By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, October 29 -- Before UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon left on his four country trip through Asia, the UN Special Rapporteur on Health issued a report specifying violent anti-drug programs in Cambodia and Vietnam.
Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky if Ban would be raising this issue, and was told to await incremental reports of what Ban raised.
In Cambodia, after political gatherings were banned in Thailand and a petitioner beaten unconscious in Phnom Penh, it was directly reported that “funds from the United Nations are being used to run a brutal internment camp” to which “undesirables” were sent to be “raped and beaten, sometimes to death.”
Inner City Press, which has reviewed each stop along Ban's tour, wrote about this Prey Speu camp on October 28, and on October 29 asked Nesirky if Ban was aware of the issue and had raised it to Cambodian authorities.
Nesirky replied that “UNICEF and the High Commissioner for Human Rights, her Office, will be very happy to answer you questions.”
But what about Ban? Even on the petitioner who, trying to get a letter to Ban, was beaten unconscious by Cambodian authorities, Ban said nothing, relying instead on the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Beyond passing the buck to UNICEF and the HCHR, Nesirky nevertheless offered this spin, that the “other reports” asked about by Inner City Press followed a Guardian story, which Nesirky said was “an extrapolation from funding to a ministry, not direct funding to a specific institution.” Oh.
Inner City Press asked this and other questions to UNICEF, and received only this in return:
Subject: Re: Q re Cambodia/anti-drug referred by OSSG, old Q re malnutrition in Sudan referred to UNICEF by OCHA [and another]
From: Christopher de Bono @unicef.org>
To: "Matthew R. Lee" @ innercitypress.com>
Date: Fri, Oct 29, 2010 at 2:02 PM
- UNICEF Cambodia is always concerned when allegations of this nature arise, particularly when they involve children.
- We do provide vital support to the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation (MoSVY) to strengthen standards and systems in child protection. We do not, however, work directly with the Prey Speu centre, nor do we provide any funding to Prey Speu and are confident that none of our funding goes to this centre. Withdrawing our funding to MoSVY would not be in the best interests of children in Cambodia.
- In the case of Choam Chao, we did not withdraw funding, but engaged the government to change its strategy, which it did, and this resulted in the subsequent closure of the centre.
- UNICEF is aware of the need to document the situation in centres like Prey Speu across Cambodia and we are working with OHCHR to provide technical assistance to the government to strengthen systems to prevent such abuses happening in the future.
On Sudan I have no information beyond what was previously made public by our Representative Nils Kastburg.
On [the other] I will ask colleagues in the field.
UN's Ban & UNICEF's Lake, rapes at Prey Speu not shown