Cambodian human rights activists have come out of the closet with the release of
a regular journal and the staging of training seminars with U.N. help.
The Cambodian Human Rights Association (CHRA)-also known by its French acronym ADHOC-launched
its bulletin last week with financial support from overseas non-governmental organizations.
CHRA President Thun Saray and co-founder Khay Matoury-former Phnom Penh government
officials who were jailed for 17 months in May 1990 for trying to set up an independent
political organization-say the group hopes to publish monthly.
The 34-page publication carries letters of approval from Prince Norodom Sihanouk
and Prime Minister Hun Sen for setting up CHRA in March and lists the organization's
aims and activities to date-including visits with human rights groups in Thailand,
Europe, and the United States.
It also includes a variety of articles and commentary, including an examination of
human rights and the peace process and the interplay of Buddhism and human rights.
Dennis McNamara, head of UNTAC's human rights component, said he hoped to help with
funding for further issues.
McNamara and his department played a large part in helping CHRA organize a two-day
human rights training seminar on the grounds of the delapidated Wat Sarawan last
About 40 people turned up to learn about human rights in an event that McNamara reckoned
was probably a first ever in Cambodian history.
"This is a very important step for Cambodia, " McNamara said, adding that
he hoped the exercise would be repeated throughout Cambodia.
Respect for human rights is a new concept in Cambodia's recent brutalized history,
but several groups have been set up in the capital since the signing of the Paris
peace accords in October.
The four signatories to that pact signed U.N. conventions on human rights during
the visit here in April of U.N. Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali.
- Leo Dobbs