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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Attitudes towards violence against women in Cambodia slowly changing

"Before, a husband would beat his wife and children, now he just insults them..." chilling yet sobering words from a woman surveyed by LICADHO's Women's Rights Office (WRO) following the end of its pilot project in Kandal Province, which aimed to educate the community on violence against women issues.

On July 30, 2007 LICADHO's WRO celebrated the conclusion of the first of three education pilot projects with a community forum in Angsnoul district, Kandal province. The pilot project was funded by the University of Quebec in Montreal and the Canadian International Development Agency and the community forum brought to a close, planning and organising which had commenced as far back as December 2005.

The pilot project was designed to promote ownership of women's rights by equipping women in the community with practical knowledge, strategies and resources to prevent and seek redress for domestic violence, rape and trafficking violations. As part of the program 39 women, selected from eight villages, were chosen as 'focal points'. It was intended that these women would disseminate what they learnt from workshops through out the community. Similarly, 23 local authorities, comprising police, village chiefs, commune chiefs and members of the legal sector, also participated in learning about violence against women issues. Training and follow up workshops were held from August 2006 to March 2007, with a final evaluation of the project's impact in the community being conducted during the first half of 2007.

One major focus of the pilot project was learning to understand domestic violence, the impact it can have on a family and the community, the concept that it is not just an internal family issue and how to deal with and prevent it. In Cambodia, domestic violence has long been a product of cultural values and the status of women in society's eyes. Even with the passing of the Law on the Prevention of Domestic Violence and the Protection of Victims in 2005, attitudes towards the acceptance of domestic violence as an issue concerning the community and not something to be kept private have been hard to change. The perceptions of both the public and the authorities still hold true to their long held beliefs of silence and ignorance.

Cases reported to LICADHO demonstrate the brutal extent of domestic violence in Cambodia, where husband and boyfriends subject their wives, girlfriends and children to beatings, rape, threats, burnings, acid attacks and murder. In one recent case a victim of prolonged and repeated domestic violence over 13 years was beaten and stabbed, by her husband. Her husband, in an apparent drunken rage attacked her and cut off one of her fingers. After being treated for her injuries in hospital the victim said she didn't want to divorce her husband nor file a complaint against her husband.

In the first six months of 2007, LICADHO's WRO has received reports of 102 cases of domestic violence and 44 cases of rape. According to LICADHO's monitoring of Khmer newspapers, 98 cases of domestic violence and 150 cases of rape were also reported in the same period. As LICADHO continues to investigate cases of domestic violence and rape, the WRO pilot project in Angsnoul district is one of the first important steps towards prevention of violence against women at the community level. In the coming months the WRO will move the pilot project activities to Kompong Thom and Kampot province, refining the workshops which hope to change and evolve the attitudes of the community and the authorities towards violence against women issues.
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Cambodian men charged with terrorism in failed bomb plot

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia: A Cambodian court charged two men with terrorism Wednesday in connection with a recently failed plot to blow up a monument in the heart of the country's capital, officials said.

Sok Roeun, a prosecutor at Phnom Penh Municipal Court, said he charged Kem Toeun, 53, and Son Than, 42, with terrorism, which carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

Police arrested the two men Monday, a day after explosives disposal experts defused bombs planted at the city's Cambodia-Vietnam friendship monument, said police Maj. Gen. Chhay Sinarith, who is chief of the Interior Ministry's information department.

"Their main purpose was to destroy the monument because it is a symbol of good relations between the Cambodian and Vietnamese governments," Chhay Sinarith said, adding police were looking for more plotters.

The three homemade bombs found Sunday — made of a mixture of TNT and fertilizer packed in three buckets — were planted at a monument dedicated to Vietnamese soldiers who invaded Cambodia to topple the Khmer Rouge in 1979.

The monument is located in a park about 500 meters (yards) from the southern wall of the Royal Palace, where King Norodom Sihamoni and his parents live.

The monument was erected by a pro-Vietnamese Cambodian government nearly 20 years ago.

Both arrested men are members of the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Liberation Front, said Chhay Sinarith. He said the group is based outside Cambodia and advocates taking back territory in southern Vietnam that used to belong to Cambodia.

Many Cambodians resent neighboring Vietnam, which is a traditional enemy that they feel has designs on their country's land. But government-to-government relations are good — Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen was originally part of a puppet regime installed by Hanoi after the Vietnamese invasion.

Hun Sen's political opponents view the monument as a symbol of a humiliating decade-long occupation by Vietnamese troops following their invasion.

Protesters partially destroyed it during an anti-government demonstration in 1998.

The monument was later restored, and visiting Vietnamese leaders often go there to pay respects to their fallen soldiers.
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Vietnam and Cambodia set up national border gate

A ceremony to set up My Qui Tay-Som Rong border gate between Vietnam and Cambodia was held in Vietnam’s southern Long An province on July 31.

The border gate is located in Long An province of Vietnam and Svay Rieng province of Cambodia, which share a 137.7 km land border.

Addressing the ceremony, the authorities of the two provinces agreed to speed up measures to develop the border areas economically and held the belief that the establishment of the border gate would contribute to improving the living conditions of people residing in the two countries, particularly the two provinces. (VNA) Read more!

Cambodia: FCO minister comments on the first arrest in the Khmer Rouge tribunal

FOREIGN AND COMMONWEALTH OFFICE News Release issued by The Government News
Network on 1 August 2007
The Khmer Rouge Tribunal in Cambodia (officially called the Extraordinary
Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia or ECCC) arrested and charged its first
suspect yesterday.

FCO Minister, Meg Munn MP commented:

"I welcome the news that the ECCC today charged Kaing Khek Ieu with genocide
and crimes against humanity. The Cambodian people have waited many years
for the judicial process to begin. This is an important opportunity for
Cambodia to break with the past and bring to justice those responsible for
serious violations of Cambodian and international law.

"The United Kingdom is a strong supporter of international justice and looks
forward to seeing progress made in the upcoming months by this historic
Tribunal, the first of its kind in Asia."

Notes to editors

1. The Khmer Rouge regime took power on 17 April 1975 and was overthrown
on 7 January 1979. During that time the Khmer Rouge killed more than one
million people.

2. The United Nations (UN) and the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) have
been involved in negotiations over the creation of a tribunal since 1997
when the RGC asked the UN to help establish a tribunal like those in the
Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.

3. In 2000, the UN agreed to participate in the first "mixed tribunal"
in which there would be a majority of Cambodian judges and co-prosecutors,
but with international colleagues.

4. On 6 June 2003, the UN and RGC signed an agreement that would bring the
E Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) into force.

5. Prior to yesterday's announcement, only one senior Khmer Rouge official,
Kang Kek Ieu (alias Duch) was in pre-trial custody. Another who was in
pre-trial custody, Ta Mok, died in late 2006. Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge's
notorious leader, died in 1998 while three other regime members, Ieng Sary,
Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan have been at liberty in retirement.

6. The UK has contributed funds of £1.5 million to the ECCC.
FCO Press Office: 020 7008 3100

Press Office, Downing Street (West), London SW1A 2AL Telephone: 020 7008
3100 Fax: 020 7008 3734
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