Monthly Archives: July 2017

Any corruption activity must be charged equally: if not, release the 5 human rights activists

Unofficial Translation from The Phnom Penh Post’s Khmer edition
TUESDAY, 27 JUNE 2017,
TONG SOPRACH

NOTE: This column contributed to the royal government’s decision releasing the four ADHOC Officers and a NEC Deputy-Secretary General for two days after publication: Groups welcome court’s release of the ‘Adhoc 5’

បើ​អ្នក​ស៊ី​ និង​អ្នក​សូក​មាន​ទោស​ដូចគ្នា អ៊ីចឹង​មាន​​តែ​នាង​​ខុម​ ចាន់តារាទី ​ហៅ​​ស្រីមុំ ​ត្រូវ​ជាប់​ឃុំ​ដែរ

Lim Mony, ADHOC Officer and Khom Chandaraty (called Sreymom) during her complaint. Photo: Pha Lina

Any accusation against any law on an article or based on this or that case in Cambodia that the court officers in Cambodia almost no need to go to the law school, judge and prosecutor school, lawyer school and the training of justice police officer, it still can do these jobs.

It is typical that their discretion seems to suffer from many pressures — politics, powerful people, affiliates and bribery.

The case of Ang Maltey, former Phnom Penh Municipal Court Chief, demonstrated to the public that the Court is corrupted.

Some cases related to the criminal act do not necessarily need to be addressed by the Court, and can instead be solved by the justice police or senior government official’s intervention.  For instance, the recent case in which a police officer, the son of the secretary of state of the Interior Ministry, fired a few rounds to threaten another person due to minor traffic accident. Finally, the case was solved by implementing the administrative punishment to the shooter.

In contrast, the monk who played a toy gun in Battambang province last week was arrested and prosecuted by hiding and using illegally.

A similar case which demonstrates corruption involved is the detention of four ADHOC officers and one NEC deputy-general secretary for 14 months. They were accused of bribing the witness Khom Chandaraty (called Sreymom), who was involved in a love affair with Kem Sokha, CNRP’s President. Last week’s investigation result shows the public perception viewed the delay or the attempt to prolong the case as long as possible. However, both sides [Kem Sokha and Sreymom] of this case were free and now walk freely and continue to do politics.

For the detainees of this case, they were being imprisoned because they just gave $204 to Sreymom as stated in the ADHOC general policy to support the victim who requested for help in the Sreymom case.

In this case, if the Anti-Corruption Unit and the court accused and detained only the five officials as involving corruption activity; so, why Sreymom despite receiving a ‘bribe’ of $204 has not been detained?

The person who receives bride is also included in the law of anti-corruption in Article 4, relating to the corruption is “Point 15: benefit of corruption: it means that any property obtained directly or indirectly via the corruption.”

Why the law is enforced only on one side to the five human rights officials, closed to18 months of detention statute. There is no equality before the law between the giver and receiver of the bribe. For this case, it is obvious that there is so much injustice.

If Sreymom, the bribe receiver, has been freed of charges, then the five officers who bribed her should have been freed on bail as well. Long detention for the victims and the court’s inability offer the justice contrast to the Charter of the United Nations which Cambodia has endorsed with by the international law standard. It requires the court have to release the detainees immediately.

Moreover, the ruling party has not gained the popularity in the election from detaining those officials instead it lost the voting count from the detention. In fact, this commune election, the ruling party experienced 1/3 decline of its seats for the commune council chiefs compared to the 2012 commune election. On the other hand, some activists of CPP criticized their own government for the declining vote caused by the detention of those five officials.

In fact, the important purpose of the detention of the five officials, the government likely used the method—killing one chicken to intimidate 100 monkeys to silence the civil society organization officials when they protest against the government.

The implement of this case showed that it is very effective in silencing the officials and they seemed not to come out and criticize the government strongly as before. The consequence of this method is the loss of the popularity of the ruling party itself since it usually expresses about their desire to serve the people for peacebuilding, instead it emotionally and physical harms anyone who does not like what the government proposes.

As for the international community, the donors have not interfered deeply since they were afraid of the government accusing them of violating the sovereignty of Cambodia.

In general, those officials did according to the principle of their organization. However, if any accusation happens, the organization will solve it. This means that they do not act based on their personal wills, which are outside of the framework of their duty. But it didn’t work that way, the individuals were arrested and detained.

Therefore, the ruling party should consider finding the solution before deadline of the detention of those five officials, or else Sreymom, bribe taker, should be detained for 14 months as well because she is also wrong.

If the government cannot do that then the detainees should free them as soon as possible. It is beneficial for the ruling party and this case will benefit the opposition party without doing anything at all with regards to justice.

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

Comments: soprach.tong@phnompenhpost.com

Cambodia could play the role of mediator in Korean unification

Unofficial Translation from The Phnom Penh Post’s Khmer edition
TUESDAY, 11 JULY 2017,
TONG SOPRACH

កម្ពុជា​ អាច​ដើរតួ​រក​ដំណោះស្រាយ​បញ្ហា​កូរ៉េ​ទាំង​ពីរ

South Korean President Moon Jae-in (left) and North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un (right). AFP

Witnessing two siblings fighting to the extent that a setting a border is necessary hurts.

When it happens to two countries, the measures taken to settle such disputes can be hot or cold. The North-South dispute nearly divided America and resulted in a Civil War, but President Abraham Lincoln was still able to unify the country. The dispute in Vietnam, on the other hand, had to be settled by war.

The War that separated East and West Germany ended with of the Cold War. Different political sections of China in another case, was unified by a revolution, except the Island of Taiwan, that still calls itself the Republic of China.

But, why are South and North Korea, two siblings born in the same peninsula, still preparing for hostilities against each other?

Tensions resulted from the persistent disputes in Korean Peninsula can be noticed almost everyday on the world news, showing no sign of reassurance.

North Korea once threatened the U.S and other countries in the region through the testing of its intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), capable of reaching Alaska, in the United States. Meanwhile, South Korea and the US hold a joint military maneuver with real ammunition, causing the North to accuse the US of pulling the trigger if a war actually happens.

Australia has been concerned with the threat in Asia and intention to ally with the Korean peninsula tense if North Korea is to be the one who put the finger on the trigger. In the meantime, the People’s Republic of China has been playing an important role: preventing North Korea, its closest ally, from going too far.

The crisis is rooted in the division of Korean Peninsula into two blocs, each one with opposite political ideologies: Communism/Socialism and Republic/liberalism as the past. The North is supported by China and Russia, and the South by Japan, the US, and potentially, Australia.

The dispute, more importantly, could affect the security in the Asia-Pacific, including Cambodia.

When the two sides are pointing warheads to each other, Cambodia could also be a victim although it would not be participating in the conflict if any missile falls on ASEAN territory. Thus, ignoring the threat by the North is not really a good option for the Kingdom.

There are roughly 50,000 Cambodian workers, both legal and illegal, in South Korea, according to the statistics from the Ministry of Labour and the Cambodian Embassy in South Korea. The negaive impacts on them will be inevitable if the dispute involves into arm conflicts in the Korean Peninsula.

According to the conclusion from the third meeting of the third Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia Pacific (CSCAP) on Nonproliferation and Disarmament (NPD) in Auckland in March 2017, I attended the case study meeting, the key findings show that Asia-Pacific countries have improved on adherence to nonproliferation and nuclear security instruments, but implementation still lags behind in many states. Implementation gaps stem from lack of capacity, lack of awareness, and/or lack of political will.

However, the meeting gave advices that CSCAP and the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) should focus on raising awareness and capacity-building, while encouraging states to exercise the political will required to come into full compliance, especially in the effort to deal with countries with nuclear weapon like DPRK as a nuclear-armed state.  One of the most viable options is to renew negotiations in order to prevent war in the Peninsula and the entire region, as well as implementing the United Nations Resolution 2270 and 2321.

In response to the statement in this meeting, the Royal Government of Cambodia could try playing the mediator role to build peace for both Koreas since Cambodia has good conditions and relations with both countries. The tie that the Kingdom has with the North is the legacy of King-Father Norodom Sihanouk even though there are only a few North Korean investments in Cambodia.

South Korea, meanwhile, is tied to Cambodia through large private investments and tourism. Both have their embassies in Cambodia, unlike the One-China policy, in which China has the embassy in Cambodia but Taiwan doesn’t have.

These things that Cambodia has potentials in doing include:

1) The government can invite most senior officials from the two Korean embassies to have dinners together and discuss the issues.

2) The RGC could play a role as mediator by inviting official from both embassies to a meeting on their development and key challenging to address their tensions of their countries. Then Cambodia could offer any advice and share its experience about the long time civil war and the genocide, resulting in million of its people’s death while the country could not manage its responsibility to protect (R2P) its people.

Moreover, Cambodia can recall its prior-peacebuilding, starting with the invitations of the Khmer leaders of the four conflicting parties to a meeting in Jakarta hosted by Ali Alatas, former Indonesian Foreign Minister before reaching the signing of the Paris Peace Accord on October 23rd, 1991.

Moreover, Prime Minister Hun Sen should share the lesson learnt about his “Win-Win Policy” to both Koreas. Especially, Cambodia also has Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace (CICP) as think-tank to provide consultation over regional issues.

Besides, if Cambodia doesn’t succeed in this mediator role to facilitate the two parties, the government could be showing its lobby and advocacy to China, who is the principle actor in the Korean peninsula crisis since the Kingdom is one the closest allies to Chinese government. To encourage China to play a coordinating role to address this conflict, North Korea may accept some of its advices.

In the past, Prime Minister Hun Sen has sometimes publicly spoken by comparing the Korean Peninsula crisis and the War in Syria to what happened in Cambodia, causing people to be fed up with fear when they hear the word “war”.

In conclusion, it will be a great pride for Cambodia if it succeeds in peacebuilding in the Korean Peninsula and the region, as it also reflects its strengths in building its local peace and political stability.

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

Comments: soprach.tong@phnompenhpost.com

Why National Hospital Service Delivery remains ignoring the poor?

Unofficial Translation from The Phnom Penh Post’s Khmer edition
TUESDAY, 06 JUNE 2017,
TONG SOPRACH

ខំ​ពង្រឹង​តែ​សេវា​សុខាភិបាល​មូលដ្ឋាន​ឲ្យ​ល្អ ​តែ​សេវា​មន្ទីរពេទ្យ​ជាតិ​ បែរ​ជា​ព្រងើយ​កន្តើយ

The patients were in public hospital recently. Photo: Hong Minea

While leaders at each ministry, institution, and department were preoccupied with election campaign by going in to their target areas ahead of commune election last week, the ordinary officials were required to attend political rallies during working time (It’s unofficial requirement but they suffered from their bosses’ pressure at workplace or they would not be promoted if those officers do not involve in political parties). They were not coming to work, at administration time, it affects working system which might be slow. But, the public healthcare service delivery is different from public administration service when the doctors are   absent during campaigning administration time. Patients in the public health system are at higher risk of mistreatment or even death.

On the other hand, generally, many medical doctors/midwifes/nurses (health officers) take advantage from their working place and/or supplementary at night time at health center or hospital, they go to work at their private clinics or work for another clinic.  Patients in the public health system are also at higher risk of mistreatment or even death, Even the government tried to increase their salary for the medical officials but the doctor still does not regularly come to work at public health facility.

There are two recent examples of the dangers of requiring doctors’ attendance at political events. The first case, a woman and baby died at National Maternal and Child Health Hospital called “Japan Hospital” which is a model hospital and in the second case, the mother unfortunately died, but the baby was saved at autonomous Calmette National Hospital. Both cases occurred during a week before the commune election on June 4. It’s horrifying that two women and an infant have needlessly died while in the care of the country’s best hospitals.

Until now there is no formal technical medical statement about both cases from the Ministry of Health or the 2 national hospitals either Medical Council of Cambodia yet although the victims’ families, the husbands, have insisted. Both husbands claim that it is carelessness on behalf of the hospitals that caused the death of their wives. There were no specialized doctors or senior doctors on standby, and there were only junior doctors/midwife interns with less experience who did not take any responsibility for these events.

Should the husbands’ allegations be true? It is really unprofessional: first, the doctors/midwives were helping to deliver the baby ran away, it is in violation of the ethical regulations regarding the medical profession: “Medical professionals shall absolutely not give up their professional performance in any form”.

Medical officials must take the responsibility to help their patients until the patient’s last breath. Health care professionals should not flee when a patient dies. Medical officials must come to work in order to ensure things run smoothly.

The method of the patient referral system: most of medical officials at the national hospitals are referral trainers, so when the patient’s condition is beyond the ability of the local health facility [health center and referral hospital], the medical officials must refer the patient to a higher level facility like the provincial referral hospital or national hospital.

In case, Japan hospital, the poor patient has to be sent for emergency immediately to highest standard hospital. in the opposite is military hospital or behind autonomous Calmette hospital which has enough materials to save both mother and baby.

In the second fatal case, the impoverished patient in Calmette hospital and it needed only the holder to take the patient to the emergency building so that they could be saved or the main doctors were not there because both victims’ families were too poor? How can people trust the public hospital if they are not guaranteed fair and high quality treatment? A lower mother mortality rate does not make rare deaths acceptable.

The Ministry of Health has reformed the healthcare system better as well including the referral system, patient monitoring system, medical equipment, health information system; especially, the improvement of local health facility service delivery and the elimination of traditional birth attendants (TBAs); that led to decline of Mother Mortality Ratio from 472 out of 100,000 live births in 2005 to 170 out of 100,000 live births in 2014 significantly. Whereas Neonatal Mortality Rate also decreased from 28 to 18 out of 1,000 live births; 2005 to 2014 respectively (CDHS, 2014).

Despite of the better reform, a major obstacle is still that the medical official uses the working time at public hospital to serve the private service and that greatly affects the whole health system. This doctor/midwife/nursery should divide clearly between the public and private service provision which is against Prokas in 2011 (ministry regulation) on Private Clinic Management. On article 29 of the Prokas says: “Only the doctor who has retired, left, or suspended his/her state service without pay with the acknowledgement of his/her department director may run a policlinic…”.

Often Leaders and senior officials of Ministry of Health usually raised about the absence of medical officers working in the hospital or local health facility or being absent from their state workplace, but they instead standby at their private clinic or other private clinics, but they keep taking salary from the state.

Therefore, the medical officers who like to take advantage from the state working time to serve or standby in private clinic feel not happy when the Ministry of Health launched the Decentralization and Decentralization reform (D&D) through pilot-test to transfer functions and human resource to sub-national administration to manage in three provinces (Phnom Penh, Battambang and Kampot provinces).

In order to be transparent, the MoH should issue a technical medical statement regarding the deaths of these women and the infant. They should accept responsibility and investigate the circumstances.

The Ministry should evaluate the healthcare service provision at both national hospitals to know whether the death of mother and baby caused by the disease or the discrimination of medical officers on the poor people? Which principle doctors had to take that shift on the incident day, please review it up again.

Moreover, to strengthen health system delivery both national and sub-national levels, the government should reform the following three components: service delivery structure, service delivery capacity building, and incentives/special allowance for public medical officials.

Lesson learnt from Thailand, public medical officers allow to open private clinic or working at private service, but they must standby at the public service in time and the public hospital has dormitory for doctors where inside or nearby their hospital. Generally, doctors was booked online if the patients want to make an appointment or to surgery in the private clinic (APO-Health System and Policy, 2015).

Tong Soprach, social affairs columnist for the Post’s Khmer edition

Comments: soprach.tong@phnompenhpost.com

Don’t underestimate the importance of commune elections

Share from original source: The Phnom Penh Post’s English Edition

Opinion: Don’t underestimate the importance of commune elections

FRIDAY, 2 JUNE 2017
TONG SOPRACH

A CPP campaign rally crosses paths with an opposition CNRP rally in the capital’s Meanchey district on the first day of campaigning last month. Photo: Pha Lina

The upcoming 4th mandate of commune council elections is an achievement resulting from the Decentralisation and Deconcentration Reforms (D&D) starting in 2000, with commune elections arranged for the first time in 2002.

Since then, every commune election has usually received less participation compared to national elections, a concerning trend since some people view the commune election as less important. Meanwhile, with fewer parties competing, the dynamic of campaigns seems to become less energetic.

What’s more, many people rarely think of their commune or sangkat chief until they need their help with some paperwork. Even then, they often find that their representative has left the office to attend a meeting at the district party headquarters. For anyone who has found themselves in that position, it should serve as a wake-up call, reminding voters just how important it is to choose their local representative.

In addition, commune councils play an important role as the people’s representatives in the non-general elections that select the Kingdom’s senators, provincial and municipal councils, and city, khan and district councils in accordance with laws adopted in 2008. Commune councils serve as the representatives who vote for the people so that the people can save time and the national budget is not wasted.

If a political party receives the most elected commune council members, it means that they can elect the president of the Senate and a majority of its members from their own party, and they also can become the head of provincial-municipal councils and district-city-Khan councils as well. If the presidency and majorities of the Senate and the National Assembly are held by two different parties, it serves, from a legislative perspective, as a balance of power that manages to prevent the National Assembly from adopting laws freely, and the Senate can spot gaps in the laws and send them back to the National Assembly. It would not be like the cases of Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organizations (LANGO) and the recent amendments to the Law on Political Parties, both of which were passed easily in the Assembly and Senate despite the national and international communities believing they had troubling political elements.

Furthermore, after the council commune elections, the commune will have a clear structure that’s representative of the people, and can transfer functions and resources from the national level to the tune of about 2.8 percent of the current domestic revenue. The amount of budget will vary according to the size of the population living in each of the 1,646 communes/sangkats, which receive around $20,000 to $30,000 per year.

The budget will be utilised for the salary of commune councils, administrative expenses and for local development in response to the demands of the local people via five-year plans and three-year rolling investment plans.

Commune councils have two main duties. First is to serve as a registrar for such issues as birth, death and marriage certificates and to sign off on the transfers of houses and land ownership, and other public services. The second duty is local development via investment programs in accordance with the people’s needs, such as the construction of infrastructure – local roads, bridges, sewage systems, schools, community kindergartens – and the provision of services like agricultural training, domestic violence prevention and intervention, and health centre management, etc.

Some action implementations requested by the people go above the abilities of the commune councils, but they can refer the proposal to district councils or provincial councils to seek a solution based on the current situation.

And because commune chiefs are both the head of the commune council and the commune’s top executive, they have a more complete and significant role than their counterparts at the district and provincial levels, where the councils and the executive are kept separate.

All of this reflects the significance of commune councils, so all the 12 political parties competing in the commune council election and the medias should together explain and encourage the people who registered their names to go to vote for their favourite local representative in accordance with the democratic system this June 4th.

Voting is far better than letting people continuously complain about the slowness of service provision from the commune council, which has been all too common in the past. But voting is a responsibility too, so don’t get upset if you get exactly what you wish for. As the Khmer saying goes: “Bar phdo reu min phdo tae kom thgno!” In translation: you can pick “Change or no change, but don’t complain!”

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

Comments: soprach.tong@phnompenhpost.com

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