Monthly Archives: August 2010

A New Challenge: Notes from the Campaign Trail

By Mu Sochua- August 31, 2010.

Hello,

I am currently walking the campaign trail in Sampov Loun (North of Battambang), 5 km from Thailand. This is where I won my first seat, in 1998. Among the 30 men and women who came to the first meeting, 8 men and one woman are land victims. A very, very hard feeling to see such poverty and injustice. A very small number of the people were born here. The very high number of youth come from different parts of the country, seeking employment in the corn, and cassave fields. They take whatever wage is offered them (about US 2 per day). I make my visits to each community short as the workers are too tired to listen.

The military and powerful local authorities do whatever they wish and the Thai middlemen set the price of the farmers’crops.

Mu Sochua, May 2010

Here is my personal challenge:

The biggest challenge is where to stay: last night we arrived in the town of Sompouv Loun, in the middle of rain and mud. We finally located a guest house , got excited but quite appalled by the colors of the rooms and beddings and the smell and the huge spider in the bathroom: it is rather a brothel than a guest house. Changed to another place that is better but found 5 well dressed and made up young women waiting for the men in this frontier town. Not much choice.

I am communicating with you, thanks to my very useful assistant who purchased a special quick internet broad band sim that connects me anywhere. It is 3Am and I can not wait to get out of this brothel.

Missing my comfortable bed. The flashing red blanket has a very bad smell and the pillow cases have not been changed since the last 5 customers.

Gotta get out of here. Next time I will bring my own hammock, pillow and sheets and insect repllent and will sleep in the village.

But no internet.

Home in five days.

Tough!

-Mu Sochua

The Fight Against Corruption in Cambodia

The fight against corruption in the country remains a fundamental issue underlying national political and social structures. An anti-corruption law has already been adopted by the Cambodian National Assembly. However, the government has not yet fully implemented it. The Anti-Corruption Unit and the National Anti-Corruption Committee have not carried out significant anti-corruption measures. Further, the law remains weak. For instance, the anti-corruption law requires some, not all, high ranking officials to declare their assets, and the declarations are to remain confidential. This has led to criticisms that the anti-corruption law in Cambodia is weak and not conform to international standards.

As Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian, Mu Sochua declared this week that “the Anti-Corruption Unit must accept reports of citizens on suspected corruption, and it must guarantee their safety in order to show that investigations over corruption will be enforced widely”. Mu Sochua further added that “the first round of investigations should be conducted on high ranking officials such as the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Ministers, and Senior Ministers. If their assets do not correspond to their income, it would certainly mean that they committed corruption”.1

Further Update on Lem Nath Case

The following is a brief update on the Lem Nath case, following up on the blog posts below.

Most recently, after the court denied bail to Lem Nath, she was taken to court for questioning on Thursday the 26th of August. She has not been convicted yet. However, as one of her daughters declared on that day, “[when] on 17th August 2010, over 100 people went to the Provincial Court to help my mother […] the Commune Chief said he [would] arrest my mother to put [her] in a dark jail and will buy presents from Kompong Thom market for the people […] He has tried to break my mother’s supporters.”

Lem Nat’s picture along the way from jail to the court for questioning.

Further, after Thursday judiciary session, lem Nath herself declared, “I am sick and please help me, I didn’t make any fault and I don’t want to stay in the jail.”

On of her daughtrers who has been assisting her tremendously in her work and during the court trial.

Strey Khmer is continuing to work on legal assistance and monitoring.

Land Grabbing: A Daily Occurrence in Cambodia

The Case of Omlaing Commune, Kompong Speu Province.

Mu Sochua and a team of 16 other SRP representatives traveled to Ouprolou village, Kompong Speu Province on Thursday 26th August, to meet with and support a group of 50 villagers who are being menaced of eviction. However, in total, it is 11 villages, covering 9,993 hectares that are concerned. 2,000 families are involved in a land dispute with the Phnom Penh Sugar Company.

The dispute began 3 months ago, when the Phnom Penh Sugar Company, owned by CPP senator Ly Yong Phat, was granted the land concession of Omlaing Commune, in Thpong District, for sugar plantations, and thus threatening the livelihood of its inhabitants. According to the company representative, Chheang Kimsruon, “[the company] bought the land legally from villagers and [has] land titles”.1 It is now planning to exploit the land, planting 1,000 hectares of sugarcane in 2010, and a further 3,000 next year. Villagers are thus being asked to leave their houses and rice fields and have officially been offered compensations.

However, as Phal Vanank, a local representative, said earlier this week, “everything that [the] company has promised before is a lie”.2 The villagers have not received anything until now. They have instead seen their houses destroyed and have been forced to live on a 200-meters strip of land along a local road, with no food provisions, health protection and schooling for the children. As Mu Sochua explained, farmers have lost so much time fighting for their land, that they are missing the planting season, which will have dramatic health and economic consequences. Further, this has forced people to migrate to Phnom Penh and even abroad, to countries including South Korea, Thailand and Malaysia. This is having deep consequences for local living as well as social and family dynamics.

The villagers have disputed the agreement, organizing protests, including this week in Phnom Penh, infront of the company’s office. They have also sought support from the SRP, who earlier this month wrote a letter of complaint to the Prime Minister, Hun Sen. However, his response has been a total denial of the fact that Cambodians are being evicted from their land, instead blaming the SRP for creating trouble locally and nationally. Yet, SRP representatives are not ready to let another case of land grabbing remain unspoken of, and Cambodian citizens silenced.

Yesterday’s visit of 17 SRP deputies, including representatives from Kompong Speu and Phnom Penh, was to bring moral support to local citizens, as well as to push them to remain united and strong infront of the authorities’ pressure. Rohb Doul Muth, local deputy for SRP, spoke in the name of the party, declaring he would bring the issue forward again in public, next week at the National Assembly. Further, legal support and monitoring will be organized, with the support of local NGOs, including ADHOC and COMFREL.

1. “Villagers Decry Missed Meet”, May Titthara, The Phnom Penh Post, August 26th 2010.

2. “Villagers Decry Missed Meet”, May Titthara.

Mu Sochua Seeks Reform of Judiciary After Lawsuit

Men Kimseng, VOA Khmer
Washington, DC Wednesday, 25 August 2010 

Outspoken opposition parliamentarian Mu Sochua, who lost a defamation case to Prime Minister Hun Sen that resulted in a salary deduction, has vowed to go after the courts to demand reform of the country’s judicial system.

“We, the opposition party together with all the people, demand a justice system that is truly independent and does not act as a political tool,” Mu Sochua said as a guest on “Hello VOA” Monday.

Mu Sochua lost her final appeal to the Supreme Court in June. Her salary will now be garnished to repay approximately $4,000 in court fines and compensation to Hun Sen, who countersued her when she brought defamation charges against him last year. 

Mu Sochua appealed to Cambodians to rally behind the opposition Sam Rainsy Party to demand that judges renounce membership from the central committee of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party and to call for an active Supreme Council of Magistracy to oversee judges’ performance. She also called for sufficient lawyers to provide legal services to the people.

“This can only be done when the Sam Rainsy Party is elected and Mr. Sam Rainsy becomes prime minister,” she said. “We are determined to get this done.”

Read the article on KI Media blog here.

Update on Lem Nath Case

The following is a brief update on the Lem Nath case.

Most recently, we were told that the court has denied bail. Lem Nath will be taken to court for questioning on Thursday the 26th of August. Polet of Strey Khmer will be traveling to Kompong Thom to assist in any way possible, and to report back. We continue to work on legal assistance and monitoring. 

Read more on the case in the blog postings below.

The Fight Continues for Lem Nath

Yesterday, Tuesday 17th August, 100 villagers from Kompong Thom came to the court to give support to Lem Nath and her family. However, the police stopped the villagers at various places on their route. They decided to go back home, after the lawyer explained the legal procedures to them.

Lem Nath, detained in provincial prison, with other female convicts.

Mu Sochua and her team have been working forcefully on this case, last week obtaining the help of a local lawyer. This week, they also contacted the Human Rights Organization, ADHOC, to provide further monitoring support to Lem Nath and her people. The lawyer has now appealed to the court, asking for Lem Nath to be released, emphasizing the lack of a warrant held by the police at the time of the arrest. The chief of the provincial court replied today that the authorities will response during a week.

Villagers came to provincial Court to show their support for the release of Lem Nath.

Mu Sochua and her team will continue to press, tracking information with the monitor from ADHOC, raising funds and bringing awareness to the case within Cambodia and outside.

Villagers came to provincial Court to show their support for the release of Lem Nath.

Their appeal has now reached the international community. Fund raising activities are also being held abroad including in Canada. Meak Sakada, a student who had previously followed Mu Sochua on her political campaign trail in Battambang, has already helped raising a total of $250.

We are continuing to raise funds for Lem Nath’s legal fees. If you would like to donate to her case, please follow this link to donate to Strey Khmer, the organization which arranged the press conference and handles the donations.

Also, for further analyses of the issue of land rights and the authorities’ use of force in cases of land grabbing, please follow this link to the Phnom Penh Post article “Land Disputes Lead to Jailing” by May Titthara and Will Baxter (18th August 2010), and this link to the Rights Organization’s, LICADHO, Press Statement “Excessive Use of Force Against Peaceful Gathering of Villagers in Phnom Penh” (8th August 2010)