Week 531- Sunday,2007-10-28: The Right Time
The Mirror, Vol. 11, No. 531
Observing the flow of events and of actions in society, there are times when nothing special seems to happen – and there are other times when things seem to get into motion “just at the right time” – because the atmosphere is changing like the weather: there are bright skies, and there is storm. And not everything can be taken up at every time and be seen as welcome, or long overdue, or, in some cases, as too late.
During the past week, we had examples of both. It is probably the art of politics and social action to choose the right time, when different things come together – or they don’t.
There was the new initiative by Prince Ranariddh calling on others – democrats and monarchists – to cooperate “to do whatever is possible to join with his party in order to serve the nation.” It must be very disappointing to see a wide range of voices from different political positions to say: Why now? Why not at a much earlier, different time and under different circumstances? – That is not to say that a similar call at a different time in future, of by a different voice, will also receive similarly negative responses. But when the time is not ripe for a new initiative, it is not probable that it will take off.
One special aspect of the negative responses related to the criticism by Prince Ranariddh against the nomination by Funcinpec of a woman as prime ministerial candidate, and that Prince Ranariddh had questioned the qualification of his sister for this task. The response did not only come by arguing in favor of the person nominated as a candidate, but his statements were considered as affecting “the reputation and the dignity of Khmer women throughout the country.” The Funcinpec women’s movement considered this criticism as “looking down on Khmer women in public… which cannot be accepted by the members and especially the female members of Funcinpec, as well as Khmer women in general.”
In this context, Article 45 of the Constitution is quoted, which decrees that “all forms of discrimination against women shall be abolished. The exploitation of women in employment shall be prohibited.”
During the visit of Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel Prize in Economics and former World Bank senior staff, it was pointed out that during the first five months of the current year, Cambodian garment exports to the US alone – not counting the exports to other countries – had earned US$985 million for Cambodia. It is in the vast majority young Cambodian women who work in the garment industry who make such gains for the country. They are – as a slogan of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs says – precious jewels of Cambodian society, though they do not receive the appreciation from society at large which they deserve.
The Open Institute, a Cambodia NGO committed to foster and facilitate communication in society, has launched an Internet Web Portal dedicated to women’s affairs. The timely importance of this effort is summarized in the words of the director of the Open Institute, when she pointed to the emancipating function of this activity, mainly promoted by women, but for the whole society where women and men learn to cooperate better, when women can not only consume, but also actively create information and contribute to public opinion: “Information is power. Therefore, when women have access to sufficient information, they are more powerful, self-confident, and have better opportunities to participate in various economic, social, and political activities. Access to knowledge will also help women to have a more fulfilled life.”
That clear, unrestricted, and fearless information is newly identified in its dynamics for social improvement can also be seen in the two following reports:
The Club of Cambodian Journalists appealed to all Cambodian journalists to actively participate in the war against corruption, because “the success of any action against corruption partly depends on the participation of all journalists and newspapers that have a role to reveal the facts to the public.” The appeal to get more seriously involved in investigative journalism states that “journalists must be brave to investigate and to reveal corruption in society.”
It is well known that some journalists, who had acted in such a ways, were criticized, attacked, or even killed. Others rather kept silent.
Now the Prime Minister called on journalists to report on violent crimes committed by members of powerful families, by given the names of the young perpetrators and their powerful parents, so that nobody should try to use the high rank of parents or protectors to cover criminals from being persecuted. The fact that this call is also echoed through the Ministry of Information to all media, to name the names without hesitation, sounds like the beginning of a new chapter in public communication and social dialogue among different sectors in society, on the way to establish the rule of law more firmly, disregarding the position in society of persons who act as if they were above the law.
The implementation – not only the announcement – of such timely measures can only be seen as a positive new orientation, to remove the image of a society which has a good Constitution and good laws, but which suffers from the many instances of impunity which had not been properly addressed. The future will show how this is now changing.