‘It is getting better but we are not there yet’ – Activist Ou Virak on human rights in Cambodia
Virak is the president of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights and the founder of the Alliance for Freedom of Expression in Cambodia. He is a well-known as a human rights activist in Cambodia, winning the Reebok Human Rights Award in 2007. He spoke to LIFT about the human rights situation in the country:
How important are human rights to people in the Cambodia?
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights, and from there it goes on to live a life of dignity in which freedom of opinion and expression, the right to health, and the right to participate in government are guaranteed.
What do you think is the most important human right?
The right of life and the right of dignity are the main issues for all men. Citizens of both sexes shall have the rights to participate actively in the political, economic, social and cultural life of a nation. To guarantee this every person should have freedom to speak without being threatened.
What do you think about the human rights situation in Cambodia?
The freedom and security of people is growing. However, it hasn’t reached 100 per cent yet – there are a lack of law enforcement and weaknesses in the judicial system.
What can be done to improve the human rights situation in Cambodia?
First, we should take action on corruption. It violates the rights of people and involves the election process too. The parties which make up the government have to protect these rights, and improve their enforcement. When Cambodia has a good human rights image, it means that the democracy is going in the right direction. To do this, both government and NGOs should work together. The judicial system must become independent, and the leaders should listen to criticism of the people.
Do people that violate rights have rights?
Everyone has rights, including murderers. But we have to know that when we violate other’s rights, we have to respond to that. They will be in jail or fined.
How can we effectively enforce human rights in Cambodia according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?
All people must respect and enforce the law. The government has an obligation to protect citizens’ rights and not to violate other people. For example, police should help people when their rights are violated. All in all, we have to work together – government, NGOs and citizens – to create a good image of human rights in Cambodia.