Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - In Memoriam - Chim Chan Sastra, 1962-1997

In Memoriam - Chim Chan Sastra, 1962-1997

In Memoriam - Chim Chan Sastra, 1962-1997

IT is with a sense of shock and disbelief that I received the message that Chim Chan

Sastra, a magnificent human being, a courageous human rights worker and a wonderful

personal friend that I had known for more than three years, was killed in Rwanda

where he was a UN Volunteer with the Human Rights Mission.

As someone who was responsible for recruiting Sastra into the United Nations and

subsequently worked with him in the Office of the UN Center for Human Rights in Cambodia,

I feel mortified somehow. When I interviewed him for the position of a Human Rights

Assistant with the Legal Assistance Unit of the UNCHR in 1994, two qualities struck

out: his intensity and purposeness, and his sense of fairplay and justice. He came

out on top during the interview and was clearly more qualified than most others,

with a diploma in human rights from Columbia University. I recommended him for recruitment;

I had never made a better decision.

He proved to be a tireless worker, putting in more time and effort than most others

in that office, under circumstances that made work very difficult. Throughout his

work with the UNCHR, he showed a great sense of initiative and creativity towards

human rights work, much of which is trial-and-error any way. In areas like housing/squatter

rights, considered to be outside the core western human rights, he took keen interest

and many important initiatives.

But it was his courage and commitment that truly elevated him above everyone else.

He was a totally fearless person with an attitude of rational detachment that proved

invaluable in defusing many tense moments in human rights investigations and monitoring.

Friends from the UN operation in Rwanda tell me that he was the same there as well,

offering to go to areas that the others were too afraid to go to, and remaining calm

and cool under battle-field conditions. That sense of courage deepened his commitment

to work in perceptible ways.

I have lost a friend and so have many in Cambodia who knew him. My heart goes out

to his family and all the others who care. His death is a great loss for Cambodia.

He was a rising star - a competent, well-educated human rights worker with sensible

political goals and helpful political connections. Why should Cambodia lose someone

like him, after having lost so many for so long?

- Balakrishnan Rajagopal

Doctoral Candidate, Harvard Law School. Formerly with the UNCHR, Cambodia.

(A memorial fund - to build a primary school at Koh Khaiyk, Kompong Chhnang - has

been set up in honor of Chim Chan Sastra. Donations can be sent to: C/o Brad Adams,

UNCHR, No.18, St 400, or PO Box 108, Phnom Penh. Inquiries: Telephone 015-918-274)

MOST VIEWED

  • Time to avert disastrous Covid situation: officials

    The Covid-19 situation in Cambodia is heading towards further large-scale community transmission as the total number of confirmed cases is nearing 61,000 and the death toll passed 900 on July 10, senior health officials warned. Ministry of Health spokeswoman Or Vandine expressed concern that the country was going

  • Two luxury hotels latest quarantine options for inbound travellers

    The Inter-Ministerial Committee to Combat Covid-19 has designated two luxury hotels as alternative quarantine options for travellers who wish to enter Cambodia through Phnom Penh International Airport – Sokha Phnom Penh Hotel & Residence and the Courtyard by Marriott Phnom Penh. In a notice detailing guidelines issued

  • Visa A holders get to quarantine at Himawari Hotel

    The Ministry of Health has permitted foreign diplomats, UN and International NGO officials to undergo quarantine at Himawari Hotel in the capital in case they do not have a separate place suitable for this purpose, but the government would not be responsible for the expenses.

  • Baby saved as mother is lost to Covid

    Newborn baby Neth David has had a rough start in the world. His mother, Vong Daneth, was seven months pregnant when she contracted a severe case of Covid-19. When it became clear to her doctors that she would not survive, they performed a cesarean section

  • Jabs for kids bring hope for school reopenings

    Cambodia is tentatively planning to reopen schools – at least at the secondary level – when the vaccination of children aged 12-17 is completed, even though daily transmissions and deaths in other age groups remain high. Schools across the country have been suspended since March 20, one month

  • Hun Sen: Get 12-17 age group ready for Covid jabs

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has told parents of children aged 12-17 in Phnom Penh and the provinces of Kandal and Preah Sihanouk to get them ready for vaccinations soon. “There is a need to vaccinate children and youths aged 12 to 17. According to the statistics provided