Symposium lays foundation for post-UNTAC support for Khmer Human Rights Groups
The first-ever international symposium on human rights was held in Phnom Penh
last week in a landmark effort by the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia
(UNTAC) to nurture indigenous Cambodian human rights organizations.
Dennis McNamara, UNTAC Human Rights Component director said the process of building
human rights in Cambodia "remains fragile in the extreme."
"It is therefore imperative to us that this symposium starts the process of
formalizing an international and regional support network for Cambodian human rights
activities," McNamara said.
The three-day symposium, held Nov. 30 through Dec. 2, brought together more than
40 human rights activists from around the world, U.N. officials and the leaders of
the four non-profit, human rights organizations that have been established in Cambodia
since the peace accords were signed last year.
Representatives from three of the four political parties who signed the peace accords
were also present. The Khmer Rouge declined to participate.
UNTAC hopes that by bringing together human rights groups from the region to meet
with Khmers working towards similar ends, Cambodian human rights organizations can
benefit from the support and experience of more well-established and well-funded
"We need NGOs as operational partners to provide future expertise, networks,
national advocacy and advice, as well as to implement education and training programs,"
"This is useful for us," said Thun Saray, president of the Cambodian Human
Rights Association (CHRA). "We can share experiences and compare approaches.
"We plan to set up our own network," Saray said when asked how foreign
NGOs could help Cambodian human rights organizations. "But we want additional
support before UNTAC leaves. We need to strengthen, to consolidate our organizations.
We need technical assistance, training, information and financial support. We also
want moral support."