Perception and Reality – Again – Sunday, 18.1.2009

Posted on 19 January 2009. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 595 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

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The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 595

In the Mirror, we have taken up the public importance of perceptions several times over the years.

Actually, we had raised this question at the beginning of the publication of The Mirror on the Internet in January 2007, with reference to Prime Minister Dato Seri Abdullah bin Haji Ahmad Badawi of Malaysia under the tile “Perception and Reality.” At his inauguration, he had pointed to the important role of perceptions held by the public – which may or may not conform to reality, but are nevertheless extremely important for the political situation of a country.

And Dato Seri Syed Hamid Albar, as Minister of Foreign Affairs of Malaysia, took up the concern for the role of perceptions, saying that “negative developments do not contribute to creating a climate of confidence in the world, which is vitally necessary for all of us, regardless of different faiths and beliefs, to live in peace and harmony.”

Not only the reality is important – but how it is understood and interpreted what is heard and seen – this too is extremely important. Some good things may be misunderstood as if they were bad. But if many things heard and seen result in negative perceptions, it can have deeply devastating consequences for a seemingly well functioning society.

This week, we list up some reports – really not knowing how the public can help to clarify what is confused, to avoid moving further down into the dark.

The international Human Rights Organization Human Rights Watch had, in its 2009 report covering the situation of many countries, also criticized Cambodia.

Human Rights Watch does not report only about notoriously criticized countries like Myanmar, but it deals also with the human rights situation – to name some more countries – in France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Russia, Spain, the United Kingdom, and in the United States of America. Many of these countries take problems raised very seriously.

The brief Cambodia section of the Events of 2008 is followed by about 20 additional, detailed background documents

The content of all this is – unfortunately – not new: criticism of the criminal justice system, cases of intimidation, violence, imprisonments. Endemic impunity, rampant corruption, and illegal plundering of natural resources. And: Cambodia is due to be reviewed under the Universal Periodic Review mechanism of the UN Human Rights Commission in December 2009.

Most cases had been reported in the Khmer press during the year, quite a number also we had mirrored.

The official Cambodian reaction was reported in the Cambodia Daily as follows:

“Om Yentieng, head of the government’s human rights committee, dismissed the report’s findings, saying Human Rights Watch was defaming the country with lies and, in the process, making themselves foolish.

‘I refuse all of the accusations,’ he said, ‘they are just trying to make up things, or they just want to spoil heir name. They are playing the role as a puppet in order to gain an advantage for themselves.’”

(Cambodia Daily, 16 January 2009)

As an illustration of the gap between this perception and the reality we point to some reports mirrored during the past week – small and big events:

  • When people need public certifications or documentation, there are often no publicly displayed fees, saying transparently what is to be paid – “The price of a certificate, to get employment, to register the place of residence, or to get married is US$5.00, but the price goes up with its urgency – US$5.00 for one month – US$45.00 for 15 days, US$100.00 for one week, and US$150.00 for one day.” Similar arrangements may be in place in other countries too. But the report claims what is said to be general knowledge: “…these extra charges do not go to the Ministry of Economy and Finance.”
  • When a family had lost their new born son in a hospital formerly supported by Japan, the following financial dealings were reported. They had been going on for some time, but nobody had dared to speak up. – “There are notices written on the walls of the Japanese hospital with big Khmer letters on blue background, saying please do not pay anything to the staff, but only to the cashiers. Patients who are not able to pay for the services are invited to contact a monitoring group, and if someone asks for money in addition to the prescribed fees, they should be reported to the monitoring group. The service charges are approx. US$3.50 for a woman delivering her first baby; the normal room charge is approx. US$2.50 per night. – However, everything is different from the above prohibition notice. Each patient pays extra money in addition to the services, such as approx. US$10.00 to US$30.00 for doctors, approx. USUS$2.50 to each medical staff who injects three syringes three times per day etc. A woman said that, when the head of her baby appeared half way, first the doctors asked her how much money she would offer them. That woman offered them approx. US$12.00, but the doctors demanded more. Because she begged that that was all the money she had, they agreed. This is an incredible story, but that was what that woman said herself. Another woman staying in the next bed offered the doctors US$5.00, but only when they arrived at the sum of US$30.00 they agreed.”
  • When defense lawyers at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal were unable to get information about alleged kickbacks of Khmer staff – to higher level persons, for having received their positions – which would have satisfied them that there will be no unfairness in the trials, they finally filed a request for clarification of these corruption allegation at the Phnom Penh court. Now they feel intimidated by judges who prepare to sue them for defamation – instead of being grateful that the allegations could be refuted by a court forever.
  • When a delegation from the Senate and from human rights groups tried to inspect and to check forest sites allegedly cleared for planting rubber trees in Ratanakiri, the DM Group, the company under suspicion, prevented them from fulfilling their task.
  • When a Danish Woman had bought several thousand over-the-counter painkiller tablets with codeine, that can be easily and legally bought at many pharmacies all over Phnom Penh, and she tried to mail them at the Post Office – they are cheap here, and she hoped to sell them abroad to make some small extra money to support her son – she was arrested. Now she was convicted to serve 15 years in prison and fined approx. US$7,500 for drug trafficking. None of the press report said anything about any involvement with illegal substances.
  • When 234 families felt threatened as owners of their land by the Heng Development Company, they were satisfied that the Kandal provincial court had confirmed their land rights on 26 February 2007. But now the company deployed machinery and started to clear their land. When the legal owners protested, the company told them that the Kandal court had made a wrong judgment. The Military Police in Kandal Stung, led by their commander – a nephew of the director of the Heng Development Company – deployed 20 to 30 armed military police who opened fire with their AK-47 rifles – at least three men were seriously injured.
  • When it was reported that the US company PHI Mining had bought the Indochina Mining Corporation, now a subsidiary of PHI Mining, and that it now cooperates with the Cambodian company Angkor Metal Corporation, it was not big news. But maybe it had been big news before, and we had missed to see it – or it should have been big news. As we have mirrored yesterday, his cooperation relates to Cambodian natural resources , where the initial valuation of this copper ore area is estimated at USUS$1 billion. And we also mirrored yesterday that the Angkor Metal Corporation does not disclose much about itself in the way other companies do, though the US partner company writes that the “Founders of Angkor Metal Corporation include a son and a son-in-law of Mr. Hun Sen, Prime Minister of Cambodia, thus ensuring political support to acquire and extend mining license.”
  • The Constitution of Cambodia says:

    The National Assembly shall approve the national budget, State planning, loans, financial contracts, and the creation, modification and annulment of tax. (Article 90)

    We do not have information about any public bidding for the financial contract for national mineral resources, which the Angkor Metal Corporation finally got, neither do we have information on the status of the National Assembly approval procedures for the project and loan agreements – in the range of US$500 million – which are, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, already signed by Cambodia and by Kuwait.

    As stated initially, in public politics the perception of what is going on is often more important for the public democratic process than the reality – so we raised all the issues above – all based on information which was either in Cambodian newspapers, or which is available publicly on the Internet. Prime Minister Badawi had accepted, therefore, the need for self-criticism in searching for the reasons for such perceptions. But at the same time he considered it necessary to engage in identifying what he saw as “wanton violations of human dignity, natural justice, human rights and international law.”

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    Tuesday, 1.7.2008: Capacity and Quality Are Required at the Labor Market Inside and Outside of the Country

    Posted on 2 July 2008. Filed under: Week 567 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

    The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 567

    “Phnom Penh: According to a source from the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training, Cambodia will create a National Occupation Agency soon to help prepare and support exporting part of its labor force to foreign countries. Mr. Pich Sophan, the Secretary of State of the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training, values to export part of the labor force to foreign countries through labor migration as very important for Cambodia both now and in future, because it contributes to provide income to gain international financial resources in order to support the Cambodian economy, and it can also improve the capacity and the skills of Khmer laborers after they return to the country.

    “Nowadays, Cambodia is facing an increasing labor force which is estimated to be approximately 300,000 persons each year. The Royal Government has tried to deal with this labor force by attracting investors to Cambodia and by accepting graduates to work under this challenge. However, it is not enough; what is important is the involvement of the private sector.

    “Obviously, besides about 500 garment and shoe factories which are employing about 500,000 laborers during the period of six months in early 2008, the Royal Government has gained US$1,000 million from foreign investment, which is US$300 million more than during the same period of last year. This number is not high enough for the Royal Government to solve the ongoing unemployment problem. However, the capacity and the quality of the laborers are also problems. The Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training shows that at present, there are 4,400 legal laborers from China, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Thailand in Cambodia.

    “Nevertheless, Mr. Chea Mony, the president of the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia, disagreed that number of foreign laborers could become even higher, and he called on the Royal Government to carefully monitor this in order to uphold the state tax income and to follow the laws. On the other hand, the Undersecretary of State of the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training, Mr. Uom Mean, evaluated it as a positive sign in the era of globalization, and the mutual exchanges of foreign labor is also showing the start of new developments in Cambodia – it is the use of human resources that have special skills.

    “As for Mr. Sok Sina, a Research Associate of the Cambodia Development Resource Institute, he said that he welcomes only foreign laborers with special skills, because they can provide experience and knowledge to our Khmer laborers.

    “According to the evaluation above, the quality of laborers is very important when seeking employment in the country, and also when considering to export labor to foreign countries.

    “Mr. Rice Grand [phonetic], an expert in development skills in the International Labor Organization [ILO], said that Cambodia can export part of its labor force, but it is necessary to further extend training.

    “The Secretary of State of the Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sports Mr. Pit Chamnan said that in 2010, the number of students attending higher education will rise to more than 230,000, for which better education is required. Mr. Jean-Boris Roux, the president of the French and Khmer Chamber of Commerce, acknowledged that educating students with different skills to meet the needs of the labor market is most important to develop the country.

    “However, he acknowledged that there is some progress in education, but the quality is limited, making it difficult for different companies to find staff who has the needed skills and high capacity. On 13 June 2008, Samdech Dekchor Hun Sen, head of the Khmer Royal Government, instructed the Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sports to focus on education in the sector of mining and of energy, which will become an important labor market in the next few years.

    “As for the exporting of laborers to foreign countries through the ITS and EPS systems [meanings not clear – any suggestions from our readers?], the Ministry of Labor has sent nearly 4,000 laborers to work in South Korea, more that 7,000 laborers to Malaysia, and nearly 20,000 to Thailand.

    “Mr. Seng Sata, a department director of the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training, said that the Ministry of Labor is contacting four other countries to find labor markets for Cambodian laborers who have the skills needed, such as in Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, and Canada. At present, there are two organizations that help to develop national qualification standards, ILO and KOIKA of South Korea. Therefore, from now on, to meet the needs of local and foreign labor markets following the development of the country, Khmer laborers must develop to be laborers who have the respective capacities and qualities.” Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.7, #1681, 1.7.2008

    Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
    Tuesday, 1 July 2008


    Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.7, #1681, 1.7.2008

    • Capacity and Quality Are Required at the Labor Market Inside and Outside of the Country
    • Ieng Sary [former Khmer Rouge minister of foreign affairs] Is Seriously Ill so that He Could Not Sit and Listen during the Court Hearing [on 30 June 2008]
    • The King Calls Citizens to Vote According to Their Own Conscience
    • Cambodian Delegates Go to Attend the Annual Summit Meeting of the World Customs Co-Operation Council in Belgium
    • Road in Front of the Royal Palace Blocked from Marching or Shouting by Political Parties
    • Gold Sellers of Nine Stalls Robbed in Odongk Market, and Jewelries Worth about US$300,000 Were Taken [Kompong Speu]
    • Thousands of People Revolted against the Chinese Police over One Teenage Girl’s Death [after police claimed that she committed suicide by drowning, while the people claimed that she was raped and killed by throwing her into a river by a son of a local official in Guizhou Province – 贵州省 (simplified) – 貴州省 (traditional)
    • Mugabe Sworn in to Take the Position [of Zimbabwean president] after an Election Which Is Not Trusted Widely


    Khmer Sthapana, Vol.1, #146, 1.7.2008

    • Great Heroic King [Norodom Sihanouk] Warned Funcinpec [not to use his portraits for election propaganda – 30 June 2008]
    • Chief of Stung Treng Forestry Officials Is Accused of Releasing Seized Wood of Seven Cubic Meters
      Youth Are Concerned about the Spreading of Drugs in Cambodia
    • Cambodia Needs a Laboratory to Analyze How Many Elephants Are still Free in the Nature


    Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.15, #3500, 1.7.2008

    • Police Are Busy with the Election Propaganda Allowing Merchants to Import Contraband into Cambodia Actively


    Prachea Chun Khmer, Vol.15, #34, 30.7.2008

    • Community Based Eco-Tourism Guarantees to Have Good Tourism Products [where the community created a tourist resort by using natural or cultural resources as the attraction, and people in the community can benefit from tourists by selling products created by them, moreover the natural and cultural resources of the community will be preserved with the strong involvement by people of that community]


    Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.16, #4629, 1.7.2008

    • Thai Opposition Party [Democratic Party] Lodged a Motion against the Listing of the Preah Vihear Temple [as a World Heritage Site on 30 June 2008, as it cuts the wider environment off according to the map produced by Cambodia, without having national borders in the area clarified, which the 1962 International Court of Justice decision had left open, and recommended mutual clarification, which was still not done during the more than 40 years which passed]
    • US Ambassador Admires Club of Cambodian Journalists for the Competition of Writing Investigating Articles [Mr. Om Layum from Rasmei Kampuchea ranks first, Mr. Leang Deluch from Cambodge Soir ranks second, and Mr. Ung Sophea also from Cambodge Soir ranks third]

    Have a look at the last editorial – Preah Vihear still in the headlines – more information about Thailand’s and Cambodia’s documents.

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