International Children’s Day in Cambodia – 1 June 2012

When I started to write something about this special international day which is also a national holiday in Cambodia, I assumed that this would be a simple, straightforward affair – at least as far as its history is concerned. To my surprise, it turned out to be a fairly conflicting field.
I knew that there is controversy related to another case: while the First of May is celebrated widely by the international labor movement – considered by some as “communist” – but in many countries it is just a day to remember and celebrate the achievements of labor movements and to demonstrate for further securing of rights – in the USA Labor Day is observed as a United States federal holiday on the first Monday in September.

But I found that there are also two different children’s days: the International Children’s Day on 1 June, and the Universal Children’s Day on 20 November, recommended by the United Nations in 1954. The UN General Assembly recommended that all countries institute a Universal Children’s Day, to be observed as a day of worldwide fraternity and understanding between children. It recommended that the Day was to be observed also as a day of activity devoted to promoting the ideals and objectives of… the welfare of the children of the world. The date 20 November marks the day on which the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child, in 1959, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, in 1989.

As of November 2009, 193 countries have ratified, accepted, or acceded to it (some with stated reservations or interpretations) including every member of the United Nations except Somalia and the United States, as well as now the new nation of South Sudan. Somalia had announced that it would eventually do so.

I had not know that the USA has not ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and I do not know why. Children’s days did and do exist, but they – and the situation of children? – are obviously not taken very seriously: “In 2000, President Bill Clinton proclaimed Children’s Day to be held in October, and President George W. Bush proclaimed National Child’s Day on the first Sunday in June.”

When the UN recommended to celebrate the 20 November as Universal Children’s Day in 1954, an International Children’s Day was already being observed in many countries on 1st June since 1950 – however this happened mainly in socialist and communist countries.

Ideological antagonism resulted in a situation where also nowadays in Russia, as well as other former Soviet Union states, including Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, other former or current communist states, Albania, Angola, Benin, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Croatia, Cuba, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, East Germany, Kosovo, Laos, Republic of Macedonia, Mongolia, Montenegro, Mozambique, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Tanzania and Yemen, Children’s Day is or was celebrated on 1st June. This list includes 25 countries which regained independence from USSR, seceded from Yugoslavia Federation, as well as Czechoslovakia and Ethiopia after their respective splits.

So Cambodia is, for historical reasons, also on this list.

On this day of 1st June 2012, The Cambodia Daily carries on it front page a headline saying “Children of Jailed 15 Make Pleas for Parents,” saying:

Relatives and neighbors sang, cried and pleaded outside of the Ministry of Justice yesterday for the release of the 14 women and one man arrested last week for protesting against the Cambodian People’s Party Senator La Meng Khin’s controversial Boeng Kak real estate project.

Worried by reports that the World Bank was preparing to lift a funding freeze it imposed on Cambodia last year because of the thousands of families evicted from Boeng Kak to make way for the project, NGOs in turn called on the World Bank to keep the freeze in place.

Thirteen of the protesting women were sentenced to two-and-a-half year in jail on 24 May on what human rights groups have called “trumped-up charges” stemming from their peaceful protests against the senator’s project…

Outside of the Ministry of Justice yesterday, the sons and daughters of the jailed women taped photos of their mothers to their foreheads… and sang for their freedom.

“My mother was just protecting our home. She did not rob or steal from someone else, she was just protecting the home for me to live,” said Por Sokhunkanha, 11.

To illustrate this aspect in the life of some children, I looked into the Internet. All pictures to which I provide the link in the following, relate to events during the current year 2012 – and all show how these affect some children – probably leaving difficult to erase memories for the rest of their lives. Not all pictures are related to the families made to move away from the Boeng Kak area; there are others who were evicted from Dey Krahom – also “for development” of expensive high rise business and housing, for which no detailed plans have been made public.

(the dates mentioned with the pictures are not in order, and the dates in the descriptions relate to the dates when the events happened – all during 2012)







Former residents of the Borei Keila complex carry their belongings a day after being evicted and their home demolished in Phnom Penh 4 January 2012. Riot police officers and residents were injured in a face-off on 3 January when hundreds of armed authorities tried to evict families from their homes in Borei Keila in a long running dispute with a local real estate firm well-connected with the government. The firm, Phanimex, plans to convert the residential area into a commercial one. REUTERS/Samrang Pring
Former residents of the Borei Keila complex sit in a makeshift tent a day after being evicted and their home demolished in Phnom Penh on January 4, 2012.

There were further arrests a week later, with women and children from Borei Keila being taken into custody as they protested outside local government buildings.

A Cambodian policeman stands guard as children carry corrugated iron

A group of civil society groups yesterday condemned the “unlawful” detention of 30 women and children from Borei Keila and described the facility they are being held in – the Prey Speu Correctional Center – as worse than Cambodia’s prisons and a place of rape, torture and beatings.
The outcry came on a day when husbands and fathers of the detainees traveled to the correctional center in Chaom Chao commune to plead for their loved ones’ release, the UN delivered food to the 30 detainees at the site, and it was revealed that seven of those detained in the protest were not even Borei Keila residents.


A UN Convention on the Rights of the Child came into force in September 1990. The Convention deals with the child-specific needs and rights. It requires that states act in the best interests of the child.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is a human rights treaty setting out the civil, political, economic, social, health and cultural rights of children. The Convention generally defines a child as any human being under the age of eighteen.

Nations that ratify this convention are bound to it by international law. Compliance is monitored by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, which is composed of members from countries around the world. Once a year, the Committee submits a report to the Third Committee of the United Nations General Assembly, which also hears a statement from the Convention on the Rights of the Child Chair, and the Assembly adopts a Resolution on the Rights of the Child.

Governments of countries that have ratified the Convention are required to report to, and appear before, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child periodically to be examined on their progress with regards to the advancement of the implementation of the Convention and the status of child rights in their country. Their reports and the committee’s written views and concerns should be available on the committee’s website.

Cambodia ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child on 15 October 1992.

So we can expect a report of the Cambodian government to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child to be available publicly, covering also the events during the present year of 2012.

The text of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in Khmer is available for download from this address (please copy it into your browser):
http://www.unicef.org/magic/media/documents/CRC_khmer_language_version.pdf


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