Monday October 21, 2019
Home Lead Story Human Rights ...

Human Rights in Cambodia Concludes on Note: Peace Without Justice is Unsustainable

I think there are a number of areas which the government is working towards in basic human rights, and there are a number of areas that I have identified and discussed with the government to vet human rights and also to increase in hand the number of indicators and targets and plans for meeting the development goals.

0
//
UN
UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Cambodia Rhona Smith (L) speaks to reporters at a press conference in Phnom Penh, May 9, 2019. RFA

Rhona Smith, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Cambodia, concluded her seventh visit to the Southeast Asian nation on Thursday with a list of recommendations for Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government of ways to improve human rights and make the country’s political space more inclusive. She advised the government to identify those most at risk of being left behind by development efforts, called for protections of the right to peaceful assembly and association, and urged authorities to avoid excessive use of force in the policing of assemblies. Smith also called for the release of opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) president Kem Sokha from detention, where he has been held while under investigation for “treason,” general legal reforms to ensure that all Cambodians have access to justice, and a greater operating space for civil society.

Despite her comprehensive investigation into the situation of human rights in Cambodia, government spokesman Phay Siphan dismissed her recommendations as politically motivated, calling the fate of Kem Sokha a matter of the court and suggesting that NGOs in the country are “serving political purposes.” Smith spoke to RFA’s Khmer Service on Thursday about her visit and discussed how the country’s government can better safeguard rights for all Cambodians.

RFA: My first question is about your impression or observation regarding the [request] to visit Kem Sokha. Would you have any kind of statement to make regarding this again?

Smith: I regret that I was unable to get permission in order to go and meet with … Kem Sokha and the investigating judge was not able to meet with me either.

RFA: What would be your purpose of visiting him, should you be allowed to meet him?

Smith: I’m an independent expert appointed by the human rights council. I should be able to meet with persons in detention anywhere in Cambodia.

society
I welcome some of the indications of openness and willingness, for example, to engage with civil society to try to address access to justice and to redress some of the problems I’ve identified with corruption and bribery. Pixabay

RFA: Do you think that Kem Sokha will be released any time soon?

Smith: In my view, Kem Sokha remains under detention and I’ve called upon the government and, indeed, the investigating judge to express my hope that Kem Sokha’s investigation is swiftly completed. It’s now been more than 18 months and either the trial can proceed or if there’s no … evidence for a trial, then the charges against him are definitively dropped.

RFA: Recently during your visit, the Battambang Court issued at least 26 warrants for 26 CNRP officials to appear before the court regarding their political activities. Do you think this is a breach of human rights in Cambodia amid your visit?

Smith: I believe it’s indicative of the lack of political space in Cambodia and I have concerns in that regard. And it is my hope that there will be a new opening for political culture in Cambodia based on dialogue and mutual respect.

RFA: Regarding these CNRP officials, of course, after the CNRP dissolution in late 2017, and also the reallocation of the seats of those elected commune councilors—5,007 commune councilors had to relinquish their positions to the ruling party and other parties—have you seen any progress in the democratic space in Cambodia since your last visit?

Smith: I see no tangible changes to the political space in Cambodia since my last visit.

RFA: In your last report in August, you made several recommendations—a lot of which concerned the freedom and human rights situation. During this visit, have you noticed any significant change or improvement based on those recommendations?

Smith: In most of the government meetings I have had, the government minister has taken time to update me on the changes that have been made since my last visit in their area of responsibility and also on responses to my recommendations.

RFA: So are you satisfied or, at least, what is your impression regarding these responses?

Smith: I think that there has been improvement in some areas of human rights in Cambodia since my last visit, and I welcome some of the indications of openness and willingness, for example, to engage with civil society to try to address access to justice and to redress some of the problems I’ve identified with corruption and bribery.

UN
If they work on pursuing the development goals, that will help embed human rights principles and provide targets and indicators that could be ambitious for the government to work towards and, in doing so, that would strengthen human rights … for everyone. Pixabay

RFA: Back to what you have indicated, time and again, that peace and prosperity are in line with human rights, respect and democracy. Do you still maintain this position?

Smith: Yes, it is still my view that peace without justice is unsustainable and development without freedoms will risk leaving people behind.

Also Read: World Gold Council Explains Why Indians Consider Gold Still The Best Security

RFA: What would be your call for the government of Cambodia to do now, based on what you feel are the priorities during this visit?

Smith: That’s a difficult question to answer. I think there are a number of areas which the government is working towards in basic human rights, and there are a number of areas that I have identified and discussed with the government to vet human rights and also to increase in hand the number of indicators and targets and plans for meeting the development goals. If they work on pursuing the development goals, that will help embed human rights principles and provide targets and indicators that could be ambitious for the government to work towards and, in doing so, that would strengthen human rights … for everyone. (RFA)

Next Story

UN Calls People to Favour Products Containing Plastic Recycled from Waste

Manufacturers, meanwhile, need to improve designs so that a product’s plastic components are more easily recovered for recycling, use recycled plastic in their products, and advertise that feature to consumers

0
Carpets, Rugs, Plastic Waste, Biodegradable, Recycle
The rugs manufacturer and exporter emphasises green and responsible production using non-polluting manufacturing practices and conservation of energy and materials as far as possible. Pixabay

A European Commission-funded project supported by the UN is calling for consumers to demand electronic and electrical products made with recycled plastic, and for manufacturers to redesign products to both improve recyclability and integrate recycled plastics in new products.

The call is made by PolyCE (for Post-Consumer High-tech Recycled Polymers for a Circular Economy), a multinational consortium led by Fraunhofer IZM and universities– UN University, Bonn; University of Ghent, Belgium; Technical University Berlin; and University of Northampton, Britain, civil society organisations (European Environmental Bureau), and numerous companies — including Philips and Whirlpool.

The 20 partners launching the two-year campaign are based or operate in nine countries: Belgium, The Netherlands, Italy, Germany, Austria, Spain, Finland, the US and Britain.

According to the Nordic Council of Ministers, plastics account for about 20 per cent of all materials in electronic and electrical equipment, most of it not designed for recovery and reuse.

The PolyCE consortium is launching a two-year campaign to raise awareness among consumers and manufacturers in order to change their attitudes towards recycled plastics and improve their market uptake.

Says project partner Kim Ragaret, University of Gent: “Plastics are a valuable resource with a great potential for circularity. Plastics themselves aren’t the problem; our so-called plastics problems relate to attitudes and waste management.

Plastics are essential for making many different components of electronic and electrical products, including phones, computers, TVs, vacuum cleaners, hairdryers and household appliances.

According to PolyCE consortium experts, products can be designed in ways that make material recovery of plastic components easier.

Of the more than 12 million tonnes of e-waste expected next year in Europe (EU, Norway and Switzerland), an estimated 2.5 million tonne (23 per cent) will be plastics.

Campaign, Plastic, Waste
Plastic waste is seen on the River Tisza near Tiszafured, Hungary, Oct. 1, 2019. VOA

That’s the weight equivalent of 62,500 fully-loaded 40-tonne trucks — enough to form a line from Rome to Frankfurt — and 2.5 times the 1 million tonne of plastic landfilled as e-waste components in the year 2000.

The PolyCE consortium noted a report from Sweden that, globally, just 10 per cent of higher grade plastics from durable goods is recovered and recycled worldwide today, which compares poorly with average 50 to 90 per cent recovery and recycling rates for metals and glass.

The project illustrates through a number of demonstrators that making electronic and electrical equipment containing high-quality recycled plastics is economically feasible for manufacturers, and the products are just as long-lasting and durable as those containing virgin plastics.

In addition, buying electronic and electrical equipment containing recycled plastics offers many other benefits for the environment.

Recycling plastic would not only take pressure off waste systems (in Europe, some 31 per cent of plastic waste still enters landfills while 39 per cent is incinerated) every tonne recycled would also help avoid up to 3 tonne of CO2 emissions created making new plastic.

A recent consumer survey carried out by the PolyCE project found that half of respondents did not know if they had ever bought a tech product that included recycled plastic.

Of the 25 per cent who said yes to the question, 86 per cent noticed no difference in quality, appearance or performance.

Also Read: Tech Giant Apple Removes Police-tracking App Used in HK Protests

Informed about the health and environmental benefits of recycled plastic components in electronic and electrical equipment, 95 per cent of those surveyed confirmed that they would buy products with that feature.

According to the survey, consumers show high willingness to act in line with the circular economy, but actual engagement is still pretty low, unfortunately. But communication is key.

“The consumer has absolutely vital role in a sustainable, circular economy and manufacturing system,” says UN University e-waste expert Ruediger Kuehr.

Manufacturers, meanwhile, need to improve designs so that a product’s plastic components are more easily recovered for recycling, use recycled plastic in their products, and advertise that feature to consumers. (IANS)