Peace, Democracy, Human Rights and Rights based Sustainable Development
Park, Kyung-seo Ph.D
Standing here before you in Cambodia, I recall old memories during my former post as the Head of Asia Division of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Geneva from 1982-1999, where I have coordinated several million dollars yearly on humanitarian assistance such as agricultural development, preventive health care and demining projects for those suffering under the USA initiated Economic Moratorium. During that time, poverty was rampant, in this forbidden & forgotten country. With my field office located in Phnom Penh, I visited the country more than two or three times a year. It has been 17 years since my last visit and although a short stay I am extremely happy to be back in Phnom Penh.
I am honored to be here on a very important occasion in the history of peace building and democracy for the Asian region. The moment the Paris Peace Accords was signed in 1991, it was not only an indication of the end of the conflict in Cambodia but a commitment of self determination through free and fair elections and the respect of human rights which are the basic elements required for a stable democracy as enshrined in the Paris Peace Accords.
Once the agreement was signed, it was not only a commitment by the Cambodian people but a commitment by the international community to support the people in the rebuilding of the country so that the country is on a path to ensuring long lasting peace, democratic values, human rights and a proper rebuilding and rehabilitation of Cambodia.
Korea relates to Cambodia as we too went through the experience of civil war and had to rebuild the country. Through the assistance of the international community and the will of the people, Korea has developed to a certain degree into a high technology fast paced metropolis.
Korea sees great potential of growth and prosperity in Cambodia. Although Korea is not one of the signatories of the Paris Peace Accords but as part of the international community, Korea sees the importance of supporting the peace processes in Cambodia and the obligation of the international community to support the rebuilding of the country, Since 1997, Korea has provided development assistance that amounts to approximately 500 million US dollars mainly focusing on four priority sectors, agriculture and rural development, health and the medical sector, transportation and green energy, and human resource development.
Cambodia is a priority country for Korean development assistance as we see potential in cultivating a strong democratic and economic partner in the region. However, we need to remember that development of a country should not be at the expense of democracy and human rights. From our own experience in Korea, we know very well that democracy and human rights are the two fundamental corner stone’s for a stable and peaceful society, which in turn is crucial for business and economic development.
Hence from both the Cambodian and South Korean side in addition to the international community, there is a need to review policy of overseas development assistance so that it does not stop at strengthening economy and infrastructure but also cultivates peace, human rights and democracy. As there is a lot of Korean investment in Cambodia, approximately 4 billion USD as of 2012, the Korean government needs to ensure that the Korean companies operating in Cambodia also abide by international human rights standards and social responsibilities.
A few years back, I wrote a Memo based on Government Officers of Cambodia, for a meeting convened by the National Human Rights Commission of Korea & KOICA. It is necessary to revisit the memo to see how far those ratifications have been implemented to affect people’s daily life. Through this, we can discuss what kind of roles the international community can play to be in solidarity with the people of Cambodia.
It is timely on this 25th anniversary of the Paris Peace Accords, not only for the Cambodian government, but also the international community, especially the 18 signatories to look back to what was committed to when signing the Paris Peace Accords. Mainly, we can highlight self determination through free fair elections, respect for human rights, and building a democracy. We need to ask ourselves what has been done so far to account for these promises. Indeed, for this very reason we all have gathered at this meeting.
My country during the democratic transition also had its difficulty with accounting for human rights and maintaining democratic principles. This is why I was appointed the first Republic of Korea’s Human Rights Ambassador at Large (2001-2007) for seven years. I was appointed to advocate for human rights within Korea and beyond so we can grow into a strong democracy.
Cambodia needs to show a strong commitment for human rights and democracy. To uphold the spirit of the accords signed back in 1991, there is a need for more open civil society space and respect for fundamental freedoms such as freedom of expression, assembly, and association. Based on our own experience in Korea, I believe Cambodia will be able to develop into a peaceful developed nation if it could ensure free and fair elections, democratic governance and the respect for human rights. We need to continue that spirit and allow for free participation in politics and elections by all parties.
For a better and prosperous Cambodia where all people live in peace and harmony, the Cambodian government and the international community needs to continue to uphold its commitments, spirit, and principles of to the Paris Peace Accords agreed 25 years ago. Korea will continue to stand with Cambodia to assist in going the path of peace building, democracy and human rights. Thank you for your attention.
Human Rights instruments that Cambodia has signed and ratified are: (for your information)
– Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of Children, child prostitution and child pornography
– Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict
– Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
– Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees
Cambodian Human Rights Committee (CHRC)
Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Cambodia (COHCHR)
Local and International NGOs
Toward the establishment of National Human Rights Institution (NHRI)
 Since 2007 until 2013 the ROK has provided development assistance of approximately 400 million dollars and continues to do so. Therefore, until 2016 it is approximated that the ROK has provided 500 million USD. http://odakorea.go.kr/ODAPage_2012/T02/asia/Cambodia.jsp
 “ROK Provides US $479 Million in Development Assistance to Cambodia up to 2015” AKP Phnom Penh, http://www.akp.gov.kh/?p=83124