Archive for February 21st, 2008

Week 547 – 2008-02-17: Dealing with International News

Posted on 21 February 2008. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 547 |

The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 547

When there are rumors in the national press which allegedly relate to defined events in the country, it may be easy to stop them: for example, there were reports saying “The Government Plans to Draft a Law Allowing Foreigners to Have the Right to Own Khmer Land.” The Prime Minister was able to easily deny this, as was reported: “Dekchor Hun Sen: I Have Never Had Even a Dream about Making a Law to Sell Land to Foreigners.”

In other cases it is not at all easy to separate rumor from facts. Newspapers often note that their efforts to verify a report or to get the government side of a story failed because the officers in charge did not respond to a phone call, declined to respond by saying they were too busy, or just hung up the phone when they understood that a journalist was calling. This is bad practice in a democratic society, as it leaves the national public uninformed and forced to rely on rumor. Unfortunately, there are currently few mechanisms to fix this in the Cambodian situation. There are even frequent complaints that Article 96 of the Constitution is not honored; this prescribes that the deputies of the National Assembly “have the right to put a motion against the Royal Government… The replies shall be given by one or several ministers depending on the matters related to the accountability of one or several ministers… The explanations shall be provided within 7 days after the day when the question is received.”

When it comes to internationally raised questions, recent examples show that these are not so easy to ignore or suppress as questions raised within Cambodia. Those who start international public debate are not so easily quieted when questions are evaded or responses take up side issues instead of the substance of the concerns . Sometimes a response or tactic which may have finished public debate nationally is counter-productive on the international level – instead of calming the debate, it magnifies it.

Two recent examples demonstrate this:

After Global Witness published its controversial report “Cambodia’s Family Trees” – 100 pages with over 400 carefully compiled footnotes from Cambodian and international resources – the Cambodian government prohibited its distribution. This probably resulted in much wider interest in the document than it would have received otherwise, especially as it can be downloaded from the Internet in its English and its Khmer versions. This interest was raised even further, after a Cambodian ambassador called the report, “groundless, unacceptable, and rubbish,” without specifying in detail the reasons for this judgment, and he called on those agencies that had financially supported Global Witness to review their decisions.

One of the reactions: the government of Ireland, a supporter of Global Witness, requested the Cambodian government to substantiate their objections to the detailed allegations contained in the Global Witness report. It can be expected that other governments will also look forward to the response of the Cambodian government.

In an example this past week, Amnesty International published – easily accessible internationally on the Internet – a 74-page report entitled “Rights Razed – Forced Evictions in Cambodia.” The report quotes many specific incidents with locations and dates, and details how these incidents violate relevant Cambodian laws as well as international covenants to which the Cambodian government has subscribed in the process of regaining its rightful place in the international community of nations after decades of tragic conflicts.

Instead of taking the time to carefully study and respond to this document, a refutation of less than one page was given to the international public. It criticized an Amnesty International staff member who had been interviewed by an international news agency. In fact, what needs attention is not what was reported about the brief press review with that staff person, who is not the head of Amnesty International or an official spokesperson, but what needs attention is the detailed description of many serious problems suffered by people displaced in Cambodia, whose fate is described in the 74 pages of the official report of Amnesty International. Unless specific cases can be carefully refuted, with facts and documentation, the Amnesty International report will of course be used by the international public to form an opinion about the state of law and the atmosphere of care for the weak and poor sections of society in Cambodia.

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Wednesday, 20.2.2008: The Inauguration Ceremony of a Memorial Tablet with the Seven Sins List of Mahatma Gandhi

Posted on 21 February 2008. Filed under: Week 548 |

Gandhi’s “Seven Sins”

The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 548

“On 18 February 2008, the governor of the Phnom Penh municipality, Mr. Kep Chuk Tema, presided over the inauguration ceremony of a memorial tablet with a list of the Seven Sins of the Indian statesman Mahatma Gandhi, with the participation of an Indian minister as well as the ambassador of the Republic of India. Local and international visitors also participated in the ceremony.

“The Seven Sins list states:

  1. Politics without principle.
  2. Wealth without work.
  3. Pleasure without conscience.
  4. Knowledge without character.
  5. Commerce without morality.
  6. Science without humanity.
  7. Worship without sacrifice.

“The Indian Union Water Resources Minister Mr. Saifuddin Soz, who participated in the ceremony, said that Phnom Penh is growing in almost all sectors under the leadership of the governor of the Phnom Penh municipality, Mr. Kep Chuk Tema.

“The Indian minister continued that Mahatma [“the Great Soul”] is the father of independence and of peace for India, and the preacher of non-violence. India and Cambodia comply with this message in order to make the whole country peaceful and non-violent.

The governor of the Phnom Penh municipality, Mr. Kep Chuk Tema, said that the memorial tablet with the Seven Sins list of the Indian statesman and father of world peace, Mahatma Gandhi, is set up in the Dragon Park in Phnom Penh, next to his statue.

The memorial tablet with the Seven Sins list, engraved in gold script on a 0.80 by 1.50 meters marble stone, and adorned with an Angkorian base, was constructed by the Phnom Penh municipality under the direction of Samdech Akak Moha Senapadei Dekchor Hun Sen, the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia. This statue is set up in Phnom Penh as a symbol for the whole nation, as all people must unite together in a peaceful and non-violent manner. It is also to serve as a solemn emblem of the bond of friendship between Cambodia and India.

At this occasion, Mr. Kep Chuk Tema expressed his sincere appreciation and gratitude for the invaluable heroism of Mahatma Gandhi, saying that he is not only the father of peace for India but he is also the father of peace for the world. This list will eternally touch the hearts of all Cambodians to stick to non-violence in the course of building and protecting the nation.” Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.7, #1571, 19.2.2008

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Deum Ampil, Vol.3, #57, 20-26.2.2008

  • People Still Suffer because the Sok Kong Company and the Phanimex Company Hold Papers Authorizing Them to Grab Land
  • The Head of the Asian Development Bank [Kuroda Haruhiko] Affirms that More Than US$1.1 Billion Development Money Has Been Provided by the Asian Development Bank to Cambodia

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.7, #1571, 19.2.2008

  • The Inauguration Ceremony of a Memorial Tablet with the Seven Sins List of Mahatma Gandhi

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.7, #1572, 20.2.2008

  • Cambodia and Vietnam Discuss Sites of [three] National Radio Stations [in Svay Rieng, Kampot, and Mondolkiri – donated by Vietnam]
  • [TV5 producer] Char Rithy Explained [on 19 February] Lawsuit of [Female] Singer Meng Keopechda by Saying ‘$1,000 for Singing One Song Is Too Expensive’

Khmer Amatak, Vol.9, #558, 20.2.2008

  • To Be Fair, the Ruling Party Should Not Use Money to Buy Voters’ Feelings

Koh Santepheap, Vol.41, #6276, 20.2.2008

  • National Election Committee Announces Schedule for Registration of Parties and Candidates [from 28 April to 12 May]
  • French Experts Come to Do Research on Rubber Plantations in Cambodia

Rasmei Angkor, Vol.15, #1281, 20.2.2008

  • Eng Chhay Ieng [secretary-general of the Sam Rainsy Party]: Welcome, Krom Preah [Prince Ranariddh], to Join [the Sam Rainsy Party]

Sralanh Khmer, Vol.3, #625, 20.2.2008

  • [President of Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association] Rong Chhun Asks [Minister of Labor and Vocational Training] Vong Soth to Issue an Order for Owners of Karaoke Parlors to Respect the Labor Law

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