Editorial | Articles about Cambodia | Khmer

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Mr. Sourn Serei Ratha - A POLITICAL CON-ARTIST

Dear Compatriots,

Here come a new great divider, a young and somewhat inexperienced political agitator who has managed to fool a few nationalists on the extreme end - thinking that he can change Cambodian politics just as smoothly as he talks. More than that, he managed to blame every political leaders, left and right, from Monarchy to anyone he disagreed with on saving Cambodia. He claimed to have all solutions to all Cambodian problems, and presented himself as the only person who is full of you-know-what to know how to get back Koh Trol and the rest of Cambodia. Sound good, isn't it? If you are not sophisticated enough, you can be fooled, and perhaps you will be kind enough to take out a few bucks to hand to this new Cambodia's saviour, so he can travel places, without having any need to hold on to any real jobs in USA. If you don't know who I am talking about, read on...

It did not come to me as a surprise to learn that Mr. Sourn Serei Ratha has finally revealed his ultimate personal ambition to form a political organization and proclaiming himself to be the leader. What concern me most in his particular case is his views on Cambodian political process from the legal standpoint. Beaware of many dangers ahead, especially of having any associations with him and/or this new group. You certainly do not want to end up like people who previously joined Chhun Yasith, a US citizen who has been convicted by the United States government for plotting to overthrow a legit government. It has got to be legal.

After having listening to Mr. Ratha’s comment and declaration on Radio Post of Long Beach - program of August 22, 2010, I could not help but must take the liberty to inform every decent Cambodians to be looked out for danger in getting involved with this new organization. One needs to understand that a political organization has to be operated within the rule of laws, nationally and internationally. Mr. Sourn does not believe in political participation of our country's democratic process, and a few of his members shared the same view. Whatever you do or decide, you must understand who and what you are associating yourself with, and what would be the legal and political fall-out, if any.

Mr. Sourn is trying a play to a raw sentiment of ordinary people, including some frustrated and yet somewhat extreme nationalists who have limited understanding the complexity of our country's politics, from both national and global context. He is now embarking on a dangerous journey by leading a very radical and extreme organization which has yet to be accepted or legalized by our country's highest institutions. I wonder how he wishes to achieve his political aim when he’s never once believed in the legal political process of our country, Cambodia.

He has called all opposition groups as, if I quoted him correctly, either " Tourist and/or commercial politicians." To him, and his associates, oppositions offer no solutions, but more of a lingering complaints and problems to the overall Cambodia's mess. Mr. Sourn has a solution, and he is readied to lead, to bring all factions and groups, under his enormous talent and creativity which will lead us to not only save Cambodia's proper, Kampuchea Krom, but also get our Koh Trol back. It sounds like a real deal here, isn't it. But wait folks, if you are not thinking through, and if anyone are not well-informed on the pros and cons of this new group with this particular new leader, you could find yourself, personally, and your country in a whole lots deeper mess than you could possibly imagine. If there is a perfect name for a new politician or group like Mr. Sourn, given the way he conducted himself, beside tourist, commercial or the likes, here is one which I think would perfectly suit him well, A POLITICAL CON-ARTIST.

Please do not go there, folks.

Source: samrainsyparty@googlegroups.com


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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Thailand, Cambodia to normalize relations

Source: UPI.COM - Special Reports

BANGKOK, Aug. 24 (UPI) -- Tensions eased between Thailand and neighboring Cambodia after the exiled fugitive former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra resigned as an economic adviser to Phnom Phen.

Thailand will send back to the Cambodian capital its ambassador, Prasas Prasasvinitchai.

He was summoned back to Thailand in November soon after the Cambodian government of Hun Sen controversially appointed Thaksin, who is a wanted man in Thailand for using his office for personal gain.

"I believe that the normalized relations with the reinstatement of the ambassadors will clear the way for the two countries to more easily resolve all problems," Thailand's Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said.

Thailand's Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said Thaksin's resignation satisfied a Thai condition that he doesn't play a role in the Cambodian government before bilateral ties return to normal. "I would like to thank the Cambodian government for the intention to move forward our relations," he said.

Cambodia also has said it will send back its ambassador, You Aye, to the Thai capital Bangkok, ending the tit-for-tat diplomatic dispute that effectively froze relations between the two countries.

But the Cambodian and Thai governments, as well as Thaksin's lawyer, deny reports that Thaksin was forced to resign as a first step by both countries to normalize relations.

A statement by the Cambodian government said that Thaksin had stepped down "because of personal difficulties" that stopped him from completely fulfilling his role. "The Cambodian government accepts the request by His Excellency Thaksin Shinawatra, with thanks to the contributions that he has made to the Cambodian economy," a statement said.

Thaksin's legal adviser, Noppadon Pattama, said Thaksin's resignation "was voluntary to benefit ties between the two countries," he said. It was Thaksin's intention to quit as an adviser because his overseas business engagements left him no time to work for the Cambodian government, he said.

Cambodian government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said Thaksin's resignation wasn't connected to the Thai-Cambodian border dispute. Thaksin resigned because he was "busy with a lot of work."

Relations between the two countries dipped dramatically immediately after Cambodia announced the appointment of Thaksin. On hearing of the appointment, Thailand's Cabinet threatened to tear up a 2001 memorandum of understanding to end a sensitive maritime boundary dispute in the Gulf of Thailand.

Resolution of the dispute is for the betterment of both countries as it would allow an ordered exploitation of suspected large amounts of natural gas and oil reserves on the ocean floor.

But a much more sensitive issue is a long-simmering land boundary dispute about 300 miles northeast of Bangkok. The military of both countries periodically face each other in the Preah Vihear mountains around an 11th-century Hindu temple of the same name on land, which both countries claim as their territory.

The international court of justice ruled in 1962 that the temple was on Cambodian land. But the only access to the mountaintop building is on the Thai side, which Thai troops sealed off last summer.

Around 2,000 troops from both sides are stationed across from each other on border patrol. Cross-border incidents occasionally flare up, such as in October 2008 when two Cambodian troops died and seven Thai troops were wounded in a gun battle lasting an hour.

The diplomatic row deepened after Thailand formally requested the extradition of Thaksin under an extradition treaty signed by both countries. But the Cambodian government said Phnom Phen cannot send Thaksin to Thailand because they believe his conviction in 2008 was political and not criminal.

Thaksin, 60, was ousted from his job as Thailand's prime minister by a military coup in 2006 and soon after received a 2-year prison sentence for tax fraud. He fled in 2008 rather than serve his sentence, leaving an estimated $2 billion in frozen assets.

The Thai government continues to seek Thaksin whose whereabouts often are unknown. He is wanted most recently for allegedly helping organize the major street protests that continually crippled parts of central Bangkok from February to May, which eventually left 90 people dead and some 2,000 injured.

He has denied the terrorism charges against him and has said he called for peace by the protesters during the demonstrations.


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In Scarred Land, a Haven for Victims of Acid Burns

The New York Times - Trapaeng Veng Journal

TRAPAENG VENG, Cambodia — Touch Eap stroked her husband’s scarred and discolored back as she described the night six years ago when she poured a tub of acid over his head, burning off his eyes and ears and lips and leaving him as dependent on her as a child.

An acid burn victim had her blood pressure checked at the Cambodian Acid Survivors Charity while recovering from a skin grafting operation.
“I wanted to kill him,” she said. “I didn’t want to injure him. He said he would kill me, and I thought, better to kill him first so that I can take care of the children.”

She smiled ruefully as she talked; his drunkenness and threats were an old memory. Her husband, Phoeung Phoeur, 45, opened his mouth in what may also have been a smile.

“I’m sorry for him,” said Ms. Touch Eap, 46, who grows vegetables to support her husband and three children, “and I try to take care of him.”

It was a moment of domestic tranquillity here in Cambodia’s only shelter for acid burn victims, where a dozen other mutilated residents napped or sang or hung their heads backward in an exercise to help keep their scarred necks flexible.

Cambodia, along with Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, has a history of acid attacks — a rare and extreme form of revenge or punishment.

An increase in the number of reported attacks in Cambodia, with 17 so far this year, has drawn attention to this shelter, the nonprofit Cambodian Acid Survivors Charity, on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.

The center has been advising the government in drafting a law that is making its way slowly through the legislature. The proposed law would restrict sales of acid — now widely and cheaply available — require warning labels and impose sentences of up to life in prison for the most severe attacks.

The center’s residents, who receive medical and psychological care, physical therapy, and occupational training, are just a few of the more than 280 known victims in Cambodia of a form of revenge that illustrates an undercurrent of violence that courses through this wounded society. Experts say the true number is certainly far higher.

“This is a traumatized culture,” said Pin Domnang, chief of programs and administration at the center, referring to decades of mass killings and civil war. “When something happens, the only response is violence. Violence can solve their problems. Violence can make them feel better.”

Short of murder, advocates say, an acid attack is the most devastating form of aggression, transforming the victim into a figure of horror and an outcast in a society that often sees disfigurement as a form of karmic justice.

That thought is an unexpected comfort to one of the survivors here, Soum Bunnarith, 41, a former salesman whose wife blinded him with acid five years ago in a rage of jealousy. “I ask myself, ‘Why me?’ ” he said. “But then I think maybe I did terrible things in a past life, and that thought helps me to accept this.”

Some, rejected and without family members to care for them, take their lives in despair, Mr. Pin Domnang said. “Their identity changes, their whole life changes,” he said. “It is difficult to control the food in their mouths. Sometimes it spills out.

“Their families don’t want to see them, don’t want to come to visit them,” he said. “The trauma in their spirit is like they are gone. They don’t want to live on this earth any more.”

Others, spurred by anger, try to pursue their attackers in court. Under current laws, acid attacks are generally treated as civil assault cases in which the victim must press charges. In a system governed by power, money and influence, there have been few convictions. Nevertheless, the center’s medical and legal manager, Dr. Horng Lairapo, has been encouraging victims to file new cases and revive old ones.

One of those victims is Mean Sok Reoun, 35, who was attacked and blinded by her husband’s former wife 15 years ago. Until recently, she said, her attacker had lived freely after paying a bribe to the police, while Ms. Mean Sok Reoun endured 40 operations.

“I saw her clearly running away,” said Ms. Mean Sok Reoun, whose eyes moved rapidly behind a curtain of skin as she talked. “But then I saw only shadows. And then I was blind.”

Ziad Samman, the center’s project manager, said, “The attacks are not always the products of jealous rage; some grow out of other personal or business disputes.”

Acid is widely available for uses like maintaining machinery, clearing drains and polishing jewelry. It is used in the processing of rubber, and a high proportion of attacks have come in areas near plantations, according to the center. In rural areas where there is no electricity, acid fuels the car batteries that are used to power television sets.

It was battery acid that Ms. Touch Eap said she poured over her husband’s head as he sat drinking in their home six years ago, a large knife by his side.

“ ‘Do what I say or I’ll kill you’ — those were the last words I said to her,” said Mr. Phoeung Phoeur, joining his wife in the narrative as their 13-year-old daughter, Per Srey Ai, looked on.

If he was going to live, Mr. Phoeung Phoeur said, he realized he needed his wife. As soon as he reached the hospital, he begged a friend to pay the police to set her free. Ms. Touch Eap returned to him, and she has nursed and supported her husband ever since she tried to kill him.

She was with him at the hospital when doctors told him he had only hours left to live, and she walked alongside him as neighbors carried him home in a hammock to die. She lighted incense and prayed beside him as he slipped in and out of consciousness until, defying the doctors’ predictions, he returned to life.

“We called all the family around him,” she said, remembering that dark evening. “We were all waiting around him, waiting for him to die. I was so afraid he was going to die.”

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