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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Tioulong Saumura: politican

Tioulong Saumura: politican

Tioulong.jpg
Tioulong.jpg

Born in 1950 as one of the seven daughters of former Prime Minister Khiek

Tioulong, Tioulong Saumura spent much of her childhood in Paris, Tokyo and

Moscow. In her words, she was raised to be "rose in a vase." Saumura studied law

at the University of Paris, and earned a post-graduate degree in economics in

1974. In 1980, she graduated from the European Institute of Adminstration and in

1988 obtained an additional degree in financial analysis. She was director of

two banks in Paris before returning to Cambodia in 1992 and serving as deputy

governor of the National Bank of Cambodia.

Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian Tioulong Saumura on the campaign trail ahead of April's commune council elections.

An economist, MP and mother

of three, Saumura is an engaging admixture of aristocrat and activist.

"By my behavior and deeds, I try to show that a woman can be a good

wife, good mother and still stay involved in things outside her inner

circle-especially politics. Most of the time words are empty, what is important

is what we do," she told the Post.

Earlier this month Saumura was elected

to the Inter-Parliamentary Union's Standing Committee for Sustainable

Development, Finance and Trade, the first Cambodian to hold any position in the

150-nation federation of lawmakers.

Saumura talked to Charles McDermid on

May 11.

Before this interview you asked if this would be the first

article that didn't refer to you as the wife of Sam Rainsy. Why is this

important?

When I was young, I was known as the daughter of my father.

Now, I'm known as the wife of Sam Rainsy. Everyone says this, and I'm always

introduced as the wife of Sam Rainsy. I am a human being in my own right, and I

have had to fight for my own identity.

All men are biased against women.

It makes me furious: even the best man, in the bottom of their hearts is still a

male chauvinist. I think I am married to the best of the best, and even Sam

Rainsy is one.

What makes me even sadder is even women are chauvinistic.

They are especially that way in Cambodia, but in advanced countries as well. So,

I have a long fight before me.

This explains why I am what I am and where

I am: in politics in the SRP. It's the best place to advance the cause of women.

You said you voted for Nicholas Sarkozy in the French election.

What's he like in person?

I met him during Chinese New Year in 2006. He

was attending a celebration in Paris' Chinatown and I was invited. I sat right

in front of him. He's shorter than I would have thought. I wouldn't say he has

charisma, but when he spoke, I found him genuine, convincing. One of his best

friends is a Sino-Khmer restaurant owner in Paris. He maintains friendships with

Khmer immigrants. I find this moving and not typical of the French. He himself

is the son of immigrants and perhaps has a glimpse of their

suffering.

What was your childhood like?

I had a very

protected childhood, and I've kept a kind of shyness. My father used to say,

when people asked him how many children he had, "No children, only seven

daughters." That's why I don't like to be called the wife of Sam Rainsy. It's a

style of parenting found in many Asian cultures, that doesn't consider a girl an

asset to the family. But it was a very protected environment, and people always

knew my father and mother. That may be why people have said I have an

"aristocratic attitude."

Do you?

Well, it's difficult to talk

about yourself, but it wouldn't surprise me. I didn't come from a family of

farmers or traders or restaurant owners. Even my grandparents were civil

servants and ministers and things like that. My roots go back to an aristocratic

family. I don't see myself this way. I've always been curious about things, and

I've always gone to places I wasn't supposed to go.

Who are some

women you admire?

The Queen [Norodom Monineath Sihanouk]. She has an

extraordinary character. Not only do I admire her - but I love her. She's a

great model of a woman. She's much more active than appearances show. Another is

Madam [Marie] Curie. She was actually brighter than her husband. Fortunately, he

died or the findings they discovered together would have been attributed to him.

There are many cases like that.

Are you brighter than Sam

Rainsy?

I'm better than him on certain points, and worse on others. We're

a good complimentary couple. When we were in France, we were both working. I

made more money. He got a lot of enjoyment out of this actually. It takes a

strong man to have an educated wife with a strong character. This is not the

case of most men.

What's your assessment of the Cambodian

economy?

There is an unfair distribution of wealth. This is not a social

analysis -just sheer economic -and it doesn't bode well for future growth. Why?

In order for sustainable growth, distribution must be as fair as possible. We

need to see more emergence of a middle class - they are the ones that consume,

invest and save, and constitute the social and economic fabric of the country.

If there's no middle class the economy is not solidly based.

Compared

to the past, how would you describe the opposition movement today?

It's

much stronger then I've ever seen it. Our party is a leading force now and we're

much more deeply rooted in the country than ever before. Activists for our party

are everywhere. It's a real party and if Rainsy were to disappear - and in the

past, with all the threats to his life, we used to ask: what happens now if he

disappeared - someone would come forward. The movement would generate a

different kind of leader; the party wouldn't go down the drain. The party wasn't

formed by Sam Rainsy, but it's his ideas that are the enzymes for the chemical

process.

What's Sam Rainsy like?

He's a dreamer, a thinker.

He's deeply lost in his thoughts trying to find solutions. He's not an organizer

like you would expect. Rainsy is so disconnected, but he has a magic. He sends

messages through non-ordinary means and his organization succeeds through these

means. He succeeds in mobilizing people. His life has been hard, dangerous,

stressful - and it was painful when we went to funerals for all those years. I

think, looking back, that the best part of all this is that I've had the best

seat to observe the magic.

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