NGOs Urge Signing of Tobacco Pact

About 70 health-related NGOs are planning to make a joint ap­peal to Prime Minister Hun Sen next week, encouraging him to sign an international tobacco control agreement.

The plea comes despite the fact that the newly elected National Assembly cannot ratify the treaty until it begins regular meetings.

The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, initiated by the World Health Organization, would mandate warning labels on tobacco products, a ban on tobacco advertising and the elimination of cigarette smuggling.

The NGOs will meet Tuesday to appeal to Hun Sen to include Cambodia in the agreement, said Yel Daravuth, program director of the NGO Adventist Development and Relief Agency. The government should sign the treaty because Cambodia is a member of the WHO, he said, adding that neighboring countries such as Vietnam and Thai­land have already joined the agreement.

“The problem is, we don’t have a National Assembly to ratify the treaty,” said Ung Phyrun, secretary of state at the Ministry of Health.

He said the Ministry of Health last year urged the Council of Ministers to have the government sign on to the treaty and sub­mit it to the National Assem­bly for approval.

In July, Hun Sen received a letter from the UN, stating that he smoked more cigarettes than any other world leader and urging him to quit. The prime minister said he tried to stop smoking before and failed, but the letter rekindled his interest in quitting. “I promised my child at her wedding day that I would stop smoking cigarettes when I got a grandchild. Now my grandchild is 3 and one-half years old,” he said at the time.

Ung Phyrun said that if Cambo­dia were able to sign the treaty, the tobacco industry would not be affected because the country does not have many tobacco factories.

Texas Tobacco Co Ltd accoun­tant chief Kim Thhourn, however, said he was worried that enforcing the treaty could hurt sales of tobacco products in Cambodia.

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