Week 550 – 2008-03-09: Looking Further Beyond What Is in Front of Us Immediately

Posted on 10 March 2008. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 550 |

The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 550

Two issues called us during the past week to look out in space and time – into the distance, and also into the past and the future.

Before the visit of the new Thai prime minister to Cambodia, there was quite some agitated discussion in some newspapers around the issue of Preah Vihear, the ancient Khmer temple at the border to Thailand, and the process to have it registered as a United Nations World Heritage site. There was general, often not precise information what had happened at last year’s UNESCO meeting related to the issue, there were clear official statements by Thai government institutions that Thailand does not object, rather supports the intended designation, there were doubts expressed in the Cambodian press that the Thai position is true, and there were calls in the Khmer press like the following:

  • Keo Remy: No Reason for Cambodia to Negotiate with Siam over the Preah Vihear Temple

and

  • Having The Hague Court Verdict, Cambodia Should Not Discuss Anything with Thailand!

As these articles did not make it clear that they were based on reading the 207 pages of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee meeting of 23 June to 2 July 2007 – specifically the pages 153 and 154 refer to Preah Vihear – nor about the Progress Report, which Cambodia had to present to the World Heritage Center by 1 February 2008, nor whether the calls in the Khmer press with reference to the Judgment of the International Court of Justice in The Hague of 15 June 1962, relating to the sovereignty of Cambodia over the Preah Vihear Temple – and its full text of 69 pages had been read before making these press statements. We therefore had related to them here in the Mirror last Monday.

Reading these texts makes it clear that the sovereignty over Preah Vihear has been finally settled – and this is also not being questioned by the Thai government. But it is equally clear that way back in 1962, the International Court of Justice in The Hague had pointed to the “uncertain character of the resulting delimitation in the disputed area” and the need for an “eventual production by experts of one party, at the request of the other, of a map” and the “non-binding character of a map at the moment of its production,” and especially stating that “interpretation of the treaty settlement is to be considered as a whole, including the map” – but a clear map, accepted by both sides, did not exist in 1962, nor had it been clarified and negotiated in the many years since.

Is there really no reason for Cambodia to discuss and to negotiate anything with Thailand? Or is it not – on the other hand – high time to use the present peaceful situation to do, what has not been done since 1962? The visit of Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej seems to have passed without any unsettling events. But the need to clarify what was identified to be unclear in 1962 remains.

The other event of international significance is the International Women’s Day – referred to in the Khmer press repeatedly, and also in our Saturday’s full text translation.

Again it may be worthwhile to take an international look to appreciate the Cambodian situation.

A year ago, on 11 March 2007, the Mirror had pointed to an interesting coincidence: early events of women’s struggle for their rights as textile laborers had happened in 1834 in Lowell/Massachusetts in the USA – a women textile worker’s strike – in a town which is now one of the major centers of Cambodian immigration and settlement in the USA. And at present, it is again women textile workers who are frequently at the forefront of the struggle for just labor relations in Cambodia. There is ample historical reason to remember that the International Women’s Day is a day born out of unending suffering and struggles. It may be a problem that the present day’s “harmonious” integration of Women’s Day celebrations into society is also a subtle means to hide the fact that many serious problems still exists – problems of a nature that never could be solved I the past except by solidarity in struggle, struggle against those forces which were not welcoming that women have the same basic rights as men.

To contribute some material for such reflection, we provide here references on the Internet:

International Women’s Day designated by the UN:

“In December 1977, the General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming a United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace to be observed on any day of the year by Member States, in accordance with their historical and national traditions. In adopting its resolution, the General Assembly recognized the role of women in peace efforts and development and urged an end to discrimination and an increase of support for women’s full and equal participation.”

The situation around the world:

It is not easy to know how many – or maybe it is more appropriate to say – how few countries in the world made the UN recommendation a reality and have created a national holiday for the International Women’s Day. Some fairly new references list 11, others list 23 countries – obviously the majority of them having or having had a socialist or communist orientation concerning the equality of women and men.

Commission on the Status of Women (often referred to as “CSW”) is a functional commission of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), dedicated exclusively to gender equality and advancement of women.”


Louise Arbour, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights made this most important statement for this 7 March 2008:

Almost every country in the world still has laws that discriminate against women, and promises to remedy this have not been kept, the top United Nations human rights official said today, speaking on the eve of International Women’s Day.”

During a recent visit to the New Delhi, the capital of India, I was surprised that during a whole week, I had not seen one woman or girl riding a moto or a motorcycle herself, and maybe I saw only less than ten women during this week on the back seat of a motorcycle. When I came back to Phnom Penh, I was much more than before aware of the independence of women in Cambodia in participating in certain aspects of public life.

But that does not mean that the public declarations in the Constitution, and in many declarations of a wide variety of high and low institutions about the equality of women and men are a reality.

The United Nations had declared the theme for International Women’s Day 2008 to be “Investing in Women and Girls.”

But this still leaves the challenge for everybody, in every country, ant therefore also in Cambodia, to actually and in detail, do research, and not get to easily swayed into complacency by empty declarations, but to remember the words of Louse Arbour, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights:

“Many States appear to have simply ignored the commitments they have made,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour stated. “It is shameful that, in the 60th anniversary year of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, fundamental rights are still not enjoyed by many women around the world.

In some cases, they suffer from multiple forms of discrimination, such as race, age or disabilities as well as their gender. Unless states take their commitments seriously, investing in women and girls will remain a matter of rhetoric.”

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