King Opens Asian Peace Conference

Lawmakers from more than 25 Asian nations gathered Monday at Phnom Penh’s newly renovated Chaktomuk Theater for the opening of a five day conference of the Association of Asian Parlia­ments for Peace.

Apsara dancing by Princess Rottana Devi, daughter of Na­tional Assembly President Prince Norodom Ranariddh, and a key­note speech by King Noro­dom Sihanouk marked the opening of the conference Monday afternoon.

“Certain places in the Asia-Pacific region still confront poverty, natural disasters, wars, despair and suffering,” King Sihanouk said. “These make your work for peace, development and cooperation even more important, and I earnestly hope that your proceedings in our capital will be crowned by success.”

The conference, which runs through Friday, will include panel discussions on the role of women and children in promoting peace, development, good governance and strengthening human rights.

Prince Ranariddh, who had served as the association’s vice president since it last met in Dhaka, Bangladesh, in Septem­ber 1999, was named president of the organization on Monday.

He replaced Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who arrived Sunday in Phnom Penh.

During talks with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, Hasina asked him to lobby for Bangla­desh’s acceptance as a dialogue partner of Asean. Hun Sen told her he would raise the issue with other Asean members, Cambo­dian government spokes­man Penn Thol said.

“The people of Cambodia have suffered and made great sacrifices in their quest for peace,” Hasina said during a speech Monday. “So have the people of Bangladesh and the peoples of so many other Asian nations.”

Before the conference, Prince Ranariddh said he was interested in creating an Asian Charter of Human Rights. He was appointed chief of the committee that will form a draft charter by the end of the week.

“In addition to peace and democracy, we need economic and social development of our respective societies because they are the key factors to political and social stability, and security of our countries,” Prince Ranariddh said in his welcome address. “I am sure that we have a plurality of views, insights and experiences on the themes of peace, democracy and development.”

The gathering, the second meeting of the association, in­cludes representatives from Rus­sia, China, Japan, North Korea, Iran, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the 10 Asean countries.

CPP National Assembly member Som Chen and Funcinpec Senator Kem Sokha both noted the event is a historic one for newly peaceful Cambodia.

“This is a good sign that shows our leaders about the never-ending effort for peace and democracy,” said Kem Sokha. “Peace should walk in the same step as democracy.”

The conference, scheduled for last November but delayed be­cause of flooding, is the first such meeting to be held in the refurbished theater.





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