Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Duch tells court he knew 'confessions' were untrue

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
A young Cambodian girl looks at graphic photos of tortured victims at Tuol Sleng museum, over which Duch presided during the Khmer Rouge's 1975-79 reign.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Neth Pheaktra
Wednesday, 08 April 2009

As proceedings against him continue, the former S-21 chief has admitted that not all prisoners were suspects of the regime.

FORMER S-21 chief Kaing Guek Eav told judges at Cambodia's war crimes court Tuesday that he was always aware that the confessions he extracted from so-called enemies of the regime were rarely true.

"The confessions we got from the prisoners, I never believed them. Only 40 percent were true and only 20 percent of persons accused were the right suspects," the former cadre, known as Duch, said.

Detailing to the court the torture methods that were used to get these confessions, he also admitted that many of them were invented by him, including those used at S-21.

"Some methods of torture had been created by me. S-21 got experience from me."

The comments were part of preliminary questioning into Duch's role in the regime leading up to his position at the notorious Tuol Sleng prison centre.

Though the court's jurisdiction is to only prosecute crimes between 1975-79, judges believe information, particularly about his role as commandant of a previous secret prison known as M-13, could shed light on his personality and rank in the regime.

The confessions that we got from the prisoners; i never believed them.

At the sixth day of proceedings against him, Duch continued to show an inclination to name names and spread culpability upwards to members of the regime's Central Committee.

"All powers to arrest or execute the prisoners came, generally, from the members' ‘full right' of the Central Committee of the Party. When they ordered people to be arrested, it meant to smash them, too," he said.

"When I finished my interrogation, I presented the confessions to my superiors and asked them whether they were satisfied. It was a protocol question," he added.

Duch also told judges how he had spared the life of French anthropologist Francois Bizot by convincing his higher-ups to release him.

Straying from the judge's questions, Duch brought up Tuol Sleng several times in proceedings, in one instance turning to S-21 survivor and civil party, Chum Mey, and telling him it was not him who tortured him, but "Mr Seng".

Chum Mey nodded his head, but judges told Duch to focus on M-13 rather than S-21.

"The line he's been trying to take from the very beginning [is] that he was just taking orders," said anthropologist Alex Hinton. "Now, he's trying to say that when he had confessions, his goal was to get the person off. Well, I find that really hard to believe."

Meanwhile, talks between a top UN legal official and Deputy Prime Minister Sok An over corruption at the court are ongoing and, at time of press, looked set to continue Wednesday.

Singer's case delayed

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Kyle Sherer
Wednesday, 08 April 2009

Siem Reap

SIEM Reap's deputy prosecutor said charges have not yet been filed in the case of a shooting incident involving popular singer Tit Vichka at a Siem Reap nightclub last October.

Toch Sopheakdey said police were still investigating whether his action in firing into the air amounted to the unauthorised use of a firearm.

The singer has a permit to carry a gun, and police are determining whether firing it was warranted. The incident took place at the Zone One nightclub after Tit Vichka's car collided with another car in the club's car park. The singer then argued with a security guard before firing off a volley of shots.

When Tit Vichka appeared in court on January 21 to give a statement, he claimed he fired into the air out of self-defence after a group of young men surrounded him.

Demarcation of border set for May: govt

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Cheang Sokha
Wednesday, 08 April 2009

AFTER two days of talks, the Thai-Cambodian Joint Border Commission (JBC) announced a new agreement to plant markers along the 805-km shared border in May in a move they say is independent of a recent eruption of fighting in Preah Vihear.

"Talking is talking, and fighting is fighting. It is separate," Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, told reporters during the talks.

He added, however, that following Friday's firefight, officials believed Thailand was moblising troops along the border, including tanks.

Cambodia's top border negotiator, Var Kimhong, said after the border talks finished late Tuesday that the technical work of the border commission would start in May, with the commission aiming to demarcate and post markers from Choam Srangam to Ta Moan temple, both of which are located in Oddar Meanchey province.

"We will not drag this out, and we have arranged for a demining operation to clear the area before the [demarcation] teams move through," Var Kimhong said in a press conference after the talks wrapped up.

He added that a new working group would be posting markers in "priority areas" around the Preah Vihear temple, beginning in July.

The two-day meeting, which began Monday in Phnom Penh, was part of a process launched after an earlier clash in October in which four soldiers were killed. The last meeting of the Joint Commission, in Thailand, ended in February with the two neighbours failing to reach agreement on any of the key points.

"The meeting for these two days has been a success," said Vasin Teeravechyan, Thailand's co-chairman of the JBC. "We have started posting the markers, but more work needs to be done." He added that the Thai parliament will debate the issue soon and that foreign ministers from the two countries would meet to hammer out an agreement to allow solders currently stationed at Keo Sekha Kirisvara Pagoda in Preah Vihear to be withdrawn.

Preah Vihear damage significant

Photo by: Thet Sambath
Heritage Police Chief Om Phirum examines damage to part of Preah Vihear temple he says was caused by last week's fighting.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Thet Sambath
Wednesday, 08 April 2009

Preah Vihear

Machine-gun fire left deep holes and chips in World Heritage site; complaint lodged with UNESCO.

AN INVESTIGATION by Heritage Police at Preah Vihear temple suggests that the damage sustained during Friday's fighting was more serious but less widespread, than that resulting from an outbreak of violence last October.

"We have found 66 stones at the temple that were damaged by the Thai soldiers' shooting," said Colonel Om Phirum, the chief of the Heritage Police, in an interview with the Post Monday. "They were damaged by the bullets of machine guns."

During fighting last October, debris from M79 grenades damaged the temple in 120 places, Om Phirum said, though he noted that the bullets from machine guns during the most recent clashes inflicted damage that was more severe, creating holes that were between 1 and 10 centimetres wide and 1 or 2 centimetres deep.

Om Phirum criticised Thai soldiers for shooting the temple, saying, "They do not respect world heritage, and they disdain the world."

The investigation was conducted on Sunday and Monday. Om Phirum said the Heritage Police submitted a report on damage to the temple to the Council of Ministers and a complaint to the UN cultural agency, which listed the temple as a World Heritage site last July. He said the Heritage Police sent a similar complaint to UNESCO following the outbreak of violence last October, which he said prompted the body to launch its own investigation into the damage.

Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, said Deputy Prime Minister Sok An sent a letter Friday to UNESCO Director-General Koichiro Matsuura asking him to intervene. Calls and emails to UNESCO officials in Phnom Penh and Bangkok went unanswered Tuesday.

US man slapped with three-year prison term for sex with teenager

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chrann Chamroeun
Wednesday, 08 April 2009

Victim's lawyer argues sentence is ‘very light' after two years suspended; defendant will be free after five months on time served, court says.

IN a closed-door session the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday convicted a US national of buying sex from a teenage girl and sentenced him to three years in jail with two years suspended.

But Richard David Mitchell, 61, will be free in five months on time served, court officials said. He will, however, be fined US$2,000 and expelled from Cambodia after serving his jail term.

Mitchell was arrested last August by commune police at the public park at Wat Phnom.

The sentence revolved in part around the age of the victim. The police said the victim was 13, while the defence countered that she was 16.

Judge Chan Madina Tuesday ruled that she was in fact 15 and downgraded the charge from purchasing child prostitution from a minor under the age of 15, which carries a sentence of 7 to 15 years, to purchasing child prostitution from a minor of 15 years and above. That carries a sentence of 2 to 5 years in prison.

Defence lawyer Dun Vibol maintained his client was innocent and said police had concocted the case. He said his client was the victim of pick-pocketing. "But I accept the lighter sentence for my client even though he is innocent," he said. "I do feel that the court was unjust in not allowing the victim to speak to the court and ask it to lift all charges."

Dun Vibol said Mitchell would be out in five months as he has already served seven months awaiting trial.

‘A very light sentence'
The victim appeared at court Tuesday but refused to take the stand. At the previous hearing in February the girl ran from the court building.

The victim's lawyer, Teng Maneth, who was provided by child rights NGO APLE, said her client was very nervous about testifying, and consequently the court had moved to rule on the case rather than postpone it for a second time.

Teng Maneth said the court had been too lenient.

"It seems a very light sentence," she said. "The court should not have suspended his sentence for two years because that will allow him to repeat his crimes outside prison."

Construction: New bridge nearly finished

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Khuon Leakhana
Wednesday, 08 April 2009


Technicians and engineers have been working around the clock to complete construction of the new Monivong Bridge by Thursday's target date so as to accommodate the increase in traffic expected for the Khmer New Year, officials said. "We are rushing to finish the construction before Khmer New Year," said Chan Deth, the project's construction manager. "Then [Prime Minister] Hun Sen will inaugurate the bridge to ease travelling by reducing traffic congestion." Engineers and technicians involved in the bridge's construction have divided themselves into daytime and nighttime working teams, he said. At present, the end portions of the 268-metre bridge that connect it to the approach roads are nearly finished, he said, adding that "we still need to pave them". He said one more portion of the bridge on the west bank of the Bassac River, which the bridge traverses, needs to be completed. Technicians and engineers are also installing barriers and light posts, he said. "It is not easy to get all those workers to work days and nights every day, but we have to try our best," he said.

KR good - and other UN lies

The former UN special representative and author of Dancing in Shadows: Sihanouk, the KR and UN in Cambodia on Sunday.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Cat Barton
Wednesday, 08 April 2009

Author Benny Widyono on the UN's long denial of the Khmer Rouge's true nature and how that delayed a war crimes court.

Why has it taken so long to try the Khmer Rouge?
This is something that has not been addressed properly except by Noam Chomsky, but he talks more about the US bombing. I think the bombing is a crime, but I think UN recognition of the Khmer Rouge for 11 years is not a crime - it is an outrage. They killed 2 million people, and they [had a seat at the UN]. For me ... they should have been tried in court then.

Has the UN admitted it made a mistake?
No. The trouble is that [giving the Khmer Rouge Cambodia's seat at the UN] was adopted by the majority. So the UN never admits a mistake if it is adopted by a majority. The UN is not one person. The UN is 193 people. I am the one who says this is a travesty of justice.

But the Khmer Rouge was part of a broader coalition government that held the UN seat.

That's a farce. Since 1979, the KR was recognised as the government of Cambodia. And precisely because the West was embarrassed in 1982, three years later, they established these - I call them Nicaragua contra groups: One is Funcinpec and one is Sichan Siv [the Khmer People's National Liberation Front], so that was a cloak, a fig leaf for the Khmer Rouge. So there were three ambassadors in the 1980s - The first was Khmer Rouge, Sim Prasidt, who goes and hobnobs with everybody - champagne and so on - while his regime has killed 2 million people. The second was Prince Sisowath Sirirath, and the third was Sichan Siv. The last two were the fig leaves for the KR. [So] they are KR, but they are still seated next to China. Now that, to me, is a travesty of justice, and that went on for 11 years because during that time, [Cambodia's] government here was a pariah, and the KR was elevated so no one thought of trying them. In 1986, Hun Sen asked the UN to help with trials for KR, but they never did.

What could they have done, realistically?
Not realistically, but an alternative could have been to leave the seat open. That is what India proposed. Why not leave the seat vacant? India was speaking for the nonaligned countries, which was a majority at the UN. But they ignored it because they were powerless countries during the Cold War. The motion passed and we have the Khmer Rouge, thanks to the brilliance of [Prince Sisowath] Thomico [who out-negotiated the Indians]. So, to me that is a travesty of justice. This went on for 11 years and this is the real reason why the Khmer Rouge tribunal was delayed.

What do you think of the 1979 tribunal?
It was not as well done, and nobody accepted it for political reasons. The tribunal of the People's Republic of Kampuchea was not international. No one paid any attention, as we were officially supporting the KR. But in 1986, they [Hun Sen and the Vietnamese government] did ask the UN for a tribunal. But of course, they were not even a government then in the eyes of the UN.

When the UN came in 1991, why was there still no tribunal?
The Paris agreements were flawed because they recognised the genocidal Khmer Rouge as a legitimate party. So it was a continuation of the farce, of the lies of the 1980s, putting the KR as one of the four legitimate factions. This is another thing people gloss over, saying UNTAC is a brilliant solution because UNTAC got rid of the KR problem. But it didn't because UNTAC recognised the Khmer Rouge as one of the factions. I mean, this is a criminal genocidal regime recognised as one of the factions. This is a continuation of the farce. All lies they told us - they are not the enemy, they are one of your friends.

Should they have excluded the KR from the peace process?
In the end, they were excluded. They excluded themselves. They committed suicide. The [international community] told everyone the Khmer Rouge is no longer insane. Let's release them, and then they continued to be insane, killing people, so that's what happened. But in a way, I call it a blessing in disguise. I want to put that in big letters because what happened is the Khmer Rouge was considered sane and a player. They were insane. They almost killed me [when I was UNTAC's governor of Siem Reap]. They attacked us. They refused to let us into their territory.

Why a blessing in disguise?
Because if you have the KR in the elections, then you have genocidal people in the government. In 1991, [Cambodia] was definitely not ready for the trial because they were still supporting the Khmer Rouge.

Could they practically have gone for a trial in 1991?
You say practically. I say ideally, but it's not practical because the Cold War was just over at that time, which means the Russians also agreed to this farce. During those 11 years, the Russian bloc refused to recognise the Khmer Rouge, which is why, if you notice, they have the best real estate for their embassy because they were here during the Hun Sen regime. So this is it: Unless you delve into the history, it is very difficult to say five [defendents] is enough. Is 10 enough, you know? But that's what everyone is worried about.


Cambodian growth to suffer biggest flip in region: report

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
A vendor walks through one of Phnom Penh's many slums in this file photo.

Economic Downturn

1pc GDP growth
forecast for 2008
11.2 percentage point
reversal in GDP growth between 2007 and 2009
200,000 extra people
forced below the poverty line this year
0-4pc growth
forecast for 2010

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Steve Finch and Nguon Sovan
Wednesday, 08 April 2009

Productivity to plunge from 10.2pc growth in 2007 to a 1pc contraction this year, World Bank says, but govt officials say drastic economic slide impossible.

CAMBODIA is to see the greatest reversal in productivity growth in the region, the World Bank said Tuesday in a new report that again revised its growth forecast downwards for this year to -1 percent.

The bank projected an 11.2 percentage point reversal in GDP growth between 2007 and 2009 in its report "Battling the Forces of Global Recession", with Thailand expected to be the next-worst affected with a 7.6 percentage point reversal in the same period.

"The difference ... over two years is the largest in the region, and arises from a sudden drop in garment exports and tourist arrivals," the report said.

In a video conference from Tokyo, the report's principal author, World Bank economist Ivailo Izvorski, noted that "low income countries are going to be the worst affected".

The report added that a dropoff in available credit in the Cambodian economy would contribute to the contraction in gross domestic product, which, it said, had also hit the construction sector.

Only farming was spared from the effects of the global financial crisis, it added.

"Agriculture has continued to sustain growth and should provide a well-needed safety net," it said. "Among the four key sectoral sources of growth, agriculture is the only sector sustaining growth, with further progress in rice yields in 2008."

The World Bank agreed with the government that layoffs in various sectors could be absorbed by agriculture, as jobless workers return to the countryside, but it doubted that such a scenario could boost economic growth to around 6 percent, as projected by the government this year.

"History has shown that agricultural growth has been much slower than manufacturing," regional chief economist for East Asia and Pacific Vikram Nehru said from Tokyo.

"I sincerely hope we're wrong and the [Cambodian] government is right," he added.

Cheam Yeap, chairman of the National Assembly's Commission of Economy, Finance, Banking and Auditing, strongly rejected the World Bank's forecast Tuesday.

"It is impossible to drop to such a level [of economic growth].... Based on my own forecast, I do not believe that GDP can be negative [this year]," he said, adding that given the first quarter had only just ended, it was impossible to predict what would happen during the rest of the year.

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday again questioned how the different international financial institutions and economic research bodies could come up with such varied projections for Cambodia this year.


"If we listened to the forecast-makers, we would all go stupid - whoever does the forecasts is not important," he said in an opening address at the Asian Economic Forum in Phnom Penh.

The World Bank's growth projection for Cambodia is among the lowest so far after the London-based Economist Intelligence Unit forecast a 3 percent contraction in 2009 in its March outlook.

The International Monetary Fund last month estimated a 0.5 percent contraction and the Asian Development Bank last week said Cambodia's growth would slow to 2.5 percent.

The World Bank's senior country economist, Stephane Guimbert, noted on Tuesday that qualitatively the different agencies generally agreed, but that the agricultural and informal sectors were difficult to evaluate in terms of GDP.

Food commodity retail prices at Phnom Penh's markets dropped nearly 5 percent in the first quarter, Trade Promotion Department figures show, and prices have continued on a downward trend.

Projections for agricultural GDP growth remain positive for this year. The Economist Intelligence Unit said last month it was still forecasting 3 percent growth in the sector, but the World Bank said that modest gains in agricultural output would be offset by the garment and construction sectors in particular, which have nosedived since the onset of the economic crisis.

"Growth in garment exports has shifted from double-digit expansions in earlier years to a 6 percent decline in February 2009.

"Construction and real estate have also weakened considerably," it said, adding that imports of construction materials had declined 7 percent in the final quarter of 2008.

Tuesday's report also noted potential difficulties for sustained growth in Cambodia's agricultural sector.

"The [agricultural] sector remains vulnerable to climatic uncertainties and lower prices of various commodities (eg cassava and rubber) constrain further growth," the report said.

Poverty set to rise, says report

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Steve Finch
Wednesday, 08 April 2009

World Bank says crisis will add 200,000 more poor this year.

CAMBODIA will see an additional 200,000 people pushed below the poverty line this year, the World Bank said in a new report released Tuesday, which would make it the worst affected in the region.

Titled "Battling the Forces of Global Recession", the report says that only three other countries in the East Asia and Pacific region are projected to see an absolute increase in the number of poor - Thailand, Malaysia and East Timor.

"Cambodia is the country with the largest projected increase in the number of poor people," the report said.

Prime Minister Hun Sen acknowledged on Monday that Cambodia was struggling to meet its obligations under the United Nations Millennium Development Goal of reducing poverty by 1 percent per year.

"Should the UN change the Millennium Development Goal or not?" the prime minister asked. "We have to try to achieve it because it's a goal to reduce poverty ... but due to the crisis ... people who have gotten the better of the poverty line [previously] will fall back below it."

In a video conference in Tokyo to coincide with the launch of the report, the World Bank's regional chief economist for East Asia and Pacific, Vikram Nehru, said that countries like Cambodia had to prioritise public spending to minimise the effects of the financial crisis on the poor.

"The things to focus on are unemployment and poverty," he said.

East Timor was projected to be the next worst affected with 25,000 people forecast to fall below an income of US$1.25 a day, the level set by the World Bank as the poverty line.

Previously the World Bank used the Cambodian government's benchmark of $0.60 to calculate levels of poverty, which meant a poverty level of 30.1 percent in the Kingdom in 2007, the bank's senior country economist Stephane Guimbert said on Tuesday.

"In the report we released today, we used a methodology that enables easier comparison across countries, but that is somewhat less relevant to specific country conditions," he said by email.


Joint rubber deal signed

The joint-venture agreement between Khaou Chuly Group and Socfina plans to open a 10,000-hectare rubber plantation in Mondulkiri by the end of the year.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chun Sophal
Wednesday, 08 April 2009

France's Socfina signs joint-venture deal with Khaou Chuly Group to create 10,000-hectare rubber plantation and processing facilities in Mondulkiri province by end of year.

CAMBODIA'S Khaou Chuly Group and French company Socfina have announced plans to jointly establish a 10,000-hectare rubber plantation and procession plant in Mondulkiri province this year.

Khaou Phallaboth, president of Khaou Chuly Group, said Tuesday that the two companies would invest US$50 million in plantation and processing facilities with the aim of producing rubber for export.

He added that his company was providing 30 percent of the total capital, with the other 70 percent to be supplied by the French company.

"I think it has been a positive step that we have been able to find an investment partner who has a lot of capital and good experience in planting rubber trees," Khaou Phallaboth said. "With our partner's experience, we expect to produce a minimum of around 20,000 to 30,000 tonnes of rubber per year for export and to create job opportunities for 4,000 people."

The company also plans to process rubber to make gloves, condoms and medical implements for export, he said. The company has already planted an area of over 1,000 hectares.

On Friday, Khaou Phallaboth signed an agreement with Minister of Agriculture Chan Sarun granting his company a 2,705-hectare economic concession in Mondulkiri, and he expects two further agreements - to be signed in May and June - that will grant the company more land for its rubber operations.

"We hope to receive a total economic land concession of over 20,000 hectares from the government by 2010 to grow rubber trees," he said.

Socfina could not be contacted for comment on Tuesday.

Ly Phalla, director general of the General Department of Rubber Plantations at the Ministry of Agriculture, said that the two companies' plan was accepted because there was still a lot of scope for further plantation development.

"The government supports plans to grow rubber trees in this country because we haven't planted much rubber so far," he said, adding that Mondulkiri has over 20,000 hectares of land dedicated to growing rubber trees out of a national total of 100,000 hectares.

Of this total, just half has produced so far, with the remaining trees expected to reach maturity by 2010 or 2011.

Ly Phalla said that Cambodia exported 40,000 tonnes of rubber in 2008 and is expected to export 50,000 tonnes this year.

Region's integration seen as key to recovery

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by George Mcleod
Wednesday, 08 April 2009

REGIONAL integration is key to Asia's recovery from the global financial crisis and could position Cambodia to emerge as a more attractive trading partner with its larger neighbours, participants at a pan-Asian economic forum said Tuesday.

"Asia will recover more quickly than other regions. Cambodia is seen as very well-positioned. [Bilateral] trade is currently US$1.6 billion, and we hope to see that increase to $2 billion in about a year," said Ngo Duy Ngo, vice president of the Vietnamese Ministry of Affairs' Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam.

"Cambodia and Vietnam have a lot in common that makes them natural trade partners," he said.

Amid worsening global economic news, participants at the Fifth Asia Economic Forum remained generally upbeat about the region's prospects, but said that cooperation was key to weathering the worst financial storm in decades.

Some suggested further consolidating as a bloc by adopting a regional currency to reduce dependence on the US dollar. "We want to create an Asian currency using the example of the euro.... This would be part of the process of regional integration," said Akinori Seki, president of the Sasakawa Peace Foundation in Japan.

"We are much too dependent on the American dollar - it is time that Asia had its own currency," he told the Post.

"Cambodia, as a dollarised economy, needs to be a part of the process," he added, saying that the proposal has been submitted to the ASEAN secretary general for the upcoming Pattaya summit. Officials from China and Vietnam - two of Cambodia's top allies - said the Kingdom, with its relatively low exposure to the global economy, is poised to benefit from financial downturns in larger, more developed nations.

"[Vietnamese] trade and investment is increasing, despite the global financial crisis," said Tran Minh Cu, first secretary of the Vietnamese embassy in Phnom Penh.

"Vietnamese companies understand more and more the benefits of investing Cambodia ... I expect the economy will start to turn around at the end of the year," he said.

Until then, however, international financial institutions are predicting tough times for the Kingdom, with the World Bank revising down its growth outlook for 2009 from -0.5 percent to -1 percent.

But Douglas Clayton, managing partner at the Leopard Group investment fund, said Cambodia's low corporate taxes of 20 percent, political stability and low debt to gross domestic product ratio are among its attractions.

"Poor countries have the opportunity to control their own destinies because many of their problems are self-imposed," he said.

Economists agreed that Cambodia could figure heavily in the region's post-crisis economy.

"Cambodia is facing tough times, but the country is on track for a recovery... Cambodia has great potential," Din Merican, adjunct professor at the University of Cambodia, said.

ACLEDA posts rise in loans, deposits in Laos

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by May Kunmakara
Wednesday, 08 April 2009

ACLEDA Bank has posted healthy first-quarter figures for its operations in Laos, a bank representative said Tuesday, with the Cambodian-owned bank recording large increases in both deposits and loans, defying the financial crisis.

Now there are a lot of Laotians taking out loans from ACLEDA Bank.

Yin Virak, ACLEDA vice president and head of the bank's International Department, said the bank's loans had more than doubled from US$1.2 million to $3.32 million in Laos, while deposits were up 83 percent, rising from $1.5 million to $2.7 million in the last quarter. He added that the bank now had 2,034 depositors and 699 borrowers, which rose from 1,234 depositors and 253 borrowers at the end of last year.

"We have been successful due to our experience in Cambodia," he said Tuesday. "The success has ... relied on the support of the Laotian government, which has urged people to borrow money," he said.

Kengchai Sixannon, first secretary of the Laotian Embassy in Phnom Penh, said Tuesday that the presence of ACLEDA Bank was a clear sign of growth in the Laotian banking sector.

"Now there are a lot of Laotians taking out loans from ACLEDA Bank to enlarge their businesses, and it has also created more jobs for local people," he said.

Acleda launched its Laos operations in July 2008 with the establishment of a head office in Vientiane, followed by additional branches in Champassak and Savannakhet provinces.

Preah Sihanouk tourism dips 9pc

Clash has little impact
THE exchange of fire between Cambodian and Thai troops last week has had little impact on the nation's tourism industry, an official said Tuesday. "I have told our customers that the border conflict is further than 300 kilometres from ... Angkor," said Ho Vandy, co-chairman of the Government-Private Sector Working Group on Tourism. Following the outbreak of hostilities Thursday, the United Kingdom's Foreign and Commonwealth Office warned its citizens against travel to Preah Vihear and advised them to be alert in other border regions. Several other nations - including Australia and the United States - maintain warnings from a similar clash in October.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by May Tithara
Wednesday, 08 April 2009

First-quarter tourist numbers down on last year in latest sign of sector downturn.

THE number of tourists visiting Preah Sihanouk province dropped 9 percent in the first quarter compared with last year, the provincial department of tourism has announced.

Tourist arrivals to the end of March were 179,000 compared with 196,000 in the first three months of last year.

Seng Kha, deputy director of the tourism department, said 51,000 of this quarter's tourists were foreigners.

He said the reason for the drop was probably due to the global economic crisis and the border dispute with Thailand, which has been ongoing for nearly nine months.

Seng Kha said provincial tourism authorities were working to enhance the sector through embracing ecotourism and by improving security.

A number of foreign tourists have been attacked at Sihanoukville in recent months, causing alarm among restaurateurs and tour operators.

The provincial police report lists 23 crimes against locals and tourists in the first three months of this year.

Tuk Vanntha, the provincial police chief, could not be reached for comment.

Suon Maneth, a vendor on the popular Occheuteal beach, said he had noticed fewer tourists.

"Certainly from January until now I have seen fewer visitors coming here, but I don't know whether that's due to the economic crisis," he said.

"I know the authorities have tried to develop a lot of attractive places for tourists to visit, such as developments on some of the islands, but the number coming is still low."

Suon Maneth noted that in previous years the run-up to Khmer New Year was always busy "and we would never have free time to talk as we do today".

Chheng Somaly, the owner of the Chheng Lyly restaurant at the town's Phsar Leu market, agreed that business had dropped off.

"At previous celebrations such as Women's Rights Day, Khmer New Year or Christmas Day we had a lot of people, but now it seems so quiet," she said.

"The increase in crime has put people off - this year four people have died during robberies and three vehicles were stolen."

Tight market for new offices

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Doeu Khemrin, general manager of construction, in front of the Icon office building on Norodom Boulevard. The building will be completed by mid-May ‘at the latest”, the developer’s financial director said.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Soeun Say
Wednesday, 08 April 2009

After years of excess demand for office space in Cambodia’s capital city, a raft of new office stock hitting the market could result in a renters’ market

OWNERS of six new office buildings coming onto the rental market in Phnom Penh could be forced to discount rentals after demand plummeted in the wake of the global financial crisis.

"I think those with office space for rent at this time will need to be competitive with each other to get clients," said Visal Real Estate Director Sear Chailin. "They will need to offer discounts as well as compete on things like decorations."

Many of the buildings coming onto the market were planned at the height of Cambodia's investment boom, which came to an end in mid-2008, he said. At that time, most office space in the capital was occupied, encouraging landlords to ask for rents as high as $25 per square metre as lease agreements came up for renewal.

Chun Keng, the general manager of a new office building on Monireth Boulevard in Stung Meanchey district, said he began building at the height of the property and investment boom.

"My office space building is now completed, and I have hung a sign in front of my building looking for people who want to rent office space to do business," Chun Keng said. "I know that this is not a good time for Cambodia's property market, but I hope that I can get customers to stay here by discounting rentals around 40 percent to US$5.50 per square metre."

He noted his asking prices were cheaper than in more central locations, where owners were looking for between $10 and $12 per square metre.

Sa Ry, a director at GP Real Estate, said most building owners would delay discounting prices as long as possible. "They will compete by discounting prices only if they cannot get clients," he said.

Anita Eang, the financial director of Cambodian Construction Co, the developer behind the Icon building near the Japanese embassy on Norodom Boulevard, said between 60 and 70 percent of space in her eight-storey building had been rented already.

She said she aimed to have the building fully occupied by the time it was completed in late April or "mid-May at the latest".

Eang, who also owns property developer Paragon Corporation, said she would take two floors of the building and rent out the remaining six for $15 per square metre, excluding furnishings and electricity.

The impact of the financial crisis had led to many large foreign-owned companies leaving the Kingdom, she said, but there were many smaller companies, which had been more careful with their finances, looking for office space.

While she said she was confident of renting out her building, she acknowledged so much new office stock would likely result in high vacancies across the city.

"I think that given all of the new office space that the average occupancy across Phnom Penh will be between 30 percent and 50 percent," she said. "It will not be more than this because now we have a big problem with the world financial crisis."

Ouk Sothearithy, administrative officer at South Korea's Dae Sang Construction and Development, said just 30 percent of space had been let in the company's new building opposite Lucky Supermarket on Sihanouk Boulevard, due to be completed on April 15. Space was going for $30 per square metre for the ground floor, $20 for the first floor and just $5 from the second to fourth floors, he said.

A marketing representative at the Boritra building on Norodom Boulevard, in Chamkarmon district, said 60 percent of offices in the eight-storey building, which was completed this month, had already been let. "Some of the companies have moved in and started working already," he said.

But Mony Sokha, the managing director of a new office building on Sihanouk Boulevard, in Boeung Raing district, said the financial crisis had had a huge impact.

"We have offered a 30 percent discount to our first client, which prices the office at US$10 per square metre," he said. "It's difficult to snap up clients at the moment because we are going through such a bad time."

De Castle passes ministry check, Naga next

The Phnom Penh Post

Wednesday, 08 April 2009

GOVERNMENT officials are due to visit the NagaWorld construction site in Phnom Penh today as part of an ongoing program to boost confidence in Cambodia's property sector among developers and potential buyers.

Lao Tip Seiha, the director of the Department of Construction under the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, said officials planned to visit two construction sites a month.

"The visits are intended to strengthen cooperation and persuade foreign investors in the construction sector to push ahead and feel confident in their projects," he said.

The delegation, led by land management Secretary of State Phoeung Sophoan, had previously given the green light to Yon Woo's Gold Tower 42 project, World City's 119-hectare Camko City development, and the Overseas Cambodian Investment Corporation's Canadia Tower.

No doubt on De Castle
On Monday, the delegation visited the 32-storey De Castle Royal condominium building being built by Korean developer Nuri D&C on a 2,926-square-metre site in Phnom Penh's Chamkarmon district.

Phoeung Sophoan told Prime Location during the site inspection he was confident the De Castle project was progressing according to plan. "Despite the crisis and real estate downturn, construction is still well under way and we hope that it will be completed within its scheduled timeframe," he said.

Jang Jung Hee, general manager of De Castle Royal's marketing department, said the economic downturn had not knocked the company off its stride.

"Of course, now Cambodia's real estate market is very quiet -there have been no buyers since the crisis - but we expect that their will be a recovery from the third quarter of this year," he said.

He added that 65 percent of the tower's 392 residential units had already been sold, but that the sales had all been made before the global financial crisis kicked in last year.

"Despite the crisis, construction is still on track with the original master plan because we have a contract with our customers so we have to keep our promise and complete the project by the deadline," he said.

The $50 million development is scheduled to be completed by June 2011.

Police Blotter: 8 Apr 2009

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Lim Phalla
Wednesday, 08 April 2009

Srey Thuy, 34, was arrested by police on Sunday after he allegedly attacked his brother-in-law in Tuol Sophy village, Kandal province. The attack occurred because Sok Thul threatened to "cut" Srey Thuy's father.

Jealousy is suspected to have been behind what police described as a brutal murder that occurred on Monday at a dance party in Chey Kaong village, Phnom Penh. Phorn Chanthy died in hospital after being stabbed while leaving the party, by a man who reportedly became enraged when his girlfriend gave Phorn Chanthy a drink. The identity of the suspect remains unknown.

Pronh Leang, 57, died in hospital following a dispute between two rival gangs in Prey Kanlorng village, Prey Veng province. The man was attacked while riding his bike home from a dance party on Monday. No arrests have been made in connection with the attack.

Police sent a husband and wife - Chan Sopheak and Lach Sophorn - to Prey Sar prison on Monday for allegedly stealing a mobile phone from Rath Kimleng at the Mondial Centre in Phnom Penh.

A group of six was arrested in Phnom Penh after allegedly stealing Uy Chanthy's motorbike on Sunday. The victim was accosted by the group while riding her motorbike to Kossamak Hospital. The arrested robbers were identified by police as Seng Vichet, 25; Bun Sophearith, 23; Hak Hy, 31; Sy Vuthea, 34; Phorn Somada, 31, and one man they said was known only as Pov.

A 47-year-old foreign man appeared in Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Thursday in connection with charges that he hit his 8-year-old daughter. The suspect had originally accused his wife of trying to sell their children into the sex industry, but police said he has since retracted the claim.

The Phnom Penh Post News In Briefs

In Brief: Cambodia to host military exercise

Written by Sam Rith
Wednesday, 08 April 2009

In March 2010, Cambodia is to host a three-week-long multinational peacekeeping exercise as part of the Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI), said Prak Sokhon, a secretary of state at the Council of Ministers. He said the US- and UN-sponsored exercise will involve a total of 2,000 military and civil participants from at least 20 different countries. The operation will involve both field training and an exercise for military command.

In Brief: Phnom Penh bans Hanging clothes

Written by Chhay Channyda
Wednesday, 08 April 2009

The Phnom Penh governor said Monday that people hanging their clothes outside risk facing legal action. A directive from Kep Chuktema on Monday informed people that the capital needed to be beautified by enforcing a clean and fresh look."Please people, stop drying clothes along the sidewalk or in public places ... or the municipality will use the law to take strict action against anybody who does not follow the directive," said the governor. "Drying clothes along the public sidewalks has affected public order, beauty and the environment in the capital. It gives a bad reputation to the Khmer people, who upheld a good civilisation."

In Brief: Garment factory catches fire

Written by Khouth Sophak Chakrya
Wednesday, 08 April 2009

The Suntex Pte Ltd garment factory in Phnom Penh's Dangkor district caught fire Tuesday evening, district governor Kruoch Phan told the Post Tuesday. He said no one was injured in the fire, adding that officials had yet to determine what caused it or how much property damage had resulted. Four fire trucks were called to the scene, he said.

Thailand shares fall as protestors gather

Bank of Thailand cuts interest rates by a quarter point

By Myra P. Saefong & Chris Oliver, MarketWatch
April 8, 2009

TOKYO (MarketWatch) -- Thailand shares headed south Wednesday as anti-government protestors gathered in the tens of thousands and the nation's prime minister warned that he would not let the rally become a riot, implying the use of force.

The Thai market also digested the latest move by the Bank of Thailand, which announced a cut late Wednesday afternoon in its benchmark interest rate by a quarter point to 1.25%.

Police estimated that about 30,000 supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra gathered outside the main government offices in the capital following a sit-in over the last two weeks, according to a report from Agence France-Presse.

A day earlier, protestors had attacked a motorcade for Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, head of the four-month-old government.

Against this backdrop, Thailand's SET Index slipped 0.6% lower to 440.13 in late afternoon trading Wednesday.

Leaders of the member states for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations are set to meet in Pattaya, Thailand, on April 10 to 12. The meeting will also include non-member, dialogue partners China, Japan, the Republic of Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand.

Bank of Thailand cuts rates
Meanwhile, the central bank's interest-rate cut didn't quite meet with market expectations.

It was on the lower side of forecasts with some economists expecting more aggressive action from the central bank amid negative consumer-price-index figures for March, rising political tension and signs the economy is worsening.

A majority of economists polled by Dow Jones Newswires were forecasting the central bank would reduce rates by half a percentage point.

The rate reduction is the fourth in five months, and brings the cumulative rate reductions since December to 2.5 percentage points.

"With growth at risk, the central bank is likely to continue cutting, especially as political paralysis is preventing an aggressive fiscal response to the slowdown," Win Thin, a senior currency strategist at Brown Brothers Harriman & Co., wrote in a recent note to clients, ahead of the announcement.

However, some economists cautioned the central bank may be reluctant to implement substantive interest-rate cuts as further reductions hurt income from cash deposits and lead to dampened purchasing power.

Interest rates have fallen to historical lows on fixed deposits and savings accounts.

Tens of thousands rally against Thai PM

Anti-government demonstrators shouts slogans at they attend a protest rally outside Government House in Bangkok. (AP photo)

Anti-government demonstrators sit near a giant poster of former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. (AP photo)

Anti-government demonstrators shout slogans against the Thai PM. (AP photo)

Anti-government demonstrators gather for the protest rally in Bangkok. (AP photo)

The Times of India
8 Apr 2009

BANGKOK: Tens of thousands of protesters rallied in Bangkok today in their biggest bid yet to topple premier Abhisit Vejjajiva, sparking fears of a violent new twist to
Thailand's political crisis.

Security forces guarded key government locations as supporters of fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra massed here, one day after activists spiked tensions by attacking Abhisit's car and smashing a window.

Police said around 40,000 red-clad protesters chanting "Bring Thaksin back, Abhisit get out!" had gathered outside Abhisit's office in the capital, where demonstrators have been staging a sit-in for the last two weeks.

"We came here to expel the government," protest leader Nattawut Saikuar told the cheering crowd outside Government House.

"We want to show them that we have more people than ever."

A potential flashpoint appeared to be the protesters' plans to surround the residence of one of the revered king's top advisors, who has been accused by Thaksin of orchestrating the coup that toppled him in 2006.

Soldiers guarded the house of former premier General Prem Tinsulanonda from the early hours of the morning, a reflection of the sensitivities aroused by the role of the monarchy in Thai politics.

"It's time for us to get revenge," one protester said as he headed to Prem's residence.

British-born Abhisit warned the protesters of strong action if there was any violence, and rejected their demands to dissolve his four-month-old government and hold fresh elections.

"The government will act decisively with any provocateurs," he said.

Abhisit said that some protesters wanted to trigger "chaos on the streets", adding that the incident in which his motorcade came under attack showed that there were deliberate efforts to provoke the government.

The government is under extra pressure to keep the peace ahead of a key summit of Asian leaders due to start Friday in the resort town of Pattaya- the place where Abhisit came under attack on Tuesday.

The premier warned earlier this week that the protests risked sparking a civil war, and there has been mounting speculation that the army could try to mount another coup if the unrest continues.

Powerful army chief General Anupong Paojinda confirmed that troops had been deployed inside Prem's residence, but ruled out talk of a putsch against the government.

"No matter how the situation deteriorates, we will abide by the law and use no other extra power," he said.

The so-called "Red Shirts" remain furious about the way Abhisit took power in December, after a court decision that removed billionaire Thaksin's allies from government.

That ruling came after months of protests by rival, yellow-clad protesters claiming allegiance to the monarchy, who occupied Government House and mounted a crippling blockade of Bangkok's airports late last year.

Thaksin, who is living in an undisclosed foreign country to avoid a prison term for corruption, promised that the protests would mark a "historic day for Thailand."

"We will come peacefully but we need as many people as possible to show that the Thai people will not tolerate these politics any more," he said in a speech via videolink to supporters outside Government House late Tuesday.

Major General Suporn Phansua, a spokesman for Bangkok Metropolitan Police, said around 10,000 security forces had been deployed at major sites including Government House and Prem's residence.

The nation remains deeply divided between Thaksin's followers, mainly among the urban and rural poor, and his foes in the traditional power cliques of the palace, military and bureaucracy.

Khmer Rouge jail boss Kaing Guek Eav turned peasants into killers

The Australian

April 08, 2009
Article from: Agence France-Presse

THE Khmer Rouge regime's prisons chief told Cambodia's UN-backed war crimes court Wednesday how he recruited young peasants to be turned into torturers and killers.

Duch, whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav, last week apologised at his trial for crimes against humanity, accepting blame for the extermination of 15,000 people who passed through the regime's main prison, Tuol Sleng.

"The initiative to recruit staff was mine... We did not use the word 'killing office' - they were invited to do revolutionary work. And what was the revolutionary work at the time? It was killing," Duch told the court.

The 66-year-old sat wearing a white polo shirt, answering questions about M-13 prison, a secret jungle centre he ran during the 1971 to 1975 Khmer Rouge insurgency against the then US-backed government, before he ran Tuol Sleng.

When M-13 needed staff, Duch said, he would send his deputy to villages to recruit young peasants, who were then subject to approval by the central Khmer Rouge leadership.

Duch has previously told investigators he preferred uneducated young staff "like a blank piece of paper'' whom he could instruct to torture confessions of spying from prisoners and then kill them.

The Khmer Rouge were in power from 1975 to 1979, the period when Duch is accused of supervising Tuol Sleng prison and sending thousands of people to their deaths in the so-called "Killing Fields''.

The court this week is hearing about M-13 to better understand Tuol Sleng's organising structure.

The former maths teacher has denied assertions by prosecutors that he played a central role in the Khmer Rouge's iron-fisted rule.

Duch faces charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, torture and premeditated murder for his role in the Khmer Rouge. He faces life in jail at the court, which does not have the power to impose the death penalty.

Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot died under house arrest in 1998, and many believe the UN-sponsored tribunal is the last chance to find justice for victims of the regime which killed up to two million people.

The tribunal was formed in 2006 after nearly a decade of wrangling between the United Nations and Cambodian government, and is scheduled to try four other senior Khmer Rouge leaders.

Former Khmer Rouge Duch evokes torture with composure and calls the shots in his trial

Kambol (Phnom Penh, Cambodia). 07/04/2009: The accused on day 5 of trial at the ECCC explaining how prisoners used to be tied to a pole at M13. ©John Vink/ Magnum


By Stéphanie Gée

Kambol (Phnom Penh, Cambodia). 07/04/2009: The accused on day 5 of trial at the ECCC explaining how prisoners used to be tied to a pole at M13. ©John Vink/ Magnum

Accounts about the M-13 detention centre, which former executioner Duch used to lead before being appointed as head of S-21 in 1975, continued on Tuesday April 7th at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC). Day five of the trial saw the opportunity for protagonists to go back over torture and executions committed in that centre. Duch still proves cooperative and shows detachment when he mentions horror, but the former torturer appears to be craft-minded when it comes to orientating debates to his liking…

Duch, the master-hand
Duch did not only impose himself at M-13 and S-21: he did so at his own trial too. There is no doubt the accused proves cooperative and waits for interpreters to finish before continuing to speak, but he still sticks to what he planned to say and has obviously been girding up the loins of his mind for the exercise. Looking comfortable and confident, it looks like he is dictating the rules. At times, a slight smile, which one imagines as victorious, comes to disturb his legendary unblinking nature.

Tirelessly, he fills his answers with claims like “I am liable but I did not commit the crimes with my own hands”, “I take responsibility” and “I implemented my superiors’ orders”, like a political instructor keen on leaving the lasting imprint of elementary slogans on the mind of the public. Duch may have confessed to having put at least two persons through torture at M-13 – he claims he does not remember whether there have been others – however, he repeats that he committed no crime and was trying to respond to his superiors’ requirements, and was committed to meet these.

As for the “smashing” of detainees – understand “executing” in Khmer Rouge terminology -, Duch says his conduct was not exemplary. “I was scared of actually doing it. I therefore assigned this function to sons of farmers whom I trained and who could do it better than I could.” He explains, shortly after, that he recruited people from a farming background “so that the party trust me”. “I do not forget that I am liable for those crimes.” He then tries to establish a parallel with Prince Sihanouk: both of them were involved in murders but they were not the perpetrators. “Except for the fact that when Prince Sihanouk led the country, people were entitled to trials and it was possible for them to beg for mercy”, he takes care of pointing out. He soberly says, thus straying from the core of the week’s debate, that he is not the one who battered Chum Mey, one of the rare survivors of the antechamber of Death, who constituted himself as a Civil Party in the trial. The latter said after the hearing that “If Duch had been as nice during the Khmer Rouge regime as he seems to be today, S-21 would never have existed!”

The everyday little torture session...
At M-13, prisoners were detained in 80-inch deep pits, meant to deter them from escaping and to protect them from American bombings, Duch explains. And on the chapter of escapes, he declares he used to have “good eyesight”. “I kept a check on what went on and was very good at spotting those who were trying to escape.” He admits that the torture inflicted to prisoners was “cruel”.

When required to provide details about the techniques used to make suspects confess, the accused contents himself with mentioning the beating up with sticks and branches, or the practice consisting of tying prisoners to a pole with their hands firmly tied up in their back. They were unable to talk to their cellmates. This lasted for several days. Duch stands up and offers to show what the exact position looked like: he arches his back and stretches his arms behind him. Then, he also mentions the technique of the shower, an experiment he discontinued due to a lack of results. It consisted of showering prisoners and exposing them to the cold monsoon winds or to a fan. He acknowledges that those techniques were inspired by those used inside police stations.

Instructions “from superiors” recommended the use of the plastic bag over the head, until the prisoner was on the verge of choking. “We could not implement that measure [at M-13] since there were no plastic bags in the area”, he stresses with placidity and sincerity. When Judge Lavergne asks him whether it happened that prisoners were hung in the air, Duch refutes: “There was nothing to hang them on!”And when asked about the practice consisting of forcing prisoners to swallow acid liquids, detergents or soapy water, Duch fiercely denies that such things happened at M-13: “I myself did not have any soap to wash or wash my clothes!”

As for practices consisting of immersing prisoners’ heads underwater, pushing needles under their skin or pulling out their nails, there again he denies. “No, we did not do that! I did not give the order for the use of those methods and never saw such things!

Extracted confession not very convincing
Torturing suspects was meant to obtain confessions which complied with the truth – Duch admits he did not give much credit to those confessions. “There was probably 40% of truth in those confessions… I speak a little like a politician but I rather speak as a mathematician!” As for incriminations found in those confessions, he claims only 20% of them are credible.

Duch estimates that the number of people who lost their lives at M-13 is between 200 and 300 – they were people from the Lon-Nol zone and people considered as enemies due to their class and therefore accused of being against the revolution. The way of proceeding in executions was identical: a blow to the base of the neck with a club. To do that, executioners made sure the victim did not shout and that the deed remained surrounded by secret. “I wish to apologise to the spirit of all those who died”, the repentant Khmer Rouge does not fail to declare.

A declaration made by a former M-13 prisoner – who then became an assistant at the centre and has died since – was collected by the Documentation Centre of Cambodia (DC-Cam) and read out by Judge Lavergne. It contradicted many answers that Duch provided. According to the declaration, all those tortures mentioned by the Judge were indeed perpetrated at M-13, and the number of victims in that centre is, according to that account, equivalent to 30,000. Yet, Duch does not go out of his depth and does not modify a single word of his declarations.

Lost in translation...
Mr. Roux, the international Lawyer for Duch, steps in and says he has great reservations as to this “extra-judicial” piece, established by a person who acts on behalf of an NGO, and the competence and independence of whom are unknown. International co-Prosecutor Mr. Petit retorted that one should not be afraid about the piece of evidence and that judges, who are professionals, unlike a jury, will be able to evaluate it. Civil Party lawyers agreed with this position; the reading was interrupted and the court will later issue a decision. Another problem surfaced, as pointed out by Robert Petit: the French and English versions of the piece do not converge at all levels, and some paragraphs are missing, from one version to the other... The translation issue comes on top of that of the interpretation provided during the court hearing in three languages (Khmer, English and French) but is still as chaotic and most of the time not very faithful to original accounts.

The court hearing seems to be losing itself in subsidiary questions and some express the feeling that the crimes against Humanity and war crimes which the ECCC are in charge of prosecuting are pushed into the background.

Preah Vihear: two days of Cambodian-Thai talks, but no agreement over name

Preah Vihear is belong to Cambodia so the name should pronounce as Cambodian way not thai. It is confirm to the world clearly that THAI are willing to steal Preah Vihear that is why they invaded Cambodia territory.


By Ros Dina

Preah Vihear or Phra Viharn? After a two-day meeting of the Joint Border Committee of Cambodia and Thailand (JBC) on April 6th and 7th, Cambodians and Thais did not manage to reach an agreement over that question, which, according to diplomats from both Kingdoms, is but the last stumbling block between Cambodia and Thailand with a view to solve peacefully a conflict which was revived due to an exchange of gunfire along the border they share.

At the end of the second day of talks which finished at 7pm at the newly-inaugurated Council of Ministers in Phnom Penh, Var Kim Hong, the co-chairman of the Cambodian side of the Committee and his Thai counterpart Vasin Teeravechyan presented the result of the last three rounds of talks meant to put an end to the border dispute which started dividing both countries in July 2008 and went through a violent twist on Friday April 3rd as Thai and Cambodian soldiers faced each other near the Khmer temple of Preah Vihear.

Above all, these two days of negotiations allowed the validation of documents prepared during the first meeting: thus, the agreement reached in November 2008 at the special meeting in Siem Reap and the agreement obtained in Bangkok in February 2009 were revised and signed together with texts about the process of border delimitation, defined at the beginning of this week.

“This will allow us to start working”, particularly on the installation of border markers, Var Kim Hong declared at the end of the second day of the meeting. While Vasin Teeravechyan has not agreed to put forward any dates for the launching of those operations as he preferred talking about a “step by step” process, the Cambodian co-chairman declared for his part that a first group in charge of delimitations would be operational as from the month of May onwards and would be planting “posts at the gate of Chorm Sragnam (Oddar Meanchey), i.e. post number 1, all the way to the Ta Moane temple, i.e. post number 23”. In Zone number 6, where the Preah Vihear temple is located, “technical aspects still have to be solved”, the Cambodian co-chairman estimated. According to him, works for measurements and demining will start next July “at the latest”.

The content of these agreements, however, was not made public and one question is still unanswered and might continue to block progress in the delimitation works: that of the name of the temple, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site since July 7th and which both parties are fighting over: Preah Vihear for Cambodians or Phra Viharn for Thais. “We suggested that the official name of Preah Vihear appear in bilateral documents, with a mention between brackets ‘Phra Viharn in Thai’. But the proposition has not yet been accepted by Thailand”, Var Kim Hong explained. He pointed out the fact that once an agreement is reached on that matter, all obstacles to a peaceful settlement will be gone.

For the Thai side, the fact that the Khmer name of Preah Vihear was the one chosen by UNESCO and the World Heritage Committee, which listed the temple, is not a good enough reason for Thailand to say no to the name of Phra Viharn. “This is just about the UNESCO and not about the Border Committee”, Vasin Teeravechyan declared briefly.

Questioned about the recent deployment of military forces along the border with Cambodia, the Thai co-chairman said he was “not aware” of it. On the Cambodian side, once again, there seemed to be more will to talk about the topic. Preap Tann, the governor for the Preah Vihear province and member of the Joint Border Committee of Cambodia and Thailand asserted that Thai military forces were currently deployed “about a kilometre away from the border”, thus confirming the deployment of additional military Thai troops and particularly, “of rocket launchers in front of the Preah Vihear temple”.

For Preah Vihear governor Preap Tann, there is nothing abnormal concerning the deployment of armed forces on both sides, even though negotiations are ongoing: “We have a two-sided situation here: on the one hand, Cambodia uses diplomacy, and on the other hand, we have to protect our territory”.

Cambodian spokesperson Phay Siphan also announced that a report was sent to the UNESCO to inform the organisation of the damage caused by Thai gunfire on the temple on April 3rd. “We are members of the UNESCO and our duty is to protect and preserve world heritage”, he said, hoping that a meeting would soon be called up by the UN organisation to mention those problems.

UNESCO director-general Koïchiro Matsuura has for that matter expressed his “deep concern” upon hearing about the revival of tensions between Thai and Cambodian soldiers near the Preah Vihear temple, “a masterpiece in Khmer architecture”, and “the exceptional and universal worth of which [...] transcends national borders”.

On Tuesday April 7th, Moeung Sonn, the president of the Khmer Civilisation Foundation (KCF) requested that Thailand pay compensation to the Cambodian victims of the April 3rd military coup which caused important damage on the Cambodian market of Prasat where about a hundred sheds went up in smoke. For Phay Siphan, the government “could think about” the request but he added that it would depend on the UNESCO to mention that point, since it concerns a protected area.

The date for the next meeting between the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Thailand and Cambodia, which will mark the next step in the negotiation process, has not been set yet.

Cambodia Clears, Detonates 820,000 Mines, UXOs

Web Editor: Qin Mei

Some 820,000 mines and unexploded ordinances (UXOs) have been cleared or detonated since the kingdom initiated its demining action in 1992, national media said on Wednesday.

"Previously, we put the amount of mine areas at 43 million kilometers, and now it decreases to 427 kilometers," Chinese- language newspaper the Sinchew Daily quoted Prak Sokhon, secretary of state for the Council Ministers, as telling a press conference at the Institute for Peacekeeping Forces, Mine and ERW (Explosive Remnant of War) Clearance in the province on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, 266 people died of mine and UXO accidents in 2008, over 352 in 2007, 800 in 2001 and some 2,000 in 2000, he said.

"Mine clearance aims to save people's lives and help push for development of the country," he added.

Around 30 years of war left large numbers of landmines and UXOs in Cambodia, especially at the border area with Thailand.

Survivors of Cambodian genocide receive student aid

RU Daily Targum

Lena Van
Staff Writer

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Though the dictatorship of Pol Pot is over, the negative consequences of his regime still affect Cambodians today. To help improve the quality of life in Cambodia, student members of the Human Rights House of Douglass College traveled there in January, where they stayed for two weeks.

House members shared experiences from their visit with about 100 attendees at the Human Rights Open House, sponsored by the Associate Alumnae of Douglass College, Monday in the Commuter Lounge of the Douglass Campus Center.

During their trip, students worked alongside a non-profit organization called A New Day Cambodia, which seeks to improve living conditions for the children of the country, according to the event program.

“We’ve talked about genocide before and I think it just affected us. We knew what we were getting into now but it was still shocking once we got there to see it,” said Ana Madon, a Human Rights House member and Douglass College junior. “I don’t think many of us have been to countries where we saw the aftermath of genocide. You can see that [the Cambodian people] are trying really hard to restore their pride.”

Throughout the open house, various Human Rights House members demonstrated what they had learned from their experience on the trip. To kick off the presentation, students spoke about the history of Cambodian genocide and pointed out that the country, which suffered for 15 years under dictator Pol Pot, still shows signs of the aftermath of his administration and the economy relies heavily on tourism.

“The Human Rights House presentation was eye-opening, in that the information they shared concerning Cambodia’s history of genocide and its current situation [is] upsetting,” said Mona Chothani, a Douglass College junior.

Many house members said working with the children from A New Day Cambodia was the highlight of the trip because of the great enthusiasm they showed them.

Danielle Gougon, director of Global Programs and assistant dean of Douglass College, accompanied the group of 18 female students on the trip.

“[The trip] was wonderful,” she said. “It [is] a life changing experience to see students take what they learn in the classroom and apply it to a real world context.”

For the past five years since its inception, the Human Rights House has traveled to a different country each year, Gougon said.

School of Arts and Sciences first-year student Misha Bernier said the open house was really interesting.

“The women in the Human Rights House were able to portray their experience with working with young children in Cambodia,” Bernier said. “Their experience seemed very inspiring because they had an impact on other people on a global scene.”

Khmer Rouge jail chief talks of recruiting killers

Graphic fact file on the Tuol Sleng prison run by Cambodia's Khmer Rouge regime from 1975-1979.

Duch, whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav

Pictures of victims on display at the genocide museum at Tuol Sleng

PHNOM PENH (AFP) — The Khmer Rouge regime's prisons chief told Cambodia's UN-backed war crimes court how he recruited young peasants to be turned into torturers and killers.

Duch, whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav, last week apologised at his trial for crimes against humanity, accepting blame for the extermination of 15,000 people who passed through the regime's main prison, Tuol Sleng.

"The initiative to recruit staff was mine... We did not use the word 'killing office' -- they were invited to do revolutionary work. And what was the revolutionary work at the time? It was killing," Duch told the court.

The 66-year-old sat wearing a white polo shirt, answering questions about M-13 prison, a secret jungle centre he ran during the 1971 to 1975 Khmer Rouge insurgency against the then US-backed government, before he ran Tuol Sleng.

When M-13 needed staff, Duch said, he would send his deputy to villages to recruit young peasants, who were then subject to approval by the central Khmer Rouge leadership.

Duch has previously told investigators he preferred uneducated young staff "like a blank piece of paper" whom he could instruct to torture confessions of spying from prisoners and then kill them.

The Khmer Rouge were in power from 1975 to 1979, the period when Duch is accused of supervising Tuol Sleng prison and sending thousands of people to their deaths in the so-called "Killing Fields".

The court this week is hearing about M-13 to better understand Tuol Sleng's organising structure.

The former maths teacher has denied assertions by prosecutors that he played a central role in the Khmer Rouge's iron-fisted rule.

Duch faces charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, torture and premeditated murder for his role in the Khmer Rouge. He faces life in jail at the court, which does not have the power to impose the death penalty.

Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot died under house arrest in 1998, and many believe the UN-sponsored tribunal is the last chance to find justice for victims of the regime which killed up to two million people.

The tribunal was formed in 2006 after nearly a decade of wrangling between the United Nations and Cambodian government, and is scheduled to try four other senior Khmer Rouge leaders.

Additional Information about Drug Abuse in Prey Sar Prison - Thursday, 2.4.2009

Posted on 8 April 2009
The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 606

I am out of hospital care, but still not yet quite OK. Trying to catch up with the delays.
Norbert Klein

The CAAI team would like to wish you well Norbert Klein.

“After Sereypheap Thmey published that there is drug distribution and abuse at the M-1 Prey Sar rehabilitation center, we have gained much support and we even received new reports about inactivity by the authorities and illegality in the biggest rehabilitation center of Cambodia.

“According to reports we received, in March, 19 packages of ‘ice yama’ were brought in by people who visited prisoners. Those who brought ‘ice yama’ into the prison cannot be identified, because they left the prison already. That drugs were brought into the prison shows that prisoners must have used and have been using drugs there.

“Citizens who read Sereypheap Themy greatly wonder why there is drug distribution and abuse at the place where laws should be strictly enforced. There are many police and persons of authority and other people who had visited their relatives in prison at the M-1 Prey Sar rehabilitation center who said that when they go to see their relatives in prison, they have to pass three checkpoints: one post of front line security guards, one post to note down the names of visitors, one post to check food and other materials.

“Officials working in the Prey Sar prison told Sereypheap Themy that drugs are not only used by prison officials, but they are also used in prison cells.

“The Prey Sar Prison chief, Mr. Mong Kim Heng, could not be reached for comments by Sereypheap Themy over this scandal yesterday.

“An official of a human rights organization in Phnom Penh told Sereypheap Themy anonymously that they had heard prisoners talking about the abuse of drugs sold by prison officials, and most prisoners who abuse drugs are children of the rich who provide them money every week.

Because this information was secret, Sereypheap Themy dares to publish it now. This non-government organization official asked the director of the Prison Department, Mr. Heng Hak, to take urgent measures to prevent drug trafficking, and that the Prey Sar prison chief must be held responsible for this problem.”

Sereypheap Thmey, Vol.16, #1687, 2.4.2009
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Thursday, 02 April 2009

Thailand insists on calling Preah Vihear temple as Pra Viharn

Should we call Bangkok as Beung Kok accordance to the Cambodian pronounciation?
The world can see of how Stupid the THAI are.


PHNOM PENH, April 8 (Xinhua) -- Thailand has insisted on naming the 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple as "Pra Viharn" in accordance with its Thai pronunciation, national media said on Wednesday.

The divergence therefore became a major impediment for Cambodia to solve its border disputes with Thailand during a two-day meeting of the Joint Border Committee of Cambodia and Thailand (JBC) here on Monday and Tuesday, Chinese-language newspaper the Jian Hua Daily quoted Var Kim Hong, chairman of the Cambodian sideof JBC, as saying.

Cambodia proposed to list the name as "Preah Vihear temple (Pra Viharn temple)" in relevant documents and draft agreements, but Thailand still couldn't accept it, he added.

Meanwhile, Vasin Teeravechyan, chairman of the Thai side of JBC, told reporters on Tuesday that Thailand didn't turn down the name of Preah Vihear, but demanded that Pra Viharn be used together with Preah Vihear as the name of the temple at international conferences.

Thailand believed that the difference about how to name the temple should be solved within JBC, and this matter actually had nothing to do with UNESCO (the United Nations Education, Science and Culture Organization), he added.

In the meantime, as a positive result of the JBC meeting, Cambodia and Thailand agreed to plant border posts in July within the disputed areas near the Preah Vihear temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Technicians from both sides will jointly survey the land near the temple with the priority of planting border posts there and therefore helping contain armed clashes, according to Var Kim Hongand Vasin Teeravechyan.

Two rounds of exchanges of heavy gunfire took place last Friday after Thai troops intruded on the Cambodian land near the temple, according to a statement issued by the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

These were the worst military confrontations since both troops started to station near the temple in July 2008.

In addition, two armed clashes at the same area last year once sparked brief concerns of war.

The two neighboring countries have never fully demarcated their over 800-km-long border, mainly due to different interpretations of historical maps, as well as the landmines left over from decades of war in Cambodia.

Editor: An

Cambodia Confirms Location for Multilateral Peacekeeping Exercises

Web Editor: Qin Mei

Kompong Speu province will be the main location for Cambodia to host multilateral peacekeeping exercises in March 2010, national media said on Wednesday.

"The three weeks of exercises will see 2,000 troops from 13 countries participate," Chinese-language daily newspaper the Commercial News quoted Prak Sokhon, secretary of state for the Council Ministers, as telling a press conference at the Institute for Peacekeeping Forces, Mine and ERW (Explosive Remnant of War) Clearance in the province.

Meanwhile, the paper quoted the secretary of state as saying that the event will be conducted in the framework of the Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI).

GPOI once held such exercises in Bangladesh in 2008, Mongolia in 2007 and Indonesia in 2009, he added.

In early March, Pol Saroeurn, Commander-in-Chief of Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF), told reporters that Cambodia will host a large-scale ASEAN-U.S. military exercise in 2010.

The event will provide training such as "field tactical and command post operations," but the formal planning and preparation for the exercise will not begin until late this year, he added.

According to official files, 40 Cambodian soldiers participated in a three-week multi-national peace-keeping exercise in Bangladesh in April 2008.

In July 2007, 43 Cambodian soldiers took part in a military exercise for UN peacekeeping mission in Mongolia.

Fire destroys 5 garment factory buildings in Phnom Penh

PHNOM PENH, April 8 (Xinhua) -- A fire here Tuesday night destroyed at least half of one of the largest garment factories in Cambodia, national media on Wednesday quoted fire department and factory officials as saying.

By 08:30 pm (GMT 1330) on Tuesday, the fire had demolished five of nine buildings at the Suntex factory complex, said Chinese-language daily newspaper the Commercial News.

"We used all the fire trucks in Phnom Penh," Sok Vannara, first deputy fire chief of the municipal fire brigade, was quoted as saying.

The fire began in a product warehouse at the complex sometime after 05:00 pm and soon spread to the factory itself, he added.

The reason of the fire and the amount of loss were unclear yet.

Ocean Sky, a Singaporean firm, owns Suntex and the nearby Bright Sky factory. The two factories respectively have 5,000 and 4,000 workers.  

Editor: An

Thailand: Khmer chameleon

Thailand's Phimai temple. Photo / Martin Gray

New Zealand Herald

Wednesday Apr 08, 2009
Sharon Stephenson

Think Thailand, and the bustling mayhem of Bangkok comes to mind.

However, an hour's flight north of the capital you find yourself in the calmer, more secluded enclave of Ubon Ratchathani in Thailand's Isan province.

Isan is bordered by Laos and Cambodia on three sides, so if you were to do a foxtrot and step right, you'd be in Laos, backwards and you'd hit Cambodia. Not surprisingly, the food, language and silk weaving are heavily influenced by these close neighbours. But what wins me over is the temperature - a glorious 35C that wallops me in the face like a large hot towel as soon as I step out of the airport.

Being this close to Cambodia also means we're surrounded by some of the Khmer people's greatest legacies, and at times it feels as though we can barely move for tripping over Angkor-style temples hewn out of hunks of ancient rock.

Perhaps the best example of this is the Phimai Historical Park, Thailand's largest Khmer historical site believed to have been built in the 12th century.

It's striking that this sprawling temple combines both Hindu and Buddhist sensibilities and the ornately carved sandstone with its unusual pink hue keeps us mesmerised for hours.

We're finally driven away by the midges - and this despite the industrial strength insecticide we almost marinate in before leaving the hotel.

Thankfully, the Phimai National Museum seems to be an insect-free zone. Set on the banks of the beautiful Mun River, the museum contains rooms of artefacts, including the rudimentary objects used to construct the Khmer temples. What catches my eye, though, is the bling: ornate shell, stone and glass beads from the Bronze and Iron Ages (3000-1500 years ago), which prove women from all cultures throughout history have had a love affair with shiny baubles.

Save your ticket from the historical park because it'll guarantee you entry to the museum for a month.

The next day is also filled with temples, but this time we're in the sticks. The first is Phanom Rung, a 1000-year-old Khmer site that sits on an extinct volcano. It began life as a Hindu religious site and the building's layout was determined by Hindu god Shiva's image of heaven.

After a short drive though bush we arrive at Muang Tam, where an impressive collection of sandstone pagodas again reflects the temple's Hindu origins.

I feel as though I've hit my temple limit for the day. It's time to turn our attention to the other star attractions of northern Thailand - elephants.

These graceful creatures have played an integral part in Siamese or Thai life - Siamese soldiers rode elephants into battle, and later the majestic beasts were used in the logging industry. But when that was banned in 1989, thousands of domestic elephants suddenly found themselves unemployed and unable to fend for themselves. Many, thankfully, now live at the Surin Elephant Centre, the world's largest elephant village.

Here the Suai people, who've raised elephants the traditional way for generations, look after a seemingly endless number of this protected species. They also run elephant "talent shows", where their charges perform unnatural tasks as kneeling down and throwing darts.

That's not going to appeal to everyone but you can have as much, probably more, fun by spending a few baht on a bunch of bananas and hand-feeding the rough-skinned giants.

If you have time, head up the road to the Ban Tha Sawang silk-weaving village where master craftsmen and women work traditional looms to produce exquisite woven cloth.

Afterwards, we wander the many stalls picking up ridiculously cheap silk scarves, table cloths and handbags.

Isan may not be on everyone's "places to visit before I die" list, but as an alternative to Bangkok - and for a genuine glimpse into how these gentle and welcoming people live - it ticks all the right boxes.

Sharon Stephenson was a guest of The Tourism Authority of Thailand and Thai Airways