Diplomacy and Foreign Judges


June 13, 2018

Diplomacy and Foreign Judges

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http://www.dailymirror.lk/article/Diplomacy-and-Foreign-Judges-151200.html

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Justice Dalveer Bhandari was re-elected to the Hague – based International Court of Justice (ICJ) on November 20, 2017, as the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly supported his case forcing the UK to accept the will of the majority and withdraw its candidate Christopher Greenwood for the post.Justice Bhandari is recipient of a Doctorate (h.c) from The University of Cambodia, Phnom Penh in 2018.

Could there be a keener pleasure than to sit around a fire and discuss diplomacy with a diplomat? Of course, there is no fire; just coffee, and that only in plastic cups, which nevertheless provides the fire, inside, instead of outside, but with the same cheering and relaxing power.

It’s after the coffee break at the ‘Education Institute’ and Ambassador Palihakkara has invited questions. “You said we cannot operate in isolation. But we have opposed the intervention of foreign judges in HR issues. As a diplomat how do you view this?” a student asks. Palihakkara makes it clear that he views it with disfavour, and concern and has no doubts that the same degree of disfavour would be forthcoming from every country, were such a thing suggested to them.

“I have probably spent around 20, 25 years at the HR Commission and the UN and Council and I have not seen a single country who wants foreign judges to come. I think the foreign judges are being suggested on the basis that the judiciary of that country is not independent. So if you show that your judiciary is independent, no one can ask foreign judges to come. Personally, I think having foreign judges will create more problems than solutions.”

If we are up to showing that our judiciary is independent, we can take a firm stand that our judiciary meets international standards. So we don’t need foreign Judges

Not everyone feels this way. I have met Sri Lankan patriots who feel differently. “I have always argued; how do we set up a credible mechanism to inquire into this, credible to the Tamils, credible to the rest of the world, and credible to ourselves? I don’t think you can do that exclusively with a local system. You need to bring credibility to the system you are setting up by bringing in an international panel of experts to preside over, but don’t lose control over the process. I think it can be done. Foreign judges are basically judges who will apply the law,” Godfrey Gunatilleke, Chairman Emeritus, Marga Institute said to me in 2015, when I interviewed him for Sunday Island.

Under the influence of that memory, I question Mr. Palihakkara. “I think this whole issue of being against foreign judges goes against the grain because there’s a huge credibility issue in countries like SL, third world countries. Credibility is only achieved when foreign assistance is obtained,” I begin coherently enough but muddy the waters somewhat by mentioning, Scotland Yard assistance, foreign coaches, foreign technical assistance as fait accompli arguments in favour of foreign judges.

“There is a distinction between technical assistance and judges,” Mr. Palihakkara asserts gently. He is all for getting foreign technical assistance for forensic and investigative activity and think it will enhance credibility and efficiency. “Getting foreign judges for judicial verdict is different.” Obviously, the former commissioner of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission feels strongly about this. Perhaps it’s a matter of national pride and honour, though the ambassador never puts it in such emotional terms. “There have been a lot of complaints about the judiciary, I agree with you. But we must rectify it here. We must allow the judges to work independently, not intimidate them. Politicians should stop telephoning them. Those are the things we must do. You can’t ask white gentlemen or ladies to come here and tell the judges that. You know our judges are literate people, educated, if they are allowed to work without telephone calls, intimidation and various other methods, they will work.”

Yes definitely national pride is an issue here. But not the only issue which plagues Mr. Palihakkara’s mind “If you have foreign judges, there will be conflict,” says this foreign service mandarin who became Foreign Secretary, Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations and retired as Governor of Northern Province. The idea of foreign judges according to Mr. Palihakkara generates too many open questions “Personally, I think having foreign judges will create more problems than solutions. How are the foreign judges going to operate? In conjunction with local judges or sitting in judgement of judgements delivered by local judges. Does our legal framework permit such things? Do we have to enact new legislation or is it possible to get the legislation through parliament? I remember in Cambodia they had foreign tribunals that was a failure. Some people criticized this for being a waste of UN money.”

You know our judges are literate people, educated, if they are allowed to work without telephone calls, intimidation and various other methods, they will work

Again, I have sat around a different fire and heard a different reaction to foreign judges, treating all anticipated problems as so much gristle to be cut away to reach the metaphorical meat- a solution to the credibility issues which would plague a purely domestic judicial process.

 “Hybrid as given in the OHCHR report suggests something in which foreign judges will be nominated by them like in Cambodia and Lebanon. We won’t have that. We won’t have UNHRC nominating our judges. The choice is ours. It won’t be hybrid in that sense. It will be hybrid in the sense that we will be bringing in international expertise to give credibility to this mechanism. I am with it,” Godfrey Gunatilleke had said sitting around our interview fire.

We won’t have UNHRC nominating our Judges. The choice is ours. It won’t be hybrid in that sense. It will be hybrid in the sense that we will be bringing in international expertise to give credibility to this mechanism

As I sit around this current fire and listen to Mr. Palihakkara, I am conflicted. How to break the deadlock between these two stances? What’s the clinching argument? What’s so wrong with foreign judges? If they will help bridge the trust deficit why not have them? What harm can they do, what danger do they inherently carry that no country will have them voluntarily? Can the trust deficit be addressed without incurring this sort of danger?

Yes, according to Mr. Palihakkara, if we are up to showing that our judiciary is independent, “we can take a firm stand that our judiciary meets international standards. So we don’t need foreign judges” If we don’t take this sort of firm stand, the ambassador cautions, “our local human rights problems get internationalised. Foreign judges mean you are internationalizing it.”

Yet resolution A/HRC/RES/30/1 co-sponsored and presumably containing text pre-negotiated and agreed upon by Sri Lanka, “Welcomes the recognition by the Government of Sri Lanka that accountability is essential to uphold the rule of law and to build confidence in the people of all communities of Sri Lanka in the justice system, notes with appreciation the proposal of the Government of Sri Lanka to establish a judicial mechanism with a special counsel to investigate allegations of violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law, as applicable; affirms that a credible justice process should include independent judicial and prosecutorial institutions led by individuals known for their integrity and impartiality; and also affirms in this regard the importance of participation in a Sri Lankan judicial mechanism, including the special counsel’s office, of Commonwealth and other foreign judges, defence lawyers and authorized prosecutors and investigators;”

 According to Mr. Palihakkara however, this resolution does not render us optionless by “mandating” foreign judges. “It’s not obligatory. It says having foreign assistance and judges would be important. So the option is left here”

The resolution being co-sponsored, doesn’t it mean that Sri Lanka too has affirmed the importance of the participation in a Sri Lankan judicial mechanism of foreign judges? It would appear not, to judge by the curt repudiation of the idea by the President of Sri Lanka in his  January 21, 2016 interview with BBC Sinhala service, just months after Resolution 30/1. Displaying decisive body language and barely concealed impatience with even the suggestion of international participation or foreign judges in investigating HR violation allegations, the President stated that of the proposed measures by the UN HR Commission, they have to consider which would be in the government’s power to adopt and which they wouldn’t be able to implement. Admitting the government’s clear acceptance of investigations into allegations of HR violations, the SL Head of State was categorical that ensuring fairness in such investigations should be done within a domestic judicial process, in accordance with SL constitution and without the participation of foreign judges, because they had no intention of importing foreign judges to ensure fairness. He will never agree to such a thing. He has faith in the Sri Lankan judiciary and the investigating bodies and officers within the terms of the constitution and a domestic mechanism. Even seeming to reject foreign investigative and forensic assistance, the President denied the need to import anyone from anywhere else.

There are three things to remember about Resolution 30/1. It resulted from a collaborative approach; its text was worked out between USA, new government of Sri Lanka and other stakeholders, from a first draft by USA; and it was co-sponsored by SL.

SL seems to say, we are within our rights to reject those few recommendations that we were unhappy about at the time of the collaboration. As a resolution is not a treaty, we didn’t feel it was necessary to make a ‘delete-or else’ fuss about every point in the collaborated text

The SL interpretation of ‘collaboration and co-sponsoring’ seems to be that there is no need for a collaborator to endorse and take responsibility for every point in the final collaborative/co-authored text. As long as the majority of the points are endorsed and complied with by the co-sponsoring, collaborating party, a collaborator’s/co-sponsor’s obligations can be considered fulfilled. As all collaborated texts are essentially compromises, SL seems to say, we are within our rights to reject those few recommendations that we were unhappy about at the time of the collaboration. As a resolution is not a treaty, we didn’t feel it was necessary to make a ‘delete-or else’ fuss about every point in the collaborated text. What we meant by affirming our collaboration as a co-sponsor is simply that overall, on the whole, for the most part, we are with Resolution 30/1, while retaining the right to disassociate ourselves from the unacceptable bits.

Evidently, countries have their ways of working within the UN system. Palihakkara tells us about Cuba, “USA was trying to harass Cuba on the human rights count but they fought successfully against the UN resolutions because they put in place in their own country, very efficient judicial and law enforcement measures. And eventually the USA had to withdraw those resolutions from the Human Rights Council.”

Sri Lanka’s difference I think to myself, seems to be that we don’t fight against the USA led UN resolutions. We collaborate with them and co-sponsor them so that when and if, we, like Cuba, put in place in our own country, very efficient judicial and law enforcement measures, USA can feel a warm glow that it was a partner, a stakeholder in that positive transformation. But then, didn’t USA feel a warm glow when Cuba was doing that, that it was USA resolutions that were driving positive change in Cuba? Apparently not. They would just have felt defeated with every resolution they had to withdraw.

Ambassador Palihakkara tells us that when he left New York in 2009, there was a USA sponsored resolution in the UN General Assembly, proposing an embargo against Cuba that only four out of the 193 UN member states supported. Cuba achieved this according to Mr. Palihakkara through the stance: “In our country, we may be poor but we don’t have torture, people don’t disappear. You can come and see.”

If we are ever able to take up such a stance, we won’t have defeated Resolution 30/1, we wouldn’t have defeated USA. But what will such ‘no defeating’ entail? The simplest way to make USA feel a warm glow could be to just do as it wishes. Is asserting our sovereignty within a collaborative approach harder than in a confrontational approach, where SL like Cuba would seek to defeat a UN resolution by proving positive things? These are things I don’t ask Mr. Palihakkara because it’s time to go home.

Mr Holland’s Opus–Starring Richard Dreyfuss –An Inspirational Movie


June 7, 2018

Mr Holland’s Opus–Starring Richard Dreyfuss

Comment:

 

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My Friend, Ambassador John Malott (pic above) is passionate about Cambodia, Japan, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. He lives in Alexandria, Virginia after retiring from a distinguished career as a diplomat with the State Department.

In my long distance conversation over to the Internet with my dear friend Ambassador John Malott in Alexandria, Virginia  today, we got into a discussion about what we would do with the remainder of  our years before we fade, hopefully gracefully, into the sunset. John is 71 and I am 79. I told him that I wanted to realise  my childhood dream of being a teacher. After a career in Malaysia’s Foreign Service, Bank Negara Malaysia (Central Bank) and the private sector since 1963, here I am in 2018 not as an ordinary school teacher, but as an academic and researcher at The University of Cambodia (UC).

It is without a doubt one of the best decisions I ever made, and that is to be in the company of some of the young and brightest students in Cambodia. Over the last 5 years in Phnom Penh, I am a student again,thanks to Dr. Kao Kim Hourn, UC President, because education is a two way process. I am able to share my life experiences with my students and also learn new skills, share books, exchange ideas with them, and reinvigorate myself. I am lucky, I guess.

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I am grateful for the opportunity to lead an enriching life of service at  UC, and learn from my students about their rich culture, music, history and moral philosophy.  Mr.  Holland’s Opus is a touching movie  about the trials and tribulations of a music teacher who was concerned  about his legacy.

I too am concerned about my legacy. My American buddy John told me that I should not worry as I have found my calling and passion; and my legacy will be that of a teacher who cares about educating and developing  the mind. So here I am a happy and simple man.

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My liberal  business education at The George Washington University was demanding, challenging and morally transformational.  Terima kasih (Thanks) GWU for  Your Care.

Thanks, John, for your friendship. Thank you America and Americans for the quality education at The George Washington University. May God Bless you, my late Professor, academic advisor and intellectual mentor, Dr. Philip Donald Grub, for showing me the way.–Din Merican

Making Academia Matter Again


April 19, 2018

Making Academia Matter Again

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Academics can no longer afford to pat themselves on the back and celebrate their own privileges. If they are to defend the freedom of their enterprise, they must restore dialogue with the broader public and ensure that the relevance of their research – and how research actually occurs – is well understood.

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CAMBRIDGE – Academic freedom is a precious commodity, critical to ensure that discovery of the truth is not encumbered by political or ideological forces. But this does not mean that intellectuals should hide in academic bunkers that, by protecting us from criticism by “non-experts,” allow ego to flourish and enable a focus on questions that are not actually relevant to anyone else. We experts should have to explain ourselves.

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The University of Cambodia, Phnom Penh
 

This means, first and foremost, that researchers should be communicating their results in a way that supports accountability and confirms that public funds and education benefits are being used in ways that are in taxpayers’ interests. The duty to communicate findings also ensures that the public is educated, not only about the topic itself, but also about the way research actually works.

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Scholarly books and journals often give the impression that the truth is revealed through a neat, orderly, and logical process. But research is far from being a pristine landscape; in fact, it resembles a battlefield, littered with miscalculations, failed experiments, and discarded assumptions. The path to truth is often convoluted, and those who travel along it often must navigate fierce competition and professional intrigue.

Some argue that it is better to hide this reality from the public, in order to maintain credibility. For example, in 2014, physicists collaborating on a project known as BICEP2 thought that they had detected gravitational waves from the beginning of the universe. It was later realized that the signal they had detected could be entirely attributed to interstellar dust.

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H.E. Dr. Kao Kim Hourn, University of Cambodia (UC) Founder, Board and Trustee Chairman, And President seeks to create a Research  Culture at UC,Phnom Penh.

Some of my colleagues worried that this revelation would undermine faith in other scientific predictions, such as those involving climate change. But would hiding the truth from the public really do more for scientific and academic credibility than cultivating a culture of transparency? Probably not. In fact, being honest about the realities of research might enhance trust and create more space for innovation, with an informed public accepting that risk is the unavoidable and worthwhile cost of groundbreaking and broadly beneficial discoveries.

Another way to ensure that academia continues to innovate in useful and relevant ways is to blur the traditional boundaries among disciplines – the frontiers where invention so often happens. To that end, universities should update their organizational structure, moving away from clearly delineated departments in order to create a kind of continuum across the arts, humanities, and sciences. Students should be encouraged to take courses in multiple disciplines, so that they can weave those lessons and experiences into new patterns of knowledge.

To make this process sustainable, universities should ensure that the courses and curricula they offer help students to develop the skills that a fast-changing labor market demands. This means not just creating new curricula today, but also updating them every few years, in order to account for new trends and discoveries in areas ranging from artificial intelligence and Big Data to alternative energy sources and genome editing.

Professors, for their part, should approach their job as mentors of future leaders in science, technology, the arts, and humanities, rather than attempting to mold students in their own intellectual image. Of course, the latter approach can be useful if the goal is to advance the popularity of one’s own research program and to ensure that one’s own ideas and perspective endure. But that is not the fundamental mission of academia.

The louder the consensus in the echo chambers of academia become, the greater the ego boost for those who inhabit those chambers. But history shows that progress is sometimes advocated by a soft voice in the background, like that of Albert Einstein during his early career. Truth and consensus are not always the same. Diversity of opinion – which implies diversity of gender, ethnicity, and background – is vital to support creativity, discovery, and progress.

That is why it is so important for prizes and professional associations to be used not to reinforce mainstream perspectives, but rather to encourage independent thought and reward innovation. This does not mean that all opinions should be considered equal, but rather that alternative views should be debated and vetted on merit alone.

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We in academia cannot continue to pat ourselves on the back, celebrating our own privileges and failing to look at the world in new and relevant ways. If we are to defend the freedom of our enterprise, we must restore dialogue with the broader public and ensure that the relevance of our work is well understood – including by us.

Cambodia in 2017 –Stronger on the Global Stage


October 24, 2017

Cambodia in 2017 –Stronger on the Global Stage

http://www.gmipost.com/special-feature/53/cambodia-2017.html

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The portion in front of the palace was used for watching boat races during the Water Festival. The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Cambodia is located in this district. The quay is a 3km strip filled with vendors, locals, tourists and are lined with hotels, restaurants, bars, cafes and shops.–Phnom Penh, Cambodia

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Statue of His Majesty King Norodom Sihanouk in Phnom Penh

Having shed its image as a strife-ridden country, the Kingdom of Cambodia has made great strides in building a bright, sustainable future for its people. Made up of a population of 15 million, half of which are under 25 years old, Cambodia’s demographics present the perfect condition to speed up economic growth.

Growing at an average of seven percent during the last two decades, Cambodia already boasts one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Analysts remain optimistic about the country’s ability to sustain its growth, particularly in tourism, garment manufacturing, construction and property development.

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Prime Minister HE Samdech Techo Hun Sen played host to The World Economic Forum on ASEAN, May 10-12, 2017

Prime Minister Hun Sen, whose ruling party secured a fresh mandate in elections earlier this year, has continued to enact measures aimed at boosting Cambodia’s economic competitiveness within ASEAN and the rest of the world.

In May, Cambodia hosted the 26th World Economic Forum on ASEAN. With the theme “Youth, Technology and Growth: Securing ASEAN’s Digital and Demographic Dividends”, the WEF event, held in the bustling capital Phnom Pehn, was attended by more than 700 leaders from business, government, academe and civil society from around the world.

The event, according to the Cambodian government, was “an opportunity to raise Cambodia’s international profile and enhance its national prestige” and “contribute to the promotion of investment opportunities and tourists to the Kingdom”.

Justin Wood, the head of the World Economic Forum Pacific Region, praised Cambodia for boosting economic growth and reducing poverty in the country.

“There is a different story to be told about Cambodia. We want the world to understand a bit more about what is happening in Cambodia,” Wood said.

Setting the Foundations

As Cambodia pursues its growth strategy, the government recognizes that it needs to attract more investment in various vital sectors, particularly in infrastructure and education. At the heart of this plan is Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chantol, who was also Minister of Commerce.

“The government recognizes the critical importance of a healthy, efficient and cost-effective national infrastructure to expedite trade and lower transportation costs overall. Trade moves through different modes of transport, by sea, rivers, by airfreight, rail and road, and the respective networks continue to be rehabilitated, built and expanded,” Chantol explained.

In line with the WEF forum’s theme, Cambodia has stepped up efforts to make its graduates more competitive in the global market.

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The University of Cambodia, one of the kingdom’s largest private universities, is a key contributor to this renaissance in education.

Founded in 2003 by Dr. Kao Kim Hourn, UC can accommodate 10,000 students and stands as a leader in business and entrepreneurship education. In 2017, the university named its business school after AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes, arguably the best-known Southeast Asian entrepreneur.

 

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In a ranking of business schools last year, the University of Cambodia was cited for possessing a “strong regional influence.”

“As we continue to build the capabilities and reach of this university, we are actively looking to forge partnerships internationally because exchanges are critical to our growth,” Dr. Kao stressed.

Socheata Vong–Pursuing academic excellence @The University of Cambodia’s Techo Sen School of Government and International Relations


August 5, 2016

Socheata VongPursuing academic excellence @The University of Cambodia’s Techo Sen School of Government and International Relations

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Socheata Vong is a development professional at an international development organization in Phnom Penh. Born in 1982 in Banteay Meanchey province , she studied at Samdech Euv High School and earned her Bachelor’s degrees in International Relations from the University of Cambodia and in Management from the National University of Management. Her work focuses on providing technical support on elections and political processes, civic participation and social media.

Currently, she is completing her Masters degree in International Relations at Techo Sen School of Government and International Relations under the academic supervision of Professor of International Relations and Dean Din Merican.

Socheata was a Board Member of the Cambodian Economic Association (CEA) from 2009 to 2013. She is a manager of a private Cambodian Professional group (CAMPRO), an informal network joined by more than 400 Cambodian professionals working in various institutions. She is also a Managing Director of CamproPost, a website that publishes articles, essays, discussions, opinions, and documents that are related to Cambodia. I interviewed Socheata to get her views as a Cambodian citizen on the country’s civic participation past, present and future.–The Editor, CamproPost

Q.  What was it like growing up in Cambodia? What were some of the challenges you’ve had to overcome to be where you are today? 

Socheata Vong (SV):  I grew up in a small village in Banteay Meanchey, where rockets were being shot everyday in my village and near my primary school while Cambodia was still in the civil war in the late 1980s. The rockets were launched by the Khmer Rouge guerrillas from the forests and villages they occupied. All the students and myself were hiding in big holes to cover ourselves from the damages of the rockets at school and at home. The rockets were very massive, the sound was too rumbling.

I am still traumatized by that. Even now when I hear any explosions, even small balloon explosion, I don’t feel okay at all. The Khmer Rouge soldiers defected to the government in the late 1990s, abandoning Pol Pot and his cause. I was fortunate to be the only child in my family who finished high school, while struggling to earn a daily income by selling snacks in my class and in my home village. Not many students from my hometown could afford to study and live in Phnom Penh at that time. There were only a few, as I recalled.

I completed my high school in 1999, and in the same year I was awarded  National Best Student in Khmer Literature, an event that I always remember. While all the graduating high school students had to pass the entrance exams to get to the university, the Khmer Literature award allowed me to choose a university without going through the entrance exams. Without that award, I would not have had a chance to come to Phnom Penh to study because of two main reasons: 1) Each public university accepted a very limited number of students who passed the entrance exams. Not many students passed. Corruption in the entrance exams was rampant at that time. 2) My family could not afford to send me to Phnom Penh and pay for a private school. That award has completely changed my life. I became a great lover of Khmer literature and novel.

Q.  Who has been the most influential person in your life and why?

SV.  My life was greatly influenced by my father who highly valued education although he didn’t have high education. He taught me at home every day during my primary education. He was the one who insisted to send me to Phnom Penh to pursue my higher education. I remembered sending my handwritten letters to my father in my hometown to tell him about my study progress and living conditions in Phnom Penh.  He advised me to give a hand to others. He passed away in my hometown while I was in my first-month of employment in early 2003.

Q.  What three philosophers past or present have shaped your views on democracy and have shaped your life?

SV. Buddha is my greatest philosopher. His philosophy of peace, altruism and compassion have shaped my belief system.  Thomas Jefferson has influenced my thoughts about political philosophy.  I am also inspired by his quote, “I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.”  Nobel Laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is the only living human being who shapes my inner life. I have read quite a lot about her including her untold story of personal sacrifice for freedom and democracy in her country, Myanmar.

Q.  Who in Cambodia are your role models?

SV. I have been fortunate to have worked closely in a private group with three people who inspire me the most: Mr. Ok Serei Sopheak, an independent governance analyst; Mr. Heng Dyna, new President of the CEA; and Mr. Chan Sophal, former President of CEA. I have worked closely with with them and several other friends in the Cambodian Professionals (CAMPRO) network. I have been truly inspired by their hard work and their caring heart to help contribute to make Cambodia better.

I am also inspired by other people who have been working so hard to realize the vision for Cambodia.  In 2015, I was fortunate to have met my academic supervisor, Professor Din Merican from Malaysia at the Techo Sen School who urged me to pursue a Masters Degree and seek academic excellence as a worthy and enriching undertaking.

Q.  It has been more than 2 decades since Cambodia signed the Paris Peace Accords.  In terms of democracy, in your opinion, what has improved since then?

SV.  In my opinion, Cambodia has made much progress in the last 20 years. There are signs of improvement in the democratic process. Yet, there is still much more that can be done for Cambodia to realize the vision. The country has gone through a number of elections since 1993. There have been so many flaws in those elections. I am confident that these flaws are being addressed by Prime Minister Hun Sen and his colleagues

I participated as an election observer in the 2008 National Assembly elections in Pailin. Voter intimidation and other irregularities were at large. I also participated in the 2013 National Assembly elections in Phnom Penh. I have observed some unprecedented events. There are reports of irregularities. So many people who turned out to vote could not find their names on the list. People were shouting and crying. Last time in 2008 when people couldn’t find their names on the register they just walked off. This time they stayed and shouted and cried. There is more momentum this time, you can feel it.

The recent election proved to be a positive sign from the perspective of being peaceful, mainly, but there were a lot of irregularities.  Post-electoral problems remain just like in the past elections. There have not yet been any proper mechanism to resolve the recurring post-electoral conflict.

Q.  Over 70% of Cambodia’s population is under the age of 35. How are young people helping to shape democracy in Cambodia today and what key role can they play in the future?

SV.  In the past, Cambodian youth were seen as not active, not attentive and not interested in the political process. However, there have been unprecedented events where youth are now seen as a catalyst for democratic transformation.  I was truly impressed by how engaged young people were in the last election. Before, they were mainly interested in entertainment and hobbies and doing fun things. This time, when the opposition leader returned to Cambodia and competed in the elections, so many young people turned out on the streets and were armed with smart phones using social media, wearing campaign T-shirts and caps and waving posters. This phenomenon of youth engagement in the political process also happened to the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) when their youth supporters came out and started their campaign trails on the streets.

Despite some serious confrontations between the youth groups of both political parties, the election campaigns were  peaceful. It is my strong hope that the youth will continue to play an important role to engage more in the civic participation of our country.

I learned a quote from Aung San Suu Kyi’s father who said to a soldier “You may not think about politics, but politics think about you.” I want to see Cambodian youth engage more in the social and political processes.

Q.  Where would you like to see Cambodia’s democracy in 10 years? 

SV.  In the next ten years, I would like to see Cambodia rising not only in terms of economic growth but also social development. I want to see the Cambodian people to make  informed choices on their future leaders. I wish to see Cambodian people have access to all kinds of information to make decisions in their daily life. I want more reforms in democratic development and see more women leaders.

Q.  You earlier mentioned about CAMPRO. Can you tell more about the network and what you contribute in the network?

SV.  CAMPRO is an informal network privately joined by more than 400 members of Cambodian professionals working in various institutions, including academia, government, NGOs, development partners, private enterprises, and media. CAMPRO has three main activities: (i) share information, views and knowledge; (ii) discuss issues; and (iii) network Cambodian professionals. Through this informal exchange of information, CAMPRO members will better understand and learn how to improve their jobs, and therefore increase their private and social contributions. Members debate on political, economic and social issues privately through an online forum.

Q.  You earlier mentioned about CAMPRO. Can you tell more about the network ?

A.  CAMPRO is an informal network privately joined by more than 400 members of Cambodian professionals working in various institutions, including academia, government, NGOs, development partners, private enterprises, and media. CAMPRO has three main activities: (i) share information, views and knowledge; (ii) discuss issues; and (iii) network Cambodian professionals.

Through this informal exchange of information, CAMPRO members will better understand and learn how to improve their jobs, and therefore increase their private and social contributions. Members debate on political, economic and social issues privately through an online forum.

CamproPost is a website that publishes articles, essays, discussions, opinions, and documents that are related to Cambodia. It is the brainchild of CAMPRO. Information that is published on CamproPost come from articles, essays, discussions, individual opinions and other materials that are sourced from both CAMPRO and non-CAMPRO members.

To learn more about CamproPost, please visit: http://campropost.org

 

Q.  You’ve been able to build a successful career at a young age. What advice would you have for young people in Cambodia who may be struggling but want to follow a similar career path?

A.  I have had more failures than successes and I am inspired by Nelson Mandela’s quote, “Do not judge me by my successes. Judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.” I wish to share some messages to young people about career path as well as about journey to life.

First, start small and dream big and never lose hope. As Martin Luther King said, “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”  Embrace patience as a virtue. Enjoying the journey to your dreams is more important than realizing your dreams.

Second, we live as a community, therefore communication and networking is crucial. So, communicate with others and build networks. Third, be inspired and inspire others. Learn from inspiring people to help shape your life and inspire others with your realized dreams. Fourth, live a life of meaning and purpose by giving a hand to others. Be compassionate to yourself, your family and extend your compassion to others. My last words are: Be altruistic: give more to others and to your country without expecting any return.

The New Logo for The Techo Sen School Of Government and International Relations


January 22, 2016

Techo Sen School of Government and International Relations at The University of Cambodia, Phnom Penh, Kingdom of Cambodia

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Message from Dr Kao Kim Hourn, President, The University of Cambodia

Kao Kim Hourn

It is with great enthusiasm I present the University of Cambodia as a premier center of academic and research excellence in Cambodia and Southeast Asia.

Many wonderful friends and incredible resources, both human and technical, have supported this endeavor.  We have received a warm welcome from public, private, government, and partner institutions.  Yet, we recognize many great and exciting challenges before us as we build this complex university community.

The University of Cambodia is growing into a community of students, scholars, researchers, practitioners, staff, and faculty.  Academic excellence is the value we, as a community, hold most fundamental. Academic excellence drives all of our efforts.  By stressing excellence in our academic standards and pedagogy; by emphasizing the importance of teaching; by nurturing progressive research; and by encouraging a shared sense of responsibility, we hope to achieve our mission.

Our mission for building a superior academic center in Cambodia is interrelated to Cambodia’s participation in the global arena. Our perspectives and academic programs must reflect this global perspective.  We are also an integrated part of the information revolution.  The information revolution has expanded our mission by transforming the nature of the academic community, as well as how knowledge is generated and transmitted. A university is no longer limited by geography; its boundaries are national and global. We continue to seek innovative mechanisms to access and share information, and explore the possibilities inherent in new communications systems that will enhance our instructional and research objectives.

We have the greatest hopes for the future of higher learning and research in Cambodia.  We seek to take a lead in raising the bar of academic excellence.  Through the united efforts of the entire broader community, we know we can achieve our vision.

About The Techo Sen School of Government and International Relations

The Techo Sen School of Government and International Relations (TSS) provides international-standard, graduate-level, nonpartisan education, training and research to (and for) current and future leaders in the public and private sectors. TSS programs and research initiatives are targeted to those who are just beginning their careers are those who are already on their way along their chosen vocations.

Today’s and tomorrow’s leaders must be familiar with the rapidly changing demands and expectations of the 21st century – and must be able to navigate a course towards a more prosperous and sustainable future for all.  By having students examine and discuss relevant economic, political, technical, business, cultural, and ethical ideas and ideals, the Techo Sen School of Government and International Relations inspires students with rigorous, innovative, and creative approaches for developing the skills, attitudes, knowledge and values required to succeed personally – all the while making significant and long-lasting contributions to society.

As a learning-centered institution, The Techo Sen School of Government and International Relations provides an educational experience that crosses the boundaries of theory and practice – and which forges the frontiers of public, private, and civil society: in Cambodia, in ASEAN, and globally.

The School also fulfills an additional, and essential, role.  The Techo Sen School of Government and International Relations conducts nonpartisan research in (and on) Cambodia (and Cambodia’s place in the world) in order to not only enrich the current knowledge base through practical examples in a local context, but also to broadly inform and inspire society’s current and future leaders. The Techo Sen School of Government and International Relations produces impartial research useful to policy makers and to profit- and non-profit organizations.

Our Mission

The Techo Sen School of Government and International Relations prepares its students to be productive, creative, and responsible global citizens – by becoming lifelong learners.  The TSS provides a balance of both theoretical and practical tools and the professionalism needed to become agents of change for the community at large and to promote Cambodia’s standing at the local, regional and world stages.  Good governance is vital to progress everywhere and The Techo Sen School of Government and International Relations’ learning-centered educational experience raises the norms of governance and bureaucracy in Cambodia and, in turn, improves the lives of Cambodians – thus also contributing to the transformation of the region.  In short, the Techo Sen School of Government and International Relations makes the region, and the world, a better place.

The School offers Master’s and Doctoral degrees, short courses, and executive training programs.  These various avenues of education and training will allow TSS graduates to be an integral part of the process of uplifting Cambodian’s lives.  (In some cases, and depending on relevant work and life experience, students may not need a Bachelor’s degree in order to join a Master’s or Doctoral program.)

In addition, the School encourages and enables faculty and students to conduct interdisciplinary research.  Systematic and analytic thinking allows researchers to clarify issues and suggest creative solutions to complex problems.  This research benefits both the researchers themselves and will generate new knowledge and understanding of the issues affecting Cambodia’s current, rapid development.  Such knowledge and understanding is shared with key players in both the public and private sectors.

Welcome to Visit our wesbsite: http://www.uc.edu.kh

Best wishes and a Happy New Year.

 Din@UC

Din Merican. Ag. Dean, The Techo Sen School of Government and International Relations, and Professor of International Relations, The University of Cambodia