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On Violent Anti-Drug Camp, UN Ban Still Silent, UNICEF Funds Only “Agency"

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>
To: "Matthew R. Lee" @>
Date: Fri, Oct 29, 2010 at 2:02 PM

Re Cambodia

- 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

Here's from the Sidney Morning Herald:

funds from the United Nations are being used to run a brutal internment camp near Phnom Penh, where detainees are held for months without trial, raped and beaten, sometimes to death. The Cambodian government's Ministry of Social Affairs says the Prey Speu 'Social Affairs Centre' 20 kilometres from the capital is a voluntary welfare center... But human rights groups say the government-run centre is an illegal, clandestine prison, where people deemed 'undesirable' - usually drug users, sex workers and the homeless - are held for months without charge or without ever going before a court. Detainees - men, women and children are housed together in a single building - are regularly beaten with planks of wood, whipped with wires, or threatened with weapons. Gang rapes by guards are reportedly common, and it is alleged guards have beaten three detainees to death. But the ministry that runs Prey Speu still gets money directly from the UN's children's fund, UNICEF.”

Does Ban Ki-moon as the head of the UN system this this is acceptable? We still don't know. When Inner City Press asked if Ban would raise the wider violent anti drug program issue in Vietnam, Nesirky said Ban is still there. Watch this site.

From the UN transcript of October 25, 2010 --

Inner City Press: I want to ask about the Secretary-General’s impending trip to Asia. There is a report to the Third Committee by the Special Rapporteur on the right to health about, among other things, what he sees as the violated practices in anti-drug programmes in many of the countries that Ban Ki-moon is going to be visiting — Cambodia, Viet Nam, Thailand — and he calls very strongly for the UN to move against people who are incarcerated. This is all according to his report. I just wonder: of the many issues obviously on the Secretary-General’s agenda as he visits these countries, is he aware of that? And there is a separate issue in Cambodia, where people has said that they are going to try and rally in front of Ban Ki-moon about evictions, forced evictions, in Cambodia. Are these… Can you sort of… Can we get a run-down of what issues he is planning to raise, and I just wonder whether these two are among them?

Spokesperson Martin Nesirky: Sure. And again, I seem to recall that Farhan gave you a bit of a run-down on the trip last week, sitting here. As the trip progresses, we will be giving details. The Secretary-General and his delegation are en route at the moment to Thailand where, as you know, the visit starts. They then move to Cambodia and on to Viet Nam for this UN-ASEAN [Association of South-East Asian Nations] meeting and then to China, where, as you know, the Secretary-General will be visiting Shanghai, Nanjing and Beijing. On the question of health, the very specific point that you raised, we can find out and probably tell you as the visit progresses. The same goes for the second part that you mentioned.

* * *

With UN Ban in Cambodia, Eviction Protests Banned, Rights Are Internal Matter?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 27 -- After leaving Thailand where political gatherings were banned during his stay, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is now in Cambodia, where people facing mass eviction for the political elite were banned from protesting along Ban's route.

  Inner City Press for the second time asked Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky if Ban will meet with those threatened with eviction, or just take a letter as he did in Thailand.

  Nesirky said that “if there is some kind of written communication these people who are protesting would like to hand over, I'm sure that would be possible.”

  But the written petition was already delivered, and Ban was aware of it, without impact. It was reported that “Aimee Brown, a spokeswoman for the Office of the UN Resident Coordinator in Phnom Penh, said Ban knew of the requests, but said his office had not yet decided on whether he would meet them. 'He's definitely aware that there are protestors, and he is aware of the petitions that have been received,' Brown said.” So what's the answer?

UN Ban in Cambodia, those facing eviction not shown

  It's already reported that Cambodian “Prime Minister Hun Sen has ordered [Ban] to remove the head of the local UN human rights office, accusing him of acting as a 'spokesman' for opposition groups. During a meeting with Ban at his offices in Phnom Penh this morning, Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said the premier had 'proposed' that Christophe Peschoux, head of the local office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, resign his post.”

  Inner City Press asked Nesirky if Peschoux will keep his post. “That's an internal personnel matter,” Nesirky replied. He added that Ban stands behind the office and, by implication, it's staff. Video here from Minute 5:04.

  It does not appear that Ban raised the issue of violent anti-drug programs, highlighted by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health. And Ban's human rights tour goes on.

* * *

With UN Ban in Bangkok, Political Gatherings Banned, Myanmar Voting on Giri Back Burner?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 26 -- The Asian tour of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon began in Thailand, with all political gatherings banned. Ban gave a speech saying that Thai problems are for Thais to solve, reported then as “internal affairs.”

  When Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky for Ban's view the right to assemble for the redress of grievances, Nesirky replied that Ban had received a letter of protest, from the Red Shirt movement. But does that replace the right to assemble? Ban's spokesman wouldn't answer. Video here from Minute 29:12.

  In Nesirky's read out of Ban's time in Thailand, he did not mention the critique by the UN's special rapporteur on the right to health Anand Grover of violent anti-drug programs in the region. (When Inner City Press asked Anand, he said he would raise it with Ban Ki-moon or the Secretariat, video here.)

Myanmar was raised by Ban Ki-moon, but it is not clear how. In New York, the Good Office on Myanmar team, created by the General Assembly, have been reassigned to do other work under the Department of Political Affairs Tamrat Samuel.

  The shift, without GA approval, is not mentioned in the Secretariat's “Special Political Missions” submission to the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions.

Inner City Press asked the UN's humanitarian chief Valerie Amos about media reports that the UN's officer to help Myanmar with Cyclone Giri were rebuffed.

UN's Ban & Thai Abhisit, political gatherings and Myanmar vote not shown

 She said that “joint assessments” -- the same term used by the UN in Sudan -- have begun and indicate that the damage may be much larger than first thought, up to 400,000 people.

  Can a free, fair and transparent election be held among the impacted people, Inner City Press asked Ms. Amos, in Arakan State and elsewhere? She said this couldn't be known until the joint assessment is completed. The election is slated for November 9. Ban Ki-moon's next stops are Vietnam and Cambodia, where violent anti-drug programs are most extreme. Watch this site.

  Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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