As most people enjoy the cheer of Christmas and all its festivities, a grandmother and mother to a disabled son languish in jail. The mother is unable to care for her vulnerable family or enjoy the season that is supposed to be filled with cheer.
Sixty-five year old Tim Sakmony’s story is a sad reflection of the Cambodian government’s continued program of forced evictions. For speaking out about the impending loss of her home and her subsequent fears for her disabled child, she has been forced into silence, through what Amnesty International believes are trumped up charges.
Bulldozing slums is nothing new in Cambodia and the Australian government was at one stage dragged into this shocking practice of human rights abuse during the construction of the Australian embassy in Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh.
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As the ASEAN juggernaut plunges into town, Phnom Penh’s elite are smiling broadly, puffing out their chests and standing tall on the international diplomatic stage. Everyone can feel the eyes of Australasia – and the world – focusing on the small nation of Cambodia.
But some of those eyes are peering into Cambodia’s more vulnerable diplomatic corners and the human rights abuses that are rife in this country of 15 million people.
Cambodia still bears the scars of arguably the most horrific human rights abuses of the twentieth century. Millions still live with the legacy of the systematic extermination inflicted by the Khmer Rouge in the late 1970’s.
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A woman sits in a courtroom dock. Eyes downcast. Fidgeting. Clearly tormented by recollections that are now flooding back as fresh as they were decades ago.
She describes the being frogmarched from her home by armed black-clothed soldiers. A month-long walk to a concentration camp. Giving birth on the side of a road. Being worked to the bone. Sleeping in pits covered in worms. Seeing fellow captives beheaded. Hearing the screams of innocents being tortured. Giving up her sick children so they could get proper medical help only to learn they were never treated and died alone. Knowing her husband was locked in a dark prison cell, interrogated, tortured and finally murdered.
But it isn’t Nazi Germany she is describing. It isn’t even that long ago. And it didn’t happen that far away from our shores.
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Sue O’Reilly, who has guest written today’s column on The Angry Cripple is a freelance journalist and the mother of a 21-year-old son with cerebral palsy. She co-founded Australians Mad as Hell last year with Fiona Porter to campaign for an NDIS and established a charity called Fighting Chance to help people with disabilities pay for essential therapy services.
The other day, amid all the reactions to the Productivity Commission report recommending a radical new national disability care and support scheme, a reader of this column made what struck me as a
most intriguing comment.
Somebody calling him/herself NEFFA wrote: “Why don’t you all move to Cambodia and see how much government support you get there? Sometimes you need perspective to understand just how good you have it.”
Personally, I can see the appeal of this notion for all those many Aussies who fail to understand why their hard-earned dollars should help fund decent care and support services for fellow citizens with profound disabilities and their families. Put all us whingers and ingrates on rickety boats and push us off to sea, heading north! Problem solved.
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This is a picture of two snakes getting married. As they do. Well, in Cambodia anyway.
Depending which side of the fence you sit when it comes to huge, scaly, slimy creatures this photograph will either make you laugh, or completely freak you out.
If you’re Cambodian and especially from the Kandal province, 20 kilometers south of Phnom Penh where the marriage ceremony is taking place, you’ll be rejoicing.
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