Briefs: WHO Calls Climate Change a ‘Health Crisis’, Evidence Demanded for Alleged Political Threats

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Steam rises at sunrise from the Lethabo Power Station, a coal-fired power station owned by state power utility ESKOM near Sasolburg, South Africa, March 2, 2016. (Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters)

Access to fresh water, food security, disease risks and air pollution will worsen with climate change as the world approaches “a code red for health,” the World Health Organization’s regional director said on Thursday.

Takeshi Kasai, WHO director for the Western Pacific, urged immediate action in a press conference to mark World Health Day.

“Our health and well-being are also closely linked with the planet’s health,” Kasai said. “It is also a code red for health, because climate change affects health in many different ways.”

Changes in rainfall patterns, rising sea levels and increasing frequency and severity of tropical storms threaten access to fresh water while reducing the land suitable for growing healthy food, he said, and increase the risk of waterborne, vector-borne and foodborne diseases. Air pollution was also a major threat to health, Kasai added.

“There is no denying that climate change is the one of the biggest crises facing humanity today. It is also a health crisis,” he said. “It is very clear: The time to act is now.”

He said cities should be built to promote walking and cycling instead of driving and called for action from governments and businesses as well as communities.

Cambodia has been assessed as being among the most vulnerable countries in the world to climate change from flooding and droughts.

— Michael Dickison

Interior Ministry Demands Evidence of Intimidation

Interior Minister Sar Kheng said the Candlelight Party should put up evidence for its repeated allegations of threats and intimidation against its members.

The Candlelight Party, formerly the Sam Rainsy Party, has become the biggest opposition party by the number of candidates fielded ahead of the June 5 commune election.

The party recently met with the Interior Ministry over alleged threats and intimidation against candidates, claiming they were ongoing, Kheng said at a Wednesday meeting.

“I’m asking them to clarify the location, and by whom, and how they were threatened,” Kheng said. “For example, was it regarding the installation of billboards and they were banned from installing them? … If we don’t know where, how could we resolve it?”

He said political activists should file complaints to local authorities — though the party has alleged that it is local authorities who are involved in the intimidation.

Kheng also laughed at the party for fielding illiterate candidates, which has led to the removal of many nominees by the National Election Committee. 

“How can we have illiteracy in a commune chief and make a five-year development plan?” he said. “Please understand this issue, and don’t point to a political factor. It concerns our interests and I apologize but this is not discrimination, and I believe there is no country that allows illiteracy among candidates.”

Candlelight Party president Thach Setha said on Thursday that he would be collecting the information about threats as Kheng had requested. 

“Since Sar Kheng mentioned it, I believe that the issue can be solved,” Setha said.

— Mech Dara

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