Prime Minister Hun Sen has requested the United Nations to cooperate in order to ensure understanding on the issue of human rights prior to any evaluation by the intergovernmental organisation’s human rights commission.
Mr Hun Sen met with Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, in Geneva on Monday.
“I request cooperation on human rights before evaluating [the country],” he said. “Although we have a different stance, cooperation between Cambodia and the UN needs to continue.”
Mr Hun Sen has extended OHCHR’s operation in the country for an additional two years.
Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn and Ms Bachelet signed the Memorandum of Understanding concerning the extension on the same day in Geneva.
During the meeting, Ms Bachelet thanked Mr Hun Sen for extending OHCHR’s time in Cambodia.
She noted that Cambodia has improved its handling of human rights, especially when it comes to empowering women, increasing the quality of education and reducing discrimination.
Soeng Sen Karuna, a senior monitor with rights group Adhoc, said the UN has always been committed to cooperating with countries on the issue of human rights, but obstacles are often created by government officials themselves.
He noted that Mr Hun Sen is often kept in the dark by his advisers and officials.
“Cambodian authorities have many problems, including corruption,” Mr Sen Karuna said. “Cambodia should correct itself because before the UN conducts an evaluation, [UN observers] already have a strong basic understanding and enough evidence.”
He added that Cambodia must learn to accept criticism and abstain from hiding its problems.
Am Sam Ath, a monitoring manager with rights group Licadho, said cooperation between the UN and Cambodia would be beneficial to both sides.
Mr Sam Ath noted that the government has rejected previous requests made by the UN to have meetings on the country’s human rights issues.
“If both sides cooperate, the issue of human rights in Cambodia could be better,” Mr Sam Ath said.