United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson said the issues of
corruption and impunity for the rich and powerful "must be tackled" in
High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson.
In an interview with the Post during her August 20-22 visit, Robinson said that leaving
senior Khmer Rouge cadres unpunished was one example of such impunity, but it was
abuses of power taking place today that were most significant.
"The impunity that affects people in their daily lives is much more penetrating,"
she said. "It's that pimps are never brought to justice and there's corruption
in the police and the judiciary, etc. It's pervasive."
In a meeting with Prime Minister Hun Sen, Robinson said she stressed the need for
judicial independence and structural reform of the Supreme Council of Magistracy,
the body that oversees the judiciary.
"I pointed out that Cambodia has ratified the Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights and therefore has a legal obligation to provide independent judicial redress,"
The High Commissioner said she had made similar remarks on the importance of an independent
judiciary to King Sihanouk during a trip to Beijing before coming to Cambodia.
She also addressed other human rights abuses including the sexual exploitation of
minors. Speaking after a visit to Afesip, a shelter for trafficked women, Robinson
said meeting people at the shelter had brought home the complexity of the problem.
"Not least there needs to be a cultural change in not having so many Cambodian
men, including at a high level, getting sexual gratification from young girls."
She stated there was also a need to combat trafficking through better coordination
with donors and other countries.
"I know [the government] is proposing a Memorandum of Understanding with Vietnam
and Thailand and this is an essential component," she said. "China should
also be a factor because my understanding of the problem is that it is worsened by
the fact that there is now a Mafia element entering [trafficking]."
During her address to the National Assembly, she referred again to the "repugnant
trafficking in human beings" and urged members to work with the UN and the international
community to bring it to a halt.
"Traffickers are able to operate with impunity because of inefficient law enforcement,
compounded in some cases by official corruption," she said, adding that those
who had been trafficked were victims, not criminals.
"I can only say I regret the Cambodian court verdict of 5 August, which charged
victims of trafficking with illegal migration and issued them prison sentences."
Robinson also met Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng while she was in Phnom Penh, and
spoke about her concern over the recent disappearances of a dissident Vietnamese
monk and two Chinese Falun Gong practitioners, who are believed to have been forcibly
returned to their native countries.
"I had an assurance from him that he will follow up further and see if there
is any information he can provide to the office," she said.
Robinson last visited Cambodia as High Commissioner in January 1998. She will finish
her term September 11 and be replaced by Sergio Vieira de Mello, who worked in Cambodia
at the UN refugee agency during UNTAC.