The United Nations Human Rights component recently celebrated the publication of
a book of children's drawings on the subject of human rights. Over 10,000 children
competed in a drawing contest held in 18 provinces and the border area and in Phnom
Penh. The pictures of 21 national winners of the contest have been included in the
Jamie Metzl, a human rights officer in Phnom Penh said that "the idea for the
book originated from a wish to show that for Cambodian people human rights are not
a foreign concept, imposed on Cambodia, but very much a part of Cambodian culture."
Metzl said that "many people thought that the Cambodians, and Cambodian children
in particular did not intrinsically understand human rights." He said that the
pictures showed exactly the opposite was true. The children who competed in the contest
showed "a deep understanding of human rights." Subjects of the pictures
included the breaking of chains, destruction of weapons, the right to assembly and
protest, and most dominantly, the wish for peace.
The National First Prize winner was Srong Sophy, an 11 year-old girl from Kandal
province. Her submission featured "an idealized vision of a Khmer village"
cradeled in an out-streched hand. Metzl said that "the essence of human rights
is the wish for peace." Another drawing shows a people celebrating around a
large flame, it is titled: "The light of the human rights flame brightens the
The beautiful multi-colored book places the pictures in the context of Buddhist quotes
and various human rights texts. One Buddhist proverb asserts that: "One who
conquers oneself and does not persecute the innocent is more respected than those
who conquer millions by military warfare." Metzl said that both the Ven. Maha
Goshananda and the Ven. Yos Hut helped select the quotations.
Provincial winners won a trophy, 10 finalists in each of the provinces won gold medals,
but all 10,000 participants in the contest recieved a signed certificate from UNTAC
chief Yasushi Akashi.
The published books are being distributed to local human rights organizations and
to Cambodian student organizations. Khemara Cambodian Women's Association has recieved
some copies to sell. Proceeds will go to a fund for the local production of children's
In her drawing, 13 year-old Chhun Sok Kieng, of Banteay Meanchey province writes:
"God, Please help give peace in Cambodia soon because my family has all died
from this war."
The introduction notes that "children are the true witnesses of society. They
are the witnesses of suffering and the witnesses of hope. It is in the expectant
eyes of children that those of us in the adult world can rekindle the flame of our
own hope." It asks the question: "Will [they] live in a nation guided by
the ideals so clearly and provocatively expressed in their drawings? Creating such
a society is the charge of these drawings."