Monday, March 31, 2008

The Shame of it All

I’ve kept my postings pretty light. The funny things that have happened, and nice people I’m dealing with.

Today I’m just mad. More than mad, I am furious.

About 2 months ago, when I returned from my January trip, I asked people to contact their Senators, Representatives and MPs and ask for letters of support for Cambodian Self Help Demining. Foreign support, especially from politicians, means a great deal over here, a great deal. I cannot begin to tell you how important it is. It tells the local bureaucracy that they are being watched. That the rest of the world not only knows but cares about what happens in their country. It gives transparency to the process.

Here’s the letter we asked our politicians to sign:

To: Cambodian Mine Action and Victims Assistance Authority
Subject: Aki Ra and Cambodian Self Help Demining

I have recently become aware of the work of Aki Ra in clearing landmines and making Cambodia a safer place for its citizens. This work is of critical value in a world today where too few individuals are willing to place their lives on the line to help their neighbors live a better life.

I urge you to as quickly as possible allow Aki Ra's new NGO, Cambodian Self Help Demining, to become a registered demining company in Cambodia and to give it full certification, meeting all national and international standards set for other demining NGOs.

Thank you for all the CMAA is and has done to make Cambodia safe for its people.


What a controversial document!

Let me just tell you what we heard back from 4 American politicians.

My congresswoman is Rep. Mary Bono-Mack. I don’t agree with all her positions, but she’s been pretty good for the district. I asked her to sign this letter. She sent us a letter endorsing the Landmine Museum and the work of the Canadian government! Huh?? The Museum was registered as an NGO in 2004 and got certified last year. What we got was totally worthless, off point and a waste of her and my time. I sent another letter to Rep. Bono-Mack’s office asking her to sign the letter. Not a word has come back.

My Senators are Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein. I sent them both a request and have not even had the courtesy of a reply from either. Oh yeah – I donated to Sen. Boxer’s campaign. She certainly gets in touch with me when she needs something.

Some of our donors are from Maine. Senator Collins was contacted and asked for a letter of support. Nope, out of my district. Uh….I thought she was a Senator? Maybe I’m wrong, but don’t they vote on things outside their districts? Like wars and foreign aid and stuff?

We’ve got 2 letters from MPs in the UK and been promised more. But squat from the US.

I am flatly ashamed. We’ve had literally dozens of people write their representatives and senators and ask for this simple letter that will do nothing more than save lives. There’s a lot of cheap shots I can take right now, and frankly they are well deserved. But I’ll leave them to you.

We read all the time that the American political system doesn’t work. Well I’m pretty sure that if I were donating thousands or millions of dollars, these politicians would be all over me like white on rice. I won’t call them representatives any more, ‘cause they sure don’t represent me.

When it looked like the Museum wouldn't get built the Canadian Ambassador stepped in as did the Prime Minister. I have been totally unable to reach anyone at the US Embassy. A bit annoying? Yeah...a bit.

Maybe we can shame them into supporting Ai Ra.
I am certainly ashamed of them.

I’ll try and be more ‘upbeat’ next time.



Beth Pielert said...

Dear Bill, I realize you are frustrated but Barbara Boxer did respond to our request. She indicated that she needed a direct request from Aki Ra due to the privacy act.

Here is her email to refresh your memory:

From: Add Mobile
Subject: Responding to your message
Date: Fri, 28 Mar 2008 09:22:29 -0700

Dear Friend:

Thank you for your recent request for ass istance with a federal agency.

In accordance with the Privacy Act of 1974, I will need written consent from the person(s) directly involved before I am able to open a formal inquiry into this important matter. Please be assured that the request for assistance will receive serious attention, and that I will make every effort consistent with federal law and ethics standards to assist with this case.

Written correspondence should be sent to:
U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer
1700 Montgomery Street, Suite 240
San Francisco , CA 94111

The statement should include: the name and signature of the person directly involved, their address, phone number, any relevant identification numbers (such as their Social Security or alien registration number), and a brief description of the case.

If this is an emergency, please call my San Francisco office at 415-403-0100, and a member of my staff will assist you.

Once again, thank you for writing.

Barbara Boxer
United States Senator

Kilong Ung said...


I completely understand your frustration, and I am honored to be your friend.

As a Khmer Rouge genocide survivor and an American citizen, I have been on both sides of the fence. As an American I am compelled to share the moral responsibility of my government's leaving behind the UXO mess in Cambodia. As a genocide survivor and a former refugee from Cambodia, I feel guilty for my good life in the U.S. while people in my birth country still have a mess to clean up.

I am grateful for people such as you and Aki Ra who are championing this cause. I am also amazed that our U.S. representatives are not responding with support.

To a lighter news, I am pushing my way to my state representatives. I do not have the confidence that they would read and respond to me if I were to write a letter. I also do not have confidence that I will get anywhere with them either by pushing my way there, but "anything unattempted remains impossible". As everyone seems to be occupied by the election, I imagine it will take some time before I know whether I am barking the right tree. Will keep you posted.

Again, I am grateful to have you as a friend.

Kilong Ung |
Leverage the past to make the world a better place, one person at a time.