Valentine’s Day Troubles – Sunday, 15.2.2009

Posted on 16 February 2009. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 599 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 599

The Phnom Penh Post reported on Friday, 13 February 2009, the results of a study by the Cambodian sociologist Tong Soprach, including that:

“The study questioned youths on two occasions… and found that 61.2 percent of respondents considered Valentine’s Day special, but that most knew little about the origins of the day itself. Most youths recognized the day as foreign, with several respondents renaming the occasion ‘loving day.’”

For these students, the fact that Valentine’s Day is foreign is not negative. Not so for some others; one newspaper reported: “Citizens Ask TV Stations Not to Publish ‘Valentine’s Day’ on Televisions, because it might encourage youth to take up a foreign culture.” And it is not reported whether they know – or care to know – the origins of this day and its name. But even if TV did not report on it, many people know anyway and are prepared – there are many stands at the roadside, especially near universities and high-schools, selling roses, because the student want to buy them.

Obviously, Valentine’s Day has also become an institution in other countries in Asia: the Chinese News Agency XinhuaNet has a nice picture with the heading: “A couple of lovers walk with a bouquet of roses in Harbin, capital of northeast China’s Heilongjiang Province, Feb. 14, 2009. Lots of lovers bought roses to celebrate the Valentine’s Day.”

“A couple of lovers walk with a bouquet of roses in Harbin

“A couple of lovers walk with a bouquet of roses in Harbin

Source: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2009-02/14/xin_372020614194431210571.jpg

There is no expression of concern that this is “foreign cultural influence.” And it is even more surprising that the same publication also has a picture from North Korea with the caption: “A couple pose for photos at an exhibition on ‘Kim Jong Il flowers’ held in Pyongyang, capital of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), Feb. 14, 2009. The exhibition was held to celebrate the upcoming 67th birthday of DPRK top leader Kim Jong Il.” There was no mention of Valentine’s Day – but a young man and a young women have their picture taken together in front of red roses on 14 February – there seems to be some special meaning intended.

A couple pose for photos at an exhibition on Kim Jong Il flowers

A couple pose for photos at an exhibition on 'Kim Jong Il flowers

Source: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2009-02/14/xin_35202061420347811815914.jpg

However, Cambodia is one country where the question of a clash between traditional culture and Valentine’s Day became an issue. India is another, especially since there has recently been violence against women – with claims that it is in order to protect Indian culture.

Male activists of the conservative Hindu Sri Rama Sena organization entered the “Amnesia Bar and Restaurant” in the Indian city of Mangalore on Saturday evening, 24 January 2009, and threatened the women sitting inside. They objected to women drinking alcohol and dragged them outside, where many fell or were pushed to the ground. They also told the women that they would face dire consequences if they were seen in a bar again. The group left the bar after threatening its owner.

Many people, including public figures in India and some in Cambodia, condemned this violence, and there was a lot of public discussion. Some voices suggested that maybe the victims had provoked the attack by their behavior, which was not – in the opinion of critics of the women – in accordance with Indian culture. They suggested that the Sri Rama Sena organization should also be praised – it celebrates all traditional Hindu festivals elaborately and does a lot to propagate cultural traditions which, they said, are not sufficiently protected, and that the organization had to act as a “moral police.”

Then, on 10 February, a group of self appointed “moral police” stopped a bus in Mangalore, knowing that a 16 year old Hindu high-school student was on the bus with her Muslim boyfriend. They dragged her out and brought her to the police, who called her parents to hand her over to them. She could not bear the public shame and killed herself the next day.

Violence continued: near the famous white marble monument of Taj Mahal, radical traditionalists attacked three young couples of lovers and cut their hair to shame them. Others attacked and burnt a shop selling Valentine’s Day greeting cards, and some entered restaurants looking for lovers having special Valentine’s Day meals together. In some cases, they threatened that they would force any lovers to immediately get married to “legalize” their behavior of showing that they liked each other – there were raids on shopping centers where young people hang out and walk around, holding hands.

In the meantime, some people who had committed violence were arrested – but often the authorities were slow to act, as the victims were considered to have violated traditional culture.

Madhu Chandra, a well-known human rights activist, strongly defended the civil liberties of couples. “It is the right of every Indian citizen to express our love in the different manners acceptable, in the Indian way, or in the English way, or in the Islamic way.”

Wide attention was created, however, only when a group of young women, many of them students, started to publicly claim their rights and fight back in an unusual way. Some of these voices were on the Internet:

“All of us bloggers are protesting, holding hands against this infringement of our right to hold hands, and walk in and out of pubs or anywhere else without being beaten up or molested for it.”

“In Indian culture, a girl could be a Master of Business Administration, or a Doctor, a teacher, a mother, or she could be just another adult citizen. A girl’s wishes don’t count. It just doesn’t make sense …. and you see semi-literate neighbors and elders and now even the local criminals, are deciding how she is allowed to dress, with whom she socializes, and what she eats or drinks?

“Why do we make excuses for our culture? Let’s be honest. It needs to see major reforms.”

As they had been accused of being “pub-going, loose, and forward [modern] women,” a group quickly set up an organization of “Pub-Going, Loose and Forward Women,” which in a couple of days had more than 30,000 members, to campaign for their rights. As a sign of protest against the Sri Rama Sena organization, they called on women and girls across the country to send parcels of pink panties by courier to the Sri Rama Sena office in the city of Hubli. It is reported that a huge number of such parcels were delivered from many different regions of India before and on Valentine’s Day.

Has all this anything to do with the origin of Valentine’s Day? Maybe yes – there are different traditions, but they are all related to an act of defiance against a forceful power interfering with personal choices to accept and to give love. One Indian blogger told the story this way:

“Of the varying opinions as to the origin of Valentine’s Day, the widely accepted one is that associated with the Roman Empire during the third century. To be precise, a priest named Valentinus was beheaded by Emperor Claudius the Cruel on 14 February of the year 269. Valentinus performed secret weddings, after the Emperor Claudius banned marriages in order to prevent soldiers from deserting his army. The good saint refused to deny Christ and so was thrown into prison, where he healed the jailer’s blind daughter. He fell in love with her and left a note in the cracks of his cell the night before his execution: ‘From Your Valentine.’

“Gradually, 14 February became the date for exchanging love messages. The date is marked by sending poems and simple gifts such as flowers.”

One young woman in India wrote about the attacks of those who claim to protect Indian culture, giving her impression that these men – old and also young – have mostly been living without any experience of relating to women in a situation of mutual respect. The traditional culture had assigned a secondary role to women. Most of the young men involved came from schools for boys only, so they have not had the experience to relate to girls in a daily school situation among equals. Once they meet girls, they either claim a social and cultural power superiority – or they can only think of sexual relations.

The report in the Phnom Penh Post shows a similar narrow-mindedness:

“New research on young Cambodian attitudes towards Valentine’s Day and sexual relationships has found that more than half the interviewees questioned were happy to engage in sexual intercourse. In fact, the research shows that many middle-class Cambodians are using Valentine’s Day not to celebrate their love, but as a catalyst for sex.

“Disturbingly, however, 66 percent of males planned to have sex with their partners regardless of consent, with 39.5 percent of those males losing their virginity.”

Should Valentine’s Day be suppressed? That would only be an expression of not respecting gender equality. Maybe Valentine’s Day could be an occasion to learn and to reflect that it is not about sex, but about growing into a renewed culture of women and men, in mutual respect and cooperation, and in love.

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Outlook into 2009 – Sunday, 11.1.2009

Posted on 12 January 2009. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 594 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |


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The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 594

Observing a wide range of discussions about the future, there are two fields which get most prominent attention: the economy – and the state of law.

As the Cambodian economy – internationally – depends much on the export of garment products and on international tourism, and on a construction boom, we did mirror related reports:

The garment industry was a sure bet in the past – in every of the previous years, this sector grew by 15% to 20%. But this was not an assurance for the future. The situation is bad, but not too bad, some observers say:

In Cambodia 73 factories were closed in 2008, making nearly 25,000 workers unemployed. But 64 new factories opened, absorbing 10,000 new workers. – The export of garments to international markets dropped by 2%, while before, it was expected that it would drop by between 5% and 7%. Therefore the global financial crisis affected this sector very little.

Others are more careful to express their hope: While at present the future looks really to dark, things may change:

Presently received orders will be finished by February and March 2009, and there are no buying orders for May and June 2009.

But buyers from the United States of America probably wait until the new president takes his position in mid January, then they will continue buying.

Investments in the construction industry are also facing big problems:

All construction projects of high rise buildings to develop the city to become a modern city are mostly based on foreign investment in Cambodia. Therefore large scale investments, like those by Korean investors planning constructions for the city, are delayed.

The labor unions say that 30% of the construction workers are laid off, and various projects are suspended; and it is forecast that in 2009 the decline will continue.

And tourism?

The Minister of Tourism recognized that the global financial crisis and the confrontation with Thailand in the Preah Vihear region slows the number of tourists to Cambodia down, but Cambodia will make all efforts to guarantee the safety of tourists, and to promote the further growth of tourism.

The loss of everyday jobs and income for the families is a consequence resulting from the decline in the number of tourists to Cambodia since July 2008.

Such reductions in the economic possibilities are also reflected in the cautious employment policy of the government for new graduates, in spite of the fact that their number is increasing year by year:

The Cambodian government decided to reduce the recruitment of new civil servants from 9,000 to 8,000 to work at different ministries and departments in 2009.

To reduce employment alone will not be sufficient. We will watch out for reports about other determined decisions how to contain and to save expenses.

The plan to spend US$10 million on public lighting in Phnom Penh is surprising in this context. Even if it is intended to do this with a foreign loan, it is not only a liability to be paid back; after the investment is done, a lot of electricity will have to be paid for. Public taxpayer money will have to be spent regularly for the electricity, and this money will go to the producers of electricity; more and more private companies will profit from this.

Of course there is the hope for big oil money in the futue. And the international community has pledged around one billion dollars of aid for 2009.

The scholarly wisdom from the field of Economics and of Business Administration has not prevented a global economic meltdown of a size never before experienced. Now there are many efforts under discussion, what kind of political will and political action is needed to control the economic problems so that they do not get totally out of control. The myth about the “self-regulatory powers of the market” led into global crisis; new bold legislation and new government interventions are now being called for internationally.

There is new movement also in Cambodia in the field of the role of law.

The new year started with an almost unexpected news from the past: after five years of doubts and mistrust in police and in court actions, related to the 2004 murder of the labor leader Chea Vichea, Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun were released on bail, because, as the Supreme Court judge Dith Munty explained, there is a lack of clarity: the case needs further investigation, as there were gaps in the procedures, and there is insufficient evidence.

There will have to be a lot of explanation to be done, why previous investigations were not done correctly, and how it was possible that gaps in the procedures – which had been pointed out by many, including by the former King – could not be rectified without keeping two persons in prison for five years.

Now the police waits already one whole week for the green light from the court to start the new investigation. It is probably the correct procedure now to wait for the court again. When there is a lack of clarity, new investigations are to be made, according to the law, independently from any outside influence, also independent from the executive branch of the government, according to the Constitution of the country.

Article 51 of the Constituton says:
“The Cambodian people are the masters of their own country. All power belongs to the people. The people exercise these powers through the National Assembly, The Senate, the Royal Government and the Judiciary. The legislative, executive, and judicial powers shall be separate.”

But it is at least surprising that the effort by three persons, accredited by the Bar Association of Cambodia to act at the courts in Cambodia, met with difficulties when hey tried to file a law suit. They want to initiate a clarification by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court about allegations of irregularities at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia. They had not been able, in spite of their efforts over several months, to receive certain pieces of information – as we had mirrored on Friday, 9.1.2009, in detail from the Khmer press.

What is even more surprising – not based on any legal expertize, but just on common sense – is that the appeal to a court of law to bring clarity, is not welcome, but is met by an expression of regret. The national judges at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia criticized this appeal to a court with the argument, that they had entered into service at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal on the basis of a Royal Decree, signed by the King.

This case brings a basic problem of perception to the public, whether this society will live up to its constitution, where an independent judiciary is to find out what is right and what is wrong, or whether positions of rank will have precedence. Do the national judges at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia not trust that the courts can fulfill their duty?

The fact, that a person had an illustrious career to which he was properly appointed, is no reason not to clarify by the courts and on the basis of the law in a transparent way, whether a person has acted properly or not. When Heng Pov, who was, over the course of time, undersecretary of state, and assistant to the Minister of the Interior, and then police commissioner of the city of Phnom Penh – who had had all the proper appointments – was put to the test by the courts, he failed and is now in prison.

Whoever is innocent, should be happy to have this finally confirmed by a normal, public court. Why not?

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Domestic Violence Affects Family Wellbeing and the Development of Society – Saturday, 27.12.2008

Posted on 28 December 2008. Filed under: Week 592 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 592

“Phnom Penh: A high ranking official of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs said that domestic violence severely affects family wellbeing and especially also the potential for national development.

“A Secretary of State of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Ms. Sy Define, said that domestic violence affects everyone, whether they are victims or perpetrators, and it affects communities and the nation as a whole.

“Ms. Sy Define pointed out during a workshop about ‘Results of Women’s Forums on Reclaiming Information and Communication Technology to End Violence Against Women’ on 26 December 2008, that harmony in the family is a factor which contributes to develop the country. Women and children must be provided with wellbeing, services, resource management, and opportunities to fully and equally join all sectors of society, and all forms of discrimination in their lives must be prevented.

“Ms. Sy Define added that so far, frequently Cambodian women are still discriminated, even though the Royal Government promotes their rights and provides opportunities for women. She went on to say that domestic violence, human trafficking, sex exploitation, and rape still exist, and these activities are human rights violation which strongly affect Cambodian women and children, adding that domestic violence against women seriously impacts family wellbeing, particularly the capability of children and their development. In total, domestic violence affects everyone – both victims and perpetrators – it affects communities and the whole nation.

“The Executive Director of the Open Institute, Ms. Chim Manavy, said that there are many types of domestic violence against women, including physical and mental violence. She referred to a report which estimated that one among three women of the world, one will suffer from the pain of gender related violence some time in their lives. This may be through beatings, rape, attacks, trafficking, killing, contempt, or restrictions on their moving and walking around freely, and through restricting their social communications. She added that domestic violence against women damages their natural capabilities and the lack of women power is against the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

“Ms. Chim Manavy said therefore that publishing the laws about the rights and related various measures is crucial to reduce and to prevent domestic violence against women, where information and communication technology plays a very important role to prevent domestic violence against women.

“Ms. Sy Define acknowledges the importance to publish rights, laws, measures, and interventions to reduce and to prevent domestic violence against women, for which information and communication technology plays a fundamental role, ‘…but we need more time to promote also the understanding of citizens, so that they change their behavior which is conditioned in their minds since a long time ago.’ Ms. Chim Manavy said that most women who suffer from domestic violence do not dare to speak out, because they are afraid of being looked down by society, and they are afraid to receive more violence. She thinks that to stay quiet under domestic violence is wrong, because staying silent will just make perpetrators feel free to continue and to increase violence. Therefore, women must dare to speak up about such problems. She continued to say that there are many ways to report about violence, where information and communication technology is a safe and most effective tool, which can can be used without fear that other people might know about it.

“The discussions in this workshop will lead to see the root of these problems better, and also to see different solutions, and it will lead to closer cooperation with different institutions to lessen violence against women, and move towards gender equality and the promotion of women’s rights in Cambodian society.” Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.7, #1831, 27.12.2008

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Saturday, 27 December 2008


Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.7, #1831, 27.12.2008

  • Domestic Violence Affects Family Wellbeing and the Development of Society
  • The King Issues Decree to Change Three Cities into Provinces [Kep, Pailin, and Sihanoukville]
  • Siam [Thailand] Expresses Position about Samdech Hun Sen and the Preah Vihear Temple [Thai Minister of Foreign Affairs Kasit Piromya said that Thailand has no intention to take control of the temple again, but it continues to cooperate with Cambodia on related matters]; the New Siamese [Thai] Minister States that He Had Known Samdech Hun Sen since 1989 [when peace efforts began in Paris in 1989, leading to the Paris Peace Conference in 1991]; Samdech Dekchor Hun Sen Is the First Foreign Leader Who Welcomed Abhisit Vejjajiva after Becoming Prime Minister [according to Mr. Kasit Piromya]
  • German Navy Saved an Egyptian Cargo Ship from Somali Pirates

 
Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.2, #313, 26.12.2008

  • The Sam Rainsy Party Welcomes to Unite Forces for the Elections of Provincial and City Councils in 2009
  • Khmer Gambling Addicts Gather in the Phnom Penh Hotel [of Oknha Ly Yong Phat] and at Naga Casino [after gambling clubs outside hotels were closed by the government]

 
Khmer Sthapana, Vol.1, #169, 27.12.2008

  • There Are 25 Cases where Armed Forces Violated Citizens over Land Disputes [according to the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights – LICADHO]

 
Koh Santepheap, Vol.41, #6536, 27-28.12.2008

  • The Thai Prime Minister Wants to Punish [demonstration] Leaders Who Occupied Airports [which led to the loss of billions of dollars ]
  • A Belgian Man Died Immediately after Driving on a Motorbike and Hitting a Truck Carrying Soil [in Phnom Penh]

 
Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.15, #3650, 27-28.12.2008

  • The International Monetary Fund Asked the Government to Reduce the Budget for the Military Sector [from US$500 million to US$160 million, otherwise they will reconsider aid for Cambodia]
  • [Boeng Kak Lake] Residents Oppose the Decision of the Appeals Court Letting the Shukaku Company Continue Filling the Boeng Kak Lake

 
Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.16, #4779, 27.12.2008

  • New Cancer of Samdech Euv [Father King] Delays His Return to Cambodia
  • The Fifth Commission [the Commission on Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation, Information and Media] of the National Assembly Encourages Vietnam to Invest in Agriculture in Cambodia
  • [Film star] Vang Sreyno’s Fortune Drops: The [Phnom Penh] Municipality Will Probably Not Forgive Her [for causing an accident, damaging the lion statue at the Samdech Preah Sanghareach Chuon Nath Memorial]

 
Samleng Yuvachun Khmer, Vol.15, #3464, 27.12.2008

  • Cambodia Will Show Present Border Disputes at International, Regional, and World Forums [according the a member of the National Assembly and chairperson of the Commission on Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation, Information and Media, Mr. Chheang Vun]

Have a look at the last editorial – you can access it directly from the main page of the Mirror.

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