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


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 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.