Tuesday, December 31, 2013
We Khmer People, We have to banish Dictatorship, Hun Sen and his family, CPP regim, all Oknha and Vietnamese from Cambodia.
PM news articles surprise, vanish
Tue, 31 December 2013
In an apparent departure from the usual diet of colourless press releases and updates on the travel plans of officials, the Council of Ministers’ Press and Quick Reaction Unit website yesterday posted two articles critical of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government.
The articles – Reuters’ coverage of Sunday’s mass opposition rally and a news analysis piece from the Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua – were both removed from the website by early evening.
“In a democratic society, people are the owners of the power, so the two leaders should ask the people through a referendum whether they want a re-election or not,” president of Licadho Kek Galabru told Xinhua in the article posted online.
The comments were not out of the ordinary, but their appearance on a government website, long the sole domain of pro-government information, surprised media experts, who said yesterday that the government may be experimenting with offering more diverse views in its official news outlets after orders from Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith to state media.
“It’s a surprise because for so many years, the government has maintained an entrenched policy of [not publishing] any negative reports about the government,” said Moeun Chhean Nariddh, director of the Cambodia Institute for Media Studies.
“But actually, it is not a coincidence, because recently the Minister of Information Mr Khieu Kanharith has instructed all government TV stations not to follow their old policy of media coverage,” he added. “So I think they may have followed the same instructions not to just report on the positive.”
Press and Quick Reaction Unit spokesman Ek Tha did not respond to requests for comment yesterday.
Nariddh said that the reluctance to comment on the issue and the subsequent removal of the articles from the website could indicate that the media unit was still coming to grips with the new instructions.
“Following the national elections, I think at the moment they are still testing the water,” Nariddh said. “So even with the instructions from the Ministry of Information, they are not sure whether it is okay to do this.”
Pa Nguon Tieng, president of the Cambodian Center for Independent Media, said that opening state media to alternative information was most likely a show for the international community.
“The government is under a lot of pressure from the public, and they also want to show an image to the international community. Maybe they want to show the international community that they are doing reform, starting with diversifying their media,” he said.
Oldest known map of nation
handed over to the archives
Tue, 31 December 2013
The earliest known map of the country, a chart of the Cambodian coast produced by sailors in 1860, has been donated to the National Archives.
The drawing of Kampot Bay was intended to map a safe route for ships to transport goods to coastal ports. It was given to the Phnom Penh archives by the Cambodian Cyclo and Careers Association (CCCA) last week.
The officers and crew of the HMS Saracen, captained by one John Richards, master of the British Royal Navy, drew up the map based on a survey made in 1857.
Nearly a century and a half later, in the 1990s, historian and author Robert Philpotts discovered the chart while researching his book The Coast of Cambodia at the British Library in London.
Philpotts, who once volunteered as an English teacher at the old Phnom Penh Cyclo Centre, made a copy at the UK’s Hydrographic Office before bringing it earlier this month to what is now the CCCA in Cambodia.
The handover coincided with a rally held by the association at the Blue Sea, Green City festival in Kep earlier this month.
Historian David Chandler said he was “sure” it was the earliest known map of the country.
“There were certainly no maps drawn by Khmer before the French arrived,” he wrote in an email.
The chart outlines the “channels leading to Kamput” and was designed to improve safety for sailors by reducing the chance of shipwrecks.
Richards identifies one dangerous rock in particular, which he refers to as “Rosita Rock” after an English sailing vessel that had the misfortune to crash into it. The chart gives clear directions to sailors on how to avoid the barely visible rock.
According to Philpotts, before the chart was published there was nothing of scientific value for merchant ship captains on their way to Kampot.
“I don’t think there’s an earlier one than that – I mean, I don’t see anybody who would be interested to do one, because the French exploration started in the 1860s, but theSaracen chart pre-dates that.”
At the time, trade was increasing between Singapore and Cambodia. “Entry to the port was tricky, so a map that showed accurate soundings was invaluable,” Philpotts said.
Im Sambath, executive director at the CCCA, said the map would help teach increasing numbers of young Cambodians interested in learning about their country’s history.
“In the National Archives, it’s useful for university students who want to do historical research, because there are more and more students researching about Cambodian history now,” Sambath said.
Y Dari, deputy director at the National Archives, said the map would be displayed in the reading room for foreign and local researchers.
She added: “This document is very historically important for the National Archives, for keeping, preserving and conserving history.”
Monday, December 30, 2013
បរាជ័យ សហជីពធំៗ ប្រកាស
Posted by New Youth on 12/30/13
ភ្នំពេញ៖ បន្ទាប់ពីក្រសួងការងារ និងសហជីព បរាជ័យក្នុងការចរចាដំឡើងប្រាក់ឈ្នួលបន្ថែមដល់កម្មករ នៅថ្ងៃទី៣០ ខែធ្នូរ នេះ សហជីពធំៗចំនួនពីរ ប្រកាសជំហរថា ខ្លួននៅតែបន្តធ្វើបាតុកម្មទ្រង់ទ្រាយធំ ដើម្បីតវ៉ាទាមទារប្រាក់ខែគោលកម្មករ១៦០ដុល្លារ បន្ទាប់ពីក្រសួងការងារ ប្រកាសឲ្យកម្មករ និងសហជីពទទួលយកប្រាក់ឈ្នួល៩៥ដុល្លារ។
ប្រធានសហជីពសេរីកម្មករនៃ ព្រះរាជាណាចក្រកម្ពុជាលោក ជា មុន្នី មានប្រសាសន៍ថា លោកនៅតែបន្តដឹកនាំកម្មករធ្វើបាតុកម្មទ្រង់ទ្រាយ ដើម្បីទាមទារប្រាក់ឈ្នួលកម្មករ១៦០ដុល្លារឲ្យបាន។
លោក បន្តថា កម្មករនឹងទទួលបានប្រាក់ឈ្នួល ដែលពួកគេកំពុងទាមទាររាល់ថ្ងៃនេះ ព្រោះការដែលសមាគមរោងចក្រកាត់ដេរ ប្រកាសនៅថ្ងៃនេះ គ្រាន់តែចង់បង្ហាញប្រាប់ក្រសួងការងារ ក៏ដូចជារដ្ឋាភិបាល ត្រូវតែកាត់បន្ថយនូវអំពើពុករលួយដែលខ្លួនបានប្រព្រឹត្តកន្លងមក ។
កម្មកររាប់ពាន់នាក់ មានលើកបដាសរសេរថា ១៦០ដុល្លារ ហើយស្រែកទាមទារដំឡើងប្រាក់ឈ្នួលនោះ បានចាប់ផ្តើមបិទផ្លូវនៅមុខក្រសួងការងារ នៅព្រឹកថ្ងៃចន្ទនេះ ដើម្បីជំរុញឲ្យភាគីពាក់ព័ន្ធរួមមានតំណាងក្រុមហ៊ុន និងរដ្ឋាភិបាល សម្រេចដំឡើងប្រាក់ខែ ដើម្បីឲ្យពួកគាត់អាចរស់នៅបានក្នុងជីវភាពសមរម្យ៕ យុវវ័យថ្មី
ក្នុងពេលកំពុងធ្វើបាតុកម្មបិទផ្លូវនៅមុខទីស្តីការគណៈរដ្ឋមន្រ្តី តាមបណ្តោយមហាវិថីសហព័ន្ឋរុស្សី លោក រ៉ុង ឈុន ប្រធានសមាគមគ្រូបង្រៀនកម្ពុ
ជាឯករាជ្យ និងជាប្រធានសហភាពសហជីព អំពាវនាវដល់មន្រ្តីរាជការ ជាពិសេសកងកម្លាំងប្រដាប់អាវុធ ចូលរួមធ្វើបាតុកម្មជាមួយកម្ មករដើម្បីទាមទារប្រាក់ខែសមរ ម្យ។
ដោយ៖ ញឹម សុខន | ថ្ងៃចន្ទ ទី30 ខែធ្នូ ឆ្នាំ2013 | 2 ម៉ោង មុន
បាតុកម្មរបស់កម្មករ កាន់តែតានតឹង នៅរសៀលម៉ោងជិត១នេះ បន្ទាប់ពីក្រសួងការងារ និងសហជីព បរាជ័យក្នុងការចរចាដំឡើងប្រាក់ឈ្នួលបន្ថែមដល់កម្មករ។
នៅព្រឹកថ្ងៃចន្ទនេះ កម្មករ បានប្រមូលផ្តុំខាងមុខក្រសួងការងារ រង់ចាំលទ្ធផលនៃការចរចារបស់ភាគីពាក់ព័ន្ធ ដោយបានបិទផ្លូវសហព័ន្ធរុស្ស៊ីផងដែរ។ បន្ទាប់ពីការចរចានៅម៉ោងជាង១២ថ្ងៃត្រង់ មិនទទួលបានជោគជ័យ កម្មកររាប់ម៉ឺននាក់ បានដង្ហែមកខាងមុខទីស្តីការគណៈរដ្ឋមន្ត្រី។ កម្លាំងសមត្ថកិច្ចរាប់រយនាក់ កំពុងតែយាមកាមខាងមុខទីស្តីការ និងការពារការតវ៉ារបស់កម្មករ។ បន្លាលួស ត្រូវបានដាក់ពង្រាយបិទផ្លូវសហព័ន្ធរុស្ស៊ី មិនឲ្យធ្វើចរាចរណ៍។
Lagarde taken to task by HRW over silence
Mon, 30 December 2013
International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde should have taken a stance against the endemic corruption plaguing the Kingdom during her visit this month if “the IMF’s message on corruption is to be more than rhetoric”, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Friday.
In an opinion posted on the New York-based rights watchdog’s website, senior researcher on international financial institutions Jessica Evans said Lagarde failed to “even obliquely” address the Kingdom’s issues with corruption during her first visit heading the IMF, a visit that came during an ongoing political crisis.
“Lagarde missed a major opportunity in Cambodia to highlight governance problems, but she can right this by speaking out when she returns to headquarters,” Evans said.
The opinion points out that the IMF’s silence is particularly noticeable considering the country’s ranking in the annual global index released by Transparency International, which pegged Cambodia’s public sector as the most corrupt in ASEAN.
Indeed, in a blog post published on the IMF’s global economy forum just a day after her departure, Lagarde applauds authorities’ efforts.
“I believe they are resolved to stay on the road of macroeconomic stability and economic growth, to invest in skills and education, and to lay down a firm foundation of good governance,” she wrote at the time.
That sort of muted response to the Kingdom’s endemic corruption, affecting nearly every strata of society, does more harm than good, independent analyst Kem Ley said yesterday.
“This culture of silence so often demonstrated by the international community or United Nations bodies often ignores corruption for the sake of diplomacy instead of [taking a public stance] advocating for stronger government transparency and accountability.”
Le FMI maintient la corruption
au Cambodge dans l’ombre
Publié le 26/12/2013
Mis à jour le 26/12/2013 à 14h05
Si le message du FMI sur la corruption doit aller au-delà de simples discours, Christine Lagarde doit le transmettre à la fois publiquement et en privé chaque fois qu'elle rencontre les dirigeants des pays les plus corrompus du monde.
- Hun Sen, le Premier ministre cambodgien montre son bulletin
de vote aux dernières élections générales, en juillet 2013.
REUTERS/Damir Sagolj -
«La tolérance zéro pour la corruption est primordiale. L'État doit être le serviteur et non le maître du peuple», a déclaré Christine Lagarde, directrice générale du Fonds monétaire international, plus tôt cette année. Mais lors de sa visite au Cambodge début décembre, identifié comme le deuxième pays le plus corrompu en Asie de l'Est et le plus corrompu de la région ayant des relations officielles avec le FMI, elle n’a rien dit de la sorte.
Le dernier indice de perceptions de la corruption de Transparency International, publié lors de la visite de Mme Lagarde, a classé le Cambodge juste derrière la Corée du Nord en Asie de l’Est, 160e sur les 177 pays étudiés. La Banque asiatique de développement a de même constaté que la corruption continue d'être le «sujet principal de préoccupation pour l'amélioration de l'environnement des affaires et de la gouvernance au Cambodge». Cela n'est pas nouveau. En 2005, James Wolfensohn, alors président de la Banque mondiale, avait déclaré que le Cambodge était confronté à trois défis majeurs: «la corruption, la corruption, la corruption.»
Le FMI reconnaît que la corruption menace l'intégrité du marché, fausse la concurrence et met en danger le développement économique, tout en sapant la confiance du public en son gouvernement. Pourtant, la directrice générale du FMI a omis de mentionner ce fléau, même indirectement, lors de sa première visite au Cambodge en tant que directrice du FMI. Mme Lagarde a souligné la croissance inclusive, en reconnaissant les inégalités flagrantes dans le pays, et a encouragé un plus grand investissement dans l'éducation et l'emploi. Mais elle a ignoré le détournement des ressources de l'État qui siphonne les fonds désespérément nécessaires pour l'éducation et d'autres services publics essentiels.
Mme Lagarde n'a pas non plus reconnu publiquement d'autres problèmes de gouvernance cruciaux qui nuisent à l’économie, aggravent la corruption et approfondissent les problèmes sociaux et politiques. Les tribunaux du Cambodge restent contrôlés par le Parti du peuple cambodgien (PPC) au pouvoir, faisant de l’État de droit, un rêve encore lointain autant pour les Cambodgiens que pour les investisseurs.
Elle n'a pas mentionné ce que même les diplomates habituellement prudents soulignent régulièrement : la crise de l'accaparement des terres qui profite au Premier ministre Hun Sen, à d'autres responsables gouvernementaux et à leurs acolytes. Il ne s’agit pas d’un petit problème dans un pays qui demeure essentiellement agraire.
Le silence de Mme Lagarde sur ces questions est encore plus évident du fait que son voyage a coïncidé avec une crise politique après une élection profondément viciée et manipulée par le parti au pouvoir. Juste avant son arrivée, une coalition de groupes nationaux et internationaux indépendants d’observation des élections a décrit des irrégularités électorales graves qui auraient pu changer l'issue d'une élection serrée et auraient provoqué un nouveau vote dans de nombreux pays.
Elle aurait pu rencontrer les dirigeants de l'opposition politique pour discuter de leurs propositions économiques. Au lieu de cela, le FMI a agi comme si tout cela n'existait pas lorsque Mme Lagarde a rencontré Hun Sen lors de son 10.550e jour (plus de 28 ans) au pouvoir et a partagé publiquement sa conviction que le gouvernement de Hun Sen est résolu « à établir une base solide de bonne gouvernance.»
Si le FMI pourrait soutenir que les élections sont au-delà de son mandat, il peut difficilement rejeter la corruption. La corruption ronge tous les secteurs du pays. Lorsque j'ai visité le Cambodge cette année, des parents m'ont expliqué que leurs enfants ne pouvaient passer leurs examens que s'ils payaient des frais supplémentaires «sous la table» à leurs enseignants très mal payés. Un employé du gouvernement dont le salaire était payé par le secteur privé, ce qui est problématique en soi, a décrit l’expression horrifiée sur le visage de son supérieur quand il a demandé un relevé des taxes payées. Il ne pouvait que supposer qu'elles étaient allées dans la poche de son patron.
Le rapporteur spécial de l'ONU sur les droits de l'homme au Cambodge, Surya Subedi, a constaté que la corruption est généralisée à tous les niveaux du système judiciaire. Les juges s'appuient sur le clientélisme et la protection politique pour la sécurité de leur emploi, ce qui compromet leur indépendance.
Une étude récente du gouvernement des États -Unis sur le climat d'investissement au Cambodge a fait écho aux préoccupations au sujet de la corruption au sein du système judiciaire, en affirmant: «Les entrepreneurs, à la fois locaux et étrangers, ont identifié la corruption, notamment au sein du système judiciaire, comme le plus grand effet dissuasif pour l'investissement au Cambodge.»
Le Cambodge a connu l'un des taux nationaux les plus élevés de déforestation de 2000 à 2012, selon une étude récente. Et alors que la loi forestière du Cambodge interdit l'exploitation forestière du bois de rose, des documents d'importation chinois fournis au journal The Cambodia Daily auraient révélé que 36.000 mètres cubes de bois de rose ont été transportés en provenance du Cambodge entre 2007 et 2012.
La Banque asiatique de développement a également souligné les liens informels persistants entre le parti au pouvoir, les moyennes et grandes entreprises, et les niveaux supérieurs de gouvernement. Elle a reconnu les risques élevés de problèmes en matière de politique d’achats, citant des spécialistes de la passation des marchés qui soupçonnent que les organismes d'appel d'offres se livrent à un large éventail de pratiques douteuses, notamment une attente de pots de vin de la part des entreprises qui remportent des marchés publics.
Au cours des dernières années, le gouvernement a mis en œuvre des réformes superficielles et inefficaces pour lutter contre la corruption. Mais ces réformes parcellaires ont également comporté une loi sur la divulgation des actifs qui criminalise paradoxalement la divulgation publique des biens des fonctionnaires du gouvernement, tandis que la nouvelle Unité anti-corruption est essentiellement une unité de relations publiques pour le gouvernement, qui n'a ni le pouvoir ni l'indépendance de s'attaquer à la corruption à haut niveau.
Mme Lagarde a raté une occasion importante au Cambodge de mettre en évidence les problèmes de gouvernance, mais elle peut corriger cela en s’exprimant à son retour au siège du FMI. Si le message du FMI sur la corruption doit aller au-delà de simples discours, Mme Lagarde doit le transmettre à la fois publiquement et en privé chaque fois qu'elle rencontre les dirigeants des pays les plus corrompus du monde.
បទអត្ថាធិប្បាយរបស់ ប៊ុន នុច
គណបក្សសង្គ្រោះជាតិ សហជីពកម្មករកាត់ដេរ សមាគមគ្រូបង្រៀន សមាគមមន្ត្រី រាជការ និងអង្គការក្រៅរដ្ឋាភិបាលមួយចំនួនទៀត កំពុងតែផ្តុំគ្នាធ្វើបាតុកម្មទាមទារពីរដ្ឋាភិបាលតាមតម្រូវការរៀងៗខ្លួន។ តើហេតុអ្វីបានជា ពួកគេអាចប្រមូលផ្តុំគ្នាបានយ៉ាងច្រើនផុសផុលនៅពេលនេះ? តាមពិតអ្នកតវ៉ាមួយចំនួន មកពីផ្នែកផ្សេងៗមិនបានលាក់លៀមថាខ្លួនគឺជាអ្នកគាំទ្រគណបក្សប្រឆាំងនោះទេ ខណៈអ្នកវិភាគនិយាយថា សមាគម អង្គការវិជ្ជាជីវៈខ្លះបានឆ្លៀតយកបាតុកម្មគណបក្សសង្គ្រោះជាតិ ដើម្បីបង្កើនកម្លាំងដាក់សម្ពាធទៅលើរដ្ឋាភិបាល ដើម្បីការទាមទាររបស់ខ្លួនដែរ។
CNRP calls a timeout
After garment workers swelled turnout at the opposition’s ongoing demonstrations yesterday to what some estimated to be double the number seen at any previous rally, party leadership announced a weeklong moratorium on the marches.
Demonstrators will continue to assemble at Freedom Park each day, said Cambodia National Rescue Party MP-elect Mu Sochua, hours after protesters took to the streets yesterday. But instead of marching, protesters will hold “peoples’ conferences” – during which they will be allowed to speak freely onstage – each day from 4:30pm to 6:30pm.
“We can block a road whenever we want,” said Sochua, who added that the weeklong respite in marching will give the ruling Cambodian Peoples’ Party until January 5 to mull over a proposal CNRP members sent them on Saturday for the two parties to begin negotiations. “It has to come to the negotiation table; I don’t think we can avoid each other.”
The number of protesters marching yesterday appeared to exceed last Sunday’s estimated 100,000 people, with demonstrators continuing to demand the government increase the minimum monthly garment wage to $160 next year, rather than $95, which the Labour Ministry set last week.
In response to the growing strike, the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) yesterday said that it had no choice but to close factories until the issue was resolved.
In an open letter from GMAC, the factory association warns its 473 members that protesters could pose a danger to workers and factory property.
“[GMAC] would like to inform all stakeholders that our industry is unable to continue operations given the current situation,” the letter reads. “The illegal and violent actions of … six trade unions … as well as their apparent impunity by the Ministry of Labour have left us with no other option but to close.”
The letter levies allegations that striking union members destroy factory property and force employees who do not want to walk off the job to join. Unions the letter says are guilty of these transgressions include the Coalition of Cambodia Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union (C.CAWDU), the National Independent Federation Textile Union of Cambodia (NIFTUC), the Collective Union of Movement of Workers (CUMW), the Free Trade Union, the Cambodian Confederation of Unions (CCU) and the Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions (CATU).
GMAC also yesterday declined an invitation to meet with the Ministry of Labour and heads of six unions, including some mentioned in the letter, for negotiations this morning.
Members of GMAC will only sit back down at the negotiating table when the safety of employees who want to attend work can be guaranteed, the letter says.
“When these conditions are met, we would be happy to receive the invitation for GMAC members to resume operations,” the letter says. “Only then will we be able to participate.”
C.CAWDU president Ath Thorn yesterday said GMAC’s refusal could facilitate a greater rift between them and workers, and that negotiating with the unions could help GMAC members better understand the demonstrators’ side of the situation. However, he added, it us up to the ministry, not GMAC, to set the industry’s minimum wage.
“Whether GMAC comes or not, the government has the right [to set the] minimum wage,” Thorn said.
Responding to the letter, the Labour Ministry released a statement last night, sympathising with factory owners and pledging to work with authorities on all levels to curtail further alleged violence and property damage.
But the ministry will go forward with negotiations with union officials, despite GMAC’s snub.
“The Labour Ministry regrets that GMAC cannot join the meeting and also regrets property damage and other impacts caused by the strike,” the statement says. “The ministry hopes that GMAC will consider joining in strike resolution talks again.”
With all GMAC factories advised to close, garment workers in pro-Cambodian People’s Party unions are considering a counter-demonstration against the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party tomorrow, said Chuon Momthol, president of the Cambodian Union Federation.
If negotiations today lead nowhere, Momthol will tomorrow lead pro-CPP garment workers on a march to the CNRP headquarters, where they will rally against the strike, which CNRP president Sam Rainsy has publicly backed.
“The workers who did not join in the protest are angry because they are not earning a salary, so they will protest against the CNRP and unions,” Momthol said yesterday. “When the investors or factory owners walk away, the opposition party officials won’t starve, but the workers will.”
In a speech to the hordes of protesters yesterday, the opposition vice-president called for Prime Minister Hun Sen to fulfil the demonstrators’ demands, one of which is for the premier to step down.
“Why can’t Hun Sen do what the people want?” asked Sokha. If [Hun Sen] cannot do it, he is a coward.”
Rainsy calls for new sit-down
Mon, 30 December 2013
Opposition leader Sam Rainsy called for renewed talks between the opposition and the ruling party on Saturday, going on to say that the discussions should include not only the two parties but civil society representatives as well.
Speaking to reporters at Cambodia National Rescue Party headquarters, Rainsy suggested negotiations be set for the first three days of January, and said a wide range of issues would be up for discussion – not just the current political stalemate.
“We want to have a big meeting to talk, to solve the nation’s problems. Now we have seen that at the end of this year, the nation’s problems are increasingly serious. It is not only political deadlock, but it is also about the problem of salary demands by workers.
“We should meet and talk about the problems that the country is facing.
“We should bring some new ideas; if we still have old ideas, it is maybe not progressive,” he added.
When reached yesterday, Rainsy declined to outline his party’s demands going into the negotiations, but said that the talks should take the form of “a kind of congress, a people’s congress”.
“They should include any topics of public concern. Cambodia is in turmoil now, so we should discuss the workers’ demands for a wage increase. We should discuss land-grabbing, the issue of deforestation,” he said. “All the people who have been voiceless should be given a voice.”
Focusing solely on joining the National Assembly, he said, “would be premature, putting the cart before the ox”.
CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann, however, said the party would likely be hewing closely to its current calls for electoral reform and a new election.
Prum Sokha, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Interior who has represented the ruling Cambodian People’s Party in past negotiations, said the CPP welcomed talks and blamed the stalling of previous rounds on a lack of will on the opposition’s part.
“Since last time, the [CPP] has always wanted to have negotiations – anywhere, anytime, at any level,” Sokha said, while declining to comment on the possible participation of civil society.
Political analyst Chea Vannath said yesterday that the CPP agreeing to negotiations was a promising sign, even if it didn’t ultimately agree to call a new election, and that the opposition may find itself in a more advantageous position this time around.
“I think [they] might not have any difficulty to find common ground because of the reform policy of the government,” Vannath said. “[The parties] are going the same direction, so it can be negotiated.”
What’s more, she said, the ongoing demonstrations that have taken root in Freedom Park may pay off. “I think the CPP is under great pressure to solve the problem, especially because this affects foreign investment. This is a political problem, so I think the CNRP is in a better position for negotiations.”
a Diverse Group of Protesters
Published: December 29, 2013
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Tens of thousands of antigovernment demonstrators marched through Phnom Penh on Sunday in one of the biggest acts of defiance against the nearly three decades of rule by Cambodia’s authoritarian prime minister, Hun Sen.
The procession, which was peaceful and stretched for several miles through a commercial district of Phnom Penh, the capital, brought together protesters with a diverse list of grievances: Buddhist monks, garment workers, farmers and supporters of the main opposition party.
They were united in their calls for Mr. Hun Sen to step down, their chants — “Hun Sen! Get out!” — echoing down the broad avenue where they marched.
In July, Mr. Hun Sen’s party claimed victory in disputed elections that the opposition and many independent monitoring organizations said were deeply flawed. Mr. Hun Sen formed a government despite the growing protests by the opposition, which has boycotted Parliament and is calling for new elections.
Cambodia’s political stalemate and protest movement have been somewhat overshadowed by the turmoil in nearby Thailand, where antigovernment demonstrators are rallying to block elections and install a “people’s council” to govern the country during what they describe as a hiatus from democracy.
But some analysts in Cambodia describe the past few months here as a watershed for Cambodian society, which for years has been dominated by the highly personalized rule of Mr. Hun Sen, whose party has tight control over major institutions in the country, including the army, the police, the judiciary and much of the news media.
Protesters blocking traffic and marching through downtown Phnom Penh remain a jarring sight after years during which the main message from the government has been that people should be grateful for the unity and development that Mr. Hun Sen brought to Cambodia after many years of war.
“It seems like a turning point in the history of civil society,” said Yeng Virak, the executive director of the Community Legal Education Center, a Cambodian human rights organization. “People feel more free to join protests and to identify themselves as part of the opposition.”
The continued vigor of the protest movement five months after the elections appears to be a reflection of the deep pool of resentment in the country toward Mr. Hun Sen.
One woman who took part in the march on Sunday, Meng Phang, 59, shouted to onlookers, including stone-faced police officers, that “Hun Sen and his family are getting richer, but everyone else is getting poorer.”
Ms. Meng Phang’s participation also represented another crucial factor of the protests: the sustained financing of the movement. Ms. Meng Phang said she had donated about $1,000 to the protest movement from money she had saved while working in a factory in Japan.
Kem Sokha, one of the protest leaders, singled out contributions “from our people abroad” in a speech to protesters on Sunday evening. There are large Cambodian populations in Australia, France and the United States, among other countries.
The grievances among protesters on Sunday were varied. Sok Heng, a middle-aged carpenter, lamented the lack of justice in the country and mentioned the case of his brother-in-law, who he said was killed by a thief. The police asked for a bribe before agreeing to arrest the suspect, he said.
Touch Vandeth, 24, was one of thousands of garment workers on strike who demanded a doubling of the minimum wage to $160 a month, a sharp increase that would put wages well above those of Cambodia’s regional economic competitors, including Bangladesh, Myanmar and Vietnam. Ms. Touch Vandeth, who assembles Adidas footwear at a factory on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, said she had been unable to save much money on her current salary, $80 plus overtime.
Chay Soheaktra, one of the many Buddhist monks taking part in the demonstration, said he was angry that Mr. Hun Sen’s government had given a forestry concession to a Vietnamese company. Anti-Vietnamese talk has been a mainstay of the protest leaders, who portray Mr. Hun Sen as a puppet of Vietnam. (Mr. Hun Sen is Cambodian but came to power with the aid of an invading Vietnamese Army that pushed the Khmer Rouge from power in 1979.)
The Buddhist hierarchy is closely aligned with Mr. Hun Sen, but younger monks have joined the protests — sometimes in defiance of their elders — and are particularly angry at the theft this month of precious Buddhist relics from a Buddhist shrine. Monks question how a national treasure was so poorly guarded, especially when hundreds of security officers guard the residences of Mr. Hun Sen and other top officials.
Ou Virak, the president of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, an independent advocacy organization in Phnom Penh, said the theft of the relics might be among the biggest problems for Mr. Hun Sen. In a country where superstition plays an important role, the theft could be taken as a supernatural sign.
Mr. Hun Sen is unpopular with a broad portion of the Cambodian electorate, Mr. Ou Virak said. But many people, especially business leaders, are not convinced that the opposition is ready to govern the country. He cited the opposition’s embrace of the doubling of the minimum wage, claiming that the country could lose tens of thousands of jobs to neighboring countries.
“The majority of the people want change,” Mr. Ou Virak said. “But they don’t know what that change would look like.”