Monthly Archives: April 2011

Appeal to Stop State Act of Violence against Women

(Translated from Khmer)

“Violence against women constitutes a violation of basic human rights and is an obstacle to the achievement of the objectives of equality, development and  peace”, Fourth World

Conference on Women- Platform for Action

As elected representatives of the people, we recognize the vital participation and
contribution made by women in all sectors, in particular the garment industry, agriculture and micro-business.

As elected representatives of the people, we are gravely alarmed by and condemn the excessive use of force by the military police, local police and hired security guards to crack down on female factory workers who demand better working conditions and fair wages.1

As elected representatives of the people, we have intervened on behalf of women farmers and hundreds and thousands of families who are brutally forced out of their land and their homes.2 These evictions are often carried out violently by police, military police or private armed forces, despite prohibitions under the Land Law.3

These systematic acts of violence against women are widespread and committed by the state against its own people. Serious injuries including miscarriages have occurred without proper compensation, medical treatment, investigation or prosecution.4

As elected representatives of the people, we have the right and the duty to remind the Government of Cambodia of its obligations stipulated in the Constitution, the national laws and the UN instruments which Cambodia is signatory to.

Articles 2, 3 and 4 of the Declaration on the UN Elimination of Violence against Women defines physical, sexual and psychological violence perpetrated or condoned by the State, wherever it occurs, as an act of violence against women.

We urgently appeal to all citizens, members of the civil society, trade unions and the international community to join us in calling on the Government of Cambodia to take the immediate following measures:

  1. Stop the excessive deployment of security forces, the use of electric batons and deadly weapons on demonstrators, most specifically where women and children have gathered;
  2. Stop the use of armed forces and hired security guards in forced evictions;
  3. Strictly implement the Penal code in cases of abuse and violation committed by the armed forces, military police, police and security guards against demonstrators and/or during evictions and land grabs;
  4. Drop all charges against women who have been wrongly accused in cases of land grabs, forced evictions and workers’ strikes;
  5. Release all women detained on false accusations related to land disputes.

Fair wages, safe working conditions, decent housing and land tenure are women’s rights. Women should not be exposed to violence, shame or mistreatment by the Government in their enjoyment of these rights.

Preventing violence against women is essential to provide women and their families the fundamental guarantees of a life free from fear and abuse.
Signed by Members of Parliament
Sam Rainsy Party

Notes:

  1. Land and Housing Rights in Cambodia
    Parallel Report 2009; Land and Housing Working Group, Cambodia
    April 2009
  2.  Bitter sweet- A Briefing Paper on Indistrial Sugar Production, Trade and Human Rights in Cambodia- David Pred, September, 2010
  3. Losing Ground-Forced Evictions in Cambodia. The Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee. (CHRAC) September 2009.
  4. Justice for the Poor? An Exploratory Study of Collective Grievances over Land and Local Governance in Cambodia. Center for Advanced Study-world Bank, Phnom Penh-October 2006

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Police brutality against womenThe brutality of armed police, hired security guards to crackdown on women, children and the elderly whose only crime is to defend their homes, must be strongly condemned. The 10,000 residents in this lake community are victims of the government policy that steal land from the poor to give as economic concessions to a senator from the ruling party, can not be tolerated.

Violations and brutality against women and children must be reported and  I intend to assist the victims to file complaints. The aid community and the UN must no longer deal in silence with such violations and crimes against the most disadvantaged members of our society.
Please join me in sending police brutality against women in cambodialetters to your Congress, Parliament and government. We must act together till there is protection and safety for our women, children and the elderly.

Sochua

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Mu Sochua Shares Cambodia’s Food Culture with Anthony Bourdain

American celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain traveled to Cambodia last May to sample its seafood and learn about the deep historic and cultural underpinnings of Cambodian cuisine. He met with Mu Sochua in Kampot to discuss her story and what Cambodia means to her.

Reflecting on her lunch with Bourdain, Sochua said, “My daughters thought I was joking when I told them about the filming of this show. I had no idea who Anthony was. Tears strolled down my cheeks when watching these images of yester years. Madam Kech talked about her youth in the most elegant and eloquent way. We are many years a part but my youth is also revealed through her description of the past.”

“Anthony Bourdain brought the past life of Cambodians as well as the present fight for justice. He gives us a chance to speak the same language: food and justice and democracy,” she added.

Access to Social Media Necessary for Democracy in Cambodia

This development with social media in Asia and the countries mentioned in this interview is worth noticing for those of us in Cambodia.

The critical mass of users of social media will be reached in Cambodia as well. This is not just a trend but a fundamental need to practice and enjoy our freedom of speech, our freedom to receive and to exchange information.

Like any freedom, full access to social media should be protected and encouraged.

Let us not allow dictatorship to invade our lives through its censorship.

We see the the blocking of KI Media by the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications (orders made by an official at the ministry as evidence). I still can not have access to KI Media, although it is accessible by others.

As it is said in the interview, any blocking is a violation of the the Trade Agreement. Vietnam is well aware and is behaving.

Use social media as much as we can, spread it as far as we can. This is the tool by which change can happen and we have seen it happen in the Arab world and the wind for change is not stopping there.

Lawmaker Raises Concerns for Khmer Migrant Worker

SRP MP Mu Sochua (Photo: The Phnom Penh Post)
Srey Sophal retracting her allegation (Photo: The Phnom Penh Post)

Monday, 18 April 2011
Mary Kozlovski
The Phnom Penh Post

The mother retracted her allegation … at a press conference organised by the recruitment agency [Champa Manpower Group] To my mind, one word says it all: pressure

An opposition lawmaker has raised concerns that the mother of a maid working in Malaysia, who claimed that her daughter was raped twice by a member of her employer’s family, was under pressure when she retracted the allegations this month.

Srey Sophal, 66, of Svay Rieng province, claimed at a press conference organised by Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Mu Sochua on April 4 that her daughter had been raped, before withdrawing the allegations at the Ministry of Interior on April 6. In a statement released on her website on Friday, Mu Sochua said that the case should not end with the victim’s retraction.

“The mother retracted her allegation…at a press conference organised by the recruitment agency [Champa Manpower Group Ltd], at the Ministry of Interior, with a thumb printed letter by her daughter, officiated by the Embassy of Cambodia in Malaysia,” said Mu Sochua in the statement.

To my mind, one word says it all: pressure.”

Mu Sochua added that the government should investigate Champa Manpower and its allied agency in Malaysia.

Cambodian officials should also collaborate with Malaysian authorities to investigate the alleged rape, the statement said.

Huy Pichsovann, program officer at the Community Legal Education Centre, said yesterday that the case should be dealt with by the Malaysian legal system.

“The press conference at the Ministry of Interior was to save the face of the Cambodian and Malaysian governments,” said Huy Pichsovann.

“The [Cambodian] government should investigate Champa Manpower and other companies sending workers to Malaysia to see if the companies check the workers in the training centre, if the workers have legal paperwork and if the companies monitor the workers [in Malaysia].”

Sa Ith Nory, a representative from Champa Manpower Group, said yesterday that the press conference at the Interior Ministry was organised by Champa Manpower, but declined to comment further.

Mu Sochua and Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Ministry of Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak also could not be reached for comment.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY MOM KUNTHEAR

Devata Giving Circle Supports Cambodian-American Women and Girls

Happy Khmer New Year, friends and family!

In this auspicious year of the rabbit, I wish you much health, happiness, and many blessings!

New Year celebrations in Cambodia take on many forms.  Many of us know New Year’s celebrations as a time for family, friends, special foods, games, music, and dancing.  Traditionally in Cambodia, the New Year is celebrated over three days (April 13-15), each day with its own significance.  The first and third days involve welcoming the new year, receiving blessings for the coming year, and making a fresh start.

The second day, Virak Wanabat, is a lesser known day in which people practice generosity by giving to the less fortunate in their families and communities, participating in service activities, and appreciating the gifts before them.  It is an occasion to reflect on life and assess possible new life directions.  Tied to giving, Virak Wanabat is an opportunity to further change and make change in the lives of others and develop a culture of giving and service.

As some of you may know, I am part of the Devata Giving Circle, the first Cambodian-American giving circle in the US. As a giving circle, we pool our own resources and raise money for a particular cause. The Devata Giving Circle is dedicated to supporting organizations in the US that promote the leadership of Cambodian-American women and girls. As a young immigrant and former refugee community, Cambodian-Americans have high poverty rates; our young people are more likely to drop out of high school and/or go to jail than they are to graduate from college.

The Circle has had a profound impact on my life. It empowers me as a Cambodian-American woman to connect with my community and learn more about my heritage. It gives me the opportunity to provide essential support to women and girls in the Cambodian community in the Bay Area and across the US. Lastly, it is a chance for me to honor my mother who spent such a significant time supporting this community when she was my age.

Last year, the Devata Giving Circle made its first grant to Banteay Srei. We plan on making two more grants this year. We can’t do it alone, we need your help!

In the spirit of giving and fresh starts, welcome the new year by giving to the Devata Giving Circle and help us empower Cambodian-American women and girls. Please see how you can help below!

Soursdey Chnam Thmei! Happy New Year!

Devi Leiper

HOW YOU CAN HELP

We are hosted by the Asian Pacific Fund

http://www.asianpacificfund.org/

Cash or Personal Check. Please make checks payable to Asian Pacific Fund and mail to 225 Bush Street, Suite 590, San Francisco, CA 94104. Please include a cover note or indicate DEVATA GIVING CIRCLE in the note section of the check.  Contact a Devata Giving Circle Executive Council member for cash donations.

Credit Card. The Asian Pacific Fund will receive your gift minus a 4.95 percent bank processing fee. Please consider adding this fee to your gift amount. You can donate through the web site (http://www.asianpacificfund.org/) or call (415) 433-6859 to provide your credit card.

Workplace Giving. Individuals who participate in workplace giving can earmark their contribution to the Asian Pacific Fund for the Devata Giving Circle.

And last but not least, moral support. Please talk to me about the Devata Giving Circle – I’d love to share more. We also will be organizing different community and fundraising events throughout the year. Please stay tuned!

——

Mu Sochua invited Cambodian-American graduate student and activist, Cindy D. Tan, to join her for the Vital Voices Global Leadership Tribute in Washington, DC. There, Cindy met women leaders in business and politics who were also being honored that evening. “It has been a privilege for me to work with Sochua for the last year,” said Cindy. “She is an inspiration and role model to both the women and girls in Cambodia and to the diaspora abroad. We look to her for strength and unity.” Cindy has been working to support Sochua on her cause to increase the participation of women in Cambodia.

Mu Sochua and Cindy Tan at the Vital Voices Global Leadership Conference


Global Leaders Gather to Honor Aung San Suu Kyi

Mu Sochua joined Desmond Tutu and Laura Bush in honoring Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on Tuesday evening at the Vital Voices Global Leadership Tribute. Watch the video here.

National Democratic Institute Presentation and Collaborating with Egyptian Women

Cambodian parliamentarian and human rights leader Mu Sochua met with government officials, international leaders, and other activists in Washington, DC to discuss women’s rights and empowerment. At the National Democratic Institute, Sochua gave a presentation on building a women’s movement in Cambodia and shared stories of women candidates in villages and communes throughout the country. In preparation for the 2012 elections in Cambodia, Sochua offered strategies for how to “win with women” that included practical and effective messaging campaigns, funding needs and networking. She called on NDI, USAID and other American agencies and organizations to assist the people’s and youth movement in Cambodia with financial and moral support.

One of the central topics of conversation among the delegations present, NDI staff, and government officials was identifying ways to inspire women and young people to participate in politics. Sochua described in detail the scope of domestic violence, government oppression and life-threatening challenges that face potential women candidates. However, more and more women participate in politics each other and register their names as candidates for office. The Sam Rainsy Party offers training for women candidates in group sessions. Attendees at the presentation were surprised to discover that training 50 women candidates cost a mere $200.

Following her presentation, Sochua video conferenced with women leaders of the opposition movement in Egypt. She listened to their stories and message, and proceeded to exchange lessons from her own experience in politics. Sochua also cautioned them to think carefully about how to craft their message and to limit their anger. Such anger will become a label and a handicap, she said. They also discussed the opportunities of technology to produce new relationships and cover the stories that need to be heard.