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Pen Ngoeun opinion:Mr. Subedi’s ill prediction on Cambodian Economic Growth Goes Against the General Consensus

Mr. Subedi’s ill prediction on Cambodian Economic Growth Goes Against the General Consensus

Mr. Surya Subedi is the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Cambodia. He said that in his view the current climate of development is “unsustainable and likely to hamper future national economic growth.” His ill prediction on Cambodian economic growth goes against the general consensus.

Cambodia is among the countries with highest economic growth with between 7 and 8% GDP
growth. Is this a divine providence or the longstanding efforts of the Royal Government of
Cambodia under the wise leadership of Samdech Techo Hun Sen, prime minister and the
Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) policy? Credit should go where credit is due. This is common
sense and rational.

Mr. Subedi is narrowly obsessed with defending human rights so that he sees Economic Land
Concessions (ELC’s) and Land Disputes (LD’s) in Cambodia as the violations and abuses of human rights of the protesters. Similarly, he had given ill assessment on the future general political situation in Cambodia that he cares to conclude in his report A/HRC/21/63 distributed 16 July 2012 by the U.N., saying that Cambodia “may run the risk of a return to violence.”
His sharp, critical and “slash and burn” views on Cambodia about national and commune elections, the National Election Committee (NEC), the Provincial Election Committee (PEC), and on the state of Human Rights, on Land Rights has earned him UN job and the position of Special Rapporteur.

The Land and Housing Rights Programme (LHRP) managed by OHCHR, Cambodia advocates the strengthening of the legal framework protecting land use, ownership and housing rights, and the improvement of its implementation. This should be the guiding light of the OHCHR.
What does LHRP can count as the results and achievements in the area of strengthening legal
framework protecting land use, ownership and housing rights? The implementation can come only after the legal framework is in place, even before speaking about improvement. But OHCHR, Cambodia seemed to avail itself to activities (proper or not?), such as to be “called upon to assist in 63 land disputes between affected communities, authorities and businesses,” for the reporting period from July 2011 to June 2012, resulting in OHCHR’s interventions “with a view to prevent violence, and to secure the release of persons wrongfully accused or arbitrarily detained as a result.”

It sounds as if OHCHR, Cambodia had taken side, making OHCHR part of the problem, and not part of the solution as expected, and thus alienating other parties from collaborating with OHCHR.

This could be one among many other reasons that the UN Envoy, Mr. Subedi had complained, as
reported by The Cambodia Daily, 26 September 2012, and quoted here, he said: “In spite of visiting Cambodia since 2009 and enjoying a relatively good level of cooperation from the government in many areas covered by my mandate, I had difficulty in obtaining the necessary official information and in reaching companies holding economic and other land concessions. This lack of access to key information has made it extremely challenging to write a comprehensive report on the issue.”

His mandate, if associated with his prestigious title of Special Rapporteur on the Situation of
Human Rights in Cambodia would be undoubtedly about human rights, and for that reason he has always linked Economic Land Concessions (ELC’) and Land Disputes (LD’s) to the situation of abuses and violations of human rights of the protesters, and in the meantime demonizing the government, businesses and developers.

In fact, the Royal Government of Cambodia has been engaging in the process of the implementation of prior selected positive recommendations made by M. Subedi.
Whether it is an insignificantly desperate tactical threat or an outburst of uncontrollable frustration Mr. Subedi spoke ill about Cambodia, uncharacteristic of an UN Envoy.

He gave a very pessimistic outlook onto the national economy of Cambodia saying: “Cambodia, as an emerging market, risks developing an international reputation for insecure investment in the land sector and in general. The current climate of development is characterized by low transparency and uneven access to information, inadequate consultation, and participation which is not inclusive, and, in my view, is unsustainable and likely to hamper future national economic growth.”

Actually, his prognostic goes against the general consensus. It has been widely agreed that thanks to peace, political stability, security and harmony among the people, the Cambodian economy will enjoy a healthy growth year after year.

It is worth mentioning that on 7 May 2012 Samdech Techo Hun Sen Prime Minister of the Royal
Government of Cambodia, out of great concern about mismanagement of the ELC’s had issued a
regulation imposing a moratorium on the issuance of new ELC’s and greater scrutiny of existing
ELC’s with a view to protect the interests of communities.

Prof. Pen Ngoeun
Advisor,
University of Puthisastra, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
pngoeun@puthisastra.edu.kh
1 October 2012

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