After two days of meetings involving representatives from more than 85 non-governmental
organizations (NGOs) operating in Cambodia, demining, human rights, the environment
and the Khmer Rouge were jointly agreed upon as priority areas of concern for the
country's immediate, developmental future.
Convened under the auspices of the NGO Forum On Cambodia, the Sep. 15-16, first-time-in-Cambodia,
annual meeting for the five-year-old association was designed to discuss the future
prospects for Cambodia at this key juncture in the country's history.
On the issue of de-mining, the Forum in its summary, Sep. 17 press release "encouraged
the international community to give its full support, financial and technical, to
the Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC)." The mine issue, with an estimated
6 million still scattered throughout the countryside, was at the top of their list
and the group emphasized that "mine free land is a prerequisite for development."
With regard to human rights the Forum's statement stressed the need "to ensure
continuity in the work of the UN human rights center by providing immediate financial
resources to prevent its closure when current funding ends at the end of September."
As a reflection of the widespread concern over issues such as rampant deforestation
and the unfettered exploitation of Cambodia's natural resources, which many observers
seem to agree is a problem that has exploded since the "free" market-followed
by UNTAC-arrived in Cambodia, the Forum emphasized that "development aid and
commercial activities must be continually monitored to ensure that they remain sensitive
to environmental impact."
Concerning the Khmer Rouge, the Forum noted "the need for scrupulous respect
of the recovered sovereignty of Cambodia" and that "aid should not be denied
to the Cambodian people because of political considerations."
The statement also said that "whatever the choices of the Cambodian people
in this matter, genocide is a crime against all humanity. The international community
has the duty to condemn the crimes and their authors, not only in Cambodia but wherever
genocide occurs." Given this, the Forum called for improvements in the international
justice system and the establishment of a permanent tribunal to deal with crimes
Finally, the Forum expressed its concern over the trend in Thailand's involvement
in supporting "the Khmer Rouge and illegal economic activities," noting
that "the Thai attitude" was making the task of the legitimate
Cambodian authorities in dealing with the Khmer Rouge more difficult.
An NGO Forum spokesperson said special committees will be set up for each priority
issue area and that action agendas would be defined to push the group's recommendations.