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Cambodia is no hell, PM tells U.N. rights chief

Written by: Staff
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PHNOM PENH, May 18 (Reuters) Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen today told the U.N.'s top human rights official that rights groups consistently misrepresented his country and government, writing it off as ''hell'', his spokesman said.

''What the government wants is for the human rights groups to tell the truth about the work the government is doing, to show the facts and avoid just viewing Cambodia as hell,'' Eang Sophalleth quoted Hun Sen as saying.

Louise Arbour, the UN's High Commissioner for Human Rights, was not available for comment after the meeting held six weeks after Hun Sen dismissed her organisation as a bunch of ''long-term tourists'' who didn't know what they were talking about.

His outburst was sparked by criticism by the UN's special human rights envoy to Cambodia, Yash Ghai, during a visit in March.

Ghai accused Hun Sen, a one-eyed former Khmer Rouge soldier who has been in charge for the last 20 years, of ruling with an ''iron fist'' and violating the independence of the impoverished nation's judiciary.

Hun Sen, who has refused to meet Ghai on several occasions, told Arbour such comments were unacceptable, as were any attempts to curb his executive authority, his spokesman said.

''If the Prime Minister has no power, how can the Prime Minister lead the country?'' he was quoted as saying.

Arbour was due to hold a news conference on Friday at the end of her five-day trip, which has included meetings with King Norodom Sihamoni, opposition parties and officials working on the long-awaited genocide trial of Pol Pot's top surviving henchmen.

REUTERS SB ND1418

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