Phnom Penh, 10 December 2012 — On the occasion of the International Human Rights Day 2012, the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC), the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee (CHRAC) and the Cambodian Labour Confederation (CLC) organized a peaceful march this morning from Phnom Penh’s Olympic Stadium to the capital’s Freedom Park. ADHOC and partner organizations also organized marches in Stung Treng and Kampong Chhnang cities, and supported community-organized events in Battambang, Kampong Speu and Preah Vihear provinces. Human Rights Day is celebrated annually across the world on 10 December, the day on which the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in 1948.
About 2,000 persons participated in the Phnom Penh march (which passed through Charles de Gaulle, Czechoslovakia, Kampuchea Krom and Preah Monivong Boulevards), while 2,000 more participants, including many factory workers, gathered at Freedom Park to wait for the demonstrators. In Stung Treng and Kampong Chhnang, hundreds of persons joined the celebration.
This year’s international theme—“Inclusion and the Right to Participate in Public Life”—is particularly relevant to Cambodia. Indeed, 2012 has witnessed violations of Cambodian citizens’ civil and political rights and a deterioration of the climate in which civil society can operate. Democratic rights, such as the rights to free expression, association and assembly, the right to vote and stand for elections, and non-discrimination, are crucial to open discussion of political issues, circulation of ideas, and popular control over public affairs. Citizens have a fundamental right to peacefully express dissent and promote social change, as well as to receive information that is deemed “inconvenient” by their governments. Ultimately, the participation of a large number of Cambodian citizens in public life will be key to the country’s social, political and economic development.
The ability to have a say in policy decisions (including central and local governments’ strategies) is intimately related to the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural (ESC) rights—such as the right to education, the right to health, or the right to adequate food and housing. National authorities have a duty to respect, protect and fulfill these and other ESC rights, which are prerequisites for informed popular discussion, monitoring and criticism of policies.
This explains why Cambodian civil society has put emphasis on “Business and Human Rights” as an additional theme. As the United Nations adopted the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (“Protect, Respect and Remedy” Framework) in 2011, Cambodia has been plagued by disputes related to operations of private companies. While recognizing the need for economic development, we call on business enterprises to practice due diligence when conducting their activities and identify, prevent and mitigate negative human rights impacts. At the same time, Cambodian authorities are under obligation to hold private companies that are responsible for human rights abuses to account.
On this special day, we express our wish that 2013 will witness greater respect for human rights in Cambodia. ADHOC and its partners will continue to defend people’s and communities’ rights. In particular, we will continue to organize empowerment activities, such as legal education workshops, and to provide legal assistance to communities affected by unscrupulous business enterprises and the failure to implement human rights safeguards. We reiterate our readiness to engage constructively with public authorities to promote and protect fundamental rights and freedoms.
For more information, please contact:
Mr. Thun Saray, President, 016 440 044