Cambodia and the Russian Federation will sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on Human Rights Cooperation this week to facilitate an exchange of experience and good practices regarding the protection and promotion of human rights.
Cambodian Human Rights Committee (CHRC) spokesman Chin Malin on Sunday said the MoU would be signed by the CHRC and Commissioner for Human Rights of the Russian Federation on Wednesday in Moscow during his two-day visit to that country.
“The MoU focuses on general cooperation regarding the exchange of experiences, good practices, and lessons learned about protecting the rights of citizens and promoting human rights.
“It also involves the exchange of human rights documents and other relevant information. Also, we will support each other on the regional and international stage.
“We will help each other in protecting citizens of both countries. [This includes the] provision of legal assistance to Russians living in Cambodia and Cambodians in Russia whose rights may otherwise be violated,” Malin said.
He noted that such an MoU on human rights protection would also be made with other countries in the future.
Cambodia has always cooperated with civil societies and other Asian and European countries to protect human rights. The Kingdom has held annual human rights dialogues with Japan and biennial human rights dialogues with Sweden, he said.
Malin said Cambodia has continually cooperated in human rights talks with Asean, the EU, and the UN, and has especially complied with the UN’s human rights mechanism.
“In honouring these ties, Cambodia adheres to the principles of peaceful coexistence. This means that we will cooperate will all countries for the sake of our people and the nation,” he said.
Rights group Adhoc spokesman Soeng Sen Karuna said on Sunday that the government has the right to cooperate with any country. However, he found the agreement with Russia “strange” as it is a communist country.
Sen Karuna said human rights cooperation should instead be done with free countries such as the US and member states of the EU, as they placed a high value on it and adhere to international standards.
“I think the cooperation with Russia would raise a few eyebrows and spark some doubt because it is not a country that respects human rights. Instead, it’s where dissident voices are stifled.
“So, if we cooperate with communist countries [like Russia], accusations about Cambodia’s unwillingness to respect human rights would be made,” Sen Karuna said.
However, Royal Academy of Cambodia president Sok Touch said that despite being a communist country, Russia still respects human rights, noting the freedom of Russian intellectuals to speak out and the people’s free access to information.
“But the countries in Europe are not happy [with Russia] and see it as a communist country [only]. Russia actually is very open.
“When we travel, we don’t know whether someone is a high-ranking official because everyone takes the metro and buses. It is different from us here where we can see who the rich and poor are,” Touch said.