Tag Archives: Khmer Rouge

Planting Democracy Seeds in Former Khmer Rouge Territory

Building democracy in this part of Cambodia-a strong hold of the Cambodian People’s Party is a challenge to the mind and the body. The CPP in Samlot is led by former Khmer Rouge soldiers who reintegrated with the Cambodian Royal Armed Forces in 1997.

Inspecting party signs

For our team, coming to this territory to bring a message of change is similar to the farmers preparing the field. The hard work continues on with seed planting, weeding, watering, till it is time for harvest.

My body is aching from a cold and weakened by the challenge of walking from field to field. Members of the team consult each other when we can’t seem to get the message of change through to the villagers who have lived with fear for over two decades-the legacy of the Khmer Rouges, responsible for the killing of 1.7 million Cambodians.

Despite daily threats, intimidation, villagers who have lost or about to lose their land seem to be stuck with the same feeling: what if the village chief finds ut that we are from the opposition.

My colleagues and I use the word “democracy”, “human rights”, “freedom” with a lot of caution. We spend hours listening, convincing, and reassuring that only when farmers have title of their land can they live in peace. Land tenure is a right, to men and women.

We have been coming to this territory for the past 15 years but our votes go no farther than 10%.

We train women and youth, we empower the few who have shown courage to continue the struggle.

12 more months before local elections. Time is short. In Some villages, we have no representatives.

Very few organizations here. very little attention given to human rights and democracy.

A true challenge but we are inspired by the courage of our representatives.

Thanks to IT, I am able to blog, tweet and post on facebook.

blogging and tweeting with the help of a 3G cell card

Forgot malaria pills back in the city. Spread myself with mosquito repellant, hoping that it will work.

 

Typing this inside a mosquito net and under a light run on battery.

 

All for Democracy.

Samlot

19 July, 2011

Opposition MP and Team Harassed and Threatened

MP, Mu Sochua and her team of locally elected councilors were surrounded, harassed and threatened by deputy village chiefs and youth members from the ruling party, CPP while making door to door visits in Battambang town.

The harsh words and accusation of incitement made by the CPP representatives were made to be heard and to demonstrate their total control of the villages. Their presence during the MP visit in the village spread fear.

The CPP deputy village chiefs openly accused MP, Mu Sochua of inciting villages against the government when villages were informed of their rights to free public health care and education. The youth members directly threatened a villager who complained of loss of land when she was sick.

You, Mu Sochua can not enter my village. I warn you“, said a male commune councilor who was clearly intoxicated but encouraged by the other CPP representatives to abuse the opposition team.

The opposition team filed its complaint to the governor the following day.

A report of the threat will be sent to the Ministry of Interior next week by MP, Mu Sochua.

Similar to the Khmer Rouges regime, the level of control of the people is maintained by the village chiefs and other local authorites who represent the current government.

Fear is a legacy of the Khmer Rouges and a true barrier to the democratic process.

Breaking the silence can be achieved by standing firm on the principle of rights to information, freedom of speech and by challenging status quo.

The decentralization program supported by the international community must be measured in terms of the people’s exercise of their freedoms and rights and not only on the number of roads and schools built.

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.