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Open Letter to Ms. Louise Arbour, UNHRC Commissioner, on Cambodia’s Human Rights Situation

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FORUM-ASIA has requested United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms Louise Arbour, who is on official visit to Cambodia from 15-19 May 2006, to take swift actions to address the urgent human rights issues in the country, in particular ongoing forced eviction in Tonle Bassac commune and the selection of Cambodian judges and prosecutors for the Khmer Rouge Tribunal. Read FORUM-ASIA’s open letter to Ms. Arbour.

The Bangkok-based Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) strongly urges Ms. Louise Arbour, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to take urgent action to address urgent human rights issues, in particular the ongoing forced eviction in Tonle Bassac commune and the selection of Cambodian judges and prosecutors for the Khmer Rouge Tribunal.

In its open letter issued today, coinciding with Ms. Arbour’s visit from 15-19 May 2006, FORUM-ASIA welcomes her timely visit and expresses its high expectation to tackle those issues in an effective and swift manner.

Regarding the forced eviction which started on 3 May 2006, FORUM-ASIA’s executive director Anselmo Lee said, “It is troubling to see over 3,000 people including children and women suffering from the lack of basic facilities and their pains have been increasing every day for the last 14 days. The response of the UN office and international community has been slow and that have made us even more worried.”

Lee added that Ms. Arbour’s visit was timely and she can bring about a significant change to improve the recent difficult situation. “Another urgent issue is the independence and competence of selected local judges and prosecutors and of the Extraordinary Chambers, and it deserves her special and urgent attention,” added Lee. “People have been waiting for 26 years now and it is the seventh year since the end of the civil war. Such a long delay cannot be justified – simply unjust for the surviving victims!” said Lee.

Lee also spoke about the role of Japan which he said was the largest donor to Cambodia and key donor for the Khmer Rouge Tribunal. “Japan as a newly-elected member of the UN Human Rights Council has a special responsibility to illustrate its global commitment to human rights by contributing to an effective resolution of those issues. Japan has resources and influence for change, but to our regret, the country lacks political will at the moment.” said Lee.

Furthermore, Lee insisted, “The human rights situation has not improved at all in Cambodia against the image and perception for some…the UN and international community should put more pressure on Hun Sen’s government to strengthen the rule of law and accountability by speeding up the political reform against corruption and the abuse of power.”

“The Prime Minister’s self-serving political reform conforms to a decade-old pattern of Cambodian politics. The country’s human rights situation will not significantly improve then,” said Lee.

He added that until today, the authorities have denied humanitarian assistance from NGOs to those affected by the forced eviction. “How then does the government expects these people to survive? How many more Cambodian people’s rights must be violated, until we get strong responses from the international community, which are always crucial for a country like Cambodia?” Lee asked.

Lee stated that “This explains clearly why we need stronger actions by the UN Human Rights Office to urge the Hun Sen’s government to uphold its obligations and keep the promises it has made to the public and donors. For example, if the selection procedure [for judges and prosecutors for the Khmer Rouge Tribunal] had honestly applied the Law on the Establishment of Extraordinary Chambers, then we would not face the problem,” he added.

For further information, please contact:
Miwa Igawa, Country Program (+66 2 391 8801) ([email protected])

Read full text of Open Letter to Ms. Louise Arbour, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.