Despite the absence of Prime Minister Hun Sen and Prince Norodom Ranariddh, and scant attention from the ruling party, a human rights workshop can still provide a springboard for discussions on a national human rights commission, a workshop organizer said Monday.
Workshop organizer and Funcinpec Senator Kem Sokha said that although he had advertised that Hun Sen and Prince Ranariddh would attend, neither did because Kem Sokha did not give them enough notice.
In addition, few CPP members attended the three-day international workshop, which concluded Monday, but some conferees said that did not diminish their enthusiasm.
“We have understood and exchanged experiences from other countries on setting up a human rights protection mechanism,” Funcinpec Senator Men Maly said.
Other conferees, however, were more skeptical.
“Why aren’t there CPP members here? Is it a good sign?” asked Sang Sundeurn, a Sam Rainsy Party National Assembly member.
The workshop, titled “Mechanisms for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights: The Role of a National Human Rights Institution,” was called in part to gather international input on the creation of a single national human rights commission.
Kem Sokha said a single unified commission is needed to rise above partisanship in the government.
“Members of the three [current] commissions are mostly from the political parties,” he said.
Brian Burdekin, former Australian Federal Human Rights commissioner, said a national commission is “vital” to protecting human rights.
Although he voiced support for the idea, Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Son Chhay said creating a commission is a daunting task.
“It’s not easy,” Son Chhay said. “It depends on whether politicians intend to still use a foot-dragging strategy.
“The government might worry about losing control, or having [a commission] embarrass them. And in our country, it is very hard to recruit people. And where are we to get the budget resources?” he asked.