Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen
Today, the Siem Reap, civilized and ancient capital of Cambodia, is hosting the 8th informal seminar on Human Rights for 42 countries of ASEM.
On behalf of the Royal Government and People of Cambodia, I cordially welcome the presence of delegations from the 42 countries as well as delegations from the European Commission and the ASEAN Secretariat to this important seminar. I would like to wish Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen a good health and happiness and strongly hope that this seminar, being held in the land of Angkor Monuments, a mankind’s magnificent architectural achievement and a well-known historic heritage, will bring about human rights improvement, particularly freedom of expression to all our citizens.
Taking this opportunity, I would also like to welcome distinguished guests and observers present here and who will provide motivation to this seminar, and wish Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen good health and success in all your endeavors.
Indeed, freedom of expression is for all people, including Cambodians and regarded as a crucial element in life for communication and exchange of ideas to achieve harmony, prosperity and equal benefits.
Clearly, freedoms of expression are necessary for equitable, fair and prosper day-to-day living for individuals, families, and societies. Without a doubt, nobody is willing to accept illegal interventions and threats. In this sense, everyone is entitled to freedom of expression as well as human rights and dignity since the first day of their birth, and no one can take these rights away from the fundament of justice, peace, self and social development.
Looking at the world history, although human rights and dignity have accompanied mankind since the early stages, human rights and dignity on its own cannot be developed stronger and get respected.
In fact, the history of humankind is the evolution process of development and improvement of human rights and dignity. In this context, the concept of human rights has been developed and promoted by philosophers and intellectuals from different national, religious and cultural backgrounds. Clearly, state leaders and legislators have significantly contributed to the development of notions and concepts regarding the respect of human rights and dignity. Furthermore, through global wide efforts, the international principle for human rights and dignity was developed in the 19th century. However, only in the mid of 20th century, the institutional base for respect of human rights was established through the utmost efforts under the umbrella of the United Nations, issuing a Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.
This declaration constitutes a guiding law and conscience for respecting human rights and dignity, protecting individuals from threats on their lives and dignities. In this context, it should be emphasized that the respect of human rights and dignity is also an important factor to evaluate a society’s democracy. Certainly, the official guarantee of respect for human rights, which is adopted by a country’s constitution, is the highest value of democracy. Within this framework, Cambodian Constitution has embraced all aspects of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and abolished the practice of capital punishment.
In implementing the International Convention on Human Rights, the Royal Government of Cambodia has paid great attention to all aspects of human rights by putting forward various measures to promote political and socio-economic freedom in Cambodia. In this respect, the “Rectangular Strategy”, the policy blueprint of the Royal Government of the third legislature of the National Assembly, clearly embeds a comprehensive vision to promote Cambodian people’s rights and dignity by giving concerted attention to political and socio-economic freedom.
In this regard, the respect for human rights remains a fundamental principle for socio-economic developments. The Royal Government of Cambodia without a doubt understands and highly value freedom, respect for human rights and dignity, as Cambodia used to go through a 3-year-8-month-20-day genocidal regime of the Khmer Rouge when freedom was totally taken away and people suffered from a degrading and inhuman treatment. Cambodia in those zero years, we had nothing except our both hands, but our profound struggle together with gladness that we able to survive this brutal regime constitute the great dynamics to build new lives, protect and value human rights and dignity. We have experienced war and genocidal regime; but now we are making a concerted effort to steer our young generation away from the path of wars and genocidal regimes and ensure that they only enjoy development, humanity and self-esteem, and maintain that value for the future generation.
In addition, related to human rights and dignity, I would like to outline that there are currently more than 2000 NGOs in Cambodia. Nearly 500 national and international media organizations are operating independently in Cambodia. 15 media associations have been formed. NGOs as well as media organizations operating freely in Cambodia, especially range of forums to discuss on human rights are undeniable evidence verifying the Royal Government’s dogged determination to promote democracy and the respect for human rights and dignity.
The Royal Government always welcome different views and recommendations, but except those inciting war, violence, discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin and so on that is prohibited by law as well as goes againsthuman rights.
At the same time, in providing political freedom to people, the Royal Government of Cambodia has paid great attention to strengthen peace, stability, social order, right to free speech and right to participate in every aspect of democratic process. Peaceful and regular election, which ensure confidentiality of every ballot and promotion of rights to free political movements through the presence of several political parties as well as rights to expression and right to information conveyed by newspaper and countless national and international press network are the indicators of strong and high level of freedom to expression enjoyed by all Cambodians.
In short, Cambodia has a wide range of means for expression, ranging from publication, voice and vision broadcast, demonstration, strike and election. Indeed, these numerous ways always allow the opposition to express their views, even though in some cases, demonstrations are not favorable, but they still have other means to advocate their views.
Looking at the achievements of the Royal Government, at different layers from central government to local one and across the institutions, beside those reforms in administrative and judicial systems as well as good governance reforms that are aiming to bring government closer to the people, we have made utmost efforts to constantly promote and protect universal human rights and dignity. All core work of every institutions and ministries has been indirectly involved in promoting “human rights”.Indeed, the human rights committees of the Senate, the National Assembly and the Royal Government of Cambodia, they are all have exerted their efforts in protecting and developing human rights in Cambodia. Particularly, the Cambodian Human Right Committee, which is a governmental institution, has also made a number of fundamental accomplishments.
During this year, the Cambodian Human Right Committee has resolved 239 out of 300 cases received from 12,102 people. Moreover, overdue temporary detentions have been totally eliminated after the Cambodian Human Right Committee close cooperation with municipal and provincial courts to address this issue. In 2002, 204 criminals were detained beyond legal period, and this figure went down to 102 in 2004 and 45 in 2006 respectively. In 2007, should any criminal be detained beyond legal period, the Cambodian Human Right Committee will work with the courts to examine and resolve the case.
Additionally, there were 22 of violence cases by criminal groups in 2005, and 6 cases only in 2006. The Cambodian Human Right Committee has made a joint effort with the national police and military police forces to raise awareness, to provide protection to victims of criminal groups, and to bring instigators who are responsible to the court, this has resulted in the reduction of those incidences.
At the same time, the Cambodian Human Right Committee is cooperating with NGOs to establish a national-level institution to oversee human right issues in Cambodia. I strongly believe that a Cambodian National Committee on Human Right Affairs will be created in the future as a result of this good cooperation.
Before this seminar starts and the discussion of four groups on the following topics: political right; cultural right – role and relation between states, civil societies and international organizations; and the impact of information technology and telecommunication and freedom of expression, I would like to draw your attention to the fact that human rights and freedom of expression are entitled to humankind regardless of wealth, political regime, race and religion. In this spirit, we possesshuman rights and dignity which must be respected, protected and developed in conformity to the needs of human being. In addition, I would like stress that freedom of expression cannot be put into practice during the wartime, the imposition of martial law, or in a situation where a country is controlled by a genocidal regime as in Cambodia from 1970 to 1975 and from 1975 to 1979, because none can use their rights of expression to protect themselves from bombs and bullets, and under Pol Pot’s regime we do not have any rights, including the right to live. Therefore, peace and political stability are the fundamentals for the development of democratic institutions and rights, including the freedom of expression.
Once again, I would like to wish all of you pleasant stay in the land of Angkor, good health and great success in this seminar. May I now declare the opening of the 8th Informal Asia Europe Meeting on Human Rights.