Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Rights for disabled Cambodians recognised

Rights for disabled Cambodians recognised

Rights for disabled Cambodians recognised


A double amputee joins other disabled people for World Handicap Day at the capital’s Wat Botum park in December, 2010. Photograph: Heng Chivoan/Phnom Penh Post

It was more than a decade after a landmine took both his legs in 1982 that Tun Channareth finally regained his will to live, finding purpose in helping his family and his fellow victims.

On Friday, almost 30 years after he joined the long list of Cambodians maimed or killed by explosive remnants of war, Channareth celebrated a small victory as parliament ratified the UN’s Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities.

“We are very surprised, and we are proud and happy about this,” he said yesterday.

Channareth, who was one of five members of the management committee of a coalition of NGOs that was awarded the Nobel Peace prize in 1997 for its campaign to ban land mines and cluster munitions, said the ratified convention would help support victims who had struggled like him to overcome what had happened to them.

The father of six, who works with Jesuit Refugee Services and the Cambodian Campaign to Ban Land Mines, will now continue the fight for the Cambodian and foreign governments to ratify the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

Sister Denise Coghlan, director of Jesuit Refugee Services, said ratification of the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, signed in 2007, had been a long time coming but was an important step, and not just for mine victims.

“There are about 45,000 living landmine and unexploded ordnance survivors [in Cambodia]. They wouldn’t even be half the number of people with disabilities,” she said.

Because there is practically no information on what disabilities those tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of others actually suffer from, Coghlan and her colleagues are surveying villages across the country to collect specific data and find out where support is lacking most.

“The big one, the one that’s a major concern for most people, is how they can earn money to live,” she said.

Of the disabled people surveyed so far, only 11 per cent felt their lives were bad or very bad.

“It’s all resolvable, it’s not just an impossible problem which it sometimes looks like,” she said.

The convention’s ratification follows the passing of Cambodia’s Law on the Protection and the Promotion of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2009, and is largely symbolic.

Officials from the Ministry of Social Affairs declined to comment on what government measures the ratification might prompt.

To contact the reporter on this story: David Boyle at [email protected]
With assistance from Mom Kunthear


  • Cambodia-Thailand rail reconnected after 45 years

    A railway reconnecting Cambodia and Thailand was officially inaugurated on Monday following a 45-year hiatus, with the two kingdoms’ prime ministers in attendance at the ceremony. On the occasion, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha travelled together from Thailand’s

  • Thousands attend CNRP-organised pro-democracy vigil in South Korea

    Thousands of supporters of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) on Saturday gathered in the South Korean city of Gwangju to hold a candlelight demonstration calling for the “liberation” of democracy in Cambodia. Yim Sinorn, a CNRP member in South Korea, said on

  • US Embassy: Chinese trade does not help like the West’s

    The US Embassy in Phnom Penh on Friday said relations between China and Cambodia did not create jobs or help industry when compared to the trade between the Kingdom and the US. “About 87 per cent of trade [with China] are Chinese imports, which do not

  • New airport study set for 2019

    A feasibility study on the construction of a new airport in the Kingdom will be launched later this year, according to a Ministry of Tourism spokesman on Monday. The plan was approved last week in a meeting held by the Ministry of Economy and Finance