Mu Sochua was elected to Cambodia’s Parliament in 1998, her campaign inspired by the energy and momentum of the UN Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995. She was the first woman to head the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, a position she held for 5 years. Serving as MP for the 3rd term, she is a watchdog for government transparency and accountability. Her fierce campaign for freedom of speech and of assembly led to drummed up charges of insurrection and a brief detention at the country notorious prison with six other MPs. The Court has maintained all charges. They can be put on trial at any time.
My Definition Of Success | Success means you have found solution (s) to problem with others and it is no longer a problem. The definition has not changed but what I set as a definition is difficult to reach because the problems I am engaged in are set in a system or a structure and the solutions can only be reached through structural change of in depth reforms. This is because I am dealing with national or global, issues such as corruption, judiciary reforms, free education and health care, youth employment, etc. Rather than just finding shelter for victims of domestic violence.
I Am Driven By | Knowing that justice will prevail drives me.
The Difference Between Good And Great | People who are good at what they do are not necessarily doing with their best of their abilities. They can be self- serving. People who are great at what they do engage others and what they do inspire others.
A Key Talent | My strength comes from my belief in wanting to find justice and solutions, in particular for the most marginalized, most affected by injustice.
First I travel to where they are because I find it necessary to look at the people I want to be part of. Then to hear what they have to say as I believe that they are usually not given the chance to express themselves or are too afraid to do so. Then I let them know of their rights, where these rights are written. Then we discuss these rights, the legal terms, and find ways to use these rights.
If necessary, I get the media involved. I make it easy for reporters to report and report it right. I speak about the issue. I take it to the highest level. I post the issue on social media. I always travel with the youths or my men tees, in particular young women. I believe in training the youth. I believe in giving the disadvantaged youth a chance.
Principles I Live By | My principles: Equality is a fundamental right, Accountability and Justice. Values: Giving others a chance and opportunity. The family as your inner strength. I use family in a broad sense. Tell the truth.
How I Use My Mind | My principles and values help me set my mind. I fight for freedom of speech. I was put in prison for defying the government forces Police clamp down protesters. I took the prime minister to court because I believed that I was right. I have had to pay a vey high price for these values. I have lost many high positions in my political career because of my strong principles. I have no regrets because I know that million others believe in what I stand for.
Lessons I Have Learnt | I walked into Freedom Park that became more or less battle ground between the govt. and activists, for over 3 months. The military police and the hired thugs were armed. I led the way followed by youth, women, monks and human rights defenders. I push out the feeling of fear by believing in my principles and values. People look up at me as their leader. That sense of responsibility always pushes me forward. The youth that followed me were injured, time after time. Some of them are in jail now. I wake up each day asking myself: “have I done the right thing? No freedom comes without struggle. The youths in Cambodia are thirsty for change. Those in jail tell me that they would confront the authorities again. They have no regrets. The prime minister must be replaced through free and fair election.
I cannot go back home as I will be put on trial. I have no regrets because I believe in justice, in freedom and in equality. Half of the country lives with less than $2/ day while the rich and the powerful are getting away with so much of the country’s resources. It pains me to see our youth hungry for education. It pains me to see our women die from childbirth, again and again. But I never give up the hope. I serve my people with my head up. I am part of a movement for change and this makes me feel young and it inspires me to see that our youth are active and are challenging the status quot.
Performing At My Peak | Performing at my peak when I come home at the end of the day and I can say: I did my very best.
Resources I Use To Stay Inspired | I am known as: the woman MP who sings. I grew up with people around me who either told my stories or sang till I went to sleep. I grew up in the 60’s when Cambodia was a land of peace and music was part of people’s lives. I sing when I can’t find words to express justice or hope or freedom.
I am now caring for my husband who is fighting pancreatic cancer. He is giving me the time to put aside my political life. I now can find the time to cook, to swim, to bike and to be with my family. It has been a wonderful 20 years on the campaign trail and the long and unfinished journey for justice. No regrets and full of hope. I owe it to the women and the youth of Cambodia. I owe it to my colleagues. I owe it to my family.
Photographer Credit | The first two Pictures by Cambodia/Asia Life and 3rd Picture and the Profile Picture by Vital Voices