Written by Ambassador Julio A Jeldres
Monday, 15 June 2009
Reading the article "Deputy Governor faults land-grabbing report as biased, un-Cambodian", (June 9) made me realise with sadness that Cambodian government officials do not seem to appreciate that by continuing to hide evictions beneath the banner of development, they are pushing the people being evicted to desperate actions that may lead to instability.
The Licadho report is a compassionate, well-researched, factual and moving report on the plight of the people who have lost their land through forced evictions by powerful elites that control today's Cambodia.
It is becoming more and more common for Cambodian officials to respond to factual criticism on forced land grabbing, corruption and other violations of human rights as "foreign interference in Cambodia's internal affairs".
The logo "No one loves Khmer more than Khmer" is becoming the fashionable mantra of the government's response to any critical remark to its actions. I often wonder if this "No one loves Khmer more than Khmer" really comes from the heart of the officials who use it.
Otherwise, how do you explain the violent deaths of Piseth Pilika, Chea Vichea and so many other Khmers?
Yet, while Cambodian officials become more and more "anti-foreigner", they do not seem to have any compunction to constantly request further funds from foreign countries, which continue to support the Cambodian government's request for assistance because of their genuine concern for the welfare of the people of Cambodia.
The contemptuous manner in which Professor Yash Ghai, the former special representative of the UN Secretary General for Human Rights, and Ms Carol Rodley, the US Ambassador to Cambodia, have been treated by government officials for drawing attention to genuine violations of human rights, such as land grabbing, and other problems such as the corruption affecting the livelihood of the less privileged of Cambodia, is morally wrong, historically unsound and totally unacceptable.
Cambodian government officials need to understand that foreign governments, in particular the signatories of the 1991 Paris Agreements who are the guarantors of the Cambodian people's rights, cannot remain silent in front of so much injustice.
Likewise, we ordinary citizens of the countries that provide multiform assistance to Cambodia, contribute through our taxes to the national reconstruction of Cambodia and, therefore, have the right to expect our respective governments not to remain silent when these continuous violations of human rights take place in Cambodia.
Ambassador Julio A Jeldres
Adjunct Research Fellow
The Asia Institute, Monash University