A Change of Guard

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Friday, 21 December 2012

CCHR Press Release - CCHR Calls for Japan to Speak Out More on Human Rights and Democracy in Cambodia

CCHR PRESS RELEASE – Phnom Penh, 21 December 2012

CCHR congratulates Japanese Prime Minister Abe on his election victory and calls for Japan to speak out more on human rights and democracy in Cambodia

The Cambodian Center for Human Rights (“CCHR”) congratulates Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Liberal Democratic Party on their landslide victory in Japan’s general election on 16 December 2012, and wishes them all the best for this term.  Mr Abe’s victory, as well as being a shining example to the rest of Asia of real democracy in action, also represents a fresh opportunity for Japan to put its recent economic, political and environmental woes behind it and to regain its stature and clout in the region.

Recently, Japan has been pouring huge amounts of aid and investment into Cambodia, providing a welcome boost to Cambodia’s economic development.  CCHR sincerely hopes that Japan continues to do so.  However, CCHR also urges Prime Minister Abe’s new government to stand up for human rights in Cambodia as part of this relationship.  Japan has long played a significant role in terms of providing funding to Cambodia, however it has a poor record of speaking out on human rights and democracy issues.  If Japan continues providing aid that comes “with no strings attached” – in other words, following the Chinese model – not only will human rights continue to be abused, but also that aid will only create and perpetuate a culture of dependency.  If, on the other hand, Japan can apply real pressure on the Royal Government of Cambodia to develop and strengthen the rule of law in Cambodia, if it imposes conditions on its aid and investment as it has every right to do, that will not only serve Cambodians, but also Japanese businesses hoping to invest in Cambodia.

CCHR also encourages Japan to initiate a flow of investment into Cambodia that contributes to both the economic and social development of Cambodia.  The Japan External Trade Organization (“JETRO”) – an administrative agency which opened an office in Cambodia in March 2010 – is a good example of just such a commitment to economic and social development.  It works to promote mutual trade and investment between Japan and the rest of the world, conducting market research in preparation for investment projects.  JETRO has its own guidelines for environmental and social considerations, emphasizing the need to take both considerations into account in the process of economic development.  It has thus paved the way for the current influx of investment, an example of which is AEON Co. Ltd (“AEON”), Japan’s largest shopping mall developer and operator – currently constructing a mall in Phnom Penh that will open in early 2014.  AEON has its own environmental foundation, which makes grants to grassroots environmental non-governmental organizations for conservation work in developing countries.

CCHR President Ou Virak comments:

Congratulations to Prime Minister Abe on his election victory.  I hope though that we will now see a new era for Cambodian-Japanese relations, one in which Japan is not afraid to speak out against the many human rights violations occurring in Cambodia on a daily basis.  A friend and ally of many decades, Cambodians also look up to Japan as a beacon of human rights and democracy, and have come to expect more from Japan.  Japan must not let Cambodia down, and should begin to use its leverage.  It is high time that Japan preached what it practises.

For more information, please contact Ou Virak via telephone at +855 (0) 1240 4051 or e-mail at ouvirak@cchrcambodia.org or Senior Consultant Robert Finch via telephone at +855 (0) 7880 9960 or e-mail at robert.finch@cchrcambodia.org.

Please also find this Press Release attached in PDF format in both Khmer and English.

With best wishes for Christmas and the New Year,

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