Monthly Archives: November 2010

A Nation in Grief – A Nation Transformed

Working Together as a Nation for the Safety and Security of Our People

The tragic deaths of our people leave our bodies numb. However, action must be taken for those who survived the tragedy and for the children who are now orphans. As a lawmaker, I will join my colleagues and many others in ensuring that an independent investigation will be conducted and the truth be told. Most important of all, that our people can depend on a safety and security system that is competent and trustworthy. Most of all, that there shall be no more repeat of the tragedy of 22/11.

Thousands attended the annual three-day water festival on Koh Pich, located outside Phnom Penh. Most of the people were from the countryside, making their annual visit to the city of Phnom Penh to celebrate the festival, one of the most popular in Cambodia. Hundreds of people crossed a bridge over to the mainland when a stampede formed, crushing at least 385 people to death- the number is increasing days after the tragedy occured- and causing severe injuries to hundreds of others. The majority of the victims were women from rural provinces outside the capital. Their souls are still wth us and will be with us till the truth is told.

We will remember the terror of those who were trapped on the bridge, the horror of the survivors who had to let go off the hands of their children, sisters and brothers – as they were trying to grasp for air. We will remember the rows of bodies covered in white cloth, the cries of the families while searching for their loved lones. We will never forget.

Safety and Security – A System that can be trusted by the people

The Ministry of Interior should make public its policy on public safety and security in times of peace and in emergencies.

According to experts, there are clear standards and measures to control a crowd and to prevent panic and stampedes. The questions we need to ask the Ministry of Interior and the Phnom Penh Governor are: what are the full details of the plan for safety and security of the public? Was there a contengency plan for crises?. Furthremore, we need to know the experience and expertise of police officers on crowd dynamics. We also need to know, how information was passed on to the high ranking officials when the crowd surpassed the capacity limit on the bridge and on the premises of the entertainment facilities on the island. And where were these high ranking officials to guide the security police assigned to the Koh Pich? What are the details of the arrangements made between the governor of Phnom Penh and the owner of those facilities? What insurance plan covers liabilities on the island, a private facility used for public events?

Witnesses and survivors of the 22/11 stampede speak of police using water hoses against the crowd that caused further panic. When approach to crowd control is the use of force for crack-down – same measures taken in the past to crack-down demonstrators – the people then become the ” enemies” and not human beings. There is a very serious need to review the approach to train police on crowd control. Many nations have offered assistance. The government of Cambodia should seize it.

In order to have checks and balances in the search for the causes of the Koh Pich tragedy , there should be true independent and a by-partisan parliamentarian committee, a committee by civil society and concerned citizens, to investigate all causes that have now left Cambodia in a state of uncertainty and deep grief. High ranking officials of the Minsitry of Interior should not be part of the government investigation committee as they were the ones in charge of the water festival events and negligence occured. There should be a committee formed by the families of the victims and survivors, to conduct their own investigation and to formulate their request for fair and just compensation from the company that owns Koh Pich. All testimonies collected by any investigation committee should be public records and the protection and safety of all those who are coming forward with information that holds the key to the truth should be ensured.

Compensations to the families of the victims and to the survivors are not enough to let the souls of our sisters and brothers to move on in peace, there need to be courage from those in charge to face the responsibility and accountability which come with the position they each hold.

We pay respect to all police officers, medics, and civilians who showed true courage and heroism in saving lives.

We continue to be with the families of the vicitms whose sacred memories will be held forever.

Koh Pich stampede has transformed the nation – the people want a true share of governance and a democratic system that decentralize powers, and engagement of ideas and opinions for a united Cambodia.

Sochua Mu, MP

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Donations for Cambodia’s Water Festival tragedy

WAVE- Women Against Violence Everywhere- are receiving donations to assist Strey Khmer in their relief efforts.

Please support in any way you can- spread the word.

http://www.thewaveproject.org/

The link to donate is in the bottom hand corner of the screen.

Thank you for your support

This week’s Water Festival tragedy in Cambodia has shocked and saddened us all. 

Our friends at Strey Khmer in Phnom Penh have been part of the relief effort – working without pause, caring for the injured, comforting and reuniting grief-stricken survivors, providing food and shelter.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, please consider helping those whose lives have been forever changed by this horrific event.

Your generous donation is tax deductible as allowed by law, and much appreciated. Please click DONATE below. Thank you.

In Mourning

November 22, 2010

Palo Alto, California- As a nation we mourn the loss of hundreds of our sisters and brothers in the Koh Pich stampede today. As a nation we are shocked and horrified by the tragedy. Condolences to the families go beyond our feelings of grave sadness as we, as a nation must find means for the injured to recover, the orphans to find homes and the families to heal. We also want to know the causes so that such tragedy will never occur again. Safety and security of the people must come first and the truth must be told.

mourning the victims of the Water Festival stampedeI truly believe that we must work together as a nation and heal as a nation. In the days and months to come, we will continue to pray for the souls of the people who paid dearly with their lives for merely wanting to celebrate the ancient Khmer tradition of  Oum Touk- the Water Festival. This moment of great sadness for the hundreds of our sisters and brothers who died should also be a moment for re-evaluating the value of our people’s lives because payments or gifts can not easily help rebuild lives that are shattered. Thorough independent investigations must be conducted and testimonies of the survivors taken into serious consideration and with great protection and sensitivity.

My most sincere gratitude goes to each and everyone for their courage, their heroism and their deep sense of duty. Many helped rescue those who were injured, those who cried out for help, the children who were being stampeded, while they themselves were looking for a safe escape.

In California, I am appealing for contributions for the children whose parents have died, for women and men who now are facing the burden of supporting their families alone. Their lives must be rebuilt. In the next  days l will seek out each and every source for contribution and to bring this very tragic news to those whose hearts will also be touched by the Koh Pich tragedy.

Going with our beliefs, we must light candles and burn incense and place them on our family altar for the next 100 days.

Mu Sochua, MP

In Remembrance of Those Lost

Message of Condolence to the Families of the Victims of the Koh Pich Tragedy

November 22, 2010
Photos: Reuters and AP

Phnom Penh- The Cambodian Women’s Movement for Justice (CWMJ) expresses its deep condolences to the victims of Monday evening’s stampede on Koh Pich. CWMJ was founded in 2010 in support of Mu Sochua in her fight for fair trial, freedom of speech and gender justice.

Photo: Reuters

Thousands attended the annual three-day water festival on Koh Pich, located outside Phnom Penh. Most of the people were from the countryside, making their annual visit to the city of Phnom Penh to celebrate the festival, one of the most popular in Cambodia. Hundreds of people crossed a bridge over to the main-land when a stampede formed, crushing at least 345 people to death and causing severe injuries to hundreds of others. The majority of the victims were women from rural provinces outside the capitol.

Members of the Cambodian Women’s Movement for Justice are monitoring the situation and express their sympathy to the victims and their families. Several medical facilities have reached capacity-level and have begun treating injuries in makeshift spaces.

Photo: AP

“My mind is numb,” said Mu Sochua, Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) MP for Kampot province. “My sister goes to that island to take the women to sell their cookies. I am so worried about them.” The water festival should be a joyous occasion shared by all Cambodians, but the death of hundreds of Cambodians has marked the holiday with great sadness.

Photo: AP

The Cambodian Women’s Movement for Justice joins in mourning with the Cambodian nation over this enormous tragedy. We appeal for contributions for children of those who have died in the stampede. All government agencies are flying their flags at half-mast.

Yours Sincerely,

Representatives of the Cambodian Women’s Movement for Justice

Cambodian lawmaker focuses on rights for women

By Bonnie Adler. Minuteman News Center. November 17, 2010

Nobel Prize nominee Mu Sochua, an advocate for rule of law and rights for women in Cambodia, is a remarkable study in contrasts.

At 55, she is an exotic beauty, slender, soft-spoken, graceful and charming. She is also alarmingly brave and intensely committed. As the most outspoken female leader of the opposition party in an impoverished post-Khmer Rouge Cambodia, she risks her life in calling publicly for the cessation of sex trafficking, equality for women and an end to the corruption that is endemic to all levels of Cambodian society.

Mu Sochua made numerous appearances in Westport last week, raising awareness about her work as a Cambodian lawmaker to promote greater equality and freedom for women in her country and to publicize the deeply disturbing film documentary “Redlight,” an expose about the global issue of sex trafficking of children.

Mu Sochua is featured in the film, which focuses on the personal stories of the victims of child sexploitation and the efforts made thus far to try to stop the crime, which is so prevalent in Cambodia. “Redlight” was directed by an award-winning Israeli filmmaker, Guy Jacobsen, and was shown in Westport and Ridgefield last week with personal appearances by both Mu Sochua and Guy Jacobson.

Read the full article here.

Mu Sochua on Minuteman News Center

Cambodian Human-Rights Activist Brings Crusade to Westport

Sunday, November 14, 2010
Karen Kovacs Dydzuhn
Westport News (Connecticut, USA)/Photos Phyllis Groner

Human-rights activist Mu Sochua, a Cambodian parliamentarian who leads the opposition party and advocates for justice and rehabilitation for victims of human trafficking, cheered yesterday’s release of Aung San Suu Kyi’s house arrest in Burma. “We cannot stop being vigilant,” Mu Sochua told 200 people gathered at Westport’s Seabury Center on Saturday night.

Sponsored by the Connecticut Council of Vital Voices, an international non-profit organization that trains and empowers women in developing countries, Mu Sochua and director Guy Jacobson were in Westport to publicly screen “Redlight,” a documentary film that shares the stories of four children who were kidnapped, raped and sold into prostitution before they were 14 years old.

“Redlight” will also be shown this afternoon at the Ridgefield Playhouse at 4 p.m. Sunday.

Like Aung San Suu Kyi, Mu Sochua recently learned that a lawsuit that would have sent her to prison was dismissed. However, Mu Sochua continues to campaign for her causes as she travels throughout Cambodia’s small villages, talking to people and trying to help children who are vulnerable to human traffickers. “I call it `barefoot democracy,’ ” Mu Sochua smiled.

Read the Full Article Here.

All proceeds from Saturday night’s event will be used to support Mu Sochua’s programs in Cambodia. Although she does not seek financial support, Mu Sochua expressed appreciation to the attendees for watching the film — disturbing, at times, for its realistic and heart-wrenching portrayal of children’s plight — and she said that it’s by making people aware of the existence of human trafficking that changes may occur.

Jacobson pointed out that child prostitution doesn’t only occur “over there.” Danelle Ragoonanan-Storph, director of Bridgeport-based Project Rescue and Assist New America, agreed that similar activities occur in Fairfield County.

Roberta Cooper, co-president of the Connecticut chapter of Vital Voices, of Westport, said she was impressed by Mu Sochua’s humanitarian efforts when they initially met four years ago at one of the organization’s global summits. “We’ve since become friends,” she noted. “The response that we’ve had tonight shows that this is an issue that people really care about.”

Contributions can be made to Vital Voices Global Partnership. They are tax-deductible. Checks may be sent to Roberta Cooper, c/o P.O. Box 3363, Westport, CT. For more information, contact Cooper at robertacooper@optonline.net