Monday, September 7, 2009

Where Is The Outrage?

Maybe I am mistaken, but I get the impression as though NGOs in the field of protecting and advancing the principles and application of human rights active in Cambodia have singled out this country as an easy target. If you read the Thai press, for instance, there is not nearly as much coverage of human rights abuses as in Cambodia. Why is that, I am wondering? Malaysia? My goodness, Cambodia is heaven compared to Malaysia, at least judging from press reports. According to a Malaysian businessman, whom I had the chance to talk with recently and who knows all the SE Asian countries, as well as India, Cambodia is really not so bad.

When I say NGOs, I am excluding the UN High Commission, the Human Rights Watch, and Licadho, which I am sure all do good work and have the noblest of intentions, and they do their work worldwide. And to preempt any criticism from overseas Khmer supporting the SRP, I am also sure that the SRP and its two prominent leaders, Sam Rainsy and Mu Sochua, have the interest of the Cambodian people at heart and that their criticism and condemnations of the Cambodian government’s disregard of some human rights are heart-felt and genuine, as opposed to believing they do it for political expediency and are self-serving in the pursuit of financial contributions from overseas Khmer and organizations committed to helping further the cause of human rights. But on second thought, perhaps that also plays a role, or does it?

But on the other hand, the upcoming hearing by the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the U. S. Congress on the situation in Cambodia and its political utilization by the SRP lead people to believe that the U. S. is indeed very much interested in Cambodia and attribute, in my view, undue significance to the U. S. as a shining beacon of the practice of human rights. In a recent letter to the editor of the Phnom Penh Post Mu Sochua held out the U. S. as a country to emulate in its policies. She is, after all, a U. S., citizen who in the course of her education both in school and as preparation for obtaining citizenship is indoctrinated in that belief.

If you take a closer look, however, you will find that the U. S. does not fare that well. On a list by the UK’s respected newspaper The Observer/The Guardian, the U. S. is ranked 86th, Cambodia 78th, in other words, the U. S. is only slightly ahead of Cambodia. The paper balanced the score of abuses with the human development index (HDI). Now, that list dates back to 1999, so it’s 10 years old and might be considered outdated. (I couln’t find a more recent ranking.) I agree. But the conclusion would also be that with the intervening Bush years in the U. S. and the undoubtedly improved situation in Cambodia, they would rank about the same, or would they?

We read about violations and abuses in Cambodia on a daily basis. I don’t need to repeat them here. But what about human rights abuses in the U. S. – that land of the free and the brave?

Just to list a few: the death penalty, executions of innocent people, discrimination against minorities, disenfranchisement of minorities - particularly African-Americans, racial profiling, renditions of people without court order or concrete evidence, torture of so-called enemy combatants, employing mercenary armies to carry out assassinations (Blackwater), the routine meddling in other nation’s affairs, helping overthrow inconvenient governments, supporting friendly dictatorships, tolerating human rights abuses in allied countries (Saudi Arabia), looking the other way in the face of genocide (Darfur, Ruanda), and so on, and so on. For a more detailed look got to Amnesty International’s website or the Human Rights Watch’s website. What you can read there will make you shudder.

And much can be said about the U. K., France, and Germany - all countries with a stellar reputation for human rights and the protection of the persecuted. Again, check these countries out on AI and HRW. It is outright disheartening.

Now, I am not excusing abuses elsewhere just because ‘enlightened’ and developed countries don’t have a handle on human rights either. What I am railing against is the hypocrisy with which opposition politicians, and Mu Sochua seems to have of late become their voice, and NGOs active in Cambodia hold out other countries as exemplary in their handling of democracy and human rights. Nothing could be further from the truth. Where is the outrage against the U. S. and others?

This makes a mockery of their fight for justice and human rights. This makes them nothing more than opportunists who ride the wave of sympathy for the poor, the downtrodden, and the persecuted. Ms. Sochua has become a celebrity in those circles for the simple reason that she chose to sue the Prime Minister and lost, which was to be expected from the beginning. She mounted that campaign on a flimsy pretense; for what - to gain freedom fighter status or become a martyr? One would think she could have chosen a more worthy cause. This is not a fight for freedom and human rights. This is a clash of two egos. I said it before, this is probably more than anything else an exercise in showing who is in charge to those returned overseas Khmer politicians, who didn’t go through the hard times in their home country but led a cushy life in safety and prosperity, and who now want to lecture the government on how things are to be run.

Where is the outrage by NGOs against corruption in the U. S., which is widespread? I would like to use a quote on corruption from one Axel Boldt, a math teacher at a college in the U.S.

“……policemen keeping confiscated drugs for themselves or demanding sex from prostitutes, guards smuggling drugs into prisons, a mayor taking kickback money, immigration officers issuing fake green cards and so on. …..

…..Large-scale corruption of the legal kind infects every level of U.S. society. In fact, the USA invented and perfected the system of effective legal corruption. Politicians receive their money from corporations. Government regulators get well-paid positions on corporate boards once they leave the government. Plea bargaining is the rule in criminal court. Drug companies help researchers write medical articles and lather doctors with gifts and trips. Bond rating agencies are paid by the bond issuers. The news media depend on advertising money.”

Give me a break.


Anonymous said...

any more, sir? then you should die in cambodia. why many khmer or if allowed nearly all, would come to live in the west ?

Anonymous said...

May be you and your family should not live in the US especialy your children. They might be indoctrinated.

Rocky said...

Really interesting analysis in denouncing the hypocrisy of certain organizations and individuals. A little of Mathew 7: 1-5. It is true: countries like Cambodia and those of the developing world are always the target of denounces, while industrialized nations are almost excused. However, it should encourage in countries like Cambodia the development not only of its economy, but its society (including human rights, of course). The goal should not be to create of Cambodia a small version of US imitating its politics, policies and vices, but create an original, real and sustainable society able to grow without the need of compare itself with nations like US.

KJE said...

8:10 and 8:31
We are moving there for good as soon as our new house is finished. I don't think I will ever go back to the West to live there.

Only circumstances require me to live here, not the wish or because it is so great. This comes from someone who is materially secure and doesn't have the problems many Americans face. The current debate about the reform of health care is outright sickening.

I really had to counteract the sometimes idiotic teachings in school here. My children have been raised in a liberal fashion of the European kind. This would be called socialist or even communist by those hare-brained American politicians.

Wait for my post on Khmer who want to live in the U. S. By the way, you are mistaken, that all of them want to live in the West. You should go back to Cambodia and ask more people than the urban poor and unemployed.

Anonymous said...

Ironically, when "circomstance" arrives, you run to live in the US.

Anonymous said...

US might not be perfect, but the alternatives ...
Outrage at US human right records is not the prescription of Cambodia social ill. What a foolish thought !!!

The Son of the Khmer Empire said...

I think your analys is unfair regarding to Ms Mu Sochua. She is not fighting for herself but of course for the justice of all. Hun Sen used to threaten all the oppositions and rights activists many times in this way of politics. You know even a kid can judge the dispute between Hun Sen and Ms Mu Sochau, right?

S0, You should have your reasonal judgment and witness the reality coz you have lived in Cambodia for so long.Stop twisting the reality in Cambodia.

KJE said...

Your comment is a little far-fetched. First you don't know enough of me to say this, and second, I certainly wouldn't run to the U. S. as this is not my home country.

You should read the post more thoroughly. Nobody said that outrage at the U. S. is the cure for Cambodia's problems.

@The Son of...
Please you too. Read the post carefully. As for Mu Sochua, if you look at her stature before and after her lawsuit, you can see what I am insinuating. It might be true, it might not. But sometimes neutral observers see things more clearly than partisan people like you - and no offense intended.

Thanks to you all for commenting in a normal and polite fashion.

Anonymous said...

What kind of father sending their children to be indoctrinated by the Yankee !!!

Anonymous said...

If the US does not comply with the liberal fashion of the European kind that you are looking for, why not just pack the bag in leave?

Do you know that you can do that in the US?

KJE said...

Since I am sitting at the computer I can quickly answer that. As a matter of fact I am exactly doing that. I wanted to do that 5 years ago, but since I don't live here full-time with all my traveling, it's not so hard. And quite frankly, I couldn't get what I have here in Europe, not at that price anyway. I live by the ocean, can access the ocean with my boat from the dock behind my house. The problem is the housing market right now. I don't want to sell too low. And it's not all bad, you know. You got to read things more thoroughly, though. This is not about me, this is about people using the U. S. as the shining beacon, which it clearly is not.

Anonymous said...

The reality is that if the human right situation in Cambodia is as "bad" as the record of the US, may be the people who is using the U. S. as the shining beacon is out of business.
In fact, there is nothing, not even madame Mu, prevent Cambodia from being better than US or the European kind.

KJE said...

I don't think you understood my article. Ms. Mu Sochua is a politician. She is an MP. In the U. S. these people are called law-makers, that is their job. So even if and when the situation is Cambodia is different she will still be there as a politician. They just shouldn't use the U. S. as an example. Why don't they use Japan, for instance?

Anonymous said...

May be you are ignorant about Japanese human rght record.
Do you ever heard of "comfort women"?

KJE said...

What a bunch of crock. This is like comparing present-day Germany with Nazi Germany.

Anonymous said...

On March 2, 2007, Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe denied that the Japanese military had forced women into sexual slavery during World War II.

Anonymous said...

According to a report issued yesterday by Amnesty International, Japan executes mentally ill prisoners.

KJE said...

3:01 and 3:03
Your first comment is irrelevant in the context, and your second may prove that not 'all is well in the state of Japan' to paraphrase Shakespeare. But the majority of executions, of innocent people too, still occur in the U. S., and handful of other countries.
Additionally, I used Japan because it came to mind first without really checking. I could have used Denmark, or maybe Finland, without checking into both countries right now either.
And all is beside the point I was making in my article.

Anonymous said...

Might be madame Mu is an american.
Might be because US came to her mind first without really checking.
The point is the critic sees Cammbodia is heaven and madame Mu see room for improvement and do something about it.

KJE said...

I see room for improvement too, but that's not the point of my article.
And nobody says Cambodia is heaven. That's a rather silly remark.

Anonymous said...

It is good that you now agree that Cambodia is not heaven and you see room for improvement.
What are the problems that you see and can share?
What are the problems that you see but cannot share?

KJE said...

I don't think this discussion here will lead anywhere. It would be a subject of a separate post. But here in brief:

We all know that the educational system needs to be restructured, not only in terms of teachers' salaries.

There is no public health care system. This needs to be implemented for the needy and the poor.

There is no care or help for elderly people without family.

Wherever possible adequate public housing is to be provided to slum-dwellers and squatters at the time of their relocation.

An effective tax-collection system must be implemented.

The appearance that the executive branch unduly influences the judicial branch must be adequately addressed.

Even PM Hun Sen acknowledges there is widespread corruption. The anti-corruption law finally needs to be passed.

The government bureaucracy at all levels must be re-organized, streamlined, and pared down to be both cost and service-efficient.

In order to avoid perceived restrictions on freedom of expression the media should pass a code of ethics with which they must strictly comply. At this point, not one Khmer newspaper does. They all - both pro-CPP and pro-SRP - print uncorroborated stories. There would then be no grounds for defamation lawsuits.

There is more, but let this suffice for now.

There are no problems I cannot share. If areas of concern are expressed in appropriate language and with supporting evidence, everything can be publicly shared.