Even though an estimated 5 per cent of Cambodia’s population is disabled, and the country is a signatory to the UN Convention of Rights for Persons with Disabilities, the prevaling attitude here is still more pitying than humanising, according to PhD candidate in road safety Socheata Sann.
“This UN convention really tries to explain disability and to approach disability in terms of human rights,” Sann said. “It means they’re not charity any more, you should support them not because you feel pity, but because it’s their right to receive these kinds of services. But people who are disabled – they have no idea what their rights are.
“They need support, and they have the right to ask for it. But we need to encourage them to understand their rights and to request that kind of thing rather than expecting people to do it out of charity,” she added.
Because of this mindset, said Sann, nondisabled people often feel pity for their disabled acquaintances, and this will have an impact on relationships.
“Because of this, they say, ‘OK, because you are disabled, I feel pity. I can take care of you.’ This message has a really negative affect. Once, I saw a father saying that his son had lost all opportunities because he was disabled and that he no longer had a bright future. His son looked like he was about to cry.”