Rights groups pushed for increased employment of disabled Cambodians and the ratification of a UN convention on their rights at the launch of the ASEAN Disability Forum yesterday.
Ngin Saorath, executive director of the Cambodian Disabled People’s Organisation, said groups will draft a declaration over the three-day forum reflecting the national implications of disability issues, and submit it to the ASEAN secretariat.
They will also push for ASEAN countries to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, he added.
Urge to 'mainstream'
Thus far, only Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand have ratified the convention.
“We want the disabled to have the same rights as the able-bodied. We still face discrimination from society on employment, public service, healthcare and education,” Ngin Saorath said, adding that governments would be urged to “mainstream” the needs of the disabled into policies.
ADD International Cambodia country director Kouch Ratanak said mainstream organisations across ASEAN need greater understanding about the disabled in order to dispel “incorrect social assumptions” that they could not contribute equally.
“Without including people with disabilities, it does not make sense that their [organisations] development programs will reach the most marginalised and vulnerable groups,” he said.
According to Ngin Saorath, employment of the disabled has increased in Phnom Penh, but remains low in the rural areas, after a law protecting and promoting the rights of the disabled was passed in 2009.
The law includes a quota mandating that two per cent of government employees are disabled, as well as one per cent of private sector employees.
“Legislation only opens the way… There needs to be more awareness of the disability law, the commitment of the government to allocate from the national budget to implement the law and cooperation with international donors to make sure there is enough human resources and financial resources [for implementation],” he said.
Speaking at the launch, Ith Sam Heng, minister of Social Affairs, said 1.4 per cent of the population was disabled according to a 2008 national census, and the main causes of disability included landmine accidents, labour accidents and traffic accidents.
The government was committed to promoting the integration of the disabled into society and providing opportunities to meet their basic needs, he added.
Eang Chan Dara, whose both legs have been amputated, said the disabled had the same abilities as the able-bodied but often felt they did not have equal opportunities.
“We want the governments of ASEAN to include the concerns of the disabled in their plans for development, to protect us in society and give us employment,” he said.