Peaceful Protester in Cambodia Voicing Her Opinion

Peaceful Protester in Cambodia Voicing Her Opinion

Local elections coming up in early June will be Cambodia’s biggest event of 2017. If the Cambodian National Rescue Party wins the popular vote in the upcoming June 4th local elections then Hun Sen, the Cambodian Prime Minister, and the People’s Party will be surprised and they will have to rethink their calculations when it comes to the 2018 elections. Last year, Prime Minister Hun Sen and the CPP, Cambodian People’s Party, severely intensified persecution on a political front. They began to target Cambodia’s political opposition, human rights workers, social activists, and public intellectuals.

“Protesters march in Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh. Photo/Véronique Salze-Lozac’h”

“Protesters march in Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh. Photo/Véronique Salze-Lozac’h”

Kem Ley, a highly admired political commentator, was murdered on July 10 in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. Ley was not afraid to voice his frustrations with the government which led to his shooting. This shooting took place during the day and citizens of Cambodia ran after the gunman until the police were able to detain him. The shooter was later identified as a past soldier from the capital’s exterior, but controversy stirred when there was not a large effort to locate those involved with the shooting. Authorities in Cambodia decided to reject the citizens’ desire to hold a peaceful protest. Several veteran military officials stood by the authority’s decision to suppress protests and demonstrations. The resilience of the authorities frustrated the citizens even more and on July 24, 2016 tens of thousands of people marched in memory of the late Kem Ley.

Peaceful Protest in Cambodia

Peaceful Protest in Cambodia

Just three months ago, Sam Rainsy, the leader of the opposition party suddenly stepped down following the rise of pressure from the Cambodian government. Rainsy had led the party for over twenty years so it was surprising to see him depart from the position. The government of Cambodia was able to dispose of National Rescue Party that Rainsy led. Sam Rainsy and Prime Minister Hun Sen did not get along well and constantly disagreed. Rainsy had this to say about Hun Sen, “This guy is crazy, he can do anything he wants without consideration for legal, judicial principles, so I have to defend my party and tell Hun Sen and tell the Cambodian people and tell the whole world that Hun Sen no longer has any grounds to dissolve the C.N.R.P. on the basis that his kangaroo court has made me a convict”. Rainsy was very productive throughout his leadership, he presented a universally clear opposition opponent to carry out a campaign in elections.

“Sam Rainsy, until Saturday the leader of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, arriving in Phnom Penh, the capital, in August 2015. He fled the country that November to avoid jail time”.

“Sam Rainsy, until Saturday the leader of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, arriving in Phnom Penh, the capital, in August 2015. He fled the country that November to avoid jail time”.
Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen

Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen

Vietnamese Water Problem

Only 39% of the population of Vietnam has access to safe water. The surface water of rivers is often polluted by industrial plants and waste from local villages. The geography of Vietnam also contributes to the problem because the flatness makes the country very susceptible to typhoons, storms, floods, and droughts. These natural disasters allow pollution and waterborne diseases to spread quickly. Natural pollution and industrial waste in the water are only part of the problem. The Vietnamese often dispose of their waste by throwing it into rivers, canals, or ponds. They collect water from these sources to do laundry, wash dishes, and bathe, and then they throw the soapy water back into the water source. Needless to say water sources that the Vietnamese use for drinking water and for their livelihoods as farmers and fishers are very contaminated and unsafe.


Arsenic has been leeching into Vietnamese wells as people use up the water in their own aquifers and contaminated water flows in to replace it. The World Health Organization recommends an arsenic level no higher than 10 µg per liter. Some regions of Vietnam have more than 10 to 300 times this level, especially regions surrounding the capital where agriculture leads to high water demands. Although most people know that there is arsenic in the water, they continue to use it because they don’t have any other choice. Arsenic poisoning can lead to a number of problems including cancer.


Nearly 80% of the diseases in Vietnam are caused by polluted water. There are many cases of cholera, typhoid, dysentery, and malaria each year. Approximately 6 million Vietnamese contracted a major waterborne disease in the past year. People in rural areas have very little ability to dispose of human and animal waste. When there was a bird flu outbreak in 2004, they threw the dead poultry into canals and rivers.


Last April, tons of fish washed up on the shore of coastal communities such as Ha Tinh and Quang Tri. It began with farmed fish dying in great numbers, and then wild fish, including rare deep sea species, began washing up on the beaches. This was especially worrying sense seafood is one of the main exports of Vietnam and the deaths lead to decreased tourism and economic troubles for the country. It turned out that toxic discharges from a Taiwanese owned steel plant were responsible for the fish deaths. The company pledged $500 million to clean up the environment and compensate affected people.

dead fish

People have been working on ways to filter the water, because the government only filters water that comes from a town aquifer. Many villages are left on their own. One of the best methods to filter the water is a sand filter because the iron and manganese in the sand filters out the arsenic and the finer particles of sand help to pull out some of the other pollutants. It isn’t perfect, but often the arsenic levels are with in World Health Organization standards and the water is drinkable.


Manus Island: Refuge or Prison?

Around the world, countries are struggling to figure out what to do with the millions of refugees fleeing the Middle East. Each country is developing its own plan, usually to a chorus of displeasure from both sides of the political spectrum. In order to handle the thousands of refugees arriving by boat, Australia has been holding refugees in “offshore camps” like the one on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea. Theoretically, the refugees are to be held on these islands until they can be processed and settled on Nauru or in Papua New Guinea (the refugees are not allowed to settle on the Australian mainland). The reality of the situation and the conditions the refugees are forced to endure have attracted international attention.

Ghetto of the Pacific: Manus Island, just north-east of the PNG mainland. An extremely shit place to live

In 1992, the Australian parliament passed a law that required all refugees arriving by boat to be detained, and stated that a court could not order them released. Today, the detainees can only be released at the discretion of the immigration minister. This law became particularly significant in 2001, when the center on Manus Island originally opened to deal with the influx of refugees Australia was experiencing. The center was closed in 2008, four years after the last refugee had left, and remained closed until November of 2011. Because Manus is an inhabited island, the center is securely closed off.

Gate to Manus Island camp

Conditions in the center are widely criticized, with numerous reports of overcrowding, supply shortages, and abuse from guards. Journalists that managed to get onto the island (journalists need special visas, which are hard to attain, so some pose as tourists to get near the center) reported outbreaks of malaria and typhoid as well as rampant self-harm and attempts at suicide. Manus Island’s sister center, Nauru, was the source of a video of self immolation by a detainee.

Asylum seekers on Manus Island

A major riot broke out in 2014, leaving one dead and 77 injured; a food riot broke out in March 2017, with no reported injuries or deaths. Signs can be seen hung from buildings in the center, begging readers for freedom, calling the center a “jail” and a “cage.” After the 2014 riot, protesters and mourners gathered in honor of the death of Reza Berati, who was clubbed over the head by a local Salvation Army employee.

People attend a candlelight vigil in support of asylum seekers, in Sydney on 23 February 2014.

There have been several protests regarding the island since its opening, but perhaps none so massive as the one that took place in February 2017 during rush hour in Melbourne. Hundreds gathered in response to President Trump’s statement that the deal to take in 1,250 refugees was “dumb.” The refugees would come from both Manus Island and Nauru, but the Australian budget does not reflect a decrease in spending on either island for fear of Mr. Trump reneging on the deal. The US is expected to take in 50,000 refugees from around the world in 2017, though refugees will be subject to “extreme vetting” and must wait until the 120 day immigration suspension has passed. Whether any of those refugees will be from Australia’s detention centers remains to be seen.

Australia: Thousands rally to let refugees stay