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Overseas Rights Activists Assist Khmer Group

Overseas Rights Activists Assist Khmer Group

Cambodia's fledgling internal human rights movement is holding an unprecedented series

of training seminars on monitoring state abuses with the help of a Philippines human

rights group, regarded as one of the finest in the developing world.

The Cambodian Human Rights Association (CHRA), launched earlier this year, began

its second series of training sessions last week in central Phnom Penh's rundown

Wat Sarawan.

Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TDFP), sponsored by the U.S.-based Cambodia

Documentation Commission, have sent over Special Projects Officer Amalia Bandiola

to conduct three comprehensive but simple weekly courses in human rights monitoring.

"This is a very new thing for Cambodia-how to investigate wrongful actions by

the authorities," said David Hawke, director of the Cambodia Documentation Commission,

which includes specialists in international law and human rights.

He added that the TDFP was "one of the most highly respected and highly regarded

indigenous human rights monitoring groups throughout the developing world."

Kassie Neou, a Khmer-American human rights specialist, will offer a further three

weeks of studies on human rights teacher training.

Last week's seminar was attended by about 60 CHRA members, with about half of them

high school teachers, Neou said, adding that membership in the homegrown body has

swelled to around 2,000 people across Cambodia.

Neou, no stranger to human rights abuses, said he escaped death at the hands of his

teenage Khmer Rouge minders by recounting Aesop's fables, which he had translated

from BBC broadcasts. He stressed the sessions were apolitical.

"We want to make sure this is not political," he said. "This is purely

educational."

Lecturers used examples from overseas to illustrate their points, Neou said, although

questions "did pop up" from participants about the brutal Khmer Rouge years

and the recent brief detention of Khmer People's Liberation Front leader Ieng Mouly.

Organizers of the meeting called on the U.N. to ensure the security of human rights

advocates nationwide in the face of harassment and intimidation by authorities in

the countryside.

The cash-strapped Cambodia Documentation Commission, which has translated most U.N.

human rights conventions into simple Khmer, is ready to help any indigenous human

rights group.

At least three human rights groups operate in the capital, including the newly-formed

Human Rights Vigilance of Cambodia.

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