CPP Takes Steps to ‘Reform’ Human Rights Commission

Prime Minister Hun Sen passed a sub-decree late last year to expand the scope of his government’s Cambodian Human Rights Committee (CHRC) by creating new departments and placing rights monitors in villages, according to a copy of the Royal Gazette dated December 31 and distributed Tuesday.

The expansion of the committee will also see the commission’s logo modified to include the olive-branch symbol of January 7, the day Vietnamese-backed Khmer Rouge defectors—who would become the CPP—overthrew Pol Pot’s regime, according to the December 23 sub-decree.

The sub-decree says that the rights monitors it creates will be volunteers selected in villages to report back to the committee, and will work with a new General Department of Administration and Complaints and General Department of Investigation and Human Rights Education under the government’s CHRC.

The document, however, also spends significant time describing the new logo, which is a globe supported by 79 rice plants on the left and seven olive-leaves on the right.

“On a light blue globe (sea color), a mixture of gold supported by the color brown, representing life, human beings, animals, and all things living in the world,” the sub-decree describes. “A light-green Earth picture on the globe that represents the Cambodian country that has independence and complete freedom.”

“The seven olive leaves are a reminder, since January 7 is the day that Cambodian people got the right to live again,” it continues.

Om Yentieng, who chairs the CHRC, could not be reached for comment. Mr. Yentieng’s deputy, Mok Sambath, however, defended the changes as a positive step toward reform.

“This new sub-decree issued to reform the Cambodian Human Rights Committee is based on the human rights situation now,” he said, declining to elaborate.

“We take the olive leaves to put on the logo to represent immortal life and the university of human rights.”

The news of the change comes three weeks after Mr. Hun Sen’s government sent military police armed with AK-47 assault rifles to breakup a protest of striking garment factory workers. The forces shot dead five workers and injured more than 40.

The CPP government has since enforced a ban on public assembly, violently detaining, “educating” and then releasing activists who continue to defiantly hold small rallies demanding to exercise their constitutionally-protected right to freedom of assembly.

Eleven activists received the same violent treatment Tuesday, being hauled into unmarked white vans by masked guards and delivered to municipal police headquarters.

U.N. human rights envoy Surya Subedi emerged from a personal meeting with Mr. Hun Sen last Wednesday saying he felt encouraged by assurances the prime minister made to him that an independent human rights committee would soon be established.

CNRP chief whip Son Chhay said he was not now more expectant of an independent human rights committee than he was when those promises were first made.

“This committee will never become truly independent so long as it’s under the government,” Mr. Chhay said.

(Additional reporting by Alex Willemyns)

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