In memories and tributes towards Dr. Benny Widyono who passed away at 83 on 16 March 2019

Posted by: | Posted on: March 17, 2019

ថ្ងៃនេះខ្ញុំសូមសំដែងនូវសេចក្តីសោកស្តាយនិងចូលរួមកាន់មរណៈទុក្ខដល់ក្រុមគ្រួសារនិងញាតិមិត្តលោកបណ្ឌិត Benny Widyono ដែលបានលាចាកលោកនេះកាលពីខែមីនា ១៦ ឆ្នាំ២០១៩។ លោកធ្លាប់ជាលេខាប្រចាំប្រទេសកម្ពុជារបស់អគ្គលេខាធិការអង្គការសហប្រជាជាតិក្នុងសម័យអ៊ុនតាក់ UNTAC។

តែអ្វីដែលខ្ញុំចង់លើកមកបង្ហាញគឺវគ្គមួយក្នុងសៀវភៅដ៏ល្បីរបស់លោក រាំក្នុងស្រមោល Dancing in Shadow ក្នុងទំព័រទី១១៨ដល់១៨១ គឺការដែលល្បិចនយោបាយឌីហ្វីត DIFID (Divide, Isolate, Finish, Integrate, Develop) របស់លោកហ៊ុនសែនក្នុងការប្រឡេះលោកសម-រង្ស៊ីនិងទ្រង់សិរីវុឌចេញពីហ៊ុនស៊ិនប៊ិចដែលធ្វើអោយបក្សមួយនេះចុះខ្សោយដល់សព្វថ្ងៃ។ តែអ្វីដែលសំខាន់ពេលនោះគឺមានកឹម-សុខាម្នាក់ដែរ ក្នុងតំណែងលោកជាសមាជិកសភាពីគណបក្សព្រះពុទ្ធសាសនាដើម្បីអភិវឌ្ឍន៍របស់លោកតាសឺនសានបានជំទាស់ក្នុងការបណ្តេញលោកសមរង្សុីចេញពីសភាទាំងបំពានច្បាប់នេះ។ ដូច្នេះគោលការណ៍សមរង្សុី-កឹមសុខាជាមនុស្សតែមួយនៃគណបក្សសង្រ្គោះជាតិបច្ចុប្បន្នពិតជាឆ្លុះបញ្ចាំងឧត្តមគតិរួមរបស់អ្នកទាំងពីរកាលពី២៧ឆ្នាំមុន។

រៀបរៀងអត្ថបទដោយលោកសេង សុភ័ណ

Today, I would like to express deep sadness and share condolence with family and friends of Dr. Benny Widyono who passed away this March 16, 2019. He was the key secretary and UN’s official during UNTAC in Cambodia.

But what I am most impressed is his book “Dancing in Shadow” in page of 118-181 illustrating the political tactic of Hun Sen’s DIFID (Divide, isolate, finish, develop) to divide and isolate Sam Rainsy and Prince Sirivudh which has weakened FUNCIPEC ever-since. But the most exotic memoir is Kem Sokha who was MP from Buddhist Development Party of Sen San stood up to protest in the parliament for this illegal act of expelling Sam Rainsy from the Parliament and stripped off his Parliamentary impunity. So, the principle of Sam Rainsy-Kem Sokha is ONE of modern CNRP has been historically identical of their ideal since 27 years ago.

Original source for your reference: UH Press

Alvin Lim

Benny Widyono’s Dancing in Shadows

Book Review, University of Hawai!i

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY

Alvin Lim is a Ph.D. student in Political Science at the University of Hawai‘i. Lim received his B.A. (Hons) and M.A. from the National University of Singapore, and taught Philosophy for three years at Pannasastra University in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Widyono, Benny. (2008). Dancing in Shadows: Sihanouk, the Khmer Rouge, and the United Nations in Cambodia. New York: Rowman & Littlefield.

Benny Widyono’s gripping!Dancing in Shadows is a memoir of his peacekeeping and diplomatic work in Cambodia: in 1992-93 he served as the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia’s (UNTAC) Provincial Director of Siem Reap; subsequently in 1994-97 he served as the UN Secretary-General’s Political Representative to the Royal Government of Cambodia (2008, p. xxvii).

Dancing in Shadows begins on an unexpected note with! Ben Kiernan’s foreword that focuses on the role of Indonesians in resolving the Vietnamese occupation of Cambodia, paving the way for UNTAC. Kiernan notes a July 1980! meeting at Phnom Penh’s! Noor Al-Ihsan mosque between Cham genocide survivors and!Indonesian journalists. Their pioneering reportage triggered a change in Indonesian policy towards Cambodia which eventually led Indonesia to guide the warring Cambodian factions to reach a peace settlement (ibid., pp. xvii-xxiv).

This largely unknown thread of Cambodia’s tortured recent history nicely introduces the role of Widyono, himself an Indonesian citizen; for the key Indonesian role in the Cambodian peace process is also reflectedn Widyono’s subsequent participation in UNTAC. The Indonesian-Cambodian connection does not end there: Kiernan (ibid., p. xix) and Widyono (ibid., pp. 23-24) both note Indonesia’s and Cambodia’s mirrored experiences with politicide and genocide. This tragic mirroring is not just an academic observation for Widyono, as his ethnic Chinese heritage subjected him and his family to General Suharto’s anti-Chinese policies (ibid., p. xxix).

The key contribution of Dancing in Shadows is found in Widyono’s critique of the Cambodian peace process. Unlike other academics, he was actually part of UNTAC’s top administration, and enjoyed a privileged perspective of the mission’s ultimate failure in Cambodia. In Widyono’s view, UNTAC’s ultimate failure stemmed from two significant flaws in the 1991 Paris Agreements. First, the Agreements legitimized Pol Pot’s genocidal Khmer Rouge faction; second, the Agreements downgraded the status of Hun Sen’s្្ State of Cambodia (SOC) regime, disregarding its extensive administrative and military control over most of Cambodian territory (ibid., p. 35). These problems would adversely affect UNTAC’s subsequent performance. Not only did the Khmer Rouge pose a significant military challenge to UNTAC; UNTAC also found itself incapable of asserting its nominal authority over the SOC’s apparatuses of power (ibid., p. 42).

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Cambodia: Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2018

Posted by: | Posted on: March 14, 2019

Op-Ed: U.S. Department of State

Courtesy: Facebook

រដ្ឋមន្រ្តីការបរទេសអាមេរិកលោក ម៉ៃឃ៍ ប៉ុមប៉េអូ (Mike Pompeo) ថ្លែងទៅអ្នកសារព័ត៌មាន ប្រកាសរបាយការណ៍សិទ្ធិមនុស្សលើកទី ៤៣ នៃប្រទេសជិត ២០០ នៅក្រសួងការបរទេស នៅថ្ងៃទី ១៣ ខែ មីនា ឆ្នាំ ២០១៩ (RFA khmer)

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Cambodia is a constitutional monarchy with an elected parliamentary government. The ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) won all 125 National Assembly seats in the July 29 national election, having banned the chief opposition party in November 2017. Prior to the victory, Prime Minister Hun Sen had already served for 33 years. International observers, including foreign governments and international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and domestic NGOs criticized the election as neither free nor fair and not representative of the will of the Cambodian people.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces, which often threatened force against those who opposed Prime Minister Hun Sen and were generally perceived as an armed wing of the ruling CPP.

Human rights issues included unlawful or arbitrary killings carried out by the government or on its behalf; forced disappearance carried out by the government; torture by the government; arbitrary arrests by the government; political prisoners; arbitrary interference in the private lives of citizens, including pervasive electronic media surveillance; censorship and selectively enforced criminal libel laws; interference with the rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of association; restrictions on political participation; pervasive corruption, including in the judiciary; and use of forced or compulsory child labor.

The government did not provide evidence of having prosecuted any officials for abuses, including corruption. A pervasive culture of impunity continued.

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and Other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings

There were reports the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. As of July a local human rights NGO reported four extrajudicial killings.

In March 2017 the court sentenced Oeuth Ang to life imprisonment for the 2016 murder of Kem Ley, an outspoken and popular political analyst. As of July the case remained open and the government pledged to look for coconspirators, although it took no action. Noting that the victim and killer were not acquainted and other anomalies, including the impoverished assailant’s possession of an expensive handgun, many observers believed a third party hired Oeuth Ang.

On March 8, violence broke out in Kratie Province when security forces opened fire on persons protesting the transfer of land, decades before, to a rubber plantation. Several media outlets reported a death toll of two to six persons with another 40 injured. Shortly after the violence occurred, the government ordered local media to “correct” its news reports. Four NGOs and the UN Office of the High Commission on Human Rights (OHCHR) formed an investigation committee to tour the site. They found that on March 7, the company began demarcating its land and that a day later 150 soldiers, military police, and police burned down villagers’ houses, leading the villagers to block the main road and demand an immediate stop to the arson. According to the OHCHR report, the security forces opened fire to disperse the villagers. OHCHR acknowledged that, because the security forces closed off the site of the shooting, there were no reliable counts of the dead or injured.

After the incident Kratie governor Sar Chamrong denied reports that security forces shot the protesters. National Police spokesperson Kirt Chantharith claimed villagers with homemade rifles injured as many as seven police officers while only two villagers were slightly injured, not by gunfire, but by bamboo sticks.

b. Disappearance

The Venerable Meas Vichet, a well known monk and social activist who disappeared in June 2017 in Krobei Riel commune, Siem Reap Province, after security officials beat him, remained missing, and no new information on his case arose during the year to October.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The constitution prohibits such practices; however, beatings and other forms of physical mistreatment of police detainees and prison inmates reportedly continued during the year.

There were credible reports military and police officials used physical and psychological abuse and occasionally severely beat criminal detainees, particularly during interrogation. As of July a local NGO observed physical assaults against detainees and prisoners in nine cases. Journalist Kim Sok told local media following his release from detention that prison guards beat him whenever he disobeyed an order or opened books. Other detainees reported authorities forced them to walk for up to an hour with a bucket of water on their heads, or forced them to stand in the hot sun for several hours.

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Remittances Pull Farmers Deeper Into Debt, Research Finds

Posted by: | Posted on: March 12, 2019

Remittances Pull Farmers Deeper Into Debt, Research Finds

13 March 2019


FILE PHOTO - Cambodian migrant workers sit in a bus upon arrival at Cambodia-Thailand's international border gate in Poipet, Cambodia, from Thailand, Tuesday, June 17, 2014.
FILE PHOTO – Cambodian migrant workers sit in a bus upon arrival at Cambodia-Thailand’s international border gate in Poipet, Cambodia, from Thailand, Tuesday, June 17, 2014.

The study found that families receiving remittances saw an average increase in debt of 6 percent.WASHINGTON DC — 

Remittances sent home by Cambodian migrant workers result in their families falling deeper into debt as they become more prone to borrowing, a study has found.

The report, “The Cambodia Debt Trap? A Study of the Relationship Between Remittance and Household Debt”, published in January by the Future Forum think tank, found that households that received more remittance payments tended to rely more heavily on loans from banks, microfinance institutions, and private lenders.

“The situation of remittances and debt in the Cambodian context in the short run can be viewed positively as it helps migrant families ensure their living requirements [are met], such as food, transport, and accommodation,” wrote Lor Samnang, the lead researcher.

But in the long term, Samnang found that families become over-indebted as loans are used to finance unprofitable ventures.

The study found that families receiving remittances saw an average increase in debt of 6 percent.

Some 2 million Cambodians work overseas in countries such as Thailand, South Korea, Japan, Malaysia, and Singapore, predominantly in low-paid jobs such as construction, fisheries, manufacturing, farming, and the service industry.

They send home more than $400 million annually, according to the World Bank.

“Debt has forced many into migration, but what we’ve found is not only that,” said Ou Virak, president of the Future Forum. “We’ve found out that those who have migrated are indebted even further after they have more money. It’s now not only debt that has forced them to migrate, but migration is putting them deeper in debt.”

The Coalition of Cambodian Farmer Community, a farmers association, said debt was the second most important issue facing farmers after lack of market access for their produce.

“The main factor is their livelihood, which is getting harder and harder,” said Theng Savoeun, coordinator of Coalition of Cambodian Farmer Community. “Their agricultural work in rural areas is getting tougher. Their rice or agricultural products do not have enough market. These have forced them to migrate or seek other jobs.”

Formal lenders may charge interest rates as high as 20 percent per annum, while informal lenders often charge more.

“Prices do not enable our farmers to make more profit to pay their debt,” said agriculture expert Yang Saign Koma, chairman of the board of directors of the Grassroots Democracy Party. “We’ve seen this getting worse and worse. At the end of the month, they are worried about finding money to repay debt. This will become a big catastrophe for Cambodia in the next four or five years.”

Former opposition politicians have criticized Cambodian agricultural policy for its failure to find markets for farmers and boost production.

“This is a big deal,” said Mu Sochua, vice president of the banned Cambodia National Rescue Party. “People migrate because of debt. The debt is not used only for meeting the needs of their agriculture, but to pay for other services like health and education for their children. These should be free, but they are not available.”

The study also found that only about a third of loans were used to finance economic activities, with most of the debt going on essentials and non-profitable spending. It recommends a financial literacy program and support from major financial institutions and the authorities.

“At the moment I see that this is a topic that must be debated to pressure banking institutions, especially microfinance, to pay more attention before giving out loans,” said Virak. “They are worried to lose their money when people are unable to pay back and they cannot confiscate their houses or rice fields or farm. Therefore they must be cautious.

“I believe that putting pressure on the banks is a more effective measure.”

ការ​ស្រាវជ្រាវ​ថា​ប្រាក់​បញ្ញើ​ធ្វើ​ឱ្យ​គ្រួសារ​ជន​ចំណាកស្រុក​ជំពាក់​បំណុល​កាន់តែ​ខ្លាំង

05 មិនា 2019


រូបឯកសារ៖ ពលករចំណាក​ស្រុក​កម្ពុជាធ្វើដំណើរឆ្លងព្រំដែន​ថៃចូល​ប្រទេស​កម្ពុជា តាមច្រកខេត្តសាកែវ ប្រទេសថៃ កាលពីថ្ងែទី១៥ ខែមិថុនា ឆ្នាំ២០១៤។
រូបឯកសារ៖ ពលករចំណាក​ស្រុក​កម្ពុជាធ្វើដំណើរឆ្លងព្រំដែន​ថៃចូល​ប្រទេស​កម្ពុជា តាមច្រកខេត្តសាកែវ ប្រទេសថៃ កាលពីថ្ងែទី១៥ ខែមិថុនា ឆ្នាំ២០១៤។

ក្នុងឆ្នាំ​២០១៨ ពលករចំណាកស្រុក​​ផ្ញើ​ប្រាក់​ចំនួន​៤១៤​លានដុល្លារ​ទៅ​ឱ្យ​ក្រុមគ្រួសារ។ នេះ​បើ​តាម​តួលេខ​ឆ្នាំ​២០១៨​របស់​ធនាគារ​ពិភព​លោក។វ៉ាស៊ីនតោន — 

ប្រាក់​បញ្ញើពីក្រៅ​ប្រទេស​របស់ពលករ​ចំណាក​ស្រុក​មិនអាច​ជួយ​ដោះបន្ទុក​ប្រាក់​បំណុលរបស់​ក្រុមគ្រួសារ​ទេ។​ ផ្ទុយទៅវិញ​ វា​បាន​ក្លាយ​ជា​អន្ទាក់​មួយ​ធ្វើ​ឱ្យ​មាន​ការ​ជំពាក់​បំណុល​កាន់តែ​ខ្លាំងឡើង​ក្នុង​រយៈ​ពេល​យូរ​ ដែល​អាច​ធ្វើ​ឱ្យ​កសិករធ្លាក់​ក្នុង​ភាព​ក្រីក្រ​កាន់តែ​ជ្រៅ។ នេះ​បើតាម​លទ្ធផល​នៃ​ការសិក្សា​ស្រាវជ្រាវ​មួយ។​

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Interview: Book Author’s 10-Year Observation of Cambodia

Posted by: | Posted on: March 9, 2019

Interview: Book Author’s 10-Year Observation of Cambodia

09 March 2019


FILE: In this Saturday, July 17, 2010 photo, a Cambodian flag with a depiction of Angkor Wat in the center is hoisted near a construction site in Siem Reap, about 143 miles (230 kilometers) northwest of the capital, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
FILE: In this Saturday, July 17, 2010 photo, a Cambodian flag with a depiction of Angkor Wat in the center is hoisted near a construction site in Siem Reap, about 143 miles (230 kilometers) northwest of the capital, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

My book is exactly about “Cambodia in the 21st century”. I thought the book could include some kind of photos of Cambodian society now. What is happening and what is changing, from a traditional to a more modern society.PHNOM PENH — 

[Editor’s Note: Marc Baudinet, author of “Cambodia In The Twenty First Century: A Short Social Study”, sat down with VOA Khmer’s Ky Mengly to share the key takeaways from his recently published work and his observations of the country, from the state of the rule of law to domestic politics, foreign policy and socio-economic progress.]

Marc Baudinet, author of the newly-published book Cambodia in the 21st Century, during his interview at VOA Khmer’s Phnom Penh bureau on February 24, 2019. (Ky Mengly/VOA Khmer)

VOA: How long did you spend researching and writing this book?

Baudinet: I came here the first time in 2010. I come from Europe. Everything was very different, quite amazing compared to where I come from. And I was struck straight away by how different things are and how I couldn’t quite understand how people interacted. So, I wanted to know more about that and I started doing interviews, asking people questions in a very informal ways. Why’s this and why’s that? And much later basically three years ago, I thought I could write something about how Cambodians are changing fast. Therefore, it would be interesting to observe Cambodian society now. That’s how I got the idea to do the book. And it took me two and a half years to write this.

VOA: Can you tell us briefly what your book is about?

Marc Baudinet, author of the newly-published book Cambodia in the 21st Century, during his interview at VOA Khmer’s Phnom Penh bureau on February 24, 2019. (Ky Mengly/VOA Khmer)
Marc Baudinet, author of the newly-published book Cambodia in the 21st Century, during his interview at VOA Khmer’s Phnom Penh bureau on February 24, 2019. (Ky Mengly/VOA Khmer)

Baudinet: My book is exactly about “Cambodia in the 21st century”. I thought the book could include some kind of photos of Cambodian society now. What is happening and what is changing, from a traditional to a more modern society. People’s education is improving, more people are going to school, people are buying cars, mobile phones, and people are getting jobs that never really existed here before. So, there is a lot happening in this society and this is my point really. And how is that affecting the traditional society? What are the consequences on how people interact? All of these interest me and basically that’s my reason why I wrote the book.​

FILE: A Cambodian women inks her finger after casting her ballot at a polling station in Takhmao city, just outside of Cambodia's capital of Phnom Penh, Sunday, July 29, 2018. (Sok Khemara/VOA Khmer)
FILE: A Cambodian women inks her finger after casting her ballot at a polling station in Takhmao city, just outside of Cambodia’s capital of Phnom Penh, Sunday, July 29, 2018. (Sok Khemara/VOA Khmer)

VOA: In the book you seem to lack optimism about the current Cambodian government. Why is that?

Baudinet: So, I started writing the book in 2016 and everyone was talking about the Commune Elections in 2017 and the General Elections in 2018 and I thought that many people were quite optimistic that things could change and then suddenly there were upheavals. Everything took a different path in November 2017. The rule of law is a key aspect of a successful society. If you take Singapore and Singapore’s rule of law is very strong, meritocracy is very strong, good governance is very strong and that society is very successful. Here, the rule of law is shaky. It is very much about having more money than whoever is against you. Therefore, there is a problem for people to trust in their own society and have the courage to invest for instance when they know possibly that the law is not on their side because they’re not rich enough for instance. Meritocracy is also very important. It is improving I think. I think that there are many problems. I think as education is improving, meritocracy is also more valued than a few years ago. So, this is very good for the future. However, there is still a long way to go. So, I’m sometimes optimistic and sometimes a bit pessimistic here.

VOA: You mention in the book that the “natural order” in Cambodia does not sit well with democracy. What do you mean by that?

Baudinet: The idea of democracy … is that basically every individual every person has the same rights and has the same value. No matter whether they’re a cleaner, a poor farmer, they’re as important as rich land owners or rich business persons. Everyone, when people vote, everyone is the same. Equality is very much the key or let’s say not the key but the grounding within which democracy can grow. Now here in the traditional society in Asia in general not only in Cambodia, the idea that everybody is equal is not part of a traditional understanding of how a society functions. People accept that there is an elite and then there are a lot of other people and those people should just do their work and not challenge authority. Therefore, here I think in terms of democracy, the idea that everyone is equal, is possibly not yet accepted, especially by of course the elites.

FILE: Prime Minister Hun Sen and Heng Samrin celebrated 40th anniversary of victory over Khmer Rough on January 7th 2019 at Olympic stadium. (Photo from Facebook page of Samdech Hun Sen, Cambodian Prime Minister)
FILE: Prime Minister Hun Sen and Heng Samrin celebrated 40th anniversary of victory over Khmer Rough on January 7th 2019 at Olympic stadium. (Photo from Facebook page of Samdech Hun Sen, Cambodian Prime Minister)

​VOA: Towards the end of the book you draw a comparison between King Ang Duong’s embrace of France and Prime Minister Hun Sen’s embrace of China. What is the implication of this?

Baudinet: Geopolitics is very much a power game between different players; some are big players and some are smaller players. Cambodia, in the 19th century, had a lot of problems with its two bigger neighbors: Vietnam and Thailand. For Cambodia, the king decided to call a third power to somehow help. But there was a price that possibly the king did not realize. Cambodia became a colony, lost its independence. Now of course, the situation is very different. The context is vastly different from those days. However geopolitics remains of course a power game. I was wondering whether the way Cambodia today is possibly giving too much to China or a lot to China. Is it going to affect in the longer term prospects of Cambodia’s independence. Not that China is going to colonize Cambodia. No, those days are over. But there are other ways to manipulate or influence smaller countries.

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