In her first official international visit since becoming Switzerland's second female
president last month, Swiss president Micheline Calmy-Rey arrived in the Kingdom
on February 6 and met with King Norodom Sihamoni and Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Swiss President Micheline Calmy-Rey meets with employees of the Hagar Soya factory, who offered pictures and papers documenting Hagar's committment to women's and children's rights, hallmark issues of Calmy-Rey's long career in politics.
The president's arrival marked the 50th anniversary of diplomatic recognition of
Cambodia by Switzerland. According to the Swiss delegation spokesperson Lars Knuchel,
Calmy-Rey expressed strong support for women's rights and the Khmer Rouge trials,
and that a bilateral agreement on air traffic control was reached.
"Matters of governance and human rights issues, particularly in regard to the
Khmer tribunal, were discussed," said Knuchel. "The president is in full
support of Cambodia's efforts to deal with the past and the documentation of this
by the UN."
Knuchel said the Swiss government is financing a communication specialist to assist
with the trial's outreach efforts.
Outside the Hagar Soya factory in Phnom Penh, hundreds of children waving Swiss and
Cambodian flags greeted Calmy-Rey and presented her with drawings and hand-written
Calmy-Rey visited other Swiss-funded initiatives including the Kantha Bopha Children's
Hospitals in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, and Hagar International. In a speech at Hagar
Women's Shelter the president described women's rights as "close to her heart,"
acknowledged the work of Hagar in this area, and promised continued support.
Hagar Shelter provides housing, support, vocational training and education to 51
women and 71 children who have been victims of domestic violence, rape, or human
"The president is very pro-active in women's rights," Elise Elzinga, communications
coordinator for Hagar International said. "Her visit to the Hagar facilities
was to see how Swiss contributions have fostered hope for women in Cambodia."
Calmy-Rey has been a defender of women's rights since her entry into politics in
1981. At the Geneva 2004 Human Rights Commission she instigated a declaration on
violence against women. In 2006, with other female ministers, she launched a declaration
called "Women's Rights and the Reform of the United Nations."
"We feel very privileged to have the president come and visit us. It is a unique
experience," said Pierre Tami, director of Hagar International who accompanied
Calmy-Rey throughout her visit.
"The kind of message the president speaks about falls in line with what Hagar
is doing. She is the right person to visit Hagar due to her personal beliefs."