Sunday, 4 July 2010

The devil is in the detail

via Khmer NZ News Media

July 4, 2010

The setting up of Anti-corruption clubs by the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission (ICPC) in secondary schools is a commendable initiative. The importance of this project becomes more pronounced when one considers the acute dereliction of duty that is the lot of regulatory agencies in the country.

The scheme has taken off in most states with zonal heads of the ICPC holding press conferences and seminars where papers were delivered on the virtue of the programme. In one of these forums held in Oyo State, the chairman of ICPC, Emmanuel Ayoola, who was represented by Rasheedat Okoduwa, the Deputy Director (Education) of the commission was quoted as saying that the youth represent the hope of the nation and have the potential to transform the nation and redeem the deeds of the older ones” According to him the Anti-corruption club, “would be used as a platform for demonstrable integrity and visible action against corrupt practices.” In addition, it is expected that the anti-corruption clubs in secondary schools will help fight the ills in the educational sector such as examination malpractice, absenteeism, and the award of good grades in exchange for money or sex.

It is also hoped that the anti corruption clubs across the country will build a troop of students who will, as well as living the life of integrity, be vehicles of mobilization and sensitisation of the people.

The concept is sound and laudable, but despite the various talk shops organised by the ICPC, the commission is stingy with the details. What exactly does it entail, and how will it be run? To borrow an old adage, the devil is in the detail. We at NEXT are concerned that this laudable initiative might go the way of other good ideas that were never actualised.

Besides, we are of the view that in order for the programme to be successful, it needs to be accorded a certain degree of importance.

First, we think the ICPC should push for the anti-corruption programme to be embedded in the curriculum. In the Nigerian school system, participation in clubs is often an extra-curricular activity which means these clubs will not be treated with the importance they deserve. The fact that clubs such as the Literary and Debating Society, Young Farmers’ Club have become almost nonexistent, is bad omen for this initiative, if it is not handled carefully.

In addition, students may not approach the programme with the same kind of commitment they approach core school subjects.

We think ICPC should work with the ministry of education to review the school curriculum and imbed the programme into the core programme.

The ICPC should borrow a leaf from a Transparency International sponsored programme in Cambodia called “Integrating Anti-corruption in School Curricula.” The Cambodia experience starts at primary school, ensuring that anti- corruption values are imbibed by children while they are still young.

Subjects such as Civic Education and History have been reintroduced in the school curriculum and have been given priority. Books related to transparency, accountability and good governance are readily available to the students. The children are also encouraged to discourse issues such as “Corruption and its effects on society”.

Teachers have not been left out of the process and a teacher training programme known as the “Textbook Orientation Programme” has been developed. There is also a teacher’s guidebook to facilitate the teaching process. To ensure that the programme can be spread widely and quickly, teachers were trained not only in skills for handling the programme but also to train other teachers. So those trained in the first stage become responsible for training other teachers in the next stage and so on and so forth.

The ICPC can learn a lot from the Cambodian experience and we hope that they can quickly work on rolling out this laudable project and not limit it to seminars and workshops.

Upstate Becomes Buddhist Pilgrimage Site

via Khmer NZ News Media

Myra Ruiz, WYFF News 4 Reporter
POSTED: July 3, 2010


WELLFORD, S.C. -- Hundreds of Buddhist devotees gathered at a rural spot in Spartanburg County on Saturday for the dedication ceremony of a new pilgrimage site.

Members of the Cambodian community completed construction last week on a three-story Buddhist shrine, called a stupa. It's located beside the Wat Sao Sokh San Temple at 841 Shiloh Church Road outside the city limits of Wellford.

It's the first Cambodian Buddhist stupa in the United States. The dedication ceremony designates the Spartanburg County site as holy.

Maya Men, a Buddhist devotee who helped organize the three-day celebration, said the community chose to dedicate the stupa over the Fourth of July weekend.

"It's Independence Day for the United States and also independence for the stupa and the Buddha relics," Men told WYFF.

Monks in orange robes and nuns, who wore white, paraded around the shrine carrying relics which will be placed in the stupa.

Men said Buddha relics will occupy the top level of the stupa. She said the second level will house a statue of King Jayavarman VII, an ancient Buddhist king honored for leading Cambodian people to freedom and providing for their spiritual and physical needs. The bottom level is reserved for the ashes of Buddhist lay people from across the country.

The ceremony also featured performances from from the Cambodian Classical Dance Troupe from Washington, D.C., and other cultural groups.

Buddhist devotees from across the country, who immigrated from Laos, Sri Lanka, Nepal and other countries, also took part in the festivities at the stupa.

Men said the worship site is open to all Buddhist devotees and tourists.

"It's for people everywhere," Men said.

The dedication celebration will continue through Sunday night.

Angkor Borei : Som Niyeay Phong !

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Millennium Goals Revisited: Noble Ideas, and Feel-Good Moments

via Khmer NZ News Media

by Ramzy Baroud
July 3, 2010

diggWhen the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were first declared, they were met with a sense of promise. A decade later, despite all the official insistence that all is on track, it is increasingly clear that this approach to development was flawed from the onset.

For ten years, numerous committees, international and local organizations, and independent researchers have tirelessly mulled over all sorts of indicators, numbers, charts, and statistical data relating to extreme poverty and hunger, universal primary education, gender equality, child mortality, and so on.

The conclusions derived from all the data weren’t necessarily grim. And the sincerity of the many men and women who have indefatigably worked to ensure that the eight international development goals – agreed to by all 192 UN member states and over 20 international organizations – were fully implemented, cannot in any way be discounted. They were the ones who brought the issue to the fore, and they continue to push forward with resolve and determination.

The problem lies with the concept itself, and with the naive trust that governments and politicians – whether rich or poor, democratic or authoritarian, leading global wars or trying to steer clear from the abyss of famine – could possibly share one common, selfless and unconditional love for humanity, including the poor, the disadvantaged, hungry and the ill. The utopian scenario might be attainable one day, but it certainly won’t be happening anytime soon.

So why commit to such goals, with specific deadlines and regular reports, if a genuine global consensus is not achievable?

Since its inception, the United Nations has been a source of two conflicting agendas. One is undemocratic, and championed by those who wield the veto power at the Security Council. The other is egalitarian, and it’s embodied in the General Assembly. The latter reflects the global mood and international opinion much more accurately than the former, which is largely dictatorial and caters only to power.

As a result, two conflicting sets of ideas and behaviors have emerged in the last six decades. One imposes sanctions, leads wars, and destroys nations, and the other offers a helping hand, builds a school, shelters a refugee. The latter offers assistance, albeit on a relatively small scale. The former spreads devastation and destruction on a grand scale.

The Millennium goals evolved from this very dilemma, which continues to afflict the United Nations and undermine its noble principles. For now, MDGs would have to settle for being a true reflection of peoples’ aspirations, but with little expectation of achievable results.

That does not mean that there is no good news. On the contrary, there will always be reasons to compel us to push further towards desired change. Since September 8, 2000 – the day in which the General Assembly adopted the Millennium Declaration – many encouraging results have been reported. Although the progress, as reported during the 2005 World Summit of leaders, was still falling short from the target dates, much has been achieved.

On June 23, Charles Abugre, the Director for Africa of the United Nations MDG campaign presented the 2010 Millennium Development Goals Report in Berlin. The same report was simultaneously presented in New York and Paris. According to its findings, the 2008 food and 2009 financial crises didn’t stop progress, but they certainly made the goal of reducing global poverty by half “more difficult to achieve.”

Indeed, significantly less people are reportedly living on less income, though, according to Aburge, bringing “poverty down to 15 percent of the global population” is less likely. Aburge has also said that progress has been made throughout the world, with the distressing exception of Central Asia, which is “riven by war and armed conflicts.”

In areas such as child mortality rate and combating epidemics, there has been little or no progress. More, “environmental degradation continues at an alarming pace,” according to Abugre. “CO2 emissions have even increased by almost 50 percent over the past 17 years, and in spite of a minor slowdown in emissions due to the crisis, are set to increase further.” It’s important to mention here that some countries are much closer to succeeding with the MDGs than others. China, for instance, has slashed the number of its poor by a huge margin, while others have fallen deeper into poverty.

While the numbers offer a strong enough reason to maintain a global push for reducing poverty, there is little evidence to suggest that the improvement is in any way related to the global pledge of 2000. It may well be a reflection of the state of affairs of individual countries. For example, China’s economic progress is hardly related to the September 2000 meet, and Afghanistan never really opted for the US-NATO invasion of 2001, which eliminated any realistic chance for the country to ever meet such seemingly lofty standards.

In its constant search for consensus, the General Assembly’s goals hardly view development from a critical perspective. They do not take into account the way in which structural adjustment policies, designed by international bodies such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank forced poor countries into debt and extreme poverty in the first place. They also ignore the way in which rich and powerful countries, in their quest for military, economic and political dominance ensure the subordination of poor, politically fragile, and militarily weak countries.

Of course, delving into the real issues would undermine the futile search for consensus, threatening the ‘amiable’ image of the General Assembly. These are left instead to the Security Council or those members of the UNSC, whose ‘opinion’ is the only one that truly counts, and who regularly go on to prescribe decisive and cruel policies.

All of this is not to say that the millennium goals should be relegated. Every noble effort should be supported and lauded. But unwarranted optimism can border on folly if one intentionally ignores the dynamic of lasting change, whether at a micro or macro levels. The discussion of MDGs should not come at the expense of realism and truth, and it should certainly not just serve as yet another feel-good moment for the rich, while further humiliating for the poor.

A hip-hop healing

via Khmer NZ News Media

New Delhi, July 04, 2010

I walked into the Tiny Toones Youth Drop-in Centre and there was crazy street style graffiti on the walls and loud hip-hop music blaring. There were five year olds to teenagers with pants precariously hanging off their bottoms eyeing me distantly. They were all very cool and aloof but I knew I could break in!

I got myself a glass of water and tried to blend in. Bobbing my head to the music, moving around saying hello to whoever made eye contact with me. Fortunately, one of the staff members, ‘Short,’ found me just as I had started to regret not having worn my pants that fall off my bum as well!

Short told me that this is the only drop-in centre of its kind in Cambodia. Kids from the streets can come and access the non-formal education which includes DJ-ing, learning music production, break dancing, art and rapping! They also have classes in English, Khmer and computers.

The kids learn to produce their own music in their tiny studio, they help paint all the amazing murals and graffiti and Tiny Toones is the leading hip-hop dance crew in Cambodia.

The centre is a rickety building with a big courtyard and, its doors are open to anyone seeking a refuge from the streets. It gives the kids a creative release and escape from their limiting environment.

It owes its popularity to one man. On paper, he’s anything but a good role model. Time spent in prison, gang-affiliation, gun violence and a deportee from America. Tuy Sobil is the accidental hero of this Cambodian success story.

His parents were poor farmers who escaped the Khmer Rouge’s violence and fled to the US in the 80’s. Tuy, or KK, grew up poor in America, joined a gang and at 18 was arrested for armed robbery.

He was promptly deported to his country of origin, Cambodia, since he wasn’t a US citizen on paper. In Cambodia, he found work at an NGO and eventually started informally mentoring and training a few local boys in break dancing.

The word got out and kids started pouring in. At the time, he was training the kids at his home. That was before Tiny Toones was officially established as an NGO.

Over the past few years, KK has become an idol for the toughest of kids from the streets of Phnom Penh. He’s been in their shoes and knows how easy it is to fall into the trap and lure of the ‘gang life’. He’s made all the mistakes that he’s trying to stop them from making.

It’s plain to see that the kids dote on him. Hanging on every word he speaks. I think what works for him, is that he makes being good, look cool!

Tiny Toones is KK’s new gang. He leads by example, has his fingers on the pulse of all that’s going on with his crew. We chatted in the courtyard of his home where the boys were preparing for a sponsored invitation to perform in Singapore. “I thought I had a hard life, but when I see these kids I realise that I had it made. This is my chance to give back and make good for my mistakes”, he said.

In the background there are boys doing handstands, back flips, spinning on their heads and making it all look too easy!

As we continued to talk, I realised that he feels a deep love for his ‘crew’. He gazes as the kids; eyes full of compassion and pride and tells me that, most of kids don’t have a home to go back to, many have parents that are drug users, sex workers or are HIV positive. “But, when they come to this place, they find hope. They start believing that there is more to life than what they have experienced. They have choices and they can become so much more than what they have seen in their own environment.”

Up till now, I hadn’t even noticed that the all the kids’ clothes were old and tattered. How young they were and some painfully thin. But, they were all thriving under KK’s light.

Tithiya Sharma is on a year-long journey across the globe to find 100 everyday heroes — and hopefully herself — along the way. For more on Tithiya's adventure log on to

Cambodia arrests two Thais over bomb attack

A Thai police investigation officers looks for remains of a bomb after an explosion on Silom Road in the financial district of central Bangkok in April 2010. Cambodia on Saturday arrested two Thais thought to be linked to the anti-government "Red Shirt" movement over a bomb attack in Bangkok last month. (AFP/File/Roslan Rahman)

via Khmer NZ News Media

Sat Jul 3,2010

PHNOM PENH (AFP) – Cambodia on Saturday arrested two Thais thought to be linked to the anti-government "Red Shirt" movement over a bomb attack in Bangkok last month.

The suspects, a man and a woman, were arrested in Cambodia's northwestern Siem Reap province, according to a statement from the Cambodian foreign ministry.

It said the pair "committed terrorist acts" by carrying out an attack in the Thai capital on June 22.

"Although there is no request from the Thai government, the Cambodian government has decided to arrest and send the two terrorists back to Thailand," the statement said, noting that Cambodia adheres to an "anti-terrorism policy".

Local media reported that the pair were being held in connection with an attempted bombing at the headquarters of the Bhumjaithai party, part of the Thai government coalition.

The attack followed recent street protests by anti-government Red Shirts in Bangkok that sparked outbreaks of violence in which 90 people died and nearly 1,900 were injured.

The Cambodian foreign ministry said the pair, both aged 33, would be handed over to the Thai embassy on Monday.

Cambodia's decision to apprehend the suspects could be seen as an attempt at thawing ties with its neighbour, with which it has a history of rocky relations.

Both countries recalled their ambassadors last November after Phnom Pehn appointed Thailand's fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra as an economic adviser and then refused Thai requests to extradite him.

Tensions have also surrounded a troop standoff at the disputed border between the countries after clashes erupted near the ancient Preah Vihear temple in July 2008.

Cambodian leader Hun Sen openly criticised his Thai counterpart, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, during one of Thaksin's recent visits to Cambodia, and made a high-profile visit to the temple, dressed in full combat uniform.