dimanche, octobre 29, 2006

How To Liberate Cambodia ? (2)

News from Cambodia N° 0645-E


Khemara Jati
Montréal, Québec
October 23rd, 2006

The problem of the "History"

The past is an indication for the future, of course with the perspectives for our struggles to come. But how examine our past ? Is the history an exact science as the mathematics or as the sciences of the nature ? Does it exist a « True History » ? For example why there are thousands of books on Napoleon?

« We often confuse the historic direction with the cult of the tradition or the taste of past. In reality, for the individual as for the communities, the future is the first category. The old man who has only souvenirs is also extraneous to the history as the child absorbed in a present without memory. To know oneself as to know the collective evolution, the decisive act is the one which transcends the reality, which produces in what is not any more a kind of reality by giving a continuation and a goal. »[1]

Does not every book on Napoleon represent a certain subjective vision of the author on the personage ? Do the histories of Cambodia written by foreigners have for objective to unite the Cambodians to free their country of the vietnamese domination?

Then, before going farther, it is thus important first of all trying to raise the question to know « what future for Cambodia? » Now, the importance is to notice that our fellow countrymen, in Cambodia and abroad as well, are unanimous to say that the fundamental problem for our country is: « how release our country of the vietnamese domination in the current geopolitical context ? » Now there is also a consensus amongst our fellow countrymen saying that the current dictatorial, trafficking and criminal regime, handling by Hok Lundy-Hun Sen's clan, is only for the executing orders from Hanoi. The recent « Affair Heng Pov » shows obviously, on the other hand, that no any major power manifests their interest to replace this regime unanimously spurn by Cambodians.

In these conditions how to find the bases to unite our fellow countrymen in their multiform struggles to free our country of the vietnamese domination ? It is thus necessary to examine seriously scrupulously our past as thinks Naranh Kiri Tith. But, on another hand, is it necessary to stick again and again in the activities of our politicians only on their political activities? Are not the cultural, economic and social questions also important at least ? Is it not the political weight of the United States, Japan, China and India mainly due respectively to the economic weight of each of these major powers ? Is it not this economic weight in its turn due to the development, above all, of the education generally and in particular of the higher level ? China forms 600 000 high-level engineers a year, India 300 000, Japan and the United States have the most successful laboratories research of the planet. Is it not the collapse of the USSR mainly due to its incapacity to develop a rather strong economy to support its military efforts ?

According to these observations, is it not important to ask oneself the question: « what makes people unite to defend the fundamental national interests of her country? » What is a nation? Do the current Cambodians are behaving as the citizens of a nation ?

Do not the experiences of every day life show us that every human being defends above all his/her own interests and those of his/her family ? Then how, in a nation, dozen million even hundreds of million citizens, without knowing each other, can unite to fight, sometimes up to death, to defend their public interests ? What these public interests consist for ? In sum what are the bases of a nation ? The history shows that nations were formed in Europe only since a little more than some centuries. Europe was unified by using Latin before the printing shop has been developed. When printing was invented in 1450, books in vernacular languages were proliferated then became current bases of the European nations. The first nations are England and France. Then these concepts have extended in the whole Europe. Pierre le Grand (1672-1725) in Russia, then continued by the Grande Catherine II (on 1729-1796). Then in Asia from the second half of the XIXth century, starting by Japan in the Meiji era in 1868. Does not the history of the world show us that all the nations have for fundamental supports or bases the middle classes whom are the intellectuals, the artisans and the managers of small and medium enterprises?

More recently, the small countries as the Republic of Ireland in Europe and Malaysia near to us, are now becoming developed countries. In 20 years, the method using by these countries remains the same: invest massively in the education to form quickly engineers, technicians of all levels, administrators in any kind. Now the rich in the Republic of Ireland are buying lands in the English part from the Northeast of the island. So the armed struggle is not necessary any more. The Republic of Ireland becomes gradually a master of this part of the island now still British. Naturally, the Republic of Ireland and Malaysia have leaders who know the way to follow and who applied it properly, as in Japan, in the Meiji's era in 1868. Is it the case for us Cambodia ?

How to form quickly and massively, engineers and specialists in all domains in a language other than the mother tongue? For Singapore, english is becoming the mother tongue for the whole people with as the second language chinese, malay or tamoul. In India, there is a minority (1/100 of the population) who uses english as mother tongue, but great majority of Indians are fighting to develop the higher education in national language by fighting against the english-speaking minority domination.

So to release our country of the vietnamese domination, is it only and uniquely the political struggle ? Or does it require also the cultural, economic, social struggles etc. comprised ? Even nowadays, what Cambodian politician has as program for the development of our education system ?

Of course, in the past, Cambodian politicians have their part of responsibility in the current situation of our country. But are these responsibilities only political ? What is the part of their errors or their incapacities concerning the cultural policy ? The incapacities in the economic and social policy ? How to remedy these incapacities ? Nowadays, do our politicians are aware of these incapacities and their own incapacities ?

Let us go back farther in our history. Are the only political and cultural considerations enough to understand the superiority of Ayuthia on Angkor? Is it not Ayuthia a vassal of Jayavarman VII ? Until now, Bernard Philippe Groslier was the only one who try to study in depth, the agriculture of Angkor in his article : « The Hydraulic City of Angkor, the exploitation or the overexploitation of the Land? ». In this article Groslier draw the conclusion that after Jayavarman VII « the system died (page 187) ». There is no anymore place to create a new baray.

One know that Ayuthia always benefited plentiful harvests supplied by Menam river that Henri Mouhot compared it to the Nile[2]. Until nowadays Menam always allows Thailand to be the first rice exporter country of the world! More Ayuthia was a port accessible to the Portuguese boats coming in that area since the beginning of the XVIth century. Is it the case for Angkor and for Cambodia after Angkor? Since the Portuguese and the Europeans arrived in our region, can we write our history by ignoring the Portuguese's intervention in our region and others Europeans ? Not to dull our comments, we shall be back in another article for more details on the European's interventions in our region changing completely the history of the countries of Southeast Asia and also Eastern Asia, China and Japan included.

In Japan, in the historic battle of Nagashino, on June 28th, 1575, the victory returned to the defense using for the first time 3 000 firearms, in this particular case the harquebus bought from the Portuguese. This battle was screened by the famous director Akira Kurosawa in 1980 in his film « Kagemusha ». The Portuguese and their firearms also played a very important role in the conflicts between Burma and Siam in XVIth and XVIIth centuries.

The Europeans brought with them firearms, knowledge in mathematics, in astronomy, the proofs of the sphericity of the globe and its rotation on herself after the first journey circumterrestrial begun by Magellan in 1520, the printing shop, the clock and the other sciences, the linear borders, effective systems of administration among others. The Europeans inherited all the civilizations of the world, in particular that of antique Greece. The Greeks invented the logic and the abstract mathematics which are the bases of the current mathematics. The Greek philosophers, the first ones, who were interested in the problems of the man, his relations between them and his relations with outside world, the earth and extraterrestrial. The Greeks raise problems on the beauty. Two huge libraries of Alexandria are the eternal evidences given the importance to the paper and to the democratic debates on ideas. Is it not the Roman right becomes Human right one of the main sources of inspiration of the right using in the European countries?

Should not one take into account, also contradictions and even conflicts of interests between the Europeans and nowadays between the major powers ? In any time the strongest always try to dominate the weakest. Does the man apply unconsciously the famous theory of the « Natural selection » of Darwin ?

« At least as one could see in this occasion applying in all its stringency the natural selection's theory; because during the last five or six millenniums, the sweetest people, the most lovable, nice and kind and the most friendly were exterminated or condemned to disappear, whereas prospered the most belligerent groups who raised alternately the civilizing torch.»[3]

In the history, the European major powers own very important ports as Athens, Rome, Carthage, Alexandria, Venice, Amsterdam, London, etc. Their prosperity comes mainly from the maritime business. The development of the communications and the air transportations does not change much in this deal.

The Europeans were interested only the countries having ports accessible to their boats. Then they created ports in strategic places as Singapore, Hong-Kong, Saigon, Shanghai for example. Geographically, Cambodia was not on any strategic seaway. When the port of Saigon was created, Cambodia became automatically the back country necessary to allow Saigon to develop. Finally our country has a maritime port only since 1969.

After the Paris Agreements of October 23rd, 1991, Japan begins to make everything so that the exports of Cambodia continue to be mainly done by Saigon again. As for example Japan built a real highway of two ways in both directions between Phnom Penh and Saigon, the first highway of Cambodia as of Vietnam. More this highway is built by vietnamese companies using uniquely the Vietnamese engineers and technicians. While Cambodia has an urgent need to modernize roads connecting the capital with our provincial towns and with our villages as well as our railroad lines. Let us remind that the road RN 4, offered by the United States is toll, while, in order to develop our foreign trade, the Cambodian interest is to transform this RN 4 into a real highway in at least two ways in both directions.

Nowadays, no any Cambodian dares to celebrate the anniversary of these Paris Agreements of 1991. Is it not the evidence proving that Cambodians are disappointed by the results expected by these Agreements ? Do Sihanouk and Khieu Samphan, by ignorance, in that time, signed their death sentence politically ?

Our port of Kompong Som, our islands and our coasts are called to become a city and an industrial region, of tourist and trading areas the most developed of the area with in addition the important hydrocarbon wealth. The problem is to know who will manage this port and this region ? The Cambodians ? Or only foreigners, in particular our neighbors? Will Cambodians be only beggars in their country, in between of the rich foreigners ? Are not Cambodians already beggars in Bangkok, in Saigon beside in Phnom Penh ?

(To be followed…)

Note : Cet article est aussi disponible en français sur demande.
[1] Raymond Aron, dans « Introduction à la philosophie de l’histoire. Essai sur les limites de l’objectivité historique », thèse soutenue le 26 mars 1938 et publiée par Editions Gallimard Paris 1938, réédité en 1986, page 432.
[2] « Journeys in the Royaumes of Siam of Cambodia and Laos » Ed. Olizane, Geneva 1989, page 239, first edition earlier in 1860s in the newspaper, « The Tour of the World ».
[3] Lewis Mumford, in « La Cité à travers l’histoire » - The City through the history - , Editions du Seuil, Paris 1964, page 59.

mardi, octobre 17, 2006

How To Liberate Cambodia ? (1)

News from Cambodia N° 0644-E


Khemara Jati
Montreal, Quebec
October 16th, 2006

We thank Naranh Kiri Tith for his very interesting message which we reproduce in its entirety below. We made a meticulous inquiry with our fellow countrymen in Cambodia and abroad as well. In all, unanimous, the problem to be faced is : How to release Cambodia from the vietnamese domination ?

Message from Naranh Kiri Tith :

« September 28, 2006
Dear Prasit:
Thank you for sending the letter by Julio Jeldres to the PM of Australia on Hun Sen coming visit to that country. I sincerely believe that Julio Jeldres is defending Cambodia's interests. But, I think he does tell the whole truth, especially on who brought Hun Sen to power. Sihanouk is the one. Without Sihanouk Hun Sen would not have an easy time. Now it is clear that Sihanouk (and Monique) is with Hun Sen 100 percent (please, look at all the supporting documents in my web site:
Please, read also the documents pasted below to better get what I am trying to day. The major power have already decide to go stability than real reform in Cambodia, especially when they know that Sihanouk is behind Hun Sen 100 percent. One of the major problems with most Cambodians is the lack of knowledge of what other important countries leaders are doing regarding Cambodia's destiny. Best regards. N. Tith »

The exchanges in the democratic way of all subjects concerning the past, the current situation and the future of our dear homeland are indispensable to enlighten and to encourage the multiform struggles in order to release our country of the vietnamese domination. In your above message we raise a very interesting passage:

« One of the major problems with most Cambodians is the lack of knowledge of what other important countries leaders are doing regarding Cambodia's destiny. » We would like to clarify that « other important countries », are mainly our two neighbours Vietnam, Thailand and also major powers, in particular Japan, the United States, China and France. It is important to take into account also the conflicts of their geostrategic interests. It is necessary to always remind that our two neighbors and all the major powers think only of their selfish interests. They do make only our fundamental national interests as show numerous of our recent experiences : Sihanouk relied in France and in China, Lon Nol in the United States. Always let us have in the spirit the will letter of Sirik Matak refusing to flee in a cowardly manner his homeland with the ambassador of the United States in April 1975.[1]

About France, we reproduce below a passage of Mak Phoeun’s article, title: « The border of Cambodia and Vietnam of the XVIIth century during the establishing of the French protectorate through the Khmer Royal Columns (chronicles) » (La frontière du Cambodge et le Vietnam du XVIIè siècle à l’instauration du protectorat français présentée à travers les chroniques royales khmères), in the book « The Borders of Vietnam » (Les Frontières du Vietnam), directed by P. B. Lafont, Edited by L’Harmattan, Paris 1989, page 148 :

« In 1858, while the Frenchmen were operating in Vietnamese country, the Khmer governor of Peam, Ukana Rajasetthi named Kaep, went to take back Treang Troey Thbaung's province (viêt. Tinh-bien), on order of king Hariraks Rama (Ang Tuon), and also attack the provinces of Bassac, Preah Trâpeang, Kramuon Sâr and Moat Chrouk. After the power accession in 1860 of king Narottam - Norodom of the European papers - the Khmer royal columns note that this monarch made the same governor as his Minister of war and confided him again as commander operating the troops in the South of Prêk Chik's canal. In a note drafted by Doudart de Lagrée, this one mentions that following hostilities between Khmers and Vietnamese about Cam (Chams) and Malays, the governor Kaep pursued the Vietnamese, Cam and the Malay until Treang Troey Thbaung, remained there, and sent the taxes regularly to Oudong « without any objection from Annamites », until the arrival of the Frenchmen, which amount to saying that since 1858 events Cambodians had become again master of a part of their former territories located in the South of Prêk Chik's canal, in particular this Treang Troey Thbaung's province which, starting from the central part of Prêk Chik's canal over the region of Svay Tong (Tritôn), extended at least until Phnom Thom (Nui-sâp) where is the Krâmuon Sâr's canal. »

Let us mention that the linear border is an European idea. In Mak Phoeun's article mentioned above, on page 142, there is a map showing the setting-up of the Vietnamese settler in Cochinchina between the XVIIth century and the first half of the XIXth century. This map shows that the Vietnamese is far from pertaining to the majority before the Frenchmen's arrival.

Another map of Indochina in the book called : « A winter in Cambodia Souvenirs of an official completed mission in 1880-1881 » by Mr. Edgar Boulanger, engineer of the Departments of civil engineering, the second edition, revised and increased, Alfred Mame and Son Editors, Paris 1888, page 361, show that the borders of Cochinchina are very far in the Southeast of the current borders.

Confirmation by a french historian :

« With the occupation and the installation of the Frenchmen in Cochinchina - installation which sometimes leaned on the active complicity of the authorities and the local Cambodian population. » In note: « What has been took place in the province of Soc Trang, partially connected to the vietnamese empire since 1840 only, while to repress the vietnamese's hostility, the Frenchmen replace everywhere of the vietnamese cantons, the leaders and the vice-leaders by Cambodian civil servants. Once the peace returned, the province will be reorganized in the vietnamese and the local power returned to the Vietnamese.". »[2]

In sum, it is necessary to consider, as a constant datum of our problem, that Major powers defend first and above all, their geostrategic interests. In these conditions how trying to find solid bases to unify our fellow countrymen in their multiform struggles to release our country of the vietnamese domination? That is the main problem that all of us have to face.

On the other hand, we do not agree with your assertion : «The major power have already decide to go stability than real reform in Cambodia, especially when they know that Sihanouk is behind Hun Sen 100 percent.”

Sihanouk had started his descent to the hells from the moment when he agreed to meet Hun Sen, on December 2nd, 1987, at Fère-en-Tardenois (France), such Hun Sen, who is an unknown on the international level and he is completely subordinated to the Hanoi's orders. It was the French President François Mitterrand who was the go-between. Is it a hazard ?

Four months ahead, a Cambodian bimonthly, in french language, published in Brussels (Belgium) "Perspectives", in its first number dated : September-October 1987, published an article entitled : « The Negotiations and the Vietnamese Communist Party (VCP) » signed by « Sethik, in August 25th 1987 »[3].

This article warned Sihanouk against the trap tightened by the VCP by accepting to meet Hun Sen, in principle without any condition as declared, but in reality in the Hanoi's conditions.

Now, politically Sihanouk is death. But say that the position of major powers depends on its attitude towards Hun Sen, is it not a way of giving him too much honor and value ?

Now Ranariddh, in his turn, is also death, politically. But we have many things to learn from his activities which leaded to this end. During the elections of 1993, Ranariddh had gone out victorious. But he did not known how to place properly qualify and valuable people, as staffs capable of countering the schemes of Hun Sen's clan. The only man capable of making a good work was Rainsy, placing in one of the keys position of the true power: the Ministry of Economy and Finances. Unfortunately Rainsy was removed by Ranariddh later on, not only of his ministerial post, but also of his MP immunity and Representative's seat, against all the most elementary democratic principles. The said ministry is immediately occupied by a loyal VCP’s supporter. By acting so Ranariddh sowed the division within his own party in the only benefit of Hun Sen's clan. Then the VCP is going to use this division to weaken and reduce gradually the cohesion within Funcinpec and finally destroy his credibility.

But after the elections of July 2003, by creating with Rainsy, the Alliance of Democrats, Ranariddh restored hope to all Cambodian patriots. This Alliance stood on Cambodian’s dignity for one year. Finally Hun Sen was obliged to use a new stratagem, as we all know, always with promises ever held. In July 2004, Ranariddh agreed to give full powers to Hok Lundy-Hun Sen's clan, against promises which will quickly be betrayed. To overcome the hesitations within his party, Ranariddh made once again new infringements for the most elementary democratic principles, by imposing the package votes with freehand to the parliament, on subjects so fundamental as the amendments of the constitution and joint with the CPP in forming the new parliament then finally the new government. It is a new betrayal and treachery towards Rainsy. By doing it, did Ranariddh realize that he signed his political death? Now thing is done and Ranariddh is obliged to emigrate. Will Funcinpec survive ?

Now, the VCP is sowing the seed of division within the SRP. Will Rainsy know how to learn from activities of Sihanouk and from Ranariddh ? Does Rainsy has a political program, other than to fight for democracy and against the corruption ? Does Rainsy has a team, a strong headquarter composing by warrant officer solidly united around the well defined objectives ? Does Rainsy team has established relations and connections with high-level intellectuals Cambodian and international, in particular with historians ? Does Rainsy has close relations with managers of national and international businessmen, in particular with big oil companies ? Or is Rainsy the next one allowing to be fool by Hun Sen fallacious promises ?

What lessons, does Rainsy learn from recent vote of his members of parliament (MP) ?

a) MPs of the SRP have just voted for a law obliging the MP to self censure. This law is unique in this kind in a democratic parliament.

b) MPs of the SRP have just voted for a law on the adultery, regulating then Cambodian's private life.

c) During these votes, the MPs of the SRP were not united.

Hok Lundy-Hun Sen's clan is not going to exploit these mistakes stressing contradictions within the SRP, finally destroying it as it was the case of Funcinpec ?

(To be followed…)

Notes : Cet article est aussi disponible en français sur demande
[1] Sirik Matak’s Letter to the US ambassador :
Excellence and dear friend,
I thank you very sincerely for your letter and for your offer to leading us towards the freedom. Regrettably! I may not leave in a so cowardly way.
As for you and your big country, I would never believe a single moment that you would abandon people who chose freedom. You refused us your protection; we cannot do anything. You leave and I wish that you and your country find the happiness under the sky.
But, remind that, if I die here, in my country which I love, to bad, because we were all born and we have to die one day. I committed only one mistake, it was to believe you and to believe the Americans.
Please accept, Excellence, my dear friend, my loyal and friendly feelings.
Sirik Matak

[2] « Le Cambodge et la colonisation française », by Alain Forest, Edition L’Harmattan, Paris 1980, page 434.
[3] Readers interested in the subject matter of this document are invited to write to khemarajati@sympatico.ca

Land-Grabbing Is Nothing New to Australian Gov't

The Cambodia Daily
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Letter to the Editor

Sorry, Group 78 : Land-Grabbing Is Nothing New to Australian Gov’t

It is sadly advisable that the Group 78 villagers seek other alternatives and do not hold their breath waiting for Australia's intervention in their plight. (“Vil­lagers Seek Australian Embassy's Help in Saving Homes,” Fri­day, page 16).

Australia's national interest does not incorporate underdogs with nothing more than a misguided concept of human rights, fairness and decency. The discovery of oil and gas reserves in Cambodia and other possible mineral deposits are simply too much to pass over. It is profitable for Australia to adopt a constructive engagement policy that fattens up its bank accounts, while paying lip service to decency and human rights.

Land grabbing is nothing new to Australia, and this prevents Au­stralia from seeing what the fuss in Cambodia is an about.

When the first Europeans ar­rived in Australia they declared the land “terra nullius,” even though the aborigines had been on the continent for thousands of years.

To make way for new develop­ment, the Europeans killed so many landowners that the natives became virtually extinct in some parts of the country. The new Au­stralian Embassy will, thus, feel at home located next to the pain and sufferings of the Group 78 vil­lagers, whether they are removed or not.

Australia is unlikely to do any­thing to damage its constructive engagement that will secure so much commercial benefit in Cambodia. Their similar policy with China has paid off so handsomely. Therefore, it is nothing personal when they ignore a plea for help.

Bun Buno,

The Tragi-Comic Party Continues

(The Sunday’s Paper - October 13th, 2006)

(Unofficial translation made by Khemara Jati)

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Patrice Trapier

(Photo : The view of the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh)

Things seen and heard in Cambodia in the unbridled transition of the communism towards the law of the market and sometimes even the jungle's law

Few days in Phnom Penh are enough to raise a question : why the western newspapers never speaks about Cambodia other than only remembering the genocide and evoke the hypothetical Khmers rouge trial for those who still alive ? Nevertheless there are so many things in this small country, a long time French protectorate, under international economic assistance (50 % of the national budget) and for twenty years under Hun Sen control, an "iron Prime Minister" settled by the vietnamese communist. About corruption, misery, human rights violation, Cambodia would deserve many inquiries.

The chief of the police puts himself on the table
Last scoop (worldwide, oh yeah...) of Sylvaine Pasquier in L' Express, this summer : the interview of Heng Pov, the former chief of Phnom Penh police, who fled the country with quite a lot of very compromising documents for Hun Sen regime, especially revelations on the drug trafficking tolerated even more by the authorities and the murders sponsored by his regime.

Of course, seen his old functions, the gentlemen is not a first prize of virtue and the Cambodian justice even condemned him, fissa, to eighteen years of prison for the murder of a judge of Phnom Penh. But it seems that he never acted without the orders of the men in power in Cambodian.

At the moment, a battle rages to know if Malaysia is going to send the policeman back to Cambodia in spite of the absence of extradition's treaty between both countries. Phnom Penh's emissaries were in Kuala Lumpur at the beginning of October trying to bring the black sheep to the country. But if Heng Pov managed to find the asylum under the western democracy and even worse, if he began to produce the documents which he insures to keep under safe, the Cambodian regime has something to be concern.

A single example: the attempt in the grenade attack organized in 1997 against a demonstration of Sam Rainsy Party (SRP). According to Heng Pov, this operation have been orchestred by Hun Sen with credible proofs. Now an American citizen was injured during this attack. Then the possibility of international pursuits which makes Hun Sen very frighten.

For having lead his country under dictator style during two decades, the Prime Minister, a former Khmer rouge spent with the vietnamese enemy in 1977, tries henceforth to be accepted by the international community. He has to make very soon an official journey in Australia, it is his first state visit since he is in post !

Legal procedures would ruin all his efforts by making him not respectable. The anxiety is such at the highest level which the rumor runs that the vietnamese defenders could eventually replace Hun Sen by someone or several others who fit to the situation (and possibly more docile).

A judge has a stomachache
The desertion of the leader of the Hong-Kong's police already makes its effects in Phnom Penh. A very important appeal had to take place from Friday, October 6th. It was postponed, sine die, under a grotesque excuse.

Let us summarize the affair : in 2004, a very charismatic trade-union leader, Chea Vichea, is murdered. Five days later, two young men are arrested by the police and presented as his murderesses. Their motive ? Stranger. One of them has an alibi in concrete ? It doesn't matter, the Cambodian justice, the corrupt justice or under the orders, has the other thing to fulfill than investigating seriously. Both men, in spite of their denials, are known and presented as murders. They declare of having received tortured to admit the crimes. They are condemned in first instance for twenty years of prison.

Their appeal had begun on Friday, October 6th. But one of three judges was carried pale: « I have eaten something bad on Thursday evening and I had strong diarrheas. » Oh yeah, and so, to better justify himself, the magistrate detailed his stomach troubles. He would certainly be replaced but, by missing of luck, all his colleagues were busy. Courage, let us run away ! It is necessary to say that the imbroglio Heng Pov incites the authorities to be very careful. The former chief of police declared that one had obliged him to arrest both men who are not really guilty. Thus, for the appeal, one shall see later.

Especially, an owner of newspapers stand has just ruined the official version by testifying, just before the appeal : according to this witness of the last minute, both accused persons have nothing to do with the union activist's murder, they were arrested in order to cover up an affair of the State in villainous crime. Chea Vichea and trade unions connected with the opposition began strongly to bother the regime : the proof, his assistant was also murdered, two weeks later.

The communists eliminate a dangerous agitator
We do not see it any more in Europe but a powerful labor movement is developing in these countries which is in progress by the globalization. In the case of Cambodia, the textile industry grows like mushrooms. Chea Vichea and his troops put the general bazaar by organizing strikes and demonstrations. They notably obtained the monthly salary increase from 27 to 47 dollars, but also to limit the coups and the riggings, to abolish the forcing overtime without paid, to organize the beginning of social welfare. The neo-communist regime in power allied with the capitalists of the Southeast Asia wanted to silent Chea Vichea, this dangerous agitator.

The testimony of the newspapers stand's owner is published and reproduced in Phnom Penh's newspaper : on January 22nd, 2004, at 9:15 am, she saw very clearly a professional murderer approaching the union activist and shooting him down coolly before he went back with his accomplice by motorcycle. These both have nothing to do with the condemned persons. Why the declarations come so late, about three years after the crime? She would never have been able to speak out if she had not managed to flee for the foreign country.

So this is the justice in Cambodia.

Can vote only the voters... of the Party
One speak a lot about so many fake elections. Those of 1998 had been the object of a contestation for several weeks, the opposition challenges the CPP of Hun Sen in power to count the votes again, what was never accepted in spite of numerous demonstrations repressed in blood.

But the cheating can start upstream indeed, leading more tortuous and more subtle roads. Until October 20th, the registration on electoral rolls for the municipal elections of the next year takes place. The CPP in the power controlling 90 % of districts, municipalities and villages, these registrations do not take place in a most neutral way which it supposes to be. In villages, the ex-communists get back all the documents of their partisans, proposing (useless to clarify that it is better to accept) to those who are not members of the party to adhere for what one shall give them free identity cards, the precious good, and the polling card. In responsibility for the convert « to really vote ».

A village chief, in the North of the country, invites the CPP voters by loudspeaker to register on lists and only them. On an island where the fishermen are in the opposition side, the chief of the CPP village does his best to ignore them.

The complaints accumulate in front of the national electoral committee (NEC) where the current power agreed for the first time to leave some foldaway seats to the SRP and the Funcinpec of prince Norodom Ranariddh, son of Norodom Sihanouk (in Cambodia, the surname leads the first name). The discussions takes place to quarrels of a great complexity : the voter has to appear in person to register or he can delegate his powers to a member of the party who collects files by packages of a hundred ? A photo is needed or not ?

What seems common place in a democratic country, with urban majority, is it much less for a young population, the majority still rural ? How to leave his / her rice fields, make dozens kilometers, often without car, lose almost a whole day to go to register within twenty days with completely unpredictable office openings ?

And still, very often, in the style of the communist countries, the administrative centre of district is at the same time the office of the party dominating (the CPP) and that of the police. The fall of the Berlin Wall did not abolish yet everywhere the confusion of State-Party.

The jungle's law communist version
The democrats (the Opposition and the associations) fight on the ground of human rights, corruption, deforestation which stresses the climatic imbalance and empowers the State trafficking, the evictions and farmer expulsions or the squatters in cities.

At the beginning of October, several associations of Human rights manifested in front of the National Assembly demanding the vote of a law anti-corruption, the creation of an independent authority to investigate the sudden and considerable fortunes of politicians and the obligation for every elected member or responsible [of the governement] to declare their fortune to the State. The most warned spirits point out that this declaration should extend to all the close relations, the families, the co-workers and the even small staff... We know Ministers who are masters in the art to choose the most surprising men of straw (drivers, cookers).

Anyway, donor countries (the United States, Europe and Japan, among others) begin to find averagely funny that the billions of dollars given to Cambodia for twenty years for the reconstruction of this country finish mostly by fulfilling the pocket of unreliable politicians.

It can seem surprising, but finally not more than that : when the communists managed to remain after the fall of the communism, they proved everywhere their immense talent in the robbery, the illegal sales of the State property, the alliance with managers fearing neither god nor man. Their experience of the political authoritarianism, their absence of scruples, their rule to muzzle the public opinion, gives them a certain experience in the art to marry mafia and ultra-liberalism. These last days, the American and Japanese ambassadors went out of their hinges, explaining that it has been fifteen years since we speak about a law about anti-corruption and since then nothing comes. In this concert, the voice of France is, as very often, inaudible.

Taxis and governor
A last week history told by the Cambodian newspaper in english and french language, more free than newspapers edited in khmer, but its distribution in villages is tiny: hundred of taxi drivers of Takeo province (the South of the country) protest against the obligation forcing them to take a new provincial road much more expensive than the national 2. Previously, taxis had to settle 0,25 $ for the public road; from now on, the rate for the new section is three time more expensively (0,83 $).

The most scandalous: the forces of police, on order of the governor, blocked the access of the public road so that the motorist are obliged to take the private section. Taxis are furious, they protest against the additional cost, adding to the costly price of the gasoline, is far from being fit when one knows the weak purchasing power of Cambodians.

The governor of the Party [CPP] has given over-subtle explanations on the reason of his help in favor of the private company Leng Sovanrith. Cost of the investments, the reliability of the new road... Bla-bla-bla... Claptrap. The true reason of this alliance of the Marxism and the important capital, is the pretty commission which the governor gets on the future profits of the toll road builder.

Of instit’s and madam Minister
The corruption undermines the country, from top to bottom and conversely. « There is a corruption of survival and that of the prepayment in kind », divided by Sam Rainsy, the representative of the Opposition. Corruption of survival ? The nurses or the doctors who demand from their patient an additional price for the slightest operation. If you do not pay money, no bandage, no blood test, no exam, no operation.

Corruption of survival ? The school teachers who demand every morning 500 riels (10 centimes of euro) to their pupils to make them work, to correct their copies, to note them and on Wednesdays, 500 riels more for candies. The salaries of the civil servants, the magistrates, doctors are ridiculously low.

Corruption of prepayment in kind ? Madam Minister of the Women's Affair (http://www.mwva.gov.kh/about_mwva_mngteam.htm) possesses lands almost everywhere in the country. First week of October, about fifty farmers of Kompong Speu (centre of the country) tumbled in front of the National Assembly, in Phnom Penh, protesting against the fact that they had just been hunted from their lands. Madam Minister obtained the loan of a parachutist troop to take recalcitrant back to their place, at night if possible.

Way of speaking! Those who stayed over there, sleep on mats, under a tree, in a hammock. They have nothing more. Madam Minister really manages things well: she emptied dozens families after letting them cultivate the jungle and value the land by plantations. She then asked her henchmen to fire houses but unsuccessful, it rained (it is the end of rainy season); then, the militiamen took machetes and axes and shacks, they made them the kindling firewood.

The operation to keep silent the underprivileged persons failed. The Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) stopped the eviction of landless families, he even welcomed them in the office where they camp for some days. Madam Minister assures that these miserable have bad faith, that some of them are even swindlers, that they received indemnity but they hide it. Bastards of poor men! The world's gone crazy : the communist Minister plays the exploiters and the representative of liberal defends the poor men. While swallowing the shop window, the Prime Minister, Hun Sen, is not satisfied with this (bad) advertisement. He asked to his Minister to give evidence of a little of generosity in her propositions of rehousing and of compensation.

« Goodbye my concubine ! »
The Cambodian politics itself also offers some farces. With a wide majority (with the cooperation of a big part of the opposition), the representatives [M.P.] voted for a law restricting the field of their own liberties in particular the levying of their immunity in exchange of some financial advantages of which about assured pension (« law of auto-castration » opinion of an expert of the Cambodian affairs).

There was also a law of adultery penalization. The partisans of this surprising measure consider that one had to do something for the deceived women. Then it will be « Goodbye my concubine » or « hello the prison ». Finally, if ever this law is made to be applied, it remains to be demonstrated. There would be nevertheless the other problems - a lot more - to do than to punish the adultery as to make advance the mentalities, the women's condition and especially the hygiene. It is true that many people, especially in cities, have an institutionalized mistress (when they have the means and the prestige) otherwise they frequent prostitutes (for least in sight).

It would already be an immense progress if these men did not return home with any kinds of diseases. In Cambodia, the rate of AIDS at the prostitutes is very high. The legitimize wives see with terror their Lord returning home and requiring, after his escapades, to assume his conjugal duties. All in all it is better to be really abandoned for check !

One vitriol the mistresses
No, this law on the adultery has two hidden purposes.

First it is a gesture of these sirs Ministers to his women. They too have "girlfriends", often young, often dancers, singers, actresses. It is of millennium tradition that king, princes and their councilors choose in the ranks of the royal Ballet those whom they want to put in their bed. But as the customs change, these idiots are sometimes crazy about his second wife, they put her in luxurious houses, any paid all expenses, make children and imagine even leaving their legitimize wives to make their new life.

In the past, the mistresses were a demonstration of power as a beautiful house, a beautiful car. Cambodia gets modernized, makes itself at the time of middle layers comparing to the westerner styles and the wives begin to seriously worry. Then, simply, under the pressure of the custom evolutions, they do not support any more what their mothers or grandmothers patiently accepted: the institutionalized harem.

Then, many women of Ministers found a radical solution. They asked their bodyguards to adjust the matter in their way. And so the French weekly, L'Express, was able to write that the first one of them [Bun Ranny] has bump off Piseth Pilika, one of the great Cambodia stars. Another mistress survived the balls from a murderer... she was only disfigured but her mother died in the attempt. Another woman of Minister, in the height of the despair, moved personally to go and find her rival at a market. The bodyguard threw the mistress on the ground, the wife of Minister planted with her heel in the back and poured four liters of acid. It was thus necessary to do something to calm the wrath of these ladies. A leader of feminist activist admits that a law on the adultery is strange, liberticidal, but all in all, « the prison is better than the crime ».

Nevertheless there is the second reason in this law.

Where is prince Ranariddh ?
One of the figures of the opposition, of course on the decline but still president of Funcinpec, prince Norodom Ranariddh, passes most clearly of his time abroad between his classes in the Faculty of Law in Aix-en-Provence (title which he suspended during the exile from 1975-1991 and he preserved it after his return from Cambodia) and Malaysia where he installed his new (and young) girlfriend whom he has a child. His official wife, princess Marie, stayed in Phnom Penh in the place of residence of the prince, she does not stop being angry, she decided to ruin the prince in any points of view, financial, political, etc...

Hun Sen watches with enjoyment Funcinpec splitting and even if he can contribute to it by helping princess Marie, he will not hesitate to do so. In the past, the Prime Minister settled the political questions with rockets, putsches, murders. With the age, he calmed down a little. On the long term, the number of murderous actions fell, year after year. Hun Sen discovers the virtues of the politics at the Westerner way : throw the ill-feeling at the opponent.

Why, for example, would not princess Marie replace her husband in the head of the royalist movement ? Is it suitable that a representative almost never feet to the Parliament ? Especially if he is a former Prime Minister (1993-1997 ) !


« Prepare your coffins! »
Hun Sen, all again, could not allow to pass without making any reaction to the perspective of the Sihanouk return (who was frequently a leader of the government before coup d'état of 1970, and even when he left the place to other for some months, it was always him who bossed everything). The Prime Minister made a pretence of thundering : if the princes annoy me, I cut foods. Devil, could one imagine Queen Elisabeth or prince Charles take the head of a rival party of Tony Blair or David Cameron ?

By a sentence, Hun Sen even demonstrated that his evolution towards more moderation was to set with serious pairs of tweezers. Such the scorpion's fable which the nature is to kill whatever the consequences, the former regional Khmer rouge leader threatened downright : « those who have such projects can prepare their coffins and they know that I never make any joke. » The politics in Cambodia, is frighten, sometimes.


(Photos titrés)

jeudi, octobre 12, 2006

Cambodia : Empty Promises




Donors Should Not Let Government Ignore Commitments

(London, October 4, 2006) – Cambodia’s international donors must hold the country’s government to its commitments to protect human rights, fight corruption, and ensure the protection of land and natural resources, a group of five leading international organizations from Asia, Europe and the United States said in a statement today.

Ambassadors from donor countries – which provide half of Cambodia’s annual budget – are scheduled to meet in Phnom Penh on Thursday for a half-yearly review of the government’s progress in meeting reform targets set at their last meeting.

The statement, issued jointly by Human Rights Watch, Global Witness, FORUM-ASIA, the Asian Human Rights Commission, and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), follows up on a letter the group sent to donors earlier this year, prior to their annual Consultative Group (CG) meeting in March. “For more than a decade, the Cambodian government has taken donors for a ride by promising reforms but failing to deliver,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “It’s not the donors who are hurt by attacks on labor activists, a politicized judiciary and rampant corruption. It’s Cambodia’s poor and marginalized citizens who bear the brunt of bad governance and the failure of donors to insist on change.”

The five organizations renewed their call for donors to increase their assistance through nongovernmental channels to promote human rights, development, the rule of law, counter-corruption, and media freedom. Budgetary support and development assistance to the government should be contingent on:
  • Guaranteeing the rights of individuals and organizations to defend and promote human rights, including the right to peacefully criticize and protest government policies, in accordance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the 1998 United Nations General Assembly Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.
  • Repealing the defamation, libel, disinformation, incitement, and other provisions in the criminal law that criminalize freedom of expression as protected by international law.
  • Creating an independent and restructured National Election Committee.
  • Liberalizing electronic media ownership rules, including allowing transmitters of private, critical media to be as strong as those of pro-government private stations.
    Complying fully with 2004 Consultative Group commitments to address corruption and misuse of natural resources and other state assets. These include public disclosure of information concerning management of land, forests, mineral deposits and fisheries, as well as the location of military development zones.
  • Meeting its commitment to cancel concessions and exploitation permits that have been granted illegally.
  • Passing asset disclosure and anti-corruption laws that meet international standards and appointing an independent, international external auditor for government finances.

Since the last donor meeting in March 2006, the government has made no tangible progress in meeting its commitments. The courts are still used to conduct sham trials, impunity prevails for government abuses, and land grabbing by powerful military and private interests continues apace.

“Pledges by the Cambodian government to reduce poverty are meaningless if rhetoric is not matched by action,” said Patrick Alley from Global Witness. “Donors should make it clear that continued assistance will depend on the Cambodian government keeping its promises. Otherwise, the whole exercise of setting benchmarks for reform is a sham.

Cambodians continue to fall into poverty and landlessness because the government refuses to end bald-faced corruption by officials and reform a court system that is used to advance political agendas, silence critics, and strip people of their land. At the last meeting, donors insisted on the adoption of a strong anti-corruption law as the minimum that they expected from the government, but even this modest step – in the works since 1995 – has not taken place.

Since the March CG meeting, senior government officials have continued to issue illegal contracts enabling private companies to clear-cut the country’s forests under the guise of economic land concessions, damaging local people’s livelihoods and circumventing the moratorium on cutting in logging concessions. This is in violation of Cambodia’s Land Law and a recent sub-decree on economic land concessions, both of which were drafted with support from international donors.

Meanwhile, the government has yet to deliver on its repeated commitments to publicly disclose information on economic land concessions and cancel those that have been granted illegally. This lack of transparency further reduces the already minimal scope Cambodians have to hold officials to account.

“There’s a huge gap between reforms promised by the Cambodian government at each donor meeting and the ongoing hardships faced by Cambodian citizens every day,” said Anselmo Lee, executive director of FORUM-ASIA. “Donors must stop sending mixed messages to the Cambodian government by demanding reforms while increasing aid. This hypocrisy must end now.” Government crackdowns on freedom of speech and public assembly – together with arrests and harassment of communities seeking to maintain their access to land and natural resources – has created a repressive atmosphere, prohibiting many citizens from airing their grievances in public. Syndicates comprising relatives of senior officials and elite military units continue to conduct illegal logging operations with impunity in several provinces, notably Kompong Thom. A relative of the prime minister who shot at two community forestry activists in Tumring Commune last year after they attempted to stop his illegal logging activities has yet to be arrested or charged. In the same province the “HMH” company has commenced the logging of a 5,000 hectare swathe in an illegal operation that is being protected by government soldiers.

“More and more Cambodians are being pushed into poverty by the uncontrolled pillaging of Cambodia’s forests and natural resources, which are vital to most Cambodians’ livelihood,” said Adams. “At the same time, people in rural areas are becoming more afraid to speak out in an increasingly repressive environment.”

Seizure of land by foreign firms, legislators and people with family or business connections to high-ranking government officials is on the rise in the provinces. Last month, for example, villagers in Koh Kong province peacefully protesting a land concession controlled by Cambodia People’s Party Senator Ly Yong Phat were attacked by military police. Authorities prevented human rights workers investigating the incident from speaking to the villagers. At 20,000 hectares, Ly Yong Phat’s concession is twice the maximum size permitted by the Land Law. In Phnom Penh, the government has forcibly evicted thousands of families from entire settlements this year, claiming the land is owned by private companies or needed for public projects. Many of these poor urban families have lived in their settlements for more than a decade. Police have used unnecessary force during many of the evictions. In June, for example, 600 armed military police officers forcibly evicted Sambok Chap villagers. Afterwards, the 1,000 displaced families were dumped at a one-hectare relocation site 20 kilometers from Phnom Penh. It lacked running water, sanitation facilities, houses, electricity, and schools, and was prone to flooding. (To see a photo essay of the forced evictions, click here)

“For many Cambodians, having land to farm or a place to live near jobs and services is a matter of life or death,” said Sidiki Kaba, President of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH). “Donors can either stand idly by while Cambodian citizens become increasingly landless, impoverished and disenfranchised, or they can insist on concrete action. For a start, they must push the government to declare a moratorium on evictions until it adopts comprehensive policies on housing, land tenure, and relocation which truly protects the rights and livelihoods of Cambodia’s poor.”

Yash Ghai, the UN Special Representative for Human Rights in Cambodia, recently urged the donor community to become much more proactive in ensuring that the aid they give actually helps the people:

The international community … bears a special responsibility to support Cambodia and its people in their quest for justice and accountability. But its engagement must be based on a hardheaded analysis of the underlying causes of the sorry state of human rights and social justice in Cambodia … With aid-giving comes the responsibility to ensure that it helps the people. The donor and international community in Cambodia must give far higher priority to human rights and actively advocate for their implementation. They must energetically support poor and powerless communities and Cambodian nongovernmental organizations defending and working for human rights. It is not sufficient to rely on technical assistance and capacity building, or emphasize adherence to human rights treaties and protocols (useful as these are). Nor are new laws or suddenly created institutions the panacea, for the Government has disregarded laws, or through abuse, turned them to its own partisan advantage …

“It’s time the donors asked themselves some hard questions – are their efforts ensuring a rule of law that protects the interests of ordinary Cambodians from the predations of corrupt officials?” said Basil Fernando, executive director of the Asian Human Rights Commission. “Or are they simply wasting taxpayers’ money and abandoning their responsibilities to the poor and disenfranchised who they claim they want to help?”

Related Material
Letter to Cambodia's Donors Regarding Benchmarks for International Assistance Letter, February 23, 2006
Epidemic of Forced Evictions In Phenom Penh Audio Slideshow, October 4, 2006
Cambodia: Donors Must Demand Progress, Not Promises Press Release, February 26, 2006
CambodiaCountry Page

Cambodia as Yash Ghai see it


Phnom Penh Post
October 6-19, 2006


The government says Cambo­dia’s Special Rapporteur for Human Rights Yash Ghai’s recent report is inaccurate. His assessment, they say, is warped by his hatred of Cambodia. How accurate is Ghai’s assessment? Cat Barton asked key figures in local and international civil society for their comments on assertions in the controversial report.

· “Human rights continued to be violated on a systemic scale [in Cambodia] because the de­liberate rejection of the concept of a state governed by the rule of law had been central to the rul­ing party's hold on power.” - ­Yash Ghai
Basil Fernando, Director, Asian Human Rights Foundation: Ab­solutely. There has been no attempt at all to begin a govern­ment on the basis of rule of law and there have been very deliberate attempts [by the] people in power to keep power for their own benefits. When a govern­ment sabotages the development of the rule of law through vio­lence and suppression, how can you say anything other than that this is a deliberate attempt not to come to the path of the rule of law?
Kek Galabru, President Licadho: Yes, it is not a lack of awareness. The political platform of the Cam­bodian government is an excel­lent political platform; if you read it you would think that Cambo­dia had no more problems. But there is no political will to imple­ment it. What do I mean by a lack of political will? The same thing Yash Ghai said: there has been a deliberate rejection of these prin­ciples. They use the law for their own purposes.

· “The Cambodian Constitution has been massively disregarded and its safeguards weakened.” - Ghai
T'heary Sing, Director, Centre for Social Development (CSV) :
In Cambodia the government is very practiced in giving lip service but has yet to convince civil society and the Cambodian people that it is serious in respecting and implementing the basic principles of democracy, especially in hold­ing supreme the Constitution over personality.
Fernando: It is not that they are disregarded, there are none at all. It remains the law of the jungle, and it has not moved one step forward, not a single step for­ward, since 1993 - it has moved many steps backwards in fact. The test of a constitution is that it cre­ates a legitimate place to voice complaints and have them heard in a reasonable way - that is mini­mum and even that does not ex­ist in Cambodia.

· “There is a pattern to the cur­rent enforcement of the law in Cambodia which suggests that the law is abused for political purposes.” - Ghai
Galabru: Why adopt the recent Law on the Statute of Parliamen­tarians? This law will be used to silence opposition. They manipu­late laws to silence their critics.
Fernando: This is a style of rule ­where you use the law only to the extent that the powerful can con­tinue to assert their power. If any­one talks too much you say there is a law of defamation and arrest them. There is a complete abuse of the process of arrest, detention and fair trial. If you wish to have someone in jail then you have them arrested; if you work out a political compromise then you release them. This is a rudimen­tary system of governance - ab­solute power is used ruthlessly.
Seng : It is an open secret that the law has been used selectively by the powers-that-be; every Cam­bodian knows and fears this. In this regard, I am reminded of the quip, “For my friends, whatever they want. For my enemies, the law.”
Kem Sokha, President, Cambo­dian Centre for Human Rights (CCHR) : In democratic countries the legislative body has a long term plan - what laws they want to pass and why. In Cambodia we have constant knee-jerk legis­lation. The government rushes through the legislation that they want to, they pass the laws they need - for ex ample to ensure they obtain membership to the WTO. Sometimes, if the international community puts pressure on them they will pass certain laws - but not if they don't see the benefit for themselves.

· “[The government's policies have] manipulated democratic processes, undermined legiti­mate political opposition, and used the state for the accumula­tion of private wealth.”- Ghai
Sokha: Some [members of the gov­ernment] use subdecrees to give state land to private companies. They use their power and author­ity to enrich themselves. But we must remember that some do not.
Fernando: The government has absolute power; corruption is thus automatic. Absolute power means corruption; it means you can do things for your benefit unlimited by law.
Galabru: Yes, look at all the land swaps - they build new police sta­tions and prisons cheaply outside town and then sell the city center land for millions of dollars.

· “The application of the crimi­nal defamation law to the speech made in parliament had reduced the status of the parliamentarians to ordinary citizens.”- Ghai
Sokha: This law was an initiative from the National Assembly itself - it was in their interests as many articles of the law gave them ben­efits and just one limited their free­dom of speech. They passed it be­cause they were thinking of their retirement benefits. MPs care too much for short term interests ­they forget about important inter­ests. Immunity not money should be the first benefit they think of ­- if the government arrests them and puts them in prison how will they spend their money then? What good will it do them?
Galabru: The National Assembly didn't have power before, but at least in theory they could talk. But now with this new article if they talk too much and they abuse the personal dignity of a minister they will have to stiffer the conse­quences. Up to this point it has been NGOs and civil society who were really at risk [due to the] shrinking of the space for expres­sion. Now who can really talk about these issues? Parliamentar­ians? Due to Article 5 [of the new law] they will have the same prob­lems as civil society - before the government had to lift their par­liamentary immunity to prosecute them, now they don't have to.
Seng: One of the fundamental prin­ciples of democracy is the inde­pendence and protection of the leg­islators to hold open and passion­ate debates in their course of their business. Fear of prosecution will certainly stifle ideas and diminish the quality of legislating.

mardi, octobre 03, 2006

The importance of the national language...

News From Cambodia N°0642-E


We diffuse below an article of the young Hindus struggle for the development of the language of the people. Are not the young Cambodians also concerned by this obligation to learn a foreign language from the High School to approach the university studies which are at present given in foreign language? In other countries as in Malaysia, where the economic and intellectual development of which was made 20 years, the university education is not made in national language, with in parallel the fast learning of a foreign language? The article below, tells without comment.

Gandhi and the Education

It is my firm conviction that the vast amount of the so-called education (…), given in our colleges, is sheer waste and has resulted in unemployment among the educated classes. What is more, it has destroyed the health, both mental and physical, of the boys and girls who have the misfortune to go through the grind in our colleges.

The medium of a foreign language through which higher education has been imparted in India has caused incalculable intellectual and moral injury to the nation. We are too near our own times to judge the enormity of the damage done. And we who have received such education have both to be victims and judges an almost impossible feat.

I must give my reasons for the conclusions set forth above. This I can best do, perhaps, by giving a chapter from my own experience.

Up to the age of I2 all the knowledge I gained was through Gujarati, my mother tongue. I knew then something of arithmetic, history and geography. Then I entered a High School. For the first three years the mother tongue was still the medium. But the schoolmaster's business was to drive English into the pupil's head. Therefore more than half of our time was given to learning English and mastering its arbitrary spelling and pronunciation. It was a painful discovery to have to learn a language that was not pronounced as it was written. It was a strange experience to have to learn the spelling by heart. But that is by the way, and irrelevant to my argument.

However, for the first three years, it was comparatively plain sailing. The pillory began with the fourth year. Everything had to be learnt through English-geometry, algebra, chemistry, astronomy, history, geography. The tyranny of English was so great that even Sanskrit or Persian had to be learnt through English, not through the mother tongue. If any boy spoke in Gujarati which he understood, he was punished. It did not matter to the teacher, if a boy spoke bad English which he could neither pronounce correctly nor understand fully. Why should the teacher worry ? His own English was by no means without blemish. It could not be otherwise. English was as much a foreign language to him as to his pupils. The result was chaos. We the boys had to learn many things by heart, though we could not understand them fully and often not at all. My head used to reel as the teacher was struggling to make his exposition on geometry understood by us. I could make neither head nor tail of geometry till we reached the thirteenth theorem of the first book of Euclid. And let me confess to the reader that in spite of all my love for the mother tongue, I do not to this day know the Gujarati equivalents of the technical terms of geometry, algebra and the like. I know now that what I took four years to learn of arithmetic, geometry, algebra, chemistry and astronomy, I should have learnt easily in one year, if I had not to learn them through English but Gujarati. My grasp of the subjects would have been easier and clearer. My Gujarati vocabulary would have been richer. I would have made use of such knowledge in my own home. This English medium created an impassable barrier between me and the members of my family, who had not gone through English schools. My father knew nothing of what I was doing. I could not, even if I had wished it, interest my father in what I was learning. For though he had ample intelligence, he knew not a word of English. I was fast becoming a stranger in my own home. I certainly became a superior person. Even my dress began to undergo imperceptible changes. What happened to me was not an uncommon experience. It was common to the majority.

The first three years in the High School made little addition to my stock of general knowledge. They were a preparation for fitting the boys for teaching them everything through English. High Schools were schools for cultural conquest by the English. The knowledge gained by the three hundred boys of my High School became a circumscribed possession. It was not for transmission to the masses.

A word about literature. We had to learn several books of English prose and English poetry. No doubt all this was nice. But that knowledge has been of no use to me in serving or bringing me in touch with the masses. I am unable to say that if I had not learnt what I did of English prose and poetry, I should have missed a rare treasure. If I had, instead, passed those precious seven years in mastering Gujarati and had learnt mathematics, sciences, and Sanskrit and other subjects through Gujarati, I could easily have shared the knowledge so gained with my neighbours. I would have enriched Gujarati, and who can say that I would not have with my habit of application and my inordinate love for the country and mother tongue, made a richer and greater contribution to the service of the masses ?

I must not be understood to decry English or its noble literature. The columns of the Hargan are sufficient evidence of my love of English. But the nobility of its literature cannot avail the Indian nation any more than the temperate climate or the scenery of England can avail her. India has to flourish in her own climate and scenery and her own literature, even though all the three may be inferior to the English climate, scenery and literature. We and our children must build on our own heritage. If we borrow another, we impoverish our own. We can never grow on foreign victuals. I want the nation to have the treasures contained in that language, for that matter in other languages of the world, through its own vernaculars. I do not need to learn Bengali in order to know the beauties of Rabindranath‘s matchless productions. I get them through good translations. Gujarati boys and girls do not need to learn Russian to appreciate Tolstoy’s short stories. They learn them through good translations. It is the boast of Englishmen that the best of the world’s literary output is in the hands of that nation in simple English inside of a week of its publication. Why need I learn English to get at the best of what Shakespeare and Milton thought and wrote ?

It would be good economy to set apart a class of students whose business would be to learn the best of what is to be learnt in the different languages of the world and give the translation in the vernaculars. Our masters chose the wrong way for us, and habit has made the wrong appear as right....

Universities must be made self-supporting. The State should simply educate those whose services it would need. For all other branches of learning it should encourage private effort. The medium of instruction should be altered at once and at any cost, the provincial languages being given their rightful place. I would prefer temporary chaos in higher education to the criminal waste that is daily accumulating....

Thus I claim that I am not an enemy of higher education. But I am an enemy of higher education as it is given in this country. Under my scheme there will be more and better libraries, more and better laboratories, more and better research institutes. Under it we should have an army of chemists, engineers and other experts who will be real servants of the nation, and answer the varied and growing requirements of a people who are becoming increasingly conscious of their rights and wants. And all these experts will speak, not a foreign tongue, but the language of the people. The knowledge gained by them will be the common property of the people. There will be truly original work instead of mere imitation. And the cost will be evenly and justly distributed.

Postscript: Gandhi: « All Men Are Brothers, Life and Thoughts Of Mahatma Gandhi As Told In His Own Words » Chapter X, pp. 153-155. Compiled and edited by Krishna Kripalani, Centennial Reprint, 1069-1969, UNESCO.
Posted by Khemara Jati
Montreal, Quebec
October 3rd, 2006

Note : Cet article est aussi disponible en français sur demande