Women Weaving the World

Last November 1,000 women from every province in Cambodia came together for a display of traditional skills. The display also kicked off the "Women Weaving the World Together" project, with Khmer women connecting pieces toegther they had woven, to form a ribbon one kilometer long. Organizers hope to collect 20 kilometers of cloth (from pieces one meter wide, of any length, and from any fiber) from individuals and groups around the world. The ribbon will be sent to the UN World Conference on Women in Beijing. Organizers hope to raise US$ 50,000 for a women's project fund as well. For a flyer in English or Khmer about the project, contact IFOR, or Khemara, National Road 5, Mittapheap Village, Russey Keo District, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Tel/fax +855 23 60134 or +855 23 26009.

The Khmer Women's Voice Center held a seminar February 23 on landmines and their impact on women and children (proceedings are available in Khmer and English from Khmer Women's Voice Center, 14 E1 Street, 322-51 Bang Keng Kang I Chamcar Mon, Phnom Penh, Cambodia). Another conference was held recently on domestic violence. The landmines seminar was moved to receive a letter from four Italian trade unionists who worked at Valsella Meccanotecnica, a landmine manufacturer. The women had organized a succesful effort to stop the factory from producing landmines. "Working in Valsella was all right," the Italian women wrote. "We were not aware that what we produced caused such tragedies. When peace groups showed the damage the landmines we produced were provoking, we knew we had to be in the front line to ban these weapons, and to demand initiatives for the conversion of the companies and demining. Unfortunately, many people working at Valsella cannot yet understand that we have the right to work producing things that are useful, not deadly, for others. We will continue our fight; we believe if we stop fighting, Valsella will immediately go back to producing landmines again." The Khmer women's video center is producing a five-minute video on the effects of landmines on women for the UN World Conference on Women in Beijing

Landmines Conference

An international landmines conference, "The Human and Socia-Economic Impact of Landmines: Towards an International Ban", will be held June 2-4 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Cambodia, with a population of 8.5 million, has an estimated 10 million unexploded landmines and 25,000 to 30,000 amputees. Participants will hear testimonies of landmine victims, watch demining teams and visit hospitals and rehabilitation centers. The conference hopes to mobilize regional groups to become more involved in the campaign to ban landmines, and so will include workshops on campaign networking and advocacy, using the media, etc. Newcomers to the issues, and those who would like to start campaigns, will fid the conference invaluable. To register, contact: Ali Ramsay, GPO Box 1112, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Tel/fax +855 23 60480; email: landmines@pactok.peg.apc.org

The War Continues

Heavy fighting has been reported in several provinces in Cambodia. The Khmer Rouge, the political faction responsible for the deaths of perhaps one million Cambodians between 1975 and 1979, is gaining support. There are several factors in the growing support for the Khmer Rouge. A sizeable percentage of the population is too young to remember Pol Pot's atrocities, while widespread government corruption has alienated many. "There are about 300 bridges from Phnom Penh to my home in the countryside," explained Bob Maat, a founder of the Coalition for Peace and Reconciliation (CPR). "At every bridge there will be a government soldier, demanding five or ten dollars before I can cross the bridge. Even old people who lost family during the Khmer Rouge time say it wasn't as bad then as it is now. The Khmer Rouge also plays on Cambodians long historical hatred of the Vietnamese, stating that when they are in power, they will kick the Vietnamese out. Most importantly, perhaps, is the fact that the government ignores the needs of the rural poor, who make up the bulk of the population."

In February, CPR helped organize a seminar on Buddhism and environmental protection for local nongovernmental organizations and foreign guests. CPR is also helping to organize the fourth Dhammayietra. The fourth Dhammayietra, a traditional walk for peace and to spread the Buddha's teachings, will take place in May. It will begin on the Thai border, where Cambodian walkers will meet with a group of Nipponzai Myohoji monks and nuns, on May 8. The members of this Japanese Buddhist order are on an Interfaith Pilgrimage for Peace and Life; they began the pilgrimage in December at the former Nazi concentration camp of Auschwitz, and will end the pilgrimage in Hiroshima in August, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the atomic bombing of that city. Together, the walkers will spend about three weeks crossing Cambodia, to arrive on the Vietnamese border on June 1. Dhammayietra organizers took part in a nonviolence training by George Lakey and Karen Ridd recently, as a first step towards developing a training for all future Dhammayietra participants.

CPR, which has worked mostly with monks and nuns for the last five years, is now concentrating its work in the western province of Battambang, encouraging community groups, especially women's groups, in their efforts. Contact: CPR, Wat Sonpeou Meas, P.O. Box 144, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Tel. +855 236 4205; fax +855 232 6400; email: cpr@pactok.peg.apc.org