The government’s Human Rights Committee, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, announced yesterday it would hold a national academic competition for high school students on human rights issues.
Committee head Om Yentieng announced the competition – which is intended to raise awareness among students about human rights at the time when Cambodia often finds itself the target of criticism on the subject – on what he called an appropriate day.
Monday’s January 7 holiday, he said, marked the restoration of human rights in Cambodia after the Vietnamese ousted the brutal Khmer Rouge.
“Today we have everything,” he said. “We have the right to live, the right to protect our culture and civilisation, politic rights, economic rights and educational rights, which were taken away for three years, eight months and 20 days.”
The competition’s top three finalists will receive a scholarship to study at Cambodian Mekong University.
Repeated calls to ascertain whether the human rights competition would cover concerns that are usually fingered by local and international rights monitors – such as land grabbing and the wrongful imprisonment of activists and opposition – went unanswered after Yentieng refused to speak to a reporter, saying he did not speak English.
Minister of Education Im Sethy said the government included the tenets of human rights in the curriculum throughout students’ academic careers.
“The ministry has included all the content on human rights at all levels of study, including children’s rights and general human rights, to raise awareness among students and citizens,” he said.
Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said that in judging a human rights competition, the government would be unwilling to take a stance on issues that hit too close to home.
“We know that if it were on practical issues, they wouldn’t want to be put on the spot.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Khouth Sophak Chakrya at firstname.lastname@example.org
With assistance from Stuart White