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Crowds mark Human Rights

Crowds mark Human Rights

A BOUT 3,000 people including the Second Prime Minister, human rights workers, monks, nuns, diplomats, dignitaries and students gathered to commemorate International Human Rights Day on December 10.

The ceremony was held at Phnom Penh's National Olympic Stadium, where human rights groups exhibited information about their work to combat human rights abuses and children's drawings about people's rights.

International Human Rights Day has been celebrated in Cambodia since it was reinstated by UNTAC in 1991. Human Rights Day was established by the UN in 1948.

Second Prime Minister Hun Sen, in a speech to the crowd at the stadium, said that because Cambodia's democracy was still young, "we are all in the stage of learning how to promote human rights and democracy".

He said the government absolutely respected the right to life of all people, without discrimination because of race, color or class, and the equality of rights between men, women and children.

King Sihanouk sent a message from Beijing, read to the gathering, saying he would continue to promote human rights and encourage action on human rights problems.

Kem Sokha, chairman of the National Assembly's Commission on Human Rights, said Cambodia needed to work harder to meet national and international human rights laws.

Some had been met but some had not been fulfilled at all, he said.

He said Cambodia's war continued to cause serious violations of human rights, and he criticized "greedy" politicians for not doing more to end the fighting.

The right to shelter, food and life were still unaddressed and unresolved, he said, and people such as the disabled, widows and orphans faced huge hardships with little help from society.

Kem Sokha said the resolution of complaints about human rights breaches had not been effectively addressed.

"Some dictatorial authorities have not been changed or have not changed their ideas. These are factors which make it impossible to grant justice to people.

"Improper behavior by officials and authorities who regularly violate people's rights is never lawfully punished by the court. In contrast, innocent individuals continue to suffer. Where is the so-called equality of men and women before the law?"

The shooting and threatening of journalists, and closing down of newspapers remained a great concern. NGOs had also been threatened, he said.

Kem Sokha also warned people who exercised their rights to do so responsibly, saying: "Don't abuse your rights or they may be lost."

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