CALDCloggers

We're participants of the 4th CALD Communications Workshop!! Having loads of fun and learning a great deal! Let's hope we'll all be able to grow together as party partners!

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Singapore Government steps up harassment of opposition SDP during elections


The police have been visiting Dr Chee Soon Juan’s house repeatedly to serve orders requiring him to go to the police station for questioning. The latest investigations involve Dr Chee “providing public entertainment without a valid licence.”


The Singapore Democrats have been selling our flagship publication The New Democrat. We has been doing this for years. But now that the elections are drawing near, the PAP Government has suddenly stepped up it stalking and harassment of the SDP (see photos of undercover police with video cameras recording SDP's activities).Selling the Party newspaper is the most effective way for the SDP to reach out to the people and communicating with voters especially at present during the election period.

This mode of direct communication, as opposed to the relying on the state-controlled media, is also the PAP's biggest threat as it allows voters read and hear what the Singapore Democrats have to say without censorship.

The PAP has thus found it necessary to crackdown on the SDP’s campaign. It has already banned the SDP’s podcasting a couple of weeks ago, knowing full well that the Party was the only political party in Singapore with a podcast and was going to rely on the new technology for campaigning during elections.

It is clear that the PAP is determined to prevent the SDP from effectively communicating with voters in its constituencies. In the meantime PAP officials are freely conducting their campaigns, meeting with voters, going about on their walk-abouts, giving interviews and making speeches.

Many of these activities are considered illegal assemblies and processions. And yet, the police turn a blind eye and allow the PAP candidates to conduct their activities with impunity.

In response to the repeated police orders to appear at the police stations, Dr. Chee has replied that he is in the midst of helping his Party to prepare for the elections and will not be able for questioning until after the polls. He has already attended several sessions with the police in the past weeks.

A Party volunteer, Mr Yap Keng Ho, has also been called for interrogation by the police for conducting a similar activity.

The SDP calls on the Government to stop such harassment. The blatant act is aimed at intimidating Party members as well as voters. It is the reason how PAP “wins” elections.

It is obvious that the PAP is afraid of the SDP’s reaching out to voters with information and is bent on crippling the Party’s campaigning efforts and ability to win votes.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Reply to comment

Dear member of the electorate,

thank you for following the caldbloggers blog site.

in reply to your question, I do not see how I have sensationalized the headline. By the way, the full headline is ' Singapore Government bans blogging and podcasting IN ELECTIONS'.

I believe you have a prob with the word "banned". You would notice from reading the article that 'ban' is a word that was first used by BBC to describe the new media regulations in Singapore.

And for all intents and purposes, when your Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts Lee Boon Yang, says that ,"...we do not allow podcasts and videocasts for election advertising...", it is pretty much clear that it IS a BAN.

I do concede that the headline might be a little misleading as not ALL blogging and pod-casting (MR Brown and Xiaxue can breathe a little as long as they keep to entertainment and not the political arena.) is banned, just those with a political content and those that "defend a politcal line". Bt you do realise that I am circulating this in a political blog and on my own political news emaiing group. For all intents and purposes, I again do not see how the headline has been sensatonalized.

Cheers,
Michael



-----------------------------------------------
> From: XXXXXXXXXXXX@blogger.com
> To: touchdesun@hotmail.com
> Subject: [CALDCloggers] 4/17/2006 01:10:38 PM
> Date: Sun, 16 Apr 2006 22:10:40 -0700
>
> Excuse me, did you say the spore govt "banned" blogging and pod-casting. Is it necessary to sensationalize your headline?
> --
> Posted by member of the electorate to CALDCloggers at 4/17/2006 01:10:38 PM

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Interview with Singapore Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts

New media, same rules

In an e-mail interview with Sue-ann Chia, Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts Lee Boon Yang gives an insight into the thinking


April 15, 2006
The Straits Times

· One argument the Government has made is that politics is a serious business and should not descend into entertainment. How so?

We encourage the free flow of information and exchange of views within our political system. However, for political debates and discourse to be constructive and taken seriously, people have to take responsibility for what they say and should not remain anonymous. Facts must be ascertainable and arguments examined.

Voters can then consider the issues calmly and rationally with a view to the impact on their future, and not get carried away by emotions in the heat of the moment. This is the basis on which we run elections and politics in Singapore, and this is how we have crafted our rules.

For example, there is full freedom to write or publish anything you like and to voice your beliefs and convictions at election rallies, subject to defamation, sedition and other laws of the land. But political campaigning should not be turned into info-tainment, where the line between fact and fiction gets blurred, and people get worked up emotionally without understanding the substantive issues. This is why we do not allow music and entertainment at election rallies, unlike the practice in other countries.

For the same reason, we have not allowed party political films and videos. The impact of watching a video is very different from reading something in cold print. Political videos may be presented as objective documentaries, but are in fact slanted propaganda to draw attention and score political points.

For example, the film Fahrenheit 9/11 was released as a documentary but its selective use of images and out-of-context quotations were designed to shock the audience and make President Bush look bad. Such videos cannot be easily countered with rational written arguments. They evoke visceral emotions and are not conducive to a calm and dispassionate treatment of politics.

· Why is streaming of explicit political content through podcasts or videocasts not allowed but posting of party manifesto and texts of rally speeches allowed for political parties? What is the worry?

The Internet is a new medium, but the key issues are the same, and so we apply the same principles to address them. This is why we allow texts, party manifestos, candidates' write-ups and photos to be posted on the Internet in the same way that they are allowed in the print media.

Podcasts and videocasts, on the other hand, have a greater impact because of the nature of the medium. They have the greater power to influence. Hence, we do not allow podcasts and videocasts for election advertising, just as we do not allow party political films and videos.

The Internet has its own unique characteristics which require special attention. The Internet is ubiquitous, fast and anonymous. Once a false story or rumour is started on the Internet, it is almost impossible to put it right. Despite its usefulness, the Internet is chaotic and disorganised, with many half-truths and untruths masquerading as facts.

This is not theoretical; it has already occurred. Shortly after we announced Zaqy Mohamad in the line-up of new PAP candidates, there were netters who said that he was a nephew of Speaker of Parliament Abdullah Tarmugi, and this spread quickly on the Internet.

In fact, this is completely untrue, but how do we now rebut it on the Internet, and get all the blogs, bulletin boards and chatrooms to put out corrections to set this right? In this case, it is not an important issue, but if it involves emotive issues of race, language or religion, then it can easily destabilise our society. So we must be very careful and set rules so that individuals take responsibility for their actions.

To help bring some order to this chaotic environment, we have made it a requirement for political parties and individuals who use websites to propagate or promote political issues to register with the Media Development Authority (MDA). This promotes accountability and also ensures personal responsibility for comments made on the Internet.

Other countries are also grappling with similar issues. In the last US presidential elections, for example, there were vitriolic Internet campaigns against the two candidates, John Kerry and George Bush. One group tried to discredit Kerry's war record, while another accused Bush of dodging the Vietnam War draft. But those who propagated the personal attacks through their websites were never asked to account for what they said.

By registering political sites, we can avoid a similar situation from happening in Singapore. In this way, we uphold the seriousness and integrity of our electoral process.

· Can we really have effective controls over the Internet?

I agree that the controls are not water-tight. The virtual nature of the Internet and its global scale make regulation difficult. But rules do have some effect. They set a certain standard and help maintain order and accountability in the way political issues are discussed over the Internet. There will always be grey areas but these rules will help define unacceptable practices.

· Will there be new laws to keep up with changing technologies? What would these changes be?

Our position is dynamic as technology is advancing rapidly. We now have broadband and 3G, and people are connected everywhere they go. As the situation evolves, we will have to update our position accordingly. We are constantly reviewing our rules, and by the next election, I am sure we will have them updated to deal with a different environment.

But we will move cautiously, and learn from the experience of other countries. As we feel our way forward, we will continue to take steps to enhance the quality of political debate and preserve the choice that Singaporeans have when it comes to elections.

· The opposition parties have slammed the latest announcement disallowing podcasting and videocasting. They said that it is meant to limit the audience for their rallies and hence hamstring their chances of reaching out to more voters. What's your response?

In fact, the restrictions on political films and videos pose more disadvantages for the PAP than for the opposition. If the PAP were to make a political video, it has the resources to do a first-class production. But we decided against this, as it could demean the spirit of political debate and undermine the longer-term interest of Singapore.

I am also surprised that the opposition parties feel that their plans have been disrupted. This is not a ban that came out of the blue. All these parties had to do was to check the positive list to see what is allowed and what is not allowed. The regulations have been available since the last General Election in 2001. The opposition parties are free to approach MDA or Mica for clarification, but have not done so.

(Note: The 'positive list' states what types of election advertising are allowed for political parties, candidates and election agents.)

· What if the blogger is anonymous or hosts his blog overseas? How do you get the blogger to register? How will registration be enforced given the proliferation of blogs? Who will monitor or police the blogs?

Underlying some of these questions is the issue of what happens when someone tries to influence the political process by attempting to host websites anonymously or from overseas locations. This is a possibility that cannot be dismissed. MDA has oversight on these matters.

Where necessary, it will work in tandem with Mica and other relevant agencies. But we have always adopted a light touch for the Internet. So I will not lose much sleep over these scenarios. Internet users will just have to be more careful about putting their faith in the content of overseas websites. Singaporeans must also exercise judgment and avoid being taken in by those with an axe to grind or who are out to promote a hidden agenda.

· Can political parties mass e-mail/SMS to people? Are they, in these mass e-mails/SMS, allowed to advertise themselves and put out their party manifesto or send out their rally speeches? Can political parties and individuals send mass e-mail/SMS with pictures or videos of election rallies?

Political parties are allowed to send e-mails during the election period. This is on the positive list, but subject to certain restrictions. For example, they should clearly provide information that would enable a recipient to unsubscribe from the party's mailing list. In addition, parties are not allowed to solicit for donations through e-mail or to request the recipient to forward the e-mail to others.

As for individual SMSes and e-mails, we consider these as private communication and they will remain the private domain of individuals. I agree that some people may hide behind this facade of private communication and use e-mails, or a chain-mail system to conduct election advertising. But they should bear in mind that other laws also apply to e-mail communication. These include libel. One should not hastily dash off e-mails in the heat of the moment and live to regret a rash act later. So think first, and then write knowing fully the consequences of such comments.

· Can foreign based newspapers, especially online news sites, put up podcasts/videocasts of an explicit political nature on their websites? Can local newspapers and other mainstream media put up podcasts/vodcasts of election rallies?

The Parliamentary Elections Act makes specific exemptions which allow the publication of any news relating to an election in a newspaper in any medium or in a radio or television broadcast. If they choose to, they will be allowed to carry such materials in the form of videocasts and audiocasts on their websites.

Foreign news organisations will, of course, be allowed to report on the election. But there is a big difference between reporting on local affairs and interfering in them. We do not permit foreign news organisations operating in Singapore to participate or interfere in domestic politics. Singapore politics is for Singaporeans only. Should we find that a foreign newspaper or broadcaster has been inaccurate in its reporting or presented unfounded reports, we expect to be accorded the right of reply. I think this is a fair and reasonable thing to ask for. We are simply asking for journalistic integrity.

If a newspaper, for example, has published an unjustified comment, the very least that it should do is to let us present our side of the story and facts for their readers to be the judge.

If they are not prepared to give us this right of reply, then the Newspaper Printing and Publishing Act and the Broadcasting Act set out the sanctions which we can impose on the foreign media including restrictions to their circulation.

We welcome foreign media to Singapore. I hope that they understand our position on this matter and we can continue our amicable and mutually beneficial relationship.

sueann@sph.com.sg


SEEKING ORDER

'I agree that the controls are not water-tight. The virtual nature of the Internet and its global scale make regulation difficult. But rules do have some effect. They set a certain standard and help maintain order and accountability in the way political issues are discussed over the Internet.'
DR LEE BOON YANG

Singapore Government steps up online censorship in run-up to elections

Reporters Without Borders has condemned rules gagging free expression online, in the same way as for traditional media, in the run-up to parliamentary elections in Singapore.

Singapore Information, Communications and Arts minister, Balaji Sadasivan, repeated on 3 April 2006, the strict rules in force since 2001 on Internet use in electoral periods. The Singapore government has already warned Internet users who are likely to discsuss politics online that they are at risk of legal action. No official date has been announced for the elections but they are due to be held in the next few months.

"Once again the Singapore authorities are showing their determination to prevent the holding of a genuinely democratic debate on the Internet,” the press freedom organisation said.

During a parliamentary debate on 3 April 2006, Balaji Sadasivan repeated and enlarged on the very restrictive measures applying to Internet use during election campaigns. Bloggers and website managers do not have the right to back a particular candidate’s programme.

Outside of elections periods, bloggers have to register with the Media Development Authority (MDA) if they want to openly and regularly defend a political line. But during election periods, the fact of being registered does not allow them to express opinons on political issues. Website managers are subjected to the same rules.

These restrictions will now also apply to new Internet technology. The minister specified that use during the campaign of podcasting and videocasting, two new devices for putting audio or video online, will be banned if they carry political content. During the last election campaign, in November 2001, the main opposition party, the Singapore Democratic Party, made use of podcasting.

Sinapan Samydorai, chairman of the freedom of expression organisation Think Centre, who has been forced to register his website, said that there has been no improvement since the last elections in 2001, during which official party websites were the only authorised source of political news and information.

Another Singaporean blogger, known under the pseudonym of Alex, highlighted the confusion that has been caused by the minister’s remarks about the exact limits of Internet-users rights to express themselves politically in his country. “The minister’s statements raise more new questions than it provides clarification”, he told Reporters Without Borders.


Source: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=16935

Friday, April 07, 2006

Singapore Government bans blogging and podcasting in elections

Singapore attacked for blog gag
BBC 07 Apr 06

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/4882746.stm

The Singapore government has been condemned for gagging political discussion on the web in the run up to the country's parliamentary elections.
The government has extended censorship laws to ban podcasts and videocasts that carry political content.

Websites and blogs are already under strict control and must be registered with the government.

Media watchdog Reporters without Borders said the ban would prevent democratic debate on the net.

The ban was outlined by Communications and Arts minister, Balaji Sadasivan of the People's Action Party (PAP) in a parliamentary speech.

It is enforced under a 2001 law that seeks to prevent overt advertising by political parties.

New technology

The ban will come as a blow to PAP opponents, the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP).

It has used both podcasts and videocasts in an attempt to get round traditional media censorship laws in their campaign.

The party said on their website that the latest announcement was aimed "squarely at the SDP's efforts to harness the new technology to advance its platform in the upcoming general elections".

For its part, Reporters without Borders said: "Once again the Singapore authorities are showing their determination to prevent the holding of a genuinely democratic debate on the internet."

No date has yet been announced for the election.

Outside of election periods, bloggers and website managers have to register with the Media Development Authority (MDA) if they want to write about party politics.

However during elections even registered users are prohibited from open political discussion.

The government said that anyone breaking the ban faces legal action.
The announcement is an extension of the Singapore government's strict censorship policy that applies to all media.

Recently the government relaxed some of its laws in an attempt to market the country as a hub for arts and culture.

The film, Brokeback Mountain, passed film censors this year, in spite of the country's stringent laws against homosexuality.

Government steps up online censorship in run-up to elections

Reporters Without Bordershttp://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=16935

Reporters Without Borders has condemned rules gagging free expression online, in the same way as for traditional media, in the run-up to parliamentary elections in Singapore.

Singapore Information, Communications and Arts minister, Balaji Sadasivan, repeated on 3 April 2006, the strict rules in force since 2001 on Internet use in electoral periods. The Singapore government has already warned Internet users who are likely to discsuss politics online that they are at risk of legal action. No official date has been announced for the elections but they are due to be held in the next few months.

"Once again the Singapore authorities are showing their determination to prevent the holding of a genuinely democratic debate on the Internet,” the press freedom organisation said.

During a parliamentary debate on 3 April 2006, Balaji Sadasivan repeated and enlarged on the very restrictive measures applying to Internet use during election campaigns. Bloggers and website managers do not have the right to back a particular candidate’s programme.

Outside of elections periods, bloggers have to register with the Media Development Authority (MDA) if they want to openly and regularly defend a political line. But during election periods, the fact of being registered does not allow them to express opinons on political issues. Website managers are subjected to the same rules.

These restrictions will now also apply to new Internet technology. The minister specified that use during the campaign of podcasting and videocasting, two new devices for putting audio or video online, will be banned if they carry political content. During the last election campaign, in November 2001, the main opposition party, the Singapore Democratic Party, made use of podcasting. [Correction: The SDP did not use podcasting in the 2001 elections. The Party’s podcast was set up only in August 2005.]

Sinapan Samydorai, chairman of the freedom of expression organisation Think Centre, who has been forced to register his website, said that there has been no improvement since the last elections in 2001, during which official party websites were the only authorised source of political news and information.Another Singaporean blogger, known under the pseudonym of Alex, highlighted the confusion that has been caused by the minister’s remarks about the exact limits of Internet-users rights to express themselves politically in his country. “The minister’s statements raise more new questions than it provides clarification”, he told Reporters Without Borders.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Increasing Rally Participants with the Internet




It's been a while since I haven't updated on our blog. My apologies for it has been very hectic here at our offices, and I mean it has been REALLY busy.

I would like to talk about our 318 Big Parade and the techniques we used in the campaign to draw people to participate. The theme of this parade was : "Protect Democracy, Stand Against Forceful Annexation".

A little bit of background: this parade was held upon the anniversary of the so-called Anti-Secession Law passed last year by China, and the 10 year anniversary of the Taiwan Strait Crisis of 1996, when China fired missiles at Taiwan to influence our first democratic elections.

Ten years later, cross strait relations is still tense. Missiles continue to threaten Taiwan's security, and China persists in superimposing forceful annexation on Taiwan, not letting us decide our own future by democratic means.

This parade was important because as ruling party, we needed to raise awareness among Taiwanese people that more than ever we face a big threat, and that we needed to speak out against this aggression to the rest of the world. Taiwan has been lucky to count on international friends, and we want them to know that we still need their support.

In the first week of March, the decision came from our executive upstairs that we needed to hold this parade, and we had to come up with a strong campaign to draw people to participate. The targeted number of people was 100,000 and we only had two weeks to prepare for this!

In the campaign, we did a variety of techniques using the Internet. We created an EDM in three languages: Mandarin, English and Japanese. Because we wanted to draw international media and also international friends living in Taiwan to cover the event and to participate, we decided to create the campaign in as many languages as possible.

We also created a commercial that we aired on TV and we uploaded it on our website so that people can also view it on the Internet. Additionally, we created a blog to update people on the routes of the event, the times, what to bring, and the rest of the details. http://www.taiwanpeace.blogspot.com/ (you can visit this website for more pictures of the parade).

If they ask me if the parade was successful, I definitely say it was great. We had an estimated total of 180,000 (not counting pets and children). That day, the metro stations were filled with people, and the streets of Taipei were full of parade attendees. They each brought their own signs showing what they wanted to say to China (some of them a little inappropriate but oh well), and what helped us that day was that the weather was absolutely fantastic whereas the previous weeks we had nothing but rain and cold. This helped also to get people out to the streets.

We are so grateful that it turned out to be a success. I have to say that our Internet campaign helped draw many young people in. Of the 180,000 people, approximately 50,000 people attended because of the Internet campaign we launched. This shows that Internet works!

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Thais vote amid political crisis

Sunday, 2 April 2006, 04:33 GMT 05:33 UK

Mr Thaksin called the poll three years early
Voters are going the polls in Thailand amid a political storm which could mean a government is not formed.

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra hopes the general election will strengthen his position. His critics accuse him of corruption and abuse of power.

There have been weeks of protests calling for his resignation.

The three main opposition parties are boycotting the election - called three years early - and urging people to cast votes of abstention.

Mr Thaksin says he will step down if his party fails to win 50% of votes.

Voters have the option of registering a "no vote" if they do not want to vote for a ruling party candidate.

The boycott by the three main opposition parties means that candidates from Mr Thaksin's Thai Rak Thai party will be standing unopposed in many seats.

The BBC's Kylie Morris says the election could potentially be a poll which elects no government and brings no end to the crisis.

According to the Thai constitution, all 500 parliamentary seats must be filled for the lower house to convene, but in some seats unopposed Thai Rak Thai candidates are unlikely to achieve the 20% of the vote necessary to be accepted as legitimate MPs.

Shin Corp row

About 45 million people are expected to vote in the election, which is compulsory.

Thai poll may resolve little
Q and A: Thailand votes

Mr Thaksin called it three years early to try to end months of street protests sparked by accusations against him of corruption and abuse of power.

Polls opened at 0800 local time (0100 GMT) and were to close at 1500.

The BBC's Phil Mercer in Bangkok says the voting has been reasonably steady so far.

Mr Thaksin voted just a couple of hours after the start of the poll.

"This election is very important for the direction of the country because there is a split right now," he said.

"Voting is the responsibility of everyone who loves democracy. They must come out and vote."

The prime minister told the BBC on Friday he had voter support and denied any wrongdoing over the sale of telecoms company Shin Corp by his family, which has stirred the political crisis.

Critics say the family avoided tax on part of the sale and are angry about the transfer of control of an important Thai company to Singaporean investors.

But Mr Thaksin said he was not involved in practical aspects of the company and defended the actions of his family.

On Friday, a last-ditch bid to have Mr Thaksin disqualified from the elections over alleged violations of campaign law failed when the Administrative Court refused to hear a petition from anti-Thaksin campaigners.

Please visit our new website with a new layout: www.ncub.org

Democracy: Made in Cambodia


A Day in the Life of an Opposition Party Activist

Ampil Pram Daeam or the Five Tamarind Trees commune reminds hundreds of thousands of Cambodians of the genocide committed by the Khmer Rouge regime during their reign in the mid-seventies. Later Vietnamese troops were deployed in this area to topple the Khmer Rouge and many more years of armed conflicts depleted the forests, claimed more innocent lives and saw the laying of more mines in the rice fields.

Life for the people in the Five Tamarind Trees commune has somewhat improved these days as most of the thousands of landmines have been cleared but the horrors of the past still haunt the people, as the area is still a part of Cambodia’s wild west.

The Sam Rainsy Party (SRP), the opposition party in Cambodia, did not win a single seat on the commune council in the first ever local elections held in 2002. The army, a strong and faithful force of the ruling party, and the former soldiers of the Khmer Rouge, who have since joined the armed force, have made this area their fiefdom. It is only in this year that opposition to the ruling party has been possible. This is due to the growing confidence of the SRP provincial and local teams.

SRP team in charge of taking the party message to the grassroots.
The next commune elections are due in April 2007 and it is a date set on the calendar of the SRP activists. Equipped with a just a digital camera, SRP membership application forms, a red ink pad and their individual bottles of drinking water, the SRP activists visited each house in the villages of the Five Tamarind Trees commune. The youth activists and the women representatives of SRP leave no stone unturned despite the hot summer sun. Their task in the next two days is to spread the message of morality, truth and justice, the SRP motto, to the villagers. Their mission is to win the commune for SRP at the next commune election in April 2007.

A young woman carrying her young child works across a rice field to join others to register as SRP members. The campaign to gaining a seat for SRP begins with membership registration in each of the eight villages in this commune (that is expected to be completed) by April 2006. Within the party itself, the holding of the village election by July and commune election in October 2006 to select the party’s best representatives to stand as candidates next year must take place well in advance. This is a very tedious task with just about one year to complete and an even more challenging task as SRP wants to fill as many women candidates as possible to represent their party. Just over 8% or exactly 987 women were elected in the 2002 commune elections.

To date, SRP is the only party in Cambodia to prepare itself for the 2007 commune elections and the 2008 parliamentary polls by initiating internal party reforms: all SRP officials and the party president himself must be elected by the party’s congress. Time for change is now and change for Cambodia is possible only if democracy has a chance at the grassroots level. SRP is willing to take the first step by bringing information on democratic principles to the people at the base and how they are the real masters and the force to bring change for a better future, for their children.

SRP youth team taking part in registration of new members.Why do people want change? Women sitting under the shade of their tin-roofed nickel and dime grocery store talk about their inability to read and write. They joke about their “blindness”. They talk about the number of children they continue to bear for the men who are rarely home. The 24 year-old literacy teacher who volunteers her time with Caritas, a Catholic organization working in the North West of Cambodia, scolded the women who have since dropped out of her class. She, herself dropped out of school after four years because of poverty. But she is no longer “blind” and she does not intend to marry any man in the near future. Does she want change? It is a rhetorical question for the young lady but she needs to know who will be the candidates. She voted in 2002 but not much has changed. But she believes there can be change so she will vote again. Will she register as a member of the opposition party? She gives a big smile as she walks off. “I told you, I want change. It will be best if SRP can find women candidates”, she says. In this part of Cambodia, keeping one’s political affiliation unknown is safer, especially if one has chosen the opposition as one’s choice.

Mrs. Moun showing the magazine of the AK-47 used by local officials the day they came to grab her land. Why do people want change? Rushing towards the SRP team, Mrs. Muon Hoeun, a 53 year-old farmer who has been waiting outside of her hut along the dusty road, demands the resignation of the present commune chief, and of the entire commune council. Why should these elected officials stay in their posts if they act like thieves? They steal land from poor farmers. As a widow, Mrs. Muon, makes her living as a day laborer with children to feed and yet the commune chief chased her off her rice field which she purchased years ago, with her hard earned income. He sold her rice field to a rich farmer, threatened her with a gun and even took her to court. This is injustice.

Her story is the same for many hundreds of villagers in the commune. The SRP team put aside the membership registration and explained to her the articles in the land law, her right to land and the need for change if people want to regain their land grabbed by local officials or rich individuals. The SRP team leader was urged to visit the next village where over 1000 families have been threatened and cheated by some military officers who promised to de-mine the forest for them, in exchange for a plot of land to grow crops. The stand off between the villagers and the army officers has led to violence in the last few weeks and more violence is expected. The army officers are clever enough to incite hatred among the villagers.

The SRP team splits up in two so the membership registration can be completed and the urgent request of the villagers is addressed. Before the SRP team leader drove off his motorcycle to the next village, the villagers reminded him of the land mines. “Stay on the main path and avoid un-cleared land”, he was told.

SRP activists spent the night in the Five Tamarind Trees commune. The two days of hard work earned them a total of : 584 new members. The night was spent around a fire with discussions about justice and how to rebuild Cambodia.

The Five Tamarind Trees commune
North-West of Cambodia
A day in the life of an SRP activist
March 16, 2006

PS: The SRP provincial office informed the team leader the next day that Mrs. Muon and her sister went to the office with a letter of complaint against their commune chief and the empty shells of the bullets that were meant to kill them. The team leader was also informed that the SRP provincial team is referring the case to a local human rights organization.