Written by Sebastian Strangio
Thursday, 11 June 2009
A COALITION of civil society representatives on Wednesday expressed its support for concluding observations issued last month by a UN human rights body, which found that government implementation of laws designed to protect basic human rights was lacking.
At a public forum Wednesday, more than 120 civil society activists, community representatives, trade unionists, teachers and health workers released a joint statement in "strong support" of the recommendations issued by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights following Cambodia's review on May 11-12.
"The Committee has accurately described the real situation in Cambodia, which we experience in our daily lives," the statement said.
"We ... recognise that there are many problems with the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights that still need to be addressed."
The committee's observations, released May 22 in Geneva, criticised the government for its lack of action on issues including land rights, gender equality, conservation, unemployment and labour rights.
The report was greeted with hostility from the government, with senior CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap saying it was "usual for UN human rights bodies to blast the ruling party".
But Chan Vichet, a representative of Phnom Penh's Dey Krahorm community, the members of which were forcibly evicted by city authorities in January, said the recommendations were not designed to attack the government unfairly.
"These recommendations do not mean the UN is reproaching the government for not having political principles, but on some points the government has not fulfilled [its promises]," he said at the forum.
Wednesday's statement, based on a Khmer translation of the recommendations, expressed its support for the committee's call for a moratorium on land evictions "until the proper legal framework is in place and the process of land titling is completed".
In addition to recommendations relating to gender, disabilities, health and education, it requested the passage of the government's long-awaited Anti-corruption Law and the establishment of a national housing policy. It also highlighted judicial independence as a key factor in ensuring basic human rights.
David Pred, director of Bridges Across Borders Southeast Asia, who helped organise the forum, said its intention was to disseminate the UN's observations among as many Cambodians as possible.
"This is really the first chance for a cross-section of Cambodian society to have a look at these recommendations and think about what they mean and whether they agree with them," he said.
"The message that came out today is that people here strongly support what the UN committee has said, and they can let the government know they can use these recommendations as a platform for some important reforms."