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Posted by: | Posted on: May 7, 2018

Dedicating 27 articles today before Phnom Penh Post is absorbed away from its professionalism

 Op-Ed: The Phnom Penh Post

Phnom Penh Post Articles

Freedom and the challenges of teen pregnancy in Canada

Email from Canada,

FREEDOM is the lifeblood of human enterprise.  Free-market countries have higher standards of living, social development and productivity levels.  Some, though, contend that freedom is a double-edged sword.

Greater independence from parents and guardians can lead to the creation of a more open, more progressive society in which young people are free to engage their talents and amass practical knowledge.

But some say too much freedom can lead to undisciplined and incompetent adolescents.

In Canada, adolescents enjoy a wide array of freedoms, sexual, romantic and otherwise.  But high teen pregnancy and divorce rates have some policymakers worried.

Still, statistics show that national teen pregnancy rates have been declining.  A study from 1996 to 2006 showed a drop of 37 per cent, compared with a 25 per cent decline in the neighbouring US.

This doesn’t necessarily mean  teenagers are less sexually active.  In fact, a study found about 50      per cent of teens aged 16 and 17 engage in sexual activity.

These findings confirm what has become only too visible in daily life: teens holding hands, hugging, kissing and generally revelling in young love, all in public.

The teen-pregnancy study includes statistics on births, abortions and miscarriages.  The Canadian government views all three outcomes as having a negative impact on society.

If newborns survive the delivery process, teens are often unprepared to act as parents.  And miscarriages and abortions can result in various diseases and complications that can stall the mother’s education and development.

Teen pregnancy affects individuals, families and entire communities, placing a social and economic burden on the whole of society.

According to the study, the welcome decline in teen pregnancy can be attributed to an increase in awareness about sexual health and protection among teenage girls, as well as increasingly easy access to clinics and family planning counsellors.  Young women are using their freedom to make safer decis-ions, entering the adult world of sex and romance armed with more information and more confidence.

The story may be different in Cambodia.  Canada is fairly open to adolescent sexual activity and independent decision-making, but the issue is rarely talked about in Cambodia, where cultural conservatism and embedded tradition keep teenage sexuality under wraps.

For this reason, teen pregnancy rates are higher and show little sign of declining.  Until the Kingdom begins some sort of dialogue on teenage sexuality, young women in Cambodia will continue to have their education interrupted and their freedom curtailed.

About Sophoan Seng
I am the single son of a farming family from Siem Reap. I spent more than 10 years as a Buddhist monk. I graduated with a master’s degree in political science from the University of Hawaii and am a PhD candidate at the same university.

My interests are social-capital research, the empowerment of young people for social change, and grassroots participation to developing democracy. I am a freelance and president of the Khmer Youth Association of Alberta. I can be reached at sophan@hawaii.edu

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Rich Oil-Sands of Alberta, Canada

Emails from Canada: Sophoan Seng

Alberta is well known as a leading exporter of natural resources like timber and oil in Canada. Large foreign companies from the US have invested billions of dollars extracting oil and gas in this territory to make up for the shortage of oil for energy in their country. Oil deposits which are called “oil sands” are very distinctive from what is found in those oil rich countries such as Iran or Saudi Arabia in the Middle East, and the monitoring and regulations of this lucrative industry has never been neglected.

The official website of the Alberta government describes Alberta’s oil sands as the backbone of the Canadian and the global economy, adding it is a great buried energy treasure which has continuously supplied stable and reliable energy to the world. Oil sands are a naturally composed mixture of sand, clay or other minerals, including water and bitumen, which is a heavy and extremely thick, sticky oil that must be treated before it can be processed by refineries to produce usable fuels such as regular gasoline and diesel. Oil sands can be found in many locations around the globe, but the Athabasca deposit in Alberta is the largest and most developed and it has utilised the most advanced technology to produce oil.

Canada’s Facts and Statistics Department has ranked Alberta’s oil sands second after Saudi Arabia in terms of proven global crude oil reserves. In 2009, the total proven oil reserves were 171.3 billion barrels, or about 13 percent of the total global oil reserves, which is about 1,354 billion barrels. The net income in the fiscal year of 2009 for the Alberta government was more than US$3 billion in royalties from oil sands projects, which was lower than 2008 at $20.7 billion. But they project it to skyrocket and revenue to hit $15 billion in the next few years. Ultimately, about 99 percent of Alberta’s oil comes from oil sands.

Responsible corporations and the government’s clear goal and commitment have transformed Alberta oil sands into a blessing, not a curse. All approvals, licences, dispositions, permits and registrations relating to oil sands are required by Alberta’s Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB), Alberta Environment and Alberta Sustainable Resource Development bodies. This enables the comprehensive task of handling oil sands investments.

However, in an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, University of Alberta scientist David Schindler told the public that the high levels of toxic pollutants in the Athabasca River were caused by oil sand mining. Schindler and his team of researchers found that oil sands development projects were contaminating the Athabasca River watershed area. The scientists found that seven “significant pollutants” were at levels that exceeded government guidelines for the protection of aquatic life. This new finding contradicted the government’s previous argument, which had always claimed that the naturally occurring bitumen had low levels of pollution.

After publishing in 2009 the first peer-reviewed paper from Schindler and his team, an ongoing political debate started, the story grabbed the public’s attention and a group of experts was given the job of finding the best solution for this rich oil sands industry. From public and private debates to ones in parliament and political institutions, a solution must be found to ensure the sustainable development of this non-renewable natural resource.

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Jobs and Employment in Canada

Letters from abroad

There is a popular saying that “to live is to work”, and while life is not all about work, the saying seems to hold true in Canada, Cambodia and around the world. Most people cannot live without a job, but the approach from the governments in various countries to the problem of unemployment differs greatly. It might be interesting for you to hear about the ways in which Canada’s government and private sector have intervened in order to help more citizens get jobs and keep the ones they have.

First, there is a growing number of job search agencies who help both new and experienced workers find jobs suitable to their educational background and experiences. Enrolled students learn about networking strategies, curriculum vitae, cover letters and interviewing skills. These agencies also partner with private groups and the government to launch job fairs, which exist in Cambodia on a smaller scale, in order to bring together employers and employees. In fact, I was employed as a result of my participation in a job fair.

Second, the government helps unemployed citizens by providing them with short-term support through both skills training and living expenses. Many unemployed workers are directly subsidized to allow them to maintain a level of strength and professionalism while they search for a new job. The money that funds this program, called the Employment Insurance (EI) program, was deducted from workers’ salary if they worked before.

Read More …

Posted by: | Posted on: November 1, 2017

Migrant workers struggling to sign up to vote

Op-Ed: Phnom Penh Post

Migrant workers struggling to sign up to vote

Thu, 26 October 2017

There are few things more important to 29-year-old Yan Muon than voting.

An official processes an identification card at a voter registration office in Phnom Penh in September. Pha Lina

An official processes an identification card at a voter registration office in Phnom Penh in September. Pha Lina

Even though the maths student traded his studies in Cambodia for an electronics factory in Malaysia three years ago in hopes of earning more money, he always planned to return to vote.

Unfortunately, it has been “difficult for me”, Muon said in an interview two weeks ago. “My company always rejects my request [for time off] from one week to another.”

Muon is one of an estimated 1.5 million migrant workers living and working outside Cambodia who must return to the Kingdom to register to vote in next year’s crucial national election. Yet with two weeks left in the registration period, nearly three-quarters of the eligible voters that the National Election Commission was hoping to register have yet to sign up, according to numbers released by the body yesterday.

In interviews with five migrant workers over the past two weeks, none said they were able to return to Cambodia to register.

Many said the biggest challenge is getting time off work. Others said they could not afford the trip. Some cited political apathy.

Chem Phany, a 24-year-old Cambodian working at a factory in Thailand that produces windows and doors, said he wants to vote, but needs at least one week to travel to his hometown in Takeo province.

“My employers will not allow me to get a week’s leave,” he said. “At the same time, I need to spend $130 round trip and to have food to eat. So I can’t afford that.”

So Phany, a garment worker who has been living in Malaysia for 10 years, said her employer also refused to give her time off.

“I wish the government can offer another option, perhaps for us to organise a voting pool at the embassy, so I don’t need to take much time to vote and I can choose a leader for my country,” she said.

Others, like Sim Sarunn, a 26-year-old migrant working at a fruit-processing factory in Japan, were discouraged by the imminent dissolution of the opposition CNRP.

“I would feel regret for [missing] the next election if the opposition party was still there and different parties were competing with each other, but the ruling party now competes alone,” Sarunn said. “So I’m not interested in coming to vote. Even if I do, there’s nothing I can change.”

For local election monitor Comfrel, this is the outcome they feared.

“This is a real difficulty, a real challenge,” said Yoeurng Sotheara, Comfrel’s legal and monitoring officer.

Read More …

Posted by: | Posted on: July 29, 2012

Cambodia continues to see slow price increase

Reading this article widened my thought to the reality happening among Cambodian consumers. The low price increase of inflation observed by May Kunmakara of the Phnom Penh Post couldn’t change the status quo of poor Cambodians who are incapable to beat with the price of inflation. While the Cambodian poors cannot afford one dollar a day, according to statistic, one bowl of rice with few pieces of grilled pork for a meal is one dollar and up. The same data of statistic, 90 per cent of Cambodian farmers are poor and they cannot afford one dollar a day in an average of annual income. But the contradict sight of Cambodian commuters on the street, the amount of expensive luxurious cars such as Lexus are higher than any other countries in the region and in the world. There are many food parlors along the street and to what I have personally observed, the variety of products displayed for sales or the suppliers are more than demands. So, this scene shows that Cambodian people are not lazy but less consumers or demands have made them poorer and poorer. There are causes and effects of this in-equilibrium of supply and demand in Cambodia. More than this, the general price of Cambodian products are not tagged by label but they are tagged by lipbel.

Cambodia continues to see slow price increase

Thursday, 26 July 2012, May Kunmakara
120726_07

A vendor sells pork at a market in Phnom Penh earlier this year. Photograph: Vireak Mai/Phnom Penh Post

Food prices drove moderate inflation in June, with experts calling the 1.8 per cent year-on-year increase acceptable.

Month on month, inflation rose at about 0.1 per cent, data from the National Institute of Statistics showed.

Khin Song, deputy director general at NIS, said the slow rise in prices was largely due to the slow growth of the world economy, which have affected prices on international market and in the region.

Prices in China, Thailand and especially Vietnam – which experienced inflation above 20 per cent only months earlier – have also cooled.

“If we take a look at some of our neighbours, inflation has also gone down. Thailand saw around 2 per cent inflation and China saw about 5 or 6 per cent inflation,” he said.

“We have stabilised some food prices and there is a slowdown in the price of gasoline and some kinds of foods. In addition, we also have a very stable exchange rate and [gross domestic product] growth is good. This made the inflationary rate slow. Our import tax is low, so if we compare to other country, our tax is still lower. Products should be cheap”

The price of food and non-alcoholic beverages increased by 2.3 per cent year on year, the data showed. Meat prices increased 2.5 per cent while the price of vegetables jumped 11.8 per cent.

Vegetable prices were expected to rise further in the coming months as the rainy season deepens and foods are expected, Khin Song said.

The cost of electricity, gas and other fuels increased by only 0.6 per cent.

In May, Cambodia saw its first-ever drop in the consumer price index since data had been taken by NIS, the Post reported last month.

At the same time, the price of pork jumped 18 per cent that month.

Hiroshi Suzuki, chief of economists and CEO at Business Research Institute of Cambodia said the inflation rate was healthy and would not lead to negative results if kept at this level.

In late January, gas prices in Cambodia hit an all-time high at US$1.40 per litre. The rise prompted worry over the Kingdom’s limited fuel reserves.


To contact the reporter on this story: May Kunmakara atkunmakara.may@phnompenhpost.com

Posted by: | Posted on: January 8, 2012

Lawyer now a ‘monk’

Cambodian Bar Association is also under pressure or not, but whenever the lawyer or the Bar Association is not independent, how can this legal carrier can independently bring justice to Cambodians? Of course, according to our observation, many lawyers who have worked for the minors and opposition party members, have stopped their duty from those minors and opposition party members in order to obtain their Bar Association license. Mr.Choung Choungy’s decision to shave his head and practicing meditation this time is a puzzling question for all of us. He has been aware since the beginning that he will face with terrific obstacle ahead especially the discarding of his license from Bar Association.

Phnom Penh Post

  • Meas Sokchea
  • Friday, 06 January 2012
120106_02

Photo by: Heng Chivoan

Choung Choungy, a lawyer for the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, has his head shaved at the party’s headquarters in Phnom Penh yesterday.

A lawyer for the Sam Rainsy Party yesterday began his meditation for justice campaign at the opposition party’s headquarters in the capital’s Meanchey district, after a Buddhist layman shaved his head and blessed him.

Dressed in white, the lawyer began meditating in the morning between placards calling on the Justice Ministry, prosecutors, lawyers and the Bar Association to defend justice.

“Lawyer Choung Choungy is focusing on clear sightedness, keeping silent and seeking tolerance and truth through meditation to liberate people from danger and obstacles,” layman Hing Phirom said.

“He is doing it for the nation.”

Late last month, Choung Choungy was charged with helping a prisoner escape jail. SRP lawmaker Chan Cheng was also stripped of his parliamentary immunity over the same case, after the Kandal provincial court charged the pair with helping Bantey Dek commune deputy chief Meas Peng escape jail in September.

Read More …

Posted by: | Posted on: November 5, 2011

The long tragedy of Cham history

The early history of the Cham in Cambodia is far from being clear. To begin with, were the Cham Muslims at the time of their emigration to Cambodia? Scholars have pointed out evidence that Champa had contacts with the Muslim world as early as the 9th century. A group of Muslim Chams are still living in Central Vietnam although they are a minority; the majority still goes on worshipping Hindu religion. It is then plausible that prior to take refuge in Cambodia a part of the Cham population had already converted to Islam. The fact that today all the Cambodian Chams are Muslims led most of scholars to the conclusion that the conversion of the majority of Chams actually took place in Cambodia. The Chvea (litterally Javanese), a large Muslim population, were already living in Cambodia in the 15th century; their origin is unclear as nowadays they all speak Khmer and don’t have a language of their own. It is probably to their contact that the Chams converted to Islam.
By Phnom Penh Post

Jean-Michel Filippi

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Cham people photographed during the period of the French Protectorate.

The traditional warfare pattern in South East Asia generally aimed at conquering and dominating sparse populations


The Khmer empire, from the ninth to the 15th century, obviously didn’t develop in isolation. But, looking at the map of Southeast Asia from a historical point of view, it’s nevertheless clear  that this political construction benefited from an unprecedented geopolitical quietness, at least until the 13th century.

The Vietnamese hadn’t even begun their march to the south, and the Thai state was  made up of embryonic chieftainships.

Yet the exception that proved the rule occurred. In the year 1177, guided by a Chinese deserter, the Cham fleet sailed the Mekong river upstream and from Phnom Penh, the Tonle Sap. They took Angkor by urprise, plundering and destroying the town.

They quickly withdrew and, from 1181, under the leadership of the future Jayavarman VII, the Khmers led the war against the kingdom of Champa, which was soon reduced to a vassal state of the Khmer empire.

Military recovery was one thing; spiritual recovery was something else. If the very heart of the empire could be so easily struck, there were spiritual causes that couldn’t be ignored.

Under the rule of Jayavarman VII, the Khmer empire was the theatre of the most dramatic religious shift in Khmer history as the new rel-igion became Mahayana Buddhism. It replaced the Hindu religion, which had proved unable to protect the empire.

Hindu gods still existed, but were submitted to the Mahayana Buddha. The temple of Angkor Wat was still there, but was no longer the axis of the world; that was now the Bayon.

Read More …

Posted by: | Posted on: January 8, 2010

A Plea from Afar

Wednesday, 06 January 2010 15:02 Sophan Seng

Dear Editor,

Reading your article “Three more sought in removal of post at Svay Rieng border” (January 4) broke my heart.

The villagers should be congratulated and taken care of by the government for their courage in publicly claiming their ownership of the rice paddies and denouncing the violation of their territory by Vietnamese authorities who have mismanaged the process of demarcating the border. Instead, as unbelievable as it may sound, these five farmers face a terrifying fate and the loss of their status as “good” citizens.

There have been different interpretations of this story within the media, but at the end of the day, no one can deny the truth: Cambodian people living along the borders with Thailand, Laos and Vietnam no longer dare voice their concerns about neighbouring countries encroaching on their territory and stealing their land for fear of reprisals.

On one hand, the government may have good reason to accuse opposition leader Sam Rainsy of acting as a provocateur in bringing news of Vietnam’s mismanagement of border posts to the public. But on the other hand, the government is following a course of action that could rob Cambodia of its strength as a nation and destroy the immunity of every parliamentarian.

At the grassroots level, Cambodian people living along the border will no longer dare to stand up and protest against the theft of their land by neighbouring countries. At the national level, parliamentarians – both government and opposition – will lose confidence in their abilities to serve the genuine interests of the people.

The government must evaluate the situation fairly if it is to effectively represent the nation’s interests. I would like to appeal to the government to restore the prowess of elected parliamentarians and allow them to fulfil their duties, which are more important than those of the lower court of Svay Rieng. I would also like to appeal to the government to drop all charges against the five farmers – Prak Chea, Neang Phally, Prak Koeun, Meas Srey and Prom Chea – and release them without condition.

Sophan Seng
University of Hawaii

Original reference: http://www.phnompenhpost.com/index.php/2010010630653/National-news/a-plea-from-afar.html

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