Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday urged provincial governors to investigate the deaths of the about 250 people who died during the flooding disaster this year in order to develop a strategy to reduce deaths from flooding.
If officials could identify the factors that caused the deaths the government could implement measure to mitigate risks, he told a forum on the national social protection strategy for the poor and vulnerable.
“Each province where people died must clearly study the causes and types of death so that we can develop a plan to protect people ahead of floods,” he said, adding that he had asked the health ministry to provide antidotes for snake bites to Prey Veng province.
Several of the deaths during the floods were from snake bites, according to the National Committee for Disaster Management, which noted that floods had driven snakes into homes. Hun Sen also used the occasion to praise more than 10 NGOs that provided emergency relief during the flooding, and criticise those that did not.
He said that he was eager to listen and learn from the NGOs who provided relief, but he also disparaged NGOs that had criticised his government.
“I would meet with NGO partners working at the grassroots level during the floods. I want to hear their recommendations,” he said. “Even if they point to me in the face and tell me we were too late to intervene I will listen to them,” he added.
Other NGOs that had criticised the government but had not helped those hit by floods were a different category, said Hun Sen, who has shown little tolerance for criticism from human rights groups in the past.
In Cambodia there are four types of people: speakers, doers, lookers and pointers, he said. Hun Sen said he was interested in working with doers, while the other three types could wait.
Responding to the premier’s remarks, human rights workers said he did not understand the different roles various NGOs play. Some work in the development sector, others work in the health sector and some focus on human rights. The work of all NGOs has some relation to human rights, they said.
Chan Soveth, head of monitoring at rights group Adhoc, said the premier lacked a clear understanding “about the role of human rights in Cambodia”. Human rights were also integrated into the programs of development NGOs and rights groups often worked with NGOs in other sectors, Chan Soveth added.