Students around the world held events and protests to raise awareness of human rights abuses in their countries last Thursday. The events marked International Human Rights Day, and although students in each country talked about different issues, the collective voice asked for change and was heard by leaders around the world.
While students may be less experienced and younger than the people who make decisions for the country, their voice is crucial in making changes to political and economic systems. While many adults can not speak about problems for fear of losing their jobs, students have more freedom to speak honestly. In 10 or 20 years, it will be these students who are the political and social leaders of the world.
In Cambodia, hundreds of students joined Thursday’s Human Rights Day rally in Phnom Penh while hundreds of others participated in more than 70 events organised throughout the Kingdom.
Among the speakers at the rally in Phnom Penh was Christophe Peschoux, head of the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Cambodia, who warned the crowd of worrying trends developing in the country.
Peschoux spoke out against the wave of recent evictions as land becomes a much coveted source of prosperity in the Kingdom. “Day after day, villagers are robbed of their land by powerful economic interests, often with the support of the authorities,” he told the audience.
Other rights advocates talked about the problems of human trafficking and discrimination against disabled people, as well as the lack of free speech for journalists and opposition politicians.
Many of the provincial events marking International Human Rights Day were organised by the grassroots human rights group calling itself Friends of December 10. Despite fears the government might prevent these celebrations, organisers reported that the activities went off without incident.