The government yesterday celebrated the 69th anniversary of International Human Rights Day under the theme of peace, while 103 civil society groups called for more protection for human rights defenders.
Prime Minister Hun Sen posted on his Facebook page to say how the rights and freedoms of Cambodian people have been restored since the end of the Khmer Rouge regime in 1979.
“We remember that Cambodians had no rights or freedom, including the right to live and the right to get enough food, seven days a week from April 17, 1975 to January 6, 1979,” he said.
“December 10 is International Human Rights Day, which people all over the world celebrate. On January 7, 1979, the rights and freedoms of the Cambodian people were restored and have been until this day.”
Civil society meanwhile marked the day at different locations around Phnom Penh and in other provinces.
A group of 103 civil society organisations issued a joint statement calling for justice and respect for human rights from the government.
It said respect for fundamental freedoms is a basic requirement for a functioning civil society, which is also guaranteed by the Cambodian constitution and international law.
“On the occasion of International Human Rights Day, we, the undersigned members of Cambodian civil society, call for an end to government attacks on human rights defenders and civil society groups and the lifting of unjustifiable restrictions on fundamental freedoms,” the statement said.
It went on to say that civil society organisations have been long-standing contributors to Cambodia’s post-war peace building efforts, development and the promotion of human rights and democratic principles.
“The legitimate work of civil society organisations must be valued and protected as a fundamental pillar of sustainable development, rather than being wrongly characterised as a threat to national security,” the statement said. “We call on the government to facilitate efforts by civil society groups and individuals to promote human rights, democracy and access to information in Cambodia.
Political analyst Lao Mong Hay said Cambodia’s tragic recent history means the country must take special measures to assure the protection of human rights, and to avoid a return to the policies and practices of the past.
“Ignorance, forgetfulness or contempt of the rights of man are the only causes of public misfortunes and the corruption of governments,” he said.
Keo Remy, the head of the Cambodia Human Rights Committee, addressed an audience at Koh Pich yesterday.
He said that Mr Hun Sen was a hero who saved the lives of Cambodian people from the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime and gave rights to all citizens.
“Only Samdech Techo Hun Sen and the Cambodian People’s Party, who brought human rights to Cambodia after defeating the Democratic Kampuchea regime, brought about the creation of the 1993 Constitution of Human Rights and the second constitution of the kingdom,” he said.
“Peace is so important because peace creates opportunities for the nation to develop human resources and other infrastructure,” he added.
Human Rights Day was established in 1948 and is intended to champion everything from the most basic human needs such as food, shelter, and water, all the way up to access to free and uncensored information.