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Government Must Curb Rights Abuse: Advocate

If the government doesn’t move to curb persecution of human rights defenders, it can be implicated in rights abuses, a Cambodian advocate said Thursday.

Rights groups in the country have faced a high number of threats this year, said Ou Virak, executive director of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, as a guest on “Hello VOA.”

“So in this case, we look in every corner,” he said. “One, we look at policy and legality, because the state has policies and laws of protection. Two, we see about punishment, and then in any case that the state is aware [of abuses] but does not take the effort to find justice, that mans the state is participating in human rights violations.”

People are “still in fear,” he said, because of physical threats of violence and legal threats.

“We see that all these threats are contrasting the principle of human rights that we declared to recognized, but we do not maintain,” he said. “That’s what’s important.”

In 2009, at least 168 rights workers faced persecution, arrest or detention, according to figures from rights organizations, he said.

Meanwhile, the UN Human Rights Commission is reviewing Cambodia’s rights efforts in Geneva as part of mandatory review process.

Ou Virak said he expected the government to act on good recommendations from the Human Rights Council.

Phay Siphan, a spokesman for the Council of Ministers, denied allegations of government complicity in rights abuses. The government has worked to reform the rule of law and judiciary, he said.

“We have the constitution and law, and especially we know that we defend human rights and the value of human beings,” he said.

Ou Virak said Thursday the government had failed to protect the rights of people, especially in land-grabs.