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Official: Draft law on rights of persons with disabilities 'inclusive'

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A handicapped man confined to a wheelchair is selling water bottles along Hun Sen Boulevard. Hean Rangsey

Official: Draft law on rights of persons with disabilities 'inclusive'

Cambodia has shrugged off concerns by two UN special rapporteurs over the current draft law on the rights of persons with disabilities, which they said is not in full compliance with international human rights laws and standards.

In a joint letter, Rhona Smith and Gerard Quinn – special rapporteurs on the situation of human rights in Cambodia and the rights of persons with disabilities, respectively – said the bill should be more conclusive and fully aligned with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

"We are concerned, in particular, about the fact that the draft law does not include a number of rights recognised by the CRPD, nor does it articulate the State's responsibilities as duty bearer to implement such rights.

"Additionally, we note that the draft law also contains a number of penalty provisions that do not align with international human rights standards," said the letter cited in a press release from the UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner in Cambodia and seen by The Post on April 27.

Smith and Quinn recommended that the government do some further reflection and discussion on the draft legislation and offered to help optimise its compatibility with the CRPD and other international human rights standards and obligations.

Cambodia’s ambassador to the UN Office in Geneva, An Sokkhoeurn, responded in a letter that the present bill has enjoyed two years of comprehensive and extensive consultations with all relevant stakeholders, including civil society organisations, local and international organisations advocating for persons with disabilities and also foreign embassies and the Phnom Penh-based offices of certain UN agencies.

“The overwhelming majority of them are satisfied with this open, inclusive and transparent approach that the government has taken and the wide-ranging substance of the draft law.

Sokkhoeurn said the draft law seeks to promote and protect the rights of persons with disabilities, reduce discrimination and give assistance to persons with disabilities by providing equal opportunities, creating jobs, increasing their overall employment, raising their incomes, facilitating mobile travel and enhancing access to education, health, social work, participation in political activities and social development.

He said the bill does not aim to castigate, but encourages responsible and inclusive participation by everyone in the pursuit of guaranteeing the rights of persons with disabilities and improving their quality of life.

Sokkhoeurn also noted that the law must prescribe sanctions for non-compliance if the Cambodian government is to ensure its effective enforcement.

The present draft text will be further consulted upon with the Ministry of Justice and reviewed by the Council of Ministers before it is forwarded to the bicameral parliament for debate and ratification, Sokkhoeurn said.

“Cambodia remains committed to promoting the rights of persons with disabilities by combatting negative attitudes towards them and social exclusion. Our goal is empowering them for participation in Cambodia’s inclusive, equitable and sustainable development,” he said.

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