As international criticism of the government’s recent moves to silence opposition voices continued, members of the government’s human rights committee received medals and celebrated six years of work in a ceremony on Friday.
Dozens of officials turned out at the Cambodian Human Rights Committee’s sparse Phnom Penh offices where 45 officials were given medals “for the fruitful achievements of the committee,” according to a report released by the group, headed by Om Yentieng, an adviser to Prime Minister Hun Sen.
“We will continue to fulfill our duties to promote a better human rights situation in Cambodia that complies with the government policy,” the report reads.
The committee was formed in the aftermath of the 1997 factional fighting between forces loyal to Funcinpec and the CPP. At the time, Om Yentieng said it was established to correct errors in a UN report that highlighted alleged abductions, executions and other human rights violations perpetrated during the fighting.
According to the brief Friday report, since its creation the committee has received 436 complaints, researched and investigated 125 cases, intervened in 228 cases and is still working on 75. In vague terms, it stated that the committee has disseminated education rights to students in six provinces and municipalities, and disseminated the rights to control prisoners to prisoners and guards in 12 provinces.
It also said the committee had investigated the World Food Program rice fraud between 2003 and 2004, with good results.
Om Yentieng could not be reached for comment.
Mu Sochua, opposition party member and former minister of women’s affairs, said of the ceremony: “I am very concerned, even alarmed, that members of the human rights committee are receiving medals when human rights in Cambodia…are being denied.”
“The neutrality and political independence of this committee has been questioned for a long time,” she added.
Cambodian Center for Human Rights spokesman Ou Virak questioned the validity of the resolutions the committee had reached, while he dismissed the decision to award medals. “It’s just what’s expected for this country. It doesn’t mean anything,” he said.