Words Can Reveal or Obscure – Sunday, 15.8.2010

Posted on 16 August 2010. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 677 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 677

On Thursday, 12 August 2010, The Cambodia Daily had a headline that said:

Gov’t Refutes Court Order on Land Dispute

And in the text this is explained as follows:

Ratanakiri Provincial Court has ordered the province’s largest rubber company to temporarily stop operations…

But an official at the Ministry of Agriculture said that the order should not be carried out, as it would harm government revenues coming from the rubber sector.

“The injunction cannot be implemented because it is on state land,” Ly Phalla, director general of the Ministry of Agriculture’s rubber department said yesterday.

Is this acceptable? When some personal interest is negatively affected by a court order favoring an opposing side, it is understandable that an individual does not want to follow a court order. But a court order has to be obeyed anyway in a country under a Constitution like the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodian. Or an appeal to a higher court can be made.

Is this suggestion by a high ranking official at a ministry, calling not to obey a court order, acceptable? If it is not acceptable, it would be interesting to read the sanctions which were taken against such a position.

But it is not surprising, then, that there was also a report in The Mirror of Thursday, 12.8.2010 – see details there – saying:

The report by the Minister of Water Resources and Meteorology, Mr. Lim Kean Hor, does not relate to only one case, but he says that 45 illegally built reservoirs were already destroyed since 25 June 2010, but 239 illegal reservoirs which still are to be demolished, are located in the six provinces of Banteay Meanchey, Battambang, Kompong Chhnang, Kompong Thom, Pursat, and Siem Reap. So it is a widespread fact, in spite of the criticism since many months, and an order by the Prime Minister in April 2010.

The Minister of Water Resources said he is just following the Prime Minister’s order, and “We reported and sent the name list of those people to Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen to consider and to decide an appropriate measure.” The list names some district governors and commune chiefs, suspected to be involved in collusion to protect illegal reservoirs which are ruining the Tonle Sap lake. Deputy Prime Minister Yim Chhayly took a similar position: “We must cooperate to protect and conserve the Tonle Sap lake and engage in the conservation for the development of eco-tourism…. The Cambodian People’s Party must acknowledge what we did, because party officials such as district governors and commune chiefs signed on documents to allow the creation of those illegal reservoirs.” – “He will hold all responsibilities for everything if there are any of subordinate officials taking bribes and trying to prevent these newly-built basins from being destroyed by the Government’s local authorities,” he added.

This is quite different from the call from another Ministry’s department director. It is obvious where proper responsibility is taken to act, and where it is difficult to understand what is said by others in high positions.

And one may ponder what is more surprising – that a department director of a ministry can publicly call to disregard a court order, or that a ministers really does what has to be done, in spite of the fact that it will create displeasure among members of the same party, as it includes a public admission that the Cambodian People’s Party must acknowledge what was done wrong. Such admission clears the way to a new, and better start.

= = =

In quite a different context, the question of taking responsibility for words spoken by persons with public responsibility has also to be addressed.

Even as it is complex and difficult to navigate, The Mirror tries to mirror it – mirroring what is in the media; and this may not in all cases correctly reflect reality. But it all relates to the painful tensions between Cambodia and Thailand.

On 4.7.2010, The Mirror carried reports about allegations in the Thai press that two Thai citizens, supposed to have been involved in planting a bomb in Bangkok, fled to Cambodia. The Press and Quick Reaction Unit at the Council of Ministers rejected such reports, calling on the Thai government to end what it described as a “malicious campaign to fault Cambodia…” The Cambodian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mr. Koy Kuong said that these allegations were “stupid.” – “Cambodia completely denies this kind of provocative information.” – “They raise incorrect information. When Thailand has problems, they blame Cambodia.” – “If Thailand denies that they have accused Cambodia, then they should make corrections in all their media that have published such false information,” he said. “I think this is a play from the Thai government officials, who speak out without taking responsibility for their comments.”

On 5.7.2010, one day later, The Mirror had a headline “Cambodia Will Hand Over Two Terrorist Suspects to Thai Embassy Officials on Monday” – they were arrested in Siem Reap. – Thai government officials did not have to apologize for a “malicious campaign” of “provocative information” and to correct wrong, “stupid” allegations, and they did not have to make corrections in all their media. While Thai government officials had been accused by their Cambodian counterparts of speaking out without taking responsibility for their comments. We are not aware that an apology for the accusations against the Thai side was published in all Cambodian media, that had carried the – now proved groundless – accusations against the related Thai voices.

Now again the Thai government is again urged by representatives of the Cambodian government to control their media better.

A press report from Thailand has been taken as the basis for a Cambodian appeal to the UN General Assembly and the UN Security Council, stating that the Thai Prime Minister’s words imply a violation of the UN charter – but the Thai Prime Minister claims that he was “misquoted, taken out of context and misunderstood” in what he had said in relation to the use of military force in border disputes. The Cambodian government sees this, on the other hand, as a Thai effort to blame the media, while actually continuing a Thai “toxic” campaign to confuse the public. And the Cambodian side retorts, in this war of words, that the Thai government should control its press better, and to publish immediately corrections, if necessary.

A similar need to correct supposedly problematic reports by the press was felt by the Cambodian side already once in February 2010. The international press had reported that the Cambodian Prime Minister had cursed his Thai counterpart:

“If you don’t tell the truth about Thai troops invading Cambodia, let magic objects break your neck, may you be shot, be hit by a car, may you be shocked by electricity or (may you be shot) by misfired guns.”

“Will Abhisit swear on having all his family members killed and having them (perish) in a plane crash, if (he still claims) that Thai troops did not invade Cambodia?”

In order to clarify the situation, the Cambodian Minister of Information, Mr. Khieu Kanharith, appealed to the media on 15.2.2010 to report correctly, saying that the Cambodian Prime Minister did not “curse” Mr. Abhisit, but just asked to swear that Thai troops did not invade Cambodia. “In the past, there are a lot of misunderstandings. So, I would kindly ask you to correct those words. Samdech (Hun Sen) did not curse, Samdech only ask Abhisit to swear whether Thai troops invaded Cambodia or not. If they didn’t invade Cambodia, just swear.”

Considering that most of the indirect exchanges over the press are – in addition to the difficult situation – mostly burdened by translations, from Thai to English, and from Khmer to English, and then re-translated again in the respective local media; there is enough room for emotional interpretation and misunderstanding.

“The Thai Prime Minister declared again that “Thailand is committed to solve the border dispute peacefully under the 2000 Memorandum of Understanding,” and the Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok An was quoted in the issue of Rasmei Kampuchea of 8-9.8.2010 also to appeal to adhere to this same Memorandum of Understanding.

But while the Cambodian Prime Minister also repeated this hope for a peaceful solution, he also warned last week again that the border tension could lead to “bloodshed,” a wording similar to his statement from October 2008, when the BBC reported that the Cambodia Prime Minster had threatened “all-out war, to turn the area around the disputed Preah Vihear temple into a ‘zone of death’.”

Is there any other way to what the Cambodian Prime Minister himself had said recently, as The Mirror reported:

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Disagreement among Co-Investigating Judges at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal – Thursday, 10.6.2010

Posted on 11 June 2010. Filed under: Week 668 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 668

“Phnom Penh: The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia [ECCC], called the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, announced
that there is disagreement among co-investigating judges after there had been some misinformation, and an international co-investigating judge considers it as disagreement.

“According to the announcement by the Office of the Co-Investigating Judges, released on 9 June 2010, the co-investigating judges of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal want to correct some information that led to a misunderstanding in a publication on 8 June 2010 of The Cambodia Daily, with the headline, ‘Khmer Rouge Tribunal Begins Investigations of Five New Regime Suspects’ and on 9 June 2010 ‘Khmer Rouge Judge Does Not Sign On to New Investigations.’

“The same announcement says that to ensure clarity, the co-investigating judges decided to make a public announcement on the above case, and declared on 9 June 2010 that the international co-investigating judge considers that there is disagreement between two investigating judges (a national judge, Mr. You Bunleng, and an international judge, Mr. Marcel Lemonde) over the appropriate time to begin inquiries.

“The announcement adds that relating to the plan for investigations on Case 003 and 004 to be organized before the end of this year, the international co-investigating judge will continue this work alone in accordance with the regulations of Procedure 27 of the internal procedures of the ECCC.

“Regarding the background of the disagreement, an international co-investigating judge, Mr. Marcel Lemonde, wrote a letter dated 2 June 2010 to Judge You Bunleng, saying, as the investigations on Case 002 have been completely finished, the investigators should not be kept to get their salaries paid without having work to do. He added that he cannot wait longer without a clear result. Therefore, if a warrant to begin new investigations would not be signed by Friday, 4 June 2010 at noon, he would have to write a note about the disagreement, because it could possibly lead to various negative consequences.

“The Khmer Rouge Tribunal asked The Cambodia Daily to correct the information published on 8 June 2010 with the headline “Khmer Rouge Tribunal Begins Investigations of Five New Regime Suspects” on page 26, claiming that the press quoted information that was ‘non-basis information’ and was not from the Office of the Co-Investigating Judges.” Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.9, #2271, 10.6.2010

Note:

The Cambodia Daily added on 10 June 2010 that Mr. Marcel Lemonde stated that the letter to start further investigations waited for three weeks to be signed. Then Mr. You Bonleng signed it.

The Cambodia Daily then quotes Mr. You Bonmleng’s letter from 8 June 2010:

“Throughout the process of reflection on your proposal and the ultimatum you imposed on me, I had thought that it seemed time to take action as part of cases 003 and 004; I therefore signed the draft rotatory letters on Friday, June 4, 2010.

However, upon more attentive and deeper consideration of the question, I think that it is not yet opportune to take action in cases 003 and 004.

So I permit myself to return to you the draft rogatory letters containing your signature, mine being crossed out, and we shall contemplate discussion on any measures concerning cases 003 and 004 in the month of September 2010.”

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Thursday, 10 June 2010

Areyathor, Vol.17, #1443, 10-11.6.2010

  • 250 Children Scavengers [at the major garbage dump of Phnom Penh] in Stung Meanchey Received Learning Materials from the Minister of Social Affairs [Mr. Ith Sam Heng]

Deum Ampil, Vol.4, #500, 10.6.2010

  • The Prime Minister Considers the Armed Clash [between Cambodian and Thai soldiers] at Chambok Koang as a Minor Incident

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.9, #2271, 10.6.2010

  • Disagreement among Co-Investigating Judges at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal
  • The Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association [ADHOC] Is Disappointed with the UN Human Rights Special Rapporteur [who plans to focus only on judicial reforms in Cambodia, while ADHOC wants him to pay attention also to the land issues that result from the provisions of economic concession land to companies and the removal of people from the land]

Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.4, #678, 10.6.2010

  • [Prime Minister] Hun Sen Called on Officials under His Administration to Conduct Reforms Using the Aid Received
  • [Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian] Mu Sochua: The Documentary Film “Who Killed Chea Vichea” [the murdered head of the Cambodian Free Trade Union of Workers] Will Be Shown Soon [though the authorities did not allow it]

Koh Santepheap, Vol.43, #6978, 10.6.2010

  • The Border Marker Number 241 at the K’om Samnor-Vinh Soeung International Border Crossing Was Inaugurated; the Provinces of Kandal and of An Giang [of Vietnam] Have Land and Water Borders of 29.5 Kilometer
  • Bill Gates Donates US$1.5 Billion to Impoverished Countries for the Care for Women and Children

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.17, #3902, 10.6.2010

  • [Opposition party president] Sam Rainsy Does Not Believe that Foreign Aid Can Be Used for the Right Targets and with Transparency, though [Prime Minister] Hun Sen Promised to Carry Out Reforms

Phnom Penh Post [Khmer Edition], Vol.1, #190, 10.6.2010

  • Thirty Border Crossings in Banteay Meanchey Were Closed [in order to stop the illegal import of pigs, petroleum, gas, fruit, and no-quality foods from Thailand to Cambodia]
  • Cambodia Sugar [produced by a sugar factory in Koh Kong] Can Be Exported for the First Time [10,000 tonnes of sugar are exported to London]

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5220, 10.6.2010

  • Samdech Dekchor Called on Citizens Not to Do Football Betting during the FIFA World Cup [which will start on 11 June 2010, and he asked the authorities to suppress betting]
  • An Old French Man Received Two Years Imprisonment for Buying Child Debauchery, but His Imprisonment Will Be Implemented for Seven Months Only [Phnom Penh]

Have a look at the last editorial – you can access it directly from the main page of the Mirror.
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The Prime Minister’s Anti-Corruption Declaration – Sunday, 7.2.2010

Posted on 8 February 2010. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 650 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 650

The Mirror carried already last week a report about the extraordinary speech of the Prime Minister: “It Is Time to Stop; Military Officials Who Do Illegal Activities Are Not Fit to Work in the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces” – where he directly named several generals present, criticizing their unacceptable, corrupt behavior. During the present week, there were still positive responses in the press, including from sources not so close to the government. Human Rights Watch, a US based organization, often very critical of the political climate in Cambodia, also supported the Prime Minister’s warning to commanders over their corrupt, illegal actions. And the Prime Minister himself continued to speak according to the same line, when he attacked nepotism, warning that nobody should nominate relatives and partisans for public office.

But we got also another response: “Words are cheap, nothing will change.”

And another, also anonymous voice, calls it to be my idea – while I actually quoted Article 51 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia – that the Cambodian people are the masters of their country, because they can vote, saying, “Having rights is not enough. You’ve got to have the power to exercise those rights, so that they can be useful. That can also explain why the civil society has always failed in demanding for respect for human rights.”

These are pessimistic views, assuming and expecting that rights can be enjoyed automatically, while history shows in many different cultures that rights have to be fought for, even if they are written in the law, when other powers violate them.

The Prime Minister has spoken clearly.

According to a report in the Phnom Penh Post of 4 February 2010, “Farmers set to call soldiers to Kampot court,” saying

“A group of people in Chumkiri, Kampot, filed a complaint in the provincial court against members of an army unit they say are encroaching on their land and cutting down their fruit trees, escalating a standoff that began in 2001… The court complaint comes less than one week after Prime Minister Hun Sen warned top military officials to refrain from participating in illegal land-grabbing operations.

‘It is time to stop every activity involving illegal business or the support of illegal business. I don’t care how many stars or moons you have – I will fire you, and nobody will keep corrupt commanders in their seats,’ the Prime Minister had said at the end of a conference on military reform at the Ministry of Defense last week.”

So we will see.

But did civil society always fail in demanding respect for human rights? It is not clear on which basis this is said, and which understanding or misunderstanding of the term ‘civil society’ is used when saying so. First, there is no general, clear definition of this term. But it refers to all movements, associations, or individual citizens, independent from the state, whose aim is to improve policies, standards, or social structures, through common efforts. Civil society – that are organizations formed for these purposes – civil society organizations, non-government organizations, citizens action groups – but civil society is also all individual citizens in a social unit – be it a residential region, or a common interest group (for example enjoying sports or music, and caring together to see that the proper space is set aside for these purposes). Civil society is citizens who organize themselves to care for the quality of life where they live.

Civil society is also the majority of the citizens of Phnom Penh, who, in their majority, do not care that the Boeung Kak lake in this city is being destroyed, being filled up with sand for the benefit of some business interests to construct a commercial and housing center – though the plans have not even been made transparent and publicly know, leaving all the struggle for rights to the several thousand people who are directly affected, because they lose their traditional environment and with it also their means of living.

On 31 August 2008 The Mirror had reported the following: “Later in January 2008, Areyathor reported that Samdech Heng Samrin, the President of the National Assembly – and also a Honorary President of the Cambodian People’s Party – had signed a letter for the suspension of pumping of soil to fill Boeng Kak lake, and the paper reported also that the Phnom Penh governor and vice-governor allegedly disagree with each other about filling Boeng Kak lake.” We are not aware that the press has done any follow up on these reports. But the public is aware that the lake is gradually disappearing, that many residents had tried to organize themselves to jointly represent their concerns and demands, and that some of the remaining residents around the lake are at present living on top of rising dirty water, as the promised pumping for stagnant dirty water – as a result of the filing in of sand – was installed too late and is not strong enough.

Recently I had the opportunity to be in Myanmar, and to have dinner one evening at the Kan Taw Gyi lakeside – a wide park where hundreds of people enjoy walking around or sitting together, with a music stage, very many small restaurants, and a wonderful view. Phnom Penh is destroying such a possibility for its future.

The lake before being filled

The lake before being filled

The lake being filled

The lake being filled



.

At the Kan Taw Gyi Lake in Yangon/Myanmar.

At the Kan Taw Gyi Lake in Yangon/Myanmar.



.

Does civil society – the people in general in Phnom Penh – care? Or why not?

.

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Different Challenges to Act? Different Conceptions of Communication? – Sunday, 29.3.2009

Posted on 30 March 2009. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 605 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 605

Looking back at the end of a week to the past information carried, it is often difficult to understand easily what happened – or what not happened.

On Friday, we mirrored a report that in January 2009, there were 40 children under the age of six living with their parents in prisons. “The Prison Department of the Ministry of Interior is asking the Ministry of Economy and Finance to increase the monetary allowances for prisoners from Riel 1,500 [approx US$0.37] to Riel 2,800 [approx. US$0.69] per day, so that they can eat enough food.” And: “It should be remembered that children living with their parents in prison are not prisoners, and they must not receive any punishment…”

An increase from US$0.37 to US$0.69 per day is an increase of US$0.32 per day per person, that is $12.80 for all 40 children per day; that is $384 per month. For all 40 children for one whole year, this upgrade would cost $4,604.

Here are some other figures to which we referred during the week, as they had appeared in The Mirror:

  • US$200,000 were donated by the Japanese Government to the Khmer Rouge Tribunal
  • US$18 Million had been loaned to the Government, but the World Bank might withdraw them
  • US$7.07 million were spent for the Senate in 2008
  • US$12.6 million are provided to Cambodia by the World Bank to expand international trade
  • US$100 Million is a loan from the International Finance Corporation of the World Bank Group to expand a mobile phone network
  • US$35 million on loan from Japan for the construction of clean water production

And US$4,604? Of course all these other moneys were not designated to feed 40 children under six in prison, and the paperwork on the way from the Prison Department of the Ministry of Interior to the Ministry of Economy and Finance, and then the search where, in the national budget to find US$4,604, also takes its time, while sorting out regulations.

But: “It should be remembered that children living with their parents in prison are not prisoners, and they must not receive any punishment…” Who is in charge? Who cares? Who could even care to get things moving, without being in charge?

= = =

But there were other problems to be faced, and not only by 40 children, but by the whole nation.

Not many publications have a prestigious history like The Economist from London. It began publishing in 1843 and has continued as a weekly magazine until the present. In 2007, it had a world wide circulation of more than 1.3 million.

In addition to its publications, The Economist has also a research arm, the Economist Intelligence Unit, and it is regularly organizing Economist Conferences around the world. Such a conference was held early this year also in Cambodia, on 16 February 2009 in Siem Reap, under the heading: Business Roundtable with the Government of Cambodia – On the verge of a breakthrough? [see The Mirror report in Rasmei Kampuchea of 13.2.2009] The Prime Minister was a keynote speaker at this conference. It was considered a special event that an Economist Conferences had been organized and was held in Cambodia. This had been announced:

Key issues to be discussed included:

  • In light of recent oil and gas discoveries in the Gulf of Thailand, what is the government doing to settle border claims with its neighbors?
  • With predictions that oil could start flowing by as early as 2011, how will the government manage Cambodia’s newfound wealth?
  • In evaluating the investment climate, are private equity firms being overly optimistic?
  • What new business opportunities are there for investment in Cambodia’s much needed infrastructure?
  • Given the recent boom in property development and construction, is greater regulation of the industry necessary and if so, what impact will this have on property investors?
  • How will Cambodia’s garment industry deal with greater competition from China and Vietnam? What is being done to boost efficiency in this important industry?
  • With a recession hitting the US, what is Cambodia doing to diversify its export markets?
  • How will the government offset growing inflation and an increase in commodity prices, particularly of oil?
  • Is Cambodia’s economy ready to move away from de facto “dollarization” to the Riel and what will this mean for business?

That this event was planned – as the many other Economist Conferences around the world – for high level business leaders, was obvious from the admission prices to participate in his one-day-only event:

US$ 990 Early Registration Fee (by 9 January 2009)
US$1,250 Standard Registration Fee
US$1,000 Corporate Network Members’ Fee

These high level conferences are prepared by the Economist Intelligence Unit, which is described on their own Internet website with the following ambitious words:

The Economist Intelligence Unit is the world’s foremost provider of country, industry, and management analysis. Founded in 1946 when a director of intelligence was appointed to serve The Economist, the Economist Intelligence Unit is now a leading research and advisory firm with more than 40 offices worldwide. For over 60 years, the Economist Intelligence Unit has delivered vital business intelligence to influential decision-makers around the world. Our extensive international reach and unfettered independence make us the most trusted and valuable resource for international companies, financial institutions, universities, and government agencies.

The appreciation for the fact that Cambodia had been the site of an Economist Conference turned into hostility, after – on 19 March 2009, the Economist Intelligence Unit published a 34 pages document: Manning the barricades – Who’s at risk as deepening economic distress foments social unrest?

In this document, the basic methodology of compiling the document is laid open, for three possibilities, asking If things feel bad now, how much worse could they get? – and it describes the third and worst possibility with the following words:

Failing confidence in the Dollar leads to its collapse, and the search for alternative safe-havens proves fruitless.
Economic upheaval sharply raises the risk of social unrest and violent protest. A Political Instability Index covering 165 countries, developed for this report, highlights the countries particularly vulnerable to political instability as a result of economic distress…

The political implications of the economic downturn, informed by the results of the Social and Political Unrest Index, are discussed at length in the second half of the report.

The full report, in both PDF and HTML format, is available online at http://www.eiu.com/special.

Putting a lot of detailed data from many countries through these procedures, which contain among others also terms developed by the Political Instability Task Force at the George Mason University in the USA, which elaborate also about further terms which we quote here:

Economic distress appears to be almost a necessary condition for serious instability, but it is not a sufficient one. There are many instances of declines in GDP per head that have not been followed by political instability. It is only when economic distress is accompanied by other, underlying or structural features of vulnerability that there is a high vulnerability to or risk of serious outbreaks of political and social unrest.

Defining political unrest

We define social and political unrest or upheaval as those events or developments that pose a serious extra-parliamentary or extra-institutional threat to governments or the existing political order. The events will almost invariably be accompanied by some violence as well as public disorder. These need not necessarily be successful in the sense that they end up toppling a government or regime. Even unsuccessful episodes result in turmoil and serious disruption. The assessment of what constitutes a “serious threat” still requires judgment and can be arbitrary, but this is a step forward from having no definition at all.

Political Instability Index

The overall index on a scale of 0 (no vulnerability) to 10 (highest vulnerability) has two component indexes—an index of underlying vulnerability and an economic distress index. The overall index is a simple average of the two component indexes. There are 15 indicators in all—12 for the underlying and 3 for the economic distress index.

As a result, a table is automatically calculated from the hundreds of data collected. We quote only the beginning of the resulting Political Instability Index of Rank, Country, and Score:













1

Zimbabwe8.8
2Chad8.5
3Congo Kinshasa8.2
4Cambodia8.0
4Sudan8.0
6Iraq7.9
7Cote d’Ivoire7.8
7Haiti7.8
7Pakistan7.8
7Zambia7.8
7Afghanistan7.8

Naturally, this ranking for Cambodia on Position 4 (from 165, with some countries sharing the same ranking number) was received with surprise, and even rejection. Considering the final results, it was quickly dismissed as a report supposedly produced with a hidden agenda against Cambodia. – More surprising is how the Cambodian embassy in England reacted against the Economist Intelligence Unit’s report, which misunderstands the report as made up of arbitrary statements targeting Cambodia – and therefore asking the Economist Intelligence Unit to “issue a retraction.” This is misunderstanding is obvious from the following excerpts of the letter of the Cambodian ambassador to the Economist Intelligence Unit:

Dear Sir,

On behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia, I am writing to express my deep concern and disappointment with your latest report, “Manning the Barricades” in which you highlight Cambodia as one of the countries most at risk of suffering serious social unrest as a consequence of the on-going global financial crisis.

Your scaremongering allegations are highly dangerous as they could be construed as actively inciting unrest. They also happen to be a gross distortion and misrepresentation of Cambodia’s true position and there can be no justification for these claims.

May I suggest that it is insulting for you to claim that Cambodia is more politically unstable than the war-torn nations of Iraq and Afghanistan…

You also appear to have rather arrogantly dismissed any serious evidence which contradicts your own claims; not least that provided by the Prime Minister of Cambodia, Hun Sen, who only in February 2009 addressed a Business Round Table event co-hosted by your own organisation.

You may recall that the Prime Minister used that occasion to record that Cambodia had just enjoyed a decade of blistering growth, more than doubling its per capita GDP between 1998 and 2007. He attributed this great success to political stability, forging deeper integration with the global trade and investment communities; and improved macro-economic management.

You also seem to have ignored Cambodia’s sizable oil and gas deposits, its wealth of natural resources as well as its growing reputation as a “must visit” tourist destination and as a center of enterprise and investment….”

It is extremely unfortunate that the result of an analysis of hundreds and hundreds of international data, which fully agree with the assessment of Cambodia’s economic growth during the last years, is not seen for what it says: that countries which had a high growth rate based on factors now being eroded by the international economic crisis, are facing a more serious danger of disrupting instability than countries which have been anyway politically instable, and economically at a low level. The Economist Intelligence Unit is not questioning past achievements – but it is sounding a warning that these achievements are now facing a most serious challenge, and therefore the new situation merits utmost attention.

This week’s reflection is much longer than usual.

It was written with the hope to improve communication between Cambodian and international voices, which is often mis-communication: while facts are presented with an invitation to rationally discuss them, they are emotionally dismissed. This is not useful, and ways have to be found to communicate better.

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