Caritas Cambodia Retreat 2024 / Day 4b

After lunch, we started the roundabout return journey to Sihanoukville with a first stop at a huge statue of a man and a woman celebrating a marriage famous in Khmer mythology.
Not far from the statue is this bay which is the home of the Ream Naval Base, a military facility recently renovated by the Chinese. Western countries, particularly the United States, have expressed concern that the base is to be China’s outpost in the Gulf of Thailand to bolster their power and presence in the South China Sea. China denies any special role for China but the renovations created berths that accommodate aircraft carriers–and Cambodia doesn’t have an aircraft carrier.

Cambodian social media is also up in arms because the government is filling in the bay for development purposes and has despoiled the mountain hilltops on both sides of the bay, destroying the forest cover to get stone for the renovation.
Farther along the highway is this famous tree which has been left in the middle of a rebuilt highway. It is on a hilltop overlooking the sea and is known in popular lore as the place where wives and lovers waited for their seamen to return.

Human Rights Celebration

This is the 75th year since the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights was promulgated and this evening the local Office of the High Commission on Human Rights had a reception at a big hotel. Our Deaf Development Programme works a lot with OHCHR (I have a meeting with them at 9:00 tomorrow morning) and I was invited.

It was quite a production and a nice meal at the end. It was good to note some of the achievements in the last 75 years but disheartening to see how little we have progressed. There’s still much to do. [The sign language interpreter on the right of the stage is one of my staff.]

Human Rights for the Deaf 2

Unexpectedly the judicial officials for whom the training was set up failed to appear. The organizers had to do some creative revisions to the agenda but the program turned out well for the Organizations for Disabled People and officials from other ministries who attended.

This speaker (standing) was from the Disability Action Council of the Ministry of Social Affairs, one of the organizers of the training.
Staff of OPDs (Organizations of Persons with Disabilities) discussed some of the legislation and planning about people with disabilities in Cambodia.
The group discussions were characterized by significant awareness of the problems faced by people with disabilities when dealing with the law and by a genuine determination to address those issues.
Another speaker (in wheelchair) who is quite knowledgeable about the disability field.
This small group preferred to discuss standing up.

Human Rights for the Deaf

The Deaf Development Programme works closely with OHCHR, the UN Office of the High Commission on Human Rights, and today and tomorrow I am participating in a training session for judicial system leaders about the legal rights of people with disabilities.

The judges and prosecutors from several provinces have been invited to attend. I am speaking to them tomorrow about the difficulties that deaf people have with the police and judicial system.

The students suffer

[From the Khmer Times}

Education is Cambodia in normal times is generally uneven and inadequate, and Covid made the situation worse. The schools were closed a year and a half and an attempt at online learning was not effective. A good number of students don’t have electricity much less a computer or smartphone or wi-fi connection.

The current school year began late, in January, 2023, and it was anticipated that the new year would start in January, 2024. Schools were preparing for that schedule. Suddenly the government announces this school year will end three weeks into November and the new school year starts December 1st.

This throws the planning of NGOs and groups supporting education really out of whack. Maryknoll has a month-long program to help older students catch up and adjust to the curriculum after missing so much school but now that has to be dropped. The kids suffer….