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Prime Minister Hun Sen greets people with disabilities
Prime Minister Hun Sen greets people with disabilities at a presentation marking the anniversary of a law aimed at protecting their rights last year at Koh Pich Island in Phnom Penh. Heng Chivoan

Disabled see little from law

In her younger years, the physical difficulties and discrimination she faced as a woman with disabilities led Phum Leakena to several suicide attempts.

Now 27, Leakena is working to encourage the government to exact legislation meant to protect the rights of Cambodians living with disabilities, she said yesterday.

In celebration of International Human Rights Day, the Cambodian Disabled People’s Organisation (CDPO) is hosting an event at the Olympic Stadium featuring musical and comedic performances at 4:30pm today. But despite the government’s passing of a law for people with disabilities and its 2012 ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, organisers say the initiatives do little to help those with disabilities.

“I am happy to see the disability law protects disabled people, but I think it is not enforced yet,” said Leakena, a CDPO staffer who has a withered leg and is blind in one eye. “We . . . still lack implementation.”

As of July 2009, when the government passed the law protecting the rights of people with disabilities, 1.4 per cent of Cambodia’s nearly 14.5 million population were living with a handicap, the law says.

Under the law, 2 per cent of all new government hires are required to be people with disabilities, and all state-owned buildings must be handicap-accessible.

However, the government has since failed to live up to its employment quotas, and has largely ignored building accessibility requirements, according to CDPO executive director Ngin Saorath said.

“How can people enjoy their right to work when their working environment isn’t accessible?” Saorath asked. “There really needs to be action taken, not just talking.”

Saorath estimates that about 90 per cent of government buildings in Cambodia are currently not accessible.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Social Affairs’ Disabled Action Council, which monitors compliance, yesterday said the council could not comment.

UNDP spokesman Munthit Ker said the UN is helping CDPO spread awareness and supports further action to ensure equality for people with disabilities, and called for “a strong enforcement mechanism to address violations of the rights of persons with disabilities”.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY MOM KUNTHEAR

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