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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs   13 September 2013  

Citizen Action Cross Sector Group at time of political standoff

The Cross-Sector Group comprises a number of community networks, associations and groups who have been engaging together since mid-2011. They are land activists, forestry activists, anti-eviction activists, farmers, fisher-folk, indigenous people, labour activists, sex workers, LGBT, youth, singers and more. From the middle of 2011 until now, the Cross Sector Group has organised learning and action to strengthen a collective analysis of the problems of everyday Cambodian citizens and a collective platform for citizens’ action. Ahead of the 21st ASEAN Summit held in Phnom Penh November 2012, the Cross Sector Group organized ASEAN Grassroots People’s Assembly (AGPA). During the month of June, ahead of the Cambodian National Election, it organized Cambodian Grassroots People’s Assemblies (CGPA) in Kompong Chnang, Preah Sihanouk and Siem Reap.

At all events, the Cross Sector Group stresses its stance and reason for engaging in citizen action. “We are not against the government; we are not involved in any political party; we practice peace and active non-violence always; our goal is to raise up the people’s problems and demand lasting real solutions to them” reminds Prach Bunthouen, farmer and core member of Cross Sector Group. ‘Government’ needs to hear the people’s voice directly and the role of people- the citizens- is to speak up about what kind of Cambodian community and society they need and want. It is this kind of dialogue, between the leaders and the people, which the Cross Sector Group has endeavoured to facilitate in order to strengthen real democracy in Cambodia.

Now, in the post-electoral context of seeming political deadlock, the Group wishes to once again open a space for dialogue between leaders of all political colours and the people. Grassroots people and other concerned citizens, especially from the women’s sector, wish to highlight citizens’ concerns at this time. “We want the government and all MPs to honour the Constitution and follow what the people need. The role of the National Assembly and of the government is to serve the people- not to serve party interests”, Thida Khus, Executive Director, SILAKA.
“We the ordinary people of Cambodia need peace- we do not want threats of war and chaos. Peace only comes through justice and in order to have justice we need national institutions like NEC and CC to be transparent and accountable to citizens. This makes us feel confident that our country is moving towards real democracy and we have hope for our future. We have been suffering too long already” says Heng Socheat, People’s Action for Change.

“In the July election we can see that the people were strong to participate in the election. This is a really good step towards democracy. We know now that democracy does not mean we only vote. Democracy means we can access and share information through an independent media. Democracy means we can access an independent judicial system. Cambodia is growing up and Cambodians want to exercise these full civil and political rights”, advocates Chea Sopheak, Farmer Nature Network.

“If we look at our progress so far, we can see that many Cambodian citizens still lack basic services to secure a life with dignity. Cambodian women are among the key leaders in the family and society. We want to see quality services and leadership to develop our nation in peace and guarantee dignity for every family and every community. Transparent, accountable institutions will help us achieve this” claims Chan Kunthea, Cambodian women’s activist.

The Cross Sector Group, together with concerned women’s activists and groups, will organize a People’s Forum on 21st September. For more information about this initiative members of the media, and other

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