Society Continues to Push for a National Human Rights
A representative from Cambodian civil society confirmed
that the first draft of the law which will enable the
establishment of a national human rights institution (NHRI)
has been completed. Human rights commissions which comply
with the principles- such as independence from government-
established under the United Nations accreditation system
are called NHRIs. They must follow the Paris Principles,
which are minimum guidelines which human rights institutions
follow tin order to effectively promote and protect human
rights in a country.
Leaders of the national human rights commissions of the
Philippines, Malaysia, and Thailand speak to the press
during their consultative meeting. They are joined by
Ms. Chak Sopheap (leftmost) of Cambodia, who is part of
efforts to establish one in her country as well.
Although the NHRI will ultimately be an independent entity,
the committee which is drafting the NHRI-enabling law
for Cambodia is comprised of both human rights officials
from government and civil society members. The draft law
was penned by civil society and is now in the hands of
the government side for inputs. The joint committee hopes
to release the finalized draft law to the public for widespread
consultations by March 2008. Once this is completed, the
draft will be submitted to the National Assembly of Cambodia
"There is a need to orient the public about the
initiative to create a Cambodian NHRI. Cambodia already
has three government-created human rights commissions
so people find the creation of another questionable. But
this NHRI will be independent from government; any human
rights institution which is not independent will be inadequate
to meet the Cambodian people's needs," explained
Chak Sopheap, a civil society member of the joint committee.
To kick off efforts for consultation and public awareness,
Chak said that the committee held a dialogue meeting last
December 11, 2007 with a diversified group of representatives
from human rights organizations, labor unions, and the
academe. The meeting focused on the composition and mandate
of the NHRI.
"We hope that people will actively support the establishment
of the NHRI after they learn about how it will be beneficial
to the country. The process will be faster if they help
us in lobbying with parliamentarians," said Chak.
She said that support from outside sources was also valuable.
In December 20, 2007, experts from the United Nations
shared their experiences and gave advice to the committee
for the success of the establishment.
Human rights commissioners from the four existing NHRIs
in ASEAN likewise pledged their support for the creation
of a Cambodian NHRI during their consultative meeting
in Manila in January 2008. They will involve representatives
from the Cambodian committee in their joint meetings to
explore means of assistance.
Currently, only Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines,
and Thailand are the only ASEAN member-states which have
NHRIs. During the conference entitled “Establishment
of a National Human Rights Institution in Cambodia”
on September 2006, Prime Minister Hun Sen proclaimed that
Cambodia will be the fifth ASEAN member-state to have