Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Cambodia Tribunal Monitor; Trial of Kaing Guek Eav (alias "Duch")

10 June 2009: Trial of Kaing Guek Eav (alias "Duch")

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Part 5 Part 6 Part 7

9 June 2009: Trial of Kaing Guek Eav (alias "Duch")

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4
Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8

8 June 2009: Trial of Kaing Guek Eav (alias "Duch")

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4
Part 5 Part 6 Part 7

CAMBODIA TRIBUNAL MONITOR

DUCH’S 8-YEAR DETENTION RULED UNLAWFUL (BUT THOSE DETAINED AT S-21 WERE TREATED “LIKE DEAD PEOPLE” AND “REGARDED AS ANIMALS”)

June 15, 2009

By Laura MacDonald, Member of the New York Bar and Consultant to the Center for International Human Rights, Northwestern University School of Law

Download this blog entry as a PDF

Provisional Release Denied, But Previous Detention Violated Duch’s Rights

In a long-awaited decision, the Trial Chamber announced today that the detention of Kaing Guek Eav (alias Duch) by a Cambodian Military Court lasting over eight years was unlawful and a violation of his rights. The detention violated the three-year ceiling for provisional detention imposed by Cambodian law, at the time, and the prosecutor appeared at times to single-handedly extend Duch’s detention without sufficient investigation or legal reasoning. Accordingly, if Duch is acquitted by the ECCC, he may seek appropriate remedies for his detention in the domestic legal system. If Duch is convicted by the ECCC, he is entitled to “credit” for the time he was wrongfully detained, specifically from May 10, 1999 to July 31, 2007 when he was transferred to the custody of the ECCC pursuant to an arrest warrant issued by the Office of Co-Investigating Judges. The Chamber refrained from commenting on the nature or extent of remedies to which Duch may be entitled for other related violations of his rights.

In the same decision, the Chamber denied Duch’s request for provisional release, noting “the need to ensure [Duch’s] presence” at trial and “the gravity of the crimes for which he is accused.” Consequently, he will continue to be detained at the facility adjacent to the ECCC until the conclusion of the trial proceedings.

The Chamber also announced some of the results of the in camera trial management meeting that halted the proceedings last Thursday. Noting that the parties’ estimates about the conclusion of the trial range from August to December 2009, the Chamber has decided to limit time for questioning witnesses, other than Duch, allocating thirty minutes to the prosecution, forty minutes to all civil party groups combined, and forty minutes to the defense. Civil parties cut down their requested time for civil party testimony from sixty to thirty-seven hours and estimate they will call twenty-one witnesses, excluding survivors. The Chamber noted that during the meeting the civil parties raised concerns regarding their lack of financial support, poor working conditions, and the unavailability of some counsel after August 2009. The Chamber explained that the first two concerns, while outside the Chamber’s jurisdiction, are being considered by ECCC administrative officials and the availability issue will be addressed by the ECCC Victims Unit. The Chamber also announced it will be sitting one less day each month in order to alleviate its heavy work-flow and vowed to have an updated schedule issued as soon as possible.

Duch’s Avoidance of the Sights, Sounds, and Smells of S-21 “Beyond Cowardice”

Hundreds of high-school students and Cham villagers crowded the public gallery today to hear Duch’s testimony on the operations of Tuol Sleng prison (S-21). I hope the visiting villagers did not make exciting lunch plans for their day in Phnom Penh. After hours of graphic details about the disturbing treatment of prisoners at S-21, none of my usual lunch partners had much of an appetite. It was a very dark day in the courtroom.

Under questions from the Chamber, Duch explained how blindfolded, hand-cuffed male prisoners were stripped down to their underwear upon arrival at S-21 before being photographed and taken to cells where they remained shackled twenty-four hours a day. “Less important” prisoners were taken to common rooms, rather than individual cells, and shackled in a row with other prisoners. They were unable to sit up or communicate without permission. There were no bathroom facilities, so prisoners were forced to defecate on the spot. Prisoners were never allowed to change clothes and “bathing” involved spraying by a hose – the main purpose of which was to clean the floor rather than the prisoners themselves. No comforts were provided for sleeping, such as pillows, mats, or mosquito nets. Duch said the beds shown in some photographs of S-21 must have been added for prisoners after 1979. Prisoners were never allowed outside unless they were selected to do some sort of manual labor. Prisoners were not unshackled or released if they fell ill; rather, they were given medical attention only if staff needed to keep them alive to undergo interrogation. Gradually, all of the medical staff were determined to be enemies and detained at S-21, so Duch himself had to turn to detainees for health advice.

Duch explained that S-21 was a place where people were detained before they were executed, so there were no safeguards to protect rights. Prisoners were treated “like dead people” and “regarded as animals.” Duch said he was aware at the time that many prisoners died of starvation because inadequate rations were provided. Duch opined that no one in Cambodia had enough food and that he only weighed forty-nine kilograms during that period.

“Special” or “important” prisoners had slightly better conditions, including individual cells and “more polite” treatment, because Duch’s superiors were very interested in their confessions, which could implicate many others within the Communist Party of Kampuchea ranks. While there was some disagreement on numbers, Duch made clear that the few Westerners were given better treatment as well.

Women and children made up a little over twenty-three percent of the victims at S-21 and they, too, were treated a bit differently. Women were generally allowed to wear clothes and were allowed outside their cells at times. There were some female interrogators, but no female guards. At least half of the female prisoners were only at S-21 due to their relationship with a male prisoner and were not alleged to have committed any offense. Women were separated from their children, sometimes as young as one-year old, so the women could be interrogated and the children “smashed.” There was a strict policy not to allow any communication among family members at S-21.

Aside from the horrific details about S-21’s conditions, the most striking aspect of the testimony today was Duch’s real or perceived distance from S-21’s daily operations, despite the fact that his office was nearby and he served as the chairman. Duch claims he never visited the main detention facility and only on a few occasions visited the facility where “special” prisoners were kept. Duch was unable to answer many simple questions, such as whether women had a bathroom and what was done with all the prisoners’ clothes. He could not say whether there was loud screaming or terrible odors. On several occasions, Duch instructed the judges to direct detailed questions on S-21 operations to upcoming witnesses, such as Comrade Hor, his deputy.

After seeing Duch take such an active role in his defense, it is extremely difficult to imagine Duch being so hands-off in his management of the S-21 facility. At trial, Duch is well-prepared and detail-oriented. He recites eight-digit electronic reference numbers for various documents from memory. He corrects world-class interpreters on their French translations. He strives to get all the facts straight for the record, both big and small. Thankfully, at the end of the day, Judge Lavergne pushed Duch on his claim that he never visited S-21 and Duch finally poured out his heart and made the judges understand. Duch explained it was not the stench that kept him from S-21; rather, he could not bear to witness the suffering of those under his authority and allow those friends he had betrayed to see his face. Duch said he had to avoid S-21 altogether because whenever he would get close he would become emotional. Duch said, “I closed my eyes, closed my ears. I did not want to see the real situation.” Judge Lavergne asked if this should be considered “cowardice” to which Duch replied, “I think it was beyond cowardice.”

An unlikely hero



kiletters

INSEAD interview with Somaly Mam about her work to save Cambodian children from sex brothels. Somaly Mam is a driven, dynamic, inspiring and indefatigable leader. Those are some of the qualities that make her one of Time Magazines 100 most influential people and a CNN Hero.

Residents near the Stung Meanchey Dump complain about health issues: RFA



kiletters

RFA's Keo Pech Metta reports about health issues affecting poor villagers living near Stung Meanchey garbage dump. Children are affected by the smoke from the burning of the refuse. Foul odor also affects the health of nearby poor villagers.

Day in pictures

POOR RAILWAY SYSTEM IN CAMBODIA

A worker connects a train at a railway station in Phnom Penh June 16, 2009. Cambodia has awarded a 30-year contract to manage its railway system to a venture led by Australia's Toll Holdings, which should boost trade and attract more tourists, company officials said on Monday.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Workers transport bags of cement from the train at the railway station in Phnom Penh June 16, 2009 . Cambodia has awarded a 30-year contract to manage its railway system to a venture led by Australia's Toll Holdings, which should boost trade and attract more tourists, company officials said on Monday.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

A worker connects a train at a railway station in Phnom Penh June 16, 2009 . Cambodia has awarded a 30-year contract to manage its railway system to a venture led by Australia's Toll Holdings, which should boost trade and attract more tourists, company officials said on Monday.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

HEAVILY RAINING IN CAMBODIA
A Cambodian motorcyclist maneuvers through a flooded street along side cars on a rainy day in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Tuesday, June 16, 2009.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Cambodian Buddhist monks walk across a flooded road as they head to school on a rainy day in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Tuesday, June 16, 2009.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

A Cambodian boy rides on a water buffalo at his home backyard on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Monday, June 15, 2009, as he takes part to help his family after the school.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Alcatel-Lucent Makes A Difference In Cambodian Community


Tuesday, June 16, 2009: Alcatel-Lucent set aside one day during a recent senior leadership conference in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, to implement a major Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative. The 150 participants, across section of the company’s senior leaders in Asia Pacific, gave their time to build 45 houses for poor Cambodian families in Veal Thom village, outside of Phnom Penh.

The programme is part of the Alcatel-Lucent International Days of Caring (IDOC) project, a worldwide employee volunteer initiative (4 May-30 June 2009) addressing key community needs and issues. IDOC provides an opportunity for staff to be directly engaged in local community work to help those in need.

The initiative was organised in conjunction with Tabitha Cambodia, a non-profit organisation set up in 1994. Tabitha helps poor Cambodian families participate in a micro-banking programme that helps them work their way out of poverty. When local families save $30 toward a new home, they are eligible to participate in Tabitha’s house building programme. In this case, Alcatel-Lucent Asia Pacific provided all the additional funds, around $960 per house, to purchase the building materials for 45 houses, as well as one day of senior staff time to build fully funded houses for 45 families, or some 240 individuals.

“We chose Tabitha because they gave us an opportunity to get involved and make a difference through the work of our own hands,” said Sean Dolan, president, Alcatel-Lucent, Asia Pacific. “At Alcatel-Lucent, CSR means more than acting ethically, it also means providing opportunities for our employees to become involved and demonstrate day after day, the company’s concern for society.”

The Cambodian project caps a range of Asia Pacific staff community activities that include: Australia -- employees serving as guides during open days and community events at a science museum; China -- charity sales events in Shanghai and Chengdu to support communities and families devastated by last year’s major earthquake; India -- partnering with NGO’s to volunteer at orphanages in India; helping with life skills training for disadvantaged youth; organising collections for clothing and money; North Asia -- arranging for high school students to spend a day with employees at the office to give them exposure to the business world; and South and South East Asia -- donations to blood banks.

Alcatel-Lucent has been operating in Cambodia since 1992 and is a major supplier of GSM equipment and solutions to Mobitel.

Travel Angkor Wat, Cambodia - the 8th wonder of the world

PR-Inside.com (Pressemitteilung)
http://www.pr-inside.com

2009-06-16 - Here is the fact about visiting the ruins:

There are lots of them, covering an area of 400 square kilometers, though most visit only a handful of temples, which are thankfully very close to each other. The three most magnificent (and popular) temples Ruins fascinate people.

We fly halfway around the world to marvel at the achievements and mysteries of defunct civilizations, and shake our heads in disbelief that there were predecessors capable of producing structures that would present an insurmountable challenge to modern architects and engineers. We stand humbled.

Strange as it is that anyone would wish to spend a vacation steeped in a feeling of profound humility, the booming popularity of the ruins of Angkor in Cambodia are testament to that fact.

This mind-numbing collection of massive stone temples, built between the 9th and 13th centuries, was rediscovered by French explorers in the Cambodian jungle in the 1860s and enjoyed in popularity with scholars and adventurers early in the last century.

However, from the mid-seventies until just a couple of years ago, Cambodia’s political turmoil made it impossible to go there without risk of being killed or taken hostage by the Khmer Rouge. Fortunately, that tragic chapter in the country’s history has been brought to a close and the temples are now safe and accessible. Suddenly, the site has become the must-see of Southeast Asia.

But unlike a lot of stylish travel destinations, this one lives up to the hype.

Here is the fact about visiting the ruins: There are lots of them, covering an area of 400 square kilometers, though most visit only a handful of temples, which are thankfully very close to each other.

The three most magnificent (and popular) temples are the Angkor Wat, the Bayon and Ta Prohm.

Angkor Wat: An Exercise in Belief

Nothing can prepare you for the impact when you first clap eyes on Angkor Wat. It is a massive square structure covering 500 acres, and as you get closer, it only gets bigger.

The structure represents a Hindu conception of the universe, an earth-bound model of the cosmic world. The center symbolizes Mount Meru, the five surrounding towers form the mountain’s peaks, the main wall portrays the mountains at the edge of the world and the moat the infinite oceans beyond.

It is not just the sheer size that impresses though. The presentation sets your heart a-flutter with anticipation. The long walk up the causeway to the main entrance builds the excitement, and as you enter, you find you have only just passed an outer wall. Going further, distracted and awed by the bas reliefs on every surface, is the first of three concentric chambers with hallways 400 meters long, and covered with thousands of bas relief sculptures.

Venturing further inward and upward, the center section looms overhead leading to the inner sanctum, a central tower shaped like a giant lotus bud more than 200 meters tall.

It’s a cause for reflection. The execution of such a structure would certainly have eaten up much of the Empire’s resources. Indeed, some scholars believe that the building of Angkor eventually led to its downfall. Social necessities would have to be well sorted out before undertaking such a project.

Imagine the coordination of the massive workforce cutting huge blocks of stone from hillsides, dragging them into place, and then of course the logistics of assembling thousands of stone masons, persuading them to chip out identical carvings and then heaving them into place. What on earth were they thinking?

Angkor Thom: City of a Thousand Faces

Within walking distance of Angkor Wat is the former city of Angkor Thom, which rivaled Ancient Rome in size and population. This contains a few significant ruins, including the Terrace of the Leper King, is a huge stone platform probably used for public events, and the Terrace of the Elephants, which is also believed to have served as a stage for large public ceremonies. Both feature meticulously executed stone carvings of both human and mythical figures.

The most fascinating section though is The Bayon, a temple built in the 12th century. Where Angkor Wat knocks you off your feet with its sheer size, the Bayon is eerily different. Its many towers feature more than 200 huge faces of the God-King Jayavarman rendered as Boddhisatva – the Buddha -- staring down through lidded eyes brimming with beatific confidence. It’s difficult not to be intimidated.

The outer walls are covered in carvings depicting vivid scenes of everyday life in 12th century Cambodia – from harvesting to battle. The inner temple is a maze of dark corridors. The lights at the ends of the tunnels open onto elevated courtyards, where that omnipresent face gazes down with benevolent disapproval.

Ta Phrom: Mother Nature Always Wins

While Angkor Wat was preserved by the continuous inhabitation of monks using machetes to keep the jungle at bay, or other structures undergoing restoration, the 12th century temple of Ta Phrom is in the same state as when it was first discovered by the 19th century explorers.

The temple roof caved in hundreds of years back and tree roots have patiently burst through the moss-encrusted stonewalls. Visitors must clamber over fallen blocks the size of Volkswagens.

There’s a lesson in here, and this is why Ta Phrom has been left untouched. Even the most impressive achievements of humans are dwarfed by nature’s relentlessness. However much we may conquer and subdue the earth, it persists in conquering and subduing us back.

If global society were to crumble tomorrow, (and it just might), the historians of some future civilization would sift through the rubble of New York City, marveling at the skeletal ruins of the World Trade Center and the Empire State Building and easily deduce much about the civilization that built them. After all, they were intended to make a statement in the first place.

The leaders of that civilization may even charge admission to look at our ruins, using the money to erect ambitious tributes to whatever it is that summons their own sense of awe.

It goes to show you. Previous civilizations have built great structures and committed great follies – usually at the same time. Chances are that so are we, and the ruins of the Khmer Empire are a profound reminder of that fact – and perhaps one of the best reasons to go see them.

Source: Circle Asia

ASEAN officials meet in Cambodia for disaster management

www.chinaview.cn
2009-06-16

PHNOM PENH, June 16 (Xinhua) -- At least 30 officials from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) met in Cambodia's capital Phnom Penh on Tuesday for disaster management and cooperation of mutual benefits with the support from Asia disaster reduction center.

The three-day conference focuses on the capacity building for government officials on disaster management, according to the conference documents.

The participants will help each other if in case of necessary events and will share information to prevent disaster, the documents said.

According to a report from Cambodia's National Committee of Disaster Management (NCDM), 49 storms hit the country in the first five months of this year, killing two people and injuring 45 others. The disasters also destroyed 575 houses and damaged 717 others.

There are also 50 fires reported in the first five months of this year, causing nine deaths and five injuries. The fires also destroyed 650 houses, 230 stores and 65 tons of un-milled rice in the country.

Lighting strikes killed 79 people and injured two others.

Disaster hazards have increased sharply compared with the same period of last year, NCDM said.

The ASEAN includes the ten countries of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Editor: Bi Mingxin

Vietnam To Build $438 Million Railway To Cambodia

HANOI -(Dow Jones)- Vietnam will spend $438 million to build a railway linking the economic hub of Ho Chi Minh City with Cambodia, the Ministry of Transport said Tuesday.

The 128.5-kilometer railway from Ho Chi Minh City to the border with Cambodia will form part of the Trans-Asia Railway linking Singapore and Kunming, China, the ministry said in a statement.

Vietnam expects to get official development assistance from China and other international donors to build the railway, it said.

A feasibility study on the project is being prepared by a Chinese consulting consortium and should be submitted to the Vietnam Railway Department later this month, the ministry said.

Construction is scheduled to begin in 2010.

-By Vu Trong Khanh, Dow Jones Newswires; 844 35123042; trong-khanh.vu@ dowjones.com

New UN rights envoy in Cambodia

Rights groups have criticised the government over forced evictions

By Guy DeLauney
BBC News, Phnom Penh

The new UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Cambodia, Surya Subedi, is making his first visit to the country.

Professor Subedi has said he wants to establish fruitful and constructive dialogue with the Cambodian government.

But his predecessors struggled to do that, and Prof Subedi's visit comes as civil society groups have said they are concerned about the rights situation.

The government has consistently defended its human rights record, noting recent democratic elections.

This is a chance for a fresh start in the relationship between the Cambodian government and the UN's human rights organisation.

But that may require diplomacy and patience on both sides.

UN concern

Prof Subedi's predecessor resigned last year after enduring months of snubs and insults from the government.

Ministers declined requests for meetings, and one called the envoy a long-term tourist.

The new rapporteur is keen to avoid a repeat of that situation.

He has indicated that his first visit will concentrate on establishing contacts with key officials and it seems the government has been receptive.

But Prof Subedi will also be meeting the leaders of local organisations who say they are worried about recent developments in Cambodia.

The UN's human rights office in Phnom Penh has just issued a statement expressing concern about the use of defamation and disinformation laws to silence government critics.

Other organisations have criticised land grabs and corruption.

But the government has consistently defended its human rights record, pointing to the success of several democratic elections since the return of peace in the 1990s.

Critics slam Cambodia's rulers on free speech

Cambodian workers (in red tops) pull down homes during the eviction of families in the capital Phnom Penh

PHNOM PENH (AFP) — An international rights group has criticised Cambodia's ruling party for allegedly stifling free speech through the use of legal action against government critics.

New York-based Human Rights Watch called on Premier Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party to stop "its threats, harassment and spurious legal action against members of parliament and lawyers defending free expression".

Cambodian authorities have lodged at least eight criminal defamation and disinformation complaints against government critics since April.

"These lawsuits are a clear attempt to intimidate the opposition and prevent members of parliament from exercising free expression," said Brad Adams, Asia director for Human Rights Watch.

"Even by Cambodian standards, the state of freedom of expression and democratic rights is growing more fragile by the day," he added.

The National Assembly is expected to decide next week whether to strip parliamentary immunity from Mu Sochua, a lawmaker from the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, so that a criminal defamation case against her can proceed.

The charges stem from a now dismissed lawsuit she filed against Hun Sen for allegedly making derogatory comments about her.

The UN's human rights office in Cambodia also issued a briefing Monday warning the spate of lawsuits against critics could nurture "fear, frustration and anger, with the risk of leading to further conflict and violence".

MP's immunity debate opens


Photo by: HENG CHIVOAN
Activist Yeng Virak outside the National Assembly on Monday, after delivering a letter to Assembly President Heng Samrin.


Written by Meas Sokchea
Tuesday, 16 June 2009

THE National Assembly's Permanent Committee met Monday to consider a court-sanctioned request to lift the immunity of opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua and allow Prime Minister Hun Sen's defamation suit against her to go ahead, officials said.

"The issue of lifting [Mu Sochua's] immunity has been included in the agenda for this session of the Permanent Committee, and a decision will come on June 22, when the Assembly will [decide whether to] adopt" the committee's recommendations, senior Cambodian People's Party lawmaker Cheam Yeap told the Post Monday.

The defamation case against the outspoken Kampot lawmaker is a response to Mu Sochua's attempt to sue the prime minister for what she says were defamatory remarks made about her during a speech in April.

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court rejected Mu Sochua's lawsuit last week, saying it was groundless, but moved ahead with Hun Sen's countersuit, asking the National Assembly to lift Mu Sochua's immunity so that it might proceed with questioning.

Mu Sochua told the Post Monday she would go to jail rather than pay the 10 million riels (US$2,410) that Hun Sen is demanding.

"I have said again and again that my case is a symbol of the entire justice system in Cambodia, and I repeat: I will not pay.... I am ready to go to prison, and I would like to emphasise I will not flee," said the former Minister of Women's Affairs, who has a US passport.

Since Mu Sochua's case was discussed at a standard session of the committee, a decision will still have to be approved by two-thirds of the members of the National Assembly.

The ruling CPP holds more than two-thirds of seats in the body.

Last year, an extraordinary session of the 12-member Permanent Committee was called to strip opposition leader Sam Rainsy of his parliamentary immunity.

The Permanent Committee is made up of the heads of all the Assembly's committees - all of whom are CPP members - and presided over by Assembly President Heng Samrin.

In an April 4 speech in Kampot, Hun Sen referred to an unnamed lawmaker as a cheung klang, or "strong leg", term viewed by some as particularly offensive to women. Mu Sochua has said repeatedly that the speech clearly referred to her, noting that Hun Sen described the same lawmaker as a "strong female MP from the opposition party in Kampot" who lost a button on her shirt while running around embracing people.

During last year's election campaign, Mu Sochua was involved in an altercation in which she said an army general tore a button from her blouse and exposed her bra.

Mu Sochua said that if the prime minister's comments in April did not refer to her, as his defence team claim, he should clarify to whom he was referring. "He must take responsibility for his words and answer in front of parliament," she said.

Also Monday, 11 civil society groups delivered a letter to Heng Samrin asking the Assembly reconsider stripping Mu Sochua of her immunity.

"If parliamentary immunity can be lifted easily, it makes everyone afraid; if parliamentarians have fear, democracy and national development have problems," said the director of the Community Legal Education Centre ,Yeng Virak, who was allowed to deliver the letter.

The letter outlined concerns over the lawsuits, and urged the duelling parliamentarians to resolve the matter out of court, saying they "regret" that CPP lawmaker and permanent committee member Cheam Yeap had already announced publicly that parliament would lift Mu Sochua's immunity, Yeng Virak said.

The president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association, Rong Chhun, said parliamentary immunity would be worthless if it could be lifted so easily, and threatened mass protests if the Assembly went ahead with the move.

"If Mu Sochua is arrested, we will lead mass demonstrations throughout the country with teachers and workers."

S-21 chief's detention 'unlawful'


Written by Robbie Corey-Boulet
Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Chamber says Duch could be entitled to sentence reduction.

THE Trial Chamber of the Khmer Rouge tribunal ruled Monday that Tuol Sleng prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, was unlawfully detained by the Cambodian Military Court prior to his arrest by the UN-backed court and could be entitled to a reduction of any sentence resulting from his ongoing trial for crimes against humanity and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions.

In the 15-page ruling, the chamber sided with the defence in finding that Duch's eight-year detention at the court ­- from 1999 to 2007, when he was transferred to the custody of the Khmer Rouge tribunal - was "an error of application of procedural law" and "a violation of his rights".

But the chamber denied the defence lawyers' request to suspend Duch's provisional detention, ruling that he should remain in jail for the duration of his trial.

Duch was arrested and detained by the Military Court on May 10, 1999, on charges that Monday's filing describes as "broadly similar" to the ones he currently faces, which relate to the deaths of some 16,000 prisoners from Tuol Sleng during the Khmer Rouge years.

The chamber found that, under the Law on Duration of Pre-Trial Detention, adopted by the Cambodian government in 1999, provisional detention for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity charges could last for only three years.

Francois Roux, Duch's international co-lawyer, declined to comment on the court's decision to continue his client's pretrial detention.

"But I notice, with pleasure, that the court ruled with us on the other point that we raised about Duch's detention by the Military Court, which is that it was unlawful," he said. "So he can demand compensation when the judges discuss his sentence."

In addition to arguing for his continued detention, the co-prosecutors had argued that "any alleged violation" of Duch's rights "is irrelevant" before the tribunal because they had not requested that Duch be detained by the Military Court, according to the filing.

Unanswered question
Though the chamber ruled that Duch would receive credit for the eight years he spent at the Military Court, parties and observers said Monday that the more pressing question was whether any sentence would be reduced even further due the fact that his rights were violated.

"Of course everybody knew the 10 years he spent in jail ... should be subtracted at the end," said civil party lawyer Alain Werner, referring to the amount of time for which Duch has been detained so far.

"The big question is whether they're going to consider whether more time should be subtracted because it was unlawful," Werner said.

The chamber put off answering that question until sentencing, assuming Duch is convicted.

Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Centre of Cambodia, also said he was eager to see whether the court would reduce a sentence on account of the unlawful detention.

"It is only then that we will decide whether we will be happy ... or whether we have to find other means to fulfil our wishes for justice," he said.

Duch faces a maximum sentence of life in prison. The tribunal does not have the power to impose the death penalty.

Administrative meeting
Also Monday, Trial Chamber Judge Silvia Cartwright noted that there were "wide variations in parties' estimates of the time needed to complete the evidence" that has yet to be presented at the trial.

"These range from August to December of 2009," she said.

She said the chamber would begin "assigning speaking times" to various parties as an attempt to speed up the process.

Civil parties, for instance, will generally be allotted 40 minutes for each witness, she said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY NETH PHEAKTRA

UN decries glut of lawsuits


Photo by: HENG CHIVOAN
Hang Chakra, publisher of the Khmer Machas Srok newspaper, leaves Phnom Penh Municipal Court after a June 3 hearing.


Written by SEBASTIAN STRANGIO
Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Rights office fears defamation cases could erode democratic gains.

ARECENT string of defamation and disinformation lawsuits filed against opposition lawmakers and journalists is inhibiting free and open discussion in Cambodia, the UN said Monday, citing it as a "serious threat" to the country's democratic development.

As the UN's new rights envoy Surya Subedi arrived in Phnom Penh for the first time, the local UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said in the statement that the two months since April have seen an spike in judicial activity, with high-level officials filing eight separate defamation and disinformation suits against government critics.

"These actions undermine the constitutional freedom of opinion and expression which everyone in Cambodia is entitled to, and which is the cornerstone of the exercise of civil and political rights," it said.

"Pursuing the current complaints may reverse the course of the still fragile democratic development process."

The statement cited as examples the series of complaints filed by government officials, including separate cases against opposition party president Sam Rainsy; SRP lawmakers Mu Sochua and Ho Vann; Hang Chakra, publisher of the Khmer Machas Srok newspaper; Khmer Civilisation Association President Moeun Sonn; and Soung Sophorn, a 22-year-old student.

The last is the only case to have received a verdict: On June 8, Soung Sophorn was fined US$1,250 for spray painting anti-government slogans on the walls of his private residence near Boeung Kak lake.

The criticisms come amidst a wave of similar complaints from local civil society groups, who claim the government has enlisted the UNTAC criminal code's Articles 62 [disinformation] and 63 [defamation and libel] as the newest weapons in its fight against dissenting opinion.

Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Centre of Human Rights, said the current situation paralleled a similar period in 2005, when, he said, the government went on a judicial offensive to divert attention from an unpopular border treaty with Vietnam.

"Instead of defending the treaty, the Cambodian government began filing a lot of defamation lawsuits," he said.

The main concern in 2009, Ou Virak said, is land rights.

"Land issues today are the only issues in Cambodia that could ... potentially create social unrest and might even undermine the current government," he said.

"Land conflicts are so widespread that the government has to do something drastic and divert attention."

The CCHR issued a statement along with four other local NGOs Thursday, citing "the perilous state" of freedom of expression in Cambodia due to recent court actions and crackdowns on public meetings.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said he had not seen the statement, but that the UN's criticisms of the government usually ignore the facts on the ground.

"Before they accuse [the government], they should learn more about Cambodia," he said. "We just carry out what the law requires. We have all kinds of laws to protect human rights and human dignity."

'I closed my eyes, closed my ears' to Tuol Sleng, Duch says


Photo by: GEORGIA WILKINS
Duch testifies at the ECCC.


Written by Robbie Corey-Boulet and Georgia Wilkins
Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Nuon Chea lawyers allege govt involvement in choice of judges.

MOST detainees at Tuol Sleng prison were treated by guards "like animals" who were merely biding their time as they waited for execution orders to be handed down, prison chief Kaing Guek Eav told Cambodia's war crimes court Monday.

In the first day of testimony focused exclusively on the operations of the notorious torture centre, Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, described the journey from detention to interrogation to torture to execution, including details of how prisoners were shackled, blindfolded, hosed down and deprived of food and medical care.

"We already treated them as dead people," Duch said. "We only waited for the time when they would be smashed."

Under questioning from Presiding Judge Nil Nonn, Duch frequently expressed ignorance of operational details, claiming that he delegated the day-to-day work of the prison to subordinates and avoided the prison compound altogether.

"I tried to avoid those people who I knew. I did not want them to see my face when they were placed under such conditions," he told the court.

"I closed my eyes, closed my ears. I did not want to see the real situation."

Duch is on trial for crimes against humanity and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions during his time as chief of Tuol Sleng.

More interference charges
Also Monday, defence lawyers at the Khmer Rouge tribunal said a document obtained from a source they declined to identify could perhaps be evidence that Prime Minister Hun Sen was directly involved in the selecting of judges at the UN-backed court.

The allegation came from the lawyers of former Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea, who in recent weeks have alleged that classified documents were stolen from their office and who first argued that Victims' Unit chief Helen Jarvis's expressed political views could compromise her work at the court.

The document, which they say is a signed letter addressed to Hun Sen by Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, lists judicial officers at the court and asks "for your exalted opinion and decision".

The typed document has been marked in pen. One name is crossed out. Some names have numbers next to them, and others have the words "au choix" ("chose", in French) written next to them. It appears to have been signed by Hun Sen.

"We are concerned about this document because it suggests that the prime minister may have been involved in appointing judges at the court, over and beyond the agreement and the law," said Andrew Ianuzzi, a legal consultant for the Nuon Chea defence team.

Council of Ministers spokesperson Phay Siphan and Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith could not be reached for comment Monday.

Portuguese company after Koh Kong wreck


Written by Cheang Socha
Tuesday, 16 June 2009

A PORTUGUESE company has expressed interest in pursuing the recovery of a 600-year-old Chinese shipwreck discovered off the coast of Koh Kong province in 2006. Staff at Arqueonautas Arqueologia Subaquatica Worldwide, a marine archeology group, said that the company had contacted officials at the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts to discuss the recovery of the wreck.

"We are simply waiting for an answer regarding their decision on how to proceed," said Katie Whiddon, a project assistant at Arqueonautas Worldwide. Since its founding, the company has discovered more than 150 wreck sites in Africa and Asia. Fourteen historical shipwrecks have been excavated, and approximately 100,000 coins and more than 10,000 artefacts recovered.

The wrecked Chinese trading ship, which is believed to have sunk in the 14th or 15th century, was found in February 2006, about 20 kilometres off the coast of Koh Sdech island after a local fishing fleet reported that looters were plundering the site with makeshift diving equipment. Two Russian dive teams yielded some 900 pieces of pottery that were treated with salt and kept at a casino owned by CPP Senator Ly Yong Phat in Koh Kong.

Khim Sarith, secretary of state at Ministry of Culture and the chairman of the government commission overlooking the recovery of the shipwreck, said the government was seeking international assistance in the recovery of the sunken ship, but had so far received no interest.
"We will wait to cooperate with this company if they are interested," he said Friday, adding that an exploration request may have not made it to senior commission members yet.

According to Whiddon, Arqueonautas Worldwide currently holds exclusive survey and recovery licenses in Mozambique and Indonesia, and is pursuing additional agreements in Asia and the Americas. The company's mission is to recover and protect world maritime heritage and advance learning through scientifically conducted marine archaeological projects.

Ethnic minorities in Ratanakkiri take crash course in radio


Photo by: PHOTO SUPPLIED
An FM 89.5 radio employee talks to a local Kreung woman in Ratanakkiri province, asking for feedback on their broadcasts.


Written by MOM KUNTHEAR
Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Members of the Prov community are trying their hand at radio, in a programme aimed at opening up media to minority groups.

FIVE members of the Prov ethnic minority from Laos arrived Monday in Ratanakkiri for a radio training course, taking advantage of a pioneering programme that seeks to give traditionally marginalised communities access to and control over local media.

"[The training course is good] because we get to exchange experiences with each other about making radio programmes for ethnic communities and discuss what happens in Prov communities," said Hout Vuthy, UNESCO's technical expert for Cambodia.

For two years, FM 89.5 has been broadcasting in local minority languages in Ratanakkiri province, and its training courses have been slowly expanding. Since its inception, 22 ethnic minority Cambodians have been trained to broadcast in their local languages.

The Prov ethnic group lives in both Laos and Ratanakkiri, and the visiting Prov groups are able to communicate in the same language with those in Cambodia.

"We started the programme for ethnic minority groups in 2007, when our radio station started. There are many ethnic minorities in Ratanakkiri, and they have never had a chance to get information or be educated through the media before, so I had the idea to produce programmes to educate them," said Uy Sothy, the office director of the station said Sunday.

"I produced many programmes related to HIV/AIDS, land disputes, domestic violence, and drugs and human trafficking by making dramas in their own language. It's easy for them to listen because most of them can understand more in their own language [than Khmer]," he said, adding that his station airs three times a day.

A familiar tongue
Hoeun Chanroth, 19, from the Prov community in Ratanakkiri, said local language programming has exposed him to information he would never normally receive.

"I never knew about HIV/AIDS and how to protect myself from it, but after listening to the radio broadcast, I know a little," he said.

Hout Vuthy said the funding for the radio programme comes from the Asian Development Bank and UNESCO as part of a poverty-reduction project. He said the expansion of community radio in local languages is critical to ensuring ethnic minorities are not exploited due to their lack of education and knowledge about the mainstream legal system.

"The radio programme ... is important because when they listen they know how to protect themselves and their children from cheating or trafficking. ... They know more about the situation in their province and society, even though they cannot read," he said.

There are 13 different ethnic minorities in Ratanakkiri, including the Phnong, Prov, Kroeng and Jarai, totalling more than 130,000 people, according to Hout Vuthty.

Hoeun Chanroth said he wished the station could broadcast more often in Prov.

"It broadcasts for too short a time," he said, adding that he hopes to one day run his own native Prov language programme.

Handling of spousal rape case draws fire


Written by Chrann Chamroeun
Tuesday, 16 June 2009

A KAMPONG Chhnang court is investigating accusations that a 29-year-old policeman, who was arrested on claims he assaulted his pregnant wife, also repeatedly raped her while she was locked in her room for two months before finally escaping. Rights groups and the victim's lawyer urged that the suspect, who has only been charged with assaulting the 24-year-old woman, face more serious charges.

Sen Vibol, from Kampong Speu, was arrested May 25 after threatening his wife and her family with a knife at their Kampong Chhnang province home, victim's lawyer Hok Mengeam told the Post Monday.

She added that during the investigation into the assault, the victim, who is four months pregnant, accused Sen Vibol of detaining and raping her, saying that she had been handcuffed to a bed in a locked room.

The victim only escaped after convincing one of her husband's relatives to free her, Hok Mengeam said.

"I will follow up with investigating judge this week to present him [more evidence] in order to add charges against the man because his act were brutal," Hok Mengeam said.

The case has raised alarm among rights workers, who say Sen Vibol must face more serious charges.

"I very much regret that the court charged the man only with injuring his wife, which is a very light charge," said Kong Chanmony, a coordinator for the rights group Licadho in Kampong Chhnang province.

"Her detained husband said at the police station that he locked up his wife just for fun, as she is his wife," Kong Chanmony said.

Prak Sao Ny, the chief of Kampong Chhnang provincial Anti-human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Bureau Police, said Monday: "[The man] confessed that he tortured his wife ... and I firmly hope that he will be seriously be punished."

Brutal, but not unique
Ket Marady, chief of the Legal Protection Department at the Women's Affairs Ministry, said that, although this case was particularly brutal, "there are lots of different kinds of spousal abuse and domestic violence in Cambodia, including mental, physical, sexual and economic".

She added that while more victims of spousal abuse were speaking out, many are still pressured into remaining silent.

"I am very proud that now some Cambodian women are brave enough to ask for police intervention for spousal abuse ... but others remain silent because traditions and customs do not allow them to face their domestic problems," she said.

Koh Kong forum highlights benefits, pitfalls of hydro dams


Written by SEBASTIAN STRANGIO and SAM RITH
Tuesday, 16 June 2009

GOVERNMENT officials and civil society groups met Monday in Koh Kong to discuss the likely effects of a hydropower dam slated for construction on the Tatay River, in the province's Thmor Band district, participants said.

At the public forum, held at the office of Koh Kong Governor Yuth Phouthang, researchers presented a draft environmental impact assessment of the dam and fielded questions from NGOs and residents about the impacts of the US$540 million project, participants said.

Taing Sophanara, a researcher for Key Consultants Cambodia (KCC), the firm conducting the assessment for the 246-megawatt dam, said the meeting allowed him to release preliminary results from the research.

"The meeting today was just to show some results in order to ask for comments from the people, involving government departments and other non-governmental organisations," he said, adding that the project would have "both positive and negative" effects.

Taing Sophanara said KCC had been hired by the Chinese National Heavy Machinery Cooperation, the Chinese firm building the dam, to conduct the assessment, which he expected to submit to the Ministry of Environment by the end of the year.

It would then be up to the government to decide whether the project got the green light.

Cardamom impacts
But the Stung Tatay dam - like a spate of other hydropower projects the government hopes will provide the country with cheap power - could have significant environmental effects in the Cardamom Mountains, so far relatively untouched by development.

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THE LONG AND SHORT OF IT IS THAT NONE OF THIS [POWER] IS GOING TO KOH KONG.
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A feasibility study conducted by China National in 2007 found that 2,000 hectares of forest would be inundated at the reservoir site, predicting "significant" hydrological changes and a deterioration in water quality, with possible effects on wildlife and humans. It also predicted negative effects on fish migration.

Janet Newman, the owner and manager of the Rainbow Lodge Guest House in Tatay commune who has been following the development of the dam closely, said that while the Cardamoms would experience most of the negative effects of the dam, most its benefits would be felt elsewhere.

At a forum in April, she said local residents were promised that irrigation and other benefits would come with the onset of cheap electricity from Stung Tatay, but that it was clear now that most would be transmitted to Pursat province.

"The long and short of it is that none of this [power] is going to Koh Kong," she said after the forum.

An April 13 press release by SINOMACH, a Chinese state-owned enterprise group, reported that the power generated at Stung Tatay would be "transmitted to the Phnom Penh-Battambang Power Grid". It also said it expected power generation to begin in 2013.

Carl Middleton, Mekong programme coordinator of International Rivers, said an ideal process of dam impact assessment would involve close local consultation, including a "no-project" option, adding that impact studies commissioned by construction companies sometimes ran the risk of being compromised by "vested interests".

But Koh Kong Deputy Governor Son Dara said Monday that the government was doing what it could to reduce the negative impacts of the dam.

"As we know, each dam development project has social and environmental impacts," he said. "Now we are finding ways to reduce the impacts, such as thinking where and how to remove people from the impacted area."

Jailed, meth-addicted child baffles NGO and prison officials in Poipet


Photo by: Eleanor AinGe Roy
Heng Pros in prison uniform at Banteay Meanchey prison. He is suspected to be under the legal age for incarceration.


Written by Eleanor Ainge Roy and May Titthara
Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Poipet

No one knows how old Heng Pros really is, but he has caused so much trouble on the streets that police have put him in prison, to the dismay of rights workers who say a minor has been locked up.

HENG Pros, a prisoner at Banteay Meanchey's new provincial lockup, is 115 centimetres tall, weighs 38 kilograms and is still growing his adult teeth. His blue prison shirt reaches to his knees, enveloping his slight, boyish frame. Telltale webs of pink scars mar his young brown skin, hinting of a rough life on the streets.

On April 25, Heng Pros was arrested by Poipet police and charged with stealing a mobile phone - a charge he denies. Claiming he was 15 years old and citing a long line of misdemeanor offences, police detained him in a 4-metre-by-4-metre cell with seven other prisoners, all aged between 15 and 17 years.

"This child was noisy and always stole property around Poipet," said Prum Piseth, chief of the Penal Police in O'Chrov district, which includes Poipet. "He is the king of the robbers and drug users, and when we arrested him he told us that he was 15."

The law in Cambodia allows minors as young as 15 to be imprisoned. But children under that age must be taken to a social welfare centre for juveniles run by the Ministry of Social Affairs, of which there is one in Poipet.

Heng Pros, whose head barely grazes the belt buckles of most of the prison guards, insists that he is only 12 years old, and the rights group Licadho is backing his story, despite a frustrating lack of evidence.

Chea Sothea, a Licadho researcher working on the case, is concerned the police, frustrated with this pint-sized gangster, have falsified Heng Pros' age so that he could be put behind bars.

"We think the Poipet police are aware that he is not yet 15, but he is a problem child in Poipet, so they say he is older to allow him to be arrested," she said.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
He was definitely on the way to becoming one of the top gangsters in Poipet."
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

So far, the only evidence of Heng Pros' age is anecdotal - no documents or family testimony have come to light. The only clue is Heng Pros' story: When his alcoholic mother was on her death bed, she told him that he was born in the Year of the Pig. If true, that would mean Heng Pros was born between January 1995 and February 1996 and is currently 13 years old.

His father, who abandoned his son long ago and whose name is not known, cannot be found. Heng Pros says that he sought help from him after his mother's death, but was disowned and turned away.

So Heng Pros took to the streets. For around two years he has been living with a 20-strong gang in Poipet called Thleum, collecting garbage and stealing small goods to feed his methamphetamine addiction.

"Smart, cunning and very heavily addicted to drugs," was how Yan Sam, coordinator of the Damnak Teuk Drop-in Centre where Heng Pros occasionally stayed, described the child.

"He used to come to our centre sometimes, but he was always a troublemaker, trying to entice the other children away and back onto the streets. He was definitely on the way to becoming one of the top gangsters in Poipet," Yan Sam added.

Turning over a new leaf
Despite such bleak accounts of Heng Pros' criminal past, Bantaey Meanchey Provincial Prison Deputy Chief Phean Chhavan says he is a "model prisoner" and a "simple boy who behaves himself".

Phean Chhavan admits that Heng Pros is the smallest prisoner he has ever seen, but argues prison authorities had no choice but to lock him up in temporary detention while the provincial court investigates his case.

It is unlikely, however, that the officially stated age of Heng Pros will change, as it has already appeared in the original police report and has been accepted by the judge presiding over the case.

But street policemen, immigration officials, NGO workers and street children in Poipet are equally aghast when they are shown a photo of Heng Pros, taken recently in prison, and all insist that he is younger than15.

"The problem, though, is proof," says Chea Sothea, a researcher at the Licadho office in Bantaey Meanchey who is working on uncovering Heng Pros's real age.

"He changes his story a lot. About what exactly he stole and when he last saw his father - who is really our only lead. At the moment we are at a loss as to how to prove his age," she said. "When I exhaust my options, I will send the case to the head office in Phnom Penh, but I am not hopeful that they will be able to find hard evidence either."

Despite Heng Pros' insistence that he is too young to be locked up, the youth says his life has improved behind bars, and he has put on weight the past six weeks.

He also says that is mind is clearer and free of the headaches that plagued him when he was taking methamphetamine three to four times a day. He now says he wants to change his life if he is released from prison.

"I stole because I had to to survive," he told the Post. "And I took drugs because it was the only way I could feel happy. If I am released from prison I want to change. There are many more things I want to do than drugs and crime."

Foreign minister: No word yet on Thai restitution at Preah Vihear


Photo by: TRACEY SHELTON
Foreign Minister Hor Namhong shown here in a file photograph.

Written by Cheang Sokha
Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Cambodia is seeking $2.1m in damages for razing of 264 market stalls.

THE Cambodian government is still waiting for a Thai response to its demands for compensation for a market that was destroyed during border clashes in April, Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said Monday.

Speaking with reporters at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Hor Namhong said the issue was not on the official agenda during talks between Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Thai counterpart, Abhisit Vejjajiva, in Phnom Penh on Friday.

"The Thai prime minister and the Thai foreign minister have never dismissed our claims, but they asked for time to investigate," Hor Namhong said.

Cambodia is seeking US$2.1 million in damages from Thailand over the destruction of 264 market stalls at the foot of the Preah Vihear temple, which the government says were destroyed by Thai rocket fire on April 3, leaving around 319 families homeless.

Thai and Cambodian troops have faced off for nearly a year, following UNESCO's listing of Preah Vihear as a World Heritage site last July.

Last month, Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya told reporters that the government would have to look at the market's location and the damage caused before it could respond to Cambodia's request.

On Monday, about 150 Cambodians gathered at Deum Ampil, a Khmer-language newspaper, to celebrate the 47th anniversary of the 1962 International Court of Justice ruling that handed Preah Vihear temple to Cambodia.

Deum Ampil publisher Soy Sopheap said the event was to remind Cambodians of the achievement of building the temple, defending it at the ICJ and listing it as a UNESCO site last year.

Barbecued bananas


Photo by: TRACEY SHELTON

Written by Tracey Shelton
Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Four-year-old Buoy watches his mother preparing grilled bananas for sale in the early morning hours Thursday at Group 78. She sells bananas from a cart every day in the streets, grilling them as she goes, accompanied by her two young sons.

Cambodia needs more time for oil production, govt says

Photo by: SOVANN PHILONG
The government says Cambodia may not produce its own oil until 2015, having stated beforehand an earlier start date.

http://www.phnompenhpost.com/

Written by Ros Dina
Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Finance committee chairman says the delay will give the government a chance to build a regulatory framework for companies looking to exploit national reserves

AN expected two-year delay in output from Cambodia's first domestic oil field could be a blessing in disguise for Cambodia, the head of the National Assembly's finance and banking committee told the Post.

Cheam Yeap said a new timeframe for extraction from the Chevron-controlled field announced Friday, which puts the start of production anywhere between 2013 and 2015, would give the government more time to develop laws to govern the sector.

"It is not good to be in too much of a hurry, as we have neither the law nor experts now [to manage the oil resource], and the agreement [with Chevron] is still not clear," he said. "Consequently, losses may happen because we lack these things."

He said he planned to request that the government draft three laws related to the Kingdom's energy reserves - on oil control, oil tax and tax benefits within the energy industry - in a bid to better manage resources.

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It is not good to be in too much of a hurry, as we have neither the law nor experts...
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The London-based Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative has also been invited to hold four workshops in Cambodia to help guide development of the laws.

The Cambodian National Petroleum Authority is also widely considered to be under-funded and ill-equipped to handle the complexities of the oil business, analysts have said.

Hang Chuon Naron, vice chairman of the Supreme National Economic Council, announced the delay Friday in a gathering to launch energy revenue watchdog Cambodians for Resource Revenue Transparency. He said Cambodia would not receive income from oil and natural gas until between 2013 and 2015, two years later than originally planned.

The delay was put down to falling oil prices, but the government's relationship with Chevron has come under the spotlight in recent months after negotiations over an extension to the US energy giant's licence, which expired in April, came to a standstill.

Cheam Yeap said negotiations with Chevron were ongoing, and that the company was still actively exploring extraction. However, he said there was still uncertainty over the amount of oil and natural gas in the field.

Chevron was granted an exploration licence in 2002 to explore a 278-square-kilometre area under Cambodian control in the Gulf of Thailand. It announced in 2005 it had discovered up to 400 million barrels of oil reserves in Block A, and initially predicted oil would begin flowing by 2011. It has since refused to commit to a start date in what it says is a number of small dispersed fields rather than a single large block.

Cambodia has issued licences to explore 37,000 square kilometers under its control in the Gulf of Thailand, and it hopes to also issue exploration rights for a further 27,000 square kilometres in areas still under dispute with Thailand.

According to the International Monetary Fund, government revenue from oil reserves in the Gulf of Thailand could initially reach $174 million a year and climb to $1.7 billion a year after 10 years of development, almost matching the entire government budget for 2009.

Club Med plans to launch Cambodia resort in 3 years


Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Club Med says it has looked at adding new destinations in Cambodia, Vietnam and China to add to its six resorts in Asia, with a Cambodia resort expected within the next three years.


Written by MARIKA HILL AND MAY KUNMAKARA
Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Regional representative for Europe’s largest resort company says it is eyeing Southeast Asian partners, including in Cambodia, to boost regional presence

CLUB Mediterranee SA (Club Med), Europe's largest resort company, plans to open a resort in Cambodia within the next three years, it said on Monday.

Gloria Chang, spokesperson for Club Med Asia Pacific, said the company was looking to developing new destinations in Asia while reinforcing its Southeast Asian presence.

"Cambodia is a pioneer destination for Club Med and presents ... very good potential for a great tropical getaway. The quality of the beaches, the warm Gulf of Thailand waters, the culture, the fabulous site of Angkor Wat are part of key factors," she said, refusing to elaborate on the exact nature of a proposed investment in the Kingdom, except to say that a Cambodia resort was planned within three years.

"Club Med has always been very selective," she said.

The group specialises in luxury holiday packages and has 80 resorts worldwide, including six in Asia.

Michel Wolfovski, Club Med's chief financial officer, told Bloomberg last week that the Paris-based travel company was "in talks" with potential investors in Cambodia as well as those in Vietnam and China.

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Cambodia is a pioneer destination for Club Med and presents … very good potential.
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In a separate interview, CEO Henri d'Estaing said: "We would welcome especially a partner from Southeast Asia, where we have a great potential."

Club Med CEO Henri d'Estaing. BLOOMBERG

However, neither the company itself nor travel sector sources in Cambodia could confirm whether Club Med had made contact with the Kingdom regarding a proposed resort.

Ho Vandy, co-chair of the Tourism Working Group and head of the Steering Committee of the Cambodian Association of Tourism Agencies, said Monday there had been no such contact as yet.

"But we welcome resort development because it can boost the tourism industry.... Currently the government also urges such development," he said.

The government has offered more than 10 islands as concessions to foreign and local investors to develop resorts, he said, some of which are under construction.

"Our current level of resort development is not enough to attract tourists, we still need more in order to offer greater variety and attractive destinations - there is so much potential for the tourism industry," Ho Vandy said.

The director of the Cambodian Hotel Association, Luu Meng, said Monday he was not aware of the European company planning to cooperate with Cambodian investors on a new resort investment.

The Ministry of Tourism was not available for comment on Monday.

Exhibition displays chemical-free crops


Written by Chun Sophal
Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Farmers gather in Kampong Tralach district, Kampong Chhnang province, Monday to show off produce and boost awareness of naturally produced crops in latest event organised by agricultural organisation CEDAC

NEARLY 1,000 farmers from Kampong Chhnang province gathered on Monday to exhibit their "natural method" agricultural products during an exhibition aimed at promoting crops grown without the use of chemicals.

Yang Saing Koma, president of the Cambodian Centre for Agricultural Studies and Development (CEDAC), said the exhibition in Kampong Tralach district, Kampong Chhnang province, gave farmers a chance to show off their naturally farmed products and helped other farmers become more aware of so-called non-chemical crops.

"We support this exhibition because we want to reduce the use of chemical substances in ... crops to avoid food poisoning and in order to protect our health and create opportunities for trade partnerships so that farmers can have certain markets for their products," Yang Saing Koma said.

"We hope that farmers will come together to help make and trade products for markets for the future," he added.

Dozens of vegetables and other agricultural products were shown at this year's first exhibition. Last year, CEDAC supported six natural farm product exhibitions, one in Kampong Chhnang and the others in Takeo province.

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So far our farmers have already passed the subsistence farming period.
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Ith Nody, under secretary of state of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, said on Monday after touring the exhibition that this was a promising step in encouraging Cambodian farmers to adapt to growing demands, both nationally and internationally.

"So far our farmers have already passed the subsistence farming period and are heading towards the production of safe and healthy food to meet market demands," Ith Nody said.

"We support the production of agricultural products without using chemical substances, and we are encouraging farmers to do more with their jobs in order to ensure food security for our country and to increase exports," Ith Nody said.

According to a report by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, farmers throughout Cambodia have produced 259,610 tonnes of vegetables from a total land area of 47,781 hectares in the 2008-09 farming year.

Touch Savy, a farmer from Chrei commune, Kampong Chhnang province, said the exhibition would help create market opportunities for her products and hoped more exhibitions would be organised.

"I want CEDAC to organise these types of exhibitions more often so that I can sell more products to consumers," she said.

Yang Saing Koma said in order to help farmers have more of a chance to show off their naturally produced crops and in order to encourage them to produce more, CEDAC will arrange another natural agricultural product exhibition in Takeo province's Tram Kak district later this month.

"I think that subsistence farming is still a strong force which helps create jobs for farmers and helps ensure food security in Cambodia," he said.

"Our farmers' lifestyles will not improve if they do not develop more productive and safer ways of producing crops for different markets."

S'ville Ford factory sees no orders since Feb


Written by ROS DINA
Tuesday, 16 June 2009

A SIHANOUKVILLE factory assembling custom-built ambulances for use by the US Army in Iraq and Afghanistan has been forced to suspend production after orders dried up in February.

But Ngorn Saing, deputy general manager of the factory, which is operated by a subsidiary of multinational products and services company RM Asia, said he expected the closure to be temporary.

"We are waiting for a new contract, which we expect to arrive soon," he said.

He added that he did not know why the orders had stopped.

RM Asia began working under contract with Ford in late 2007 to convert its four-wheel-drive light trucks into ambulances for use in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It began exporting the vehicles in January last year from its 200,000-square-metre factory at Sihanoukville port and had delivered 244 out of an initial contract for 300 ambulances, Ngorn Saing said.

The trucks were delivered to the factory from Ford's plants in Thailand and modified with parts imported from Australia, Thailand and Korea. Each ambulance had a price tag of US$27,000.

The comprehensive modification process involved fitting equipment ranging from air-conditioners and heaters to global positioning systems and medical equipment.

The completed ambulances were designed to carry up to five people: two patients and a nurse in the back, and a driver and nurse in the cabin.

The factory duplicated on a smaller scale RM Asia's plant in Thailand where it has been modifying vehicles for six years, including armoured vehicles for use by the US and British armed forces, and the Singaporean police.

The custom-built ambulances assembled in Sihanoukville were not armoured and were not designed for combat zones.

RM Asia is one of a few companies outside the United States to be designated by Ford as a "qualified vehicle modifier", which allows the company to modify Ford vehicles and sell them under the US automotive giant's name.

Ngorn Saing said the company was using the downtime to retrain its workers in the hope of improving product quality and qualifying for an International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) certificate.

"Our employees are working as normal and some of them have been trained with more skills," he said. "We are still optimistic that we will be able to continue production soon."

The company has more than 20 employees.

Mobile provider Hello rebrands


Photo by: SOVANN PHILONG
Hello’s Phnom Penh headquarters displays the company’s new logo Monday after it spent more than US$1 million on rebranding in Cambodia as part of a regional initiative driven by parent company Axiata of Malaysia.


Written by Hor Hab
Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Malaysian majority-owned mobile-phone operator Axiata reports spending more than $1 million on change of logo in Cambodia as part of region-wide rebranding initiative

HELLO, Cambodia's third-largest mobile-phone operator by market share, changed its logo on Monday as part of a region-wide rebranding by parent company Axiata Group, previously Telekom Malaysia, based in Kuala Lumpur.

Although the names of Axiata's regional operations were unchanged, the logo used in Malaysia and Cambodia, as well as the company's other markets in Asia, has been changed and standardised, it said.

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Our new logo reflects the rebranding of our parent company Axiata.
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"Our new logo reflects the rebranding of our parent company Axiata Group Berhad, so every business unit ... in the group shares the same Axiata prism symbol," Simon Perkins, CEO of Telekom Malaysia International Cambodia, said Monday.

Hello Brand Manager Gary Foo said that more than US$1 million had been spent on rebranding the Cambodian mobile-phone operator, with separate budgets devoted to doing so in each of its other Asian markets.

Axiata also operates in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, India, Singapore and Iran.