NGOs Plan Anti-Donor Protests for November

Although almost no protest marches have been permitted in Cam­bodia since the 2003 anti-Thai riots, a group of anti-globalization ac­tivists said Monday that they be­lieve they will be allowed to dem­on­strate on Nov 13 in Kan­dal prov­ince against the policies of donor coun­tries and institutions in Cam­bo­dia.

The “People’s Caravan,” billed in a press statement as a pan-Asian “collective journey of millions of pea­sants,” using “transportation ranging from bullock carts to bicycles, elephants to camel[s],” is be­ing organized here by outspoken fe­minist NGO Womyn’s Agen­da for Change and seven other NGOs, including Positive Women of Hope Or­ganization and Youth for Peace.

Each NGO will protest in a different province, but they will all come together in Kandal, where pro­testers will drive in cars stopping at the roadside to sing anti-pri­vatization songs.

“We have a good chance [of ap­pro­val],” said rally organizer Sam Vu­thy of Womyn’s Agenda for Change. “Our group is on the side of the gov­ernment and the poor people against donations with conditions,” he said.

One song that will be sung at the event bemoans the influence of the private sector. “Cambodia used to be fresh but it has be­come dark…. The private sec­tor owns everything and the pric­es are too high,” the song’s lyr­ics proclaim.

Key among the agenda items for the NGOs is free access to AIDS medicine. As part of Cam­bo­dia’s accession to the World Trade Or­ganization, it must soon enforce pa­tents, including those on anti-re­tro­virals.

Members of the eight NGOs on Monday criticized donors for pressuring the government to privatize water and electricity companies.

Sam Vuthy said the main obstacles to reducing poverty here are the World Bank, Asian Devel­op­ment Bank and International Mo­n­etary Fund.

He cited the tying of aid to the pur­chasing of certain products and requirements to lower import tariffs as particularly damaging policies.

“By pressuring the government, you are undermining stability,” Ly Pi­sey of Womyn’s Agenda for Change said.

The People’s Caravan will end in Hong Kong during De­cem­ber’s meeting of the Doha Round of trade negotiations. At the meeting, poor countries are expected to pressure rich na­tions to reduce agricultural subsidies.

 

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