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Untac Views

Under the Paris Agreement, UNTAC is responsible for promoting understanding of and

respect for human rights so that free and fair elections may take place and to ensure

that "the policies and practices of the past" are not allowed to return.

In working towards these aims, the Human Rights Component has been active in three

broad areas: The first is presenting international human rights conventions to the

Supreme National Council (SNC) for ratification, and reviewing Cambodian laws and

judicial institutions to make sure that they conform to the standards set out in

these conventions.

Recently, UNTAC presented international conventions to the SNC related to refugees,

torture, the rights of the child, and the rights of women.

The second area is human rights information, education and training. This includes

providing information about human rights to Cambodian people-for instance through

television and radio-and also assisting in the teaching of human rights concepts

in schools and universities.

The Human Rights Component is also organizing training seminars for Cambodian officials,

especially officials working in the area of law enforcement, such as police and judicial


The third activity of the Human Rights Component is in actually investigating complaints

of human rights abuses and taking any necessary corrective action.

More than 230 complaints have so far been brought to the Human Rights Component's

office in Phnom Penh, with other complaints being received in the provinces.

If, after an investigation, human rights abuses are found to have taken place, UNTAC

may take various sorts of action, including removing officials and securing the release

of people unjustly imprisoned.

The Human Rights Component has its main office in Phnom Penh, at the corner of Tousamuth

Boulevard and 222 Street. It is staffed by ten human rights officers with support

staff. In addition, one human rights officer is based in each provincial capital

and two have recently been deployed to the FUNCINPEC the KPNLF zones near the Thai


Promoting respect for basic human rights is key to the success of the peace process.

Fundamental political freedoms must exist if there are to be free and fair elections

next year. These freedoms include, for example, freedom of speech, freedom of association,

freedom of movement, and freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention. Political parties

must be able to campaign and people must be free to make their choice free from intimidation

and harassment.

These freedoms however, must be balanced with responsibility, in order to safeguard

the rights of all people.

For example, right to freedom of speech does not extend to certain types of speech

which may threaten the rights of others.

Incitement to racial discrimination, for example, is explicitly banned by several

international treaties to which Cambodia is now a party, and runs counter to the

spirit and the letter of the Paris Agreement.

The UNTAC Human Rights Component is particularly sensitive to the need to build on

aspects of local culture and tradition conducive to promoting political freedom and

basic rights.

Buddhism, for example, contains strong humanistic elements which advocate respect

for life and social equality between all people. In addition, local traditions of

government have generally involved a large degree of popular participation and incorporate

ideas intended to safeguard the people against the exercise of arbitrary authority.

The promotion of respect for human rights in Cambodia will have to continue long

after UNTAC. But the fostering of a neutral political environment for the elections

is a crucial first step towards permanently safeguarding fundamental freedoms for

all Cambodians in the future.



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