Cambodian leaders observed the 75th anniversary of International Human Rights Day on December 10, as the Cambodian Human Rights Committee (CHRC) delegation prepares to show the Kingdom’s commitment to social protections at the highest-level at the Human Rights 75 Initiative in Geneva, Switzerland.

Former Prime Minister Hun Sen, president of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, also celebrated the day. 

“Human Rights Day December 10 commemorates the historical event when the UN General Assembly [UNGA] adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 1948,” he recalled in a social media post. 

Prime Minister Hun Manet also marked the occasion with a similar message. 

CHRC president Keo Remy on December 9 led his delegation to the human rights event, set to take place from December 11-12 in Geneva. He set out to express Cambodia’s commitment to human rights, with a special focus on social protection. 

Speaking to the media on his departure, Remy said: “I am proud that Prime Minister Hun Manet has permitted me to represent Cambodia in front of world leaders and demonstrate our commitment to social protections, especially with regard to public health services and universal health coverage”. 

He added that public health services and social protections, as stressed under the seventh government mandate, will enable Cambodian people to have longer life expectancies.

He said that under the new government, around nine million people have benefitted from social protection schemes, including the poor, civil servants and members of the armed forces. 

In addition, planned training for 1.5 million youth from impoverished and vulnerable households will ensure that they have the skills to secure decent jobs.

Am Sam Ath, operations director of rights groups LICADHO, said on December 10 that civil society organisations (CSOs) also observed the day in Phnom Penh, with a march at Democracy Park and calls for the government to fulfil its human rights obligations. 

Sam Ath was of the view that during the first 100 days in office of the new government, the human rights situation has not progressed, as of yet. 

Regarding Remy’s intentions to raise the Kingdom’s social protections at the UN, Sam Ath said: “This is not dependant only on commitment, but must be based on real practices on the ground,” he said.

Government spokesperson Pen Bona said last week that Cambodians enjoy the assurance of freedom, but must exercise that freedom responsibly.

“If we talk about political and civil rights, Cambodia has dozens of political parties that joined the recent elections. There are between 5,000 and 6,000 NGOs and unions established and in operation within the Kingdom,” he said.

“In addition, there are more than 2,000 media and tens of thousands of media practitioners, as well as all kinds of social media,” he added.

“In short, we can say that freedom is widespread. What is sometimes lacking is the exercise of that freedom with responsibility,” he continued.