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Why supporting Tibetan struggle?


October 2, 2010
By MP Son Chhay
As a matter of principle, if we can not support Vietnam or Thailand's invasion of Cambodia, then how can we turn around and support or ignore China's invasion of Tibet? The reality is that to have any international credibility, Cambodia must not put itself into any position that will be viewed as supporting crimes against humanity – whether this be in Cambodia, in Burma or, in Tibet.
SRP MP Son Chhay
My recent trip to take part in Tibet's 50th Anniversary of its Parliament in Exile has been criticised as potentially damaging to Cambodia's national interest. Some going so far as to suggest that during this period when Cambodia is facing strong undue control from Vietnam which has unfortunately led to the fear that this will eventually lead to the swallowing of our motherland as a whole I, as a Cambodian politician should look up to China for protection.

I myself used to believe in this kind of propaganda but after many years of being involved in the affairs of human rights and the active promotion of democratic principles in our , as well as within the region and, having been involved in supporting our own struggle in the 1980s, against the invasion of Cambodia by the Vietnamese armed forces, further compounded by my own personal testimony of suffering under regimes which were influenced by the policies of communist doctrine either through the practice of Mao or Uncle Ho, I, now believe differently. All countries have their own agenda and China has not proven to be a reliable ally and certainly does not advocate human rights even in its own country.

In the past, the Khmer Rouge were ideologically very close with China. They did not work to unify our people and strengthen our country's institutions but instead isolated Cambodia from the world and created damaging relationships with our neighbouring countries. The Khmer Rouge were dependent solely on China, and were keen to show their full support to their Chinese 'masters' by putting into practice, the Mao's communist ideology which resulted in the genocide of millions of our people and set Cambodia back to year zero. It was this serious of events that eventually gave the Vietnamese the 'excuse' to invade Cambodia and, to this present time China has not protected us.

Cops break up Beoung Kak demonstrators in front of Hun Xen's mansion

Report by Den Ayuthyea, Radio Free Asia
Video by Uon Chhin

Additional Photos from Anti-Hun Xen Demonstration in New York

 (All Photos: Courtesy of Thavary - Thank you very much!)

Cambodians will not be able to demonstrate against Hun Xen in Belgium, but … they will demonstrate with protesting Lao people anyway

Anti-Hun Xen demonstration in New York
03 October 2010
Sok Serey
Radio Free Asia
Translated from Khmer by Komping Puoy
Click here to read the article in Khmer

Organizers for the demonstration to protest against PM Hun Xen in Brussels, Belgium, indicated their disappointment because the Belgian authority did not authorize them to demonstrate against Hun Xen and the Cambodian government delegation that will attend the ASEM meeting on 04-05 October.

One of the demonstration organizers indicated that the reason they were prevented from demonstrating was because their request to hold the demonstration was sent in too close to the meeting date, and a decision could not be delivered on such short notice.

The organizers prepared their request letter on 29 September, and sent it in on 30 September, whereas the ASEM meeting will take place on 04-05 October already.

65-year-old Cheat Chea, one of the 4 demonstration organizers in Brussels, told RFA over the phone that his group will nevertheless hold anti-Hun Xen banners along with Lao demonstrators who received the authorization to hold their demonstration on 04 October.

Hun Xen departs for Belgium

02 October 2010
Translated from Khmer by Komping Puoy

PM Hun Xen left for Belgium on 01 October to attend the 8th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) which will be held between 04 and 05 October. On 29 October, Hun Xen declared in public that, in the name of an ASEAN facilitating country, he will give an opening speech, and on the concluding day of the meeting, he will also give a speech on the topic of “lasting development.” At the end of September and October, Hun Xen has a busy schedule involving international cooperations, such as the ASEAN-US meeting, the ASEM, and the upcoming ASEAN meeting in Hanoi.

By 2025, Cambodia will have a population of 1.5 million elderly

(Photo: Phil Borges, CARE)
02 October 2010
Translated from Khmer by Komping Puoy

The director of the department of retirement pension of the ministry of Social Affairs indicated that, currently, Cambodia counts over 1 million people over the age of 60, and this number will increase to 1.5 million by 2025. Hol Phal, the director of retirement pension indicated that elderly people are defined by the UN as those who are over 60, and extremely old people are those who are over 80. The majority of elderly Cambodians live in the countryside where the living condition is tight and they lack understanding in hygiene and healthcare. In general, the elderly live with their daughters, or if they do not have daughters, they live with their sons or in the pagodas. In general, it is observed that elderly men have shorter life expectancy than elderly women.

Ex-Khmer Rouge in former stronghold play the numbers game

Oct 3, 2010

Comrade Mey Mak
By Robert Carmichael
So there remains the possibility that 67-year-old Comrade Duch will be the only person held accountable for one of the 20th century's most destructive regimes.
Pailin, Cambodia - 'They do not have blood on their hands,' said Mey Mak, Pailin's bespectacled deputy governor, of the four former Khmer Rouge leaders indicted last month by the war crimes court.

'Khieu Samphan, for example, he was responsible for the economy. Ieng Sary just went in and out of the country, and Ieng Thirith was only in charge of the social affairs ministry.'

'So it seems to me that they are victims,' he said of the movement's former head of state, foreign minister and minister of social affairs respectively.

The fourth person indicted was Nuon Chea, known as Brother Number Two, and regarded as the movement's chief ideologue.

Mey Mak, who worked for a decade as secretary to the Khmer Rouge's late leader Pol Pot, was speaking at a public meeting in late September in the former Khmer Rouge stronghold of Pailin in western Cambodia.

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From Dictatorship to Democracy - Chapter One: Facing Dictatorship Reallistically


KI Media is starting a series on From Dictatorship to Democracy by Gene Sharp whereby a chapter from this book in both English and Khmer is published every 2-day interval, with prior submissions listed in the menu bar for easy recall. The emphasis is that of KI Media. For its original complete text go to:
This book has been translated into KHMER and its full version is available at:

Be inspired! Be coordinated! And take action!

KI Media
. . . . .
Click here to read the Khmer version (PDF)
From Dictatorship to Democracy

Facing Dictatorship Realistically

In recent years various dictatorships — of both internal and external origin — have collapsed or stumbled when confronted by defiant, mobilized people. Often seen as firmly entrenched and impregnable, some of these dictatorships proved unable to withstand the concerted political, economic, and social defiance of the people.

Since 1980 dictatorships have collapsed before the predominantly nonviolent defiance(1) of people in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, Poland, East Germany, Czechoslovakia and Slovenia, Madagascar, Mali, Bolivia, and the Philippines. Nonviolent resistance has furthered the movement toward democratization in Nepal, Zambia, South Korea, Chile, Argentina, Haiti, Brazil, Uruguay, Malawi, Thailand, Bulgaria, Hungary, Nigeria, and various parts of the former Soviet Union (playing a significant role in the defeat of the August 1991 attempted hard-line coup d’état).

In addition, mass political defiance1 has occurred in China, Burma, and Tibet in recent years. Although those struggles have not brought an end to the ruling dictatorships or occupations, they have exposed the brutal nature of those repressive regimes to the world community and have provided the populations with valuable experience with this form of struggle.

The collapse of dictatorships in the above-named countries certainly has not erased all other problems in those societies: poverty, crime, bureaucratic inefficiency, and environmental destruction are often the legacy of brutal regimes. However, the downfall of these dictatorships has minimally lifted much of the suffering of the victims of oppression, and has opened the way for the rebuilding of these societies with greater political democracy, personal liberties, and social justice.

A continuing problem

There has indeed been a trend towards greater democratization and freedom in the world in the past decades. According to Freedom House, which compiles a yearly international survey of the status of political rights and civil liberties, the number of countries around the world classified as “Free” has grown significantly in recent years:(2)

1983 Free:54; Partly Free:47; Not Free:64
1993 Free:75; Partly Free:73; Not Free:38
2003 Free:89; Partly Free:55; Not Free:48
2009 Free: 89; Partly Free:62; Not Free:42

However, this positive trend is tempered by the large numbers of people still living under conditions of tyranny. As of 2008, 34% of the world’s 6.68 billion population lived in countries designated as “Not Free,”(3) that is, areas with extremely restricted political rights and civil liberties. The 42 countries in the “Not Free” category are ruled by a range of military dictatorships (as in Burma), traditional repressive monarchies (as in Saudi Arabia and Bhutan), dominant political parties (as in China and North Korea), foreign occupiers (as in Tibet and Western Sahara), or are in a state of transition.

Many countries today are in a state of rapid economic, political, and social change. Although the number of “Free” countries has increased in recent years, there is a great risk that many nations, in the face of such rapid fundamental changes, will move in the opposite direction and experience new forms of dictatorship. Military cliques, ambitious individuals, elected officials, and doctrinal political parties will repeatedly seek to impose their will. Coups d’état are and will remain a common occurrence. Basic human and political rights will continue to be denied to vast numbers of peoples.

Unfortunately, the past is still with us [CAMBODIA]. The problem of dictatorships is deep. People in many countries have experienced decades or even centuries of oppression, whether of domestic or foreign origin. Frequently, unquestioning submission to authority figures and rulers has been long inculcated. In extreme cases, the social, political, economic, and even religious institutions of the society — outside of state control — have been deliberately weakened, subordinated, or even replaced by new regimented institutions used by the state or ruling party to control the society. The population has often been atomized (turned into a mass of isolated individuals) unable to work together to achieve freedom, to confide in each other, or even to do much of anything at their own initiative.

The result is predictable: the population becomes weak, lacks self-confidence, and is incapable of resistance. People are often too frightened to share their hatred of the dictatorship and their hunger for freedom even with family and friends. People are often too terrified to think seriously of public resistance. In any case, what would be the use? Instead, they face suffering without purpose and a future without hope.

Current conditions in today’s dictatorships may be much worse than earlier. In the past, some people may have attempted resistance. Short-lived mass protests and demonstrations may have occurred. Perhaps spirits soared temporarily. At other times, individuals and small groups may have conducted brave but impotent gestures, asserting some principle or simply their defiance. However noble the motives, such past acts of resistance have often been insufficient to overcome the people’s fear and habit of obedience, a necessary prerequisite to destroy the dictatorship. Sadly, those acts may have brought instead only increased suffering and death, not victories or even hope.

Freedom through violence?

What is to be done in such circumstances? The obvious possibilities seem useless. Constitutional and legal barriers, judicial decisions, and public opinion are normally ignored by dictators. Understandably, reacting to the brutalities, torture, disappearances, and killings, people often have concluded that only violence can end a dictatorship. Angry victims have sometimes organized to fight the brutal dictators with whatever violent and military capacity they could muster, despite the odds being against them. These people have often fought bravely, at great cost in suffering and lives. Their accomplishments have sometimes been remarkable, but they rarely have won freedom. Violent rebellions can trigger brutal repression that frequently leaves the populace more helpless than before.

Whatever the merits of the violent option, however, one point is clear. By placing confidence in violent means, one has chosen the very type of struggle with which the oppressors nearly always have superiority [author's emphasis]. The dictators are equipped to apply violence overwhelmingly. However long or briefly these democrats can continue, eventually the harsh military realities usually become inescapable. The dictators almost always have superiority in military hardware, ammunition, transportation, and the size of military forces. Despite bravery, the democrats are (almost always) no match.

When conventional military rebellion is recognized as unrealistic, some dissidents then favor guerrilla warfare. However, guerrilla warfare rarely, if ever, benefits the oppressed population or ushers in a democracy. Guerrilla warfare is no obvious solution, particularly given the very strong tendency toward immense casualties among one’s own people. The technique is no guarantor against failure, despite supporting theory and strategic analyses, and sometimes international backing. Guerrilla struggles often last a very long time. Civilian populations are often displaced by the ruling government, with immense human suffering and social dislocation.

Even when successful, guerrilla struggles often have significant long-term negative structural consequences. Immediately, the attacked regime becomes more dictatorial as a result of its countermeasures. If the guerrillas should finally succeed, the resulting new regime is often more dictatorial than its predecessor due to the centralizing impact of the expanded military forces and the weakening or destruction of the society’s independent groups and institutions during the struggle — bodies that are vital in establishing and maintaining a democratic society. Persons hostile to dictatorships should look for another option.

Coups, elections, foreign saviors?

A military coup d’état against a dictatorship might appear to be relatively one of the easiest and quickest ways to remove a particularly repugnant regime. However, there are very serious problems with that technique. Most importantly, it leaves in place the existing maldistribution of power between the population and the elite in control of the government and its military forces. The removal of particular persons and cliques from the governing positions most likely will merely make it possible for another group to take their place. Theoretically, this group might be milder in its behavior and be open in limited ways to democratic reforms. However, the opposite is as likely to be the case.

After consolidating its position, the new clique may turn out to be more ruthless and more ambitious than the old one [1997 coup by Hun Sen]. Consequently, the new clique — in which hopes may have been placed — will be able to do whatever it wants without concern for democracy or human rights. That is not an acceptable answer to the problem of dictatorship.

Elections are not available under dictatorships as an instrument of significant political change. Some dictatorial regimes, such as those of the former Soviet-dominated Eastern bloc, went through the motions in order to appear democratic. Those elections, however, were merely rigidly controlled plebiscites to get public endorsement of candidates already hand-picked by the dictators. Dictators under pressure may at times agree to new elections, but then rig them to place civilian puppets in government offices. If opposition candidates have been allowed to run and were actually elected, as occurred in Burma in 1990 and Nigeria in 1993, results may simply be ignored and the “victors” subjected to intimidation, arrest, or even execution. Dictators are not in the business of allowing elections that could remove them from their thrones.

Many people now suffering under a brutal dictatorship, or who have gone into exile to escape its immediate grasp, do not believe that the oppressed can liberate themselves. They expect that their people can only be saved by the actions of others. These people place their confidence in external forces. They believe that only international help can be strong enough to bring down the dictators.

The view that the oppressed are unable to act effectively is sometimes accurate for a certain time period. As noted, often oppressed people are unwilling and temporarily unable to struggle because they have no confidence in their ability to face the ruthless dictatorship, and no known way to save themselves. It is therefore understandable that many people place their hope for liberation in others. This outside force may be “public opinion,” the United Nations, a particular country, or international economic and political sanctions.

Such a scenario may sound comforting, but there are grave problems with this reliance on an outside savior. Such confidence may be totally misplaced. Usually no foreign saviors are coming, and if a foreign state does intervene, it probably should not be trusted. A few harsh realities concerning reliance on foreign intervention need to be emphasized here:

• Frequently foreign states will tolerate, or even positively assist, a dictatorship in order to advance their own economic or political interests.

• Foreign states also may be willing to sell out an oppressed people instead of keeping pledges to assist their liberation at the cost of another objective.

• Some foreign states will act against a dictatorship only to gain their own economic, political, or military control over the country.

• The foreign states may become actively involved for positive purposes only if and when the internal resistance movement has already begun shaking the dictatorship, having thereby focused international attention on the brutal nature of the regime.

Dictatorships usually exist primarily because of the internal power distribution in the home country. The population and society are too weak to cause the dictatorship serious problems, wealth and power are concentrated in too few hands. Although dictatorships may benefit from or be somewhat weakened by international actions, their continuation is dependent primarily on internal factors.

International pressures can be very useful, however, when they are supporting a powerful internal resistance movement. Then, for example, international economic boycotts, embargoes, the breaking of diplomatic relations, expulsion from international organizations, condemnation by United Nations bodies, and the like can assist greatly. However, in the absence of a strong internal resistance movement such actions by others are unlikely to happen.

Facing the hard truth

The conclusion is a hard one. When one wants to bring down a dictatorship most effectively and with the least cost then one has four immediate tasks:

• One must strengthen the oppressed population themselves in their determination, self-confidence, and resistance skills;

• One must strengthen the independent social groups and institutions of the oppressed people;

• One must create a powerful internal resistance force; and

• One must develop a wise grand strategic plan for liberation and implement it skillfully.

A liberation struggle is a time for self-reliance and internal strengthening of the struggle group. As Charles Stewart Parnell called out during the Irish rent strike campaign in 1879 and 1880:

It is no use relying on the Government... You must only rely upon your own determination... [H]elp yourselves by standing together... strengthen those amongst yourselves who are weak..., band yourselves together, organize yourselves... and you must win...

When you have made this question ripe for settlement, then and not till then will it be settled. (4)

Against a strong self-reliant force, given wise strategy, disciplinedand courageous action, and genuine strength, the dictatorship will eventually crumble. Minimally, however, the above four requirements must be fulfilled.

As the above discussion indicates, liberation from dictatorships ultimately depends on the people’s ability to liberate themselves. The cases of successful political defiance — or nonviolent struggle for political ends — cited above indicate that the means do exist for populations to free themselves, but that option has remained undeveloped. We will examine this option in detail in the following chapters. However, we should first look at the issue of negotiations as a means of dismantling dictatorships.

1 The term used in this context was introduced by Robert Helvey. “Political defiance” is nonviolent struggle (protest, noncooperation, and intervention) applied defiantly and actively for political purposes. The term originated in response to the confusion and distortion created by equating nonviolent struggle with pacifism and moral or religious “nonviolence.” “Defiance” denotes a deliberate challenge to authority by disobedience, allowing no room for submission. “Political defiance” describes the environment in which the action is employed (political) as well as the objective (political power). The term is used principally to describe action by populations to regain from dictatorships control over governmental institutions by relentlessly attacking their sources of power and deliberately using strategic planning and operations to do so. In this paper, political defiance, nonviolent resistance, and nonviolent struggle will be used interchangeably, although the latter two terms generally refer to struggles with a broader range of objectives (social, economic, psychological, etc.).

2 Freedom House, Freedom in the World,

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Ancient Temple Ruins Dot Cambodia's Countryside


In this photo taken Friday, July 16, 2010, Buddhist monks stroll through Angkor Wat in Siem Reap province, about 143 miles (230 kilometers) northwest of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. More than 1-million visitors come annually to see the ancient temple remains that dot the sprawling Angkor region. For Cambodians, the temples are nothing less than a symbol of their nation. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

Angkor Wat and other ruins, legacy of once-mighty Khmer empire, dot Cambodia's countryside

SIEM REAP, Cambodia September 14, 2010

Tourists gather every day before dawn to watch the sun rise over Angkor Wat, a 12th-century temple and the grandest legacy of Cambodia's once mighty Khmer empire. Even at 5 a.m., the heat and humidity is enough to make the visitors break into a sweat.

More than 1 million people come annually to see the remains of the Khmer temples that dot the sprawling Angkor region, 145 miles (230 kilometers) northwest of the country's capital, Phnom Penh.

For Cambodians, the temples are nothing less than a symbol of their nation; an outline of Angkor Wat adorns the national flag.


A nearby temple, Wat Thmei, also includes a reminder of a dark chapter in recent Cambodian history. A memorial stupa houses bones and skulls from the victims of the "killing fields," who were executed by the brutal Khmer Rouge regime that ruled in the late 1970s.

Today, Angkor is a vital contributor to the poor nation's economy, with almost all visitors to the country traveling to the ruins. After a hot day visiting the temples, tourists head to the bars and Western-style air-conditioned restaurants in the nearby town of Siem Reap.

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Deny it … even if the denial is a lie


Tith Sothea, the PQRU mouthpiece (Photo: The Phnom Penh Post)

Government official rejects Civil Society report

14 Sept 2010
By Eng Kim Cheang DAP news Translated from Khmer by Ko Theak

Phnom Penh – Tith Sothea, the government adviser and mouthpiece for the Press and Quick Reaction Unit (PQRU crew) of the Council of Ministers, rejected the report issued by a group of Civil Society organizations indicating that freedom of expression in Cambodia is being oppressed by the government and that opposition MPs are always being dealt with the law when there are problems between them and the government or government officials.

Tith Sothea said in the afternoon of 14 Sept 2010 that the group of civil society’s decision to issue the report is a wrong action that does not reflect democracy in Cambodia that the people are promoting (sic!), furthermore, this report does not have clear bases and it was issued by small group that is politically-oriented. Tith Sothea added that, for those who contravene the law, they will be dealt with the judicial system because the Cambodian tribunal is fair (sic!), therefore those who have problems [with the government], they will be dealt by the judicial system.

The civil society report raised the issue of freedom expression, the core of democracy, and it is viewed as telling the government that all the government actions seem to be aimed at eradicating freedom of expression and destroying democracy in Cambodia.

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There's no change without belief


Click on the comic strip to zoom in

September 15, 2010
By A. Gaffar Peang-Meth
Pacific Daily News

Opportunities to interact with others and engage in situations through which our own beliefs and habits are challenged, are engaging and stimulating. Through such interactions, we learn to take new perspectives into account.

The reconsiderations that result are an important element to improving the quality of our thinking. To paraphrase Sir Isaac Newton -- and take his reference into a new realm -- an object at rest tends to stay at rest; an object in motion tends to stay in motion; unless stopped by an unbalanced force.

A founding partner of a firm that provides global corporations with training, facilitation and consultation in productive thinking and innovation, Tim Hurson, says better thinking can be taught.

He admits "truly focused thinking" is hard work. It involves "observing, remembering, wondering, imagining, inquiring, interpreting, evaluating, judging, identifying, supporting, composing, comparing, analyzing, calculating, and even metacognition (thinking about thinking)."

It's no wonder "why so few people" actually engage in it, he says.

In the words of Martin Luther King: "Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think."

No 'cut to the chase'

In this age of instant gratification with a click of a keyboard or a push of a button, who has the patience to wait 20 years for education to bear fruit? In my teaching days, students' whispers and body language could transmit their frustration with the hard work of "thinking." As a teacher, sometimes my best efforts to engage my students fell short.

But as the world marches on, dedicated teachers inspire, challenge and prepare students for a competitive world.

Education takes time; there is no "cut to the chase," no ABC action manual, no one-size-fits-all.

We have to rely on our "one kilo of brain" to think -- and to think better.


"You are in denial. I am in denial, We are all in denial," someone wrote.

Denial is used across cultures and national boundaries, by individuals, groups or nations as a defense mechanism to escape from unwanted feelings of hurt, shame or guilt. Denial is an unwillingness to face an unpleasant reality or a painful truth.

Children love to play in their fantasy worlds. But they grow and learn about reality.

The comic character Calvin plays in his fantasy world, away from the real world of his father and mother. Invincible fantasy Calvin saves the world from inhumanity and injustice -- until his parents subject him to human cruelties such as eating dinner or taking a bath or doing homework.

Then Calvin knows his world of fantasy has ended.

For us grownups, denial persists. We live in the real world, where we cannot avoid an unpleasantness or a pain that we wish never occurred. Life affects us with its ups and downs. We are not beyond doing foolish things and making mistakes, being neither saints nor angels.

We differ from animals in that they rely on instinct. We have our intelligence to help us think, learn from our errors and move on.

Yet there are those who are stuck, who cannot move on.

Denial and blaming go hand in hand.

Simple denial is a rejection of a reality or a truth: "No, that's just not so!"
As we live in a world of our own creations, our self-righteousness makes us the good guys who can't do wrong; the others are the bad ones, responsible for all ills under the sun.

Minimization is playing down the level of seriousness of a reality or a truth, without really denying it: "But I had only two social drinks."

A most dangerous form of denial is transference: One in denial excuses oneself from the unpleasant painful reality but holds others responsible for unpleasant, hurtful things: "Had you not done that, this wouldn't have happened!"

One excuses oneself from culpability, but reproaches and condemns others as responsible.


Karma -- or what Cambodians termed "prumlikhit" -- is a belief that one's lot is determined by a supernatural force, or by what is ordained that can't be changed. They explain one's failed exam, bad marriage, accident, illness, poverty and so on.

If so, is any person responsible for anything?

Cambodians in general say they worry about Cambodia's continued existence as an entity. Their neighbors to the east, the Vietnamese, and to the West, the Thais, have repeatedly encroached on Khmer territories over centuries. Much of today's Vietnam and Thailand once belonged to the Khmers. Many denounce Khmer kings, queens, princes, princesses and elites for the disintegration and shrinkage of modern Cambodia, and condemn their neighbors.

Justifiably so, one can argue.

But is such an exercise misplaced energy? Energy should be channeled to educating and to learning for a better future.

I, myself, write about the losses of Khmer territories, the usurpation of Khmer land by the neighbors, the maddening Vietnamization of Cambodia with the compliance of Khmer rulers, royal and non-royal.

Khmers should learn from their neighbors to block their dark designs. They must unlearn old habits that keep Khmers from advancing. A respected Cambodian-American scholar said the Khmers' neighbors to the east were Khmers Anh-Em, a term of endearment, while Khmer activists refer to them in pejoratives, as if this is going to change anything.

Change begins with one's self. There cannot be change until we believe change is possible.
A. Gaffar Peang-Meth, Ph.D., is retired from the University of Guam, where he taught political science for 13 years. Write him at

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Group Wants More Government Control Over Labor Agencies


The Cambodian government has promoted migrant work abroad as one way to ease unemployment. (Photo: By Taing Sarada)

Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Phnom Penh Tuesday, 14 September 2010

“The labor recruitment agencies must open an opportunity for the concerned government ministries and non-governmental organizations to observe in the places where the workers are staying before leaving for jobs abroad.”
The rights group Adhoc on Tuesday called for more government control of labor agencies, which it says have been responsible for abuses against migrant workers abroad.

There are more than 30 labor recruitment agencies with licenses from the Ministry of Labor, the group said, but some of the businesses operate more like human traffickers than helpful recruiters.

Adhoc has so far this year received 28 reports of worker violations from employers in Malaysia, including non-stop work, beatings, food deprivation and rape. It has also documented 23 violations of labor rights.

The Cambodian government has promoted migrant work abroad as one way to ease unemployment.

“We want to have a special legal instrument for managing Cambodian migrant workers, as they've suffered from different violations from local labor recruitment agencies and their bosses in Malaysia,” Kea Sophal, an Adhoc attorney, told reporters Tuesday.

Adhoc is recommending a monitoring mechanism to oversee working conditions, legal documentation and contracts between agencies and workers.

“The labor recruitment agencies must open an opportunity for the concerned government ministries and non-governmental organizations to observe in the places where the workers are staying before leaving for jobs abroad,” the group said in a statement.

Sok Chanpheakdey, secretary-general for the Association of Cambodian Recruitment Agencies, which has 16 company members, said he also encouraged a better government mechanism to protect workers.

Nhem Kimhouy, director of the employment office for the Ministry of Labor, said the ministry does counsel recruitment agencies in an effort to prevent worker violations.

According to a circular, the ministry now prohibits agencies from providing loans to workers' families and also seeks to control the spread of agent networks.

Sok Chanpheakdey said that the 16 agencies in his association will respect the ministry guidelines. But he acknowledged that other businesses may not.

“Some labor recruitment agencies provide loans to recruited workers, and when they've asked not to go abroad to work, the agencies pressure them to pay back [the loan],” he said. “If we depend on the law, that loan provision is an act of human trafficking.”

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Ethnic minority in Ratanakiri sue a Yuon company for land-grabbing


14 Sept 2010
Free Press Magazine Online
Translated from Khmer by Ko Theak
Click here to read the article in Khmer

About 20 families of Cambodian ethnic minority living in Ratanakiri province are preparing a lawsuit against a Viet company that is clearing and grabbing their farmlands.

Bou Vit, the Ta Veng village chief, indicated that a company by the name of Crong Bok(?) that received a land concession grant from the government in 2009 cleared up farmlands belonging to local villagers. He added: “The company cleared [the villagers’] rice fields, cashew farmlands and community forest. They destroyed everything. A few months ago they even bulldozed down a house.”

A representative of the villagers indicated that the Viet company brought in dozers to clear rice fields, cashew farmlands and forests belonging to Jaran (Jarai?) ethnic minority villagers and grabbed the land for itself. The representative indicated that about 40 to 50 villagers met with the village chief and the commune chief, asking them to help find a resolution after the villagers sent two complaints to the provincial authority and to the civil society to no avail.

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Diplomacy set to pay dividend in Cambodia


Thailand seeks lead role in investment

Source: Bangkok Post

Thailand hopes to regain its leadership in foreign investment in Cambodia over the next five years now that the two countries have resumed diplomatic ties after months of strained relations.

Thai investment in Cambodia has fallen dramatically over the past seven years.

The relationship between the two soured notably in 2003 when the Thai embassy and some Thai businesses were heavily damaged by rioters in Phnom Penh. They had been reacting to fabricated reports quoting a Thai actress as saying that Angkor Wat belonged to Thailand.

Relations subsequently improved but became strained again last year as the two countries feuded over the Preah Vihear temple, leading to their ambassadors being recalled. Both envoys last month returned to their jobs, and Premier Abhisit Vejjajiva and Prime Minister Hun Sen are expected to hold talks later this month.

Thailand's investments based on approvals by the Cambodia Investment Board totalled only five projects worth US$15.5 million last year. The country ranked sixth in project numbers and third in project value, behind China ( $42.3 million) and Vietnam ($24.7 million).

Over the past 16 years, Thai investments in Cambodia totalled 81 projects worth $362.35 million. Most were in hotels, agro-industry, wood processing, food processing, telecoms, medical services, electricity, mining, garments and shoes.

Deputy Commerce Minister Alongkorn Ponlaboot said Thailand had potential to resume its leadership in foreign investment in Cambodia, if it can capitalise on the potential of National Road No. 5 as the land transport gateway to Vietnam and China.

The 407-kilometre highway connects Phnom Penh with Aranyaprathet in the Thai border province of Sa Kaeo. From Phnom Penh the road links to the Moc Bai-Bavet border crossing with Vietnam.

Mr Alongkorn and a group of Thai businesspeople recently travelled the road through Cambodia to Vietnam to explore the potential.

He said the Thai government planned to set up a special economic zone in Ban Pa Rai in Aranyaprathet to promote ties with Cambodia. It would offer comprehensive import-export services, distribution centres, customer services and an industrial estate covering about 1,000 rai.

The zone would be linked with Cambodia's Poipet O'Neang Special Economic Zone which occupies 2,000 rai opposite Ban Pa Rai.

Mr Alongkorn said the zone would be proposed to economic ministers and the cabinet in the new two weeks.

The special economic zone would be the second with a neighbouring country after the one that straddles Mae Sot district in Tak and Myawaddy in Burma. A special economic zone gives entrepreneurs more investment flexibility through such things as relaxed labour rules.

Thailand is currently the fifth largest trading partner of Cambodia behind the United States, Vietnam, China and Hong Kong. Bilateral trade between the two countries totalled $492.8 million last year, $477.2 million of which came from Thai exports.

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Hun Sen profits from suppression and aid


By Marwaan Macan-Markar

BANGKOK - Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen is savoring another victory. His latest triumph: a string of verdicts against an opposition lawmaker that apparently guarantee him the liberty to insult women and get away with it.

His target, however, refuses to be silenced even after her latest showdown with the premier, who celebrated 25 years as the Southeast Asian country's leader this year. Nor has she changed her views about the Supreme Court, which upheld a lower court's decision against the outspoken parliamentarian in a bizarre case that has also put the country's judiciary on trial.

The superior court's verdict on June 3, including a fine of 16.5 million riel (US$4,000), was the third judicial ruling against the 54-year-old Mu Sochua. In August last year, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court found the former minister of women's affairs guilty of having insulted Hun Sen. In October 2009, she lost again following an attempt with the Court of Appeal.

"I will not pay the fine. They can confiscate my property. They can even take me to jail," a defiant Mu Sochua said in a telephone interview from the Cambodian capital. "I think it is a serious mistake for the ruling party to push this case at a time when the country needs reform of the judiciary."

"The judges were under trial from the beginning," she observed of the case that began early last year, when she first filed a defamation case against Hun Sen. It followed a speech he had delivered in the Khmer language, where he referred to her as "cheung klang" ("strong legs"), a demeaning term for women in the country.

But the powerful leader of the Cambodian People's Party (CPP) turned the tables on the parliamentarian from the opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP). The ruling party stripped Mu Sochua of her parliamentary immunity to help Hun Sen file a counter defamation charge against her. Adding insult to injury, a court dismissed the original defamation case Mu Sochua filed against the premier.

Hun Sen's latest judicial triumph has broader implications in a country struggling to get back on its feet after a 1991 peace deal brought an end to decades of civil war. The timing of the superior court's verdict, in fact, has triggered questions about the role Western donors have in aiding Cambodia's reconstruction.

On June 3, while Hun Sen was celebrating the silencing of one of the country's foremost champions of democracy, free speech and human rights, international donors pledged US$1.1 billion in aid for this year, up from last year's $950 million.

The largest aid package in Cambodia's history came at the end of a two-day donor conference in Phnom Penh, lifting the pressure on the Hun Sen administration to push ahead with five areas of reform. Three areas spelled out in 2004 by donors included changes to fight corruption and increase accountability, legal and judicial reform, protection of human rights and public administration reform.

That little had changed over the years was highlighted by a coalition of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) on the eve of this month's donor meeting. "Serious actions, such as court convictions of corruption cases, remain selective or are limited within certain political considerations," stated the NGO Forum on Cambodia.

The financial windfall for the Cambodian regime, despite a record of defamation lawsuits against opposition parliamentarians, intimidation of the media, a growing list of corruption scandals in the natural resources sector and stripping the environment for private profit, has disheartened civil society groups.

"All the talk by donors about strengthening democracy and human rights in Cambodia is just words; it is not meaningful," said Hang Chhaya, executive director of the Khmer Institute of Democracy, which seeks to champion democratic values in the Southeast Asian state. "The Mu Sochua verdict was a slap on the face of freedom of speech."

There is a growing belief that Hun Sen's ability to get away with bullying his opponents while being propped up by the donor community has more to do with China's spreading influence in Cambodia. Beijing's US$1.2 billion package in aid and soft loans to Cambodia in December last year confirmed the battle for influence being waged in a country where one-third lives in absolute poverty.

China gave Cambodia the funds shortly after Phnom Penh deported 20 Uyghur refugees from Xinjiang, a province in northwest China. Both the United Nations and the United States criticized the expulsion, saying it violated international refugee law. The Uyghurs belong to a Turkic-speaking Muslim minority in China.

"The donors have taken into account China's economic role in Cambodia," said Ou Virak, head of the Phnom-Penh based Cambodia Center for Human Rights. "There is a lot of self interest at play."

Some analysts admit that Cambodia's international donors, who include Japan, Australia, the US and the World Bank, fear that if they walk away China will consolidate its control, leaving Western donors with little influence. Such an act would be deeply embarrassing for the donors for another reason.

"Cambodia has become the poster child of post-conflict reconstruction since the 1991 Paris Peace Accords," said Shalmali Guttal, senior researcher for Focus on the Global South, a Bangkok-based regional think tank. "Donors couldn't abandon it now for that would mean admitting failure."

"The Mu Sochua case reveals the lengths they are prepared to go," noted Guttal. "The donors are willing to stamp on their own benchmarks for reform in order to be in the game in Cambodia."

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The Cambodian Army: Open for Corporate Sponsors


Members of the Cambodian military take part in a parade on the outskirts of Phnom Penh on Oct. 13, 2009
Chor Sokunthea / Reuters

A land dispute in March between a sugar-plantation developer and a small community in the province of Kampong Speu motivated military police stationed nearby to spring into action, ostensibly in order to prevent an eruption of violence. It didn't take long, though, for the villagers to view the supposed peacekeepers as intimidators.

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