Monthly Archives: July 2010

Celebrating Human Rights with Global Exchange

On May 27, 2010, Global Exchange announced Mu Sochua as the 2010 People’s Choice Honoree. Read more on the Human Rights Award for Mu Sochua here.

The following is from http://humanrightsaward.org 

“We are proud to honor Van Jones, Domestic Honoree, Raúl del Águila International Honoree, and to Announce Mu Sochua as the 2010 People’s Choice Honoree.

Since 2001, the Human Rights Awards Gala has brought together activists, supporters, and friends to recognize the efforts of exceptional individuals and organizations from around the country and around the world.

Join us May 27, 2010, as we honor the work of Environmental Justice Pioneer Van Jones (Domestic Honoree) and Fair Trade Trailblazer Raúl del Águila (International Honoree). Global Exchange is ALSO proud to announce Mu Sochua as our People’s Choice AWARD Honoree. Thank you to all those who participated in our People’s Choice Award contest. 

To view all our 2010 nominees, click here.

Global Exchange Human Rights Awards Honorees are some of the most prominent groups and activists in their fields.”

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Mu Sochua sets up a foundation to help women

27 July 2010. By Ly Meng Huor, Radio France Internationale

On Tuesday, SRP MP Mu Sochua, who lost the defamation lawsuit to Hun Xen, announced that she is setting up a women foundation for justice. This foundation will help young Cambodian women to become lawyers to defend victimized women in Cambodia.

The Cambodian Women’s Movement that supports Mrs. Mu Sochua handed the 4 million riels (~$1,000) fund, as well as more than 4,000 thumbprints to her. This fund is a portion of the 13.6 million riels raised by the Cambodian Women’s Movement from factory workers, sex workers, beer promotion workers, vendors, farmers, students, union leaders, teachers and NGO workers during a campaign that started at the beginning of July.

The fund was raised to help Mrs. Mu Sochua pay for her fine in the defamation lawsuit initiated by Hun Xen.

However, when she received the 3.81 million riels fund package from representatives of the Cambodian Women’s Movement this morning, Mrs. Mu Sochua indicated with tears in her eyes that it will be used to set up a women foundation for justice, and it will be used to help pay the law education of women so that they can be involved with the legal field and provide service to all women who are victimized by injustice.

Mrs. Mu Sochua added that the fund raised by the Cambodian Women’s Movement and handed to her represents the sweat and blood of innocent Cambodians. She will not use this fund to pay the fine and the compensation as the court ordered her in the defamation lawsuit case initiated by Hun Xen.

In the defamation lawsuit brought up by Hun Xen, the court decided that Mrs. Mu Sochua must pay a fine and a compensation totaling 16.5 million riels (~$4,000). At the end, the court decided to impound her salary instead.

Regarding this fund raised by the Cambodian Women’s Movement and the setup of a women foundation by Mrs. Mu Sochua, Tith Sothea, the flatulent windpipe of the Council of Ministers’ Press and Quick Reaction Unit (PQRU), said that this is a campaign set up to serve the personal interest of Mrs. Mu Sochua and it cannot extend to cover all Cambodian women in the entire country.

Read the full article on KI-Media Blogspot here.

For this article in Khmer, click here. Translated from Khmer by Socheata

Women Call for Third World Rights

On May 6, 2009, A. Gaffar Peang-Meth, posted an article titled “Women Call for Third World Rights,” where he pressed the importance of rights for women in politics in developing nations. He focused primarily on Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma and Mu Sochua.

PACIFIC DAILY NEWS
May 6, 2009 
A. Gaffar Peang-Meth, Ph.D
Read the full article here

“Sochua, one of 1,000 women proposed for the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize, told Katrin Redfern of The Independent Media Center in New York City that she seeks the Obama administration’s support for democracy and human rights in Cambodia, “a democracy on paper but in reality a dictatorship.”

When asked if she was hopeful about improvement, she said, “No, not until there is a change of regime. That can only happen when we have a real election that is free and fair. The West should insist on that, otherwise all the aid they have poured into Cambodia will not work.”

But she knows no dictator trades a free and fair election to keep him from power, and many countries put their interests above other people’s rights and freedom.

Her stubborn belief in the power of ideas and actions prevents her from being complacent.

On April 24, The Cambodia Daily’s front page article, “Mu Sochua To Sue Premier For Defamation,” reports Hun Sen’s nationally broadcast speech that he wouldn’t help villagers who side with the opposition; he told about a woman “cheung klang,” or “strong legs,” a derogatory term, in the 2008 election campaign who had “hugged” someone, and complained her “blouse” had been unbuttoned by force.

The Daily states that last June, an army officer “twisted her am, thus making her blouse buttons come undone,” so Sochua filed an “assault complaint.”

At an April 23 news conference, she announced her lawsuit against Sen for defamation, for 500 riels, or 13 cents, and a retraction of his statement.

In a country where “disappearances” and “accidents” are routine, Sochua’s action makes her either foolhardy or the symbol of renowned Khmer Pundit Krom Ngoy’s advice, “Kom chloah noeung srey” or “Don’t fight with women.”

But Sen chooses to fight with Sochua: The April 27 Daily’s front page read, “Prime Minister To Countersue Mu Sochua.”

Sen controls all branches of government, but Sochua says she’s not scared.

Born in 1954 to an affluent family, Sochua attended a French school. As Cambodia was engulfed in the Vietnam War in 1972, she and her sister were sent away to Paris and never saw her parents again — her father died of starvation under Pol Pot, her mother’s fate was unknown.

A refugee who lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, she earned a bachelor’s in psychology at San Francisco State University, and a master’s in social work at the University of California, Berkeley. Canada’s Guelph University bestowed upon her an honorary doctorate in law.

In 1981, Sochua left the United States to work in refugee camps along the Khmer-Thai border where she met her husband. In 1989 she returned to Phnom Penh and devoted her all to advancing women’s rights.

She was elected a lawmaker in 1998 on a royalist ticket, served as minister of women’s and veteran affairs in 1998-2004, left the royalist party after a political falling out, and became secretary general of Cambodia’s largest opposition party.

Clinton’s resounding words at the Vital Voices’ Global Leadership Awards shine on Sochua and others in their struggle.

But words are even more awesome when backed by actions.”

Read the full article here.

Human Rights of Parliamentarians

Statement from IPU Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians made at the press conference held last week at the closure of its 130th session. Download the pdf: Mu Sochua-press conference


Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians

“I would like to start our briefing this morning by expressing our Committee’s very deep dismay at the situation facing Ms. Mu Sochua, a woman member of the Cambodian parliament.

A little over a year ago, the Prime Minister of Cambodia made a public, offensive and derogatory statement with sexual innuendos about Mu Sochua as a woman. Any woman anywhere in the world would have been deeply offended. Mu Sochua was and she announced her intention to sue the Prime Minister for defamation. Immediately afterwards, she was herself sued by the Prime Minister on the basis that publicly announcing her intention to sue him was in his view defamatory.

Instead of dealing with a serious case of offensive language against a woman, the court dismissed Mu Sochua’s case against the Prime Minister. Her immunity was then lifted by parliament, and in August last year the court found her guilty of defaming the Prime Minister. The court awarded damages to the Prime Minister and imposed a fine on Mu Sochua. Her conviction was subsequently upheld by the Appeal Court in October 2009 and by the Supreme Court last month.

If Mu Sochua does not pay her fine by tomorrow – and she says she will not – she faces imprisonment. This would also compromise her ability to run in the next parliamentary elections.

The conviction of Mu Sochua involves a clear violation of her most fundamental right to freedom of expression. She has a legal right to express her view that she was defamed and that she intends to seek a legal remedy.

In the case against Mu Sochua, no evidence proving either damage to the reputation of the Prime Minister or malicious intent was ever presented. Instead, the courts relied on correspondence between Mu Sochua, on the one hand, and the IPU and the Global Fund for Women, on the other, to imply bad faith.

The IPU is appalled at this state of affairs. For the last thirty years, parliaments everywhere have cooperated with the IPU and its Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians. This committee was set up for the sole purpose of defending the human rights of members of parliament, many of whom, like Mu Sochua, are members of the opposition.

In this particular instance, that mechanism has been used by a court to violate the human rights of a member of parliament. This is appalling. Under no circumstances can we accept that a communication to the IPU or any other international or inter- governmental organization should be seen as a reprehensible act and be used as evidence in court proceedings. On the contrary, it is part of the fundamental right to freedom of expression.

This case represents a complete travesty of justice. We call on the competent authorities of Cambodia to prevent further injustice and take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that Mu Sochua is not imprisoned.”

Geneva, 15 July 2010



Mu Sochua Faces Docked Wages After Court Loss

Men Kimseng, VOA Khmer
Washington, DC Thursday, 22 July 2010

Mu Sochua, the opposition lawmaker who lost a defamation court battle with Prime Minister Hun Sen, will have her National Assembly salary docked to pay nearly $2,000 in compensation.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court ordered the National Assembly to take approximately 4.2 million riel, or $1,000, from her paycheck for two months.

“Mu Sochua must not obstruct or arrange for the prevention of officials in charge of preparing salaries at the [National Assembly] finance department from clearing the would-be confiscated debt,” the court said in a July 20 decision obtained by VOA Khmer.

The money will go to Hun Sen, who countersued Mu Sochua last year following her own claims he had defamed her with derogatory remarks in public speeches.

The case brought international attention to the Cambodian judicial system, which local and international rights groups say is typically politically biased toward the ruling party or subject to bribery and corruption. International donors routinely call for increased judicial reform.

Mu Sochua called the court decision “a kind of coercion” and “a political tool.”

“The judges cannot use their consciences to deliver justice to me as a parliamentarian,” she said.

Mu Sochua, a Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian representing Kampot province, had repeatedly said she would not pay the fine, but the order comes after she lost her final appeal to the Supreme Court in June.

Yim Sovann, a spokesman for the Sam Rainsy Party, said members would stand by the lawmaker.

“This is an act of injustice,” he said. “It is not her salary that Mu Sochua stands to defend, but to show the national public and international community that the court only acts in favor of the Cambodian People’s Party.”

The court order does not specify when the deductions will take place, and National Assembly officials were not immediately available for comment.

The article can also be found here.

Why is US Funding Sen’s Troops?

By A. Gaffar Peang-Meth, Pacific Daily News, July 21, 2010

Two weeks ago, I wrote about the Obama national security strategy “to achieve 
the world that we seek” through pursuing “four enduring national interests” — 
security, prosperity, values, international order — that are “inextricably 
linked. … No single interest can be pursued in isolation.”
 
Critics find the strategy weak on human rights.
 
Yet, the NSS paper says in a section on values (Page 35), “The U.S. believes 
certain values are universal” — peoples’ “freedom to speak their minds, 
assemble without fear, worship as they please, and choose their own leaders” — 
and the U.S. “will work to promote them worldwide.”
 
It admits that autocratic rulers “have repressed basic human rights and 
democratic principles,” but declares, “The U.S. supports those who seek to 
exercise universal rights around the world.”
 
To many international rights reformers, U.S. words and actions don’t jibe.
 
Some critics say there are rights and policies the U.S. should support 
unconditionally, regardless of how many other nations in the world oppose them. 
Some Obama supporters say that condemning every rights violator would leave the 
U.S. with few to work with; U.S. national interests are better served through 
“international engagement.”
 
Yet, the “inextricably linked” four enduring national interests mean unless the 
U.S. upholds “respect for universal values at home and around the world,” it 
can’t “achieve the world that we seek.”
 
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s U.S. leadership consists of “providing 
incentives for states who are part of the solution, … and disincentives for 
those who do not … live up to responsibilities.”
 
On July 8, Human Rights Watch called on the U.S. to halt aid to Premier Hun 
Sen’s “abusive military units.” It criticized Washington for selecting Cambodian 
military units with a record of human rights abuses to be host of the largest 
multinational peacekeeping military exercise in Asia July 12-30, co-hosted by 
the U.S. Pacific Command.
 
HRW’s deputy Asia director Phil Robertson chastised the Pentagon and the State 
Department: to “permit abusive Cambodian military units to host a high-profile 
regional peacekeeping exercise is outrageous.” It “undermines (U.S.) protests 
against the (Sen) government for rampant rights abuses like forced evictions 
when it showers international attention and funds on military units involved in 
land grabbing and other human rights violations.”

HRW charges that the U.S has provided more than $4.5 million worth of military 
equipment and training to Cambodia since 2006. “Some of that aid has gone to 
units and individuals within the Cambodian military with records of serious 
human rights violations.”

It linked Premier Sen’s personal bodyguards and Brigade 70 to the 1997 grenade 
attack on the political opposition; Airborne Brigade 911 to arbitrary 
detentions, political violence, torture and summary executions; Brigade 31 to 
forced evictions of Kampot villagers, illegal logging, land grabbing, 
intimidation of opposition party activists during the 2008 national elections 
and to summary executions of captured soldiers loyal to the royalist FUNCINPEC 
party during Sen’s 1997 coup.
 
On July 13, the Cambodian Center for Human Rights’s legal analysis shows the 
Cambodian judicial system is “broken” and is used as a tool to intimidate 
opposition voices, including the Supreme Court’s conviction of lawmaker Mu 
Sochua for defaming Sen.
 
Sochua sued premier Sen for the equivalent of 12 cents for calling her “cheung 
klang,” or “strong legs,” a derogatory term, in a public address, saying she 
unbuttoned her blouse in front of an officer. Sen counter-sued Sochua for 
defaming him. Sen’s Municipal Court dismissed Sochua’s suit for lack of 
evidence, but upheld Sen’s. It ordered Sochua to pay approximately $4,000 in 
fines by July 15 or go to prison.
 
On June 2, as Sen’s Supreme Court upheld the verdict and ordered Sochua to pay 
fines or go to prison, foreign donors awarded $1.1 billion in development aid to 
the Sen regime.
 
So, what were Clinton’s incentives and disincentives?
 
Cambodia may yet experience Malcolm Gladwell’s “Tipping Point” — “that magic 
moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and 
spreads like wildfire” — as Sochua stands her ground. She would rather go to 
prison than pay fines for a crime she never committed.
 
“It is my conscience that tells me that we have to stop living in fear, and fear 
of one man who has ruled Cambodia for over 30 years. … And for me, it’s a 
gender issue as well. Because if I allow it to happen, if I pay the fine, what 
does it mean to the value of women who represent more than half of the people of 
Cambodia?” Sochua told Voice of America.

Gladwell suggested that the world “may seem like an immovable, implacable place. 
It is not. With the slightest push — in just the right place — it can be 
tipped.” But, there must be “a bedrock belief that change is possible.”

Sochua, a 56-year-old mother of three daughters, a nominee for the 2005 Nobel 
Peace Prize, may well provide Gladwell’s “right kind of impetus” to the tipping 
point.
 
The Sen regime was not so foolish as not to see the trap, however. By the 
weekend, the regime backtracked. It no longer seeks a jail term for Sochua, but 
will impound Sochua’s parliamentary salary for the fines.
 
The Sen regime has initiated a new round of political Ramvong — a circle dance 
in which participants go around and around as long as the drumbeats continue. It 
has averted international embarrassment for now.
 
A. Gaffar Peang-Meth, Ph.D., is retired from the University of Guam, where he 
taught political science for 13 years. Write him at 
peangmeth@yahoo.com

Original article here.

Cambodian People Deserve an Independent Judiciary

On Friday, I received notice that the Phnom Penh Municipal Court has issued a final order for the National Assembly to deduct the 16.5 million riels fine and compensation from my salary as a Member of Parliament in lieu of detention. I wish to make it clear that the decision of the Courts if, carried out will be against my will.

But the struggle for an independent judiciary begins now.

There are three key principles for such a justice system that the people must continue to demand: independence; accountability; access.

Achieving independence will mean that courts decide cases on the facts, and this is only possible when judges are competent and are free to use their conscience and are not members of any political party. This also means that critics of the government can exercise their freedom of expression without fear of political persecution. In a rights-based government, no matter a person’s position in the hierarchy of society, we are all equal once we step into a courtroom. This principle is stipulated in Article 128 of the Cambodian Constitution.

Achieving accountability means that appointments of judges  and their performance is scrutinized by an independent body and by law.

Victims of rape and other violence can be confident that police will investigate cases in good faith, and report them to the competent courts for a resolution that makes victims whole and protects the rest of the community from future crimes by the same aggressors.

Achieving access to justice will mean that citizens accused of a crime can have a lawyer of their own choosing,and for those who can not afford legal protection, the state shall bear the cost.

It brings me great hope to know that a movement of garment workers, sex workers, beer-promotion women, university students, individual advocates, community members, moto-taxi drivers, vendors, farmers, union members, teachers, government officials, NGO staff, and global citizens, has been formed in the past few weeks to end the silence and speak out to protect freedom of speech and other fundamental rights.  

I am deeply touched by their support, and encouraged by their commitment to seeking justice for the thousands of Cambodian citizens who face daily injustices.

I am also deeply touched by their gesture of solidarity and humbled by their request that I join their movement.

Photo: Philip Skoczkowski

 

For too long, voices of women and the powerless have been silenced by fear. I have listened to hundreds, perhaps thousands of women and children speak of the shame and violation they have suffered when violence is inflicted on their bodies and on their minds as Khmer women deprived of equal rights under Cambodia law. Yet they dare not complain to those in power, for fear of retaliation, ridicule, or inaction and impunity. Thousands of our people have been forced out of their land and even entire communities have been uprooted by the state or powerful tycoons with backing of the State and in many instances , these forced evictions and land grabs are executed by the armed forces.

It is time to stop living in fear.

As the brave women who spoke at the first conference held by the movement showed, they – as Khmer people from all walks of life – are ready to break the silence and speak out against injustice, standing up for themselves and for victims everywhere.

I am honored to be able to serve the Cambodian people on our path to true democratic participation and equity. The momentum of this movement gives me strength to walk forward, and I hope to see more of our sisters and brothers join together to work towards true reforms for an independent judiciary.

I extend my deep thanks to everyone who has given me their support and given me the strength to fight my case in a judiciary that has been used as a political tool.

As an elected representative of the people I serve all Cambodians, not just those who give me their support.

I call on each and every one of us, to fulfill our responsibilities and commitment to build an independent, accountable and accessible system of justice.

Let’s get to work!

-Mu Sochua

Download the Cambodia Daily article here.