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.

Please recommend us also to your colleagues and friends.

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Children in Prisons Are Suffering from Malnutrition – Friday, 27.3.2009

Posted on 28 March 2009. Filed under: Week 605 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 605

“Phnom Penh: The condition of children and of women in prisons is being considered by the government and by human rights organizations in relation to their health, even though they are in prison.

“Children under the age of six are brought with their prisoner parents to live with them in prison. Therefore, do these children receive enough nutritious food?

“According to a report by the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights – LICADHO – in January 2009, there are 40 children living with their parents in prisons. Children living in prison face malnutrition, lack other necessities, and lack education which is crucial for their growing up.

“A prison research official of LICADHO, Mr. Khieu Kolay, said that children are not required to live with their parents in prison, but parents themselves want their children to live with them because no one else can take care of them besides them. Thus, nobody can hinder them.

“Regarding monetary allowances for prisoners, the Prison Department of the Ministry of Interior is asking the Ministry of Economy and Finance to increase it 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 also so that it is in line with the high inflation at the markets.

“According to Prison Regulation Number 34, children under the age of six are allowed to live with their parents in prison, since this provides benefits to children. Because the period of the first five-years of children is important for the growing of their bodies, their social living, and their mental development, the Regulation Number 34 requires prison authorities to provide children with their basic needs.

“However, in reality, these necessities are neglected. Women who are mothers, and pregnant women are not offered additional food and material for taking care of their children.

“It should be remembered that children living with their parents in prison are not prisoners, and they must not receive any punishment.

“Based on ADHOC’s report [maybe this should say ‘LICADHO’?], in January 2009 there were 40 children living with their parents in prisons, where 22 are male and 18 are female. There are 17 children in the Rehabilitation Center II, 2 in the prison in Takhmao, 2 in the prison in Battambang, 3 in Banteay Meanchey, 4 in Siem Reap, 8 in Sihanoukville, 1 in Koh Kong, 1 in Kompong Chhnang, and 2 in Kompong Cham.” Deum Ampil, Vol.3, #150, 27.3.2009

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Friday, 27 March 2009

Cheat Khmer, Vol.1, 48, 27.3.2009

Deum Ampil, Vol.3, #150, 27.3.2009

  • Children in Prison [with their parents] Are Suffering from Malnutrition
  • More than 20,000 Red-Shirt Demonstrators [who support ousted former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra] Surround Government House of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.8, #1908, 27.3.2009

  • Parliament Members from the Opposition Party Ask the Ministry of Industry, Mines, and Energy to Investigate the Allegation that Ice Manufacturing Companies Steal State Electricity
  • Artillery Fire [between Tamil insurgents and government troops] Killed 54 Civilians in Sri Lanka

Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.3, #373, 27.3.2009

  • Former Khmer Rouge Leaders Said that the Conviction of Former Khmer Rouge Leaders Is Not Just, because Yuon [Vietnam] Also Killed Khmers after 1979

Koh Santepheap, Vol.42, #6613, 27.3.2009

  • The Tense Conditions near the Preah Vihear Temple Gets Better after Siam [Thailand] Denied It Had Sent Troops to Violate Cambodian Territory
  • America Provides Helicopters to Mexico to Combat Drugs

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.16, #3722, 27.3.2009

  • [Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian] Son Chhay Asks the Government to Increase Import Taxes and Assist Farmers with Resources

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.17, #4854, 25.3.2009

  • Officials: Big Construction of Buildings in Cambodia Is Still in Progress despite the Global Economic Crisis
  • The Ministry of Culture of Vietnam Donates Musical Instruments to the Ministry of Culture [of Cambodia]
  • Incheon City of Korea and Phnom Penh Sign to Tie Sister City Relations

Sereypheap Thmey, Vol.16, #1683, 27.3.2009

  • Mr. Sam Rainsy Calls on Khmer Citizens to Care about Border Problems both at the West [with Thailand] and at the East [with Vietnam]

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

And please recommend us also to your colleagues and friends.

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Wednesday, 23.7.2008: The United Nations Asserts that Cambodia Is among the Least Developed Countries

Posted on 24 July 2008. Filed under: week 570 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 570

“Developing the country nearly 30 years by borrowing money from foreign countries and by receiving hundreds of millions of dollars each year, by 2008, Cambodia is still a country among forty nine countries that have very little development. According to a statement of the UN Conference on Trade and Development [UNCTAD] on 18 July 2008, 49 countries were evaluated by the United Nations to be Least Developed Countries [The Least Developed Countries Report 2008, Growth, Poverty and the Terms of Development Partnership, full report: PDF, 197 pages, 1719Kb].

Among the 49 countries 10 countries are from Asia, 5 countries from the Pacific Ocean region, 1 country from the Caribbean, and 33 countries from Africa. Countries from Asia are Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burma, Cambodia, East Timor, Laos, Maldives, Nepal, and Yemen. The evaluation of the UN about trade and development are based on three criteria:

  • the first criterion is ‘low income’ of citizens, based on the average national income per capita during three years [2002-2004], and countries were added to this list if the figure is less than US$750;
  • the second criterion, it based on ‘human assets’, [based on indicators of nutrition, health (child mortality rate), school enrollment, and adult literacy rate]; and
  • the third criterion depends on the ‘economic vulnerability’ [based on indicators of natural shocks like instability of agricultural production; trade shocks like instability of exports of goods and services, exposure to shocks like strong dependency on agriculture, or merchandise export, or being affected by economic isolation].
  • “Cambodia has just waken up from war that had lasted many years, and receives about US$400 million to US$600 million every year. This does not cover loans from some countries, and national funds collected through taxes and through other means.

    “Previously, the Economic Institute of Cambodia and the World Bank had estimated that Cambodia loses each year at least US$300 million to US$500 million by corruption. Also Mr. Joseph Mussomeli, US ambassador to Cambodia, has criticized corruption in Cambodia, claiming that the Cambodian government has no clear policies to fight corruption; just to speak about this word a lot may make it sound beautiful without any effect. Also, Transparency International found that Cambodia is among the countries in the world having most serious corruption problems [Global corruption Report 2008].

    “Some economic observers and officials of civil society organizations agree with the data of UNCTAD, asserting that Cambodia is among the Least Developed Countries; this evaluation is in line with the real situation. It is true that the government led by Prime Minister Hun Sen owes much debt and received funds of hundreds of millions of dollars every year, but there is not much significant development. At present, 36% of Khmer citizens still live under the poverty line with Riel 4,000 [approx. US$0.98] per day, while many leaders and corrupt officials became millionaires and billionaires.

    “Economic observers and officials of civil society organizations in Cambodia said that hundreds of millions of dollars that the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen, vice-president of the Cambodian People’s Party, has received from foreign countries, and funds from the international community every year, are not spent to develop the country. A considerable part of that money has gone into the pockets of leaders and of corrupt officials which led to very little economic growth, and the benefits from that economic growth do not reach the poor, but it benefits corrupt officials who are partisans of powerful leaders. This creates an ever larger gap between the rich and the poor, and makes the nation to face a serious crisis.

    “An official, who asked that his name not be mentioned, said that strong corruption in the Ministry of Commerce, managed by Cham Prasidh, is one reason making Cambodian commerce not to grow as in neighboring countries, and the country has little development. Just to register a company, an investor has to spend much money to corrupt officials close to Cham Prasidh. Therefore, big foreign investors do not dare to come to invest in Cambodia, because they hate corruption. Another thing is that Cambodia has no anti-corruption law which meets international standards.

    “Some independent observers noticed that corruption and bureaucracy occurring strongly in important state institutions of Cambodia makes Cambodia to develop little, although the country owes nearly US$4 billion and has received hundreds of millions of dollars from the international community. State institutions ruined by corruption and bureaucracy are the Council of Ministers, the Ministry of Economy and Finance, the Ministry of Commerce, the Customs and Excise Department, the Council for the Development of Cambodia, and the Department of Economic Police of the Ministry of Interior. As for the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs and Inspection, managed by Men Samon, a member of the Central Committee of the Cambodian People’s Party, does nothing to observe, prevent, and eliminate corruption.

    “Independent observers noticed that also some important institutions and donor countries for Cambodia do not help Cambodia to eliminate corruption effectively. Clearly, Mr. Ian Porter and Ms. Nisha Agrawal, Country Director for Cambodia and [former] Cambodia Country Manager of the World Bank, seem to be sensitive about corruption, which absorbs even development funds of the World Bank. But even when corruption and bureaucracy in important state institutions of the Hun Sen’s government grew stronger, the World Bank provided more funds to Hun Sen’s government, although they knew that such funds do not provide advantages to Khmer poor citizens.

    “Analysts said that in order for Cambodia to develop soon, the Khmer citizens countrywide have to defeat corrupt leaders, who destroy and steal from the nation, through the election on 27 July 2008. This means that Khmer citizens countrywide have to vote to dismiss the Cambodian People’s Party from power, because the government led by the Cambodian People’s Party for many terms does not improve the national economy and does not make citizens to live with a richer livelihood. The new leader, that Khmer citizens have to choose, is Mr. Sam Rainsy, the president of the opposition party who is an economic expert and who is willing to serve the citizens’ and to protect the nation’s interests.” Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.15, #3519, 23.7.2008

    Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
    Wednesday, 23 July 2008


    Areyathor, Vol.15, #1344, 23-24.7.2008

    • [UN Secretary-General] Mr. Ban Ki-Moon Asked Both Sides to Solve the Dispute Peacefully [on 21 July 2008]; Deputy Prime Minister Hor Namhong Summoned [on 22 July 2008] the Ambassadors to Inform Them about the Thai Invasion into Khmer Sovereignty after Releasing a Statement [to inform Cambodian compatriots about the invasion by Thailand]


    Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.7, #1700, 23.7.2008

    • Sam Rainsy Party Supports a Letter of Samdech Dekcho Hun Sen to the Director-General of UNESCO [Mr. Koïchirô Matsuura – 松浦晃一郎]
    • Serbia Arrested Mr. Radovan Karadžić [on 21 July 2008 after he had been hiding himself eleven years – he is accused of having committed war crimes in Bosnia based on nationalism, especially to be responsible for the massacre of at least 7,500 Muslim men and boys in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica [pronounced srɛbrɛnitsa] in July 1995]


    Khmer Sthapana, Vol.1, #56, 23.7.2008

    • The Royal Government of Cambodia Asked UNESCO [on 21 July 2008] to Take Action to Protect the World Heritage Site [because Thailand has sent troops armed with all kinds of weapons and tanks to the Prasat Pagoda which is near the Preah Vihear Temple]
    • The Royal Palace Provided Food and Materials [such as plastic sheets to be used as roofs for temporary camps], mosquito nets, and blankets] to Troops at the Preah Vihear Temple [21 July 2008]
    • The European Community Deploys 130 Observers for the Election in Cambodia [to be held on 27 July 2008]
    • Women Should Not Get Affected by Having to Absorb the Smoke from Cigarette Smokers
    • Myanmar Needs US$1 Billion after the Nargis Tropical Cyclone


    Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.15, #3519, 23.7.2008

    • The United Nations Asserts that Cambodia Is among the Least Developed Countries
    • The Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL * ) Criticized the Ruling Party for the Excessive Use of the Media
    • The Number of Tourists Coming through the Poipet Border Crossing Declines [by 20% to 30%]; Khmer Workers Return to the Country Gradually [some said that they come for the election, but some said that they are worried about the confrontation between Khmer and Thai troops which could escalate and would affect their security]

    * …during the last few weeks, ANFREL observers have noticed that most media: TVs, Radios and local Newspapers have not maintained as much professional conduct in their work as expected. Most have not been fair in broadcasting or writing the news of political parties equally. Information of candidates from ruling parties and opposition parties are quite imbalanced. Observers have requested the NEC to encourage more cooperation from all media to make the electoral environment more fair and democratic.


    Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.16, #4648, 23.7.2008

    • Cambodia Asked the UN Security Council to Solve the Problem of the Invasion by Thailand; the UN Security Council Will Hold a Meeting on 28 July 2008
    • [Former Khmer Rouge leader] Mr. Khiev Samphan Has a New Lawyer [Mr. Sar Sovann, who is nine years younger than Khiev Samphan, 76]


    Samleng Yuvachun Khmer, Vol.15, #3366, 23.7.2008

    • The Human Rights Party, with Kem Sokha as President, Knows since before the Elections that It Would Lose, and Declared that Unity [with other parties] Will Be Established after the Election [according to Mr. Keat Sokun, vice-president of the Human Rights Party, in a multi-party program organized by the Committee for Free and Fair Elections]
    • Kandal Is a Province That Has the Most Illegal Fishing [because this province has big rivers which allow fishery]

    Click here – and have a look at the last editorial – The Cambodian-Thai border crisis develops while the Khmer public is not aware what the Cambodian government representatives had agreed upon, to get the Preah Vihear Temple listed as a World Heritage Site, on a most narrowly defined piece of land.

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