Human Rights and Peace Campaign Risk Management System Social Politics

The Agony of Cambodian Female Victims of Sex Trafficking and Exploitation

By Sopheap Chak

I first became aware of prostitution in Cambodia when I was 10. On the way home from the Phnom Penh Airport, we drove down Tol Kork Street. I was puzzled to see so many ladies wearing short skirts and heavy make-up. They were standing in front of their small cottages and waving at us. It was explained to me that they were prostitutes. Yet, I became even more puzzled. Why did they choose to become prostitutes? Will I end up like them? Are there other choices?

The word for prostitute in the Cambodian language is, ?Srey Khauch,? or, ?Srey Phaka Meas.? The phrase indicates a bad lady who chooses to earn income by having sex with men. It does not acknowledgement the vulnerability of women to sex trafficking. Yet, the reality is that given a choice, they would not become prostitutes. Events, circumstances, and conditions force women into prostitution, and I prefer to call them victims instead of prostitutes.

The following items will be highlighted in my article:

  • Factors that Make Women Vulnerable to Sex Trafficking and Exploitation
  • The Suffering of Victims of Sex Trafficking
  • Does the Current Economic Crisis make Females More Vulnerable?
  • Hope and Motivation from Anti-sex Trafficking Activists

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Social Politics

Controversy on an AsianWeek?s feature on a Cambodian Hero: Dr. Haing Somnang Ngor

On August 07, 2009, AsianWeek released a feature titled ?Chinese American Hero: Dr. Haing S. Ngor.? It was a surprise feature to most Cambodian readers who have known that Dr. Ngor is a Cambodian whose fame of?winning the 1985 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in the Killing Field movie. As a result, there were some comments posted to this feature in order to express their disappointment, curiosity, and request for correction.

I was among those who feel uneasy and wonder about this feature. After seeing no respond on the earlier commentary, i wrote a letter to editor of AsianWeek in order to seek for their explanation and correction on this feature as the following:

Dear Asianweek editor,

I refer to your current article about Chinese-American Hero. Dr. Ngor.

Would you mind read all comments and also review again if Dr. Ngor is
Chinese or Cambodian?
I would request for your correction or clarification on this matter.

Regards, Sopheap

However, There was no any respond neither. This partly indicates a lack of responsibility of AsianWeek in communicating with its readers.

Fortunately, on August 09, 2009, Roger S. Dong, the Chairman and Founder of Chinese American Heros, post his comment in responding to the above all commentary. It mean somehow our concern got heard and we expect the satisfied explanation on this matter. Though he accepted that Dr. Ngor is Cambodian, his explanation apparently contradict to his feature and attach the neocolonialism sentiment. The following are some excerpt of his respond:

“[…] In this instance where we included Dr. Ngor as a hero in our website, we had to make a judgment call and we are being questioned on that call. A few of you are strongly incensed that Dr. Ngor?s heroic biography is included in a Chinese American heroes website. With the power of the DELete key, I can fix that with a click. But is that what you really want?
After reading all your comments, I can see why many of you are angry, I agree that Dr. Ngor is a Cambodian American, more than he is a Chinese American. (We never said he was a Chinese American, we just included him into our website, but I can fix that really fast.)”

“[…] But before I take any action, for those of you who think that we are trying to change Dr. Ngor?s genetic makeup, which we could never do, please re-read the article. The word ?Chinese? appears two times in this article, once referring to his Chinese father and once in reference to Chinese New Year. The word ?Cambodia? or ?Cambodian? appears 10 times, and the word ?Khmer? appears 5 times. Our story about Dr. Ngor is about his very difficult life in Cambodia, his Cambodian heritage, his Cambodian heroism and Cambodian philanthropy. There is very little spoken about his “Chinese-ness.” […]”

This claim contradicts to the above title he put as ?Chinese American Hero: Dr. Haing S. Ngor.? which was later changed to “Chinese-Cambodian American Hero: Dr. Haing S. Ngor,” on August 10, 2009. The fact of letter counting he mentioned is not equally important to the highlighted title.

He also mentioned:

“If there were a Cambodian Heroes organization and website, no doubt Dr. Ngor would be one of the first Cambodian heroes in that website. But to date, there isn?t, and by inclusion into the CAH website, we tell a great story about a great man.”

From his statement, it implies that Cambodians is very fortunate to have AsianWeek post our hero on its website. Regard the fact that Cambodia is a yet poor infrastructure country where could not afford to have its own Hero website or institution, it does not mean that the Chinese American Hero could manipulate the media or profile of other country or individual while claiming that such act is a good cause. Such explanation somehow appear to misuse the media professionalism.

Instead of giving a justified explanation to his feature, Mr. Roger somehow denied the allegation. Consequently, there are more comments on this matter and he repeatedly maintained his position of doing a good cause for Cambodian Hero.

Nevertheless, I personally thank for his respond to readers and his so-called claim of good cause for Cambodians. Yet, his assertions are not justified his act. However, one thing that we could learn from his advise is that Cambodians should improve our infrastructure and involvement to create our Cambodian Heroes organization or website. This message is influential for the fact that we would not want others to manipulate our profile.

Development & Education Social Politics

Cambodia needs anti-corruption culture

By Chak Sopheap

Published on UPI Asia, May 27th 2009

Niigata, Japan ? Corruption exists in all countries, but has the most destructive effect in developing economies. In a poor country like Cambodia, rated as a highly corrupt state, it threatens democratic institutions and fundamental rights and freedoms. It undermines socioeconomic development and deepens poverty. It also provokes irrational decision making, disrupts the development of the private sector and undermines sustainable development of the environment.

It?is even worse when a vital branch of the government, the judiciary, and its affiliate academic institution, the Royal Academy for Judicial Professions,?is corrupt.

Ongoing corruption allegations against the Khmer Rouge Tribunal are still blurred, yet there?is no adequate mechanism to respond to this situation. Claims that corruption should be a separate?issue if the tribunal?is to proceed make no sense, as one of the core expectations of the tribunal?is to strengthen the rule of law.

Another recent allegation has claimed that corruption affects the securing of admission to the Royal Academy for Judicial Professions. The two cases are crucial and related, because if young professionals in the judiciary resort to bribes, then it?is bound to affect the court system as a whole. The protracted corrupt behavior seen at the very basic judicial level leaves little hope for improvements in the country?s court system.

However, the corruption case involving the academy was resolved in court and a senior student who took the bribe returned the money to the student who was promised a seat in Class Five of the academy. The court case proved that corruption exists in the system. It should be noted that the senior student was not solely responsible in this case, but the student who paid the bribe also abused the law and can be said to be involved in the corruption.

Corruption must be clearly defined and interpreted so that it can encourage people in reporting potential cases. The involvement of the court in settling the case related to the academy?is a good example of a corruption suit being lawfully settled, but impunity still persists within the system. Cambodia does not have adequate anti-corruption laws, which clearly state the terms of punishment.

The concerned institutions and stakeholders should not ignore corruption allegations and must carry out sufficient investigations. It?is not surprising that most of the concerned and responsible stakeholders harshly deny accusations instead of exploring the evidence and cooperating with other agencies, like the media.

The recent denial of corruption by a leading government lawyer to the well-known Voice of America, which was reporting on an alleged corruption case,?is one of the worse scenarios where the press?is silenced and government claims of fighting corruption are undermined.

In Cambodia corruption continues partly because the people see it as something ?normal? that most are unable to change. Besides, there?is a lack of political commitment to encourage people to speak out against it and hold authorities accountable.

Although Prime Minister Hun Sen has declared “war” on corruption and an anti-corruption law has been proposed, with recent promises that it will be adopted soon, questions still linger on how soon and effective it would be.

The government thus needs to show its real commitment to an anti-corruption campaign and encourage a culture of mutual collaboration with the civil society instead of immediate denial and manipulation of charges. Also, people?s attitude toward corruption needs to be changed so that it will no longer be tolerated.