Monthly Archives: March 2011

Yemen- Women Find Their Voices

Protests have given female activists in Yemen, a rare opportunity to express their views.  By Afrah NasserThe Arab Spring – 24 March 2011

Traditionally in Yemen, women are – literally – not allowed to raise their voices. In peaceful circumstances, even calling out in the street to attract someone’s attention is considered unacceptable behaviour. But now, in the protests, it is very much welcomed and there is an amazing response when we raise our voices.

Everybody acknowledges that yes, we do have a voice, and the role of women in this uprising is increasing day by day as we enter a new time of freedom for everyone.

Women’s participation in this revolution started on a very small scale. There were only about ten women in Sana’a’s Change Square when the pro-democracy protests started. But with each day, it has been noticeable how the numbers of women grew as female protesters brought their sisters, cousins, friends. The number multiplied incredibly. Women are treated with grace and respect in the square. When I go there, I am treated like a VIP. Usually in Yemen, women get harassed all the time, but in Change Square nobody touches me. It is the safest place in Sana’a for women.

And life is indeed challenging for Yemeni women, every day. We constantly fight to claim our rights at home, in the street, at work. In any kind of field, a woman has to increase her efforts hugely to succeed. For instance, a 19-year-old cousin of mine won a scholarship to study in Germany and her brother refused to let her go. After a big fight, she had no choice but to give in.

If a man makes one per cent effort, a woman needs to make 200 per cent effort to get the same result. I work as a journalist and I am the only woman in the newsroom. Even there my colleagues find it hard to accept that I do go to places dominated by men to report.

There is some political participation by women, but it is very timid – women still live in a prison of their own fear. We are not very politically aware. It is a process and we are still at the very beginning. There are a few women politicians and about 18 months ago President Ali Abdullah Saleh instituted a 15 per cent quota of seats for women – but there aren’t enough women politicians to fill it.

But despite this women have been participating in the protests to an unbelievable extent. The female protesters come from all sectors of Yemeni society – women who do not have their faces covered, like me, and others are much more conservative. They are coming to an awareness that they have to be a huge part of building this country. We gain in confidence and women begin to think that they have to have a voice, a place in this new society – something that has never happened before.

Talking to other friends of mine, we feel we are revolting against our parents too. It’s a double revolution, inside our homes as well as in Change Square. Each one of us faces resistance from our parents, who demand to know why we think change is so important. Many of our parents are devoted to the president and the old regime, and they are opposed to us taking part in the demonstrations. So we face oppression both at home and in the public sphere.

The extremism and violence Saleh predicts will sweep Yemen without him is just propagan da. None of that will happen and I don’t see the danger of a civil war. I would like to see a peaceful transfer of power and the beginning of a new, democratic process, to have the same result here as in Egypt and Tunisia.

I am not worried that there will be violence like there is now in Libya. There is no way things will deteriorate here to that extent. The violence last week in which more than 50 people were killed won’t be repeated, I don’t think.

I am worried about what the future holds – not because of the fear of violence, but because of the uncertainty. But when I go to Change Square I see the harmony and tolerance between the different protesters, a sign that a peaceful change is possible.

Cambodian Mothers’ Legacy Foundation

You are invited to meet:
Mrs. Mu Sochua
Former Nobel Prize Nominee
Former Minister of Women’s Affairs, SRP Member of Parliament

Mrs. Mu Sochua is a member of a new generation of women who are working their way into the political systems of countries across Asia and elsewhere, from local councils to national assemblies and cabinet positions.

Topic: Improving Women’s Conditions and Protecting Their Rights
WHEN: Sunday April 17, 2011
TIME: 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM
WHERE: Wat Dhammikaram Kkmer Krom, 2725 Zuni Road, St Cloud, FL 34771, 407-892-1778
Contact persons: Rom Her 772-812-3778; Bopha Suy: 727-504-1671; Nicole Ung: 561-386-0634; Vanna Lanh: 813-385-2341

You are also invited to the celebration of the Cambodian New Year with the
Screening of the documentary film “Redlight”, sponsored by the Cambodian Mother Legacy Foundation, which depicts the struggle against child exploitation in Cambodia, led by human rights advocates Mu Sochua and Somaly Mam.

WHEN: Saturday, April 9, 2011
TIME: 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM
WHERE: D.A.V. Post # 113
1150 S.W. California Blvd.
Port Saint Lucie, FL 34953
Contact Persons: Rom Her 772-812-3778; Nicole Ung: 561-386-0634, Bopha Suy: 727-504-1671, Vanna Lanh: 813-385-2341.

Sochua to Speak at The University of Hong Kong

RIGHTS TALK

Building a Women’s Movement to Defend Human Rights


Friday, 25 March 2011, 1:00 – 2:00 pm
Room LG103, LG1 Floor, KK Leung Building
The University of Hong Kong

***************************************************************************

Mu Sochua, a member of the Cambodian Parliament and advocate for human rights, gained her freedom from the Khmer Rouge as a girl when her parents put her on a plane to Paris in 1972. After 18 years of exile and a successful career in the U.S. as a social worker, Sochua returned to Cambodia and found her country transformed into what Time magazine called “a pervert’s paradise”, where women and girls were so devalued that becoming a sex worker was a common fate.

As Cambodia’s first woman seated as Minister of Women’s Affairs, Sochua negotiated an agreement with Thailand allowing Cambodian women trafficked as sex workers there to return to their home country in lieu of being jailed. She is the author and defender of the Domestic Violence Law in the Cambodian Parliament, and has served the women of her nation as an unrelenting advocate for the preservation and full practice of women’s rights.

Please email Flora Leung at fkleung@hku.hk to reserve a place.

Rape Suspects No-Shows at Delayed Trial

Khy Sovuthy. Cambodia Daily. Friday, March 18, 2011.

A former police officer and a security guard accused of raping a Phnom Penh karaoke parlor worker in 2009 stood trial at Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday, less than two weeks after opposition SRP lawmaker Mu Sochua wrote Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana calling for the case to be brought to court.

But the two rape suspects– Meanchey district police officer Uong Dara, 44, and security guard Chan Narith, 51– were not present in court yesterday, and both suspects’ lawyers said they had no idea where their clients were.

Mr. Dara is accused of raping a 19-year-old worker from a karaoke parlor in Meanchey distrct’s Prek Pra commune on Oct 30, 2009, with Mr. Narith accused of assisting the rape by holding the girl down.

According to the 19-year-old girl’s statement that was read in court yesterday, Mr. Dara paid her about $250 to drop her complaint the day after the alleged rape took place.

Deputy prosecutor Plang Sophal said that even though the victim dropped the complaint after receiving the money, the payment should only be viewed as “civil compensation” and criminal punishment should also be imposed.

Mr. Sophal said witness accounts verified that Mr. Dara had raped the girl and Mr. Narith had helped catch the victim and hold her down.

Ms Sochua wrote a letter to the Justice Minister on March 3, requesting that the two suspects be brought to court as soon as possible.

Yesterday, she said she had mixed feelings about the response.

“I am hopeful that by pursuing this case, the Justice Minister will look to collaborate more with those of us pursuing cases of rape and violence against women,” she said.

“But the fact they did not bring the suspects to court makes me feel empty. If this was the trial of an ordinary citizen, they would already have been detained. I will continue to pursue this to make sure they track down the perpetrators.”

Justice Ministry officials could not be reached yesterday.

Both Mr. Dara’s lawyer Kong Pitou and Mr. Narith’s lawyer Morn Pheasa said yesterday they were not aware of their clients’ current whereabouts. Meanchey district police chief Hy Narin declined to say whether he knew where Mr. Dara was, only saying that his former colleague was fired “a long time ago.”

A verdict is due on March 28. (Additional reporting by Mark Worley)

SRP warns Malaysia of labour firm

Friday, 18 March 2011. Matt Lundy. The Phnom Penh Post.

The opposition Sam Rainsy Party issued a letter on Wednesday to Malaysia’s ambassador to Cambodia, requesting the embassy alert its government to the alleged activities of T&P Co Ltd, a labour recruitment agency accused of imprisoning its trainees.

Photo by: Hong Menea

Opposition lawmaker Son Chhay wrote the letter – which details the accusations levelled against the company, in addition to the SRP’s investigations earlier this week – after receiving information that T&P had sent some of its trainees to Malaysia.

“We hope that your Embassy will … help in preventing these violations of human rights by informing your government as well as [raising] this situation with the Cambodian government so that a very close monitoring system can be set up in order to stop all forms of exploitation and abuses of the workers,” the letter read.

Deputy Head of Mission Raja Saiful Ridzuwan confirmed that the Malaysian embassy received the letter yesterday and said the embassy would issue a response within the next couple days. He said he briefly discussed the letter’s contents with Malaysian Ambassador Datuk Pengiran Hj Mohd Hussein Datuk Pengiran Hj Mohd Tahir Nasruddin.

The T&P recruitment agency has come under scrutiny since the death of a 35-year-old trainee in the company’s offices earlier this month. Several trainees have said they were denied leaves of absence from the company’s headquarters, including a 31-year-old trainee who broke both legs while trying to escape.

Son Chhay said yesterday that both countries’ governments had a responsibility to migrant workers, given the raft of human rights abuses that Cambodian workers have faced in Malaysia.

“I think [the Malaysian embassy] should be aware of what’s happening here, and be in contact with the labour ministry over there,” he said. “I think it’s a weakness in our system…and the irresponsibility of the Malaysian government to migrant workers.”

Ridzuwan said the embassy had no responsibility in domestic matters, such as investigations into T&P.

“There’s nothing much we can do,” he said. “I believe that the responsibility of the maids under training is on the government of Cambodia. Our responsibility is to issue visas to work in Malaysia.”

Ridzuwan said he believed “some workers” had been sent to Malaysia by T&P.

Who Killed Chea Vichea? -Special Jury Prize Winner!

WHO KILLED CHEA VICHEA?

Who Killed Chea Vichea? has made enormous progress since our last update.

The film is complete, and we’re producing versions for distribution all over the world. It has been shown in a dozen countries, and translated into French, Spanish and Polish (as Who Killed the Lech Walesa of Phnom Penh?).

FIFDHWho Killed Chea Vichea? has also won prizes at festivals from the San Francisco Bay to the banks of the Seine. On Tuesday it won the Special Jury Prize for Investigation and Reporting at the International Human Rights Film Festival of Paris. (Many thanks to advisory board member Eric Pape for representing us there, and to François Gerles for translation.)

In May, Who Killed Chea Vichea? will be broadcast to millions of viewers on public television stations across the U.S. Leading up to our broadcast, we’re having US screenings from coast to coast. We’ve signed with a distributor to get the film broadcast in other countries. And starting in May, after the first U.S. broadcast, we’ll finally be able to send out DVDs! More on that below.

Meanwhile, in Cambodia, the authorities continue to prevent screenings. Last week the plug was pulled on a screening at a large restaurant with 200-300 garment workers after 25 minutes. According to an employee, the order came from local authorities. Two previous screenings have been broken up by riot police. Clearly we’ve struck a nerve. But our plan to make sure that people in Cambodia can see the film is going forward.

Even outside Cambodia, many of you have still not had a chance to see the film. We’re doing our best to bring it to you wherever you are. Producing the DVD and versions of the film for festivals, screenings and distribution takes money, but we can do it if we work together.

So we’re offering you the chance to be first in line for the DVD and to help us when we need it most by ordering your copy in advance. As soon as it’s ready (we’re trying for May), we’ll send you your copy, anywhere in the world. We’ve made ordering super easy.

If you’re planning to buy a DVD,
this is the time to place your order!

As always, your support is essential to the success of Who Killed Chea Vichea?, so please order now. Thank you for all you’ve done.

Best,
Brad, Rich and Jeffrey
Loud Mouth Films

News: http://blog.whokilledcheavichea.com/search/label/news
Screenings: http://blog.whokilledcheavichea.com/search/label/screenings
Facebook group: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=76083065273

Please forward this email to anyone you think may be interested.

Cambodia: Trafficking domestic workers to Malaysia

Spero News. IRIN. Thursday, March 17, 2011.

Investigations by NGOs in Cambodia have found that companies are recruiting girls as young as 13 to work in Malaysian households, confining them in overcrowded and unhygienic “training centres”, forging birth certificates to raise their age, and paying finders’ fees to brokers.

Hou Vuthy, a deputy director-general at the Ministry of Labour, said the government is moving swiftly to address the abuses and that “vast improvements” have been made.

He estimated it would take about three more years to fully control the recruiting companies, some of whom employed unscrupulous agents who “cheated” illiterate village residents. He stressed, however, that the government had already managed to eliminate the illegal recruiters.

Attention has focused on the burgeoning industry, and the firm T&P Co. Ltd. in particular, since one woman died at its “training” facility in suburban Phnom Penh and another broke bones in both of her legs while trying to escape from its third floor balcony.

She got entangled in the razor wire around the second floor, and then fell to the pavement, neighbours said. The three people who carried her off the street and comforted her while awaiting an ambulance were later summonsed to the local police station and interrogated by officers who accused them of colluding with the “trainees” to help them escape, neighbours said.

Tola Moeun, head of the Labour Programme at the Community Legal Education Centre, said the Ministry of Labour and the Department of Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection were more concerned with protecting the recruitment agencies than the welfare of the more than 20,000 Cambodians who had been recruited to work as domestic workers in Malaysia.

He said that in most cases he had investigated, the women were under 21, and many were under 18. He alleged that officials at the commune level were falsifying birth certificates so that passports with false dates of birth could be issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Labour Ministry’s Vuthy admitted this had been happening, saying his office had no control over local officials and that it could not verify the authenticity of birth certificates that were delivered by the recruiting companies. He said, however, that the Ministry of Interior had cracked down on village and commune officials who forged documents. “That does not happen any more,” he said.

Government complicity?

MP and former minister for women’s affairs Mu Sochua has accused the government of complicity in trafficking.

“The Cambodian government has effectively legalized human trafficking,” Mu Sochua said. She also said the government was protecting the recruiting companies because some of its members might have financial interests in them.

Local media have reported more than 90 recruiting companies registered with the government, but Vuthy said there were 33, though they operate about 100 “training centres” in and around Phnom Penh. When asked if any companies were connected to the government, he replied: “It is legal in Cambodia for wives of politicians to run businesses,” but added, ownership is irrelevant because all companies must abide by the law.

Mu Sochua said some of companies brazenly violate the law. “The girls are being bought, documents are being forged; they are being imprisoned and abused in Cambodia, and then they are sent into an environment where there are no safeguards to protect them. Often their passports are confiscated and they are confined in households.”
The Cambodia Human Rights and Development Association (Adhoc) warned in September 2010 that its investigation found severe cases of abuse at “training centres” in Phnom Penh and in Malaysia. Passports were being confiscated, domestic workers were forcibly detained, and some were beaten, raped and tortured, Adhoc said.

Lobbying for legal age reduction

“This is probably just the tip of the iceberg,” said deputy director of the Asia division of Human Rights Watch, Phil Roberston. “There is also an overland route for smuggling Cambodian girls into Malaysia through Thailand.”

He also warned that efforts to lobby the Malaysian government to lower the legal age of domestic workers from 21 to 18 were a “recipe for disaster”. “Our research has found that the younger the maid the more vulnerable they are to abuse and exploitation,” he said.

Vuthy said reports in Malaysian media that the Cambodian government was lobbying for a reduction in the age were fabricated by recruiting companies attempting to pressure Kuala Lumpur. Neither the Cambodian government nor the Malaysian government would give into their pressure, he said.

Recruitment companies in Malaysia set their sights on Cambodia in 2009 after Indonesia announced a freeze on sending new domestic workers to Malaysia, following reports of extreme abuse there.

Cambodian workers are more vulnerable because of the language barrier, greater cultural differences, the extreme poverty many came from, and the distance between the two countries, Robertson said.

Roberston said efforts by the international community to train Cambodian officials about trafficking had had little success. “Some top level officials go to seminar after seminar, while lower level officials receive little or no information on what trafficking is and how to prevent it. There is also a bigger problem of corruption among government officials, which is what we are seeing in relation to these labour recruitment schemes seeking to send maids to Malaysia.”

Vuthy sees things differently. He said his ministry was struggling with a surge in demand and a lack of experience and resources to monitor the industry. It was only last year that it produced its first orientation manual for migrant workers, he said.

“We’re learning quickly,” he said.