Cambodian UNV working as a Human Rights Officer for UNAMID in West Darfur

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19 Jul 2011

Cambodian UNV working as a Human Rights Officer for UNAMID in West Darfur

My name is Chantha Muth. I am a proud son of the Kingdom of Cambodia and my story begins in my home country where I’ve worked with dedication for human rights and democracy causes for the past 20 years.

Serving as a Human Rights defender in Cambodia, a nation that has experienced civil war, genocide and foreign invasion and occupation, I experienced death threats, intimidation, and harassment. Nevertheless, I never let these forms of threats and fears undermine my efforts and commitment, as performing human rights work needs persistence and patience, as it is comparable to a small drop of water on a big rock which can break it in the long run.

On July 2010, I accepted the offer to work as a Human Rights Officer for the African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID). Although prior to my assignment I was told that Darfur is a very difficult and dangerous place, and that UNAMID is operating under Phase IV, that is “Emergency Operation”, and the Media had been reporting incidents, such as abduction and kidnapping, ambushes and killing of UN personnel, all these appears to be normal for me since I was born and raised in a place with similar situations. I also had considerable experience dealing with human rights crisis in the past. I therefore did not hesitate and immediately accepted the assignment.

In Darfur we experience several challenges in performing our duties, such difficulty of movement and access to some of the remote areas due to poor or non-existent infrastructures. Travel to some of the villages must be conducted with escort and protection forces and APC or special flight. Also, living in a new environment, embracing a new culture, far away from my family has been challenging, but those are all challenges which will not undermine my commitment and dedication to the human rights Leading a road monitoring mission to investigate and asses Human Rights and humanitarian cause in Darfur.

We have made important progresses on the general human rights situation in Darfur, especially for internally displaced persons (IDPs). For instance, a human rights mechanism called “Human Rights Sub-Forum” to address the human rights situation in Darfur, and to give a voice to victims of violations. Access to justice and due process and human rights litigation have been gradually made available for the victims of human rights violations and abuses in this region. Authorities and especially law enforcement officials are opening up to the understanding of national and international human rights standards and to the relevance of applying them in their daily activities. A channel for engagement and cooperation has been established between human rights component and State authorities, in particular law enforcement officers.

One of the main reasons why defending human rights is vital in a democratic society is precisely because it protects and safeguard the fundamental rights of all civilians, especially those living in conflict areas. And this is why UNAMID’s human rights team works through capacity building training and workshops as crucial elements to build, enhance and equip law enforcement officials and security forces with the skills, knowledge and understanding of technical aspects on both national and international human rights laws.

This far my team has organized and conducted a number of human rights training sessions for law enforcement officers. In addition, I organized and conducted training for UNAMID military officers, military observers and Police on reporting and documenting human rights.

It is my strong belief that at the end of UNAMID’s mandate, a human rights legacy is very likely to be put in place where the Government adheres to its international obligations to promote and protect the rights of its own people without any distinction. A true national reconciliation will be rooted; justice will prevailed; and a durable and sustainable peace will be in place.

Last but not least, as UN Volunteers we are contributing greatly to the peace-building process, democracy and development. Volunteering is a driving force in the transition to democracy, post-war or conflict  situations. In Darfur, we still have much to do.