Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen Distinguished National and International Guests,
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen Members of the Disability Action Council,
Beloved Persons with Disabilities, Teachers and all Students!
It is my great pleasure to join Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen and beloved compatriots with disabilities, teachers and all students to celebrate this important 15th Anniversary of Cambodia Day of Persons with Disabilities and the 31st Anniversary of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. The celebration of the Day of Persons with Disabilities this year is under the theme of “Eliminate Obstacles and Provide Opportunities to the Persons with Disabilities for a Society for Us All”, which will identify key issues of the persons with disabilities and will make us pay more attention to them. This event is organized alongside the announcement of the establishment of working group for disability action in ministries-institutions and disability action council at the municipal and provincial level, that could be regarded as another historic milestone of the disability sector for promoting interest of our Cambodian persons with disabilities.
In fact, the objective of today’s meeting is to reaffirm the commitment and determination of the Royal Government of Cambodia in implementing the Law on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities that Cambodia ratified on 20 December 2012 and came into effect on 19 January 2013. Furthermore, we are truly proud to be the first member states of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific that adopted Asia-Pacific Decade of Persons with Disabilities 2013-2022, and the Incheon Strategy “To Make the Right Real”. In particular, this strategy has been recognized as the first set of regionally agreed disability-inclusive development goals and the roadmap for enhancing the livelihood and rights of approximately 650 million persons with disabilities in the Asia-Pacific.
In fact, the International Day of Persons with Disabilities is the commemoration of the struggle of the United States of America and European countries for social rights of approximately 5 million persons with disabilities in the world in 1950swho have to overcome their physical and mental disabilities in their lives. In this regard, they want to a change in living conditions and increase awareness on disability by focusing on the rights of persons with disabilities and the integration of the persons with disabilities into all political, economic, social and cultural activities.
At the same time, the Kingdom of Cambodia celebrates this Day of Persons with Disabilities in order to mark the mass catastrophe of the Pol Pot Genocidal Regime, left with countless problems including widows, orphans and persons with disabilities as well as the landmines and unexploded ordnances. After the liberation on 7 January 1979, in restoring the country from ruins with bare hands and countless challenges, the Royal Government has always paid attention to the welfare of the people, especially persons with disabilities, vulnerable group in the society. Through this effort, the welfare of persons with disabilities has been gradually improved according to the pace of national development.
Taking this opportunity, I would like to express appreciation of the joint effort of Disability Action Council, Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation, related Ministries-Institutions, Foundation of Persons with Disabilities, National and International Non-Governmental Organizations and all Development Partners to implement the disability affairs that result in such significant outcome. In addition, I would like to highly value achievements to date such as disability prevention program, vaccination against diseases that cause disability, provision of medical treatment, provision of physical therapy, rehabilitation training, demining and provision of assistance to the persons with disabilities caused by landmine, strengthening of the implementation and dissemination of the law on land traffic as well as the integration of persons with disabilities into the society. These achievements attest to the attention on preventing disability, supporting and encouraging the persons with disabilities to promote their rights, restore functional capacity, and promote the inclusion and participation of persons with disabilities in socio-economic development activities. Moreover, Cambodia has also created the branches of the Disability Action Council at the national and sub-national level, working groups of the Disability Action Council in ministries-institutions in order to promote the enforcement of regulatory framework relating to disability and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and been prepared to report on the progress of disability sector to the UN after 2 years of its ratification of the Convention and beyond. For now, Cambodia has been ready to cooperate with the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific to mobilize support for the implementation of “Asia-Pacific Decade of Persons with Disabilities 2013-2022, Incheon Strategy “To Make the Right Real”.
In order to promote wider and more in-depth implementation, Cambodia has been working on the preparation of 2014-2018 National Strategic Plan for the Persons with Disabilities by incorporating disability issues into the Royal Government political agenda. In fact, in the 5th Legislature of the National Assembly the Royal Government has devoted greater attention on helping them through continued implementation of the national policy on persons with disabilities through establishing the Disability Action Council, strengthening of the enforcement of law on the protection and promotion of the rights of persons with disabilities, enhancing the protection of their rights and welfare in line with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Persons with Disabilities, as well as enhancing the quality and efficiency of services of persons with disabilities fund.
In this spirit, on behalf of the Royal Government I would like to express my full support to all activities being implemented in Cambodia aimed to address the needs of and provide benefits to persons with disabilities from all races and colors living in the Kingdom of Cambodia. In parallel, Cambodia continues to support and call for intensified implementation of Ottawa Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction, the implementation of Biwako Decade Framework for Action and Biwako Plus Five, Asia-Pacific Decade of Persons with Disabilities 2913-2022 and Incheon Strategy “Make the Right Real” for Persons with Disabilities, and Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Overall, this show Cambodia’s firm determination and commitment to preventing disabilities, protecting the rights of the persons with disabilities, and enhancing the welfare of persons with disabilities with clear understanding of their physical and mental suffering that needs to be specially accommodated to enable them to live in dignity as human beings.
The Royal Government has created national mechanisms and public institutions to coordinate and implement activities in the disability sector. All these mechanisms not only facilitate and provide opportunities to persons with disabilities, but also contribute to ensuring the basic rights of and eliminating discriminations against them and enable them to live in society with equal rights on equal footing. Furthermore, in 2011-2012, there were 1,468 persons with disabilities working in 32 governmental ministries-institutions. In parallel, persons with disabilities have been prioritized for social land concessions for building housing and starting household business and farming. In fact, the Royal Government has issued land titles to and built housing for thousands of families of persons with disabilities in Taken Koh Sla, and development zones for persons with disabilities No. 317 in Kulen District in Siem Reap Province and in Phnom Chhat, Batteay Meanchey and son on.
In this regard, social land concession provided to persons with disabilities not only responds to the objectives of socio-economic development, but also help build a social safety net and promote their productive contribution to the development of the country. In addition, we have also provided rehabilitative services at community level to assist people with disabilities, including the deaf and the blind. These services include education, medical treatment, physical therapy, restoration of functional capacity and vocation training to develop their physical, mental and social skills to improve their living standards. Braille and sign language for the blind and the deaf respectively have been incorporated into education curriculum, information technology and TV channels in order to keep them updated with latest news. In doing this, children with disabilities have more opportunity to study at public schools without discrimination; many school buildings have wheelchair ramps; and the deaf and the blind are entitled to receiving support and education toward tertiary education from their centers and schools.
In spite of these significant achievements, people with disabilities still face a number of challenges that must be addressed as follows:
First – Physical Barrier: We must further strengthen our rehabilitative services to help people with disabilities by providing them with necessary tools to support their body, health services, and physical therapy. In addition, we must prepare access for persons with disabilities at public and private places, including transportation, offices, roads, leisure areas, academic institutions, hotels and hospitals and so on. We should have ramp at public rest rooms, visual signs and vocal alert.
Second – Communication Barrier: We must assess the possibility of increasing the access of the blind and the deaf to media, education and vocational training through expanding Braille and sign language education in public educational institutions and training centers, displaying sign language in state and private media, and increasing access to IT service for persons with disabilities.
Third – Legal Barrier: We must strictly follow and implement the Law on the Protection and Promotion of Rights of Persons with Disabilities intended to protect the rights and benefits of persons with disabilities, reduce and eliminate discrimination against persons with disabilities and restore their physical and mental capacity and functional capacity to ensure that they are able to participate fully and equally in all social activities. In addition, we have to prepare tools for implementing the Law on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities such as sub-decree, directive, inter-ministerial prakas, ministerial prakas etc. to ensure its effective and timely implementation. Within this context, I am of the view that the law and related regulations will transform the disability services previously based on humanitarian ground into formal social insurance service for persons with disabilities that can help strengthen their ownership spirit and capacities and speed up the integration of persons with disabilities into society. In addition, I would like to remind all governmental ministries-organizations and private sector to recruit persons with disabilities in order to achieve recruitment target of 2% for public organizations and 1% for private sector within three-year time frame.
Fourth – Social Barrier: We must raise awareness about the disability to local communities to prevent, reduce and gradually abolish all forms of discrimination and stigma against persons with disabilities. Moreover, we must encourage the multi-stakeholder participation in the promotion of the rights of persons with disabilities through incorporating disability in all sectors.
Having said that, I would like to request all development partners, civil society, non-governmental organizations, and private sector to pay high attention to effectively implementing activities relating to the disability sector. I believe that this meeting will provide fruitful results to persons with disabilities, in particular increased attention on disability issues, protection and promotion of the rights of persons with disabilities, integration of disability into all levels of development process in order to realize an inclusive society and make the right real.
Before ending, I would like to devote this Day to the transformation of suffering caused by disabilities into the “golden opportunity” for building capacities and new skills, promoting rights, and strengthening solidarity, cooperation as well as the spirit of ownership of persons with disabilities. On behalf of Cambodian people, I reaffirm my full support of further effort to build capacities, vocational skills and motivation of persons with disabilities along with enhanced social respect and dignity.
Finally, I now announce the official creation of the disability action working groups in ministries-organizations and provincial/municipal disability action councils and wish Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, national and international guests, persons with disabilities and students the four Gems of Buddhist Blessings: Longevity, Nobility, Healthiness and Strength./.