Simmons College President Helen Drinan Expresses Support for Jailed Cambodian Leader Mu Sochua

July 18, 2014

His Excellency Mr. Hem Heng
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Royal Embassy of Cambodia
4530 16th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20011

Dear Ambassador Hem Heng:

As president of one of America's preeminent women's colleges and a lifelong advocate for the democratic and social rights of men and women here and abroad, I am writing to express my dismay and disappointment in the arrest and detention of Member of Parliament-Elect Mu Sochua and her fellow detainees.

This spring, I had the privilege of meeting Ms. Mu Sochua at the opening ceremony of the 2014 Institute for the Women in Public Service Project, a partnership among my alma mater Mount Holyoke College, Simmons College, and Smith College, the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, and the Department of State.  We invited 50 mid-level professional women from 20+ nations in Asia, Africa and South America and dedicated two weeks to discussing "Reconstructing Societies in the Wake of Conflict: Transitional Justice and Economic Development."  MP-Elect Mu Sochua spoke eloquently about both the "harsh winter" and "great awakening" of democracy in Cambodia. She has worked tirelessly to prevent domestic violence, educate Cambodia about HIV/AIDS-related issues, and improve the conditions and wages for working women across your nation.

Simmons is an undergraduate women's college with five graduate schools. Within every school, we provide a student-centered culture that promotes transformative learning at every level, enabling each member of our community to reach his or her potential while respecting the innate freedom, opinion, and dignity of one another. The principled leadership model in our School of Management challenges students to think about managing conflict in constructive and ethical ways, posing questions about the effects of positive activism. We are mentoring a generation of leaders to think critically about how local actions may constitute the building blocks of large-scale change in a community or country. These are the topics we discuss with our students: these are the topics we posed to our international delegates at the summer Institute for the Women in Public Service Project. These are the types of questions MP-Elect Mu Sochua is asking the people and government of her native Cambodia.

MP-Elect Mu Sochua has become an internationally recognized voice for human rights.  I write to ask that you reflect and act upon her description of Cambodia as a place in the midst of its "spring awakening" to democracy and allow her voice to be freely heard as one of Cambodia's greatest ambassadors.


Helen G. Drinan
President, Simmons College

cc: Secretary of State John Kerry Senator Elizabeth Warren Congresswoman Niki Tsongas
Senator Edward Markey Congressman Michael E. Capuano Congresswoman Allison Schwartz