The Cambodian Network Council, a U.S.-based Cambodian American organization, on Sep.
12 presented awards to three individuals who have made outstanding contributions
to the cause of peace, freedom and democracy for Cambodia.
U.S. Under Secretary of State Winston Lord presented the 'Suryava-raman II &
George Washington Award' to Dr. Richard H. Solomon, former U.S. under secretary of
state, Stephen Solarz, former congressman from New York, and Cambodian-American Kassie
Neou from Virginia.
The award was dedicated to the king-initiator of Cambodia's ancient capital Angkor
Wat, and the first president of the U.S.
Since escaping from a Khmer Rouge extermination camp, Kassie has spent the past 12
years abroad committed to reviving the fragile human rights situation in Cambodia.
He became increasingly involved in this issue when he joined UNTAC's Division of
Information and Education last year.
"I push so hard to advance human rights and democratic change in this country,"
Kassie said, adding "I just can not stand seeing any more abuses of human rights
to anyone. I strongly believe the people of Cambodia, everyone of them, deserve the
same rights and dignity as the people elsewhere do."
Though he was a winner, Kassie remains humble and said he did not desrve an award
any more than the Cambodians themselves and the international community who together
have tried to lay the foundation for peace and democracy.
"But those who deserve this most are the people of Cambodia... 54 percent of
the electorate are women, who bravely exercised their rights to self-determination
in casting their votes during the U.N. sponsored universal elections in May,"
"This award belongs to all of them. I would like to also dedicate this award
to all those who have paid the price with their own lives to the cause of peace in
Cambodia," he added.
The UN peace-keeping operation, the biggest ever in the history of the world body,
which formally ended with the promulgation of the constitution late last month, had
gone through many hurdles in order to safeguard the human rights situation, which
was seriously violated during the Cambodian conflict.
The U.N. Commission on Human Rights in February passed resolution 1993/6 on the situation
of human rights in Cambodia, requesting the U.N. Secretary General to continue a
human rights center in Cambodia.
Last month Kassie set up the Cambodian Institute of Human Rights with himself as
The institute provides assistance on human rights teaching methodology to teachers,
orientation to humanitarian law to law enforcement officials, and awareness training
on civic rights and responsibilities to public servants.
He said progress in the human rights environment and the willingness of people to
broadly participate in democratic liberalization prompted him to launch the institute
which in three years is expected to be run by the staff.
"I am never exhausted with this," he said, warning, "The failure of
society to develop effective democratic institutions creates deficiencies that manifest
themselves in civil wars...In Cambodia, such failure may result in a new holocaust."
"We must spend one more generation...to reach an environment of full respect
of human rights with the authorities and the people knowing clearly their obligations
and duties," he said with optimism about the future of human rights under the