Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has hit back at criticism of her diplomatic efforts in Cambodia by Australia’s former foreign minister, Gareth Evans, who played a central role in ending Cambodia’s civil war.
Mr. Evans, who became the first international figure to suggest the U.N.-administered control of Cambodia that would become Untac, and quickly developed a close friendship with Prime Minister Hun Sen, slammed the prime minister in an opinion piece on Wednesday for the killing of striking garment workers in January.
In the piece, Mr. Evans also called out Ms. Bishop for the absence of “robust criticism” of the killings during her trip to Phnom Penh last month, and called on her to criticize Mr. Hun Sen more strongly.
Speaking in an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) Sunday, Ms. Bishop questioned the motivations for the piece by Mr. Evans, who had as recently as September 2010 heaped praise on Mr. Hun Sen.
“I note Mr. Evans has chosen to make these criticisms in the week following my visit to Cambodia, yet remained silent when Labor’s Bob Carr visited Cambodia,” she said.
Mr. Carr, who served as Australia’s foreign minister until Ms. Bishop’s conservative Liberal Party routed his Labor Party in an election in September, visited Cambodia in March last year. On his trip, Mr. Carr described Mr. Hun Sen as a “respected statesman” who promotes the respect of civil rights.
In her interview with ABC on Sunday, Ms. Bishop denied also that she had avoided issues of human rights in her meetings with the government last month.
“I raised human rights in each of my meetings with the prime minister, deputy prime minister and foreign minister of Cambodia,” Ms. Bishop said.
Mr. Evans, who did not respond to a request for comment Sunday, said in his Wednesday piece that his past silence on a vast array of human rights abuses in Cambodia stemmed from a belief that Mr. Hun Sen was ultimately dedicated to promoting democracy in the country.
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