Cambodian Condemnation of US Human Rights Is Justifiable

By Robert Finch

Taking his letter dated 18 July (“Cambodia Should Block U.S. Imports Due to Rights Concerns”) at face value rather than the tongue-in-cheek reposte that it is clearly intended to be, it must be said that Phnom Penh resident Allen Myers makes a reasonable and principled point in suggesting that Cambodia has every right to hold the U.S. to account when it comes to human rights—as indeed the U.S. does with Cambodia.

Mr. Myers should be congratulated for leaving aside more pragmatic arguments such as that Cambodia would do well not to bite the hand that feeds it and for pushing human rights concerns to the fore.

However, it’s not clear exactly how Mr. Myers defines “human rights.” In his July 9 piece in the Cambodia Herald newspaper, Mr. Myers cynically assigns human rights a descriptive definition, namely “the right of Washington to tell other countries what to do, particularly if those countries are small and/or poor.”

In other words, might is right.

One hopes though that Mr. Myers is capable of a more objective and prescriptive definition of human rights, perhaps one that acknowledges that human rights are universal, and that international human rights laws—which the Cambodian Government has ratified and by which it is legally bound —reflect such principles.

Robert Finch, Phnom Penh

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