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



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At the Kan Taw Gyi Lake in Yangon/Myanmar.

At the Kan Taw Gyi Lake in Yangon/Myanmar.



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

.

Please recommend The Mirror also to your colleagues and friends.

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Saturday, 2.8.2008: An Open Letter from Professors in the Field of the Studies about Southeast Asia Expressed Concerns about the Preah Vihear Temple

Posted on 3 August 2008. Filed under: Week 571 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 571

“On 1 August 2008, Rasmei Kampuchea received an open letter signed by professors who are involved in studies and research about Southeast Asia, expressing concern about the Preah Vihear Temple. Nearly fifty professors signed it, the majority of them are Thai, teaching at well-known universities in the world, such as Thammasat University, Thailand, University of Oxford, UK, University of California, Los Angeles, USA, University of Toronto, Canada, National University of Singapore, Chulalongkorn University, Thailand, University of Wisconsin–Madison, USA, Cornell University, USA, Washington University [not clear, as there are several ones: University of Washington, George Washington University, Washington University in St. Louis, Washington State University – all USA], University of London, UK, Khon Kaen University, Thailand, Ohio University, USA, Mahidol University, Thailand, Rangsit University, Thailand, Berkeley, University of California, USA, Hamilton University [?], Chiang Mai University, Thailand, Silpakorn University (e-Learning), Thailand, University of Malaya, Malaysia, Royal Academy of Cambodia, University of California, Santa Barbara, USA, and the Oxfordshire University, UK.

“Among the signatures is also the signature of Mr. Chhang Song, former Minister of Information of Cambodia, a retiring member of the Senate.

“This letter says:

“To professors, parents, the press, students, Thais and Cambodians

“The recent border dispute regarding the listing of the Preah Vihear Temple as a World Heritage Site causes strong continuing protests from some organizations and people in Thailand, which led to a confrontative situation between people of both countries.

“As professors involved in studies on Southeast Asia, we want to confirm that the source of this border dispute relates to the historical and cultural heritages of Thailand and of Cambodia. Truth can be found, if explanations of historical evidence are made by following the facts, and this should not be done to serve any political goals.

“According to this, we would like to suggest the following:

  1. “As for the Preah Vihear Temple, we absolutely support the verdict of the International Court of Justice in The Hague in the Netherlands of 15 May 1962, which confirmed that ‘the Temple of Preah Vihear is situated in territory under the sovereignty of Cambodia.’
  2. “We support and we publish intense discussions about related problems, and the provision of information should not be used to cause discrimination or to create enemies between the countries on both sides of the border, which might lead to war.
  3. “We acknowledge that also other countries in the region have the common cultures and common histories. These links should be used as the basis for international cooperation, to protect the honor of peoples, and for the union between country and country, especially for addressing universal problems happening similarly to all countries in the region.
  4. “We have advised that action should be taken to solve this dispute through coordination and mutual commitment. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations should take up this idea in order to reach a common goal.

“We would like to urge professors, parents, the press, students, and the Cambodian and Thai people to call for a peaceful solution of this dispute, by upholding the respect for the territory of all countries in Southeast Asia as the basis.”

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.16, #4657, 2.8.2008

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Friday, 1 August 2008


Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.7, #1709, 2.7.2008

  • The King [Norodom Sihamoni] and [Father King] Samdech Euv and [former Queen] Samdech Mae Went to Visit China [to attend the Olympic Games and to have medical checkups – 1 August 2008]
  • [Former Khmer Rouge minister of foreign affairs] Ieng Sary [age 82] Was Sent to Hospital [after blood was discovered in his urine, 1 August 2008], and [former chief of the Tuol Sleng prison] Duch Will Be Sentenced in September [according to the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia spokesperson Mr. Reach Sambath]
  • H.E. Bun Rany Hun Sen Prayed for the ancestral spirits to defend Preah Vihear at the Preah Vihear Temple [on 1 August 2008]

Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.2, #213, 2.8.2008

  • A Government Can Be Dictatorial, but a National Assembly Cannot Become a Dictatorial National Assembly [said opposition party president Sam Rainsy on 1 August 2008]

Khmer Sthapana, Vol.1, #63, 2.8.2008

  • Samdech Hun Sen: If the Sam Rainsy Party Does Not Attend the [inaugural] Meeting of Parliament [on 24 September 2008], [the 26] Seats [of the Sam Rainsy Party] Will Be Distributed to Other Parties [the Prime Minster warned the Sam Rainsy Party not to use Article 76 of the Constitution which states that the Assembly consists of at least 120 members, for the new National Assembly to start its process]
  • Garment Products of Cambodia Will Be Difficult to Export [because orders for buying decline, capital necessary for production increases, and there is strong competition with other countries such as Vietnam, China, India, and Bangladesh – according to Ms. Kaing Monika, official in charge of the administration of external affairs of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia]
  • The Number of [Foreign] Tourists Still Continues to Rise [although Cambodia is having a dispute with Thailand – according to Mr. Kong Sophearak, head of the Department of Statistics and Tourist Information of the Ministry of Tourism; in the first six months of 2008, there were 1,098,236 tourists, which is a 12.6% increase compared with the same period of 2007, with only 975,349 tourists]

Koh Santepheap, Vol.41, #6413, 2-3.8.2008

  • The US Embassy Assessed that the Election in Cambodia Was Conducted Better than Previous Elections [although there were irregularities]
  • More Than 79,000 Student Candidates Will Take the High School Diploma Examinations Countrywide This Year [on 4 August 2008]


Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.15, #3528, 2-3.8.2008

  • Siam [Thailand] Still Continues to Deploy Troops along the Preah Vihear Temple Region Borders, and Two Cannons Still Point at the Preah Vihear Temple
  • After the Election, Land Disputes Occur Again and Citizens Wait for Hun Sen to Solve Them

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.16, #4657, 2.8.2008

  • An Open Letter from Professors in the Field of the Studies about Southeast Asia Expressed Concerns about the Preah Vihear Temple
  • The Government Spends Nearly US$30 per Student Who Takes the High School Diploma Examination [according to Mr. Chreng Limsry, Directorate of Secondary Education; the government spent approximately Riel 9,000 million (approx. US$2,250,000) in total]
  • The Ministry of Water Resource Has an Irrigation System That Can Deliver Water Directly [without using pumps – using the force of gravity] to More Than 40% of the 2.3 Million Hectares Cultivated [according to Mr. Chan Yutha, chief of cabinet of the Ministry of Water Resource and Meteorology]

Click here to have a look at the last Mirror editorial – where we provided detailed information about the 2003 election results, to compare them with the election results of 2008, as they become available.

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