Outgoing UN envoy laments scant human rights gains in Cambodia

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - A UN envoy paid a final official visit to Cambodia on Friday and noted scant progress during his six-year mandate, warning the government its people were no longer afraid to defend their human rights.

United Nations Special Rapporteur Surya Subedi said the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has ruled Cambodia for 30 years, should reconsider its aversion to independent institutions.

"Many of the state institutions responsible for upholding people's rights are unfortunately still lacking accountability and transparency needed to command the trust and confidence of the people," Subedi told a news conference.

Despite success in boosting a tiny economy, slashing poverty and creating jobs, Hun Sen's government has been accused of abusing its power and leaning on the judiciary to crush its detractors or scare them into silence.

It has been dogged by accusations of bowing to vested interests and failing to curb spiraling forced evictions or to allow critics to speak out freely.

Subedi, a lawyer and academic, said that he had recognised some signs of progress, but reforms were too slow.

Courts, anti-graft units and human rights mechanisms were not allowed to work freely, he said, adding that public calls for accountability were stronger now than ever.

"People have woken up... and they are ready to fight for their rights," Subedi said. "So far, the courts of Cambodia have not delivered justice in the way demanded by all Cambodians. "There have been too many human rights violations taking place without anyone being held responsible."

A Cambodian government spokesman could not be reached for comment on the envoy's remarks.

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