"If this is what peace is all about, then what is war?"

5 October 2005

Having read with great interest what Boitumelo has to say about women in South Africa, Angela from Columbia and Jo in England, all I have to say is: maybe women define democracy and peace very differently from men and that is the reason why women's agenda for peace rarely gets on the table. Do CNN, the BBC show how the war in Iraq affects women, except some "special Report on Women in Iraq"? or wherever there is negotiation for peace?

I got into all this business when I was a refugee in California after Cambodia fell to the communist in 1975, a regime that killed its own people, close to 2 million Cambodians died of starvation, torture, mass kilings and just because they were educated or had non-Cambodian blood, like my parents.

I marched the streets with Peace March, ran for elections, got into confrontation with armed policemen trying to protect workers, and many more challenging experiences. As minister for women's  affairs I led the ministry to be recognized for fighting for gender equality, for getting human traffickers prosecuted, for challenging the prime minister. Then I quit to join the opposition.

The opposition in Cambodia represents the voice of the democrats. We have the support of the poor, the marginalized, the sturdents, workers, civil servants but we are a close target of the ruling party that has been in power for 25 years, way too long.

Thew oppositon in Cambodia (the Sam Rainsy Party) is facing tremendous harsdhip because it defends the rights of th epeople. Land concseesions, abuse of power, a corrupt judicary are among the major challenges of Cambodia.

Peter Leuprecht, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General reports the following:

"during my mission to Cambodia in 2003, I visited a number of rural communities living on or near tracts of state land that have been contracted to privater companies for commercial agricultural development. ....The situation I met schocked me. the companies have been given rights over land that are very similar to ownership. Yet they have little or no regrad to welfare; and they contribute to little, if anything, to overall state revenue....The concerns are urgent. Cambodia rural poor are the most vulnerable to arbitrary acts by public authorities and th epowerful, and have almost no recourse to legal remedy...."

On 3 September Miloon Khotari lthe UN Commission on Human Rights Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing include the following as recommendations in is fact finding mission in Cambodia:

specific groups facing discrimination:

women and children

  • inadequate housing conditons and the effects of forced evictions and relocation programs have a disproportionate adverse impact on women and children.


indigenious peoples

  • individual sales and military concessions are used to illegally disposessed indigenous communities fom their communal lands.

Two weeks ago I decided that it was not a safe way to stand infront of armed men from the military who were paid to protect the personal interests of some rich land speculators. I left the site because it was clear that nothing would have stopped these armed men to open fire. More than 100 people would have been hit. I would have been among the first ones as I was trying to beg for non-violence from the people who were devasted by the violence and witnesssing the destruction of their homes.

If this is what peace is all about, then what is war?

Our sister from South Africa said: South Africa never had war but what the women in South Africa are experiencing is not humane, not a part of democracy.

You are totally right. The problem is when we use Resolution 1325, we wait for war to happen, then we negotiate for peace.

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