People are sitting in a room looking at a large TV screen. They are watching a person on the screen and if they want to speak, they have to get out of their seats and go to a desk and talk in a microphone so that the person on the screen can hear and respond. This is the method employed by Sam Rainsy Party members to communicate with their leader, Sam Rainsy, who is now living in self-exile in France.
Sam Rainsy was convicted in January 2010 of destroying public property and racial incitement with Vietnam by pulling up border posts along the Vietnamese border in Svay Rieng province in 2009. On March 1, 2011, Cambodia’s Supreme Court rejected his appeal and his sentence of two years in jail still stands.
“The court is used as a political tool to shut Sam Rainsy’s mouth or eliminate him from the political arena since he is the leader of the opposition party,” said Yim Sovann, a spokesman for the Sam Rainsy Party.
On the other hand, Cheam Yeap, a senior Cambodian People’s Party lawmaker, said the ruling party did not order Sam Rainsy to remove the border posts. “Our country has law, so Sam Rainsy has to face court because of his wrongdoing, and if one day in the future I do something wrong, of course, I will face the court as well,” said Cheam Yeap.
A press release issued on February 22 by the Cambodian Center for Human Rights stated “the convictions against Sam Rainsy may leave the country’s largest opposition party without a leader at the next general election”.
Sam Rainsy fled the country in early 2009 and will serve 12 years in jail if he returns to Cambodia because in a separate case, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court sentenced him to an additional 10 years in jail on charges of forging public documents and disinformation after convicting him of disinformation and falsifying public documents.
The executive director of the Khmer Institute of Democracy (KID) in Cambodia, Hang Chhaya, said what has concerned him is that Cambodia is a democratic country, so Sam Rainsy’s case should not have reached the level of removing his parliamentary immunity and sentencing him since he had rights as a politician. “What the ruling party want is to make a good leader who people see, love and support, have to stay abroad as long as possible,” said Hang Chhaya.
While Prime Minister Hun Sen can stand and talk to CPP members and his supporters directly, Sam Rainsy needs support from technology to be able to communicate with SRP members and supporters.
However, Yim Sovann said the fact that Sam Rainsy is not in Cambodia is not a problem for the party. “If you want to meet the party leader, we can make a phone call or video conference that you can see the picture and there is no difference in communication by having or not having him present,” said Yim Sovann, adding that Sam Rainsy is still the party leader who leads meetings and keeps communicating between all levels of leaders and members.
To gain more support in the upcoming election, the HRP and SRP have been working on merging the two parties. After the 2008 national election, on January 15, 2009, Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha singed on a joined declaration officially establishing the Democratic Movement for Change. Since then the alliance has not reached 100 percent agreement and recently each party created a working group of five people to discuss the merger.
Mu Sochua, a SRP lawmaker and one of the five people in a merger group on the SRP side, said some conflict of ideas and misunderstandings from the past were the reasons for slowing the merger. However, she said she believed it would be successful soon. “We are democratic people and we have the same goal,” Mu Sochua said.
Mu Sochua said she was sure of success in the next election when the alliance reaches full agreement. She gave as an example Kampot province, where the SRP needs about 10,000 votes more to get one more parliament seat, however the HRU gets more than 14,000 votes. “Because we were not united at that time, about 14,000 votes were useless because none of us got any seats from there,” she said.
“Previously, we didn’t work well on the merger, but now we have a clear objective and we have clear steps to take,” Keat Sukun, a coordinator in merger group on the HRP side, said. He added that both sides had recently found common ground for a lasting unification of the parties.
Keat Sukun said that in Cambodia, each party cannot do everything alone and unification is very important in terms of exchanging human resources.
“It is the right decision to join as an alliance,” said Phnom Penh-based political analyst Chea Vannath, who explained that the seat allocation formula in Cambodia makes small political parties waste a lot of votes if they are not united.
However, she said she is not sure if this unification can last much longer because based on her observations, it would be easy to break up.
“To unite successfully, it’s very important to have trust building between the two parties, as wife and husband do,” said Chea Vannath. “We have to think that there will be a lot of obstacles with each step we take, and if we can trust each other, this unification will last forever.”
“While the frog tries harder, the snake also tries harder,” said Cheam Yeap, explaining that the ruling party was also working harder. Cheam Yeap said the ruling party did not fear the union of opposition parties.
However, Cheam Yeap said: “All CPP members are not advised to ride a horse with a free hand.” He added that they are not just sitting there happy with their victory, but they are working to keep it.
By: Dara SaoyuthAdditional reporting by Sok Eng This article was publish on LIFT, Issue 61 published on March 09, 2011
My radio production course assigned me to do a commentary with my friend under a topic “Should authorities be blamed on Koh Pich Issue?”. My friend is on an opposing site that he think that the authorities should be blamed while I am on a supporting side that I have to stat that authorities should not be blamed.
We’ve just finished it as a radio course assignment and we’d like to share this piece with all of you. Cheers,
Cue/Introduction: Diamond bridge stampede claimed some 350 people’s lives and injured hundreds last month, on the last day of water festival. Critics and a number of people have been complaining about the tragic incident. They put blame on the authorities for the reason that they have not managed the event well. However, some people have the ideas that no one should be blamed for the incident.
Our program is going to have commentary on the topic “Should the government be blamed for the incident?” Our commentators Sun Narin and Dara Saoyuth will express their point of view on the issue.
Sun Narin (Opposing site): I could not imagine how such incident happen on that day? People got jammed on the bridge and could not get out. Cambodia’s prime minister Hun Sen said that “Nobody will be punished for the incident.”
However, Sam Rainsy opposition party Son Chhay pushed the ruling government to identify the people responsible for “organizing the festival and handling the crowd” and wanted them to be fired from the position. This includes Phnom Penh governor, head of the police and interior ministry.
In my opinion, the government at least should take actions with those officials because they are irresponsible for their duty.
Phnom Penh municipality, relevant ministry and police did not perform their work responsibly and carefully. Why didn’t police facilitate the people’s crossing the bridge? There is not a lot of police force deploying at the incident place at that time.
Moreover, the bridge is for the exit only, why people were allowed to get in and out? This is the reason causing the mass deaths. Why didn’t police deal with that problem?
Police could not help the victims urgently when the incident happened, keeping people stuck in the crowdedness more than 2 hours. This caused more people dead because of the suffocation in the stampede.
Finally, the organizing people don’t plan the ceremony well. They are not well-prepared to be ready for the unplanned incident. Comparing to other countries, when there is the some special event like that the government must guarantee that the safety for people. They are very careless about this.
I think this is the mass unprecedented deaths, so all these officials should be taken off from the position as the example for the other people.
Dara Saoyuth (Supporting site): Even though most Cambodians can think only who should be blamed when talking about tragedy on Koh Pich, to me, it is an opportunity to learn rather than focus on blame finding.
During the water festival, truck or big cars were not allowed to enter the city and even tuktuk couldn’t drive along riverside to avoid traffic jam and accident. I dared to say that Phnom Penh authorities were well-planned for the festival.
This year, people moved into the city more than the authority expectation, that in the evening of 22 November 2010, the accident happened. There are many reasons causing stampede including the lack of people morality that they push each other back and forth? Why should only authorities be blamed?
As we can see, immediately after the accident, the authorities were trying to help the victims in many ways.
The government ordered the Ministry of Health to pay much attention to the victims and also some officers to send dead people to their provinces with free of charge. The Phnom Penh Capital Hall also started reporting on the tragedy instantly and kept updating with new announcement related to the incident.
No one wants this to happen and also nothing can be changed. Now we should better find the solution instead of blaming.
One facebooker, Samsokrith Chhaly, urges the public to think of those who died during the Water Festival as heroes because they gave us priceless lesson for next year’s preparation. When development sides establish in Cambodia next time, I’m sure that they will think first about an effective risk management system.
Conclusion by Dara Saoyuth:
After listening to both supporting and opposing sides, do you still think that government should be blamed for the tragedy? If yes, what can you get from that? I know that it is Cambodian habit to accuse each other when something bad happen, but I suggest you to be more positive by considering it as a lesson. Again, no one should be blamed. Critics should take the effective risk management system for considering rather than putting blame.By: Dara Saoyuth & Sun Narin 22/12/2010
After having dinner outside with friends this evening, I decided to ride my motor with them to Koh Pich (Diamond Island). This is the first time I rode across the bridge after the tragedy happened on 22 November 2010.
Everything is quite different from the last time I went there before the bad accident occurred. The north bridge where hundreds people died because of stampede is still being closed after the accident, so I was able to go to the island and back to the mainland only by another bridge.
There are not many people on the island though today is the weekend. It’s very easy for me to ride around the island unlike the earlier time I was there, but I still think it’s better to have more people.
Most of the shops didn’t open especially entertainment places where now, there are only a few people there who mostly are the entertainment places owners themselves. It seem like no one dare to get on that entertainment instruments after something unpleasant happened.
I know that it’s not easy to forget about something happen on the last day of water festival in Cambodia this year. It take more time to calm people’s feeling that I myself have no idea when will this feeling goes away from Cambodians’ minds.by: Dara Saoyuth 04/12/2010
- Photos in the aftermath of Koh Pich accident (saoyuth.wordpress.com)
- Water Festival Ends in Tragedy (saoyuth.wordpress.com)
- Telling the story of a tragedy (saoyuth.wordpress.com)
- Cambodia: Stampede tragedy during Water Festival (ki-media.blogspot.com)
- Cambodia PM weeps for stampede dead (mirror.co.uk)
- Cambodia mourns stampede victims (bbc.co.uk)
Having come to Phnom Penh to pursue higher education from my home in the province, it is rare that I have a few days off to visit my family. So, rather than joining the millions of people who came to Phnom Penh, I made the opposite trip and went home for the festival weekend.
I was sound asleep in my parents’ house, enjoying the comforts of familiar places, when my parents woke me up. I was rather annoyed, seeing that it was 2am, but once I understood what they were telling me, questions began to come to my mind, which was having an impossible time accepting that hundreds of people have actually died on the Koh Pich bridge.
Most of the questions involved the status of my friends still in the city and I frantically dialed numbers and sent out messages to find out if people were okay. Some of my friends had a similar reaction to mine upon being woken up – annoyed – but it was worth it to me to hear their voices.
I left the province at 7am, with few of my initial questions answered. As soon as I finished my lunch upon my return to the city, I hurriedly put my camera, recorder, notebook and a bottle of water into my backpack and rushed to the Phnom Penh Post office. I was asked by my editor to help another reporter, who was from America, to shoot a documentary about the event. After being so far away from the event earlier in the day, I was anxious to find out what really happened in my nation.
The Cambodian -Russian Friendship Hospital was teeming with crowds of victims’ relatives as we arrived. I immediately became overwhelmed by sadness, but this was the truth I wanted to see. For those involved in the stampede, desperation was the only emotion there was in the days after the stampede. We spent almost an hour walking around the hospital and nothing like tiredness even crossed my mind. I was too filled with sympathy and pity to consider anything else.
There were two big boards with victims’ photos stuck on either side. Some people burst into tears when they saw photos of their relatives lying dead. I couldn’t imagine. My friends and family were okay but I was still barely able to look at the rows of photos.
I talked with a girl who was among the many family members roaming the halls and tending to their kin. I talked to a girl who said her aunt was still alive in a nearby room, but was unable to move any part of her body. She said a few more words, but then stopped. As her eyes filled with tears, I couldn’t bear to ask any more questions or push her to talk more. My heart truly ached for her and all the others in her situation.
The fact that I was carrying a camera bag and a tripod, along with a fixed camera hanging around my neck, didn’t exactly make me inconspicuous; and as I walked by, I heard people whisper that another foreign journalist was there to cover their tragedy. I was proud that I looked like a professional to these people, but I also felt like I should put down all of this stuff and help calm people who were crying, carry coffins into the truck, or care for those still suffering. This was the first time I had been assigned a story like this, and it made me realise how difficult it must be for journalists to balance their duty to tell the story of terrible events and help the desperate people around them.
I wanted to separate my job that day from my feelings, but I simply couldn’t. This is my country and these were fellow Cambodians suffering around me. I kept imagining how terrible it would feel just to find out that someone I know was among the people who died that night on the bridge. If it was someone I truly loved I can’t imagine how bad it would hurt.
I arrived home with an overwhelming sense of sadness hanging on me. I called my friends who also helped report the story and they were also unable to shake the depression and fear that the day’s events had inspired. I thought about how the water festival has always been a happy time for Cambodian people, and whether that would ever be true again.By: Dara Saoyuth This article was published on Lift, Issue 47 published on December 02, 2010 You can also read the article on Phnom Penh Post website by CLICKING HERE
- Water Festival Ends in Tragedy (saoyuth.wordpress.com)
- Photos in the aftermath of Koh Pich accident (saoyuth.wordpress.com)
- Cambodia stampede: ‘Bodies stacked upon bodies’ in Phnom Penh tragedy (guardian.co.uk)
Some of you might say it’s a bit late for Student Blog to run a story about an accident happened at Koh Pich (Diamond Island) on Monday night. As a Cambodian, I think this tragedy will never be outdated to write and it’s hard for me to let this event passed without having something on my blog.
Last night, I was at my hometown in Kampot province and while I was sleeping, my parents woke me up to watch a live broadcast program on TV. It’s around 2am at that time. Having a look on TV screen, I immediately felt shock because of what I saw and heard was about the tragedy that hundreds people died and other hundreds people injured.
A short time after I saw what was happening, I took my phones to call to some of my friends and relatives asking whether they are all right while lots of SMS came to my phone one after another asking whether I am ok.
Ki Media mentioned that the accident happened around 10:00pm on 22nd of November 2010. You can read many articles about this accident written in both English and Khmer and to assist you, I will recommend you some addresses below.
Website in English:1. Hundreds die in tragic end to water festival 2 Phnom Penh struggles to cope with tragic stampede_The Phnom Penh Post Hundreds dead as popular water festival ends in tragedy_International News
Blog in Khmer:1. ២២ វិច្ឆិកា ២០១០ មេរៀនមួយសម្រាប់ខ្មែរ 2. សាក្សី និង ជាជនរងគ្រោះថា សោកនាដកម្មបណ្តាលមកពីឆក់ចរន្តអគ្គិសនី 3. មហាសោកនាដកម្មកោះពេជ្រ Dara Saoyuth 23/11/2010
The internet has turned the world into a global village where people from different places can get to know each other and gain easy access to information, and this has prompted some Cambodian political parties to make their web presence known to reach a much bigger audience.
In most cases, these websites contain information such as political background, principles, activities and party contacts and are readily available on each party’s official website.
The Cambodian People’s Party, the current ruling party in the Kingdom, has its own website in both English and Khmer.
Cheam Yeap, spokesperson for the CPP, said having an official website can help people connect with political parties and learn about its background.
The internet has played a crucial role in delivering accurate news to Cambodians, said Yim Sovann, a spokesperson for the opposition Sam Rainsy Party. This was the main reason the SRP launched a website in 2000.
“The internet has helped us get a lot of support, especially from activists and people living abroad,” he said. “It’s a means to deliver truthful information by uploading documents and promoting our activities on our website.”
We are now living in a world of electronic democracy where people can communicate directly with their leaders using the internet. Therefore, a website on its own isn’t enough; some politicians have started to engage in social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter to promote their political parties and expose themselves to a young, interested audiences.
There aren’t any official studies, but any young person can confirm that Facebook is one of the most popular social media outlets in Cambodia and it is used in different ways depending on the person. Everything from normal communications to political discussions to multi-user video games take place on the site. Many of the political parties have pages on Facebook, where they post updated party news and get instant feedback when people click on the “like” icon to show their agreement or post a comment if the like button doesn’t express their feelings.
The Human Rights Party has had a website since they formed in July 2007. The next year they won 6.62 percent of the votes in national elections. The party stepped up their online engagement by creating a Facebook page last year. In Cambodia, HRP leaders said that programmes on radio FM105 were the best way to reach people, but in order to reach supporters abroad, the internet is invaluable.
“The HRP depends completely on the internet in order to communicate with people who live abroad,” said Kem Sokha, the HRP president.
Khieu Kanharith, the government’s Minister of Information, said he had used Facebook for two years and before that he used several other social networks including hi5. His online savvy is obvious since he usually replies to online messages within a few days if not a few hours. Yet he is not a complete convert of online communication.
“I think oral communication works better than comments via social networks,” he said. “On Facebook, we cannot post everything – for example, policies that contain thousands of words cannot be condensed to two or three sentences. That is simply not enough to promote a policy.”
Sites like Facebook also provide a space for people to distribute false or damaging information without censorship or accountability. If someone is offended by something online, they can easily return the insult by posting messages on walls or message boards. Lift asked Khieu Kanharith if such threats have concerned him in more than two years of participating in similar forums. He said he’s not worried since people can differentiate real and fake information.
Nil Vandeth, a 19-year-old student at the Royal University of Law and Economics, has used Facebook to have his ideas heard and comment on other people’s inspirations.
“Politics is part of our general knowledge and people will know more about it when they start sharing their ideas,” he said. Cambodian people, particularly the young, are starting to take an interest in politics, he added, “because of the internet”.By: Dara Saoyuth, Sothea Ines and Ouk Elita This article was published on Lift, Issue 45 published on November 17, 2010 You can also read the article on Phnom Penh Post website by CLICKING HERE
Thailand former prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, quit his job as an advisor to the Cambodian government on Monday, 9 month after he was appointed on 5th November last year.
A royal decree signed by King Norodom Sihanmoni said Thaksin resigned from his positions as personal adviser to Prime Minsiter Hun Sen and economic adviser to the Cambodian governement.
Accoding to a government statement, Thaksin requested for his resignation because of difficulties in fulfilling his duty.by: Dara Saoyuth 24/08/2010
During a graduation ceremony at Koh Pech center Wednesday morning this week, prime minister Hun Sen expressed that the situation at Khmer-Thai border remains stable and that Cambodia keeps working on the plan to protect and conserve the temples.
“Though there was information about the increasing of army from West to East and from East to West, please do not worry about fighting,” he said. “We will use negotiation to solve all the rest of the problem,” he continued.
He also mentioned that Cambodian troops have a duty to defend Cambodian territory, but will not invade any Thai territories. “Generally, Cambodia not the country to cause trouble with others,” he added.
by: Dara Saoyuth
The multi-national military exercise called “The Angkor Sentinel 2010” was officially launched this morning at a military base in Kompong Speu province. 703 militaries from 24 countries and two organizations, Red Cross and the United Nations, are participating in this two weeks field training. 135 Cambodian militaries are also joining this event and there are marching and parachuting for this opening day.
In his speech at the event, Prime Minister Hun Sen confirmed that this military exercise is not made for threatening any countries but just for sharing experience and building military relationship between countries in the region and in the world.
“From a country that used to receive blue hat soldiers (refer to UN troop uniforms) to help keeping peace, Cambodia has become a country that sends blue hat soldiers to help keeping peace in other nations,” Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said.
He said on behalf of government and Cambodian, he warmly welcome for the 60th anniversary of the relationship between Cambodia and United States, and hope this relationship will improve as these two countries want.
By: Dara Saoyuth