary arrived, witnessed said.

“I want Ban Ki-moon to put pressure on the current Cambodian government to help solve our rights
to housing,” said one protester, Be Pharum, a resident of the lakeside community.

A UN spokeswoman said Ban was aware of the protests and of their concerns.

Chief among Ban's purposes in Cambodia is to discuss the Khmer Rouge tribunal, which has been beleaguered by a lack of funding as it moves toward the trial of four senior leaders of the regime.

Ban stressed his support for the UN-backed court on Wednesday, especially to “to ensure sufficient funding for the completion of the [court's] process,” tribunal spokesman Lars Olsen said.