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Rights Envoy Facing Myriad Issues in Upcoming Visit

U.N. special rapporteur Surya Subedi walks through a Cambodian national flag upon his arrival in a conference room at the U.N. headquarter in Phnom Penh, (File photo).

The UN special envoy for human rights is expected to arrive in Cambodia Monday for a five-day visit, where he is expected to look into a controversial law to regulate NGOs and a bevy of other competing issues.

Suriya Subedi, the UN special rapporteur for human rights in Cambodia, is also expected to look into the issues of land grabbing, forest conservation and freedom of expression, among others.

“I will meet with a wide range of interlocutors,” Subedi said in a statement released by the office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Those will include government officials, parliamentarians, civil society, donors, UN representatives and diplomats, he said.

Subedi said he will also continue an ongoing assessment of the work of the National Assembly and the Senate “with a view to exploring how their role in the promotion and protection of human rights could be strengthened.”

Cheam Yiep, a lawmaker for the Cambodian People’s Party, said he was ready for talks with Subedi, because “talking and meeting in person are ways to be [clearly] informed” and to “avoid a report only on paper.”

“We are ready to explain everything to him,” Cheam Yiep said.

Yim Sovann, spokesman and lawmaker for the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, said the issues of land-grabbing, corruption and deforestation should be atop a list of the envoy’s priorities.

However, he will also be looking at a proposed law to regulate NGOs that critics say is unnecessary and could derail development work of non-governmental agencies.

“The NGO draft law must be discussed with Subedi, so he gets ideas to discuss with the government,” said Chan Saveth, head of monitoring for the rights group Adhoc.

Subedi is also expected to speak directly with residents in the Beoung Kak lake dispute.

Tep Vanny, a representative of residents who have refused to leave their homes in areas slated for development, said they need the national government, city authorities and the developer to settle the issue as quickly as possible without evicting more residents.