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Letter: Statement of concern

Dear Editor,

We have read with astonishment and concern a transcript of an interview with Ms.

Rita Reddy, the new director of UNCHR, in the English-language newspaper Phnom Penh

Post (Vol.9, No.6, dated March 17-30 2000, page 9), in which she made a worrisome

allusion to a so-called "genetic" proclivity of Cambodians for violence.

The "genetic" explanation for violence, within a society or among groups,

has been mentioned in many different contexts in the world by extremists of all kinds

without any sound basis. Surely a person of Ms. Rita Reddy's position and background

is aware of the Seville Statement on Violence refuting on scientific evidence this

level of allegations (UNESCO and a Culture of Peace, page 29-30).

In the specific situation of Cambodia, such a statement appears as an anachronistic

and disparaging view of its recent history, and is an insult to all the Cambodians

who are long committed to the nation's reconstruction. Naturally, the fact that such

a comment has been made by the highest representative in Cambodia of the United Nations

organization responsible for human rights reinforces our strongest concern.

Having given such an explanation for the social problems which cross-cut Cambodian

society after 30 years of armed conflict, isolation, and massive destruction, and

only 14 short months of peace, the UNCHR representative should reconsider her commitment

and ability to effectively fill her role and responsibility to the people of this

country.

We are sincerely outraged by this unacceptable declaration which undermines and discredits

the progress achieved by the common efforts of the national authorities and the civil

societies, including the expatriate community.

We are expecting due explanation from Ms. Rita Reddy.

Signed by the Representatives of the following organizations:

Cambodia Trust

Enfants et Developpement

Hellen Keller International

Medecins Sans Frontiers Belgium/Holland

New Humanity

PADEK

Partners for Development

and by 32 concerned Cambodian and foreign individuals.

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