Decrying forced evictions, poverty and corruption, over 100 community activists from across Cambodia gathered in Phnom Penh on Wednesday and called on the government to heed UN human rights recommendations published last month.
At a news conference, community members and activists said the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which on May 26 called for a moratorium on evictions in Cambodia, had told the truth as ordinary Cambodians see it.
The government said Wednesday it had only just begun reviewing a Khmer-language version of the 18-member committee’s findings from the Geneva meeting, which were released two weeks ago.
After a 14-year delay, Cambodia submitted to a review last month by the panel of jurists, who review countries’ compliance with the 1966 International Cov-
enant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, a key UN treaty considered part of the international bill of human rights.
The government failed to send an expert delegation to answer the committee’s questions and has not publicly acknowledged its concluding observations.
In addition to a moratorium on evictions, the UN committee called for an end to corruption and impunity, greater spending on social services, food and education, and the creation of an official, independent Cambodian human rights monitor.
Um Meng, a villager from a Tonle Sap fishing community in Kompong Thom province, told Wednesday’s gathering that through the recommendations the public has already been heard, whether or not the government listens.
“Whether they accept this or not is their business. People want justice,” he said. “If the [government] doesn’t look at this, at least we have already had support.
We must not lose hope and hold hands to continue until we succeed.”
Chan Vichet, a former resident of the Dey Krahorm community in Phnom Penh’s Tonle Bassac commune, which was violently evicted in January, told the gathering that the government should not be so stung that it ignores the Geneva panel.
“These are not insults. They are constructive criticisms,” said Chan Vichet, who personally addressed the UN panel in Geneva.
Mak Sambath, deputy president of the government’s human rights committee, said that he had only received the findings early this week.
“We have received the UN recommendations and we must follow them but we must prepare policies first,” he said.
Committee President Om Yentieng could not be reached.