The Cambodian Human Rights Committee (CHRC) and the French embassy in Phnom Penh have pledged to deepen and improve relations between the two countries, especially on human rights cooperation, with both sides agreeing that this is an area that requires attention.
The discussion took place in a January 21 meeting between CHRC president Keo Remy and French ambassador Jacques Pellet. Also present at the meeting were Minh Ditang, head of the French foreign ministry’s Southeast Asia division, and Hugo Vavrin, first secretary of the French embassy.
According to the CHRC, the two sides had discussed three main agendas – human rights issues, the mission of the human rights committee and the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC).
Remy briefed the French diplomats on the progress of the situation in Cambodia through the government’s efforts to promote human rights, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.
He also briefed them on the CHRC’s mission and achievements, saying it has written thorough national reports on human rights, carried out investigative work, established mechanisms for receiving and resolving complaints concerning human rights violations and provided free legal aid.
“The French ambassador, who is well versed in human rights, agreed that this work is difficult, and that all countries have human rights issues,” Remy said in a Facebook post after the meeting.
Remy also listed the five great achievements and successes of the ECCC, more commonly known as the Khmer Rouge tribunal. Firstly, he said, it became a model international court from which many countries including Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Kenya and Senegal are learning.
Secondly, the efficiency of the court was a triumph. The ECCC cost slightly more than $20 million per year, whereas other international courts sometimes required budgets of up to five times that amount.
Third, it allowed a large amount of civil parties to join its hearings. Fourth, it left a legacy for the establishment of a judicial administration at all levels in the Kingdom.
Finally, the ECCC’s process showcased Cambodia’s self-reliance and leadership, and brought about national unification and reconciliation.
According to the CHRC’s press release, Pellet complimented the CHRC for its past efforts to fulfill its mission and for its many achievements.
Am Sam Ath, deputy director of rights group Licadho, said this was an important good step for the human rights committee and the French embassy towards working together to improve the human rights situation in Cambodia.
“We see that France has paid attention to and been monitoring the human rights situation in Cambodia. So far there has been a lot of criticism concerning the issue of human rights, which have declined sharply and still have not improved,” he said.
Sam Ath added that the issue was complicated for Cambodia. The issue, he said, requires that human rights be restored and promoted, because human rights and democracy are intertwined.