What does Human Rights Day mean for you?"It means people pay value and respect
for humanity in every society, without any discrimination," said 25-year-old
Lee Mohamad of the Cham-Khmer Islam Association.
"For me, I am very happy because today means equality between men and women,"
said Sin Savoeun, 22.
These were common sentiments at celebrations for the 45th International Human Rights
Day at the Basac Theater on Dec. 10.
The assembly, organized by 27 local non-governmental organizations, gathered together
senior government officials, diplomats and hundreds of ordinary citizens, many of
whom had at some time been deprived of rights.
The day was open to everyone including many children who clutched piles of brochures
as they stood watching human rights videos. When asked why they collected them, they
just lowered their eyes or simply said "they gave them to me so I took them".
A special message for the day from King Norodom Sihanouk, encouraging his subjects
to continue struggling for their rights, was read by Prince Norodom Sirivuddh, deputy
prime minister and minister of foreign affairs .
"These noble achievements, conceived with difficulty in a Cambodia victimized
by war and internal struggles are, at present, a reality which is from now on expressed
in terms of obligation," the King said.
"It is not enough to inscribe them on paper and put them away in the archives,"
said His Majesty. "Our compatriots, ranging from the humblest to the richest
and the most powerful, should be imbued with them and give them life through their
activities and their day-to-day performance," he said.
"A first determining stage is completed. It is not the moment to give up. It
is time to consolidate and to amplify the movement," the King said.
Three awards were given by the organizing committee of the celebration to King Sihanouk,
the human rights commission of the National Assembly and to the Ponleu Khmer group
for their work with human rights.
Despite improvements, some human rights activists acknowledged that many hurdles
Sochua Leiper, president of the NGO Khemara, said in the post-UNTAC period the human
rights movement should expand its work to community development and tackle poverty
"Now we must talk more about human rights and put stress on education and development,
especially economic development for the poor," she added.