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King hails progress on disability rights

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The audience at Phnom Penh’s Koh Pich Exhibition Centre waits for a speech by Prime Minister Hun Sen as part of the Day of Persons with Disabilities in 2013. Heng Chivoan

King hails progress on disability rights

King Norodom Sihamoni and Prime Minister Hun Sen marked the International Day of Persons with Disabilities on Monday by celebrating the progress made in Cambodia on disability rights.

December 3 was the 36th anniversary of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, while Cambodia also marked the 20th anniversary of the Cambodian Day for People with Disabilities.

To commemorate the occasion, King Norodom Sihamoni issued a statement promoting tolerance and understanding among all people, while also celebrating the advances Cambodia had made in supporting those with disabilities.

“This annual event aims to encourage every Cambodian person not to discriminate against anyone with a disability, as well as promote tolerance of everyone regardless of colour, social status, or political tendency."

“I am happy to see how actions by both state and private institutions have allowed those with disabilities to take part in all sectors of Cambodian society, including politics,” the statement said.

Prime Minister Hun Sen issued a four-page statement of his own on Monday, detailing the achievements of his government on this issue, as well as the efforts made to continue to improve the rights and opportunities of people with disabilities.

The prime minister’s statement cited 2,839 people with disabilities who have been hired across 40 state institutions throughout 2018, while more than 60,000 students with disabilities are currently enrolled in educational institutions across Cambodia – from kindergarten to university level.

He also said that 28,000 people had received physical rehabilitation services, while 363 with disabilities had received vocational training this year. There are also a reported 70 NGOs currently working with people with disabilities in Cambodia.

“The government is very motivated to remove obstacles from people with disabilities and give them the opportunities to succeed. We aim to create an atmosphere in which people with disabilities are appreciated, and where the use of bad and insulting words against them is not tolerated,” he said.

Based on 2013 figures released by the Ministry of Planning, there are a reported 500,000 people living with disabilities in Cambodia – though the actual number is likely higher as statistics remain unreliable.

Secretary-General of Disability Action Council, Em Chan Makara, said the organisation was hosting an event this Thursday to mark the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, featuring more than 3,000 participants, most of whom have disabilities.

He said there had been a lot of improvement in eliminating disability discrimination since 2009 when Cambodia officially ratified the UN’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and consequently created the Law on the Protection and the Promotion of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

“Before the law was adopted, people with disabilities were ignored and society did not value them. We used to hear the mocking words referring to people with disabilities. They felt discriminated against and unvalued by society. Now, we are hearing these words less and less,” he said.

Em Chan Makara also highlighted that employment of people with disabilities across the private and public sectors had almost met the two per cent target set by the government. As of this year, 1.93 per cent of Cambodia’s workforce is made up of people with disabilities.

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