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Letter: Rita Reddy comments

Dear Editor,

I believe that the article in the Phnom Penh Post, dated 17-30 March 2000, based

on an interview with me does not accurately reflect my comments and views on several

issues. The article has been so condensed, and as a result many statements appear

out of context and give rise to a misleading impression. This is evident by the many

dashes and dots and statements that hang in the air. I wish to further clarify those

issues so that the unfortunate impression may be corrected.

Regarding the suggestion that violence might be incorporated into the genes of Cambodians,

I would like to clarify that I had a general discussion on the theory and various

reports on the causes of violence. I mentioned that these include environmental factors,

culturalisation and the scientifically proven existence of an extra X-chromosome

that is genetically incorporated in those whose commit violent crimes. I made no

reference to the Cambodian context. The article as written gives rise to an erroneous

conclusion that the genetic make up referred to was that of Cambodians. On the contrary,

it has always been a widely held view among South East Asians, to which I subscribe,

that the Cambodians are gentle people with strong Buddhist traditions and values.

The article's reference to developmental issues and rights needs to be further clarified

to say that in recent times in Cambodia there has been a discernible shift in the

increase in human rights violations from civil and political rights to economic and

social rights with particular reference to land and labour rights. There is a need

to raise awareness and to focus on economic, social and cultural rights and the right

to development at tandem with civil and political rights.

It is unfortunate that the most important points of the reference to the Piseth Pelica

and the Svay Sitha cases were never printed. These cases are criminal ones and require

that the appropriate process of administration of justice takes place through investigation

and prosecution. Like many other cases, if no legal process takes place, they will

add to the multitude of cases that contribute to impunity in this country.

The Human Rights Committee may not be described as 'partisan' just because it is

set up by the Government. It has recently taken steps to follow up and investigate

cases of human rights violations reported to the Committee. The Cambodia Office of

the High Commissioner for Human Rights works not only with the Human Rights Committee

but also with the Human Rights Commissions of both the Senate and the National Assembly,

as well as with many Human Rights NGOs to promote and protect human rights. The Office

will also work with the Committee to assist it to prepare and implement a comprehensive

National Plan of Action on Human Rights. One of the strategic goals of the Office

is to work towards the creation of independent Human Rights institutions with a wide

mandate to monitor, investigate, protect and promote human rights.

On the question of the death penalty, it has to be emphasized that the United Nations

and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights have always sought to have

the death penalty abolished. Indeed I have independently campaigned for the abolition

of the death penalty when it was introduced for drug traffickers. The right to life

is a fundamental right that cannot be negotiated. It is commendable that Cambodia

has abolished the death penalty.

To conclude, I am sure the Phnom Penh Post joins me in assuring the readers that

we sincerely regret the manner in which my view had been represented so as to give

rise to erroneous conclusion and concern. We would also wish to reassure the readers

that we are indeed committed to the protection and promotion of human rights of the

people of Cambodia.

Rita Reddy

Director COHCHR

All comments attributed to Ms. Reddy in quotation marks in the article were verbatim

transcripts of the reporter's notes taken down in shorthand.

Michael Hayes

Publisher and Editor-in-Chief

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