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Posted by: | Posted on: September 17, 2017

Should Western countries impose sanctions on Cambodia?

Op-Ed: Asia Times
Kongkea Chhoeun Cambodian politics reached a new boiling point with the arrest of the opposition leader last week. Kem Sokha was handcuffed in the middle of the night in his house and accused of “treason” by the government.

Foreign governments have reacted to the arrest, and members of the opposition have called for them to take action against the Cambodian government. The questions now are these: What actions should the West take? And how tough should these actions be?

Political conditions in Cambodia have worsened in recent years, most notably after local-government elections in June this year. The 2013 national elections and the June 2017 local-government elections threatened the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), which has been in power since the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime in 1979.

Among a range of actions to weaken the opposition, in July this year, despite a boycott by the opposition, the CPP passed an amendment to the Law on Political Parties. The amendment allowed the government to ban convicted political leaders from running for political office, while  the parties run by them would be disbanded altogether. Sam Rainsy, the former opposition leader, had to resign from his Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) to save it from being dissolved.

Last week, the CPP regime jailed Kem Sokha, Sam Rainsy’s successor, and charged him with colluding with a foreign power to topple the government. The accusation appears to be based mainly on a speech Kem Sokha made in 2013 to his supporters in Australia. At that time, he had boasted of the support he receives from Americans to advance his political career and unseat the CPP.

His arrest followed the government’s expulsion of a US-based non-governmental organization and the closures of The Cambodia Daily and local radio stations linked to Radio Free Asia and the Voice of America.

A number of foreign governments reacted promptly to the arrest. Australia and Japan expressed their concerns about the deteriorating political conditions in Cambodia and suggested that the CCP-led regime maintain a political environment favorable for a free and fair national election, to be held next July.

The US and the European Union went further, calling for the immediate release of Kem Sokha, but stopped short of announcing punitive measures if the government ignored their call.

China, however, opted not to pressure the Cambodian government and promised to stand by its side.

US Ambassador to Cambodia William Heidt speaks during a press conference at the US Embassy in Phnom Penh on September 12, 2017, sharply denying ‘extraordinary accusations’ that the US was involved in a plot to overthrown the government.

Members of the opposition are calling for the international community to take tough action against the Cambodian government, but have fallen short of prescribing specific actions. Nevertheless, it is customary for the opposition to seek international intervention when their political fortunes are under threat from the CPP-led government. Sam Rainsy called on the West to cut off aid and impose economic sanctions on Cambodia on many occasions in the past. Similar appealshave been made now in the aftermath of the arrest of Kem Sokha.

The question now is this: Should the West impose sanctions on Cambodia to restore political order?

Some countries, such as Japan, are certainly facing a dilemma, and their policy options are limited. The West and for that matter Cambodian citizens have to make a hard choice between accepting the status quo and potentially pushing Cambodia into China’s complete sphere of influence and wiping out the gains made in the past two decades in terms of economic development and democratization.

Slashing aid and imposing economic sanctions would definitely undermine Western countries’ past efforts to contribute to the development of Cambodia, which have been significant over the past two decades. They contributed to peace-building processes that  culminated in the October 1991 Paris Peace Accords. They aided the reconstruction of postwar Cambodia, channeling significant development assistance to the country. (Western aid accounted for more than 60% of the total in 2015.)

The United States’ and the EU’s special preferential trade agreements helped Cambodia develop its export sector, particularly the garment and footwear sector and related industries, which account for about 80% of the country’s exports.

The US extended Most Favored Nation status to Cambodia in 1996 and the Generalized System of Preferences last year. The EU extended its Everything but Arms scheme to the country in the early 2000s. Cambodia exported more than 60% of its products to the US and European markets in 2016.

Cambodia has also benefited from the China-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement, but its exports to China accounted for only 6% of the total last year.

Garment workers walk in front of factories in Phnom Penh in October 2015 after government promises of wage increases fell short of their demands.

Thanks in part to Western assistance, the Cambodian economy has grown extraordinarily well over the past decades, averaging 7% per year since 1993 and helping poverty to fall more than 1 percentage point per year on average since 2003. Cambodia graduated from the status of a Least Developed Country in 2015.

In the event of Western economic sanctions, parts of the Cambodian export sector are most likely to collapse. In the short to medium terms, Cambodia is unlikely to be able to count on China to fill the vacuum left by the US and the EU, given that the two Asian countries are competitors in the global garment and footwear market.

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Posted by: | Posted on: April 29, 2017

Prisoners of conscience of human rights defenders got human rights awards

Op-Ed: &


Mr Ny Sokha, Mr Yi Soksan, Mr Nay Vanda, Ms Lim Mony and Mr Ny Chakrya – also known as the “Khmer 5” – are five Cambodian human rights defenders who have been arbitrarily detained since 28 April 2016 as a result of their legitimate human rights work. The five human rights defenders have all been working in the field of human rights their entire lives, and together they have a long history of assisting victims of rights violations. They have taken leading advocacy roles, calling for the promotion and protection of human rights in Cambodia, and worked to empower thousands of Cambodians to actively defend their rights.

FreeThe5Kh Ny Sokha, Yi Soksan, Vanda and Lim Mony are all senior staff members of the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (“ADHOC”), a Cambodian human rights NGO. Ny Chakrya is a former ADHOC staff member, and is now the Deputy Secretary-General of Cambodia’s National Election Committee (“NEC”). He is the only independent and non-partisan member of the body, responsible for election monitoring and internal audits into allegations of election fraud. ADHOC was founded by a group of former political prisoners in 1991 and is one of the leading civil society organisations protecting and promoting human rights, rule of law and democracy in Cambodia. It has played a vital role in protecting destitute victims of egregious human rights abuses, among others by providing them with advice, legal and material support.

  • Ny Chakrya, before becoming the Deputy Secretary-General of the NEC, was the Head of ADHOC’s Human Rights and Monitoring section, where he focused on helping victims of rights abuses.
  • Yi Soksan, a Senior Investigator is a specialist in investigating violations of land and natural resources rights, one of the most challenging and widespread human rights violations in Cambodia. He has devoted his life to promotion and protection of human rights for more than 20 years and started volunteering at ADHOC in 1991, the year it was founded.
  • Lim Mony has been working to protect women’s and children’s rights in Cambodia since she started working at ADHOC in 1994. Before her arbitrary detention, she was a Senior Investigator, assisting women and girls that fell victim to gender-based violence, in particular rape and domestic violence, or that became a victim of human trafficking. She was responsible for investigating violations of women’s and children’s rights throughout Cambodia.
  • Nay Vanda joined ADHOC in 2008 after leaving a career in politics to devote his life to civil society and protecting human rights in his home country. He maintained ADHOC’s local network with other civil society stakeholders, represented Cambodian civil society on a regional level and advocated for Cambodian human rights issues in ASEAN-related forums.
  • Ny Sokha has been with ADHOC since 1992. At the time of Cambodia’s first United Nations-backed democratic election in 1993 he worked with ADHOC in all parts of Cambodia, managed ADHOC’s alternative dispute resolution programme, and was the Head of the Human Rights Section before his detention. Their years of service demonstrate integrity and commitment in the defence of the human rights enshrined in international human rights law and Cambodia’s Constitution and are an impressive example of the valuable work of human rights defenders all over Cambodia.

The detention of the five human rights defenders comes in the context of an increasingly severe crackdown on civil society and the political opposition in Cambodia, with many individuals facing arrest and prosecution as a result of their work. The five had collectively worked on the case of Ms Khom Chandaraty, a woman alleged to have had an extra-marital relationship with Kem Sokha, then the acting leader of Cambodia’s largest opposition party. Since April 2016 Kem Sokha has been under investigation by Cambodia’s Anti-Corruption Unit (“ACU“) for involvement in prostitution, after leaked telephone conversations appeared to reveal a relationship with Khom Chandaraty. The ACU’s zealous pursuit of the case against Kem Sokha has met with significant criticism, including, for example, from four UN Special Rapporteurs, who noted that elements of the case “suggest that this entire episode is nothing more than a politically‐motivated persecution of civil society.“ In their roles at ADHOC, the five provided legitimate and routine legal and material assistance to Chandaraty, who had approached ADHOC for support upon being subject to investigation by the Antiterrorism Unit of the Ministry of Interior and later the Prosecutor of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court as a result of the alleged affair and the leaked audio recording on her Facebook profile page. After changing her narrative from denying the alleged affair to admitting she had indeed engaged in an extra-marital relationship with Kem Sokha, on 22 April 2016, Khom Chandaraty alleged in an open letter that the five had convinced her to lie in the course of investigations.

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Posted by: | Posted on: September 11, 2016


ប្រឡងបាក់ឌុបឆ្នាំនេះជាប់៦២,១៨ភាគរយ ហើយក៏មានក្មួយខ្ញុំម្នាក់ដែរ។ និយាយដោយត្រង់ចង់សួរថា តើក្រសួងអប់រំរៀបចំយ៉ាងម៉េចចំពោះអ្នកមិនជាប់ជាង៤៧ភាគរយទៀត? អោយពួកគេរៀនឌុប? អោយពួកគេធ្វើចំណាកស្រុុកទៅស្រុកថៃ? ឬអោយពួកគេដើរទាត់ខ្យល់? ។ល។និង។ល។ជាដើម។ អ្នកជាប់ក្រៅពីមិនបានរៀនឌុប ក៏មិនប្រាកដថាគេអាចគេចផុតពីគន្លងអ្នកធ្លាក់ដែរ។ តែអ្វីដែលហួសចិត្តគឺពិភពលោកគេមិនអនុវត្តការប្រឡងជាប់ធ្លាក់(exam)ដើម្បីវាស់សមត្ថភាពកូនសិស្សទៀតទេ តែគេប្រើវិធីស្ទាបស្ទង់កំរិតព្យាយាម(assessment) របស់សិស្សវិញ។ បើកូនសិស្សព្យាយាមសិក្សាពេញលេញ គឺពួកគេមិនដែលធ្លាក់ទេក្នុងរយះពេល១២ឆ្នាំ។ ហើយប្រទេសប្រជាធិបតេយ្យ គេមិនយកការប្រឡងជាប់ធ្លាក់ដើម្បីវាស់ចំណេះដឹងកូនសិស្សទេ ព្រោះគេជឿទៅលើផ្នត់គំនិតព្យាយាម(growth mindset) ជាងផ្នត់គំនិតឆ្លាតពីកំណើត(fixed mindset)។ លើសពីនេះ កម្ពុជាមិនអាចមានចិរភាពខាងការអភិវឌ្ឍន៌ទេ បើរដ្ឋាភិបាលនៅតែប្រើគោលនយោបាយបែបសង្គមបិទ(not an open society)និងការរើសអើង(exclusive)។ យើងអាចពិនិត្យទៅលើគោលនយោបាយរើសអើង(exclusive)និងគោលនយោបាយមិនរើសអើង(inclusive) តាមកត្តាខ្លះៗដូចតទៅនេះ៖

  1. នយោបាយដឹកនាំប្រទេស=គណបក្សនយោបាយដឹកនាំរដ្ឋាភិបាលកំណត់គោលនយោបាយដែលមានតែខ្លួនម្នាក់គត់ដែលអាចរក្សាសន្តិភាពនិងការអភិវឌ្ឍន៌ដោយចាត់ទុកក្រុមជំទាស់ដែលមានកំឡាំងប្រហាក់ប្រហែលខ្លួនថាជាក្រុមបំផ្លាញសន្តិភាពនិងការអភិវឌ្ឍន៌ ព្រមទាំងខិតខំអុកឡុកអោយក្រុមនេះរលាយខ្លួនតែម្តង។
  2. នយោសេដ្ឋកិច្ចទីផ្សាសេរីមូលធនិយមបែបបក្សពួកនិយម=ដោយដំណើរនយោបាយសេដ្ឋកិច្ចបែបទីផ្សាសេរីតែមានតែបក្សពួកជំនិតៗទេដែលអាចប្រកួតប្រជែងនិងអាចដេញថ្លៃបាន។
  3. ការរៀបចំការបោះឆ្នោតបែបអសកល=ការរៀបចំការបោះឆ្នោតមួយដែលបន្សល់ទុកអ្នកបោះឆ្នោតរាប់លាននាក់មិនបានចូលរួមដូចជាមិនសំរួលអោយខ្មែរនៅក្រៅប្រទេសអាចចូលរួមបាន។
  4. ប្រព័ន្ធអប់រំបែបចង្អៀតចង្អល់=គួរយកផតហ្វូលីអូ១២ឆ្នាំដែលកូនសិស្សរៀនសូត្រដើម្បីវាស់កំរិតចំណេះដឹងជាប់ធ្លាក់ជាជាងយកការប្រឡងតែពីរថ្ងៃជារង្វាស់រង្វាល់។
  5. ពិធីកម្មរដ្ឋ=រាល់ការរៀចបំវេទិការផ្សេងៗ រមែងអោយអ្នកបំរើរាស្រ្តអង្គុយខ្ពស់ជាងរាស្ត្រម្ចាស់ប្រទេស។ ការធ្វើដំណើររបស់អ្នកមានអំណាចរមែងអុកឡុកផ្លូវចរាចររបស់រាស្ត្រ។ កំរាលព្រំក្រហមគួរអោយរាស្ត្រជាអ្នកដើរលើវិញ មិនមែនសំរាប់អ្នកបំរើរាស្ត្រទេ។ រាល់សមិទ្ធផលនានាគឺជាសមិទ្ធិផលរបស់រាស្ត្រ មិនមែនរបស់អស់លោកអ្នកមានអំណាចដែលចិញ្ចឹមជីវិតដោយប្រាក់បៀរ៌វត្សន៌ដែលរាស្ត្រប្រគល់អោយទេ។ សិស្សដែលទទួលបានពិន្ទុអាដ៏ច្រើនសន្ធឹកសន្ធាប់គឺចំនួន៤០៥នាក់ឆ្នាំនេះនឹងត្រូវទទួលរង្វាន់ជាតិ មិនមែនរង្វាន់ពីអ្នកបំរើជាតិជានីតិបុគ្គលទេ។
  6. គម្លាតសង្គមនិងសង្រ្គាមស្មារតី=គម្លាតសេដ្ឋកិច្ចគ្រួសារនៃប្រជាពលរដ្ឋខ្មែរនៅតែជាសាហេតុធំដែលមានការប្រឆាំងគ្នារវាងអ្នកមាននិងអ្នកក្រ អ្នកក្រុងនិងអ្នកជនបទ ហើយសង្រ្គាមស្មារតីទាំងនេះរមែងនាំទៅរកហានីយភ័យសង្គមខ្ពស់។
Courtesy: Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport (MoEYS)

Courtesy: Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport (MoEYS)

Grade 12 high school exam this year passed 61.18% including one of my nephews. Actually, I want to question Ministry of Education on how they plan to help those more 47% failed students? Planning them to learn one year more? To migrate to work in Thailand? Or to be unemployed? Except no need to relearn again, those passed students shall tread in the same path as those failed students. To what I am so obsessed about is that the world is not using this method of exam to measure students’ competency any more, the world has used assessment method indeed. If students have used all perseverance during these 12 years, they shall be surely passed. And democratic countries don’t use exam as parameter to measure students’ competency because they do believe in growth mindset, not the fixed mindset.

More than this, Cambodia shall not afford sustainable development as government has pursued policy of “not an open society” and “exclusive”. We can investigate the policy of “exclusive” and “inclusive” with following indicators:

  1. Governing Politics=Government-led party has affirmed its policy by stating that only this party can maintain peace and development of the nation by excluding key opposition party with accusation that this party is a key actor of destroying peace and development; and put much effort to curb this party aiming to dissolve it eventually.
  2.  Planned Economy of Free Market of Crony Capitalism=to conduct free market economy but only close patrons and loyalists can run businesses and present a bid.
  3. Absence of Universal Suffrage Election=election that has excluded millions of voter unable to access to it, for instance the excluding of Cambodians overseas to register to vote and to vote.
  4. Fixed Mindset Education System=they should take students’ portfolio during their study of 12 years as a parameter to measure their growth and knowledge, not these few days exam.
  5. Government’s Rites/Functions=all public forums have always arranged the people’s servants to sit higher than the people. Each trip of the people’s servants has always interrupted the traffic of the people. All public goods are belonged to the people, not the people’s servants who are making a family living from salary afforded to offer by the people. Those excellent grade A students should receive the honour of national gift, not the gift of any people’s servant as an individual citizen.
  6. Social Gap and War of Spirit=family economy and social gap have remained a main cause of conflicts between the rich and the poor, the city dwellers and the farmers, and these war of spirit has become source of high social crisis for Cambodia.


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Posted by: | Posted on: March 30, 2016

Why rights to vote matter for Cambodians Overseas?

CEROC Logo 1

Commission for Election Rights of Overseas Cambodians (The CEROC),

This part (56), Mr. Sophan Seng continued to elaborate on The CEROC, or Commission for Election Rights of Overseas Cambodians, an advocate body for the full fledgling participation in political affairs by the Cambodians overseas.

  1. Cambodians overseas have no matter with Cambodia politics in general, but Cambodia as a nation has matters with them as those Cambodians overseas has sent millions of dollar a year to help develop economy of this nation. This doesn’t include the feeling of attachment and pride they have always conveyed for Cambodia. And those Cambodians overseas have brought Cambodia to the international arena more than the current effort of Cambodian government to contribute through their embassies.

  2. Cambodian government leadership must be responsive to comply by the Cambodia Constitution and the charter of rights of the United Nations. Article 34 of Cambodia Constitution and Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations have solemnly confirmed the unalienable rights of Cambodians overseas to vote in Cambodia elections.

Posted by: | Posted on: August 12, 2015

Machiavelli’s Lessons Cambodia approaches China, leaving the United States in the dust. Can it retain its freedom?

Comment: The author has well balanced his argument on choice Cambodia made with China in its foreign policy that can tip the navy of this nation if the policy shifted too much towards China without aligning with USA, ASEAN member states, and other super countries. The author academically termed “alignment” not “alliance” for Cambodia to strengthening tie with China. What author has missed out the important parts is the two pragmatic factors: the Cambodia constitution and lesson learnt during the Khmer Rouge regime.

First, Cambodia constitution firmly claims that Cambodia is a neutral nation state and non-alignment. Cambodia is friendly to all outside nation states. No other state(s) can use Cambodia as their military base or influencing site for their advantage etc.

Second, China supported the Khmer Rouge, and Cambodian people have been bitterly suffered. USA also supported the Khmer Rouge. But aids from USA to the Khmer Rouge were used by someone there, we don’t know who? China’s aids to Khmer Rouge were also used by someone there, we don’t know who? But the usage of those aids within Khmer Rouge cadres tended to destroy their cadres, not to save their company at all, not mention about using those aids to support the nation. Are these unknown users are supper secrete? May be not at all. Before Khmer Rouge turned 90 degree to China, KR was under supervision of Vietnam (North Vietnam or Vietminh, critically). This is the truth of history, undeniably.

Now, Hun Sen (head) has aligned or turned 90 degrees to China, should the old trauma haunt Cambodia again? No one know. But Khmer people nationwide have been vigilant on their political vision that “Head goes to China while Body and Feet are strong with Vietnam“.

Machiavelli’s Lessons Cambodia approaches China, leaving the United States in the dust. Can it retain its freedom?

Op-Ed: The Diplomat

By Cheunboran Chanborey
August 11, 2015

Image Credit: Ari V/

Image Credit: Ari V/

As part of the United States’ ‘pivot’ to Asia, the Obama Administration has taken further steps to broaden engagement with Cambodia, primarily in response to China’s rapidly growing influence in the country and in the broader Lower Mekong region.

Diplomatically, U.S. high-level officials have started visiting Cambodia more frequently. For instance, in 2012, a series of U.S. leaders engaged with Cambodia’s leadership, including President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk—all this while Cambodia was hosting the ASEAN-U.S. Leaders’ Meeting and other ASEAN-related meetings. Two major visits occurred earlier this year in Phnom Penh—the minority leader of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi in March 2015, and Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Asia Pacific Daniel Russel in January. U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama also visited Cambodia in March 2015.

Militarily, the U.S. government has maintained a small but sustained level of engagement with the Cambodian military, which includes naval port visits, joint exercises, and military assistance. From 2007 to 2012, eight U.S. naval ships made port calls in Cambodia and engaged in joint military exercises with the Cambodian armed forces. Cambodia and the U.S. also jointly conducted the bilateral Angkor Sentinel peacekeeping exercises four years in the row, beginning in 2010. As of 2014, the U.S. allocated $0.45 million to an “International Military Education and Training” program to help Cambodian military officers with their English-language skills, leadership training, military professionalism, human rights awareness, and counterterrorism practices.

Economically, the U.S. is the largest foreign market for Cambodian goods, accounting for about half of the country’s garment exports—an industry that employs approximately 400,000 workers in the kingdom. Cambodia is also the fifth-largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid in Southeast Asia after Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Myanmar. In 2014, the U.S. provided assistance worth $70.9 million, mostly to non-governmental organizations and humanitarian programs in Cambodia.

At the sub-regional level, the Lower Mekong Initiative (LMI)—launched by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2009—is a regional foreign assistance effort, amounting to $425 million for 2009-2011 period. It aims to help lower Mekong countries, such as Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, in the areas of agriculture and food security, connectivity, education, energy security, the environment and water management, and health. In 2014, the State Department provided an additional $14.3 million for the LMI.

Although the relationship has recently been strengthened, there are a number of impediments for Cambodia and the United States in developing deeper bilateral ties.

Trust Deficit Between Phnom Penh and Washington

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Posted by: | Posted on: July 28, 2015

Why CNRP is pushing hard from bottom-up TV investment?

Why CNRP is pushing hard from bottom-up TV investment?

1 TV watchers in Cambodia TV station is one of the results from the political deal in July 22, 2014. One year anniversary of this political settlement between CPP and CNRP has resulted in both progress and regress outcomes. But the grand policies CNRP are aiming to achieve have not been changed. Those grand policies are following:

  1. 7 points policy to bringing about change for Cambodia remains the same. These policies shook the base of CPP in 2013 and they should be more effective in 2017 and 2018 of upcoming elections when these grand 7 points policies have been paid a price through more in-dept and comprehensive galvanization.
  2. The culture of dialogue to paving way for comprehensive and skillful interaction between top leaders of CPP and CNRP to maximize the interests of the nation is still intact and stronger. The dialogue is a good political mean for both parties to prepare the homestretch in 2018. Those who are regarded as disrespectful to this dialogue shall face with stronger condemnation by the Cambodian people.
  3. Sun TV Channel to adding on to those existing 18 TV channels in Cambodia is a powerful ongoing project. Sun TV Station has appeared as a pro-poor, neutral, professional and pre-owned channel by the Cambodian people.

According to the survey by Asia Foundation, there is above 50% of population are watching TV in daily basis. So this highest proportional market share of Cambodia media, CNRP is not going to waste its energy and investment in capitalizing to create the TV channel. The investment’s business plan is different from others as this channel is not owned by tycoons or powerful politicians, but owned by the Cambodian people who donated money in kind to supplement with the shares invested by many individuals.

This donation and share’s participation rights shall help to enable the Sun TV Channel become true governing by the Cambodian people, for the Cambodian people, and serve the Cambodian people.