Friday, 10 April 2009

Protests May Disrupt Thailand Summit

Bangkok, Apr 9 (Prensa Latina) Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, said Thursday that the waves of protest in the country will not disturb the Asian summit called here this weekend and disregarded the idea that his government would resign.

Tens of thousands of followers of the United Front for Democracy against the Dictatorship organized demonstrations in different parts of Thailand, and the government headquarters has been blocked for two weeks.

The demonstrators demand the resignation of the three royal consultants and the cabinet, among their main demands. They issued a 24 hour ultimatum Wednesday, demanding that the government respond.

Abhisit announed on the local television Thursday that he would not give in to the demands.

He reiterated that any steps taken will take place inside the democratic regulations and that all measures of security are in place to guarantee the order. He estimated that the protests will be short.

The Front warned that if its demands are not heard the demonstrations could be extended to Pattaya, the host city of the summit of the Association of South East Asia Nations (ASEAN) with their main partners: China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand, which is to begin on Friday.

One of the leaders of the Front, Jatuporn Prompan, said that the demonstrations have arrived at a critical point from which winners and losers arrise.

He estimated that the coalition headed by the Democratic Party of Abhisit illegitimately took power and therefore it lacks authority to celebrate the Summit.

The Thai government took office last December, after protests of the ultraconservative Alliance for the Democracy precipitated the collapse of two administrations of the dissolved People’s Popular Party, winner in the last election.

Thai political life has polarized into two groups, on one hand the Alliance for Democracy, without parliamentary representation, nurtured by monarchic sectors, oligarchies and the military, and on the other, the Front, followers of the former ruler Taksin Shinawatra, overthrown in 2006.

The focus of the Summit this weekend is the global crisis, among other current topics, and is vital for ASEAN, whose members are: Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Brunei, Singapore, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar.

Making sense of Thailand’s turmoil

Foreign Policy

Thu, 04/09/2009
By Roberto Herrera-Lim

Bangkok's streets are again filled with protesters this week in what will likely prove a boisterous but futile attempt to force the government's resignation. But behind all the noise, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who has been directing these demonstrations from outside the country, may well have a more subtle, longer-term agenda.

Thaksin and his supporters have been attacking the country's "aristocracy"--and top adviser to King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Prem Tinsulanonda, in particular. This suggests that Thaksin's maneuvers are related less to any effort to immediately oust the current government but instead to undermining the power structures centered around the monarchy, particularly the King's privy council, and the succession process that Thailand will face once ailing King Bhumibol passes from the scene.

The protests are generating more noise than usual thanks to warnings from Thaksin that "the time for talks has passed" and the sense that protesters (known as "red shirts") are pushing for a confrontation. The former prime minister, ousted in a 2006 coup, is still able to create tension in the capital by rallying his supporters from Thailand's northeast and among Bangkok's poor. But without support from the military, the monarchy, and Bangkok's middle class, these protests are highly unlikely to divide the country's political elite and threaten the current regime. Even Thaksin's allies know that even if they could force new elections, the elite-controlled institutions could undermine their administration. Thaksin is believed to be in either Dubai or Cambodia, and evidence suggests that the military is trying to block his satellite telephone calls to followers inside Thailand.

The real motive behind Thaksin's use of these protests is probably to weaken Prem, which would then allow him to position himself to eventually take advantage of a government weakened by the economic crisis, to negotiate his return to the country, and to settle his many outstanding legal and financial problems. The big unknown is whether Thaksin's moves reveal that he has inside information on how and when the succession process (and resulting power struggle) will begin to unfold, and whether his rhetoric is an attempt to position himself in the conflict for power that could follow.

To up the ante, Thaksin has warned that he expects to see a "revolution by the people" that is more intense than the civilian unrest that rocked the country in 1973 and 1992. He has also explicitly accused Prem and retired General Surayud Chulanont of having organized the 2006 coup that ousted him from office.

These are bold (and unprecedented) criticisms, because Prem has been considered for the past decade a direct representative of King Bhumibol and therefore beyond this kind of accusation. Protesters have organized demonstrations near Prem's home. By proving that he still commands considerable public support and boldly attacking Prem (and members of the military complicit in the 2006 coup), Thaksin may well be trying to establish himself as a political force to be reckoned with following the King's death-particularly if the succession process fails to produce a strong monarch.

In short, Thailand is in the midst of a power struggle that could reach deeply into its institutions and power structures. It started with a fight between the elites and Thaksin in 2006, and has begun to spill over into the public sphere. The stakes have been magnified by the uncertainty around the royal succession in a country in which the monarchy remains the most powerful political institution. Thailand's history shows that this type of conflict will take time to resolve, with results ranging from the absurd to the tragic.

First Witness Takes Stand

Francois Bizot at his residence in Thailand's northern city of Chiang Mai, Aug. 22, 2007.

Radio Free Asia

A French scholar takes the stand in Cambodia, becoming the first witness in a landmark trial of ex-Khmer Rouge leaders.

PHNOM PENH—A French scholar who was one of a few survivors of detention under Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge has become the first witness at a U.N.-backed war crimes tribunal hearing evidence against the regime’s chief jailer and torturer.

Francois Bizot, 69, an anthropologist, said he received relatively light treatment. He had been seized while researching Buddhism in the countryside on suspicion of working for the CIA.

The U.N. tribunal has opened with a trial of Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, a former math teacher accused of supervising Tuol Sleng prison and sending thousands of people to their deaths in the so-called “Killing Fields” period when the Khmer Rouge ruled Cambodia from 1975-79.

Terror was everywhere." Francois Bizot

Bizot spent three months at M-13, a secret jungle prison that Duch ran from 1971-75, while the Khmer Rouge was an insurgent faction fighting a U.S.-backed government. He later wrote a book about his detention titled The Gate.

Bizot said he was never beaten and Duch spoke to him politely. He said he was required to write several statements of innocence and freed after a few months, making him one of only 10 who survived the jungle prison camp.

“I can’t recall M-13 without recalling the terrifying atmosphere of fear and death, or how much this atmosphere was embodied in Duch. Terror was everywhere,” Bizot said.

“When Duch came back from meetings with his superiors, it was impossible not to see his despondency...You have to understand that it was always about deciding when the executions would take place,” he told the court.

Some sympathy

He acknowledged some sympathy for Duch, who has publicly apologized and sought forgiveness for his role in sending some 16,000 people to their deaths at the regime’s notorious Tuol Sleng prison.

“I must come to terms with what’s in me with relation to a double reality, the reality of a man who was the force of a state institutional massive killing, and I cannot imagine being in his shoes today with so much horror left behind,” Bizot said.

“On the other hand, the recollection I have today of a young man who committed his life to a cause and to a purpose that was based on the idea that it was not only legitimate, it was deserved,” he said. “I don’t know what I can make of it.”

“Duch was a man who looked much like many friends of mine, a Marxist who was prepared to surrender his life for the revolution,” Bizot said.

Crimes against humanity

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

Up to 2 million people are thought to have died during the four years of Khmer Rouge government in the late 1970s.

The trial continued as a third day of private talks aimed at setting up a corruption-monitoring mechanism at the court broke down on Wednesday night between U.N. Assistant Secretary for Legal Affairs Peter Taksoe-Jensen and Cambodian government officials.

Defense attorneys and human rights groups say allegations that Cambodian staff at the court pay kickbacks to keep their jobs could derail the entire tribunal.

Original reporting by RFA's Khmer service. Khmer service director: Kem Sos. Executive producer: Susan Lavery. Additional reporting by news agencies. Written and produced in English by Sarah Jackson-Han.

NKorea rocket, financial crisis to dominate summit


BANGKOK (AP) — North Korea's rocket launch could overshadow the intended focus on overcoming the global financial crisis at this weekend's summit of 16 Asian nations, including regional powerhouses China and Japan.

The annual East Asia Summit is the first chance for regional leaders to discuss Sunday's rocket launch that North Korea claimed put a satellite into orbit but that most nations see as an attempt to hide a ballistic missile test.

Japan and most likely South Korea are among states pressing for a strongly worded statement on North Korea, officials say. But any moves to come down hard on North Korea — which is not attending the meeting — will likely be tempered by China, its key ally.

With Asia's economies reeling from the global slowdown, some delegates are worried that the rocket incident could prove a distraction.

"We hope it won't overshadow the talks on the global crisis," said a senior Philippine official who requested anonymity because he is not authorized to talk to media. "It's very important, especially for countries like the Philippines."

Host Thailand and other countries hope the meeting will build on the momentum of last week's Group of 20 summit, which secured $1.1 trillion in funding resources for struggling economies.

The summit, in its fourth year, aims to promote Asia's economic integration. It brings together the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, for meetings with China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand. Together, these countries account for 3 billion people and about a quarter of the world's economic output.

Most of these nations have already announced stimulus packages to revive growth that is expected to slow sharply this year.

However, the World Bank predicts China's economy will start to recover this year, and that could lift the entire region in 2010. Hopes that the region is bottoming out has helped fuel the region's monthlong stock market rally.

"It does appear that things are starting to level out" in Asia, said David Cohen, an economist at Action Economics in Singapore. "We're getting some impact from the fiscal stimulus measures announced in China in November."

The meeting comes as Asia is gaining a bigger say in global financial affairs. At the G-20 summit, developing nations including China and India won promises for reforms of the International Monetary Fund and other institutions to better match global economic and political realities.

Japan and China, the world's No. 2 and No. 3 economies, hold a combined $3 trillion in foreign currency reserves, giving them unprecedented financial heft.

A draft of a special statement on the financial crisis obtained by The Associated Press shows that the 16 nations plan to "stand firm" against protectionism and commit to "take further actions as appropriate to sustain growth and jobs."

To protect against possible currency reserve shortages, a serious problem during the Asian financial crisis a decade ago, leaders from "ASEAN Plus 3" — Japan, China and South Korea — will endorse the expansion of a regional currency swaps program, officials said. The so-called Chiang Mai Initiative will be expanded from $80 billion to $120 billion.

Other topics likely to be discussed include global warming — which dominated the previous East Asia Summit — trade, energy and food security and disaster management, such as responding to cyclones, tsunamis and other natural catastrophes.

Armed clashes between Thailand and Cambodia over a disputed 11th century temple on their border is expected to be discussed on the sidelines.

But North Korea's rocket launch over the weekend has suddenly thrust the issue into the summit spotlight, reminding countries that security remains a serious concern.

"We need to cooperate on how to cope with the North Korea problem," said Jo Jang-rae, a deputy secretary to South Korean President Lee Myung-bak.

U.N. Security Council diplomats have been squabbling over possible ways to punish North Korea for what President Barack Obama and other world leaders called a provocative launch and a violation of previous sanctions, imposed after the North's underground nuclear test in 2006.

China is concerned about alienating North Korea and the possible impact on the stalled six-party talks on the North's nuclear weapons program.

Normally, the East Asian Summit comes at the end of the annual gathering of leaders from ASEAN, which groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

But this year organizers had to postpone and break up the meetings because anti-government protesters shut down Bangkok's main international airport in December, when the summit was initially scheduled.

The summit is being held in Pattaya, in the seaside town 60 miles (100 kilometers) southeast of Bangkok that also is well-known for its large red-light district. Organizers shifted the venue from Bangkok to avoid political protests that have plagued the Thai capital.

Associated Press writers Jim Gomez in Manila, Ray Lilley in Wellington, Erika Kinetz in Mumbai, Kelly Olsen in Seoul and Ambika Ahuja in Bangkok contributed to this report.

Cambodian PM Highlights Stability, Security ahead of Khmer New Year

Web Editor: Liu Donghui

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Thursday highlighted the necessary issues such as stability and security for the upcoming Khmer New Year, which will fall on April 14-16.

In the next year, the government will try to do more to strengthen stability, security and peace in the whole country for social and economic development, Hun Sen said in his statement to the people for the Khmer New Year.

The government will continue to enhance international cooperation for national benefit and the people, he added.

Cambodia had great achievement of diplomatic relations in the past years, especially for the relationship with the Middle East, he said, adding that the government will continue to expand diplomatic relations to grab opportunities for investment, economic cooperation and trade.

Hun Sen said that last year Cambodia harvested 7 percent of economic growth.

"We will push agricultural crops to export and strengthen the agricultural field for food security," he added.

Cambodia denounces ICC over issuing arrest warrant for Sudanese president

PHNOM PENH, April 9 (Xinhua) -- The arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for Sudanese President Omaral-Bashir has been destroying the international efforts to deal with the matters of the Darfur region, said Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen here on Thursday.

"The arrest warrant for the governing Sudanese president from the court in Hague of Holland will lead to nothing, as you all can wait and see," he told the annual work-review conference of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forests and Fisheries, which was held at the Royal University of Agriculture.

On March 4, ICC issued the arrest warrant against the Sudanese president over charges of war crimes and crimes of anti-humanity. So far, Omar al-Bashir is still working in his country in the capacity of president.

"The Sudanese people and troops with weapons in their hands will not allow the court to arrest their leader," said Hun Sen.

The ruling Sudanese president has his privilege in leading the country, he said, adding that "I do not know why ICC did like that."

In addition, the premier stressed that ICC can not follow suit in Cambodia to arrest the surviving leaders of the former Democratic Kampuchea (DK) regime (1975-1979).

"Those DK leaders now stay in a place here and we ourselves can arrest them for tribunal," he added.

Currently, five senior DK leaders are under custody of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), which was co-installed by UN and the Cambodian government two years ago to put these people on trial on charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Editor: Fang Yang

Corruption Allegations Affect Khmer Rouge Trials

The New York Times

Published: April 9, 2009

BANGKOK — Even as Khmer Rouge trials in Cambodia gain momentum with compelling testimony from the regime’s chief torturer, allegations of corruption among the tribunal staff have slowed the international funding that keeps the process alive.

A United Nations envoy left Cambodia late Wednesday saying he had failed to reach an agreement with the government over internal mechanisms for the reporting of corruption allegations in the jointly administered trials.

The U.N. official, Peter Taksoe-Jensen, assistant secretary general for legal affairs, placed the blame on the government side, which he said was refusing to make a key compromise.

Five leading figures in the Communist Khmer Rouge have been arrested in connection with the deaths of 1.7 million people during their 1975-79 rule. The tribunal was established in 2006, and courtroom hearings began last month.

The United Nations Development Program, which administers funding from donors including the United States, Japan, the European Union and Australia, is withholding the money, saying it is waiting for the issue to be resolved.

“It remains critical to the United Nations that the allegations of corruption and other misconduct are effectively addressed,” Mr. Taksoe-Jensen said in a statement.

The corruption allegations, together with an appearance of government manipulation of the judicial process, have thrown a shadow across the trials at a moment when they appear to be bearing fruit with gripping and self-incriminating testimony from Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, the commandant of the Tuol Sleng torture house. In hearings this week, Duch, the first of the defendants to face trial, has portrayed himself as a dedicated and creative functionary in a hierarchy of terror and killing.

But an appearance of political interference has tainted the process since early this year, when a Cambodian prosecutor objected to widening the indictments beyond the five defendants who are already in custody. She gave political rather than judicial reasons for her objection, echoing positions that have been taken by the government.

Last week, Prime Minister Hun Sen took those positions a step further, saying he would rather see the trials collapse than have the number of defendants increase.

He cited the possibility of popular unrest, but foreign analysts said it was more likely he was seeking to keep control over a legal process that could lead in unpredictable and damaging directions.

“My greatest fear is that the tribunal will simply fade away from lack of funding — with the donors reluctant to fund a tribunal unable or unwilling to address the allegations,” said John A. Hall, a professor at the Chapman University School of Law in Orange, California, who has been monitoring the trials.

“In terms of what is happening inside the courtroom, this is an amazingly exciting time,” he said. But he added: “We shouldn’t pretend that progress can continue unless the corruption issue is dealt with.”

Just to get it to the end of this year, according to a revised budget forecast, the court needs new funding of $44.1 million in addition to the $56.3 million already budgeted.

The corruption allegations involve reports of kickbacks from Cambodian employees to Cambodian officials in return for their jobs, a system that reflects a common practice in Cambodia.

Such kickbacks might not affect the quality of justice at the tribunal, but they raise questions about the possibility of more damaging corruption, trial monitors say.

“Can you support a judicial institution that is willing to tolerate serious allegations of corruption without addressing them?” asked Heather Ryan, the Cambodia representative of the Open Society Justice Initiative, a legal monitoring group based in New York.

“Funding a court that is unwilling to address credible allegations of corruption is a significant problem,” she said. “It makes it appear that you are in some respect condoning the situation.”

The Cambodian side is insisting on parallel reporting mechanisms in which Cambodian staff report corruption allegations only to Cambodian officials. Critics say this system would have a chilling effect on whistle-blowers.

“The United Nations continues to believe that, for the ethics monitoring system to be credible, the staff should have the freedom to approach the ethics monitor of their choice and put forward complaints without fear of retaliation,” Mr. Taksoe-Jensen said in his statement.

“Such freedom of choice is an imperative element of a trustworthy ethics monitoring system,” he said.

The corruption allegations were originally made two years ago by the Justice Initiative and were followed by news media reports that Cambodian staffers had complained about having to make payments of as much as 30 percent of their salaries.

The United Nations has investigated the allegations — which the Cambodian side denies — and has come under criticism for refusing to disclose its findings.

The impasse over a corruption reporting mechanism reflects a broader problem at the tribunal, which has been in place for nearly three years: an uncomfortable and sometimes adversarial relationship between the Cambodian and foreign staffs.

“One problem in the court is that the two sides don’t trust each other,” said Panhavuth Long, a project officer at the Justice Initiative. “The national side and the U.N. side, after two or three years working together, have not established a network of trust that allows them to sit together and have a frank discussion.”

First Cambodian lesbian film is a hit

A car passes by a movie theater in downtown Phnom Penh in 2004. Cambodia's first-ever movie featuring a taboo lesbian love story has been a surprising hit during its first week in theatres, the film's writer said Thursday.(AFP/Cambodge Soir/File/Khem Sovannara)

Thu Apr 9,

PHNOM PENH (AFP) – Cambodia's first-ever movie featuring a taboo lesbian love story has been a surprising hit during its first week in theatres, the film's writer said Thursday.

Phoan Phuong Bopha said the two-hour "Who Am I?" about a Cambodian-American woman infatuated with a famous Cambodian actress has so far attracted some 4,000 viewers -- a blockbuster for the country's tiny movie industry.

"This film have been successful beyond our expectations while the film industry has declined. This film draws great attention," Phoan Phuong Bopha said.

The movie tells the tale of two women falling in love over a series of long-distance telephone conversations, with the Cambodian-American travelling to Cambodia to meet the star, she said.

But the feature ends in tragedy when the man the actress's parents want her to marry tracks the pair down.

"It is a true story of some movie stars," said Phoan Phuong Bopha, adding that she wrote the film to raise awareness of discrimination against lesbians.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen in 2007 publicly announced that he was disowning his adopted daughter because she was a lesbian.

Cambodia's film industry has been battered by declining audiences, forcing many theatres to close over the past few years.

No Agreement in Corruption Talks: UN

Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, right, talks with UN Assistant Secretary-General Peter Taksoe-Jensen, left, during a meeting in Phnom Penh.

By Heng Reaksmey, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
09 April 2009

A senior-level UN representative ended three days of talks with Cambodian officials Wednesday with no agreement on how to improve the Khmer Rouge tribunal’s nettling allegations of corruption and mismanagement.

In a statement released after talks with Council Minister Sok An, UN Assistant Secretary-General Peter Taksoe-Jensen said both sides had failed to find a way that mismanagement or corruption accusations could be fed through an ethics monitor.

“I met with H.E. Sok An with the ambition to work together to put the issue of corruption behind us by concluding an agreement, which would establish a credible mechanism addressing allegations of corruption,” Taksoe-Jensen wrote Wednesday. “We did not manage to reach final agreement today.”

The Khmer Rouge tribunal, which was established in 2006 only after years of wrangling between the UN and Cambodia, has faced repeated allegations that Cambodian staff pay kickbacks to high-ranking officials in order to work at the UN-backed court.

Those allegations have been investigated by the UN, but no report has been made public. The accusations were enough to have funding frozen to the Cambodian side of the court, which is now facing empty coffers and was only able to pay its staff in March because of an emergency infusion from the Japanese government.

Other donors have proven unwilling to fund an international court that does not meet international standards, and rights groups and monitors say the corruption allegations continue to undermine the court.

The breakdown in talks comes as the hybrid court is undertaking its first trial of five jailed leaders, Kaing Kek Iev, better known as Duch, who commanded a prison system responsible for the deaths of up to 16,000 Cambodians.

Taksoe-Jensen acknowledged the progress of the court, but said it still needed ethics monitoring.

“The United Nations continues to believe that for the ethics monitoring system to be credible the staff should have the freedom to approach the Ethics Monitor of their own choice and put forward complaints without fear of retaliation,” Taksoe-Jensen wrote, at the conclusion of a third round of talks. “Such freedom of choice is an imperative element of a trustworthy ethics monitoring system. It remains critical to the United Nations that allegations of corruption and other misconduct are effectively addressed.”

The UN side of the tribunal “will further strengthen our own anti-corruption mechanism within the Court,” he wrote. The UN side would continue to file complaints with UN headquarters in New York, informing the “as appropriate” the Cambodian government, “while respecting confidentiality in a way that ensures full protection of staff of the ECCC against any possible retaliation for good faith reporting of wrongdoing.”

Sok An declined to comment to reporters after talks Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, but Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said the Cambodian side remained opened to more meetings with the UN. He said Cambodia “welcomed” the remarks of Taksoe-Jensen.

Long Panhavuth, a tribunal monitor for the Open Society Justice Initiative, which itself has reported hearing allegations of kickbacks, appealed to the UN to continue its meetings with the government.

Tribunal officials were not available for comment late Wednesday after the talks.

Taksoe-Jensen did not indicate in his remarks whether more talks were pending, but said he had left an exchange of letters “setting out an ethics monitoring mechanism acceptable to the United Nations, which in my view should also be acceptable to the Cambodian Government.”

“The United Nations continues to be convinced that the Court will meet the principle of fair trial,” he wrote, and said the agreement on the tribunal between the government and the UN “must be able to carry out its functions with full respect to the need for judicial independence.”

French Students Protest Eviction of Poor

By Heng Reaksmey, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
09 April 2009

More than 60 French students at Phnom Penh’s Lycee Francais Rene Descartes international school held a peaceful demonstration Thursday against a city-ordered eviction of Cambodian families living on the school’s property or in shanty homes adjacent to it.

The students gathered in front of the school, near Wat Phnom, Thursday morning, some of them beating large drums or water buckets, others shouting in French, “Please give a fair solution for the eviction.”

Phnom Penh municipal authorities last year ordered the 37 families—many of whose members work at the school—to leave the adjacent property, which they plan to turn over to the French. The city fenced some of the families out of their homes on Tuesday and issued a 30-day eviction warning to them on Thursday.

Students said Thursday many of them had formed close relationships with the people living either in the school’s fourth floor or in an abutting plot of land.

“If the Cambodian government wants to evict them, they should pay a fair solution,” one of the students, who asked to be identified as Romando, said.

The city has offered each family from $5,000 to $10,000 in compensation and will give them 32 square meters of land in Boeung Tumpuon commune in the city’s Meanchey district.

Seng Vutha, 37, a security guard at the school who has lived in the compound since the fall of the Khmer Rouge in 1979, said he was not against the move, but he needed higher compensation and a larger plot of land.

“With more land, it is easy for me to build a house,” he said. “If we compare the land prices today, they are very high. If the government pays me $5,000, I can’t buy anything for living.”

Tung Sok Lim, a spokesman for the French Embassy, said the French government plans to renovate the school, which has been in operation since 1951.

Daun Penh district’s deputy governor, Sok Penh Vuth, said he was not forcing an eviction on the families.

“Right now, 50 percent of the 37 families are happy to receive the compensation,” he said. “But there are still 50 percent more. We will try to persuade the people to understand the government policy.”

The compensation was a high price, he said, because some of the families were now living on just 2 square meters of land, sharing one bed, on the fourth floor of the school building.

Khmer Krom Monk Seeks To Stay in Cambodia

By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
09 April 2009

A Khmer Kampuchea Krom monk who was jailed in Vietnam in 2007 and was at the center of a human rights debate arrived in Cambodia for a visit over the weekend and is now seeking to stay legally.

Under strict supervision by Vietnamese authorities since his release last year, the former monk, Tim Sakhorn, was allowed to return to Takeo province for his mother’s 100-day funeral ceremony.

“I want to live in Cambodia, to see my family members and my father,” he told VOA Khmer by phone Thursday.

Tim Sakhorn, who is ethnically Khmer but was born in Vietnam, was defrocked by Cambodian Buddhist authorities in mid-2007, for allegedly fomenting trouble between the two countries. He was later jailed in Vietnam’s An Giang province.

His imprisonment highlighted the problematic situation of the so-called Khmer Kampuchea Krom, those who are culturally Khmer but who inhabit Vietnam’s Mekong Delta, an area that once belonged to Cambodia.

Many Khmer Krom now reside in Cambodia, where they advocate for greater rights of the Khmer Krom in Vietnam and can be recognized as Cambodian citizens. Human rights groups say they suffer persecution in Vietnam.

“I don’t want to live in Kampuchea Krom,” Tim Sakhorn said, referring to Vietnam. “There, I live alone, and I am very poor, without anything to eat. I would like to call on the Cambodian government and the king to let me live in Cambodia legally.”

Tim Sakhorn was arrested followed clashes in early 2007 between Khmer Kampuchea Krom and Cambodian monks, during demonstrations against Vietnam’s treatment of the ethnic minority.

The clashes were an expression of a thorny political problem for Cambodia, because many Cambodians are still angry that the Mekong Delta was made a part of Vietnam following French-colonial rule.

Tim Sakhorn claims he was seized by Cambodian authorities and handed over to Vietnam in May 2007, where he spent a year in jail before his release in July 2008, a claim the Cambodian government has rejected.

He traveled to Cambodia last week on a Vietnamese passport with a 15-day visa.

Ang Chanrith, executive director of the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Human Rights Organization, told VOA Khmer Thursday Tim Sakhorn had requested human rights groups help him find legal residency in Cambodia.

“This is the right thing, because Tim Sakhorn is Khmer, so he must have the right to live in Cambodia legally,” he said.

Lt. Gen. Khieu Sopheak, a spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, said Thursday a royal decree by former king Norodom Sihanouk in 2003 allowed for Cambodian citizenship of Khmer Kampuchea Krom people.

“In this meaning, if Tim Sakhorn stays in Cambodia, Tim Sakhorn does not have to apply for Cambodian nationality,” he said. “If Tim Sakhorn is a Cambodian national, Tim Sakhorn should have some documentation, such as…a family book or residence book.”

However, Tim Sakhorn said Thursday all of his documentation disappeared after a defrocking ceremony and his subsequent immediate deportation.

Survivor Describes Torture in Jungle Prison

By Kong Sothanarith, VOA Khmer
Origina report from Phnom Penh
09 April 2009

A second survivor of an early Khmer Rouge prison camp took the stand against jailed commandant Duch on Thursday, adding to a picture judges are trying to paint of methods that would later emerge at Tuol Sleng prison, where up to 16,000 Cambodians were tortured and sent to their deaths.

Ouch Sorn, 72, told judges of the Trial Chamber Thursday he had been tortured at a jungle prison known as M-13, run by Duch in Kampong Speu province before the Khmer Rouge rose to power.

“They put shackles in a line of five or six people, and prisoners were put in pits in the ground,” he said. “I saw they were tortured with their finger nails pulled by pliers and needles pushed underneath. Some of the prisoners were beaten to death with bamboo rods and hoes. Some of them were shot dead.”

Ouch Sorn described four people tied to poles, and Khmer Rouge security personnel killing one. “They killed people without pity,” he said. “It’s not like other nationalities who like their nation.”

Duch acknowledged only part of Ouch Sorn’s testimony, saying most of it was true but not all was based on reality.

Duch, now 66, whose real name is Kaing Kek Iev, went on to run Tuol Sleng prison, known to the Khmer Rouge as S-21, along with Prey Sar prison in Phnom Penh and the Choeung Ek “killing fields,” where prisoners were taken for execution after “confessing.”

He faces charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, torture and murder for his role at those three facilities. The Kampong Speu prison does not technically fall under the mandate of the tribunal, which is tasked with trying leaders of the regime while it was in power, between April 1975 and January 1979.

But judges are using testimony about the revolutionary prison to help understand the thinking that went into Tuol Sleng, a former high school, where people were electrocuted, dunked in water, strung by ropes and beaten, forced to confess their crimes against the Angkar, the Organization. Many were suspected traitors to the regime, sent from outlying areas as Khmer Rouge leaders became increasingly paranoid and began internal purges.

In Kampong Thom, Bird Flu Doubts

By Pich Samnang, VOA Khmer
Original report from Kampong Thom province
09 April 2009

Poultry farmers in several villages of Kampong Thom province say they don’t care about bird flu prevention, claiming they have never seen an outbreak.

“Everyone here raises ducks, and they never wear gloves or masks,” Chheng Lay, who has 300 ducks in Svay Sar village, Stoung district, said. “Nothing happens to them.”

Cambodian authorities are working to educate villagers on the dangers of avian influenza, which health experts worry can mutate into a form that can be transmitted human-to-human. So far, seven Cambodians in bird flu outbreaks since 2005.

Not all villagers may believe in a bird flu threat, but the government and others continue to educate.

“We try to invent a story with information related to deaths of birds in their villages,” said Ou Bosophoan, director of the provincial agricultural department of Kampong Thom. “But we depend on all sectors, NGOs, the department itself, to educate people.”

Even if adults don’t get it yet, he said, they were working to teach the young and others, through various means.

“The most important thing is to educate young children in school and promote bird flu awareness through monks when they preach,” he said.

UN, Cambodia officials fail to agree on genocide tribunal corruption monitoring

Steve Czajkowski

[JURIST] UN and Cambodian officials failed to reach an agreement Wednesday on a system for monitoring corruption issues in the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) [official website]. UN assistant secretary-general for legal affairs Peter Taksoe-Jensen presented a proposal [UN News Centre report] to Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok An [official profile], but no agreement has been reached [Phnom Penh Post report]. Taksoe-Jensen had meet with Sok An, who also chairs the Royal Government Task Force on the Khmer Rouge Trials [official website], during the past week to discuss his system which would allow ECCC personnel to deliver complaints to the ethics monitor of their choosing without the fear of reprisal. In presenting the proposed anti-corruption mechanism, Taksoe-Jensen stressed the need to deal with allegations of corruption in the ECCC as the tribunal began [JURIST report] its first substantive trial of a former Khmer Rouge [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] leader last month. Taksoe-Jensen has left a proposal for Sok to consider, saying he believed they were close to an agreement but that further negotiations would not continue.

The ECCC was intially created by Cambodia under a 2001 law [amended text, PDF] to investigate and try surviving Khmer Rouge officials. The ECCC plans to try as many as eight suspects [JURIST report] for their roles in the Khmer Rouge, but rights groups have warned that the trials could face credibility and corruption [JURIST reports] problems. Some believe that such allegations of corruption are a leading cause of the ECCC's extreme financial difficulties, discouraging potential donors from contributing funds. Despite Japan's pledge [JURIST report] of an additional $21 million in January, it is feared that the court may go bankrupt. The ECCC announced last June that it planned to end its operations [JURIST report] a year early because of limited funding.

Arrest warrant won't help - PM


Phnom Penh - Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Thursday said the International Criminal Court's arrest warrant against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir undermines attempts to end war in Sudan.

"The warrant issued from the Hague will only destroy efforts (to bring peace) in Sudan. It will not have any results. Now you wait and see this," Hun Sen said during a ceremony.

"They have troops in their hands. (They) won't allow the arrest," he added.

The ICC last month issued the warrant to arrest the Sudanese president for alleged crimes against humanity and genocide in Darfur.

A UN-backed genocide court is currently trying former leaders of the 1975 to 1979 Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia.

The ICC has accused Bashir of criminal responsibility for "exterminating, raping and forcibly transferring large numbers of civilians" from Darfur, where the United Nations says conflict has cost 300 000 lives.

Controversy over allegations

The president has denied the ICC's charges and lashed out by expelling from Darfur 13 aid groups which the Sudanese government accused of co-operating with the ICC, and has defiantly embarked on several state visits in the region.

Sudan's Darfur conflict began after ethnic rebels took up arms against the Arab-dominated Khartoum government, complaining of discrimination.

Cambodia's genocide court has arrested five former Khmer Rouge leaders, however, Hun Sen has stated he would rather the court failed than pursue more suspects.

Rights groups have criticised the premier for saying more arrests would destabilise the country.

The Khmer Rouge regime killed up to two million people in its attempt to forge a communist utopia.

The court, which has one trial underway, has faced controversy over allegations of political interference by the government and claims that Cambodian staff were forced to pay kickbacks for their jobs.


Viettel lifts Cambodian network coverage

Metfone has set up over 50 stores in Cambodia to market the service. (Photo: Anh Vu)


VietNamNet Bridge – Viettel Cambodia, a subsidiary of Viet Nam's military-run telecom service provider, Viettel, said it had completed the installation of 1,100 base transmission stations which would help to increase its mobile coverage.

The company, which launched a mobile phone network called Metfone in Cambodia last month, also started providing a number of value added services for Metfone, such as IMuzik, GPRS/EDGE and iShare.

Viettel Cambodia said it was the only operator in Cambodia that charged for calls on a per-second basis, allowing up to 25 per cent savings to customers compared to per-minute charging.

The company, which participated in the ICT Telecommunications World Expo in Cambodia, which ended last Sunday, said it would increase the number of BTS to more than 3,000 by the end of this year in a bid to cover the entire country.

Metfone has set up over 50 stores in Cambodia to market the service, a figure it expects to double by year's end. Metfone has been able to sign up 500,000 subscribers during a three-month trial period.

Viettel last year ranked as the 83rd among largest telecom companies in the world, according to Informa PLC, with a total brand value of US$536 million and earnings last year of VND33 trillion ($1.8 billion) and a gross profit of VND8 trillion.

The company, which recently introduced the Mobile Data service based in the EDGE 2.75G (Enhanced Data rates for GSM Evolution), has also been ranked by the World Communication Awards as one of the four leading telecoms in the developing world.

VietNamNet/Viet Nam News

Cambodian lawyers struggle to keep up with growth

Legal Business Online

By Rashida Yosufzai
Thursday, 9 April 2009

Cambodia's legal industry is struggling to serve the country's growing business community and must adapt to survive, according to local lawyers.

Lay Vicheka, a Phnom Penh-based legal consultant at BNG - Advocates & Solicitors said that local lawyers must evolve in order to survive in the "increasingly complex legal marketplace".

Vicheka said the country's development has created a sharp divide between an older generation of lawyers previously unaffected by globalisation and a younger generation who will have to compete with international law firms. "The previous generation has been quite isolated from the world, as Cambodia was not a member of ASEAN and WTO then, and business was also slower," said Vicheka. "It will be very hard, working on cross-border transactions across the generations now, since the younger generation need to learn new laws and gain understanding of other cultures across the border. We need to adapt our services [in line with] the international firms."

Marae Ciantar, a Phnom Penh-based partner at Allens Arthur Robinson, agrees that progress is needed in the legal industry. "The legal market is generally quite small here, and most firms are too small to support investment and the kind of infrastructure and resources needed for lawyers," he said. "Both externally and internally, to be able to support lawyers, there must be provisions such as training programs and knowledge management systems, and firms need to be of a certain size to meet those needs."

Ciantar said that while the country's growth over the years has meant a steady flow of work for local firms, continuing development of the legal industry is restricted by the type of work coming in. "It's very difficult to develop specialist skills as there just isn't enough flow of work or progress of new laws to develop those specialist skills," said Ciantar. "It's complicated and limited by the state of development of the economy, but there have been some changes. The new bar president is working on a new training program and opportunities to share knowledge between lawyers, such as setting up law journals, and they're certainly positive programs."

According to Vicheka, legal work will likely move to bigger law firms as cross-border work in the country increases with Cambodia's ASEAN membership. "Regional law firms are coming in and they are really much more competitive, not just in their understanding of the language of law but of financial business operations and their technologies. The FTAs will increase the flow of business, but we're not competitive enough to deal with cross-border contracts," he said.

As yet, the only international firm with a Cambodian office is Allens Arthur Robinson and, although the Australian firm has significant presence across Asia, Ciantar said he does not consider the firm to be competing with local Cambodian firms and lawyers for work.

"In major international transactions, the international role is played mostly by firms outside of Cambodia and they engage local firms," said Ciantar. "What we see and hope to do with our service here is engage those firms and bring in more investment into Cambodia."

Despite the country's steady growth, Ciantar said, the lower amount of work in Cambodia as compared to other regions will limit competition. "We're the only international firm which has a presence in Cambodia, which is a position in the market we're very happy with," said Ciantar. "We don't see that it's particularly likely that anybody else is going to enter the market because we're not sure that there's room for more than one or two international firms on the ground."

Vietnamese goods top sellers in Cambodian market


VietNamNet Bridge – Vietnamese consumer goods topped sales in the Cambodian market last year for the second successive year.

A turnover of US$988 million in 2008 put Vietnamese goods ahead of those from China with $784 million and Thailand with $674 million, reports the Sai Gon Tiep Thi.

Vietnamese goods and commodities are now available in two of Cambodia’s biggest markets – Orussay and Phsar Thmay, as well as supermarkets and trading centres in Phnom Penh.

Vietnamese consumer goods that dominate the Cambodian market include garments, electronics, processed foods, fruits, vegetables, medicines and cosmetics.

At the two biggest markets in Phnom Penh, 100 per cent of garment stalls sell Vietnamese items. Bestsellers are low cost garments made by small-sized enterprises.

The salient feature of Vietnamese garments in the market this year is that all Vietnamese items sold in Phnom Penh have labels in the Khmer language with the name of Vietnamese producers.

A shop owner in Orussay Market says Cambodian people prefer Vietnamese goods because they suit their pockets and are good-quality. Other Vietnamese commodities selling well in Cambodian markets include plastic, aluminium household utensils, perfumes, shampoos, cosmetics and manicure tools, and other materials like thread and needles.

Huge potential

Aware of the huge potential that the Cambodian market represents, major Vietnamese companies such as Casumina (Southern Rubber Corporation), Vifon (Viet Nam Food Company) and Vinh Tien copybook in the last three years have increased advertising, streamlined distribution networks and improved cargo transport services to the neighbouring market.

Vo Duy Hong, head of Casumina’s Trade Office says its promotion campaigns help the company’s rubber tyres and tubes for automobiles and motorbikes compete with similar goods from Thailand and other countries.

A number of Vietnamese businesses are cooperating with their experienced partners in Cambodia to establish a retail sales network, storage and goods distribution chain covering provinces including Kandal, Svay Rieng, Battambang, Siem Reap and the capital city of Phnom Penh.

New urban areas in Cambodia are developing fast with supermarkets, hotels, entertainment complexes, convenient stores and coffee shops. Business opportunities for Vietnamese companies and investors will increase along with urban development, experts say.

VietNamNet/Viet Nam News

Experiences and Goals to Implement Land Allocation Social and Economic Development Projects - Saturday, 4.4.2009

Posted on 8 April 2009

The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 606

“Phnom Penh: At the Sunway Hotel, there was a workshop about Land Allocation Social and Economic Development (LASED) projects on 2 April 2009, under the presidency of the Minister of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, who is also chairperson of the Land Policy Council, and chairperson of the National Land Allocation Concession Committee, Senior Minister Im Chhun Lim.

“This workshop was organized while LASED projects are being carried out as an experiment in Kratie, Kompong Cham, and Kompong Thom. The major aim of LASED projects is to combine the implementation of social concession land use countrywide, following Sub-Decree #19 from 2003, to encourage equal land allocation and economic growth by making use of unused land and labor force more effectively, and to contribute to strengthen basic relations of society.

“Previously, land allocations were carried out based on the previous land law, and the new land law in 2001; looking at it since 1979, the policy to allocate state land as private ownership land to people has been implemented in three big land allocation phases:

- The allocation in 1989: The state provided special possessions to general people, recognizing land that they actually controlled at that time.
- The allocation in 1992: The state provided land to people who were repatriated as pat of the arrangements of the Paris Peace Accords.
- The allocation in 1998: The state recognized land ownerships of people as part of the integration of people living in the last areas which had been controlled by the Khmer Rouge forces.

Besides the big land allocation phases mentioned above, the Royal Government has continually distributed land to people in relaton to the establishment of new villages, new settlements, mine clearing project implementation, and illegal land regularization for poor people where more than 17,000 families in total own more than 2,000 hectares of land which is mostly housing land.

“Recently, the Land Concession Committees at national and at province and city levels are cooperating with the National Authority for Solving Land Disputes to allocate land to people who need real land ownerships for land controlled illegally, and land that has previously been expropriated.

“The Royal Government will offer priority for land ownership for housing construction, for farming and small-scale utilization for poor families, and for most vulnerable people. To ensure efficiency in land use, the Royal Government encourages the creation of plans to allocate land for farming development, tourism industry, urban and rural areas, housing areas, reserved areas, and conservation areas, in order to avoid land use which does not meet the best potentiality.

“To gain experience in implementing ways to provide social land concessions very effectively, a testing plan for social land allocation and economic development has been developed to be taken as a good model for countrywide implementation. This testing plan supports social land concessions initiated by commune councilors at the local levels with technical support from district and provincial working teams. LASED programs being implemented at present are conducted in Cham Kravieng commune, Memut destrict, Kompong Cham, in Sambok and Changkrang communes, Kratie district, Kratie, and in Kompong Thom.

“For five years from 2008 to 2013, the project has around US$15 million available in total, out of which US$11.5 million is from the World Bank for operations and public investments, Euro 1.2 million [US$1.6 million] technical aid from Germany, and US$300,000 shared by the Royal Government of Cambodia. All funds are for social land concession implementation in 20 communes in the three provinces mentioned above. LASED projects started to be implemented on 11 September 2008.

“As a result, LASED projects have allocated social concession land to 775 poor families (525 families in Kratie, and 250 families in Kompong Cham), and continue to be implemented in a second component for the provision of some necessary rural development services and for the provision of food-for-work for the fist year to families that have acquired land in order to help support their livelihood.

“Besides implementing the above projects which are fully in line with Sub-Decree #19 on social concession land, the Royal Government has also provided social concession land to poor families that own no land or lack sufficient land. Consequently, 286 hectares of cleared landmine land were distributed to 9,416 families in total, where 79.17 hectares are farming land for 135 families, 15.57 hectares are housing land for 55 families, land for rural road construction for 7,731 families, 16.54 hectares are for rural road safety for 981 families, and 19.18 hectares are land for building schools for 350 families. In Kompong Speu, there are 224.5 hectares of disputed land in total, which has been solved where 18 hectares is housing land in Roleang Kreul commune, Samraong Tong district, that has been provided to 88 families, and 206.5 hectares of production land for 826 families (among them, 479 families had received land).

“LASED programs have faced some challenges from illegal land control after land had been registered as land of the state for social land concessions. Working teams will make broader publicity about it and the commune, district, and provincial authorities have to prevent such illegal land control. Besides, there will be more publicity so that poor families who own no land know and come to apply for concession land according to legal procedures.

“This workshop is a good opportunity for all members of working teams that implement LASED projects at national and sub- national levels, for World Bank, German GTZ, and for other non-government organizations to better understand social land concessions, and to discuss to find better solutions for experiments and follow-up goals of LASED programs with better results.”

Koh Santepheap, Vol.42, #6620, 4-5.4.2009
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Saturday, 4 April 2009

Maltese youth stranded in Cambodia with serious injuries

Nestor Laiviera

Malta Star
09 April 2009

A Maltese young woman was seriously injured in a traffic accident while on holiday, and is currently recieving treatment in a Cambodian hospital.

Through a Facebook group aimed at raising funds to pay for the youth's hospital fees, Lia Gatt, wrote how her sister Lisa, aged 25, was injured in a motorcycle accident on Tuesday 7 April while visiting Cambodia. The youth broke her femur bone and required major surgery.

“She has also injured her hand and it is swollen to the size of a baseball as she has describe to me but they are unable to give her an x-ray as she is unable to move,” Lisa had written on Facebook, adding that it is most likely broken as well.

The family had originally explained that they were appealing for donations, but have now informed that relatives and friends have now contributed to raise the required sum.

Referring to her sister’s current predicament, Lia wrote that she was in “a very poor country with not a lot of staff at the clinic/hospital where she is at. When she (Lisa) calls out to them for a bedpan, they do not come.”

"This is making me very frustrated and angry and feeling very helpless,” Lia wrote.

“We have been trying to communicate with her through mobile phone as much as possible,” she also wrote.

A few hours after the first appeal, on Thursday at noon Lia explained to that family and friends have now helped the family raise the neceessary funds to pay for Lisa's operation and for the flights to bring her back home to Malta.

Lia had initially set up the facebook group to get help in obtaining funds, as Lisa has no health insurance.

The family is currently in contact with the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, which is facilitating communication and dealings with Cambodian authorities. She added that the British Embassy has also stepped in and was also facilitating communications.

“Lisa is all alone out there, she has nobody with her. We’re trying to get dad flown out,” Lia told

She added that the Facebook group has already been a huge help, as generous individuals have been in touch with her already asking her how they could help.

For more information, log on to the Facebook page "Help bring Lisa back to Malta!!!".

Bashir arrest warrant hurts Sudan peace effort: Cambodia PM

PHNOM PENH, Apr 09, 2009 (AFP) - Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Thursday said the International Criminal Court's arrest warrant against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir undermines attempts to end war in Sudan.

"The warrant issued from the Hague will only destroy efforts (to bring peace) in Sudan. It will not have any results. Now you wait and see this," Hun Sen said during a ceremony.

"They have troops in their hands. (They) won't allow the arrest," he added.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) last month issued the warrant to arrest the Sudanese president for alleged crimes against humanity and genocide in Darfur.

A UN-backed genocide court is currently trying former leaders of the 1975 to 1979 Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia.

The ICC has accused al-Bashir of criminal responsibility for "exterminating, raping and forcibly transferring large numbers of civilians" from Darfur, where the United Nations says conflict has cost 300,000 lives.

The president has denied the ICC's charges and lashed out by expelling from Darfur 13 aid groups which the Sudanese government accused of cooperating with the ICC, and has defiantly embarked on several state visits in the region.

Sudan's Darfur conflict began after ethnic rebels took up arms against the Arab-dominated Khartoum government, complaining of discrimination.

Cambodia's genocide court has arrested five former Khmer Rouge leaders, however Hun Sen has stated he would rather the court failed than pursue more suspects.

Rights groups have criticised the premier for saying more arrests would destabilise the country.

The Khmer Rouge regime killed up to two million people in its attempt to forge a communist utopia.

The court, which has one trial underway, has faced controversy over allegations of political interference by the government and claims that Cambodian staff were forced to pay kickbacks for their jobs.

'Terror everywhere' at KRouge prison says survivor

Screen grab shows Francois Bizot, a French researcher who survived detention by the Khmer Rouge, during the trial of former Tuol Sleng prison chief Kaing Guek Eav - better known as Duch - in Phnom Penh on April 9. The French researcher has told Cambodia's UN-backed war crimes court that "terror was everywhere" at the prison camp.(AFP/AFP)

Thu Apr 9

PHNOM PENH (AFP) – A French researcher who survived detention by the Khmer Rouge told Cambodia's UN-backed war crimes court Thursday that "terror was everywhere" at a camp run by the regime's prison chief.

Francois Bizot, who wrote the best-selling book "The Gate" about his experiences, was the first witness to appear at prison chief Duch's trial for crimes against humanity.

"I can't recall M-13 without recalling the terrifying atmosphere of fear and death, or how much this atmosphere was embodied in Duch. Terror was everywhere," Bizot said of the camp where he was held.

"When Duch came back from meetings with his superiors, it was impossible not to see his despondency... You have to understand that it was always about deciding when the executions would take place," he told the court.

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

The court this week is hearing about M-13, which Duch ran during the 1971 to 1975 Khmer Rouge insurgency against the then US-backed government, to better understand Tuol Sleng's organising structure.

In his second day of testimony, Bizot said Duch 38 years ago interrogated him at M-13 in a "very meticulous and thorough fashion" after he was arrested by Khmer Rouge revolutionaries on suspicion of espionage.

Bizot, an anthropologist, said the young guards were "in awe" of Duch.

He testified Wednesday that Duch was not a monster, but a revolutionary on a "mission" whose job appeared to be to write up reports on the people sent to him for execution purposes.

The 69-year-old has said he was the best treated of 50 prisoners at M-13, where inmates were shackled to a bar and wracked with malaria.

Bizot said he was never beaten and Duch spoke to him politely, making him write several statements of innocence.

When he was released after a few months of detention, becoming one of 10 who survived the jungle prison camp, Duch was extremely fearful it would get them killed, Bizot said.

"Duch was worried and he was fearing an ambush from his superior, Ta Mok, who of course was not in favour of my release," Bizot said.

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

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.

Pol Pot died 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.

However the court is now jeopardised by allegations of political interference and corruption in the wake of claims that Cambodian staff were forced to pay kickbacks for their jobs.

Talks between the United Nations and senior Cambodian officials to stop corruption at the court ended this week with no agreement on how to create anti-corruption measures.

Bizot takes stand at Duch trial

A skull of a prisoner at Phnom Penh's Toul Sleng - once run by war crimes suspect Duch - is shown in a case as Buddhist monks perform a traditional pre-Khmer New Year blessing at the former prison on Wednesday.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Georgia Wilkins
Thursday, 09 April 2009

Francois Bizot, one of the few people to survive incarceration by prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, took the stand Wednesday, becoming the first witness to testify at Cambodia's war crimes tribunal.

"Duch was a man who looked much like many friends of mine, a Marxist who was prepared to surrender his life for the revolution," Bizot said, describing the 66-year-old former commandant, better known by his revolutionary name Duch.

In an intensely anticipated hearing, the French anthropologist drew the court's attention to the moral dilemma he faced when trying to understand the man who had presided over his three-month imprisonment at M-13, a secret prison on the outskirts of Kampong Speu that Duch ran from 1971-75.

"I had expected to encounter a monster ... but I realised then things were much more tragic, more frightening," Bizot told the court.

Bizot was arrested in September 1971 while working as a researcher in Cambodia. He was accused of being a CIA spy, then blindfolded and sent to M-13, which he described Wednesday as "the type of camp from which you would never return".

He was shackled to an iron bar with other inmates, but allowed certain freedoms such as daily baths and a farewell party upon his release.

Bizot was freed along with his two assistants after Duch requested his release from his superiors. They were three of only 10 people reported to have survived the prison.

"When I arrived there, I was welcomed by one of the chiefs, who proved to be cynical and aggressive and who, therefore, gave the necessary orders so that one of my heels be put into some kind of shackle at the end of a metal bar ... [Duch] took the decision to carry out interrogation himself... and said to me that there were counts against me that were very serious and I had to write down a statement of innocence. I thought these would be the last words I would write in my life," he said.

"Today it is Duch who is accused, and it is [he] who is, so to speak, all tied up," he said.

Although Bizot admitted Wednesday that he was "never tortured or witnessed torture" himself, he told the court that he was led to believe such acts occurred at M-13 though interactions with Duch and sightings of torture equipment.

"Duch, quite unhesitating, [told me] that sometimes he did the hitting, that he would hit the prisoners because they would lie and their testimonies would come up with contradictions. He said that he hated lying - lying was abhorrent to him," he said.

Describing Duch as a "cynical ... polite ... tireless worker who rarely spoke", Bizot said the prison chief interviewed him on a nightly basis to determine his true background.

It was in these meetings that Bizot came to understand Duch's hardened dedication as a young revolutionary, regardless of what this required of him.

"He said that his job was not to his liking, but it was the responsibility entrusted on him," Bizot said.

"He had done his job in a frightening way, but a very rigorous way."

Duch was later quizzed on Bizot's testimony, and excerpts from the Frenchman's novel The Gate, which recounted his experiences.

However, Duch claimed he had not yet read the book and would need more time to consider the questions.

Events occurring under Duch's command of M-13 are outside the court's jurisdiction, but are expected to form a picture of S-21 and Duch's personality.

Tribunal graft talks fail to find a solution

UN and Cambodian delegations led by Peter Taksoe-Jensen and Sok An meet to discuss how to address graft.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Vong Sokheng
Thursday, 09 April 2009

Three days of talks fail to produce anti-corruption mechanisms for troubled war crimes court.

AFTER three days of talks billed as a last-ditch attempt to address corruption allegations at the Khmer Rouge tribunal, the United Nations and Cambodian government failed Wednesday to reach an agreement on anti-corruption mechanisms at the hybrid court.

"We couldn't agree," UN Assistant Secretary General for Legal Affairs Peter Taksoe-Jensen told reporters after emerging from the closed-door meeting.

"We were very close to an agreement, and I have left a proposal on the table for Sok An to consider, but we will not continue negotiations from now on," he added.

In a statement released after the meeting, Taksoe-Jensen wrote that "the UN continues to be convinced that the Court will meet the principle of fair trial", but explained that the discussions had foundered over the nature of the proposed ethics monitoring mechanism.

"For the ethics monitoring system to be credible the staff should have the freedom to approach the Ethics Monitor of their own choice and put forward complaints without fear of retaliation," he wrote.

In response to the failure to set up acceptable mechanisms on the Cambodian side of the court, the UN said it would strengthen its own monitoring mechanism, including forwarding complaints to the UN headquarters in New York.

"Any complaint received will be shared with the Cambodian authorities while respecting confidentiality in a way that ensures full protection of staff of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia against any possible retaliation for good faith reporting of wrongdoing, as appropriate," he said.

Sok An declined comment after the meeting, but spokesman for the Council of Ministers Phay Siphan said that the meeting had been productive.

"Every meeting has had a result: to understand each other better," he said.

"It is not about the proposals of this and that, it is about the fact we sit together and talk together to increase the efficiency of our work, and strengthen ethics at the court."

Phay Siphan said that those making allegations of corruption had "tried to make the government lose face", but said that Cambodia was committed to working with the UN to improve court ethics.

He added that he believed negotiations would continue, as only a few key points remained unresolved, but would not clarify further.

Allegations that court staffers had to kick back a percentage of their wages to the government official who gave them their job first surfaced two years ago. The latest corruption allegations emerged last July, prompting the UN to launch a graft-review, the results of which have not been released.

In response to the allegations, donors have frozen funding to the Cambodian side of the court, pushing it to near bankruptcy.

This week's talks were seen as a way of hammering out a deal that would allow funding to resume.

Court monitors have expressed concern over the failure of the talks, urging both sides to reconsider walking away from the negotiating table, but reserving their harshest criticism for the Cambodian government.

"The continued reluctance from the government to set up reliable mechanisms to prevent or to deal with future corruption is a violation of the [ECCC] agreement that said the court had to be credible and meet international standards," said Long Panhavuth, program officer at the Open Society Justice Initiative.

Recent judicial progress at the court, at which the trial of the regime's top torturer Kaing Guek Eav is ongoing, underscores the urgency of resolving the graft allegations, Long Panhavuth said.

"While Duch's trial is a cornerstone of the ECCC proceedings, the success of the tribunal does not solely depend on the smoothness of Duch's trial - it rests also on its ability to demonstrate it is a competent and independent court."


Crime wave hits beach town

Tourists walk along a beach in Sihanoukville. Foreign residents have complained about a rise in muggings and bag-snatchings.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Christopher Shay and Chhay Channyda
Thursday, 09 April 2009

Despite official statistics that claim otherwise, many foreign residents of Sihanoukville say violence has spiked in their town.

RECENTLY, Kate Fitch has been put in a headlock, punched in the face and pulled off of a motorbike taxi in Sihanoukville, but she says it's not just bad luck. Muggings and violent bag-snatchings have become routine in the tourist-dependent town, she and others say.

"I've never ever seen so much unnecessary, random violence," Fitch, said, adding that nowadays in Sihanoukville, "Nobody feels safe".

Residents and business owners in the beach town have told the Post that a sharp rise in the number of violent crimes - especially against foreign residents - have made many afraid to go out alone or at night, putting a damper on city's once-lively nightlife.

"People aren't really wanting to go out at night," said Chantel Prince, a Sihanoukville resident and victim of a bag-snatching.

To the surprise of many, Tak Vanntha, the police chief in Preah Sihanouk province, announced that crime in the first quarter of 2009 was down from the same period last year.

In 2008, there were 25 reported crimes, while so far this year, there have been 23.

Upon hearing this statistic, one business owner who wished to remain anonymous called the number "laughable".

Tak Vanntha said the police have been actively patrolling the town's most popular beaches, saying, "We have deployed police at all the main tourist places like beaches ... [in order] to guarantee that tourists are safe to enjoy their visit in our province".

But another business owner who also wished to remain anonymous for fear of police reprisal said that two-thirds of motorbike bag snatchings seem to happen on a one-kilometre stretch of road and could be prevented.

"I would like to see more police patrolling at night. I feel like these crimes can be easily stopped," he said.

Sbong Sarath, the governor of Preah Sihanouk, said that during the three days of Khmer New Year, "in order to strengthen security, police forces will be deployed at 12 popular locations during the holidays", adding that there would be a 24-hour police presence.

A third business owner, again wishing to remain anonymous, called this three-day effort a "Band-Aid on a land mine".

The expat community has come together to try and ensure its own security and the safety of visitors.

"Now, we all help each other get home," Prince said. "People aren't going home alone."

In addition, two beachside businesses have been circulating a petition in both Khmer and English addressed to the minister of tourism, which has already garnered at least 90 signatures.

The petition states: "There has been a marked increase of street crime and violence in the Ochheuteal and Serendipity area in the last two months, and has affected us all directly or indirectly".

Tourism has dropped in Preah Sihanouk province by 9 percent in the first three months of 2009 compared with the first quarter of last year, and many businesses are concerned that stories of violent crime will only exacerbate the town's financial woes.

The German Foreign Ministry is already warning its citizens about crime in Sihanoukville.