Asean Members Urged to Ratify Disability Rights Treaty

Just days before the Asean Summit starts in Phnom Penh next week, rights workers yesterday encouraged countries in the Asean region to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

So far, six Asean countries-Thailand, Laos, Burma, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines-have ratified the treaty, which emphasizes nondiscrimination and equality of opportunity for the disabled, mainly in areas of employment, education and health.

Speaking on the sidelines of a conference in Phnom Penh, Saowalak Thonghkuay, regional development officer for Disabled People Asia Pacific, said it is important for all Asean member countries to ratify the treaty so that disabled people in the region have more of a voice when dealing with governments in the region.

“We hope the rest of the Asean countries will ratify soon so that disabled people in all 10 countries can…provide guidelines to implement the convention in ways particular to each Asean country,” Ms. Thonghkuay said.

“We hope Cambodia will ratify the treaty this year in its Asean chairmanship, and are making this meeting to encourage the government in the ratification process,” she added.

In 2009, Cambodia enacted a law that requires public institutions with more than 100 employees to have staff comprising at least 2 percent disabled people, and similarly sized private companies to employee at least 1 percent disabled workers.

According to the National Center for Disabled People, more than 10,000 disabled people in the country are struggling to find employment.

Social Affairs Minister Ith Sam Heng said Cambodia would soon ratify the convention.

“Cambodia signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on October 1, 2007, and now is in the process of the ratification,” he said.

Ngin Soarath, executive director of Cambodia Disabled People’s Organization, said the convention was currently at the Council of Ministers.

“It is important for the Cambodian government to show its commitment to the rights of people with disability,” he said.

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