Today, the Commission for the Voting Rights of Cambodians in Overseas, we would like to express our opposition to Prime Minister Hun Sen, who is initiating a law banning non-voters, no right to stand for election and mandate voting as an obligation.
This mandatory election law proposal is mainly aimed at Cambodians who are working and living abroad; they are the main pillars of economic development, promotion of culture, investment, and experienced leadership, etc.
This law is an additional oppression to overseas Cambodians who do not have the right to vote from the locations or countries where they are residing, learning and working, after the law prohibits dual Cambodian citizens from standing for or participating in leading the top roles of the nation was amended.
We urge Prime Minister Hun Sen and the ruling Cambodian People’s Party to reconsider while this law is hastily drafted, referring only to the interests of winning and losing political parties, and leaving the national institutions and the interests of the people as well as national unity as not a primary agenda.
The Cambodian-American community came out to the April 25, 2023 City Council meeting to speak out against motions to establish sister-city relationships between Lowell and Battambang and Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The motions were withdrawn after the motion sponsors failed to find a second to move it forward for approval. Mayor Sokhary Chau reads a statement in support of his motions.(Melanie Gilbert/Lowell Sun)By MELANIE GILBERT | email@example.com |PUBLISHED: April 26, 2023 at 5:39 p.m. | UPDATED: April 26, 2023 at 5:45 p.m.
LOWELL — The city’s Cambodian diaspora came out in force to Tuesday’s City Council meeting to speak out against two motions seeking to establish possible sister-city agreements between Lowell and the Cambodian cities of Battambang and Phnom Penh.
Both motions were withdrawn when it became clear that a second from another councilor to move the motion to the floor for vote would not be forthcoming. Councilor Vesna Nuon requested that the speakers be allowed to address the body regardless.
“I know that the motion has failed, Mr. Mayor,” he said addressing the city’s first mayor of color and the nation’s first Cambodian-American mayor, Sokhary Chau. “However, to be fair, there are people here who wish to speak.”
Both motions were submitted by Cambodian-American councilors, who appeared to misjudge the depth of feeling toward the government of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, who assumed power nearly 40 years ago.
The first motion, co-sponsored by Chau and Councilor Paul Ratha Yem, asked the city manager to have the Law Department provide a report regarding the establishment of a sister-city agreement with Phnom Penh, referencing a memorandum of understanding signed on Jan. 14, 2015.
The second motion, by Chau, asked the city manager and/or the appropriate department to begin the process to establish a sister-city agreement with Battambang.
Eng Chhai Eang came to the podium with Mu Sochua. He previously was a member of the Cambodian Parliament and is a vice president of the Cambodian National Rescue Party, a major opposition party to the Hun Sen regime. He remains exiled from his homeland, and lives in Lowell.
Sochua, who acted as his interpreter, was also a member of the Cambodian Parliament from Battambang and is second vice president of the CNRP. She is a former minister of women’s and veterans’ affairs.
“I lost my seat because the Hun Sen government took it away,” Chhai Eang said in Khmer to a hushed crowd. “I am here as a victim of regime of Hun Sen. I am here to speak against the establishment of agreement of Battambang and Phnom Penh as Lowell sister city.”
He described a political system in Cambodia in which mayors are not elected directly by the people, but are chosen and appointed by Hun Sen.
“The government in Cambodia do not work according of the people,” he said through Sochua. “Therefore, if you in Lowell agree to establish sister city with any city in Cambodia, you are then serving the regime in Cambodia. The Cambodian regime considers me as a terrorist, but America accepts me as a free man. I thank you for not considering this motion.”
This time, I am reminded of an article I wrote about “The Repute of Angkor Wat” in 2002. Once, the Siamese army tried to relocate the Ta Phrom Temple to rebuild in Thailand under the order of King of Ayuthya, those armies were beheaded and let them back a few to report to the King that all Khmer ruins were not abandoned as perceived. Few survival armies mentioned the swift and brave Angkor warriors whose villagers living in the nearby areas, appeared from the forest with horses and swords killed the Siamese armies in a sudden.
Bad rumours or news on Angkor Wat resulted in many catastrophes such as the burning of Thai embassy in 2004. When a Phnom Penh newspaper falsely reported that a popular Thai actress claimed that Angkor Wat belonged to Thailand, Cambodians rioted in the capital, destroying the Thai Embassy and dozens of Thai-owned businesses (Los Angeles Time).
Prof. Dr. Ang Chulean, who were first President of Apsara Authority, and later were believed left the post because of his critical opinion against the building of toilets surrounding Angkor ruins complex, articulated the important villages and people living surrounding the complex. Those people and villages must not be relocated and demolished. In his interview with Thmey Thmey local online newspaper, he called those people and villages the “life heritage” reflecting the contrast to of those stone-castle heritage of Angkor Wat and nearby ruins.
Actually, the UNESCO’s Articles on Angkor Protection under World Heritage Scheme in the initial legal adoption chaired by King Norodom Sihanouk, descripted the important of having villagers settled around the ruins decades or centuries ago.
With the repeating escalating speech to relocating villagers surrounding Angkor Wat and nearby ruins by Prime Minister Hun Sen, over 3000 people rallied to Banteay Srey commune headquarter in October 6-7-8-9, to protest against these relocating attempts. Villagers whom feared of reprisal and traumatized by egregious political intimidations, conducted both anonymous protests through social media and come out to the streets with face masked on, demanding the authority not to relocate them by allowing them to live peacefully in their inheriting property such as homes and lands; they reject any cost of compensation to relocate them; they reject negotiation with the authority; they are desiring only to live peacefully in their inheriting lands and homes passed to them many generations; they are proud of their ancestors leaving them current plot of land, etc.
According to Hun Sen, Ron Ta Ek new development is a new plot of land for those villagers to relocate to. Looking closely, the villagers most of them are new settlers to the ruins vicinity, accepted the small amount of compensation and monthly social service money (named poor certificate card), to live in Ron Ta Ek two years ago, hence the area itself is not visibly developed and most of the villagers are not living there, major homes are abandoned. They have come back to live where they can afford income and employment, or migrated to work in Thailand.
In contrast, like Sihanouk Ville or other special economic zone (SMDs) entire Cambodia, Cambodian tycoons and Chinese companies have worked with powerful Cambodian shareholders in the secrete and bribery deals to relocate villagers in the name of development. For Siem Reap, according to this news outlet, NagaCorp which is the notorious beneficiaries of Naga World Casino, is going to invest over 350 millions dollars covering lands of 75 hectare in the 500m distance surrounding Angkor Wat and ruins complex.
Abdicate the policy of development for the riches, or use development schemes as excuse to lure Cambodian citizens to be prey and dismantle their livelihood existence as well as family harmony.
Be confident on the UNESCO’s policy as well as United Nations’; all developments are placing human rights and human dignity first, not profit or partisan first at all.
Cambodian citizens must stand firm, from lessons learnt entire Cambodia, no body can help us beside ourselves. All Siem Reapers must stand up against all injustice and relocation policy, not only today, this month, but keep close pre-alert forever.
Use community media (social media, cell phones, youtube, twitter, etc.) effectively to protect your own interests.
Article by Sophoan Seng, October 15, 2022, @copyrights
The Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, today issued the following statement on Canada Day:
“Today, we celebrate the country we love, and the people we share it with. Canada is home to over 38 million people: Canadians who live in cities and towns – big and small; people who are indigenous to this land; and those who’ve been here for weeks, months, years, or for generations.“
Canada is strong because of our diversity. No matter what our faith is, where we were born, what colour our skin is, what language we speak, or who we love – we are all equal members of this great country.“
Today, we celebrate the place we all call home. I know for some, our country’s historic wrongs can make that difficult. But while we can’t change history, we can put in the work to build a better future; one that reflects our values of hope, resilience, kindness, respect, and generosity.
“Generation after generation, Canadians have shown that we can deliver on those values. We did it when we adopted our charter in 1982, we did it when we took care of each other during the pandemic, and we do it every day when we welcome refugees with open arms.
“Today is an opportunity for us all to recommit ourselves to those values – values that the Maple Leaf represents. Because our flag is more than a symbol, it’s also a promise. A promise of opportunity. A promise of safety for those fleeing violence and war. And a promise of a better life.
“As we come together today, let’s think about what this country means to us – and tomorrow, let’s challenge ourselves to find new ways to live up to the great promise of Canada.
Chao Ratanak, Candlelight Party’s commune chief candidate in Poipet commune, stands next to her father, Chao Veasna, a former opposition councilor in the commune, outside her house on May 14, 2022. (Matt Surrusco/VOD)🔊 Listen to this
Reading the article “Election Committee Rejects Candlelight Complaint Due to Lack of Specifics” recalls to mind how for Cambodian voters back in the 1998 national election — after the coup d’etat in 1997 — the legacy of the professional election institution built by the UNTAC was demolished and a new National Election Committee rebuilt. And in 2017, when the Cambodia National Rescue Party was dissolved, the legacy of an NEC created by the spirit of “culture of dialogue” was also demolished.
The response of the local election committee in the latest case is not a surprise, as the professionalism of neutrality has not been embedded in their workmanship at all. If this local election committee was well-trained, comprehensive, professional, and fearless to perform their duty without reprisal, they would try to accommodate complaints filed by Chao Ratanak without creating any further obstruction. But their performance shows not only an incapability for professional conduct but also bias toward the ruling party without doubt.
Observing the leadership structure of the current NEC, regardless of the instalment of party activists, the bureaucratic hierarchy from the national level to provincial level and to local agents is not necessary at all, and this structure creates more avenues to favor the ruling party than to serve the interests of voters. The judicial system being used as a political tool for the ruling party also disincentivizes professional conduct for the NEC and its staff.
Since Cambodia has conducted elections according to the spirit of Paris Peace Agreements, only two elections have been regarded as credible and professional, i.e. 1993 and 2017. Hence, the political maturity of the Cambodian people and their dynamic activism have paved concrete hope for the betterment in the near future.
Sophoan Seng President, Committee for Election Right of Overseas Cambodians