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Is the Vietnamese Government Going to Try to Control Thich Huyen Quang's Funeral?

[via Danny Fisher’s blog]

Thich Huyen Quang gave up his liberty for 30 years in a quest for greater human rights and religious freedom in Vietnam,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “His followers should be allowed to pay their last respects without government interference, at a ceremony of their own choosing.”

The UBCV plans to hold funeral services for Thich Huyen Quang on July 11 at Nguyen Thieu Monastery in Binh Dinh province. Thich Quang Do – the patriarch’s deputy, close associate, and likely successor – will preside over the ceremony. However, the Vietnamese government has already taken steps to wrest control over the funeral and the patriarch’s legacy by announcing that the proceedings will be organized by the state-sanctioned Vietnam Buddhist Church. Government-controlled media has run vitriolic denunciations of Thich Quang Do, accusing him and “extremist elements disguised as Buddhist monks” of plotting “devious schemes” to exploit the patriarch’s death for political purposes. On July 6 the state television station, VTV1, broadcast a statement saying: “Confronting the immoral actions of the Quang Do group, the students and disciples [of Thich Huyen Quang], as well as the genuine monks of Nguyen Thieu Monastery, have vehemently reacted and they are determined not to let the Quang Do group organize the funeral ceremonies.”

“The Vietnamese government is risking unnecessary confrontation with the patriarch’s followers by trying to control him in death as in life,” Adams said.

You’d think governments would have learned at this point. While an uncontrolled funeral may spiral into a situation that challenges their control, interference in a funeral is almost guaranteed to do so. see also, Katherine Verdery, The Political Lives of Dead Bodies.

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If you can't cut off the arm, cut off the head – Defamation Part II

So, thanks to a combination of international outcry and Hun Sen’s ‘vouching’ for ‘bail purposes only,’ Dam Sith, the editor of pro-Sam Rainsy Party newspaper Moneasekar Khmer (“Khmer Conscience”) was released last week.

His crime was defamation: he accused current Foreign Minister Hor Namhong of having served as prison chief of Boeung Trabek prison under the Khmer Rouge.

If you can’t attack the arm successfully, go for that which controls it – the head. Following that logic, a new move on this front has been launched. Instead of attacking Dam Sith, they’re now threatening to go straight after Sam Rainsy himself.

Parliamentarian Rights Card

Problem? Yep – under the Cambodian constitution, parliamentarians are immune from prosecution, detention, jailing, etc. So what the Phnom Penh Court is now trying to do is to remove Sam Rainsy’s immunity.

“It should be remembered that on 17 April 2008, at the Choeung Ek genocidal memorial site at Meanchey District, Phnom Penh, Mr. Sam Rainsy said publicly that the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Hor Namhong, was the chief of the Boeng Trabaek Prison during the Khmer Rouge Regime. He said that being the chief of the Boeng Trabaek Prison was not by chance; unless Khmer Rouge leaders ordered that he could be the prison chief, and that the prison chief was very powerful, that is why they do not want to try all of those [former] Khmer Rouge leaders. [via the Mirror]

Now, I’m no fan of official immunity, but just for the record, I took the picture at the top of this post of a parliamentarian’s card at the 2006 April 17th Sam Rainsy Party ceremony at Choeung Ek. [N.B. I attended as an observer of the ritual, rather than a political supporter – I support no formal political groups]. It very clearly states that the legal bearer is competely immune from accusation, detention, imprisonment, etc., ‘for any reason whatsoever.’

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FTUWKC Renounces Ties to Political Parties

I’ve been wanting to blog this for a few days now, but have been unavoidably distracted by other concerns. I think this is marvelous news and a smart step for the Free Trade Union of the Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia – FTUWKC. The FTUWKC, along with the Cambodian Independent Teacher’s Union (CITU) and the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union (C.CAWDU), are the only three truly independent and democratic unions in Cambodia. Regular readers of this blog have heard lots about the FTUWKC from me, but this recent move is worth noting.

The FTUWKC, which was founded by members of the Sam Rainsy Party, including Chea Vichea, was often thought of (and thought of by members and leaders) as a sort of labor wing of the politically liberal SRP. No more: with the experience of organized struggles under their belted kramas, the FTUWKC has formally renounced political associations in favor of a strategy based solely on organization and action. Bravo!

Instead of relying on the good will of people whom they help elect, the workers of the FTU are making plain that their strategy takes their rights, the value they create, and their futures, into their own hands.

The Phnom Penh Post published a brief piece on last week noting that the courting of the workers by politicians, including the SRP, “marks the rise of industrial workers as a powerful constituent.” In that same article, Chea Mony foreshadowed this week’s decision, saying

“[P]olitical parties have been cheating workers since 1993.”

“Every song they sing is sweet,” he said, urging workers not to be lured into a false sense of hope by the rhetoric.

“Consider each party’s policy platform on labor issues before deciding which one to support in the elections,” he said.

This week, with the renouncing of political association, Chea Mony made that point even clearer: instead of capitalizing on the increased power of Cambodia’s organized workers to make short-term and unreliable political gains (even gains through the historically-affiliated SRP), they now refuse to endorse any candidate. [PPP]

Bravo, Fellow Workers!

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