We have read with astonishment and concern a transcript of an interview with Ms.
Rita Reddy, the new director of UNCHR, in the English-language newspaper Phnom Penh
Post (Vol.9, No.6, dated March 17-30 2000, page 9), in which she made a worrisome
allusion to a so-called "genetic" proclivity of Cambodians for violence.
The "genetic" explanation for violence, within a society or among groups,
has been mentioned in many different contexts in the world by extremists of all kinds
without any sound basis. Surely a person of Ms. Rita Reddy's position and background
is aware of the Seville Statement on Violence refuting on scientific evidence this
level of allegations (UNESCO and a Culture of Peace, page 29-30).
In the specific situation of Cambodia, such a statement appears as an anachronistic
and disparaging view of its recent history, and is an insult to all the Cambodians
who are long committed to the nation's reconstruction. Naturally, the fact that such
a comment has been made by the highest representative in Cambodia of the United Nations
organization responsible for human rights reinforces our strongest concern.
Having given such an explanation for the social problems which cross-cut Cambodian
society after 30 years of armed conflict, isolation, and massive destruction, and
only 14 short months of peace, the UNCHR representative should reconsider her commitment
and ability to effectively fill her role and responsibility to the people of this
We are sincerely outraged by this unacceptable declaration which undermines and discredits
the progress achieved by the common efforts of the national authorities and the civil
societies, including the expatriate community.
We are expecting due explanation from Ms. Rita Reddy.
Signed by the Representatives of the following organizations:
Enfants et Developpement
Hellen Keller International
Medecins Sans Frontiers Belgium/Holland
Partners for Development
and by 32 concerned Cambodian and foreign individuals.