To commemorate the International Women's Day this year, let us meet Mu Sochua, the first woman ever to be elected to Cambodia's Parliament and one of the very few politicians in Cambodia who actively use social media.
Sochua advocates the prioritization of women issues in policymaking and is a known critic of the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen.
In fact, she is currently facing a government lawsuit in connection to her statement in 2009 that she would sue the Prime Minister for allegedly using derogatory and threatening language against her in a speech he made during a visit to Kampot province in southwest Cambodia. Kampot is the parliamentary district of Sochua. However, the court rejected her case while a counter case filed by her opponent was allowed. She would face a possible imprisonment term if the Supreme Court upholds her criminal defamation conviction for criticizing the Prime Minister.
Despite her court case, she continues to pursue her political goals and is optimistic with the growing number of netizens and the rise of social media which she believes can bring new ideas and different views in politics. Through an email interview, Sochua shared her perspectives on politics and social media.
1. What inspired you to join politics?
After listening to then First Lady Hillary Clinton speak about “women's rights as human rights” and the power that women need in order to make meaningful changes and give power to women-women need to seize power and become political. That was at the 4th World Conference on Women. When I returned from Beijing, I was offered a position as Adviser to the First Prime Minister. I joined a political party then and have been active in party politics ever since.
2. When did you start blogging? How do you manage your time?
On Facebook and owning my own blog, just about two years ago. Twitter a bit later. I spend an average of two hours a day on social media and do it 95 percent of my time as I think it is important to communicate directly with fans and friends. I also think it is a responsible way to communicate as I consider politics as a personal matter. I usually research issues that I talk about. Sometimes, take my own pictures.
3. You are the only politician who maintains a blog in Cambodia. What convinced you to blog?
It comes from my interest in communications, in reading, in writing and in wanting to know more. And of course, my interest in gaining votes and getting publicity and support for my party platform.
4. Social media usage is on the rise in Cambodia. How does social media contribute to your political work?
The audience is young and that is very important and youth have potentials to bring a new vision for politics and development. I get good feedback and responses from youth and mostly local youth. It is very rewarding and engaging. I think it is a democratic process, open and free from fear and intimidation. But I also do get hate mail and sometimes very aggressive with false accusations but that is what a public figure should expect.
5. How can social media influence Cambodian politics?
It is growing every day. I hope to find more female friends and fans. I am known politician and for fans and friends to communicate with me is a sign that politics is changing. Social media brings new ideas, different views as it is for development. More ideas, more views, more differences bring diversion and will force us to be tolerant. All good for Cambodia.
6. Where do you see yourself in five years?
Still in politics and hopefully wiser.