Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Kofi Annan Invited to Visit Cambodia

The Cambodia Daily

Saturday and Sunday, April 22-23, 2006

By Erik Wasson and Prak Chan Thul

UN Resident Coordinator Douglas Gardner has invited UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to visit Cambodia later this year, according to a copy of a letter obtained Friday.

In his April 12 letter, Gardner praised the sending of Cambodian deminers to Sudan – an event Prime Minister Hun Sen marked at a ceremony the same day by accusing UN officials of violating Cambodia’s sovereignty and warning the deminers not to repeat the mistakes of Untac.

“We hope that you might be able to visit Cambodia this year and take the opportunity to congratulate the nation and its people on this step forward as contributors to the global cause of peace,” Gardner wrote.

In the month leading up to the April 12 ceremony, Hun Sen blasted UN human rights envoy Yash Ghai several times for saying too much power has been concentrated in the hands of one person for freedom to flourish.

Hun Sen called on Annan to fire Ghai and said the local UN center for human rights office was staffed by “tourists.”

Asked if Annan would be coming to repair a strained relationship, UNDP spokesman Dain Bolwell wrote in an e-mail: “The relationship between the UN and Cambodia would be further strengthened if his visit occurs.”

Annan is being invited to help mark the 15th anniversary of the Paris Peace Accords on Oct 23, he said, adding that he has not yet said whether he can attend.

“As Douglas Gardner said at the sending off ceremony, Cambodia and its peacekeepers are now truly part of the UN family,” Bolweel wrote.

<>Annan would be welcomed if he visited and Hun Sen may meet with him, said senior CPP parliamentarian Cheam Yeap.

“Samdech Prime Minister still considers Cambodia a member of the United Nations,” he said, though he added that Ghai’s criticism remains unacceptable.

<>He just came to criticize and destroy Cambodia,” he said. Om Yentieng., Hun Sen’s adviser and head of the government’s human rights committee, declined to comment on whether Hun Sen would meet with Anna.

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