Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - An Open Letter to Yasushi Akashi

An Open Letter to Yasushi Akashi

An Open Letter to Yasushi Akashi


On behalf of the community of women living in Phnom Penh we would like to thank H.E.

Yasushi Akashi for encouraging the Supreme National Council to adopt the "Convention

on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women."

We hope that itbecomes a document referred to often by the current and future governments

of Cambodia and that it is utilized to benefit the status of all Cambodian women.

We, as a group of women and men living and working in Cambodia, feel a sense of outrage

at the unacceptable behavior of some male UNTAC personnel. We would like to express

concern regarding mistreatment of women, and in light of statements by Mr. Akashi

at the meeting with NGO's on Sept. 24, would like to call his attention to some of

the experiences shared by women in this community ona daily basis.

1. Sexual harassment occurs regularly in public restaurants, hotels and bars,

banks, markets and shops to the point where many women feel highly intimidated.

2.Women feel restricted in their movements in social and professional settings

because of the inappropriate behaviors they receive from male UNTAC personnel while


3. Cambodian and other Asian women are the victims of stereotyping and often

are forced into subservient roles. These women deserve the same respect as the sisters,

mothers, daughters and wives of UNTAC personnel.

4. Inappropriate behavior by some male UNTAC personnel often leave women with

a feeling of powerlessness. These men hold positions of authority on behalf of the

international community and should be setting an example for others. Women have little

access to redress when they experience such behavior.

One incident that helps to illustrate this point was when a six-year-old Khmer American

girl was invited into the yard at the house of some UNTAC civilian police who regularly

invite a steady stream of prostitutes into the same house.

The child described the experience in these words, "Mommy, they called by over

and hugged me and then they wouldn't let me go."

Regardless of the intentions this is not appropriate. Her mother felt helpless because

if she confronted these men it could lead to further problems.

In other cases, Cambodian women who have been sexually assaulted are too frightened

to allow their stories to be told in public.

5. There has been a dramatic increase in prostitution since UNTAC's arrival

and a noticeable absence of condoms and education about their use. It is not surprising

that HIV has reached an "emergency" level of at least 75 percent among

blood donors, a rate of infection that is comparable to the rate of neighboring Thailand.

It is the responsibility of all of us as citizens and guests of Cambodia to prevent

the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. The legacy of UNTAC in Cambodia should

not be these modern-day diseases.

In addition to the importance of safe sex, prostitutes are voicing concern about

the need to have means of redress when any form of violence is used against them.

6. There are very few women represented in high level positions in UNTAC.

In addition, there are few women working in mid- and lower-level positions such as

civilian police, electoral personnel, and interpreters. Cambodian women, who represent

60-65 percent of the population of this country, are not being offered a positive

example of full participation in decision-making by UNTAC.

UNTAC personnel are here to keep the peace and to ensure a neutral environment for

free and fair elections. This means they serve as role models for Cambodians. However,

we see evidence of what can only be described as "frontier behavior;" that

is, a kind of "no-rules, anything-goes" attitude.

Given that UNTAC is here as the body of ultimate authority, even to assist in drafting

a constitution, it would seem a wise practice to demonstrate exemplary conduct.

We would like to work with UNTAC in a positive manner to address these concerns

and suggest the following actions:

  • Educate all UNTAC personnel in gender awareness and cross-cultural issues.
  • Appoint an ombudsperson for women with authority and direct access to the Force

    Commander of the military component and the U.N. Secretary General's Special Representative.

  • Develop a process of redress for women who have experienced sexual harassment

    and other inappropriate behavior by UNTAC personnel which should be widely disseminated

    in both Khmer and English.

  • Establish a code of conduct for UNTAC personnel, including the means to enforce

    the code, and in extreme circumstances to repatriate the perpetrator. This code should

    be available in the primary languages of all UNTAC personnel.

  • Release the number of complaints of women who have been mistreated by UNTAC personnel

    both inside and outside of UNTAC.

  • Create a women's advisory committee to UNTAC which must include Cambodian women.
  • Provide data regarding the employment of women within UNTAC; and intentional

    efforts to hire more women, both Cambodian and expatriate, at all levels.

  • Implement a broad campaign to provide education to UNTAC personnel and Cambodians

    about sexually transmitted diseases. This must include increased distribution of


We look forward to a reply from Mr. Akashi and to working in cooperation with

UNTAC on these issues. It can only be beneficial to all of us living, working and

hoping for peace and a better future for Cambodia.


James P. Noonan, M.M. Marynoll, Chair of CCC; Kim Leval, Office Manager, Holt

International Children's Services; Sarah Newhall, Country Representative, PACT; Kathleen

Hopper, Country Rep., Holt Int'l Children's Services; Linda J. Hartke, CWS and Vice

Chair CCC; Thun Saray; Clodagh O'Brien, Ang Eng Thong; Kassie Neou; Khay Sam Rith;

Nup So Pon; Thong Soknareuth; Srey Darareuth; Ou Kheng; Chau Cheng; Thach Phat; Por

Phak; Leang Kaem; Pan; Yann Pinnry; Leng Bopha; Pen Son Eurn; Him Yim; Mak Bun Heng;

Vong Han; Chay Kim Song; Uon Chan Tra Pong; Uon Sovatharith; Alison Hayward; Mark

Blake; Lisa Rosenthal, ACE; Rosemarie Beale, QSA; Agnes Leonard; Henri Valot, UNTAC-Electoral;

Leng Chan Leapho, UNTAC-Civ Admin; Janardhan Baral, UNTAC-Electoral; Tom Riddle;

Jaffer Nurmohamed; Iona Macleod; Robert Deutsch, PADEK; R.C. Nandeesha, PADEK; Yem

Sokuntheary; Im Hai; Rafael G. Senga; Lim Phai; Johan Verhoef; Eak Khun; Bruce Petch;

Marilou P. Juanito; Ben Juanito; Marguerite Garcia; Gry Tina Anderson, UNTAC-Electoral;

Mr. Balachou, UNTAC-Electoral; Sao Chhorn, UNTAC-Elect; Harald A. Wie, UNV/UNTAC;

Marcella Gange, UNTAC-Electoral; Youk Chhang, UNTAC-Electoral; Sam Sophal, UNTAC-Electoral;

Steve Datsomor, UNTAC-Field Service; Kep Kannaro, UNTAC-Civ. Admin; Raja Venkata

Chari, UNTAC-Civ Admin/PSA; S. Lagardere; Deborah Brodie; Denise Coghlan; Raymond

Genesse; Jean-Yves DeKeister; Misteno Nakura; Darith Nhieim; Amy S. Nolan; Elizabeth

Weight; Yanni Hin; Ea Fuur Nielsen; Sorn San; Dan Lauer; Nina Frankel; Nivana C.;

N. Prem Kumar; Cheam Sarim; Lay Moreta, Bookkeeper, Holt Int'l; Tanya Lieberman;

Deryck Fritz; Marie-Agnes Bolognesi; Robert Mackey; J. Engel; Mila Rosenthal; Rosemarie

Ivanoff; Dr. Kathleen Kral, Veterinarian, AFSC; Jonathan Clemens; Ruth K. Clemens;

Mike Roberts; Warren Climenhaga; Sochua Mu Leiper; Peter LaRamee; Jenny Davidson;

Eva Mysliwiec; Stephanie Edwards; Justin Byworth; Eileen Darby; Patty Seflow; Yoshito

Sakamoto; James W. Bender; Michelle M. Weldon; Anne Huws; Colleen Bracken; Gregg

Keen; Martha Walsh; Vannath Chea; Chan Radet; Damien J. Bourke, CARE Int'l; Lorraine

Patersen, CARE Int'l; Selvia Alvers, Maryknoll; Joyce Quinn, Maryknoll; Kol Nary;

Margaret Zeegers; Elizabeth Craven, QSA; Audrey Cornish, QSA; Alan Crouch; J.P.J.

Van Kampen; Jeremy Ockelford; Heather Naylor; Phoeuk Sok; Tonie Nooyens; P.Limpanboon;

Pratin Dharmarak; M. McIntyre-Gunn; Phoung Sokha; Duncan Dewar; Suzanne Storer; Susan

Ennis; Roxie Orr; Nick Edwards; Marge Troester; Nolen D. Boyer Jr.; Kathryn Judd;

John Chisholm, VSO; Sue Sherry; Sian Anderson, VSO; Viveca McCausland; Kath Copley,

Cambodian British Centre; Psyche Kennett, Cambodian British Centre; Barbara Jackson,

A.C.R.; Gail Trevarthen, VSA; Ben Wickham, VSA; Denise Cresswell, VSA; Cath Kelly,

N.Z. Project; Bill Lobban, AVA; Sue Selden, SCFA; P. Toal; Katy Attfield, VSO; Julian

Abrams; Kate Martineau, VSO; Peter Guest, CIDSE; Peter Kierker, ACR; R.A. Biddulph,

UPP; Ellen A. Minotti; Yin Luoth; Somying Soontornwong; Poomjit Ruanodej; Simon England;

Emer Diviney; Philip Holmes; Denley Pike; Gena-Louise Edvalson; Leon Devine; N. Petratchkova;

Margaret Moon; Sompen Kutranon; Thea Ney; Maneerat Wichaiboon


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