Mu Sochua

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Mu Sochua
មូរ សុខហួ

MP
Mu Sochua crop.jpg
Mu Sochua in 2009.
Member of the National Assembly
Incumbent
Assumed office
27 July 2008
Constituency Battambang Province
Minister of Women Affairs
In office
30 November 1998 – 16 July 2004
Prime Minister Hun Sen
Personal details
Born (1954-05-15) 15 May 1954 (age 59)
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Political party Cambodia National Rescue Party
Other political
affiliations
Sam Rainsy Party
Spouse(s) Kem Sokha
Religion Buddhism

Mu Sochua (Khmer: មូរ សុខហួ; born May 15, 1954) is an elected Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) opposition member of the Cambodian parliament and a mother of three children. In 2005, she received the Leadership Award in Washington, DC, from the Vital Voices Foundation, co-founded by Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. In 2002 she mobilized 12,000 women candidates to run for commune elections, with over 900 women winning and still actively promoting the women's agenda at the grass-roots level. In that same year she helped create and pass the Prevention of Domestic Violence Bill, which imposes severe penalties on marital rape and abuse of minors. Her work in Cambodia also includes campaigns with men to end domestic violence and the spread of HIV/AIDS; working for the rights of female entrepreneurs; working for labor laws that provide fair wages and safe working conditions for female workers; and working for the development of communities for squatters with schools, health centers, sanitation, and employment.

Early life[edit]

Born in 1954, Sochua grew up in Phnom Penh but was forced to flee as a refugee as the Vietnam War spilled over into Cambodia. Her parents were trapped in the country as it fell under the command of the Khmer Rouge in 1975 and later vanished. War and genocide forced Sochua away from Cambodia in 1972 when she had just completed high school. Sochua would remain in exile for the next 18 years.

Exile[edit]

During her 18 years in exile, Mu Sochua would spend time in France, California, and Italy, as well as working in the refugee camps along the Thai-Cambodian border. She earned a bachelor's degree in Psychology from San Francisco State University and a masters degree in Social Work from the University of California, Berkeley before returning to Cambodia to help rebuild a society shattered by war.

Return from exile[edit]

Mu Sochua with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in Washington, D.C., in 2009.

Sochua returned to Cambodia in 1989 after 18 years in exile, and has worked as an advocate for human rights, working to stop human trafficking, domestic violence and worker exploitation. Sochua formed the first organization for women, called Khemara (Khmer: ខេមរា). and joined the Funcinpec political party, winning a national assembly seat representing Battambang in 1998. Soon afterwards, she was asked to take over the Ministry of Women's and Veterans' Affairs, one of only two women in the cabinet.

In July 2004 she stepped down from her role as a Minister, citing corruption as a major obstacle to her work. Almost immediately, she transferred her allegiance to the Sam Rainsy party, where she is deputy head of the steering committee.

April 2009 defamation action[edit]

Mu Sochua after her verdict by Court on 4 August 2009.

At a press conference held on 23 April 2009, Mu Sochua announced she would file a defamation complaint against Cambodian prime Minister Hun Sen with the Phnom Penh Municipal Court. “I have nothing against Samdech the Prime Minister. As a Member of Parliament, I respect him. But the words of Samdech the Prime Minister said in public affect my honour and my dignity as a Khmer woman. With this complaint, I only want justice and honour, as a Khmer woman”, Sochua said. She added that she only claimed a 500-riel (0.12 dollar) compensation as a token, and a public apology on the part of the head of government.[1][2]

Following Sochua's announcement, the government was expected to file a counter-suit for gravely defaming the PM. The Ministry of Justice was expected to request the President of the parliament to vote to remove Sochua's parliamentary immunity. With only 25 percent of the votes, the SRP would be powerless to prevent further action against her – including imprisonment. Sochua's letter calling for support from the international community – "As I walk to prison" — was circulated around the World Wide Web.[3]

On two previous occasions, when SRP party leader Sam Rainsy's parliamentary immunity was removed, he fled Cambodia under threat of criminal charges and went into exile in France.[4]

Awards and recognition[edit]

In 2005, Sochua was one of 1,000 women nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for her work against sex trafficking of women in Cambodia and Thailand. Also in 2005, Sochua was honoured with the Vital Voices Human Rights Global Leadership Award for her efforts to stem the tide of human trafficking.

In 2006, Sochua was awarded the Elise and Walter A. Haas International Award from the University of California, Berkeley for distinguished record of service in Cambodia and an Honorary PhD in Law from the University of Guelph, Canada.

In 2009, Sochua was awarded the Eleanor Roosevelt Award from the Eleanor Roosevelt Project at The George Washington University for leadership in human rights.

In 2010, Sochua was named the 2010 People's Choice Honoree by Global Exchange for their Human Rights Heroes Award. The Human Rights Awards Gala brings together activists, supporters, and friends to recognize the efforts of exceptional individuals and organizations from around the country and around the world.[5]

References[edit]

External links[edit]