News in Review: Cambodia – December 8, 2015

Yem Chhrin is escorted by police officers into the provincial court in Battambang province, Cambodia, on Thursday. Photograph: Reuters

Cambodia News in Review, December 8, 2015

Cambodia’s deteriorating political climate has attracted international political and media attention. U.S. and EU lawmakers have demanded that Prime Minister Hun Sen drops the arrest warrant against opposition leader Sam Rainsy [of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP)], who remains in exile in France. The impact of climate change on the future of Cambodia and other low-lying developing nations is being addressed this week at the UN climate change summit in Paris. Also in the news, an unlicensed medical practitioner has been sentenced to 25 years in prison after 270 residents in Roka commune in Battambang province are infected with HIV.

Cambodia Contemplates its Future In Relation to Climate Change

The UN climate change summit in Paris is taking place from November 30 to December 11, 2015. At the summit, Cambodia and other developing countries are expected to appeal to developed countries that produce greater carbon emissions for assistance to mitigate the impact of climate change on their own countries.

The credit-rating agency Standard & Poor’s recently listed Cambodia as the country (out of 116) most impacted by climate change, with its government holding the lowest rate for “creditworthiness.” The United Nations lists it as one of the top 10 countries in the world most susceptible to climate change, notably as a low-land country prone to droughts and flooding. Nearly 74 percent of Cambodian workers are in agriculture, which has endured major losses from drought and flooding. Some communities in Cambodia have already been trying out disaster and climate change mitigation education and training programs for a few years. Since 2011, nearly 33 secondary schools and 15,000 farming families in Tbaung Khmum and Siem Reap provinces have participated in climate change and disaster mitigation education and training programs.

Bopha, Phorn. Underprepared Cambodia Vulnerable to Climate Change. Voice of America. November 27, 2015.

Danaparamita, Aria. Youth Gather to Talk About Climate Change. The Cambodia Daily. November 30, 2015.

Naomi-Collett Ritz. Climate Change Curriculum. Khmer Times. December 1, 2015.

Unlicensed Medical Practitioner Sentenced to Prison for Causing Mass HIV Outbreak in Battambang Province

After 270 residents were infected in the rural Roka commune in Battambang province, Yem Chrin, an unlicensed medical practitioner, was found guilty of “operating without a medical license, intentionally spreading HIV and torture and acts of cruelty that result in death with aggravating circumstances.” Chrin has been sentenced to 25 years in prison. Unlicensed healthy workers and clinics are common in rural communities where access to state healthcare is lacking. Nine unlicensed doctors were ordered in February to shut down their practices. Villagers have complained that is it now significantly harder to find a provider, especially if they may have an emergency in the middle of the night. Moreover, due to high levels of corruption in the country, Cambodians often do not trust their doctors to be well-trained, and will seek medical advice in neighboring countries when they can. The lack of licensed practitioners still has roots in the period of the Khmer Rouge regime when physicians and their families, along with professionals including scientists, teachers, engineers, and lawyers, were eradicated.

Hour, Hum. Cambodian Health Worker Sentenced to 25 Years For HIV Infections. Radio Free Asia. December 3, 2015.

Hunt, Katie and Rebecca Wright. Unlicensed Cambodian doctor jailed for mass HIV outbreak. CNN. December 3, 2015.

Reaksmey, Hul. Doctor Who Caused Mass HIV Outbreak in Cambodia Sentenced to 25 Years. Voice of America. December 4, 2015.

Opposition Leader Sam Rainsy Remains in Exile, as Political Talks Deteriorate

Opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) leader Sam Rainsy remains in France in exile, as an arrest warrant awaits him back home in Cambodia. CNRP members boycotted a parliamentary session last week, citing concerns over Rainsy’s warrant and lawmakers’ safety, after two CNRP lawmakers were beaten severely following a session by pro-CPP (Cambodian People’s Party, the ruling government) military members in civilian clothes. Sixteen members of the U.S. House of Representatives, Democrat and Republican, penned a letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen, relaying their “deep concerns about efforts to disrupt the development of democracy in your country” [Mara, The Cambodia Daily]. Members of the European Parliament passed a resolution in which they threatened to review their substantial aid package to Cambodia unless Rainsy is able to freely return. Foreign Minister Hor Namhong seemed unfazed by the West’s pressure while at a recent charity event in Phnom Penh. He remarked at the event: “The E.U. parliamentarians and the U.S. parliamentarians have their rights [but] I see and believe that our country under the leadership of Hun Sen is advancing to build our country to grow in all sectors… With funds or without funds, we will continue to advance. From now and onward, Cambodia will always progress forward and not go backward or stand still. It always goes forward from one month to another and from one year to another” [Mara, The Cambodia Daily]. The political collapse in Cambodia has gained increased international media attention, as the International New York Times published a piece from Ou Virak, president of Future Forum, a policy research institute in Phnom Penh, calling for a change in leadership in Cambodia, and not from the opposition CNRP. Cambodia’s youth, who are technologically savvy, were heavily mobilized for the 2013 election. They make up approximately 3.5 million of 9.5 million eligible voters in Cambodia, and continue to advocate in online and public forums for political change. Cambodians are increasingly frustrated that critical issues nationally are not being addressed by politicians, including rising economic inequality, and electoral and institutional reform.

Dara, Mech and Alex Willemyns. Opposition Lawmakers To Boycott Assembly. The Cambodia Daily. November 30, 2015.

Dara, Mech and Alex Willemyns. US Lawmakers Call for End to ‘Persecution’ of Opposition. The Cambodia Daily. December 7, 2015.

Thul, Prak Chan. TV anchor seeks to be Cambodia’s political peacemaker to avoid conflict. Reuters. November 30, 2015.

Virak, Ou. Cambodians Deserve Better. The International New York Times. December 4, 2015.

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