Respected Ms. Louise Frechette Deputy- Secretary General of the United Nations,H.E. Mr./Jeam Bing, President of the 59th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, Representatives of NGOs, Civil Society, and the Private Sector. And Dear Participant,
I consider it a great privilege to have been invited to this UN Hearing to share my views with all of you in the session of Freedom to Live in Dignity.
Corruption has become the key component of human rights violations and the main obstacle for poverty reduction in developing countries. In Cambodia, the Paris Peace Accord of 1991 and the mission of the Transitional Authority in Cambodia [UNTACT] to hold the general election in 1993, did not bring Cambodia to the state of a peaceful stable democracy with rules of law and fully respected human rights. In preparation for the forthcoming UN Summit that will be held on September 14-16, 2005, I hereby present an evaluation of the state of human rights in Cambodia.
Rules of Law Halfway through the implementation of the first mandate 1993-1997, after the general elections were held by UNTAC, Cambodia was on its way to a full implementation of rules of law. Cambodia was able to accomplish this because all the national institutions tried their best to serve the people’s interests. Additionally, all parliament members from the ruling party were able to constructively criticize the mistakes of the leadership and heads of government without fear of retribution. Also, all forms of law enforcement began to work effectively, although progress came slowly. Also important is that the supreme council of magistracy was established to monitor the functions of the courts and judges in the provinces and municipalities. The military conflict of July 1997 derailed Cambodia’s efforts to maintain the rules of law. Extra-judicial killings and violations of the executive branch of the court (by-law, an independent institution) happened frequently in Cambodia. The whole judiciary system is effectively used as a means to intimidate and threaten democrats, opposition parties in general and NGOs, and it is known to be the most corrupt organization in Cambodia. Moreover, the Association of Student’s Unions, and some NGO’s staffs have been regarded as dissident groups by the government.Also, Journalists, politicians, artists, Buddhist monks, students, union activists and people who are supporters of the opposition political parties have frequently been killed outside of the judicial system. The perpetrators are still at large. In fact those that were taken into custody, often the sons of powerful and high-ranking officials, were released on bail and allowed to go free. The government does not enforce all laws that were promulgated by the National Assembly, particularly immigration laws. A new penal code does not exist at this point. The courts use the old penal code of the State of Cambodia and that of UNTAC to judge cases. No judgments have been made in a fair and just manner
Human Rights I, on behalf of the Cambodian people and an NGO, fully support the views expressed in the report of the UN Secretary General’s Representative in charge of Human Rights in Cambodia. The weakness of law enforcement and the firmly rooted corruption of the government have become the key causes of the human rights violations in Cambodia. The rich and powerful have used their power to violate the marginalized by grabbing land in the cities and by wood-cutting in the forest community under the pretext of government forest-concession. The disputes in fishing areas that have resulted in many deaths still continue, as does the trafficking of women and children and the excessive use of police force in non-violent protests. The perpetrators of these crimes escape prosecution through bribes to government officials. The rates of women and children trafficking are still very high in Cambodia. Child labor has always been a problem in the country, and child rape happens every day. According to the report of a local NGO, ten thousand children are working in Cambodia. Of those, 90% are female, with 80% of those being between the ages of 12-17 and 40% being violated by their employers on a daily basis. The authorities disperse all forms of demonstrations and gatherings. Anti-demonstration groups are well organized and always come to the aid of the government and police forces. As a result, many people are fearful and do not protest the government’s actions despite their unhappiness with its actions.
Democracy Under the pretext of keeping security and social stability, referring to the incident of the burning of the Thai Embassy on January 29th 2003 in Phnom Penh, the government does not allow free expression. All forms of demonstrations and protests are forbidden. When there is a protest, the police force, military police force, and government organized anti-demonstration groups respond with violence. The requests of NGOs, Civil Society, Labor Unions and Student Associations for permission to protest are always denied. If they insist on protesting, the leaders are arrested and detained by government enforcement officers. Democracy in Cambodia is deteriorating at a rapid pace. Evidence of this can be seen in the three Parliament members of the opposition party that have been stripped of their parliamentary titles. Perhaps more significantly, the reports of the National Assembly have always been kept secret despite the demands of NGO’s and PMs that it be released to the public. Additionally, the commune councils that were elected on February 3rd, 2002, do not have the full power to guide their communes as originally intended by the decentralization process. Such a demagogical democracy has prevented the international community from seeing the Cambodian government for what it really is.
Recommendations The democracy of Cambodia is not healthy. There have been widespread human rights violations and corruption and nepotism are commonplace. Thousands of millions of dollars of foreign aid has not been used correctly. Poverty reduction has not been accomplished. On the contrary, the amount of people living under the poverty line has gradually increased from 36-42%. I would like the United Nations, the signatory countries of the Paris Accord, and donor countries to monitor the policy implementation of the Royal Government of Cambodia. I understand that human rights, the rules of law and democracy are essential in the process of poverty reduction and also in achieving the Millennium Development Goals as set by the United Nations [MDGs 2000-2015]. The MDGs have the hopes of bringing the people all over the world together to live with Freedom and Dignity. When the leaders drive the horses without holding the strings, use power in an authoritarian way, operate without transparency and with a system of one-man rule, the MDGs cannot be achieved and people all over the world will still become the slavery of debt of the industrialized countries in the future. Additionally the Freedom to Live in Dignity will remain merely as words on paper, never actualized.
The outgoing and incoming members of the Board of Trustees of the Southeast Asian Committee for Advocacy (SEACA) converged in Yogyakarta, Indonesia on 16-17 August 2005 for its Strategic Plannning Session and Board Meeting.Regional and country representatives from Burma, Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam discussed the organizational direction of SEACA in the next five years. The Catholic Institute for International Relations also sent a representative to participate in direction setting session. Meanwhile, Rachel Polestico of the South East Asia Rural Social Leadership Institute or SEARSOLIN presented the results of the evaluation of the Advocacy Capacity Building Programme of SEACA.One of the highlights of the Strategic Planning and Board Meeting is the decision of the members of the Board that SEACA should move forward as a network by fulfilling the following roles: a capacity builder for advocacy; a venue for solidarity and mutual support; and an inititiator of advocacy on emerging issues. Elected as members of the Executive Committee are the following: Marlene Ramirez (AsiaDHRAA, Regionals); Sourn Serey Ratha (CCSP, Cambodia); Mateus Tilman Cortereal (FONGTIL, Timor Leste); Pham Thanh Van (Vietnam); and Florence May Bans-Cortina (Kanlungan, Philippines). Mr. DE Susapto of Indonesia is elected as an alternate member of the ExeComm. The planning and meeting session was held in Novotel Yogyarta in Indonesia. Former Philippine Social Welfare Minister Corazon Juliano-Soliman facilitated the proceedings.
ANGKOR WAT DECLARATION
Social Watch Asia Regional Meeting in Siem Reap,
Cambodia 30 March – 1 April 2005
We are representatives of Social Watch from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, South Korea, Thailand and
Tanzania. We have come together for three days, from March 30 to April 1, 2005, in the city of Siem Reap, Cambodia, site of the world heritage Angkor Wat, to share experiences in monitoring the implementation of commitments pledged by Asian governments in 1995 (Copenhagen Social Summit and Beijing Women Conference) and in the Millennium Summit five years ago. More importantly, we have come to this Social Watch Asia Regional Meeting to discuss how best to address new challenges confronting our region, build solidarity and renew our commitment to pursue social justice and sustainable development.
As governments account for what they had promised to deliver we as social watchers must contend with the stark reality that our region remains home to two-thirds of the world’s poor— more than half of them women— whose deprivation and vulnerability were further underscored in the recent tsunami tragedy. There is no justification why these millions of poor must continue to be deprived of their right to be secure in food, shelter, education, health, in their individual choices and pursuit of happiness. read-more-about-declaration.doc