A Parliamentarian Asked the Minister of Labor to Clarify Questions at the National Assembly – Saturday, 7.8.2010

Posted on 7 August 2010. Filed under: Week 676 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 676

“Phnom Penh: An opposition party parliamentarian asked the Minister of Labor, Mr. Vong Soth, to clarify questions at the session of the National Assembly on 12 August 2010, regarding the demand for a salary increase of workers and employees.

“A Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian from Phnom Penh, Mr. Son Chhay, wrote a letter on 5 August 2010 to the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia, Samdech Akkak Moha Senapadei Dekchor Hun Sen, and to the president of the National Assembly, Samdech Akkak Moha Ponhea Chakrei, Heng Samrin, to suggest that the Minister of Labor and Vocational Training, Mr. Vong Soth, clarifies some irregularities at [the next meeting of] the National Assembly about the responsibility of the Ministry and the demands for a salary increase of workers and employees, as well as about the management and protection of workers abroad.

“Mr. Son Chhay’s letter says that the request for Mr. Vong Soth to appear at the National Assembly to clarify questions was made while looking at the actual situation that exists in the country, relating to the demand for a wage increase where the Royal Government has a duty to consider this and should not take any contrasting action.

“Mr. Son Chhay said in his letter that according to the labor law of 1997, the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training has the authority to define the minimum wage for work in all sectors, but the limited wage of US$50 which was in force for many years without any increase is against an universal principle, where the minimum wages in the world are increasing by 5.7% each year, and if this figure is applied on the minimum wage of Khmer workers by taking only 5% within 10 years, Khmer workers could have received a minimum wage of at least US$85.50, and this amount is still low, compared with neighboring countries such as Vietnam, where food, electricity, travel, and rents are much cheaper than in our country.

“Mr. Son Chhay went on to say that also a study by the Cambodia Institute of Development Study (CIDS) showed differences between the minimum wage and the income that workers can earn additionally by working overtime, and this can be confusing and it might be the cause for the slow reaction from the Ministry to define the annual minimum wage scale for Khmer workers. He thinks that the demand of a minimum salary of US$93 per month is an appropriate demand, but the Royal Government is slow in organizing the public administration and in applying some legal principles to provide good and trustworthy services. In order to attract foreign investors, the government should coordinate discussions to sett the minimum wage to US$85 from September 2010, and it must carry out a 5% increase every year, starting from January of the coming year.

“Regarding the above request, Kampuchea Thmey could not ask for comments from the Minister of Labor and Vocational Training, Mr. Vong Soth, as he said that he was far away, and then he turned off his phone.

“Relating to a wage increase for workers and employees, the Ministry of Labor had decided during a council meeting on 8 July 2010 to add US$11 to the previous wage [so the minimum wage was raised to US$61].” Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.9, #2321, 7.8.2010

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Saturday, 7 August 2010

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.9, #2321, 7.8.2010

  • A Parliamentarian Asked the Minister of Labor to Clarify Questions at the National Assembly

Koh Santepheap, Vol.43, #7028, 7-8.8.2010

  • The Appeals Court of the Ubon Province of Siam [Thailand] Heard the Case of Sixteen Khmer Citizens [they had been tried already twice to be imprisoned for entering Thai territory to cut down trees illegally]

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.17, #3952, 7-8.8.2010

  • [Opposition party parliamentarian] Mu Sochua Considers the Impounding of More Than Riel 4 Million [approx. US$ 950 per month] of Her Salary to Compensate Her Accuser as a Threat and Force, and She Continues to Demand Court Reforms [she lost in Prime Minister Hun Sen’s defamation suit against her]

Nokor Wat, Vol.1, #24, 7.8.2010

  • [Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation] Hor Namhong: Cambodia Cannot Wait for Long if Thailand Has No Will to Solve the Dispute over the Preah Vihear Temple of Cambodia
  • Diseased Red Pigs Are Still Imported through the Sampov Loun Border Crossing in Battambang [expert officials said that eating their meat can cause breast or uterus cancer]

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5270, 7.8.2010

  • A Delegation of Former Vietnamese Experts in Cambodia [from 1979, after the end of the Khmer Rouge regime] Pay a Visit to Cambodia and Meet with Leaders of the Cambodian People’s Party
  • [Seven] Khmer Kampuchea Krom Associations [jointly] Stated that They Do Not Have Any Intention to Overthrow the Vietnamese Government [it is in response to the Deputy Minister of Security of Vietnam, who recently asked the Royal Government of Cambodia to help prevent Khmer Kampuchea Krom people from various problem actions, including hiring of private and public radios’ air time]
  • Within Four Years [2006 to 2009], the Cambodian Red Cross Was Able to Raise Nearly US$28 Million [donated by generous people and by international partners]
  • The Phnom Penh Municipality Plans to Construct an Elevated Road near the Lok Song Hospital [Preah Kosamak Hospital] in Late 2010 [at the junction between Road 271 and the Russian Federation Boulevard]

Have a look at the last editorial – you can access it directly from the main page of the Mirror.
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Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency: The Exports from Cambodia Increased by 258.7% – Thursday, 29.7.2010

Posted on 30 July 2010. Filed under: Week 675 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 675

“Phnom Penh: The director of the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency said that Cambodian exports to South Korea increased up to 258.7%.

“The director of the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency to Cambodia, Mr. Lee Gwang-Ho, said on 28 July 2010 that investment and trade between Cambodia and Korea increased remarkably within the first six months of 2010.

“He added that the amount of exports from South Korea to Cambodia increased only by 22% while the exports from Cambodia to Korea rose by as much by 258.7% in the first six months of 2010, compared with the corresponding period last year.

“According to figures provided by Mr. Lee Gwang-Ho, though the export of Cambodia to South Korea went up, the total value of export is still low.

“He said, ‘The export from Korea to Cambodia was US$153,462,000, while the export from Cambodia amounted to only US$22,635,000.’

“The products from South Korea exported to Cambodia are mostly textile products in the form of raw materials needed by the garment factories, cars and trucks, garments, food, pesticide, medicines and other substances, tires and spare parts, whereas the products exported from Cambodia to South Korea include garments, forestry products, aluminum, food, machines used in construction, minerals, and shoes.

“According to Mr. Lee Gwang-Ho, by March 2010, Korean investments were still the biggest in Cambodia. The total investments by Korean companies registered is about US$2.7 billion.

“He went on to say that the fields of investment of Korean investors in Cambodia are the following: 52% in real estate, 21% in construction, 7% in the production sector [South Korea establishes production facilities in Cambodia to create products], 3% in the mineral sector, 3% in tourism, 3% in banking, 3% in services, 3% in agriculture, 2% in technical services, and 1% in telecommunication.” Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5262, 29.7.2010

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Thursday, 29 July 2010

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.9, #2313, 29.7.2010

  • Almost Ten Persons Armed with Weapons Robbed Documents of Oknha Ly Say Kheang [at his company – Phnom Penh]
  • More Than 3000 Workers of the PCCS Garment Factory Continue to Strike [to demand that the factory re-employ one representative of them; ten of them sustained injuries after a clash with police – Phnom Penh]

Koh Santepheap, Vol.43, #7020, 29.7.2010

  • [About 100] Citizens [representing 225 families] from the San Kor Commune in Kompong Svay District Asked for an Intervention by Samdech Dekchor Hun Sen [near his residence in Phnom Penh; their rice fields of about 821 hectares are to be delivered to a private company by order of a court – Kompong Thom]

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.17, #3944, 29.7.2010

  • Google Corrected a Section of Googlemaps [on the Internet] for the Preah Vihear Temple Region after Cambodia had Protested in February [before, half of the temple had been shown to be in Thai territory]
  • The Sam Rainsy Party Condemned that Armed Forces Had Suppressed Workers of the PCCS Garment Factory, Injuring 15 Workers [Phnom Penh]

Nokor Wat, Vol.1, #16, 29.7.2010

  • Siam [Thailand] Warned to Walk Out from the UNESCO Meeting [of the World Heritage Committee if it supports the unilateral Cambodian development plan for the Preah Vihear Temple – the World Heritage Committee had requested that Cambodia should develop a management plan together with Thailand and up to six other countries]
  • Cambodia Has One Million Hectares of Land for Rubber Plantations [according to the head of the Rubber Plantation Department, Mr. Ly Phalla]

Phnom Penh Post [Khmer Edition], Vol.1, #225, 29.7.2010

  • Vietnamese Rubber Plantation Companies Step Up Investments in Cambodia to US$1 Billion [to plant rubber trees on 100,000 hectares]
  • [President of the Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association] Rong Chhun: The Answers to Test Items [of mathematics of the Grade 12 exam] Leaked on Tuesday Night [in Phnom Penh, Kompong Cham, Svay Rieng, and Sihanoukville; the exam finished on Wednesday 28 July 2010; he planned to send a report to the Ministry of Education]
  • A Plane Crash in Pakistan Killed 150 People

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5262, 29.7.2010

  • Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency: The Exports from Cambodia Increased by 258.7%
  • Cambodia Does Not Care about the Decision of the Thai Cabinet That Opposes the Preah Vihear Temple Development Plan
  • Two Big Casinos [Holiday and Kompong Som City] Allow Khmer Citizens to Do Football Betting [while it is prohibited – Sihanoukville]

Have a look at the last editorial – you can access it directly from the main page of the Mirror.
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National Holidays: Labor Day – Sunday – Royal Ploughing Ceremony – Saturday/Sunday/Monday, 1.-3.5.2010

Posted on 3 May 2010. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 662 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 662

While the time runs and runs evenly, the different calendars – related to the year of the sun, or related to the phases of the moon, or related to cultural history and social-political events – have their own ways. And sometimes they lead to interesting crossings.

The Royal Ploughing Ceremony, roughly at the beginning of the rainy season, marks the start of the planting time. And royal astrologers will observe the preferences of the drought animals during the ceremony, which food they prefer – offered to them on seven trays, with beans, corn, grass, rice, sesame seeds, water, and wine – to predict the coming season’s harvest.

We do not keep a record for The Mirror to compare the predictions with the actual results of the harvest several months later. But we just assume that there is some margin of error in the predictions, according to the different animals involved.

During the week, the Prime Minister criticized the big Institutions of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the Asia Development Bank, for making different predictions for the performance of the Cambodian economy by the end of the year. While the different economic benchmarks monitor and evaluate probably hundreds of data – every institution working independently – is it not surprising that their predictions, depending on so many factors not under their control – are still fairly similar?

The international financial turmoil has brought also a lot of unforeseeable changes for the Cambodian workers in the export and tourism industries, who create a major share of international income for Cambodia. Their work in the textile and shoe factories, and their work to serve foreign tourists visiting the country, is commemorated during Labor Day.

While some international tourist advisories advertise the Royal Ploughing Ceremony as an event worthwhile to visit and observe, some embassies advise tourists to avoiding meetings and events of the organized workers unions, as these may be related to conflicts in society.

One important, positive statement had been reported during the week. The Prime Minister was reported to have said, “Trade Unions Are Not My Enemy, and to Demonstrate Is Their Right.” Though Article 36 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia clearly states that “Khmer citizens of either sex shall have the right to form and to be member of trade unions,” also the notion can be found often assuming that there is a fundamental conflict between the government and the labor unions. Industry and labor have, by their very nature, different interests. But the experience of economically strong democratic countries with a market economy system – like France or Germany of Japan – shows that their strength grew from a political system which allowed for both strong unions and strong associations of industrialists.

In spite of this statement by the Prime Minister, tensions between the authorities and organized labor were building up before the Labor Day, because of the unresolved murder of the former leader of the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia, Chea Vichea, who was killed in January 2004. Two people were apprehended at that time; when they were presented to court with the claim that they had confessed to have committed the murder, they revoked, but though there were no witnesses testifying against them, and no evidence beyond their confessions in prison presented, they were sentenced to 20 years in prison. Because of these publicly discussed irregularities, also the former King Sihanouk expressed his doubt that the real murderers were in prison. In 2007, the Appeals Court upheld their conviction, in spite of several witnesses assuring that one of the accused was not in Phnom Penh on the day of the killing, but 60 km away. After nearly five years in prison, the Supreme Court cited unclear evidence and called for a new investigation in December 2008; since that time, the two accused are provisionally out of prison. By now, there is no public information about what happened since.

When Chea Vichea was killed, Bradley Cox, who had made a documentary “Cambodia: Anatomy of an Election,” happened to be not far away, and he arrived some minutes after the killing. He was able to document the murder scene, and later follow the story further – the funeral, and the subsequent police and court actions.

Now the brother of Chea Vichea, Chea Mony, is the president of the Free Trade Union, and they had the plan to publicly show this documentary, “Who Killed Chea Vichea” [a trailer is available here]. The Khmer media had reported during the week various reasons why the authorities will not allow this documentary to be shown – the film would have to be first presented to the Ministry of Culture with a request to get it approved, or: this documentary has been imported illegally – while the Union intended to show it anyway near the place where Chea Vichea has been gunned down, while he was reading a newspaper.

This is a report from 1 May 2010 on the Internet:

1 May 2010 –
Cambodia screening is stopped before it starts

Cambodian workers who hoped to see Who Killed Chea Vichea? on Saturday didn’t get so much as a bite of popcorn before police intervened and tore down the screen.

Here’s what we’ve got so far, from witnesses on the scene:

The workers’ march arrived at the screening site, in front of the newsstand where Vichea was killed, around 5:00 p.m.

They were met by a force of some 100 police, many in riot gear, as well as local officials and a large group of other men not in uniform, presumably plainclothes security forces.

The organizers went ahead and erected the screen, which was made out of sheets. The police immediately told the main organizer, Rong Chhun of the Union Confederation, to take it down as he did not have a permit. When he refused, they pushed in and pulled it down.

Mr. Chhun returned with a second screen, accompanied by opposition members of parliament, but that screen too was seized.

The workers resisted only briefly. “We did not want to have a big scene as we were outnumbered,” said one participant. “They were there to break down anything and for sure it would have been real force had we resisted and shown the movie.”

So far there are no reports of any arrests or injuries.

So the film was not shown publicly – in Cambodia. But the events of 1 May 2010 will probably contribute to get much more attention for it internationally, where it is scheduled to be shown at the following film festivals:

filmfestivals

filmfestivals

The demonstrations on 1 May 2010 of the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia were not focused on the past. The ILO report in The Mirror from last Friday, 30.4.2010, “More Than 1,500 Workers Die Every Year in Cambodia because of Occupational Accidents” shows more problems ahead, in addition to the demands to raise the minimal wages – while facing the consequences of the international economic crisis, including an increasing competition for garment exports from other big exporters in the region – from China and from Vietnam.

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A Parliamentarian from the Cambodian People’s Party Rejected the Reports of COMFREL and of the Inter-Parliamentary Union – Friday, 12.2.2010

Posted on 13 February 2010. Filed under: Week 651 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 651

“Phnom Penh: A parliamentarian and high ranking official of the Cambodian People’s Party voiced his strong reaction by totally rejecting a report of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections (COMFREL) on Thursday 11 February 2010, and of an announcement by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) over the suspension of the immunity of Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarians.

“The parliamentarian from Prey Veng and chairperson of the Commission on Economy, Banking, and Audits of the National Assembly, Mr. Cheam Yeap, said that the Cambodian People’s Party won the through the [2008] elections as many as 90 seats, more than two thirds of the total of 123 seats. Under this situation, leaders of the Cambodian People’s Party do not commit any wrongdoings, because it could affect the confidence of citizens who are voters or party members.

“Mr. Cheam Yeap added that he would like to announce, instead, what the Permanent Committee of the National Assembly did, saying, ‘As a parliamentarian, what we did (suspended the immunity of Sam Rainsy Party’s parliamentarians) was based on the law. The suspension or the withdrawal of the immunity is not an important matter. We just put off their raincoats (the immunity) to let them get soaked like others, and to let the court question and work on them. The National Assembly has the obligation to obey the law. Though the immunity of parliamentarians from the Sam Rainsy Party was suspended, they can attend meetings and retain the necessary rights to vote on laws and to receive their salary like the other parliamentarians.’

“He went on to say that the reports of COMFREL and of the IPU, which criticized that the National Assembly’s records in this term are worse than in the previous terms, and that the suspension of the immunity of the Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarians was not done based on the law… claim unnecessary concerns which contrasts the reality. ‘As the National Assembly, we adhere to and implement the laws of Cambodia.’

“Mr. Cheam Yeap stressed that both the government and the National Assembly are not worried, because what they have done complied with the Cambodian law.

“The reaction of the parliamentarian from the ruling Cambodian People’s Party was made a day after COMFREL had issued a report on 10 February 2010 which says that democracy in Cambodia is being affected, because the Cambodian People’s Party caused the freedom of expression and the discussions in the National Assembly to diminish. Also, criticism of the suspension of the immunity of the Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarians in three cases – of Mr. Sam Rainsy, of Ms. Mu Sochua, and of Mr. Ho Van – was easily made but was not based on the law.

“Meanwhile, the IPU criticized, on 10 February 2010, that the suspension of the immunity of the three Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarians did not go through careful discussions and reviews beforehand. The IPU added that it will put this issue on the agenda of the 122nd meeting in April and May 2010.

“Regarding the suspension of the immunity, [the Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian] Mr Ho Van appealed to the president of the National Assembly to give him back his immunity, because the judgment of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court dated 2 February 2010 decided to lift the accusation against him, over his assumed defamation against 22 senior military officials, and it has been sent to the president of the National Assembly.

“Mr. Cheam Yeap said that the Permanent Committee of the National Assembly led by Samdech Heng Samrin will organize a meeting very soon to install the immunity back to Mr. Ho Van, after the National Assembly had received information about the judgment and his request earlier this week.” Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5124, 12.2.2010

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Friday, 12 February 2010

Deum Ampil, Vol.4, #412, 12-18.2.2010

  • A Son of General Chea Man [Region 4 military commander] Continues Wood Trading though the Prime Minister Had Warned Against It
  • 5,000 Grilled Pigs Are Needed during the Traditional Chinese New Year Festival [on 14 February 2010 in Cambodia]

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.9, #2175, 12.2.2010

  • Cambodia Rejected a Siamese [Thai] Declaration that the Listing of the Preah Vihear Temple [as a world heritage site] Is Not Yet Finished [as Cambodia has not fully met the management plan for the temple as required by UNESCO]
  • Forty Three People Were Injured when a Car Overturned Driving Downhill [Sihanoukville]

Note:

The claim that the Cambodian government has fully met the requirements of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee is surprising for the interested public, as it has only been reported that a Cambodian report was submitted before 1 February 2010 to the World Heritage Committee, while there is no report how the following requirements, from the UNESCO minutes, have been fulfilled – and the Thai government publicly claims that they do not know the Cambodian report – though the Thai government should have been involved – according to the UNESCO minutes.

Of special interest are the following points of the UNESCO minutes:

  • “14. Requests the State Party of Cambodia, in collaboration with UNESCO, to convene an international coordinating committee for the safeguarding and development of the property no later than February 2009, inviting the participation of the Government of Thailand and not more than seven other appropriate international partners, to examine general policy matters relating to the safeguarding of the Outstanding Universal Value of the property in conformity with international conservation standards;
  • “15. Requests the State Party of Cambodia to submit to the World Heritage Center, by 1 February 2009, the following documents:

    a) a provisional map providing additional details of the inscribed property and a map delineating the buffer zone identified in the RGPP;

    b) updated Nomination dossier to reflect the changes made to the perimeter of the property;

    c) confirmation that the management zone for the property will include the inscribed property and buffer zone identified in the RGPP;

    d) progress report on the preparation of the Management Plan;
  • “16. Further requests the State Party of Cambodia to submit to the World Heritage Center by February 2010, for submission to the World Heritage Committee at its 34th session in 2010 a full Management Plan for the inscribed property, including a finalized map.”

These points touch on matters where “the participation of the Government of Thailand” seems to be required, according to the UNESCO minutes, as the border demarcation between Cambodia and Thailand has not yet been accomplished.

Further details are in the lower section of The Mirror of 7 February 2010.

Khmer Amatak, Vol.11, #734, 12.2.2010

  • Kratie Military Police Threatened to Shoot the Representatives of the Authorities Who Intercepted Trucks Loaded with Illegally Cut Wood [heading to Vietnam; finally, with a further intervention from the provincial authorities, forestry administration officials could seize those trucks, but the military police officials who threatened them were not punished]

Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.4, #604, 12.2.2010

  • Google Told Cambodia to Send Mapping Document to the Tele Atlas Company to Change the Khmer-Siamese Border Data
  • The Amount of [garment and textile] Exports Is US$2.8 Billion and the Amount of Salaries Paid to [more than 300,000 textile and garment] Workers Is Only US$27 Million per Year [according to an official of the Ministry of Labor, a worker gets about US$60 per month, and if they work additional hours, they get US$100 to US$120 per month]

Koh Santepheap, Vol.43, #6882, 12.2.2010

  • China Wants to Invest to Plant Rubber Trees on 60,000 Hectares of Land in Cambodia [according to a meeting between the Minister of the Council of Ministers, Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, and the Chinese Ambassador]

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.17, #3810, 12-17.2.2010

  • The Freedom of Expression Became Restricted and the Not-Independent Courts Become Tools Used for Mistreating Opposition Party Activists [according to the UN Human Rights Special Rapporteur, Mr. Surya Subedi – it is said that after his visit to Cambodia from 18 to 30 January 2010, he brought the bad human rights condition in Cambodia to the attention of the UN secretary general.]

Phnom Penh Post [Khmer Edition], Vol.1, #110, 12.2.2010

  • Thai Troops Are Conducting War Exercises, while Cambodian Troops Are on Alert [at the border]
  • [The former Khmer Rouge leader] Ieng Sary Asked to be transferred to House Arrest Rather Than to Be Jailed in Prison

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5124, 12.2.2010

  • A Parliamentarian from the Cambodian People’s Party Rejected Reports of COMFREL and the Inter-Parliamentary Union
  • Traffic Accidents Killed 138 People in January 2010 [countrywide; the number of deaths increased by 34 compared to the corresponding period in 2009]
  • About US$4 Million [from development partners and USAID] Is Planned to Be Spent for A/H1N1 Vaccine Campaign [such as on training, transportation, and project planning]

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Interview between Koh Santepheap and the Director of the Open Institute, Ms. Chim Manavy, Regarding the International Women’s Day 8 March – Thursday, 5.3.2009

Posted on 9 March 2009. Filed under: Week 602 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 602

Apologies for the delays in publishing – due to my international travel. I try to catch up as soon as possible.

Norbert Klein

“1. What is the meaning of 8 March?

“The International Women’s Day (8 March) is a day that women around the world celebrate to commemorate and welcome achievements obtained after struggling for the equality between men and women. These struggles took place during the 19th century in European countries [and the USA] while women in those countries were oppressed, exploited, and forced to be sex slaves. The United Nations celebrates this day and many counties mark it as a national holiday. As women in all continents, often separated by national borders, different races, and by different religions, cultures, economies, and political systems, gather to celebrate their day of commemoration, they can recall the traditions representing at least nine [reference not given for 90 year] decades of struggles for equality, justice, peace, and development.

Note:

It is remarkable how the present commemoration of this history, with early reference to the political struggle of women – initially women textile workers – for economic, political, and social emancipation of women, lost part of its memory, in some countries even turning into a Women’s Day celebration, where the political history is suppressed and replaced by a vague mixture of Mother’s Day and St Valentine’s Day.

The early history was clearly a history of political struggle [most data from the UN website mentioned above]:

  • 1909 – The Socialist Party of the USA organized the first National Woman’s Day which was observed across the United States on 28 February 1909.
  • 1910 – The Socialist International, meeting in Copenhagen, established a Women’s Day, international in character, to honor the movement for women’s rights and to assist in achieving universal voting rights for women.
  • 1913-1914 – As part of the peace movement around the beginning of World War One, 1914-1918, Russian women observed their first International Women’s Day on February 1913. Elsewhere in Europe, on or around 8 March of the following year, women held rallies to protest the war.
  • 1917: Aware of the sufferings of the war, women in Russia protested and organized strikes for “Bread and Peace” on 8 March – the first stage of the Russian Revolution of 1917. Four days later, the Russian head of stage, the Czar, abdicated, and the provisional government granted women the right to vote.
  • 1945 – The Charter of the United Nations, signed in 1945, was the first international agreement to affirm the principle of equality between women and men.
  • 1975 – International Women’s Year, the United Nations began celebrating 8 March as International Women’s Day.
  • 1977 – Only then, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming a United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace, to be observed on any day of the year by member states, in accordance with their historical and national traditions.

Nowadays in Cambodia, the major part of the industrial work force, creating a considerable share of export earnings, are women textile workers. There is ample reason to remember a much earlier section of the social struggles of women. In 1836, the first big strike of women textile workers ever was organized in the USA – and this was in Lowell, Massachusetts. This is now a town of 105,000 people – about 40,000 of them being Cambodian immigrants. Lowell is the second largest “Cambodian” city in the USA, after Long Beach in California.

Are the Cambodian women in the textile industry, fighting for their rights, aware of this historical coincidence? Are the Cambodians in Lowell aware of the historical role of their city of Lowell in the struggle for equal rights for women and men, and of the situation of the women in the textile industry of Cambodia today?

This “Cambodian” US city was the place of the first massive strike of women in the world, The Lowell Mill Girls Go on Strike in 1836, when 1,200 to 1,500 girls walked in procession through the streets, singing their special song:

Oh! isn’t it a pity, such a pretty girl as I –
Should be sent to the factory to pine away and die?
Oh ! I cannot be a slave,
I will not be a slave,
For I’m so fond of liberty
That I cannot be a slave.

The reference to slavery was clearly a reference to their working condition – there is no reference in the records about the history of the International Women’s Day that the political struggles considered or included the situation of prostitution and the related sexual exploitation of women.

“2. How important is 8 March for Cambodian women?

“Cambodia marks the International Women’s Day of 8 March as a national holiday. To women, 8 March is very important. 8 March is the day when many women assemble to express their opinions, address issues, and discuss problems, in order to seek proper solutions. Also, accomplishments by women, and different achievements of work are presented.

“8 March is not the only day concerned with women’s rights, though some opinions refer to it as if it were the only day that women can address exercising their rights. This idea is wrong. Women’s rights are human rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states in Article 1, ‘All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights…’ Thus, women’s rights and human rights have to be implemented every time, throughout the life of human beings. Like women worldwide do it, Cambodian women use 8 March as the day on which women struggle with the government to define the agenda of work and to raise questions about different policies to support the equality between men and women.

“3. Previously, what did you organization, the Open Institute, do, related to 8 March? What programs will the Open Institute organize this year for this day?

“In 2008, we organized discussions through electronic messages like Internet blogs, joint mailing list – like gender@lists.open.org.kh, a discussion forum via electronic messages – about women’s problems and gender awareness. We compiled a report “Observations on Women’s News Published,” it is accessible at http://women.open.org.kh/km/monitoring [only in Khmer], and this was done in cooperation with the Committee on Elimination of Discrimination against Women, government institutions, and local non-government organizations to celebrate the International Women’s Day.

“In 2009, the organization defined the topic ‘Women Involved in Developing the Economy and in Social Affairs’ and will organize some activities:

  1. Publish articles related to the International Women’s Day: The Women’s Program will cover news about activities of institutions and of organizations that do women-related work.
  2. Editorial: An editorial will be published focusing on the above topic.
  3. Cooperate with the Committee on Elimination of Discrimination against Women, government institutions, and local non-government organizations to celebrate the International Women’s Day.
  4. Discussions via communication refer to the Women’s Web Portal [only in Khmer] from 20 February to 13 March 2009 about the topic ‘Women Involved in Developing the Economy and in Social Affairs’ through Internet blogs, online forums, and joint mailing list, as well the issuing certificates of appreciation for certain participants. For detailed information please go to: http://women.open.org.kh/files/8%20March/Announcement [only in Khmer].
  5. Opinion poll on the Women’s Web Portal: ‘Did Women really involve themselves in developing the economy and in social affairs?’
  6. Sending messages by phone: ‘Promote Women by Using the Web Portal about Women’ http://women.open.org.kh

“4. Besides 8 March, what programs does the Open Institute have to help to promote women’s rights in Cambodian society?

“We organize:

Women’s Forum Meetings: They are conducted with the aim to coordinate discussions about different challenges of women regarding gender issues. The meetings provide opportunities for women to gather, and they promote cooperation among women’s institutions, the government, and relevant institutions, to find solutions for women’s issues, so that women’s conditions improve.

Workshops: Through these workshops, the findings and comments from the women’s forums will be published, and addressed to government institutions, women’s networks and organizations, the media, and the public, in order to look for joint solutions which support and encourage gender equality in Cambodia.

Discussions about communication means on the Women’s Web Portal: to encourage discussions about gender issues in Cambodia through:

  1. a joint Mailing List: gender@lists.open.org.kh [Khmer and English]
  2. blog: http://women.open.org.kh/km/blog [Khmer and English]
  3. online forum: http://women.open.org.kh/km/forum [mostly Khmer]

“These discussions offer opportunities to gender activists, experts in law, rights, and researchers, the media, and individuals, to meet via electronic means and to step up cooperation, and expand the culture of sharing information between institution and institution, and institutions and individuals.

“5. There is one point in the women’s program of the Open Institute focusing on the strengthening of the technological capacity of women in communication, and in information technology, for women. How important is this point?

“At present, technology, communication, and information technology advance dramatically in Cambodia, and news are crucial in strengthening women’s competence. Technology, communication, and information technology can be used for searching, receiving, and publishing news. Most women in the Southeast Asian countries, including Cambodia, are not encouraged to use present technology, communication, and information technology, making them not a major source of news and of knowledge.

“Technology, communication, and information technology are used to empower women, such as the provision of training and the enhancement of women’s competence to the challenges of the labor market. Through technology, communication, and information technology, they can form networks between women and men from community to community, and from person to person, engaging in communication without discriminating borders or between different races. Women can share their knowledge, their work experiences, successes, and problems with men, to prove that women are also involved in development tasks and in social development, and to make men understand more about the achievements and efforts of women, about different requirements between men and women due to their different sex which is defined biologically, and about challenges for women. This sharing contributes to reduce gender stereotypes, and to reduce discrimination against women gradually, so as to reach gender equality in all sectors.

“6. Regarding women’s work, how does the Open Institute cooperate with the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and with civil society?

“Women and gender issues are international problems. Therefore, they need to be solved globally with the participation from all institutions and races. Likewise, the Open Institute has to cooperate also with other organizations and institutions to implement this task. Several organization have joined to build up women’s competence, encourage gender equality, bring together analysts and seek solutions for women’s issues, by cooperating with the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, and the Open Institute has participated as a member of the gender technical working team organized by the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, with the participation by representatives from all ministries, from local and international organizations, and from United Nations Development Fund for Women.

“As a permanent member of the UN Committee on Elimination of Discrimination against Women – Cambodia section, which is a network consisting of 70 organizations as members, the Open Institute plays an important role and fulfills important obligations, such as to publish news countrywide about the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. In addition, we are also involved in contributing some points to the concluding comments of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women – Cambodia.

“7. In its strategic and operational plans, what did the Open Institute define as the basis to motivate Cambodian women to join in developing the nation?

“The encouragement of more women to join in developing the nation is a strategic plan of the organization, as stated in the aims of the organization: ‘To promote gender equality by ensuring that all program areas equally benefit women and men.’ Therefore, we have a program Women Empowerment for Social Change, by which we created successful cooperation between organizations working related to women and their rights, through the provision of information about rights, the provision of training about technology, and about communication and information technology. These things are to help build up capacity and skills for women, help women’s work become more efficient and more challenging in the labor market.

“In the meantime, we organize women’s forums which are held every two months, so that women from different institutions and with different skills meet each other to discuss issues and find out joint solutions for their issues. We organize also workshops to produce publications addressed to the public and to relevant institutions about the results of discussions during the forums, such as different findings and comments provided during the discussions, in order to look for different policies supporting the equality between men and women. When women earn support and have sufficient capacity, women will be confident and dedicate themselves more to the development of the economy and of the society.

“8. Based on your point of view, what are major challenges and obstacles against the promotion of women’s rights in Cambodian society?

“The major obstacle against the promotion of women’s rights is a general opinion in society toward women, and the context of a (Khmer) social structure with men as controllers, which values men more than women, and even though we have the Constitution and different laws protecting women’s rights, and the Rectangular Strategy of the Royal Government, which sets the strategic goal to encourage gender equality, there are many other obstacles, such as the weak implementation of laws.

Note:

The Rectangular Strategy of the Royal Government, a basic policy paper presented by the Prime Minster in 2004, refers to GENDER AND DEVELOPMENT under 2.5 Other Cross-Cutting Programs, subsection 6. GENDER AND DEVELOPMENT.

“Especially, Prime Minister Samdech Akkak Moha Senapadei Dekchor Hun Sen also called on all institutions of the ministries for gender mainstreaming in all policies and programs. Thus, we see that by law, Khmer women are protected and valued. But the practical implementation is not what the law states.

“In Cambodian social structures, men lead almost all sectors, including the family. Most men are breadwinners and are considered to be the head of the family. Therefore, all decisions are mostly made by men. Because of this culture and society, women are not encouraged to go to school or to continue their education to higher levels, and are seldom offered opportunities for training like men. This leads most women to have lower education than men, and it hinders women to hold high positions.

“Hence, at the workplace, it is seen that most work is organized and decided by men, and most men are in dominating positions; as for women, they do lower class work, which leads to the situation that up to 70% of the total labor force are women. Though Khmer women have been eligible to vote and to stand as candidates in elections since 1955, the number of women involved in politics and in leadership positions is still limited. Women hold only about 14% of seats resulting from elections; and only 7% of women lead any institutions of the ministries. This reflects the imbalance of power between men and women. Furthermore, for society to acknowledge women’s achievements, women have to do twice of the men’s work at the workplace or in society; women and women’s work are not valued, and women’s leadership is not trusted. This factor makes women reluctant, and to have less self-confidence.

“9. Are there solutions for those challenges or obstacles?

“We must have solution as a strategy and as a system, so that women can fully gain the benefits from laws and policies of the government, which contribute to change women’s conditions in Cambodia. To promote women’s rights, to encourage gender equality, and to encourage more participation by women in economy, politics, and society, the government – by cooperating with different partnership organizations and non-government organizations – must have, and strictly implement, the following policies:

  • Apply gender mainstreaming in all policies at national and sub-national levels
  • Strictly enforce different treaties and international covenants, for which Cambodia is also a signatory country, that are the basis to protect women’s rights
  • Provide opportunities for women to more regularly take part in discussions about drafts of different policies, about the division and management of resources, about projects in the national budget, and in different processes of decision making
  • Create systems for jobs and implement actual methods to encourage equal opportunities for men and women, and to encourage the provision of skills for women to work in enterprises by connecting different markets
  • Encourage insurance policies for safety at work, and establish a legal system which results in better salaries for women
    Encourage policies to fully empower women
  • Encourage girls to learn as much as possible and to study with the same high goals as boys. Doing so helps also to cut down migration, exploitation, and sexual slavery.”

Koh Santepheap, Vol.42, #6593 on 4.3.2009, and #6594, on 5.3.2009

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Thursday, 5 March 2009

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.8, #1889, 5.3.2009

  • Samdech Dekchor: If the Cambodian People’s Party Loses the Elections, Thousands of Development Projects Might Be Halted
  • Owners of Micro-Finance Institutions Dismiss Sam Rainsy Party’s Parliamentarian [who had suggested to suspend or delay confiscating houses and land of farmers, while prices of agricultural products drop dramatically – they said that if they did, their institutions would not have money to repay foreign countries, and they claimed that 99% of citizens who had asked for loans can repay their debt]

Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.357, 5.3.2009

  • A Successor to Replace Mr. Yash Ghai [the former Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Human Rights in Cambodia], a Former Challenger of Strong Man Hun Sen, Is Found [Professor Surya Prasad Subedi, Nepali, is assigned as the new Special Representative in Cambodia]

Koh Santepheap, Vol.42, #6594, 5.3.2009

  • Interview between Koh Santepheap and the Director of the Open Institute, Ms. Chim Manavy, Regarding the International Women’s Day 8 March
  • Four Political Parties [the Cambodian People’s Party, the Sam Rainsy Party, Funcinpec, and the Norodom Ranariddh Party] Register on the Election List [to join district and provincial/city elections planed to be held on 17 May 2009]
  • The Authorities Crack Down on Internet Shops [running online video games] Which Addict Students
  • Australian Embassy Provides 15,000 Australian Dollars to the Special Olympics in Cambodia

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.16, #3703, 5.3.2009

  • Mr. Sam Rainsy Leaves to Tell the Inter-Parliamentary Union that the Khmer National Assembly Does Not Obey the Law and the Constitution [since it has not restored his immunity although he had paid a fine to the National Election Committee that had already withdrawn the complaint against him]

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.17, #4837, 5.3.2009

  • Prime Minister Initiates to Eliminate the National Congress from the Constitution
  • Note:
    The Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia established an annual event, which was never held.

    THE NATIONAL CONGRESS

    Article 147:

    The National Congress shall enable the people to be directly informed on various matters of national interests and to raise issues and requests for the State authority to solve.

    Khmer citizens of both sexes shall have the right to participate in the National Congress.

    Article 148:

    The National Congress shall meet once a year in early December at the convocation of the Prime Minister.
    It shall proceed under the chairmanship of the King.

    Article 149

    The National Congress adopts recommendations to the Senate, the National Assembly, and to the Executive branch for reflection.
    The organization and operation of the National Congress shall be determined by law.

  • Because a Factory Owner Has Not Released Salaries for Five Months, Workers Ask for Help from Samdech Dekchor [Hun Sen] and from Her Excellency [Bun Rany Hun Sen – Kandal]
  • Cambodian Prime Minister Asks ASEAN to Play an Important Role in Bilateral Disputes in the Region
  • Banks in Cambodia Have Total Worth of More Than US$4 Billion

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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