I believe that the article in the Phnom Penh Post, dated 17-30 March 2000, based
on an interview with me does not accurately reflect my comments and views on several
issues. The article has been so condensed, and as a result many statements appear
out of context and give rise to a misleading impression. This is evident by the many
dashes and dots and statements that hang in the air. I wish to further clarify those
issues so that the unfortunate impression may be corrected.
Regarding the suggestion that violence might be incorporated into the genes of Cambodians,
I would like to clarify that I had a general discussion on the theory and various
reports on the causes of violence. I mentioned that these include environmental factors,
culturalisation and the scientifically proven existence of an extra X-chromosome
that is genetically incorporated in those whose commit violent crimes. I made no
reference to the Cambodian context. The article as written gives rise to an erroneous
conclusion that the genetic make up referred to was that of Cambodians. On the contrary,
it has always been a widely held view among South East Asians, to which I subscribe,
that the Cambodians are gentle people with strong Buddhist traditions and values.
The article's reference to developmental issues and rights needs to be further clarified
to say that in recent times in Cambodia there has been a discernible shift in the
increase in human rights violations from civil and political rights to economic and
social rights with particular reference to land and labour rights. There is a need
to raise awareness and to focus on economic, social and cultural rights and the right
to development at tandem with civil and political rights.
It is unfortunate that the most important points of the reference to the Piseth Pelica
and the Svay Sitha cases were never printed. These cases are criminal ones and require
that the appropriate process of administration of justice takes place through investigation
and prosecution. Like many other cases, if no legal process takes place, they will
add to the multitude of cases that contribute to impunity in this country.
The Human Rights Committee may not be described as 'partisan' just because it is
set up by the Government. It has recently taken steps to follow up and investigate
cases of human rights violations reported to the Committee. The Cambodia Office of
the High Commissioner for Human Rights works not only with the Human Rights Committee
but also with the Human Rights Commissions of both the Senate and the National Assembly,
as well as with many Human Rights NGOs to promote and protect human rights. The Office
will also work with the Committee to assist it to prepare and implement a comprehensive
National Plan of Action on Human Rights. One of the strategic goals of the Office
is to work towards the creation of independent Human Rights institutions with a wide
mandate to monitor, investigate, protect and promote human rights.
On the question of the death penalty, it has to be emphasized that the United Nations
and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights have always sought to have
the death penalty abolished. Indeed I have independently campaigned for the abolition
of the death penalty when it was introduced for drug traffickers. The right to life
is a fundamental right that cannot be negotiated. It is commendable that Cambodia
has abolished the death penalty.
To conclude, I am sure the Phnom Penh Post joins me in assuring the readers that
we sincerely regret the manner in which my view had been represented so as to give
rise to erroneous conclusion and concern. We would also wish to reassure the readers
that we are indeed committed to the protection and promotion of human rights of the
people of Cambodia.
All comments attributed to Ms. Reddy in quotation marks in the article were verbatim
transcripts of the reporter's notes taken down in shorthand.
Publisher and Editor-in-Chief