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Senior Official Calls UN Rights Envoy Biased

U.N. special rapporteur Surya Subedi walks through a Cambodian national flag upon his arrival in a conference room of U.N. headquarter in Phnom Penh, Cambodia in 2010.
The head of Cambodia’s Human Rights Committee said the government will not accept the findings of the UN’s special human rights envoy, Surya Subedi, whose most recent report found major abuses.

Om Yentieng, who is also the head of the Anti-Corruption Unit, met with Subedi for two hours on Thursday. He told reporters later it is “impossible” for the government to accept his report, which was issued to the UN’s Human Rights Council last year.

Subedi, whom Prime Minister Hun Sen refuses to meet with, is mandated to report on Cambodia’s rights environment to the United Nations and make recommendations for its improvement.

In his 2012 report, Subedi noted a biased judiciary that was not delivering justice, especially in land cases, and he said reforms should be undertaken to ensure free and fair elections. It pointed out the destabilizing aspect of many economic land concessions, which have removed many people from their homes.

Om Yentieng told reporters that he had heavily criticized Subedi’s latest report.

“He said he visits Cambodia because he wants to find out to what extent his recommendations have been translated into action and any challenges involved,” said Om Yentieng, who is also the head of the government’s Anti-Corruption Unit. “I said it’s impossible for the government to accept his report. His report is biased and groundless. When a person cries in front of him, he says what that person says is true. But when I asked, ‘Do you really believe what they said?’, he replied he wasn’t sure, that he needs further clarification from the government. So he is really one sided.”

In fact, the envoy’s report has received broad international support, with major donors like Japan and the EU calling on the Cambodian government to improve its work on human rights. Local rights groups, meanwhile, say they worry Cambodia is backsliding on its rights obligations.

But Om Yentieng said the report is inaccurate and biased toward the opposition—which has also called for improved rights, less corruption and election reform.

The government is submitting a counter-report, giving its stance on human rights and other issues. Subedi has not seen the report, he said.

For his part, Subedi said his discussion with Om Yentieng had been “productive.” He will share preliminary findings of this past week’s trip on Saturday, he said, and will submit a full report to the UN Security Council.

Subedi also gave a talk on international trade at the Cambodian Mekong University on Wednesday. After that talk, he was peppered with questions about his credibility and objectivity—and about his rights report—by a group of students that local media linked to a youth group aligned with the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.