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US Wants More Rights Improvement

[Editor’s note: Carol Rodley became Cambodia’s ambassador in October 2008. In an interview with VOA Khmer in March, she discussed the growing relationship between Cambodia and the US, on topics ranging from the Khmer Rouge tribunal to the global financial crisis. Below is the second of a six-part series resulting from the interview.]

Q. The most recent State Department annual human rights report on Cambodia indicates that Cambodia still has a poor rights record. As the US Ambassador to Cambodia, do you have any plans to help Cambodia improve that record?

A. I would say that the report this year acknowledges that some progress has been made and lays out those areas of progress but then also goes on to talk about in some detail areas that are still a problem. And we try to make that report as factual as possible. It’s intended to be based on facts, on actual cases, not on opinions. And we will continue to work with the government to address those areas that remain a concern.

I’ll give you an example: due process is one area of concern. This really is a central issue in a lot of the land cases that are so much in the local press and so much the concern of the human rights NGOs and a lot of civil society. I went to see the justice minister recently, and one of the things we talked about was the problem of due process and the plan that the government has for improving that situation. I would just say that no country has a perfect human rights record, my own included. Human rights, just like democracy, are something that can always be improved, and that’s the approach we are trying to take here.

Q. Has the US embassy done any workshops or programs that help strengthen the human rights area in Cambodia?

A. We have done a lot of work in the area of human rights over the years and also the rule of law in strengthening the judicial system. Recently we have been providing training for young lawyers. We have in the past provided training for the judges. We’ve funded a program to make information on court decisions more easily available to the public, so that people can look and see what kinds of cases the different courts heard and what kind of decisions the court came to in different kinds of cases. This is part of a push for greater openness and greater accountability.