Cambodian RefugeesCambodian refugees have been fleeing their country since the beginning of the violent regime of Khmer Rouge in the 1970s. The Communist Party of Khmer Rouge was in power from 1975-1979 and led by the Marxist leader Pol Pot, whose main goal was to make Cambodia an agrarian utopia, resulting in millions of deaths.

One could believe that things have since settled in what is viewed as one of the most corrupt nations on the planet. However, Cambodia and its people are still waiting for a stable future.

Obstacles continually arise for Cambodia and its people while they are only presented with small reliefs. Below are 10 facts about Cambodian Refugees and their current status:

  1. Australia and the United States provide a wealth of opportunities for new settlers and have been a safe-haven for many Cambodian refugees since the mid-to-late 1980s.
  2. In September of 2014, Australia and Cambodia signed an agreement without the parliament or civil society in either country knowing about it. The agreement stated all refugees currently residing in Nauru, under Australia’s watch, would be relocated to Cambodia.
  3. Cambodia is a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention. The Convention defines what a ‘refugee’ is and outlines the rights of the displaced, as well as the legal obligations of States to protect them.
  4. In the last six years, over 2,300 former stateless Cambodian refugees have received citizenship in Vietnam. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) regional protection adviser Thomas Vargas stated “this [citizenship] sets an excellent example in the region for resolving statelessness and is a great way to start commemorating the 50th anniversary of the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.” Vargas has also encouraged other Asian countries to look to Vietnam when it comes to finding solutions for statelessness.
  5. Hun Sen, current Prime Minister of Cambodia and President of the Cambodian People’s Party, has been in power since 1985. “For three decades, Hun Sen has repeatedly used political violence, repression, and corruption to remain in power,” Brad Adams, the Asia director of Human Rights Watch, stated in his 2015 report.
  6. Many Cambodian refugees have faced major difficulties during their resettlement in the U.S. One such difficulty is how American society has received and treated Cambodians as a people. The second difficulty involves the horrific hardships Cambodian refugees have faced in comparison to other immigrant groups.
  7. Long Beach, California and Lowell, Massachusetts are dubbed as the “Cambodian Capitals of America.”
    The early 80s punk band “The Dead Kennedy’s” released the song “Holiday in Cambodia” which is critical of Pol Pot’s regime in Cambodia as well as the United States’ lack of aid.
  8. Refugees of Cambodia are reported as having the highest levels of psychological distress out of all the Southeast Asian refugee population in the U.S.
  9. Since 2002, there have been over 500 people deported from America to Cambodia due to the signing of a repatriation agreement.
  10. The settlement and deportation of Cambodian refugees and all Southeast Asian refugees alike is proving to be a history lesson on supporting future refugee populations for all nations.

Since it is apparent a more humanitarian approach to the Cambodian people will not begin within the country’s borders, the world will have to focus more humanitarian attention on Cambodia. In the meantime, countries should welcome and help resettle the large number of Cambodian refugees around the globe.

Keaton McCalla

Photo: Flickr

Burma is Actually Myanmar

In 1989, the ruling military junta officially changed the nation of Burma’s name to Myanmar. Though the United Nations and many European countries began using the name Myanmar after the change, the United States and the United Kingdom continued to use the name Burma.  On the other hand, the World Bank, at least informally, refers to the nation as Myanmar in their documents. There are two main reasons people today continue to use the country’s original name –

  1. Burma’s name was changed by an unelected, oppressive military regime, making it illegitimate. People, furthermore, often refuse to use the name Myanmar in solidarity for the Burmese people.
  2. The media continues to use the name Burma since their audience recognizes it, thus reinforcing the public’s usage of Burma as the nation’s name.

Burma is one of the poorest countries in the world

Poverty can be measured using various indicators and measures but a widely respected tool is the multi-dimensional poverty index, which ranks this country as 14th from the bottom out of 109 countries. It is rich in natural resources; they supply 80% of the world teak and were once the greatest exporter of rice. However, power imbalances and repression have left Burma in poverty.

They are also one of the most repressed countries

Burma has been under a repressive military regime since 1962 while sanctions against this regime have been in place for the past decade. As it stands, many blame poverty on the political unrest in the region. For example in the 2011 budget, 23.6% ($2 billion) was allocated to military spending and a mere 1.3% ($110 million) was spent on health. It is not surprising then that the average life expectancy in Burma is only 65.

Burmese women struggle for rights

Human rights are grossly insufficient in Burma, especially for women. Burmese women are often raped by the military, a crime that usually goes unpunished. There are deep rooted gender stereotypes held about women in Burma which has silenced women and forbidden them from participating in the political arena for a very long time. Though human rights organizations are fighting to help women earn the rights they deserve, progress has been slow.

The UNDP is investing in Burma

Last year the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) signed a 3 year Country-Programme Action plan outlining the support and engagement the UNDP will give to Burma. The UNDP’s Administrator Helen Clark believes that the country has great potential for economic growth. However, in order for the country to grow, the UNDP must help eradicate extreme poverty and build a peaceful and inclusive population.    As such, the UNDP’s Country-Programme will pour $150 million U.S. dollars into the Burma from 2013-2015 to strengthen democratic and local governance, support the environment and disaster management as well as to aid in poverty reduction.

Elizabeth Brown

Sources: Significane Magazine, CIA, BBC, UNDP, World Bank, Women’s League of Burma
Photo: Socwall