Rights Workshop Fails to Attract Key Leaders

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.


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