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On June 24, Cambodian Member of Parliament Mu Sochua addressed a gathering of NGO and government representatives on the condition of the Cambodian nation during a meeting facilitated by Vital Voices.  As an advocate of human rights, democracy and good governance, Sochua has served the Cambodian people as a fearless voice on behalf of interests that have too often gone unrecognized.

Championing the rights of poor and disadvantaged citizens, the Nobel Peace Prize nominee has worked to expose government corruption and promote reform. Consequently, Sochua has faced a campaign of political intimidation led by President Hun Sen of Cambodia.

Sochua traveled to the United States this week to advocate for the Cambodian people. She met with leaders in government and civil society and petitioned the U.S. government and other nations to re-evaluate their position on Cambodia. Sochua is campaigning for the reform of the Cambodian government and political establishment, urging for accountability and honest dialogue with the public, members of the opposition and those promoting civil society. Though she remains hopeful for change, she cautions that the status of governance in Cambodia is at risk for further deterioration.

In an informative and inspiring dialogue, Sochua discussed the situation of the Cambodian people and government, highlighting the need for the American people to appeal to their leadership for a change in policy. Though some groups and governments, such as the European Union, have begun to take a stronger stand, Sochua reinforced the need for the rest of the world to follow suit. Silence on the part of international governments and citizens, she explained, only serves to perpetuate impunity.

Though she remains committed to specific issues such as human trafficking, which has captivated much of her energies in the past, Sochua emphasized a need to focus on all components of democracy, human rights and good governance. Sochua feels that problems such as poverty or human trafficking cannot truly be dealt with until the overarching issues facing democracy are addressed.

As an activist concerned with the immediate plight of the poor in her country – a population that she feels is being marginalize and ignored by the government – Sochua works with the program Devi, which trains, supports and fosters women entrepreneurs.

The need for women’s engagement in Cambodia was also discussed. A longtime women’s advocate, Sochua suggested that the U.S. send a delegation led by women to Cambodia. Describing the challenge that remains regarding progress on women’s rights, Sochua commented: “There are values in any culture that keep women one or two steps behind men…This [unfortunate condition] is not a world; it is not a future.”