Monday, 11 May 2009
Written by Sebastian Strangio and Vong Sokheng
The Phnom Penh Post
Cambodia comes before the UN Committee on Social, Economic and Cultural Rights for the first time Monday, following the submission of its initial report to the committee in early January.
The report, summarising Cambodia's compliance with the International Covenant on Social, Economic and Cultural Rights, was originally due in 1994 - two years after its ratification of the covenant.
Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong confirmed Sunday that Sun Suon, Cambodia's ambassador to the UN, would be sent to participate in the hearing, adding that he had "enough ability" to make the government's presentation during the hearings.
But rights groups said the decision not to send a specialised delegation to the review session - on top of the 15-year delay - showed the government did not take its international rights agreements seriously.
"[The government] doesn't want to tell the international community the truth because the human rights situation in Cambodia is not good," said Yim Sovann, spokesman for the opposition Sam Rainsy Party.
He highlighted illegal forced evictions as a continuing concern but said sending a proper government delegation would demonstrate its willingness to engage with the world community on such issues.
Although many countries are behind schedule in their rights compliance reporting, Kek Galabru, president of local rights group Licadho, said 15 years was an unusually long time to wait for the report.
"They don't have an excuse. They didn't take the time to write a report because it is very embarrassing for them [deciding] what to say," she
Dan Nicholson, Asia and Pacific program director at the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE), added that the report was only filed because the committee threatened to review the country's rights record without input from the government. But ultimately, he said the lack of informed representation at the session would make it a "missed opportunity" for constructive discussion.
"Everyone appreciates that Cambodia, like every country, is a work in progress in this area, [but] if there's not a proper delegation in Geneva ... the opportunity could be missed."
A delegation of seven Cambodian and international civil society and community representatives testified before the UN committee on Friday.
According to a statement released by COHRE and international rights group Bridges Across Borders on Sunday, the delegation raised concerns about "violations of land, housing, food, natural resources and indigenous rights".
The government's 167-page report to the committee claims "all rights set out in the international covenants on human rights are recognised and implemented" in Cambodia.