Friday, December 13, 2013

A Poor Choice of Words by Politicians

Sam Rainsey and his poor choice of words

A group of women right defenders
By Khmer Wathanakam

During a recent political rally in Seam Reap to celebrate a Human Right Day and a protest on election fraud, Sam Rainsey has accidentally become a victim of a poor choice of his own words when he said, "Hun Sen is weaker than female" in solving a political crisis in compared with Thai Prime Minister Yingluk Shinawatra.  But a poor choice of words that Sam Rainsey had used to denigrate Hun Sen turned out to be insulted on women instead.  Since a speech took place on a Human Right Day, and he is a human right defender, people have reacted to his speech in different ways.  When some people have ignored it; the others have even demanded for public apology.

A word "weaker than female" is commonly used by ordinary Khmer to insult or to tease each other for being incompetent and coward.  Now this old Khmer joke is no longer to be a joke, for people are struggling to demand equal right for all genders. Many Khmer women have shown their courage to defense their rights against the current repressive regime.  Over 90 percent of protesters against forceful eviction by the authorities are women.  At least one of them, Tep Vanny, was awarded as a champion of human right defender while other were jailed in different times for brave actions to protect their right.  These are just a few examples that Khmer women are courageous to fight against social injustice and to break a " status quo"

 Previously, Hun Sen used to verbally abuse women when he had altercations with them such as Princess Norodom Vichora, Ms. Mu Sochua, and some Beng Kak women activists.  As he had threatened those women with legal actions and verbal attacks, Hun Sen faced a scorned judgement from the public for using ominous and rude words against women.                             
Now, Sam Rainsey who has devoted of his political career to defense human rights for all people --men and women--has lost credibility as a champion of human right defender when he publicly used words "weaker than female" to insult Hun Sen for being coward in dealing with a current political crisis.  His poor choice of words has drawn numerous angry reactions from human right groups and women who felt offensive by his unintentional speech.  Albeit what Sam Rainsey had said is out of the context, the damage has been done for all women since these words should not be used at all even privately by a politician or a public figure who has represented millions of people from different backgrounds.

Indeed gender equality is strongly being promoted in most democratic countries around the world; in the US and European Union, public and private officials are vigorously trained to use proper words in written and verbal communications in order to enhance gender equality and to avoid legal actions by any particular group.  Every word must be scrutinized by language experts before publishing.  For instances, a chief executive's wife must be replaced with a chief executive's spouse since men and women can be a chief executive.  And here are some more proper word use to avoid gender gap such as policemen should be police officers, firemen should be firefighters, mailmen should be mail carriers, and so on.

Word choices must be seriously examined before delivering by politicians or public officials since people read their lips.  During his first term, President Obama faced severe criticism from the media and the public for his poor choice of words.  When a police officer in the City of Cambridge, Massachusetts mistakenly arrested his friend, Professor Gate, reporting by neighbors as a burglar; President Obama called a police officer's action as stupid, for the officer could not differentiate between a professor and a burglar.  As the President of the United States, Obama was accused of being interfered with a job and duty of a police officer in Cambridge and used inappropriate language with the officer.  The whole police officers in Cambridge demanded President Obama apologized publicly, but President Obama chose to invite the officer and Professor Gate to reconcile at the White House backyard known as "a beer summit" referred to a traditional American family having barbecue and beer at backyard during summer time.  In contrast to Cambodia, all Hun Sen's words almost become laws and unquestionable.

To avoid repercussions, all politicians should learn from their mistakes and keenly accept their fault even unintentional ones.  For his poor choice of words during recent rally, Sam Rainsey should clarify his position in an upcoming rally as demanded by the Human Right Group in order to bring emotional healing to all women and to encourage more women to join with the current struggle in demanding true justice for all. 

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