PHNOM PENH (Khmer Times) – Last week, Cambodia hosted an international conference to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP) doctrine by world leaders at the 2005 World Summit. Cambodia has since shown great interest in taking a leading role in promoting RtoP in Southeast Asia.
“I believe that Cambodia has an important role to play in promoting Responsibility to Protect and mass atrocities prevention in Southeast Asia, given our own unique experience and what we have accomplished so far in addressing the past atrocities under the Khmer Rouge regime,” stated the Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Hun Sen intends to encourage other members of Asean to sign and ratify the Rome Treaty, promote regional dialogue, make Cambodia a regional hub in RtoP training and education, and also a coordinator of UN-ASEAN partnership in promoting RtoP in Southeast Asia.
As agreed by UN Member States, the RtoP concept rests on three equally important and non-sequential pillars: (a) the responsibility of the state to protect its population from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, and from their incitement;(b) the international community’s responsibility to assist the state to fulfill its responsibility to protect; and (c) in situations where a state has manifestly failed to protect its population from the four crimes, the international community’s responsibility to take timely and decisive action through peaceful diplomatic and humanitarian means.
RtoP does not impose any new legal obligations upon states or widen the legal scope for interference in domestic affairs of states. Prevention is the single most important element of the RtoP. RtoP is best served by helping states to build the capacity to prevent the four crimes from being committed in the first place. Thus, RtoP helps strengthen sovereignty by enabling states to fulfill their sovereign responsibilities.
Cambodia should develop a concept paper on establishment of the Asean RtoP Network and submit it to the ASEAN Summit in Malaysia this year. A concept paper would aim to prevent commission of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity in Southeast Asia through dialogue. To achieve that, specific objectives might include:
- providing technical assistance on request to ASEAN member states in capacity building related to preventing the four crimes
- examining the cooperative development of civilian capacities to assist states under stress when such assistance is requested
- considering ways of enhancing key national and regional capacities to strengthen the potential for ‘Southeast Asian solutions to Southeast Asian problems’
- allocating expertise and resources to raising awareness about RtoP among states and societies in Southeast Asia
- establishing formal pathways for cooperation between the UN and ASEAN and leveraging additional investment and technical support
- fostering regional ownership of RtoP and ensuring that it is localized in a manner consistent with existing regional norms and interests
- establishing a useful vehicle for region-to-region learning about practices and capacities needed to implement the RtoP and for deepening regional partnership with the UN
- developing a capacity for information sharing that might strengthen early warning of the four crimes and enable to region to feed advice into the UN.
To accomplish these goals, the Asean RtoP Network needs to facilitate regular meetings for Asean officials to foster cooperation. In particular, the Network could appoint national RtoP focal points for each country. It could support national capacity building through trainings and educational programs, and facilitate information relating to early warning.
If Cambodia can champion promotion of RtoP in Southeast Asia, it would promote the international image and role of the Kingdom. To strengthen its global role, Cambodia now needs to invest more in three areas: cultural diplomacy, peacekeeping operations, and RtoP.