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Khmer Honored for Human Rights Work

Khmer Honored for Human Rights Work

The Cambodian Network Council, a U.S.-based Cambodian American organization, on Sep.

12 presented awards to three individuals who have made outstanding contributions

to the cause of peace, freedom and democracy for Cambodia.

U.S. Under Secretary of State Winston Lord presented the 'Suryava-raman II &

George Washington Award' to Dr. Richard H. Solomon, former U.S. under secretary of

state, Stephen Solarz, former congressman from New York, and Cambodian-American Kassie

Neou from Virginia.

The award was dedicated to the king-initiator of Cambodia's ancient capital Angkor

Wat, and the first president of the U.S.

Since escaping from a Khmer Rouge extermination camp, Kassie has spent the past 12

years abroad committed to reviving the fragile human rights situation in Cambodia.

He became increasingly involved in this issue when he joined UNTAC's Division of

Information and Education last year.

"I push so hard to advance human rights and democratic change in this country,"

Kassie said, adding "I just can not stand seeing any more abuses of human rights

to anyone. I strongly believe the people of Cambodia, everyone of them, deserve the

same rights and dignity as the people elsewhere do."

Though he was a winner, Kassie remains humble and said he did not desrve an award

any more than the Cambodians themselves and the international community who together

have tried to lay the foundation for peace and democracy.

"But those who deserve this most are the people of Cambodia... 54 percent of

the electorate are women, who bravely exercised their rights to self-determination

in casting their votes during the U.N. sponsored universal elections in May,"

he said.

"This award belongs to all of them. I would like to also dedicate this award

to all those who have paid the price with their own lives to the cause of peace in

Cambodia," he added.

The UN peace-keeping operation, the biggest ever in the history of the world body,

which formally ended with the promulgation of the constitution late last month, had

gone through many hurdles in order to safeguard the human rights situation, which

was seriously violated during the Cambodian conflict.

The U.N. Commission on Human Rights in February passed resolution 1993/6 on the situation

of human rights in Cambodia, requesting the U.N. Secretary General to continue a

human rights center in Cambodia.

Last month Kassie set up the Cambodian Institute of Human Rights with himself as

executive director.

The institute provides assistance on human rights teaching methodology to teachers,

orientation to humanitarian law to law enforcement officials, and awareness training

on civic rights and responsibilities to public servants.

He said progress in the human rights environment and the willingness of people to

broadly participate in democratic liberalization prompted him to launch the institute

which in three years is expected to be run by the staff.

"I am never exhausted with this," he said, warning, "The failure of

society to develop effective democratic institutions creates deficiencies that manifest

themselves in civil wars...In Cambodia, such failure may result in a new holocaust."

"We must spend one more generation...to reach an environment of full respect

of human rights with the authorities and the people knowing clearly their obligations

and duties," he said with optimism about the future of human rights under the

new government.

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