More than 30 years after the Khmer Rouge regime, Cambodia is still struggling to build a strong foundation for human rights.
On Friday the government approved the $3.1 billion National Budget for 2013, despite the strong critiques upheld by opposition parties. With actions such as this, the ruling party continues to offer reasons for our concern over Cambodia’s future. The budget law’s proposed spending increase, which will be supported by heavy external borrowing, will enable the government to borrow up to $923 million. This is an outrageously high figure, especially considering this year’s IMF and World Bank report which warned Cambodia that it would enter risky territories if the rate of borrowing continued to increase.
In a recent legacy conference on the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), it was reported that former Co-Investigating Judge Marcel Lemonde, in commenting on the achievements and failures of the ECCC, bemoaned: “The dish is not exactly what we ordered.” Perhaps not, but it should be underscored that those in the kitchen (then and now) bear responsibility for the dish presently being served.
Still fresh in the minds of many, last year Cambodia faced its worst flooding in many decades. Hang Davi, a Cambodian farmer, declared at the time, “This flood is the biggest I have ever seen in my life. The floods have completely destroyed our hope.” The flood affected over 1.5 million people, killed 250, inundated 400,000 hectares of cultivated land, and caused estimated losses of $520 million. While the causes of the flooding are numerous, one of them is likely climate change, which scientists have found will cause more frequent occurrences of extreme precipitation events.
The effectiveness of international pressure intended to improve human rights in Cambodia is being rightly questioned. As with other authoritarian regimes, engagement could prove disappointing, but censure or sanctions could be ineffective or even counterproductive.
Cambodia’s energy security is at risk. Insufficient domestic energy production and poor physical infrastructure cause dependency, accessibility, reliability and affordability issues. The country relies almost entirely on the import of fossil fuel, mainly diesel and heavy oil, for electricity production. Apart from Burma, Cambodia has the lowest electrification rate in the region—only 35 percent of its entire population has access to reliable electricity, while its electricity price is one of the highest in the world.
You read Philip Gourevitch’s piece on Cambodia’s King Norodom Sihanouk in The New Yorker.
First of all, I have a great deal of respect for the prime minister of Cambodia both as a person and as the leader of the country and the government. I recognize that he has achieved a great deal for Cambodia. But there is room for improvement in the governance of Cambodia and my job is to identify the shortcomings that exist in the system and offer my recommendations to address them.
Teaching is a challenging professional task. It requires knowledge, motivation and adaptability. Each day offers new difficulties, and each day we witness how individual teachers find creative ways to overcome the difficult conditions exacerbated by limited equipment and material resources with which to carry out their professional responsibilities.
The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) recently confirmed that Case 002 accused Ieng Thirith is unfit to stand trial as a result of suffering a progressive form of cognitive impairment. Despite being long-anticipated, this news remains a difficult reality for many victims of the Khmer Rouge to accept.
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