Under the Paris Agreement, UNTAC is responsible for promoting understanding of and
respect for human rights so that free and fair elections may take place and to ensure
that "the policies and practices of the past" are not allowed to return.
In working towards these aims, the Human Rights Component has been active in three
broad areas: The first is presenting international human rights conventions to the
Supreme National Council (SNC) for ratification, and reviewing Cambodian laws and
judicial institutions to make sure that they conform to the standards set out in
Recently, UNTAC presented international conventions to the SNC related to refugees,
torture, the rights of the child, and the rights of women.
The second area is human rights information, education and training. This includes
providing information about human rights to Cambodian people-for instance through
television and radio-and also assisting in the teaching of human rights concepts
in schools and universities.
The Human Rights Component is also organizing training seminars for Cambodian officials,
especially officials working in the area of law enforcement, such as police and judicial
The third activity of the Human Rights Component is in actually investigating complaints
of human rights abuses and taking any necessary corrective action.
More than 230 complaints have so far been brought to the Human Rights Component's
office in Phnom Penh, with other complaints being received in the provinces.
If, after an investigation, human rights abuses are found to have taken place, UNTAC
may take various sorts of action, including removing officials and securing the release
of people unjustly imprisoned.
The Human Rights Component has its main office in Phnom Penh, at the corner of Tousamuth
Boulevard and 222 Street. It is staffed by ten human rights officers with support
staff. In addition, one human rights officer is based in each provincial capital
and two have recently been deployed to the FUNCINPEC the KPNLF zones near the Thai
Promoting respect for basic human rights is key to the success of the peace process.
Fundamental political freedoms must exist if there are to be free and fair elections
next year. These freedoms include, for example, freedom of speech, freedom of association,
freedom of movement, and freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention. Political parties
must be able to campaign and people must be free to make their choice free from intimidation
These freedoms however, must be balanced with responsibility, in order to safeguard
the rights of all people.
For example, right to freedom of speech does not extend to certain types of speech
which may threaten the rights of others.
Incitement to racial discrimination, for example, is explicitly banned by several
international treaties to which Cambodia is now a party, and runs counter to the
spirit and the letter of the Paris Agreement.
The UNTAC Human Rights Component is particularly sensitive to the need to build on
aspects of local culture and tradition conducive to promoting political freedom and
Buddhism, for example, contains strong humanistic elements which advocate respect
for life and social equality between all people. In addition, local traditions of
government have generally involved a large degree of popular participation and incorporate
ideas intended to safeguard the people against the exercise of arbitrary authority.
The promotion of respect for human rights in Cambodia will have to continue long
after UNTAC. But the fostering of a neutral political environment for the elections
is a crucial first step towards permanently safeguarding fundamental freedoms for
all Cambodians in the future.