Cambodian PM Hun Sen’s biography acknowledges that he fought first with the Khmer Rouge and then against the Khmer Rouge, which gives him an intimate knowledge of the killing fields in which 1.5 million perished. Three prominent rights activists have been charged and jailed since New Year’s Eve. Several other opponents of his have fled the country. Hun Sen says that he is only protecting his reputation.

There is a lot foreign donors can do. They must make it clear that they don’t believe in the legal cover Hun Sen has thrown over his ambition. At another level, Western governments must make sure that the global human-rights monitoring council proposed by the UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, does not reproduce the flaws of the discredited Human Rights Commission by deferring to countries that themselves violate human rights.

The US backs the idea of the new council, but the US envoy, John Bolton, has added a poison pill to the mix: a proposal to include the five permanent members of the Security Council as permanent members of the rights council. That plays directly into the hands of China, which would gain a secure perch from which to neutralise any UN action against dictatorial allies

like Cambodia or Sudan, another friend of China that knows what killing fields are.