Cablegate: Embassy Phnom Penh's Nomination for The


DE RUEHPF #0883/01 3350015
P 010015Z DEC 09




E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: STATE 111471

1. Embassy Phnom Penh is proud to nominate Chen Reaksmey for
the 2010 International Woman of Courage Award. There are a
number of Cambodian women who demonstrate courage and
leadership in the pursuit of women's human rights and
advancement. Reaksmey stood out from the crowd due to her
recent accomplishments, valor, and success in bringing vital
information, hope, and dignity to an often neglected group of
female drug addicts in Cambodia. The Embassy is pleased to
have the opportunity to recognize Reaksmey's work, courage
and compassion.


NAME: Chen Reaksmey
JOB TITLE: Program Supervisor Korsang Setrey (Build Women)
DOB: 25 May 1981
COB: Cambodia
ADDRESS: House 48, Street 480, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
TELEPHONE: 099-646-618
PASSPORT: N0667559
LANGUAGE: Khmer and some English

Background: Reaksmey is a vibrant, positive, and passionate
woman whose self-possession, easy smile, and enthusiasm
immediately make a lasting impact on anyone who meets her.
One would never guess that her background is marked with
hardship and personal shame, or that her chosen profession is
emotionally grueling and puts her in danger's way each and
every day. As program supervisor for a harm reduction NGO,
Reaksmey provides clean needles, counseling, health, HIV/AIDS
and other vital information to female drug users in Cambodia.
She has also presented to international conferences on the
innovative peer outreach conducted by herself and her staff
and the need to focus more energy and resources on female
drug addicts in a country where sex workers and drug addicts
are typically seen as criminals and shunned by society.
Reaksmey is an emerging leader whose work helps to diminish
the spread of HIV/AIDS, drug use and trafficking in Cambodia.

Reaksmey comes from an impoverished family in provincial
Cambodia. By the age of 15 she was sent to Phnom Penh to
find work to help support her family. Reaksmey had only
attended 2 years of school and could not read or write in her
own Khmer language. As is the case with many young,
uneducated girls from the provinces, Reaksmey was forced to
accept employment in the informal sex industry in order to
provide for her family and survive in the city. She worked
as a beer girl and in a karaoke bar, became pregnant, and
after her daughter was born began to use drugs in order to
cope with her increasingly desperate situation.

Reaksmey saw the hopelessness which surrounded her and was
determined to create a better future for her daughter,
herself, and anyone else she could reach. She approached
Korsang, a USG-supported harm reduction NGO which provides
counseling, health, and other vital information to drug
users, individuals with HIV/AIDS, and sex workers. From
client, to volunteer, to employee, Reaksmey picked up the
pieces of her life, ceased using drugs, and extricated
herself from the sex industry.

Now a program supervisor at Korsang, Reaksmey demonstrates
bravery, leadership and compassion in her daily ventures into
the most dangerous areas of Phnom Penh to provide HIV/AIDS
and STD awareness training, clean needles, and counseling on
the dangers of drug use. Reaksmey has been instrumental in
the effort to focus more energy and resources on female drug
addicts and has helped to establish an overnight shelter for
addicts and their children. Harm reduction projects continue
to face substantial political, social and financial obstacles
in Cambodia, where the stigma and social exclusion associated
with drug use and HIV make work in the field demanding and

Reaksmey's work puts her in direct conflict with both regular
citizens and government officials who do not understand the
concept of harm reeducation and rehabilitation. She has
encountered intimidation from police, and Korsang's shelter
has been moved five times due to the disapproval of the
surrounding community. However, Reaksmey's outreach efforts
have resulted in improved social understanding, increased
awareness of the need for humane and equitable treatment for
drug users, and more services for female addicts and their
often addicted children. Reaksmey truly is a bright light,
role model, and leader in an otherwise dark environment.
Embassy Phnom Penh believes she embodies all of the necessary
qualities - and more- to become the Department of State's

2010 International Woman of Courage.

3. Reaksmey has been informed of her nomination.

4. Post point of contact is Political Officer Amy Canon at

© Scoop Media

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