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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An Official of the Cambodian People’s Party, Mr. Cheam Yeap, Is Also Irritated with the Svay Rieng and Prey Veng Governors for Leasing Land to Vietnam – Wednesday, 18.3.2009

Posted on 20 March 2009. Filed under: Week 604 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 604

Apologies for the delays in publishing – due to my international travel. I try to catch up as soon as possible.
But I am now starting my return trip to Cambodia. According to schedule, I should be working again from Phonom Penh on Monday – first catching up with the delays, and then working again regularly.

Norbert Klein

“While Khmer citizens as well as some handicapped soldiers do not have rice fields for cultivation, the government, in contrast, provides tens of thousands of hectares of land as concessions to Yuon [Vietnamese] troops and companies to come to clear forest and rice fields of Khmer citizens to grow agro-industrial crops along the Khmer-Yuon border and in some provinces.

“Thousands of hectares of citizen’s land lying along the Yuon border of An Giang Province, bordering Svay Rieng and Prey Veng, are being leased to Yuon companies by Khmer authorities along the Yuon border to grow agro-industry crops. The Phnom Penh Post published an article on 26 February 2009, quoting the Svay Rieng governor, Mr. Cheang Am, that 10,000 hectares of land in Svay Rieng are prepared to be leased to Yuon companies along the border and also, the Prey Veng governor, Mr. Ung Samy, told the Phnom Penh Post that he will discuss with Yuon officials in Yuon [Vietnam] about the leasing of rice fields along the border to Yuon companies to come to do rice cultivation in Khmer territory.

“A high ranking official of the Cambodian People’s Party and a former Prey Veng governor, Mr. Cheam Yeap, reacted that Cambodia must not lease land to neighboring countries, but it can lease it to far-off countries. He added, ‘If it would be leasing to America or Australia, it can be done, but if it is to Vietnam, Thailand, and Laos, it is impossible, because they are neighboring countries and they can take our Khmer land easily as in previous times.’

“A Khmer-American, originally from Svay Rieng, Mr. Prum Soanara, expressed his view that the government should lease land to the same Khmers, because it would be a solution for Khmer citizens who are jobless, while factories are closing, and many big construction projects have halted their activities due to the global economic crisis.

“Mr. Prum Soanara, a renewable energy engineer with a background in the US Navy, said that in our country, some citizens lack land to do rice cultivation, especially citizens in Svay Rieng, Prey Veng, and Takeo. If the government has land for leasing, why not leasing it to Khmer citizens? He referred to an example in Malaysia where their country provides all support to their farmers to benefit from the land. Therefore, the Cambodian government should distribute land to retired and handicapped soldiers to do farming to earn their living.

“Mr. Prum Soanara raised another example from Israel where land along the border is delivered to soldiers to do farming and also to defend their territorial integrity. He went on to say that the government must provide land to Khmer soldiers to do farming along the border and to protect the border since soldiers have guns, but should not leave the land unused.

“Also, Khmer citizens react against the leasing of tens of thousands of land along the eastern border to Yuon companies by the Svay Rieng governor, Mr. Cheang Am, and by the Prey Veng governor, Mr. Ung Samy, who are all high ranking officials of the Cambodian People’s Party. Citizens wonder whether the land is inherited from both provincial governors’ ancestors that they dare to do so. It is because of the hunger for ‘tea-money’ without caring about the loss of Khmer territory along the border, because after the land is leased from Cambodia of Yuon to do farming, Yuon can claim that it is legal land of Yuon in the future.

“A Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian from Phnom Penh, Mr. Son Chhay, reacted against the leasing of land along the border to Yuon companies and to Siamese [Thai] companies, because these are neighboring countries, and this will make Cambodia to lose territory along the borders in the future, because Yuons who come to live in the land leased, hardly return to their country, because they consider the land to belong to Yuon, and this creates future problems.

“Mr. Son Chhay added that he had once reacted against the leasing of land to nationals from neighboring countries in 2007, when he led a delegation of the National Assembly to Laos. He continued to say that when the government provides concession land along the border to Yuon companies, contracted for 99 years, Yuon will bring their workers to live in Khmer land, and this cannot guarantee the Khmer territorial integrity, and different countries in the world never do what Cambodia does nowadays.

“Mr. Son Chhay voiced concern about the loss of Khmer territory along the border when the Khmer government permits the leasing of rice fields along the Khmer-Yuon border in Svay Rieng and Prey Veng; the government must check these cases again and should not allow to lease the land, and those who have the land rights to lease and use the land along the border should be only Khmers.

“Mr. Son Chhay demands that the government cancels different contracts for leasing land along the border to foreign companies.

“The president of the Cambodian Watchdog Council [?] and president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association, Mr. Rong Chhun, reacted that the government must not lease land to foreigners, and the leasing of land to neighboring countries is not good for Cambodia. He added that to persuade Khmer citizens to lease their fields to foreigners is to cut down paddy rice exports from Cambodia, this is not reasonable and if the Khmer government encourages Khmer citizens to produce lots of paddy rice, normally, the government has to find markets for citizens in this time of a global economic crisis.

“Mr. Rong Chhun went on to say that when leasing land to foreigners to do farming in Khmer territory while leaving its citizens unemployed, can the benefits from it support the everyday livelihood of citizens? He continued that Cambodia will earn no benefit from leasing land to neighboring countries, and the government must not lease land to Yuon and Siam, because one day, they will let their citizens come to live in Cambodia, and this will make Cambodia to lose territory, if the government does not take measures to avoid the loss of land in the future.” Cheat Khmer, Vol.1, #40, 18.3.2009

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Cheat Khmer, Vol.1, #40, 18.3.2009

  • An Official of the Cambodian People’s Party, Mr. Cheam Yeap, Is Also Irritated with the Svay Rieng and Prey Veng Governors for Leasing Land to Vietnam
  • The Khmer Rouge Tribunal, Which Is Running Out of Funds, Announces Recruiting [30] Staff Members

Deum Ampil, Vol.3, #142, 18.3.2009

  • Between 2015 and 2020 the Trade between Cambodia and Vietnam Will Increase to US$5 Billion [according to a meeting between Prime Minister Hun Sen and the Vietnamese Minister of Industry, Mr. Vũ Huy Hoàng]
  • The Head of the Government Does Not Believe There Will Be Good Reports about Human Rights in Cambodia [because he assumes that people concerned for human rights will get paid their salaries only if they produce reports describing bad situations]

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.8, #1900, 18.3.2009

  • The Opposition Party Asks to Check the Possibility of Creating New Investment Laws for Special Economic Zones near the Borders
  • Five Khmer Law Students Go to Participate in a Mock Trial with About 500 Groups of Students from 80 Countries around the World [in Washington]
  • Sudan Expels Thirteen Foreign Aid Agencies from Darfur [after the International Criminal Court had issued an arrest warrant for President Bashir, with accusations of crimes against humanity and of genocide in Darfur]

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.16, #3714, 18.3.2009

  • The Construction of Hanoi Boulevard Leads to the Destruction of Citizens’ Houses in Sen Sok District [Phnom Penh]
  • Mr. Yim Sovann Welcomes a Report [of the Cambodian Institute for Development Studies] Which Assessed that in 2009 Cambodia Will Loose US$676 Million [in four sectors: agriculture, tourism, construction, and garment production]
  • Civil Society Dismisses Hun Sen’s Wish to See Human Rights Reports Supporting the Government [he criticized on 17 March 2009 local human rights organizations and human rights representatives of the United Nations in Cambodia, alleging that they work only for salaries, and their work is only to criticize the government and to ignore positive points achieved by the government]

Koh Santepheap, Vol.42, #6605, 18.3.2009

  • The Family of a Fatal Victim Accuses a Doctor, because She Did Not Have Riel 100,000, a Pregnant Woman Was Left Lying in Labor Pain until She Died [Pailin]

Rasmei Angkor, Vol.16, #1422, 18.3.2009

  • Investment by South Korea Declined by 25% in 2008 and Will Continue to Fall in 2009 [according an official of the Korean Embassy in Cambodia]

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.17, #4848, 18.3.2009

  • Samdech Dekchor: “Bird Flu Is Still an International Plague and Must Be Carefully Observed”
  • A Car Hit Two Motorbikes at the Same Time Resulting in Three Deaths and Five Injured People [the car driver escaped – Kompong Cham]

Sereypheap Thmey, Vol.16, #1675, 18.3.2009

  • A Parliamentarian from the Opposition Party [Mr. Son Chhay] Asks the Government to Sue the CamboSix [soccer betting] Company [for corruption and for not paying taxes]

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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