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UN rapporteur sees progress in Cambodian rights

PHNOM PENH, Jan 19 (AFP) - The UN special rapporteur for human rights to Cambodia said he held "constructive" talks with Prime Minister Hun Sen Tuesday in his controversial position.

Surya Subedi, who was appointed to the job last year after his predecessor Yash Ghai resigned under a war of words with the Cambodian government, said he discussed a wide range of rights issues in a two-hour meeting with the premier.

"It was very constructive dialogue," Surya, who arrived in the country on Monday for a 13-day visit to the kingdom, told reporters after the meeting.

"I discussed the issue of land evictions, freedom of expression and better cooperation between the civil society sector and the government," Surya said.

"We are looking at the total picture of human rights situation in Cambodia," he added. "I think some progress has been made even this morning. So I am very pleased with the outcome."

Om Yentieng, a top adviser to Hun Sen and the chief of government's human rights committee, urged UN officials to give up "old ways" criticising the Cambodian government on rights issues.

"We are not a hell, like UN reports have mentioned, and we have not yet become a heaven of human rights," Om Yentieng told reporters.

Yash Ghai, a Kenyan lawyer, resigned as special representative for human rights to Cambodia in September in 2008 after government officials refused to meet him and Hun Sen called the envoy rude, stupid and a "god without virtue".

Last month UN rights experts called Cambodia's expulsion of 20 Chinese Muslim Uighur asylum seekers "a blatant violation" of anti-torture rules.

The Cambodian government has faced mounting criticism for a spate of forced evictions throughout the country over the past few years at the hands of army and police.

The Cambodian administration has also been heavily criticised by rights groups over the past year for launching a number of defamation and disinformation lawsuits against critics and opposition members.

MySinchew 2010.01.19

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