Tue, Mar 23, 2010 - Page 4 News List

Cambodia threatens to expel UN envoy for ‘interference’

AFP , PHNOM PENH

The Cambodian government has threatened to expel a UN envoy if UN agencies continue “unacceptable interference” in the country, a letter seen yesterday said.

The move came after UN agencies in Cambodia earlier this month urged “a transparent and participatory” process as parliament debated an anti-corruption law that was criticized by the opposition and rights groups.

In a letter to UN resident coordinator Douglas Broderick, Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong alleged his office had been guilty of “a flagrant and unacceptable interference in the internal affairs of Cambodia” with the statement.

“Any further repetition of such a behavior would compel the Royal Government of Cambodia to resort to a ‘persona non grata’ decision,” said the letter, dated Saturday and referring to Broderick.

The minister also said Broderick’s office “had exceeded the limit of its mandate” because it had not been instructed to issue the statement by UN headquarters.

Ranked one of the world’s most corrupt countries, Cambodia passed the anti-graft law in parliament on March 11, more than 15 years after legislation was first proposed, but only days after the draft was shared publicly.

Cambodia’s foreign ministry had already accused the UN of “acting as if it were the spokesperson of the opposition parties” with the statement.

Officials at the UN have so far refused to comment on the government’s allegations.

All lawmakers from the opposition Sam Rainsy Party walked out of parliament in protest just hours before the draft law was passed by 82 lawmakers, mostly from Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party.

Opposition and rights groups said the draft of the anti-corruption law was flawed and asked for more public debate, saying the legislation would be ineffective and offered whistle-blowers little protection.

A national anti-corruption council and an anti-corruption unit will be created to oversee investigations, but critics said it was unlikely either body would be effective because both would be controlled by the ruling party.

Public figures face up to 15 years in prison if convicted of accepting bribes, the draft law states.

It was approved by Cambodia’s senate on Friday and will take effect after being formally declared by King Norodom Sihamoni.

Cambodia was ranked 158 out of 180 countries on anti-graft organization Transparency International’s most recent corruption perception index.

It was also ranked the second most corrupt Southeast Asian country after Indonesia in an annual poll by the Political and Economic Risk Consultancy.

Last year, a US diplomat said that graft costs Cambodia up to US$500 million every year, an allegation the government rejected as “unsubstantiated.”

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