Cambodia signs pact to renew UN human rights presence

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Cambodia has agreed to let the U.N. human rights agency keep an office in the country for another two years, its foreign ministry announced Tuesday.

The agreement with the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights has been renewed every two years since 1993, but Cambodia let it expire last December over concern the U.N. agency was interfering in domestic political affairs. The agency monitors human rights developments and has been critical of Prime Minister Hun Sen's government.

The foreign ministry's announcement noted that the memorandum of understanding, signed Monday, follows principles in the U.N.'s charter about it not authorizing U.N. intervention in a state's domestic affairs. Cambodia had sought mention of non-intervention in the new pact, but it was unclear if it was in the text, which was not available.

The announcement said the Cambodian government was committed to its partnership with the United Nations and to enforcement of the agreement with a view to further strengthening the rule of law and fostering the protection of human rights.

Cambodia had threatened to close down the agency's office if agreement was not reached by Dec. 30.

Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn in November had released a letter he wrote to Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, accusing his agency of abusing its mandate and its representatives of behaving disrespectfully toward the sovereignty of Cambodia.