Paragon International University, on January 21st 2019, hosted a public lecture under the theme of “Understanding the Responsibility to Protect” with a presentation and experience sharing from H.E. Sothirak POU, an experienced diplomat and long-term serving government officer as well as the current executive director of the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace. The public lecture was a part of the public lecture series that is organized by ParagonIU each academic year.
It was Paragon International University’s great privilege to welcome H.E. Sothirak POU as a visiting lecturer for the university’s public lecture series. His excellency used to serve as a former Minister of Industry and the Kingdom’s Ambassador to Japan. This was mentioned by Dr. Sok Udom DETH in his opening remarks. Dr. Sok Udom shared his insight to H.E. Sothirak about ParagonIU that, the university was proud to conduct all of its learning in English language and offer students a relatively regionally-standardized learning environment.
H.E. Sothirak defined that, the Responsibility to Protect, known as R2P, is a political commitment to end the worst forms of violence and persecution. R2P seeks to narrow gaps of the member states’ pre-existing obligations under the international humanitarian and human rights laws, and the reality faced by populations at risk of genocides, war crimes, ethnic cleansings and crimes against humanity.
According to H.E. Sothirak, the international community has the responsibility to encourage and assist states to meet these mentioned responsibilities. If we fail to protect, the international community must be prepared to take appropriate collective action in a timely and decisive manner and in accordance with the UN charter, continued former ambassador Sothirak POU.
During the question-and-answer session, a ParagonIU student asked whether the Rohingya problem in Myanmar fell into the area of R2P. Answering the question, Mr. Sothirak mentioned that the issue is highly contentious. On one side, there was a historical background between the Rohingya people who sided with the British and the oppressed Burmese. From Myanamar’s side of the argument, the issue was rather an attempt to create a state inside a state and should be allowed to exist in the arena of Myanmar’s sovereignty. From the Western point of view, it was an act of ethnic cleansing because Myanmar’s military decimated the Rohingya occupied and the people could not come back to live in their former settlements.
It should be noted that Cambodia is also a party to the Rome Treaty which codifies the Responsibility to Protect. Cambodia actively contributes to UN peace keeping, although the country does not have license to shoot. Almost all Cambodian peace keeping forces are engineers. Recently, the Kingdom also commenced the Win-Win monument as a symbol for peace and remembrance of the genocide which took place in Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge regime.