In a previous edition of the Phnom Penh Post (April 23, 2004) in an article entitled
"Fears that UN weakening on human rights", a new UN resolution of the Commission
on Human Rights entitled, "Technical assistance and advisory services in Cambodia"
was reported as being "weak" and one which "represents a decline in
international commitment to improving the Cambodian situation".
However, it is not appropriate to conclude, based on the simplicity of the words
used in this resolution, that international commitment is weakened.
In addition, although the article paid exceptional attention to Japan, the Cambodian
government, which has primary responsibility for the protection of human rights in
its own territory, also participated closely in consultation with the Commission
during the process of adopting this resolution, along with 31 co-sponsor countries,
including the USA, Canada, Australia and the EU countries.
Moreover, as was shown by the fact that this resolution was adopted without a vote,
the international community has noted improvements in the human rights situation
in Cambodia, for example with the generally peaceful conclusion of the general elections
held in July 2003. (See this resolution on the official UN homepage.)
Because this resolution is under agenda item 19 (Advisory services and technical
cooperation in the field of human rights), the purpose is not to enumerate human
rights problems as with other resolutions under the agenda item 9 (Question of the
violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms in any part of the world). Rather,
its purpose is for the international community to provide advice and technical cooperation,
and therefore the resolution should not only criticize human rights problems but
also should be considered as a tool for the Cambodian government to address and improve
Concrete progress made in the field of human rights should also be recognized as
such and it is more productive to encourage the Government to intensify its efforts
in such a direction than to just keep criticizing the situation.
In order to achieve these fundamental purposes, we focused on discussing which problems
in the area of human rights should be highlighted and how we should support Cambodia.
As a result of this discussion, this year's resolution became shorter and more focused.
In no way should this resolution be evaluated as sending a message that "[t]he
UN has distanced itself from monitoring the human rights situation in Cambodia."
Even in the context of simplifying the resolution, we pointed out the human rights
problems which should be raised in the resolution.
As far as Japan is concerned, we, as a member of the UN, continue to follow closely
the human rights situation in Cambodia, based on this resolution.
Therefore, Japan has been supporting and will keep supporting Cambodia in this field.
For example, we are helping with legal and judicial reform in Cambodia through assisting
with the drafting of the civil code and the code of civil procedure.
Japan is also assisting with the establishment of the Extraordinary Chambers for
the Khmer Rouge Tribunal and we are considering providing contributions in the form
of financial aid and technical assistance.
With respect to the administrative reform of Cambodia, Japan has been providing technical
cooperation by sending experts in various fields, and discussing whenever necessary
the human rights situation with the Cambodian government.
Japan's ODA Charter, the basic document of Japan's ODA policy, states that "[f]ull
attention should be paid to efforts for promoting democratization ... and the situation
regarding the protection of basic human rights and freedoms in the recipient country."
Indeed, in providing official development assistance, Japan has been acting in complete
accordance with such principle.
Fumiaki Takahashi - Ambassador of Japan to the Kingdom of Cambodia.
* Editor's note: the writer of the article made numerous attempts to obtain comment
from the Japanese Embassy, without response.