Monthly Archives: October 2014

The Decentralization and Deconcentration Reforms in Cambodia are up-side-down

Unofficial Translation from The Phnom Penh Post’s Khmer edition
TUESDAY, 15 JULY 2014,
TONG SOPRACH

កំណែទម្រង់វិមជ្ឈការ និងវិសហមជ្ឈការមានដំណើរឡើងចុះៗ

Contribution of sub-national budgets list on the road building. Heng Chivoan

Contribution of communal budgets list on the road building in Ratanakiri province. Heng Chivoan

The term “reforms” has become a cult catchphrase within the Cambodian government, mostly used when any of the governmental institutions initiate something new or avant-garde. It has been 10 years since the government introduced the Decentralization and Deconcentration reforms, simply known as the process of redistributing or dispersing functions, powers, resources and budget resources away from a central location or authority to the sub-national to ensure transparency and accountability. These reforms aim to reduce poverty in Cambodia; however, their success has not been proved yet, nor have they produced any noticeable achievements. So, to what extent have the reforms been effective so far?

Because the office of The National Committee for Sub-national Democratic Development (NCDD) is in the area of the Ministry of Interior, it is often misunderstood that this committee is an arm of the Ministry of Interior. In reality, NCDD is a governmental institution, which assists in facilitating the process of D&D reforms. This misunderstanding probably leads to the disruption of the reform process. Of all the six sub-programs of NCDD, only one deals with enhancement of the ministries’ sub-national administration thought capacity development.

Moreover, transferring functions, resources and budgets from the nationa to l sub-national level is under the control of each ministry while the local authorities only play the roles of the administrative facilitator and coordinator so that the democratic process and development of D&D reforms could be guaranteed.

For example, the head of the commune council is also the chair of the Health Center Management Committee within the area under her/his authority. Although she/he will not be responsible for any technical work, she/he has to cooperate with the health center in a wide range of related works to improve social welfare. Those efforts include spreading information about infectious diseases, encouraging the citizens to go to health centers, settling disputes between the health workers and their clients, and so on.

“Nonetheless, this is just the D&D reform. Many institutions have not experienced it yet, as some ministries have not delegated functions and budgeted resources to their sub-national bodies. If we look sub-national administrations at the provincial, district and commune levels, some of their offices are closed, occupied only by spiders and dirt. The powers of decision-making and budgeting are gathered at the national level, the central authority.

For example, the folks from the countryside have to spend at least a few days in Phnom Penh just to have a charging paper done at the Ministry of Justice, or to go to the Appeals or Supreme Court. Similarly, they also have to spend a night in Phnom Penh make a passport. Is this the practice of decentralization and deconcentration?

Meanwhile, the new reform initiated by the Ministry of Education for this year’s Bac.II examination on 4th October called for all the students to sit for their exams in the municipalities of their home province, and not in their school in district anymore. This is the copy of the exam system during Sangkum Reastr Niyum and Lon Nol regime, which contradicts the practice of D&D reforms today but the efforts of the ministry’s officials practice at provincial levels and proposed provincial authorities to make it easier for students to find places near the exam centers to stay. Its goals are the reduction of corruption and easier administration. But students might find it uncomfortable being away from home, causing them to forget some lessons. That is different from the previous practices at district level [D&D] Moreover, they run the risk of getting involved in traffic accidents while traveling home. How is the ministry going to be responsible for that?

Furthermore, the mid-program evaluation of the 2009-2013 national development policy has shown that the D&D reforms had contributed to poverty reduction and improved the welfare of citizens through the construction of country roads using communal budgets (MOP, 2012). That is, the commune councils prioritized the construction of the roads once they receive the budgets, as it is also a political tool to gain more votes. Most of the councils do not consider the citizens’ social welfare although it is listed in the budget plan.
Why do the commune councils not ask their people, who use and live along the street, to contribute to the construction of their streets and use the budget to improve the welfare of women and children? It is so much better not to spend it on one place.

In conclusion, the government should reconsider the practice of D&D reforms, particularly how it contributes to the reduction of poverty, and urge other institutions to learn more about democratic development through decentralization and deconcentration in order for it to be sustainable.

Tong Soprach is a social-affairs columnist for the Post’s Khmer edition.

Comments: soprach.tong@phnompenhpost.com

 

Jealousy and adultery become a horrific murder

TUESDAY, 14 OCTOBER 2014
Unofficial Translation from The Phnom Penh Post’s Khmer edition
TONG SOPRACH

បញ្ហា​ភ្លើង​ប្រចណ្ឌ សហាយ​ស្មន់​ក្លាយ​ជា​ឧក្រិដ្ឋ​កម្ម​គួរ​ឲ្យ​តក់​ស្លុត

Women group campaigned to stop violence against women. Heng Chivoan

Women group campaigned to stop violence against women. Heng Chivoan

As the Kathin Tean season is coming, the Chhaiyam bands are playing their music with their drums, chanting “Naughty old man! Naughty old man! The older they become, the naughtier they get!” This is a very funny Khmer chant, used to mock the married men who have affairs despite their old age.

During and briefly after the war, people prioritized their hunger. All they cared about was food and their survival. Today, on the contrary, many of them have a strong demand to satisfy their sexual desires. Obviously, some men and women, though married, are looking for an affair while some others’ behavior if they love someone and then that person don’t love, he/she do not allow the others to love that person too. Lust and desire are the main factors that cause gender-based violence in Cambodian society.

From the morning news from your radios and TVs or local newspapers, you may notice the cases of gender-based violence alongside those of traffic accidents and murders. The news from such sources is allegedly exaggerated, and thus cannot be trusted.

Although the prevention of domestic violence seems to have improved, as the number of the female victims has fallen from one-fourth to one-fifth (CDHS, 2005 & MOWA, 2009), there have been several incredibly horrible cases recently. For example, a few weeks recently, a major general, two stars, was convicted with murder of his 27-year-old mistress and 6-year-old daughter. The reason, as the murderer stated, because he was jealous with his mistress having an affair with a foreign man, whom she had known via Facebook, and she asked to separate. Similar cases have also occurred all over the country. In Prey Veng, a man stabbed his ex-wife, killing her, as with a pointy knife which was result of jealousy, barely a few months after their divorce and his request to get back together. Jealousy also caused a drunken man in Kampong Chhang to beat his wife with a pestle, almost taking her life. Another young man in Kampong Cham decided to kill his girlfriend before committing suicide after learning that she would marry another man.

“The offenders of these cases are being prosecuted or hunted down. The main reason for such tragedies is, of course, lust or sexual desire. Obviously, it has the power to turn anyone, whether he or she is a scholar or uneducated, a rich or a poor person, a politician or a lawmaker, into cold-blood killer.

In the police’s annual report on nationwide crimes, no single phrase analyses the rate of gender-based violence, nor is there any clue about its trends of occurrences and causes. In terms of law, monogamy is mandated by the constitutional law and two more laws more against domestic violence and and adultery exist. However, these are easily ignored; their effectiveness has not been proven. Surprisingly, the adultery law has only been applied on Prince Norodom Ranariddh and Mr. Khek Ravy, the former Secretary of States of the Ministry of Commerce and the former President of Football Federation of Cambodia.

The depiction of gender-based violence in the news resembles that in the films or karaoke. For instance, the karaoke video of, “Don’t Love Him More than Me” by singer Khem clearly depicts the impact of jealousy and illegal arm use. First, the male protagonist intends to kill a man with a gun, and next, he is killed by the female protagonist’s ex-boyfriend in her wedding, causing chaos and shock to the wedding guests.

In some ways, gender-based violence is caused when a father or stepfather has an affair with or rapes the daughter, arousing his wife’s jealousy and undoubtedly leading to violence. Meanwhile, most cases of violence occur when a married man has an affair, creating feuding and conflict between his wife and the other woman. Sometimes, the wife goes to the affair’s house to settle this issue by violent means, cursing at her or even worse, committing homicide. Alcohol could also be a catalyst of such behavior.

Most people think that gender-based violence only destroys their marriages and reputations, but they may forget that they will eat into the national budget when they go to jail, and that just because of their lust and jealousy, their kids could become dependent on their relatives, or even homeless. Therefore, this is a social problem, which requires participation from everyone. To prevent gender-based violence:

  • The Ministry of Women’s Affairs and their development partners have participated in a wide range of efforts such as the establishment of laws, policies, guidelines and research. Nevertheless, since the related documents are mostly in English, most officials and personnel barely understand them. Accordingly, the documents should be translated into Khmer. Some of budget allotted for creating documents should be diverted to sponsoring gender-based violence prevention through (i) the dissemination of this information by the media; (ii) the education of high-ranking officials about this issue by the gender focal points who work in or directly with public institutions; and (iii) educating communities through national policy on sub-national development (D&D), especially at the district and communal council levels as they work closely with the citizens.
  • Authorities need to stop using negotiations as a recourse, or being ignorant about the severity of gender-based violence. In serious cases where there is no resolution and/or violence is involved, the authorities should file the case to court for prosecution or divorce. The victims, who can no longer bear living in such terrible circumstances and a meaningless life, can often prefer divorce. In the United States, divorce is now an ordinary aspect of married life, as about 50 percent of married couples have divorced or separated.
  • Local TV stations have contributed very little to ameliorating this social issue, as they prioritize entertainment. Directors of the TV stations should broadcast messages and media content that teach about real love to help reduce gender-based violation. Films and music videos which show serious violations should be banned
  • With respect to peer relations, young people should help their friends with their relationship problems in order to prevent them from committing suicide or becoming murderous.
  • And finally, when will an alcohol-control law be adopted?

Tong Soprach is a social-affairs columnist for the Post’s Khmer edition.

Comments: soprach.tong@phnompenhpost.com