Gov’t dismisses latest UN human rights report
Wednesday, 07 July 2004 , Written by « Neth Pheaktra »   

Another war of words erupted this week between the government and Yash Ghai, the UN’s special representative of the secretary general on human rights in Cambodia. The subject of the verbal clashes was Ghai’s new report released at the 7th meeting of the UN Human Rights Council Mar 19 in Geneva.


Ghai’s scathing criticisms were rejected by the Cambodian government, with Om Yentieng, president of the Government Committee on Human Rights, saying his evaluation did not reflect the real situation in Cambodia.


“We are sorry for the special envoy that he neglected [to mention] the moves and effort of the Cambodian government. We also see...information was...selected intentionally with great exaggeration, “said Om Yentieng, also an advisor to the prime minister, adding that the report failed to document Cambodia’s human rights achievements.


Yash Ghai told a very different story in his 25-page report, calling Cambodia’s violation of human rights and laws “systematic,” stressing the government’s failure to reform the judiciary and curb lawlessness.


Although Ghai’s report lauded the government for its work to bring former Khmer Rouge leaders to justice, Om Yentieng was still disparaging. “[Ghai’s] statement that the Cambodian court system has failed is unacceptable and untrue,” he said. “Cambodia has progressed, complying with new developments [since] just surviving a civil war.”


Om Yentieng cited the achievements of the last five years in reforming legislation and the courts. Two significant laws-a code of civil procedure and the penal procedure code – had been adopted, he noted, suggesting Chai’s criticism should be considered carefully by development partners.


“Hundreds of national and international civil societies, mainly those which are unbiased and work with human rights for the government, were granted power to work freely and openly throughout Cambodia and the government closely works with them,” Om Yentieng protested.


Ghai also claimed that Cambodians had been “illegally and inhumanely” evicted by land disputes involving the rich and powerful, with the poor and ethnic minorities most at risk.


A government spokesman replied that the government has “full understanding about the complicated problems of land disputes in terms of Cambodian politics, society, and economy,” promising that “the government will resume its allocation of land and land owner ship titles to people, in particular the poor landless living in remote areas.”


Om Yentieng joined the fray with a claim that “the government will distribute social concession land to 10,000 poor families,” and that authorities are carefully considering the well-being of ethic minority communities.


Sou Phirin, Siem Reap provincial governor, confirmed that poor and disabled people from over 500 families have been given 1,000 hectares of the 1,350 hectares of social concession land provided by the government.


Hun Neng, Kompong Cham provincial governor and brother of Prime Minister Hun Sen, said the government has provided 5,232 hectares of social concession lands for 1,744 poor families.   


However, land disputes are still widespread, Chai maintained, in spite of social land concessions.


Dismissing the criticisms of human rights violation, Om Yentieng said: “Cambodia believes that the human rights report by Yash Ghai should involve all new developments, a deep analysis of history, politics, economy, and culture made in an objective manner. Cambodia is still committed to human rights, and our efforts should be recognized. Cambodia should be encouraged if balanced judgment, criticism, and counseling are given in the spirit of good partnership.”


Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Son Chhay recommended the government be more open to criticism and carry out Ghai’s recommendations.


“The Cambodian government should stop expressing disappointment in [Ghai’s] statements...because people are well aware of the facts of human rights in Cambodia,” he said. “The presence of the special representative and office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Cambodia is important...[as] a reminder for Cambodian rulers to respect 1991 Paris Peace Accord.”.


Extracted from:

-The Mekong Times Issue No33 Friday, March 21-Sunday, March 23, 2008.

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