This was definitely one of the busiest and most productive weeks at ODC so far. After two weeks of working with the ODC editors and mappers, we’ve finished updating the ELC database that tracks hundreds of foreign and domestic companies engaged in agro-industries in Cambodia. Check-out the database here! We’ll be working on updating ODC’s mining licenses database next week. This is timely because I am also beginning my preliminary research on the legal framework behind the country’s extractive industries.
On Monday, Liz, Lisa (a new legal intern from Columbia Law School), and I attended a meeting with two researchers from Heinrich Böll Stiftung (HBS), a think-tank based in Germany that collaborates with human rights and developmental organizations around the world. HBS works in 60 different countries and maintains 29 international offices-one of which is in Phnom Penh. The HBS researchers were seeking ways to partner with ODC and learn more about our own research efforts. During the informative meeting, we discussed China’s increasing influence in the greater Mekong region (Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar). The researchers are currently conducting studies on Chinese investment in Cambodia's hydropower industries and their environmental consequences. We discussed ways HBS and ODC could work together on future projects and how to better track Chinese investment projects in the country.
This past Friday, I presented my briefing on Cambodia’s rubber industry to a panel of Phnom Penh-based attorneys. The entire ODC team also attended the panel discussion, which definitely eased my anxiety. After my presentation, I received many helpful and constructive recommendations to improve my research. One of these was the importance (and necessity) of citing reference sources for every statement made in my briefing. Since freedom of expression and press are not guaranteed in Cambodia, non-governmental organizations like ODC must be particularly careful with their publications. Cambodia ranked 143rd out of 170 countries in the 2013 World Press Freedom Index-measuring media independence and transparency in various countries. Because I’m dealing with a controversial topic regarding economic land concessions and their environmental and human rights impacts, I must maintain an objective approach to presenting the facts and be extremely thorough with my reference documentation. I am thankful for Mrs. Terry Parnell, Mr. Andy Boname, Mr. Zach Lampell, and Ms. Sin Kim Sean’s feedback and encouragement, and I will be sure to incorporate their suggestions in my final briefing.
My internship director, Pinkie (wearing pink below!) Chan, will be traveling to Germany to learn about social media strategies for human rights activists. She has been so very helpful and supportive throughout my internship, and I’m fortunate to have been able to work with her. The entire ODC team had (multiple) farewell dinners and karaoke sessions to properly send her off, the Cambodian way; she will be missed!