Stop Covid-19 System

This shop has a string up to keep customers from entering and it also displays a “Stop Covid-19” QR system poster for recording those coming to the shop.
A QR code poster for an NGO. A customer uses an app on her phone to scan the QR code, and her presence at this site at such and such a time is recorded in a government database.

More than 155,000 shops and institutions have signed up to participate in the “Stop Covid-19” program which seeks to record who visits a site in order to assist contact tracing if necessary should a Covid-19-infected person visit that location. When introducing the scheme, the government downplayed any concerns about privacy but there are no restrictions or limitations on the way the government can use a person’s personal information if the person uses her phone to scan the QR code at a store.

Human Rights Watch has warned: “Cambodia’s QR Code system is ripe for rights abuses because it lacks privacy protections for personal data. These concerns are heightened by the government’s stepped-up online surveillance of Cambodians since the outset of the pandemic, putting government critics and activists at greater risk.”

Hong Kong, too…

Our Asia superior in Hong Kong reported today that John Clancey was arrested under Hong Kong’s new draconian state security laws. John was a Maryknoll priest in Hong Kong right before I came. He left Maryknoll but stayed on in Hong Kong as a lawyer working for civil and human rights. He must have been doing good work to get Beijing riled up. Hang in there, John!

This is the way the BBC reported his arrest.

Press Freedom

Recently Reporters without Borders ranked Cambodia at #144 of 180 countries evaluated in their survey of press freedom throughout the world. That was a drop of one place since the last ranking.

May 4, 2020: This was the prime minister’s contention in his acknowledgment of World Press Freedom Day.
April 9, 2020: Sovann Rithy, the editor-in-chief of TVFB, an online news outlet, was arrested for quoting a public statement of the prime minister. He was charged with incitement “to cause chaos and harm social security.” TVFB’s license was also revoked.

An Insecure Man Always Comparing…

Say What?

“If we hadn’t reversed the failed economic policies of the previous administration, the world would not now be witnessing this great economic success.”
— Trump

6.6 million
— number of new jobs created in first 36 months of Trump administration

8.1 million
— number of new jobs created in last 36 months of Obama administration

From Doonesbury in the Washington Post


Donald Trump won the presidency by fewer than 80,000 votes, spread out across 3 states. But more than 7 million new voters have turned 18 since that election. Make sure your friends and family are registered and get out to vote. (Numbers from Blue Future.)

Slow going…

At the end of the year, many organizations, government offices, and NGOs reported their activities for 2019. CMAC (the Cambodian Mine Action Centre) reported that they had cleared more than 36,000 mines and UXOs in the year just ended. (UXO=Unexploded Ordnance). The front-page article above explained that 67 square kilometers of land had been de-mined. It then restated the government’s commitment to completely clear the remaining mine-contaminated 2,100 sq km by 2025! Having cleared only 67 sq km in 2019 and 72 sq km in 2018, that seems like an impossible goal! (As a footnote to this situation, remember that these mines were put down 35-45 years ago! Mines are insidious and rightfully banned by most of the world. The US is one of the few nations that has refused to sign on to the ban-landmine treaty.)