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.

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.

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