Trying to punish, they are creating a hero

  • Cambodian government would not renew visa of environmental activist Alex Gonzalez-Davidson. The visa expired this Friday, February 20.
  • Gonzales vowed to remain in the country, authorities warm to arrest him.
  • Human Rights groups, opposition leaders, students and even monks asked the government to renew his visa.

General Sopheak said to the press this week that Alex Gonzalez could be arrested at anytime if he does not leave the country. He added also that they will not use artillery “because it’s a small issue”, noted The Cambodia Daily. The General, probably unknowing what he is talking about, said that Alex is making himself famous “on the point that he committed an offense against the law of Cambodia. We don’t want Alex to become famous by committing unlawful actions in Cambodia.”

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From the Mother Nature website – mothernature.pm – Gonzalez promotes the defense of the Cambodian Cardamom Mountains, something that faces him against an hydro-power dam in the  Areng Valley that would affect negatively the habitat of endangered species, while creating a new eviction problem with ethnic minorities. Photo Courtesy Mother Nature.

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Land disputes increased 3 times in 2014 reports Licadho

  • 10,625 families were affected by land disputes in 2014 according to Licadho, 3 times more than in 2013.
  • The report states that land disputes must be addressed not denied.
  • Most of the people affected by land disputes are children and women. 

While the enriched high Cambodian class is busy buying American cars, the poor families lost their homes and crush against indifference and violence. According to the recently released report by the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (Licadho), the number of cases  of land dispute increased three times in 2014 in comparison with 2013 with 10,625 families or 49,519 individuals in which children and women represent a big share. Licadho confined the results to 13 provinces where that organization has offices, meaning that the number could be bigger.

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According to Licadho, the number of families involved in land disputes increase 3 times in comparison with 2013. If about 70% of Cambodians are younger than 30, it means that most of the affected people are children. Graphic courtesy Licadho. 

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Cambodians bought more American cars in 2014

  • Cambodian is at the top Asian buyers of American cars in 2014.
  • There are more than 2 million cars in Cambodia, besides 2 million motorcycles.
  • Toyota and Luxus are the most popular cars in a country where children attend very poor schools that could be well set with 50 thousand US dollars, the price of many car models in Phnom Penh.  

Cambodians bought 69% more cars from US in 2014 than in 2013 for a total of 4,978, according to a report by West Coast Shipping, becoming one of the Asian top buyers of American vehicles after China, while overcoming Hong Kong, India, South Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam. It seems that being one of the poorest Asian countries do not stop certain Cambodians to get the best vehicles for their own transport. The report says about Cambodia:

A growing gray market for new and luxury cars has driven up the volume of car imports to Cambodia. They face a similar situation as China, which turned out to be beneficial for the Chinese citizens and car importers. But we are still awaiting a decision by the Cambodian government to tell us if they will continue accepting gray imports or if they will begin to protect automaker authorized dealers and limit the ability for an average dealer and citizen to import new cars (West Coast Shipping, 2015).

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Cambodia among the top Asian buyers of American cars in 2014 just after a biggest market such as China and overcoming more developed nations as Hong Kong, India, South Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam. Graphic by West Coast Shipping.

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What is indecent exposure in Cambodia

  • For Cambodians, nudity in public is indecency and it “damages public order”.
  • Even to be topless is seen as irrespective.
  • Indecent exposure or making naked photos can be criminalized as pornography and public disorder incitement in Cambodia. 

Surely the three Frenchmen arrested for taking pictures of themselves completely naked at Banteay Kdei did not know exactly where they were. Westerns see a natural country like Cambodia and feel a fresh air of freedom, a place where they can do “whatever,” far from their strictly ruled nations. The reality is far from that. We live in a very rural and conservative culture that is actually very much intolerant of many things considered “natural” by others. Lastly we have three national scandals: three Europeans were expelled from Cambodia for ridding their bicycles completely naked at the outskirts of Phnom Penh. Then it came the mysterious publication of a naked woman at the very sacred temples of Angkor – the first to be investigated is Apsara Authority itself, because it creates too many questions: how the model and the photographer could follow their production without any notice in places where thousands of people use to visit? It is also probably a Photoshop creation. Then the arrest of three French young men showing up in front to the camera as they came to the world. This shows something special: Cambodia is meeting Globalization and all what it brings. Continue reading

A Reality Show Created What the Complain Misses

  • A Norwegian Reality did the Parliament to discuss about the conditions of garment factory workers in Cambodia.
  • Two of the protagonists ended to be fashion buyers to become activists in their country after their participation in the show that was about living with Cambodian garment factory workers. The protagonists were shocked of what they experienced. 
  • The topic is not new on discussion, but it shows that our Western societies are too busy watching Reality Shows rather than social reality. 

It is how we are now: A Reality Show has been the most effective way to call on a situation denounced before for a long time by NGOs, human rights observers, unionists and many individuals: the condition of the developing countries’ garment factory workers is a shame for the industrialized world. A Norway Reality Show filmed in a Cambodian garment factory is going around the world showing the real conditions of the workers, especially young women. But the most important point is that the three protagonists, two women and a man, were lovers of expensive fashion getting monthly clothing up to 600 Euros, without aware that many things they used to buy have been made in countries like Cambodia where a worker earns 120 US dollars per month – following the last January 2015 official minimum wage update.

Moda barata de la muerte

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The need to protect the land of the ethnic minorities

The problem of evictions and concessions on ancestral ethnic minorities is the biggest threat to their cultural identity and own sustainability. Buying or removing them from their land means to condemn the people to poverty and to destroy an ancestral culture that must be a part of our proud as a nation. In this case it is also important to protect the language. To my opinion, the language is the most important cultural mark of identity. In many other parts of the world, many ancestral peoples have been declared as extinct only because their language was alienated. In the middle of it, education is a vital to learn the young about their own culture and their role to ensure a better future for their own people inside the Cambodian nation.

Visiting the War Remnants Museum

  • The War Remnants Museum is the most visited in Vietnam.
  • It is considered by some observers as Anti-American propaganda, but it has improved its tone promoting a two-sizes version of history.
  • The Agent Orange room and the homage to reporters of the war from different sizes and ideologies are impressive. 

Surely you have watched all the movies about Vietnamese War by Rambo:

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Rambo has grown of course and all those movies are “history”. Now he is doing better productions with a more humanistic view of two side stories. But his movies represented the last efforts to justify a war that was lost not by the US alone, but to everybody on earth. Continue reading