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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 May 2006, 15:14 GMT 16:14 UK
Cambodia is not 'hell', says PM
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen
Hun Sen rejected accusations of wielding too much power
Cambodia's prime minister has rebuked human rights groups for "viewing Cambodia as hell", in talks with the UN's top human rights official.

Hun Sen told Louise Arbour human rights workers should "tell the truth" about his government, his spokesman said.

Ms Arbour's visit comes amid strained relations between Cambodia and the UN.

In March, Hun Sen called UN envoy Yash Ghai "deranged" after he suggested too much power lay in the hands of the prime minister.

Hun Sen's assistant Eang Sophalleth said the prime minister told Ms Arbour human rights groups in Cambodia failed "to reflect the facts" about Cambodia.

Cambodia wanted rights groups "just to talk about the facts concerning the government... rather than seeing Cambodia as being as bad as hell," Eang Sophalleth quoted Hun Sen as saying, the Associated Press news agency reported.

Hun Sen described Ms Arbour as a "good partner" on human rights issues, and that the meeting should put ties between Cambodia and the UN's human rights office "on a good path", AP quoted Eang Sophalleth as saying.

Eang Sophalleth also said the government denied reports that it was planning to close the UN's human rights office in Cambodia.

'Unacceptable' remarks

A row erupted in March between Cambodia and the UN's human rights office when Mr Ghai said Cambodia's government was not committed to human rights, and power had been too centralised around "one individual".

Hun Sen said Mr Ghai should be sacked by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and dismissed UN rights staff in Cambodia as "long-term tourists".

Eang Sophalleth said Hun Sen told Ms Arbour Mr Ghai's comments were out of order.

"The prime minister said it was not acceptable. If the prime minister does not have power, how can he lead the country?" he said.

Ms Arbour is on the second day of a three-day visit to the country - the first by a UN high commissioner for human rights since 2002.

On Wednesday Ms Arbour visited the Tuol Sleng genocide museum, where thousands of people were tortured and killed under the former Khmer Rouge regime.

Ms Arbour is also due to hold talks with officials from the UN-Cambodian Khmer Rouge tribunal, which is expected to get under way in July.

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