The head of the Cambodian Human Rights Committee (CHRC ) and the Japanese ambassador held an ad hoc meeting on Tuesday to prepare for their annual Human Rights Dialogue in August on the situation in the Kingdom.
CHRC spokesperson Chin Malin said on Tuesday that committee president Keo Remy had proposed seven topics to be discussed with Ambassador Hidehisa Horinouchi and officials from Japan’s foreign affairs ministry in August.
He said the talks were intended to share views and experiences, as well as to take away positives from each other on the respect for human rights in both countries.
“We will present positive developments and share efforts that have been made and the challenges we have encountered to make improvements in the future. Our Japanese counterparts will share their experiences on these topics and we will exchange views on how to improve the human rights situation,” Malin said.
The seven topics proposed include the legacy of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia for international courts, judicial system reform and legal assistance.
Freedoms of assembly, speech and association, NGO and press freedoms, the right to access information and women’s and LGBT rights were also proposed.
The UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Reviews and international cooperation on the protection of human rights through the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and its Special Rapporteur on Human Rights were also tabled for discussion.
He said all the topics would be checked and approved by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs before the dialogue takes place.
Hironori Suzuki, Counsellor of the Embassy of Japan, said via email on Tuesday that Japan has continuously supported the efforts of the Cambodian government to improve the human rights situation on the ground.
“In this regard, Japan has been holding Japan-Cambodia Human Rights Dialogues with the Cambodian Human Rights Committee regularly."
“Both sides exchanged views on the human rights situation in Cambodia, Japan’s capacity-building assistance to Cambodia, the cooperation in the field of human rights in the international area etc,” Suzuki said.
Chak Sopheap, the executive director of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights (CCHR), said that while Japan’s interest and enthusiasm in raising human rights issues with the Cambodian government should be welcomed, a more transparent and participatory process was necessary.
She said Japan had chosen to remain silent on certain human rights issues and has not conducted regular dialogues with human rights communities in Cambodia, including civil society organisations.
She said Japan was one of the signatories to the Paris Peace Agreements and a facilitator in a UN Human Rights Council resolution on Cambodia in 2018.
Hence, it is hoped that it would do more to contribute to the peace-building process in the Kingdom, of which the respect for human rights, in law and in practice, is a necessary and core part.
“Japan must go beyond providing infrastructure and human resources support and actively advocate for an end to human rights violations in the Kingdom,” she said.
Political analyst Lao Mong Hay said Japan was an important party to the 1991 Paris Peace Agreements that marked the official end of the Cambodian-Vietnamese war.
Under the agreements and alongside the other parties, Japan had undertaken to promote and encourage the observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Cambodia.
“Yet, compared with many Western countries, Japan has not shown itself and has not been known to be a strong advocate of the respect for and observance of human rights and/or any strong supporter of human rights defenders in Cambodia."
“It may have preferred quiet diplomacy and direct intervention with the Cambodian authorities, which, unfortunately, has yielded, if at all, very little results."
“One would hope its cooperation with the government’s human rights commission, at this particular juncture, will help alleviate Cambodia’s present human rights predicament,” Mong Hay said.