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Wednesday, 24 May 2006
Minuteman Project Caravan
Less than a week after arriving back in the states, I agreed to be Event Coordinator for the Minuteman Project Caravan. I had three weeks to organize the cross-country route with rallies in 13 cities (5 state capitols), ending at The Capitol in Washington DC. We left LA on May 3, and arrived in DC on May 12. I then proceeded to lead the 2 staff RVs back to LA.

There are plenty of news stories out there about the event. The afternoon of our Friday rally in DC, the White House announced that President Bush would address the nation on the following Monday night regarding the immigration/illegal alien issue.

I am currently in LA preparing to promote filmmaking in Cambodia.

Posted by Lady Mariam at 7:48 PM PDT
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Friday, 31 March 2006
New Postings
I just added three new postings, so read on! :)

Posted by Lady Mariam at 8:24 PM PST
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Cambodian Political History
Cambodian Political History

Along the main road in the village, there are concrete electric power poles with no wires. After Cambodia's indpendence from French colonization (1954), Cambodia was developing as fast as any other nation. Then the Indochina War happened, commonly referred to in America as the Vietnam War.

A man named Pol Pot decided to turn Cambodia into a Maoist-style communist country. The year was 1977. He started by driving through every province and taking young men to be soldiers. People inthe countryside were poor, so many went willingly at first. But then they quickly hauled off educated citizens, such as doctors, engineers, teachers, artists and journalists who could send news of what was happening or resist. My friend Srash's father, a doctor, was taken never to be seen again.

By now, people did not want to let their sons go with the Khmer Rouge, but they kept taking young boys (as young as 12), training them to be killers of their own people. No outside country was bothering Cambodia. Pol Pot killed his own people, which is was most people today find the most horrendous of his crimes. His objective was to destroy ALL history and "start fresh." Many ancient temples from the 10th and 11th centuries were damaged. Electric power was never completed in the provinces.

When the Khmer Rouge reached the Vietnamese border, Vietnam stood up and took notice. They quickly ended Pol Pot's reign of terror. He killed over 3 million Cambodians in 3 years, 8 months and 20 days. Any Cambodian can quote this time period. This was 50% of the current population. A genocide museum is operated in the former torture compound called S-21 during the regime. Prior to the Khmer Rouge, it was a secondary school called T___ S____. From here, people were transported to the infamous Killing Fields, where a "stupa" now stands filled with thousands of skulls from the victims.

After Vietnam liberated and stabilized Cambodia, they went back to their own country. Vietnam didn't occupy Cambodia or say, "We're going to move the border now because you owe us for helping" or "We're going to rebuild your country with our companies and charge you for it so we get richer." They did it because Pol Pot and his regime were evil and they needed to be stopped for the good of humanity. Pol Pot and other leaders were imprisoned and recently died awaiting trial at an International war tribunal. Many people are sad they were not convicted and punished for their crimes.

I am almost 40 years old and I never learned any of this in world history. I only learned that America sent troops to Vietnam while people back home protested until they finally withdrew. I am ashamed of America's self-centered attitudes about the world. Genocide is going on right now in places like Sudan. Recently, genocide has occured in Rwanda, Bosnia/Croatia/Serbia, to the Kurds in Iraq, the Gypsies in Europe, and the Aborigines in Australia. Even those who die in the favelas of Brazil are being called genocide victims. Every day people are dying while we buy new cars and Gucci purses. What are we doing about genocide as members of humanity? I challenge you to educate yourself and tap into your own ingenuity. Figure out a way you can make a difference.

Cambodia is slowly rebuilding as it re-educates its people. In Cambodia, 85% of people are farmers. When they graduate from universites (7,000 every year), there are few jobs. Some people even pay to get a job. Only 30% of graduates find a job in the private sector. The population of the country is between 13-14 million. There are 24 provinces. Over 2 million people live in Phnom Penh.

Working in one of more than 120 clothes factories is a coveted job. Workers earn $45-50 per month, compared to a small business in the countryside making only $20 per month. Examples are selling gasoline from a 50 gallon drum, selling sugar cane juice or charging batteries used for electricity in the home.

Unfortunately, it is easy to cheat local Khmer people because of a lack of education. Politicians are elected for 5 year terms. People do not have as many rights as in America and demonstrations are not allowed. While "scared" might be too heavy a word, people try to live their lives in a way not to disrupt the goverment, so corruption does exist. The Khmer culture values peace highly. A proverb for marriage is "The man should close his ears and the wife should close her eyes." I think this is a very good principle, although it can certainly be taken too far!

It is my goal to be involved in film production here in Cambodia. It's not as undeveloped as one might think. Other countries such as France and China produce films regularly here. There are few restrictions and costs can be extremely low without exploiting the Khmer people.

Posted by Lady Mariam at 8:23 PM PST
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Political Situation in Thailand
When I left Thailand the first week of March, things were heating up politically. Much of the information in this story is from the March 1st edition of The Bangkok Post. I'd like to provide a commentary since I'm sure the media in America and other western nations don't report on the subject. As you'll see, it could affect my travel on April 5, but I am not worried that it will.

Thailand Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, faces accusations of financial corruption that make Enron and Martha Stewart look like petty criminals. Thaksin's party is called Thai Rak Thai(TRT). TRT Deputy Leader, Pokin Polakul, was quoted in the Bangkok Post as saying, "Morality and ethics are totally different issues. We have to stick to the rules first." This comment reminds me of the American justice system where lawyers aren't interested in the truth, only who can manipulate the "rule of law" to their advantage. If the law has loopholes, those people who use the loopholes don't want to change the law. I can't say if that is the case with the current Prime Minister of Thailand, but this is the issue at hand.

Thailand is a constitutional monarchy and Thai's love His Majesty the king. H.M. the King is celebrating his 60th year on the throne. In the 1970's, he intervened during an uprising and appointed an interm administration. According to Article 7 of the Thai constitution, the King can intervene only if a dangerous, deadlocked situation occurs. Protestors are claiming the time for intervention is near.

The last political upheaval occured in 1992, and is now referred to as Black May. Thousands of people disappeared and have never been seen again. Several Westerners I have met remember the chaos and say the same tension is in the air.

Throughout February 2006, three minority political parties have banded together and called for the resignation of the Prime Minister. Thaksin responded by calling a special election and dissolving the House Assembly until after the election set for April 2, 2006. The opposition parties (Democrat, Mahachon and Chart Thai) have called for a "boycott" of the election. Article 68 states that citizens are "duty-bound" to participate in elections. Opposition leaders have made it clear the boycott only means they will not have any candidates participate and are urging Thai's to still vote. The Thai ballot offers a "no-vote" choice, which tallies as a "no-confidence" in all candidates.

Rumors circulated that Army General Sonthi was asked to stage a military coup to overthrow the Prime Minister. General Sonthi has publically stated that his soldiers are disciplined and there is no cause for a coup. However, amongst the soldiers, there is said to be three factions: 1) classmates, friends and supporters of Thaksin, 2) those undecided about the Prime Minister but willing to stand by the people if he is found guilty, and 3) those who have declared loyalty to His Majesty the King.

Complicating the issue is the disparity between city dwellers (Bangkok) who tend to be more educated and informed and the rest of the agricultural society who tend to be less educated. Thaksin has worked hard to gain the trust of the people outside Bangkok and even buses thousands of them into Bangkok to attend rallies in support of his current office. He won his current term with the largest landslide in Thai history.

Bangkok is increasingly modernized and as this Westernization occurs, there is a growing middle class and opportunities for wealth. What is happening is a classic struggle between "old money" and "new money." With money comes power. Those who have held the power are reluctant to share.

What will happen in the days after the election on April 2? Will the Thai people be satisfied with the results, whether or not they are in Thaksin's favor? Or will the country be thrown into chaos while I am traveling to the airport to board my plane on April 5? Only time will tell.

Posted by Lady Mariam at 8:08 PM PST
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Alive and Well
I've been having a wonderful time in Cambodia! I hope I didn't worry anyone too much by not posting in a while. I've met with Ms. Ly Dany at the Department of Cinema and received the necessary information to promote film production in Cambodia.

I have met so many special people in Cambodia. I will miss them as I travel back to the USA. Tomorrow morning I will get in a taxi and begin the journey home. However, I must say that I feel very much at home here in Cambodia, and I plan to come back next September.

Posted by Lady Mariam at 8:05 PM PST
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Thursday, 16 February 2006
First Day of Bangkok Int Film Festival
Tonight is the big opening night. The red carpet is laid out just like any Hollywood event. It's quite a change from the lazy days on Koh Chang.

I'm getting much better at transportation. After seeing Jackie off at the airport, I took a city bus to the BTS Skytrain for 15 baht, and then the BTS to Siam Paragon for 30 baht. Compare that to our arrival paying 400 baht for the taxi to the university hotel, then a 70 baht taxi to the BTS and 35 baht from that BTS station.

The city bus was fun - all locals, no "farang" (foreigners). Except me :) The bus sometimes never really stops, it just slows down so people can jump off and jump on. Much faster than the US!

Jackie and I spent one night in Pattaya, a beach resort town. There were lots of men with Thai women (some were "lady-boys"). We went to a cabaret show of lady-boys. You could say it was entertaining, very much like a vegas show. Costumes had big headdresses and lots of glitter, but the singing was obviously lip sync-ed. But that was fine.

I've been staying at the Intercontinental hotel - one of the best in Bangkok. The concierge, Atapol, is awesome!

Posted by Lady Mariam at 8:11 PM PST
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Wednesday, 23 November 2005
This is going to be ...
I have several ideas about the world we live in, our society, science, God. Therefore, I have started this BLOG to explore these concepts, I welcome your thoughts.

Posted by Lady Mariam at 12:01 AM PST
Updated: Wednesday, 23 November 2005 12:51 AM PST
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