Prime Minister Hun Sen on Thursday pledged to promote human rights for everyone, saying the task of the new government is to make human rights as “as attached to everyone as their breaths.”
In a speech marking the 50th anniversary of the UN Declaration of Human Rights, Hun Sen said the issue was an integral part of the new government’s political platform.
“December 10 should be with every one of us every day, every time and every place, especially [for] the vulnerable who are certainly in demand of the most protection from the [government] and the law,” Hun Sen told a gathering of more than 200 diplomats, senior government officials and aid workers at the Hotel Sofitel Cambodiana.
The prime minister said he had “scored a number of successes, including the incorporation of the human rights issue into the government platform.” Hun Sen also briefly referred to the end of the Khmer Rouge and the arrival of peace in areas long subjected to conflict.
Joining Hun Sen was National Assembly President Prince Norodom Ranariddh, who declared that the idea of basic human rights that should be available to all is not just the creation of the Western world, but also applies to Asia and Third World countries.
“I believe that the principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration are applicable to all human beings,” Prince Ranariddh said.
“They constitute a kind of natural law which ought to be followed by all peoples and governments.”
Hun Sen, who arrived first at the hotel, greeted Prince Ranariddh warmly, and then the two chatted as they sat side by side at the start of the ceremony.
Prince Ranariddh said Cambodia needs to “work harder to achieve full respect for human rights.”
But he cited as positive steps the formation of the government’s commission on human rights and the possibility of a UN tribunal to investigate crimes committed during the Khmer Rouge 1975-1978 regime.
As National Assembly President, Prince Ranariddh pledged to work to “draft laws to protect our people and also to punish those responsible for gross violations of human rights.”
Opposition leader Sam Rainsy, who also attended but did not address dignitaries, said afterward: “Brilliant speeches. I could not agree more.”
But he said the remarks would end up “empty words” unless authorities were able to bring perpetrators of human rights violations to justice.
Paul Matthews, UNDP resident coordinator, who also addressed the audience, stressed the “right to development” in fighting poverty.
Thirty percent of all Cambodia children under five are malnourished, he said, while 38 percent of all adult women are estimated to be illiterate.