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Cambodian leader blasts UN report

Dec 12, 2007 (AP), The UN should leave Burma alone and stop disrupting the junta’s progress toward democracy by issuing critical reports on human rights abuses, Cambodia’s leader said Wednesday.

"Myanmar has been moving smoothly ahead," prime minister Hun Sen said, becoming perhaps the first national leader to publicly praise the country’s military junta since its bloody September crackdown on pro-democracy protests.

Hun Sen, whose government is regularly criticized for human rights abuses, lashed out at a report released Friday by UN human rights investigator Paulo Sergio Pinheiro.

The report found that at least 31 people were killed during the Myanmar crackdown, twice the toll acknowledged by the junta. It also said that 650 people remained in custody and another 74 people were missing.

Hun Sen said the report did nothing but "disturb" Burma’s efforts toward reform.

"If you just keep opposing and pressuring (Burma), how can it solve its own problems?" Hun Sen said during a speech at the inauguration of a government women’s dormitory.

"Leave them some space to work," Hun Sen said, adding that he believed the junta’s goals for the future match the UN’s. "They also want to have national reconciliation, democracy and respect for human rights."

Burma sparked global outrage in September when troops opened fire on pro-democracy protests that were led by Buddhist monks. The junta has acknowledged killing 15 protesters, but diplomats and dissidents say the toll was much higher.

The UN has spearheaded efforts to coax the junta to start reconciliation talks with detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. A Nobel peace laureate, Suu Kyi has been under house arrest for 12 of the last 18 years.

Burma and Cambodia are members of the 10-nation Associated of Southeast Asian Nations, which has come under criticism for failure to take a tough public stance against the junta’s crackdown. ASEAN has a traditional policy of not interfering in the domestic affairs of its members.

Last week, Hun Sen hosted a visit by Burma’s prime minister, Lt. Gen. Thein Sein, during which he reiterated a long-standing opposition to economic sanctions against Burma.

Hun Sen, who has a long-standing prickly relationship with the UN, also lashed out at Yash Ghai, the UN’s special envoy to human rights in Cambodia.

Hun Sen shunned Ghai during a visit to Cambodia that ended earlier this week and said in a message directed to UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon he "will never ever deal with him."

During a 10-day visit to Cambodia, Ghai heaped criticism on the government for alleged rights violations and called the judiciary "a perversity." He predicted that Cambodians are eventually "going to rise" against the government.

"His country is 100 times worse than ours," Hun Sen said, referring to Kenya, where Ghai is from. The prime minister joked that the capital, Nairobi, should be nicknamed "night robbery" for its widespread crime.

Hun Sen said Ghai focused only on the "negative" and ignored the government’s efforts to address human rights issues.

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