Press Release for June 27

For Immediate Release: The Cambodian Grassroots People’s Assemblies have come to a close with tentative results following the three events held throughout June across the Kingdom of Cambodia ahead of the national election. Planned as an expression of grassroots democratic engagement-, to get politicians of the three main political parties to listen to the needs of their constituents- the Cambodian Grassroots People’s Assembly (CGPA) became an exercise in demonstrating the democratic rights, freedoms and hopes guaranteed by the Cambodian Constitution. While the Assemblies were peaceful events that served no individual party political purpose, it proved very difficult in Kompong Chnang and Preah Sihanouk, and impossible in Siem Reap, to convince the authorities of the non-oppositional intentions of the Cambodian Cross Sector Network so that full cooperation and participation was ensured beforehand.

The three assemblies on June 14, 19 and 24 were held in public spaces in order to allow for an open, transparent atmosphere where participants as well as the general public could see and experience democracy in action. The authorities in Kampong Chhnang and Kampong Som proved to be more open to the events and after fulfilling the necessary procedure as well as engaging in negotiations before the event, both Assemblies unfolded successfully. In Siem Reap it proved to be a different affair, as the authorities never once engaged with CGPA organizers to ensure a smooth implementation.

“The presence and behavior of more than 300 police and military police was designed to be very intimidating, especially when they drove speeding up and down the road in the fire trucks while manning the water cannons. In the days before CGPA, when authorities in the other provinces respected the organizers by calling for negotiation meetings, the Siem Reap authorities simply remained silent, trying to ignore us. I guess they hoped that would make us afraid and doubt our legal rights to make our plan a reality. The more they ignored the people, the more determined we all became to exercise our democratic rights and show them they do not need to be afraid of us. Our event is about presenting our issues and solutions to our political representatives, nothing more. The strength and courage of the people finally brought the rightful respect from the authorities who did not use violence and from the CPP party who did come to the marching Assembly to accept and sign the People’s Statement” said Keo Sophy, a representative from Tapen land community, Banteay Srei district, Siem Reap province.

“Our will is strong because it is the will of all ordinary Cambodian people. We are doing nothing wrong. And politicians of every party are recognizing this fact,” said Teng Kao, a preventative from Sugar network, Koh Kong province. “We appreciate deeply that representatives of FUNCIPEC, the CNRP and the CPP attended our assemblies and signed the Joint People’s Statement. However, apart from in Preah Sihanouk, the CPP representatives did not participate willingly, only at the last moment when people were marching to their offices. Our intention throughout is to ask political leaders to respect the people. Eventually the people got that respect but they had to struggle under heat and rain, and facing a lot of military first. We hope authorities and political parties everywhere now understand who we are, we are their legitimate constituents. And we hope for better cooperation in the future.”  

The purpose of the Joint People’s Statement was to get the invited political parties to acknowledge the issues faced by people across the Kingdom and to commit to solutions which respond equitably and sustainably to the different needs of people in different sectors. Signing the statement is like recommitting to the very people of Cambodia, putting the people first. It’s a chance for all politicians, regardless of party, to display that they do have the best interests of their constituents in mind and are real legitimate representatives of their people.

“For us as citizens, we want our leaders to know our problems and solutions.  We are the constituents and must be part of solutions through democratized cooperation and actual representation of our needs, so that our problems can finally be solved. That is why we held the Cambodian Grassroots People’s Assembly – people need to be heard, their solutions need to be incorporated into the Kingdom’s future development.  As we have said we want leaders who are chosen by us, work for us and stay with us,” said Ly Pisey, a representative from Social Action for Change of cross sector network.

Cambodia’s upcoming parliamentary elections in July are a time for renewed commitments from the Kingdom’s elected officials to their people and their many needs across this country. Promises, pledges, assurances, agreements and statements sound good to the ear, but Cambodia needs real action to ensure a democratic, sustainable and equitable future for all. The Cambodian Cross-Sector Network and its allies will continue to push for the demands presented, because no solutions for what the Cambodian people need can be imposed – they must come from listening to and participating with the people.

“The Cambodian Grassroots People’s Assembly has had tentative successes that we hope will grow into sustained equitable development. We have been very respectful and reasonable at all times, and will continue to be so.  We will always remain peaceful because not to be would be against our values, our goals and our needs. With one month left before the election, we wish to stress again that we are too tired with the empty promises.  What we want now are real and lasting solutions with an equal partnership between us and our legitimate leaders, said Penh Ath, a representative from Phnom Kuk community, Kampong Chhnang province.

Press Invitation for June 27

Cambodian Grassroots People’s Assembly Press Conference

All members of the media are invited to attend a press conference by the Cambodian Cross-sector Network who recentlyheld the Cambodian Grassroots People’s Assembly (CGPA) in three different regions around Cambodia, where members of the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) and FUNCIPEC all eventually signed the Joint People’s Statement (some under duress) . The press conference will share the results achieved by CGPA’s and the next steps to ensure that the politicians follow through with the Joint People’s Statement. It will take place at Meta House on Sothearos Blvd in Phnom Penh on Thursday 27th June 2013 at 10:00 AM.

The Cambodian Grassroots People’s Assembly is organized by the cross sector network, grassroots communities and networks around Cambodia. Each organization and its members face a number of grievances and challenges which they wish to get concrete resolutions for. Previously the Cambodian Grassroots Cross-sector Network has presented a statement to the Cambodian National Assembly under the auspices of the ASEAN Grassroots People’s Assembly (AGPA), held in November 2012 ahead of the 21st ASEAN Summit.

Since that time the National Assembly and the Royal Government of Cambodia have failed to respond to the statement and in some cases the issues presented have only worsened. The CGPA asked that politicians of the three main parties commit to solid, equitable and lasting solutions. To that point, the CGPA and its members have presented their causes and solutions along with the Joint People’s Statement, which members of participating political parties signed or signed under duress as people set out to march to their office.

Press Release for June 23, 2013

Cambodian Grassroots People’s Assembly comes to Siem Reap province

For Immediate Release: The Cross-Sector Network will hold their third and final Cambodian Grassroots People’s Assembly (CGPA) tomorrow in Siem Reap, following last Wednesday’s successful and inspiring Assembly in Preah Sihanouk where approximately 1,300 grassroots people and all three invited political parties – Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), FUNCINPEC and Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP)- participated in the Assembly. The Siem Reap Assembly is set to take place in the public space of Angkor Pjongyn roundabout, Street 60, in Siem Reap from 8AM onwards. As happened at the Assemblies in Kompong Chnang and Preah Sihanouk, those attending will have an opportunity to voice the exploitation they face working in the tourism sector, land issues, harmful impacts of mining and on-going logging inside Prey Long forest. People will also recommend their solutions directly to representatives of CPP, FUNCINPEC and CNRP.

Independent Democracy of Informal Economic Association (IDEA), Skun & Tapaen communities, CFSWF, Prey Lang, Boeung Per Network, Rovieng Mining Network, and other communities in the Cambodian Cross-Sector Network are all working together to make the Assembly happen. People’s common purpose is to seek justice and fairness – they see Cambodia developing and getting richer for some and they just want a decent life which has livelihood security for themselves and their families.

Working in the tourism sector in Siem Reap sounds like it should be a good opportunity and a good job. But the reality is working conditions are very poor. Workers are not covered by social security or social services, are forced to work unpaid overtime and face wage cuts if they need to take time off when a family member gets sick.  Because most of the workers in this industry are employed as short-term (fixed duration contract) workers they face constant job insecurity. If they ask for better conditions then their contract will not be renewed. Because of this fear it is hard for them to demand better working conditions”, says Chheng Kimyan from Cambodia Food Service Worker Federation (CFSWF).

“Protecting the natural resources is the most important for us. Our lives depend on the forest- it gives us our food, it gives us our water, it gives us all the materials we need for our life. When companies get concessions in our forest, it threatens everything for us. When the mining companies started their operations, our water was poisoned- our cows died, people got sick and nobody will solve this problem. When illegal logging destroys our forest what will we live from? If we remain silent we will die and what will our future generation have?  So we choose to speak and we are happy that the Assembly gives us a chance to face future leaders with our daily struggle for life”, says Sing Sophearin from Bangken Phal village, Romtum commune, Rovieng district, Preah Vihear province.

Representatives are invited to attend the whole day event in order to listen to the people in the morning and speak to people’s problems and answer people’s questions in the afternoon. To signal their commitment to end empty promises and take real action to solve people’s problems, if elected, candidates will be asked to sign the CGPA People’s Statement (CGPA website). The Assembly will march to any candidate’s office or home if they fail to show up and receive the People’s Statement ahead of the election.

”We have been struggling for our land rights for many years already, some of us since 2004, some of us since 2009. We are tired of empty promises. We want a land title in our hands so that we know our land is safe now and forever. If people cannot get their land back then they need fair compensation. Land is life. Is our life worthless? If not why are our problems not getting solved? They come to measure our land and tell we may get the land title after the election. What does this really mean? We come to join the Assembly to demand our land title now, we are tired of waiting and do not trust in the time after the election” said Kun Eng from Tbaeng Khang Lech commune, Banteay Srey district, Siem Reap province.

As the third and last assembly before the national elections in July, the Cambodian Cross-Sector Network is hoping that this chance for a direct communication between future leaders and the people will result in real actions by all politicians who attend. The people involved are coming with solutions to their problems and are ready to work together with their leaders. The three CGPAs are an expression of real democratic processes in action in Cambodia- the people and the future leaders listening to each and pledging a commitment to take action together for real lasting solutions.

Press Release: CGPA comes to Preah Sihanouk

For Immediate Release: The Cross-Sector Network and partners will hold their second of three Cambodian Grassroots People’s Assembly (CGPA) tomorrow in Preah Sihanouk, following last week’s successful and inspiring Assembly  in Kampong Chhnang where over 600 grassroots people participated. The event is set to take place in the public space in front of the Old Theatre in Preah Sihanouk from 8AM onwards, and will provide the organizers and those attending an opportunity to voice their many concerns and their solutions to representatives of the three political parties invited- CPP, FUNCINPEC and CNRP. Representative are invited to attend the whole day event- to listen to grassroots people in the morning and to speak to people’s problems and answer people’s questions in the afternoon. Finally MP candidates will be asked to sign the CGPA People’s Statement to signal their commitment to end empty promises and take real action to solve people’s problems, if elected.

Representatives from the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) and FUNCIPEC attended the June 13 CGPA in Kampong Chhnang where the Cross-Sector Network and its partners including Phnom Kuk, Cambodian Independent Civil-Servant Association (CICA), Independent Democracy for Informal Economic Association (IDEA), Tonle Sap Fisheries Network (TSN), Farmer Nature Network (FNN) and others presented their CGPA People’s Statement. KY Vandara, MP candidate for CNRP, and CHHIM Chhon, MP candidate for FUNCIPEC, both signed the statement. The final activity of the Assembly was a march to the MP Office of the CPP candidate as he did not attend and people wanted their CGPA Statement to be accepted and signed by the CPP candidate also. Having set out to march, people were faced off, after about 50 meters, by a line of soldiers and police blocking their route.  The leaders of the Assembly reiterated their purpose, to peacefully but surely see their Statement received by CPP. After a short time, an officer from Kg. Chnang CPP MP Office, Mr. VONG Vibol, came to meet the marchers on the street and signed and accepted a copy of the Statement.

 “We made excellent progress in Kampong Chhnang. Grassroots people spoke honestly and bravely about the daily struggle they face to survive in the face of many injustices. MP candidates’ commitment to the needs of everyone in Cambodia is for the moment giving us some hope and we thank them for signing the People’s Statement,” said Khat Vem, representative from Anlung Thre community. “We’re also thankful that the CPP, while they did not attend, took the time to come and meet us when we tried to march to their office They too have signed the People’s Statement, which is positive.”

This positive exercising of people’s democratic rights will continue in Preah Sihanouk where it is hoped the authorities will continue to strongly respect and cooperate with Cambodian citizens’ rights to assembly and freedom of speech which will show the real progress of democracy so far in Cambodia. “As with the ASEAN Grassroots People’s Assembly (AGPA) last November, the recent CGPA has proved once again our commitment to non-violent, peaceful actions. Our purpose is to seek solutions which have not yet come. We hope that our stance will be respected and that the CGPA will be able to go ahead unhindered without interference from anyone” added Mang Socheat (IDEA representative, Preah Sihanouk).

The Preah Sihanouk event will see approximately 1,500 grassroots people from Preah Sihanouk, Koh Kong, Kampot, Kep, Kg. Speu, and other parts of the country, gathering together in solidarity seeking solutions to their continuing problems. “The problems experienced in one province are also the problems of everyone’s province- we want all of our common problems to be heard and addressed, whether the problem happens in Koh Kong or Kep, Kampot or Preah Sihanouk. June 19 our Assembly happens in Preah Sihanouk but if we see no real action to solve our problems we will continue to do Assemblies in every province of Cambodia until we get the real and lasting response from our leaders” Teng Kao, Sugar Justice Network, Koh Kong. Members of IDEA, Spean Chheh Community, Anlung Thre Community, Farmer Association for Peace and Development (FAPD), Sugar Network for Justice and CICA will speak about their problems ranging land conflicts; moto rentals & tourism; farming, livelihoods & protection; the now famous Sugar plantation land concession in Koh Kong awarded to Senator Ly Yong Phat; and the livelihoods issues faced by civil servant. Each network and community will also present their solutions to the issues and ask the political party representatives in attendance to sign to People’s Statement and commit to real, equitable and sustainable solutions to the many problems faced by ordinary people across Cambodia.

For Press Enquires please contact:

HENG Socheat- Media Liaison KHMER
Tel: +855 (0) 12 390 229
Email: socheatheng2003@gmail.com

Gregory Pellechi – Media Liaison
Tel: +855 (0)976 978 064
Email: greg.pellechi@gmail.com

Web: cambodiangrassroots.wordpress.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CambodiaGrassrootsPeopleAssembly
Twitter: https://twitter.com/CamboAssembly

Press Release for June 12, 2013

For Immediate Release: The Cambodian Grassroots People’s Assembly (CGPA) is set to take place in Kampong Chhnang, on June 13 2013. The all-day event will take place at the Football court next to the Kampong Chhnang Provincial Office in Kampong Chhnang town. The CGPAs are organized by grassroots cross-sector network. It will provide politicians and others a chance to hear the issues faced by the communities and  their demands that serve as recommendations for policy making process. Over 700 people are expected to attend the assembly on Thursday in Kg Chnang.

The issues faced across the Northern region of Cambodia include those related to land and economic land concessions, particularly the concession given to the PheapiMex company. Another important issue faced by fishery communities is the absence of local authority control over illegal fishing and illegal fishing lot, which endanger the peoples’ livelihood. The community also raised the need for accessible and equitable healthcare.  Meanwhile, those who work at formal sector such as teachers, are underpaid and deprived from their basic rights as workers.

Pheapimex enjoys a privilege of ELC as the company is awarded a concession over 315,028 hectares of land, approximately 171,824 hectares in Kg.Chhnang and 143,204 hectares in Pursat province. Thousands of families in five districts in Kg. Chhnang and three districts in Pursat affected from their farmland and livelihood territory. The rapid conversion of forest and land into private property of companies and individuals cost people their livelihood. Most of Kg Chnang population livelihood depends on non-timber forest product. The Royal Government of Cambodia has not come up with significant policies to improve the situation despite the fact that the size of land given through ELC is unconstitutional.  Communities in Kg. Chhnang and Pursat have borne the social cost of ELC since 2004. The Phnom Kuk community networks demand the cancellation of ELC. They demand the government to exercise social land concession for the people, and protection of the forests. “We want to reclaim our land,” said Pehn Ath, Representative from Phnom Kuk Network], “and protection of our forests. The ELC awarded to Pheapimex is larger than legally allowed and it compromised our livelihood.”

Communities around Tonle Sap Lake have been suffering due to the practice of large-scale illegal fishing using heavy and illegal instruments, which marginalizes small-scale fishermen. The practice of illegal fishing continues to happen despite the Prime Minister calling to end this practice. The communities question the role of local authority in protecting the small-scale fishermen. The communities demand for the rights to practice community patrol to guard the lake. They also demand RGC to take effective action to end the illegal fishing.

“Fishing has long been a traditional source of income for those who live around Tonle Sap Lake. Today our demand goes beyond the protection our livelihood. We also need to protect the lake and its substance for our lives. Illegal fishing does not simply impact those who earn their livelihood from the lake legitimately, but it also affects the people in the entire Kingdom whose livelihood sustainability depends on the fish from the lake,” said Sim Sopahna, representative of Tonle Sap Fishery Community. “Fish is a renewable resource, yet, the large scale of illegal fishing has disrupted the fish breeding and overall ecosystem that it takes long time to recover the fish stocks .”  

Teachers across Northern Cambodia also face numerous issues such as low wages, the absence of freedom of association for civil servant and rights to collective bargaining. Thus, CICA fights for higher wages for all teachers, the rights to unionize and law to protect teachers rights to collective bargaining.

“Teachers shape the future generations. They are crafting Cambodia’s future, yet we undervalue them that we are throwing our future away, simply because we don’t want to provide teachers with a decent salary. In protecting teachers’ right to collective bargaining, we’re demonstrating to ourselves and our children the value of education. If the government is really committed to developing the nation, then it needs to be committed to teachers,” said Horm Kea Heng, representative from CICA.

The prominent role of private sectors and individual within the frame of economic land concession and illegal fishing has dispossessed people from their land and other means of livelihood. The case of Pheapimex investment shows the situation where the State, through its local authority and ELC policy, plays a role as an agent in facilitating the private sector. The ignorance of local authority on the practice of illegal fishing has raised a concern on the government commitment to protect the livelihood of people. ELC and other policies on trade and investment have compromised people livelihood and human rights.

CGPA organized in the Northern region involves Phnom Kuk Network, Tonle Sap Fisheries Network, Farmers Nature Network (FNN), the Independent Democracy for Informal Economic Association (IDEA), the Cambodian Independent Civil-Servant Association (CICA) and others. Each group will air their grievances and demands as well as recommend the solution to all issues to MP candidates and MPs invited to the assembly. The Cambodian Cross-Sector Network, the grassroots organizations, individuals, civil-society organizations and others participating in CGPA are committed to working with representatives of all political parties on concrete, sustainable and equitable action that benefits everyone in Cambodia. By holding these peaceful assemblies, those involved want to do more than educate but get the RGC to take concrete, sustainable and equitable action.

Press Release for June 10

For Immediate Release: The Cambodian Grassroots Cross-Sector Alliance is calling upon all Cambodian politicians, regardless of parties, to commit to real, equitable and discernible solutions to the myriad of issues facing their constituents. Having presented a statement to the National Assembly of Cambodia in November during the ASEAN Grassroots People’s Assembly (AGPA) ahead of the ASEAN Summit, in the following seven months the Royal Government of Cambodia has not responded in any substantial way to the people’s demands. Their citizens are still facing the same problems and the problems are worsening.

At a press conference held today in Phnom Penh, the core organizers of the Cambodian Grassroots Cross-Sector Alliance announced their invitations for all politicians to attend the Cambodian Grassroots People’s Assembly (CGPA). The CGPA is a series of informational events that will be held in three regions around the country throughout June by the alliance of grassroots communities, networks and civil society organizations. Each event will provide politicians and others a chance to hear the evidence presented by Cambodian citizens about the issues they face and the solutions which they present. The issues include those relating to land and land concessions, fisheries, labor sector (formal and informal), healthcare, mining, farming, impact of tourism, migration, unemployment, violence against sex workers and more.

Politicians, of all parties, are neglecting their constituents. Cambodia is not without its problems, problems that need real, equitable and participatory solutions – which we are providing – yet those in power and those seeking to be in power continue to ignore our needs,” said Sim Sopanha (Tonle Sap Fishery Network). “Our needs should be their needs, yet they’re not. How can any politician call himself a representative of the people when he does not listen to the people and speak with their voice.”

In Total, three events will be held, in Kampong Chhnang, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville. Each will include grassroots communities, networks, civil society organizations and individuals from the surrounding region, who will gather to present the issues they face and the solutions they seek. Those assembled want more than mere empty promises, so many of which have been doled out by representatives of all political parties in Cambodia. To date there has been little development in the Kingdom that has benefited all, rather than just the few.

We are holding these events to push for solutions. Our problems need to be addressed. That does not mean through violence, or saying that we are against our government. Rather it’s the opposite, we want the government to take a stance on these problems and in doing so highlight their willingness to truly represent the Cambodia people and their legitimacy as politicians,” said Ek Vitean  (Preah Sihanouk Province Land Network). “By organizing our Assemblies, we mean only to hold peaceful events that illustrate the many difficulties faced by people all over the country every day. Ignorance is no excuse for inaction. After these events no politician will be able to claim that they did not know what their constituents face.

Invitations to each event have been sent to representatives of the Cambodian People’s Party, the Cambodian National Rescue Party and FUNCIPEC.  Should these peaceful events be prevented from occurring or the politicians choose not to attend, then Cambodians will once again have demonstrable proof that their representatives are anything but. The CGPA is about improving Cambodia for all who live in Cambodia.

Seven months ago, in front of the ASEAN community and the world, including the likes of President Obama and others, we presented our case to the National Assembly,” said Prach Bunthouen (Farmer Association for Peace and Development). “Since that time nothing has happened. Nothing. We are tired of the empty promises some have offered and tired of the silence from others. Before the coming elections we need to see some real, equitable action take place.”

Press Invitation for June 10

All members of the media are invited to attend a press conference by the Cambodian Grassroots People’s Assembly (CGPA) on “Make Human Rights and Democracy Real in Cambodia.

When: Monday June 10, 2013

Time:  At 10:00 AM

Venue:  Meta House, on Sothearos Blvd in Phnom Penh.

Purpose and process: The Cambodian Grassroots People’s Assembly is a follow-up series of Assemblies following ASEAN Grassroots People’s Assembly (AGPA) 13-16th November 2012.

Organizers: A cross-sector alliance of community networks, association and organizations has been working together since 2011 to support space and voice for grassroots people to speak directly and publicly about the problems they face and advocate for solutions. Previously this alliance has presented a joint statement to the Cambodian National Assembly as part of AGPA.

What we want from to achieve

Since that time the National Assembly and the Royal Government of Cambodia have failed to respond to the statement and in some cases the issues present have only worsened. The CGPA is asking that politicians of all parties commit to solid, equitable solutions. To that point, the CGPA will be hosting a series of events over the next few weeks to which politicians from all parties will be invited. It is hoped that they attend so that the CGPA and its members may present their causes and solutions.

For Press Enquiries please contact:

Gregory Pellechi – Media Liaison
Tel: +855 (0)976 978 064
Email: greg.pellechi@gmail.com
Web: cambodiangrassroots.wordpress.com
Facebook:  Cambodian Grassroots People’s Assembly
Twitter: @CamboAssembly