Cambodia: refugees release statement on International Human Rights Day

02 December 2011

A group of Vietnamese women form an informal support group to combat isolation in Phnom Penn. (Photo by Oliver White, JRS Asia Pacific)

Phnom Penh, 2 December 2011 – Leading up to International Human Rights Day 2011, asylum-seekers and refugees living in Cambodia met to discuss what they would like to do to raise their voices on this global day of action. A brain-storming session was held at the JRS office and many community members representing the Rohingya, Somalia, Vietnam, Pakistan, Burma and others joined together to prepare a statement expressing solidarity with refugees around the world, and to remind the international community that refugee rights, are human rights.

The below statement was drafted entirely by those asylum-seekers and refugees and will be shared during a workshop in Phnom Penh where other human rights issues are being discussed.

Refugee Statement

Today we commemorate the 63rd anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The celebration of human rights once a year is important, but living human rights every day is essential. Since the Declaration was adopted in 1948, many positive things have been achieved, but we still have a long way to go to ensure the realisation of “all human rights for all”.

Millions around the globe continue to fight against human rights violations, discrimination and deprivation of their rights. Billions of dollars have been spent on military expenditures, but so little is spent on the weak sections of society such as refugees and asylum-seekers.

Nevertheless, with meager resources and ability, refugees and asylum seekers never run out of steam, we struggle against all odds and never lose hope in order to reclaim our fundamental rights.

In this respect, the asylum seekers and refugees in Cambodia wish to appeal to the international community, including human rights defenders and ordinary people, governments and the United Nations, to remember the situation of refugees on this day.

  • We strongly recommend that United Nations member states to act in accordance with their obligations under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In addition we ask all stakeholders, the international community and each and every person in the world to remember and respect human rights.
  • We call on all to redouble efforts to more effectively focus on the root causes of refugee problems rather than dealing with the symptoms. For example, for the Rohingya people, we ask that the 1982 Citizenship Law be repealed or amended. This law denies citizenship of the Rohingya people and renders them stateless. In Somalia, there has been conflict for more than 20 years. The people are one, but continue to kill each other. We need to know why.
  • We underline that protecting refugees and finding durable solutions is a key responsibility of governments, including the Cambodian government, and the international community. We want to freely express ourselves, and express our political opinions.
  • We encourage the international community to take special action to prevent all forms of discrimination against refugees and asylum seekers. This is important to ensure that every person can live freely, and with the legal protections that every person is entitled to.
  • We exhort the international community to continue to monitor infringements of human rights. For example, in Burma, the situation for human rights is slowly improving; however human rights defenders and their leaders remain in jail.

Despite all these problems we hope for the best and brightest future. We know that the reality depends on how governments, including the Cambodian government, take responsibility to defend and respect human rights – but we should never forget that it is the responsibility of each and every human being in this world to ensure that all human rights really are, for all.

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