Tuesday, 1 September 2009

FEDERAL WAY WOMAN SENTENCED FOR CONSPIRACY, VISA FRAUD, MONEY LAUNDERING AND CONCEALING AN ILLEGAL ALIEN

VUTHY SIM, 35, of Federal Way, Washington, was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to 33 months in prison and 3 years of supervised release for Conspiracy to Commit Visa Fraud, three counts of Visa Fraud, Conspiracy to Engage in Money Laundering, three counts of Money Laundering, and Concealing an Illegal Alien. SIM was convicted January 23, 2009, following a twelve-day jury trial.

(Media-Newswire.com) - VUTHY SIM, 35, of Federal Way, Washington, was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to 33 months in prison and 3 years of supervised release for Conspiracy to Commit Visa Fraud, three counts of Visa Fraud, Conspiracy to Engage in Money Laundering, three counts of Money Laundering, and Concealing an Illegal Alien. SIM was convicted January 23, 2009, following a twelve-day jury trial. The jury deliberated for one day before finding SIM guilty. At sentencing U.S. District Judge James L. Robart called the scheme “troublesome and serious,” saying “The victims in this kind of visa fraud ... are our community... our society, and the people who could not come here, whose spots were being taken by those engaging in the fraud.”

According to testimony at trial and court documents, beginning in approximately June 2002, SIM recruited U.S. citizens to participate in sham marriages with Cambodian nationals. The purpose of the fake marriages was for the Cambodian national to receive a visa to come to the United States and a “green card” to stay here. In furtherance of the scheme, and as directed by SIM, the U.S. citizen would travel to Cambodia and pose in staged engagement or wedding photos with a Cambodian national. SIM typically would prepare the immigration paperwork and have the U.S. citizen sign it, and then would submit the immigration paperwork to Citizenship and Immigration Services. After the Cambodian national arrived in the United States, the Cambodian national and the U.S. citizen would have a civil wedding ceremony, with SIM and members of her family typically acting as the witnesses at the wedding. SIM would pay the U.S. citizen $20,000 in exchange for the citizen’s participation in the scheme, with the money being paid over time, and the final payment not made until the Cambodian citizen was in the U.S. and had a green card. SIM would pay the U.S. citizen with money that SIM received from the Cambodian national. The evidence at trial showed that SIM profited in excess of $160,000.

The evidence at trial proved that SIM and coconspirators wired money from Cambodia to SIM’s U.S. bank accounts. SIM then used that money to pay U.S. coconspirators for their participation in the fake marriages.

SIM also illegally concealed an illegal alien. The evidence showed that SIM sponsored her “mother” to come to the U.S., but the person who used the visa issued to SIM’s mother was, in fact, SIM’s sister. According to a witness at trial, SIM’s sister has fled to Cambodia, rather than risk being arrested by immigration authorities.

In asking for a significant sentence, federal prosecutors wrote to the court that this type of fraud harms other immigrants. “Vuthy Sim showed a complete disregard for the immigration laws of the United States. By facilitating sham marriages, Vuthy Sim caused participants in her scheme to gain unfair advantages over those aliens who were lawfully and truthfully seeking U.S. visas,” prosecutors wrote in their sentencing memo.

The case was investigated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation Division ( IRS-CID ).

The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Karyn Johnson and Ye-Ting Woo.

For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at ( 206 ) 553-4110.

The Challenge of Extracting Oil from Cambodia

Monday, August 31, 2009

SUSIE GHARIB: China is the world's second largest oil consumer and until the recession hit, its appetite for fuel was driving economies around the globe, including Cambodia. As Rian Maelzer reports, the global slowdown has raised doubts about Cambodia's plans to tap recent finds of oil and gas.

RIAN MAELZER, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT: strong demand from the U.S. and EU had been keeping Cambodia's sewing machines working at full tilt. But in the past year, garment exports to those markets have slumped, costing thousands of workers their jobs. Arjun Goswami of the Asian Development Bank says it's a huge blow for a country that still relies on foreign aid for close to half the government's budget.

ARJUN GOSWAMI, COUNTRY DIRECTOR, ASIAN DEVELOPMENT BANK: This is an open economy, it's a small economy and it's not very diversified, so there have been serious impacts.

MAELZER: With tourism also hit hard, Cambodia had hoped it would start to see revenues this year from the country's first ever oil and gas finds. The waters off Cambodia's coast are estimated to contain about two billion barrels of oil -- small by global standards, but significant for one of the world's least developed countries. Subbu Bettadapura of consultancy Frost and Sullivan warns that extracting Cambodia's reserves will be challenging.

SUBBU BETTADAPURA, ENERGY ANALYST, FROST AND SULLIVAN: They are not in a big reservoir where you can go in and tap them. They are in various pools, so there is a technical challenge for the oil companies to go in and try to monetize these reserves.

MAELZER: Chevron has been the most active company in exploring Cambodia's oil potential. Chevron isn't saying how much oil it thinks might be in its offshore block or when it might start commercial operations. A company spokesman said Chevron still has to hammer out legal and financial frameworks with the Cambodian government and those are serious shortcomings cited by multilateral agencies and aide donors working in what is one of the most corrupt countries in Asia. Eleanor Nichol of the watchdog group Global Witness has studied Cambodia's nascent energy and mineral sectors.

ELEANOR NICHOL, RESEARCHER, GLOBAL WITNESS: What you have is two sectors operating in what is effectively a regulatory vacuum with no public or parliamentary oversight. Also, what we've seen happen previously in the forestry sector is that money generated from logging and extraction of that resource never reached the state coffers and we want to try and avoid is a duplication of the same patterns occurring in the oil and mineral sectors.

MAELZER: Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh rejects those concerns.

CHAM PRASIDH, CAMBODIAN MINISTER OF COMMERCE: We are not going to use this money to pump corruption or to encourage corruption, but the money properly managed, properly monitored and properly spent in the right places.

MAELZER: Cambodia is still hoping the oil will start flowing by 2012. Analyst Bettadapura says the timing could end up being a blessing.

BETTADAPURA: If they wait for a little while longer until oil prices pick up, then they are going to get much higher returns and you need to consider the fact that the lifespan of this field is only 10 years.

MAELZER: The government estimates it should reap at least half a billion dollars a year from oil and gas, a huge boost to its revenues, which barely topped $1 billion last year. Rian Maelzer, Cambodia.

Singapore Donates Third Scanner

Written by DAP NEWS

Tuesday, 01 September 2009

The Singaporean Government on Tuesday donated a third scanner to Cambodia’s Health Ministry in order to curb the spread of A/H1N1, commonly called swine flu.

“The Singaporean Government on Tuesday will donate an A/H1N1 scanner at Phnom Penh International Airport to curb and prevent the spreading of A/H1N1,” said Sok Touch, director of the Department of Disease and Communicable Control of the Health Ministry.

This is the third scanner that the Singaporean Government has provided to the Cambodian Health Ministry, Sok Touch told DAP News Cambodia on Monday.

According to the official, the number of A/H1N1 infections currently stands at 26 cases.

Cambodia began scanning passengers for fever at its two international airports on April 28, 2009 to stem the spread of swine flu. Staff at Phnom Penh and Siem Reap airports began screening passengers with thermal-imaging equipment then.

The onset of Cambodia’s cool season, rather optimistically termed a ‘winter’ by many locals, has prom- pted the Health Ministry to ramp up measures to prevent the spread of A/H1N1, a Health Ministry official told DAP News Cambodia on Friday. “It is to more strengthen and take measures in the upcoming season in all hospitals as many new kinds of flu could spread,” said Sok Touch.

Cambodia’s Health Ministry and the World Health Organization issued a statement on June 24, 2009 to document the kingdom’s first case.

The first infected person was a 16-year-old US citizen visiting Cambodia as part of a student group, arrived in Phnom Penh on June 19. She developed symptoms the following days.
The Cambodian Ministry of Health, in cooperation with World Health Organization (WHO), is striving to control the A/H1N1 situation, working to curb the spread of the virus and keeping the public well informed with updates.

Cambodia is the latest nation to be hit by A/H1N1 virus epidemic, after neighboring Thailand, Vietnam and Laos all confirmed cases.

The ministry again called on the public to practice good personal hygiene at all times to prevent the spread of Influenza A/H1N1.

Although the Influenza A/H1N1 epidemic wanes, many countries still remain alert as the World Health Organization (WHO) warned of a new wave of the deadly virus, according to Xinhua news agency.

WHO Director General Margaret Chan warned of second and third waves in previous epidemics, adding that “we need to be prepared for whatever surprises this capricious new virus delivers next,” Xihua reported.

While the seasonal flu disappears with warm weather, A/H1N1 is continuing to spread during the summer, which proves the new flu is more durable and infectious.

NGOs Appreciate Withdrawal of Chea Mony Suit


Written by DAP NEWS
Tuesday, 01 September 2009

A legal complainst against Chea Mony, brother of slain Chea Vichea, has been withdrawn with welcomes from NOG representatives

A legal complaint against Chea Mony, head of the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia (FTUWKC), has been withdrawn much to the relief of NGOs and factory workers. Those who praised Hun Sen’s move called it a good lead to pave the way to a lawful and democratic kingdom. The move could also help improve Cambodia’s international image, which has recently been tarnished by controversial lawsuits against critics of the Government.

A complaint about Chea Mony was filed after a speech on August 17 at the Appeal Court where he criticized Government officials over his brother, Chea Vichea’s assassination in January 2004. Chea Vichea’s had been a vocal FTUWKC member and vociferous critic of the Cambodian Government.

“The Premier supposed that [Chea Mony] always says bad thing because he lost a close relative, therefore, the premier asked the Government’s lawyer to withdraw the complaint,” said Khieu Kahanarith, Government spokesman and Information Minister.

Asked if the Government should withdraw the complaints in other cases like Hang Chakra, Khmer Machas Srok editor, Khieu Kahnarith told DAP News Cambodia on Monday that “It is a personal story of Hang Chakra himself.” He declined to comment further on Hang Chakra’s case, referring questions to Deputy Cambodian Prime Minister Sok An, the man who filed the original compliant against Hang Chakra.

Chea Mony showed his appreciation Hun Sen’s dropping of the lawsuit against him. He said he still has concerns over the Government’s investigation of the his brother’s death. He also raised queries over the independence of the Cambodia legal system.

“The premier’s policy is very good, but some of his officials are very bad who always give wrong and bad reports and misinformation to him,” he claimed. “If all officials followed the premier’s policy, our country would gain support from the international community.”

Koul Pahna, COMFREL director, on Monday said that when Chea Mony’s angry remarks should be seen as a serious offense.

“Withdrawal the filed complaint … is a very good … but the government should check and investigate other stories like Hang Chakra’s case,” said Koul Pahna. “The Government thinks that it is not good as many stories took place related to this case.”

Koul Pahna claimed that the premier’s actions could be a lesson for fellow Government officials to follow.

Chear Vannath, a Cambodian analyst, also appreciated the premier’s ruling to withdraw the filing complaint from Chea Mony. “We applaud it—it is a good decision as the Cambodian defamation law has to be implemented.”

“While we do not have good mechanism, we cannot reduce the filed complaints related to defamation,” she added.

However, NGOs called on the Government release Hang Chakra and reverse the decisions in other high profile cases.

“Filing complaint is not benefits, it affects both government and NGOs,” Ou Virak told DAP News Cambodia. “We should be together to build and develop the nation,” he claimed.

“It is a personal story and case that I cannot say as it is related to personal decision, if it the speeches affects them, they will react,” Khieu Kahnarith said of the other high profile cases of defamation.

The Human Rights Center in Cambodian issued a statement over the premier’s decision.

“The Cambodian Center for Human Right (CCHR) welcomes the decision by the Royal Government of Cambodia to refrain from taking legal action against Chea Mony, the president of the Free Trade Union of Workers in the Kingdom of Cambodia (FTUWKC),” said the statement.

“This reversal is a positive sign for freedom of expression in Cambodia and represents tolerance and maturity on behalf of the RGC. The CCHR commends the RGC and Prime Minister Hun Sen and is hopeful that this decision reflects a new approach to freedom of expression and democratization in Cambodia,” the statement added.

The Cambodia Daily article headlined “Gov’t Seek Lawsuit Against Union Leader (August 31, 2009) quoted the Royal Government of Cambodia spokesman and Information Minister Khieu Kanhrith as stating that the RGC has dropped its plans to file a complaint against Chea Mony. This reversal follows a request by Prime Minister Hun Sen to call off the lawsuit. The union leader had said that RGC officials could have been involved in the assassination of his older brother and former FTUWC president Chea Vichea.

Cambodia Third Role Trading Market: Vietnam

Written by DAP NEWS
Tuesday, 01 September 2009

Cambodia has an extremely important role to play in Vietnamese trade, the Vietnamese Ambassador to Cambodia said on Sunday.

Ngo Anh Dung said on the Cambodia Television Network (CTN) talk show that “Cambodia is the third role of trading market of Vietnam and are cooperating with other biggest companies in the world.”

“We have over 100 companies are investing and more than US$700 million in Cambodia, but uncounted the big companies as well,” he stressed.

Ngo Anh Dung said that some are involved in big projects such as a fertilizer factory, rice cultivation and export, agricultural improvement and the Se San II hydropower project in Stung Treng province.

Vietnam has also cooperated with Cambodia closely on rubber growing, he added. Cambodia-Vietnam are closely linked so it is easy to transport by ships or trucks through Mekong River and by National Highway, “so we have some plans to cooperate with Cambodia to invest in mine research, communication, and develop all sectors.”

“Recently, Cambodia-Vietnam closely to on the tourist sector with Angkor Airlines, so it can say that all business, Vietnam and Cambodia, are in good communication and terms for sustainable trading,” said Ngo Anh Dung. “Cambodia’s tourist sector will be better than before, because both countries cooperate together.”

A railway from Preah Sihanouk province to Ho Chi Minh City, linking ASEAN with China will also boost links, he added, as will a reciprocal visa waiver for citizens of both countries.

“In 2009, Cambodian tourists increased about 88 percent to visit in Vietnam,” he stressed.

If we compared in 2008 to 2009 all increasing investment amount US$1.6 billion between Cambodia and Vietnam.

“Cambodian, Ministry of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries gave the agro landing of 50,000 ha to 8 companies to plant the rubbers, now we have 20,000 rubber trees since 2007-2009,” Mony added.
He continued that “We have a plan to plant them [rubbers] more about 20 thousand ha in 2010 and in 2015; we have 10,000 ha.”

Sam Rainsy Party Kampong Cham Parliamentarian Mao Mony Van of said that “Cambodian government had rent in contract till 90 years, so it maybe loses Cambodian lands of ha; we are worry about this consideration.”

“Cambodia has many agricultural investors, why not give a chance them to hold this task, however, give the chance to Vietnam, it Cambodian investors responded on this, it is good,” Van added.

Vietnamese Ambassador said that “Vietnam had four various projects included first, Cambodia-Vietnam are neighbors, second, both countries are friendly, third, we all cooperated sectors together, and the fourth, we are long live in business.”

We have over 1,200 kms linked with and Vietnam has 10 provinces for Cambodia also has 9 provinces are closely borders between communication of us, ANH stressed.

Cambodian Ambassador in Vietnam and Commercial officer Yiv Kimhan said that “Cambodia is a potential country of marketing trade, and all Cambodian people will consider on Vietnam instead of Thailand goods importing.”

Khmer Rouge Tribunal Appoints Acting International Co-Prosecutor

Written by DAP NEWS
Tuesday, 01 September 2009

An acting international co-prosecutor was appointed by the Khmer Rouge Tribunal (KRT) on August 29, replacing Robert Petit who resigned and returned to Canada, according to a KRT statement on Monday.

The new acting international co-prosecutor is William Smith, an Australian.
The statement said that on August 29, “the Supreme Court Council of Magistracy of Cambodia, upon the nomination of the Secretary-General of the UN, appointed, as an interim measure, William Smith (Australia) as the Acting International Co-Pros- ecutor at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia [ECCC].”

“His appointment shall be effective September 1, 2009 and this appointment has been made pending the decision on the permanent replacement for the current International Co-Prosecutor, Robert Petit, whose resignation takes effect on the same date,” the statement added. Two nominations for a permanent replacement have been forwarded by the secretary-general to the Cambodian Government for a decision by the Supreme Magistracy Council.

The statement summaries Smith’s background as having been the internal deputy co-prosecutor for the ECCC for the last 3 years. Between 1995 and 2006, Smith also worked as a trial attorney, legal officer and analyst at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) at The Hague. Prior to that, Mr. Smith practiced criminal law in South Australia as a defense barrister and solicitor, as well as a prosecutor for the South Australian Police Department. Smith was educated at the University of Adelaide where he received a degree in law and arts. He also obtained a master in international law from Leiden University in the Netherlands.

ECCC Chief of Public Affairs Reach Sambath on Monday told DAP News Cambodia that Smith is very qualified for a post of the acting international co-prosecutor.

World Bank Holds Reform Discussions

Written by DAP NEWS
Tuesday, 01 September 2009

Visiting World Bank Vice President for the East Asia and Pacific Region James W. Adams has discussed and reviewed the status of the World Bank’s support program in Cambodia, particularly in the areas of land reform, decentralization and deconcentration, public financial management, and private sector development, according to WB press statement on Monday.

“A major focus of the visit was Cambodia’s urban land sector and the increasing numbers of disputes and evictions of poor people in urban settlements,” the statement read. “This included discussion of the report from the enhanced review of the Land Management and Administration Project (LMAP), which was undertaken in response to questions raised about a possible link between the project and these disputes.” The discussions on land reform were constructive and it was agreed to continue these discussions over the coming week to agree next steps.

He was in Phnom Penh on Thursday, August 27 and Friday, August 28 for meetings with senior government officials, development partners, and representatives from NGOs, research institutes and the private sector.

This was part of a regional visit that takes in Cambodia, Timor-Leste and China.

Ethanol Manufacturing Banned after over 23 Tons of Fish Found Dead

Written by DAP NEWS
Tuesday, 01 September 2009

The Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy (MIME) announced on Monday it would temporarily ban the production of ethanol after byproducts drained from a factory into river, a MIME officer said.

MIME officers made the announ- cement with a letter signed by MIME Secretary of State of Minister Ith Praing.

Over the past few days, many fish have died, said locals, mystifying everyone in the area. One fish farmer claimed that 20 tons of fish were found dead in the river on Sunday. Around 23.4 tons of fish have been found dead in 37 fish farms, an official said. A team inspectors from the Administrative Fishery Committee headed by Khlaing Van Thol has already headed to the affected area, though an official report obtained by DAP News Cambodia claimed that “There was no source or evidence clearly yet.”

“We will investigate on this case, but near a pump into the river, we saw a black line spread out and our member took samples of that dirty water,” said Khlaing Van Thol.

The fish farmer complained that the remaining fish would be at risk unless something was doe about pollution levels.

Over US$10,000 Lost in Jewelry Stickup

Written by DAP NEWS
Tuesday, 01 September 2009

Two Cambodian jewelry vendors on Monday lost over US$ 10,000 in robbery, a local authority said. The main victim was identified as Ly Sam Oeun, 42.

“Around 7 o’clock, there was a case of robbery in front of Cambodian two jewelry vendors when as they left for Pochentong market near the airport,” the local authority added.

The victims live in Kakap commune, Dangkar district of Phnom Penh.

“We are usually leave home to market, but today, there were two suspicious people who drove a Honda Dream 125 moped stopped in front of us then they brought out two guns and threatened us … and they took over US$10,000 and suddenly drove away,” one of the victims complained.

There were no injuries in the case, the local authority said. Though the victims claimed to have lost over US$10,000, there has so far been little evidence presented to prove the scale of the robbery.

Jewelry robberies seem to be on the increase, though few of the perpetrators have yet been brought to justice.

“We will arrest them to convict soon,” the local police stressed. “Now we are finding the place where they are hidden.”

Martial Arts Competition Ends in Controversy

Written by DAP NEWS
Tuesday, 01 September 2009

The Bokator 2009 Competition, a traditional Cambodian martial art, ended late afternoon with criticism from provincial martial arts masters.

“No students from provinces won the gold medals from the tournament because all judges are from the municipality [of Phnom Penh], but they are also masters of martial arts and their students are at the top level in every competition,” a group of martial arts masters who asked not to be named told gathered media.

“Even though our students perform well the judges do not provide high scores for students from the provinces,” one said.

“We were standing to see the competition only and the competition committee does not allow us to participate as judges of the competition. They choose their friends only and known people in their body.”

There is the right to complain to the Education Ministry but a complaints form costs US$13, against around US$26 in compensation. Those making allegations of unfair play chose not to complain to the ministry. However, many of the masters stressed that the competition body must allow all masters to act as judges.

“It is unfair for us and we are not happy with the final result for this competition,” said one master.

An official from the federation of Khmer Traditional Bokator Martial Arts said that if masters from the provinces disagreed with the organizing committee of the competition, they should convey their advice to the Education Ministry. “I do not want to hear controversial ideas,” he said.

Not everyone was unhappy.

“This year, my students got third place and we got a bronze medal and small amount of money as award for the 65 kg category,” Meas Sambor, a master from Yin Teng Martial Arts from Kompong Speu province. “My students improved a lot if compared with last year.”

“My club is so happy because my student named Say Tevin won a gold medal and cash award of nearly US$90,” said Hok Birum, judge and master from Mahanokor Club of Siem Reap province.

Sem Sovandet, a sponsor and chairman of the Southeast Asia Radio and TV, said that “we have to promote more about our tradition martial arts like Bokator. The next generation has to know these martial arts.”

Cambodia's former King Norodom Sihanouk prefers to be cremated


By Rasmei Kampuchea

Phnom Penh: The former King of Cambodia, Norodom Sihanouk, told his people if he dies he prefers to having his body cremated. During the meeting with Bun Rany Hun Sen, wife of Prime minister Hun Sen and president of Cambodian Red Cross, which took place on August 29, he said the stupa was built already for him in the royal palace.

The former King, who is 86 years old, explained that for Christine people, their body will be buried, but for him, his body shall be cremated through the Khmer tradition.

"My wife (former Queen Monineath) also agrees that her body should also be cremated when she dies," said Sihanouk.

He said his cancers have been treated by Chinese doctors, but he was recommended to have medical checkups and treatments every 7 months.

Sex tourism charges await three men returned to U.S. from Cambodia



Boarding a plane to a foreign land is no protection,' said John Morton, head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

by Amy Taxin, The Associated Press
Tuesday September 01, 2009

Three men expelled from Cambodia are facing charges in the U.S. as part of a crackdown on Americans who travel overseas to have sex with children, authorities said Monday.

The three previously convicted sex offenders were the first to be charged under "Operation Twisted Traveler," an initiative targeting problems in Cambodia, which authorities described as ground zero for the crimes.

"Let their arrests serve as notice to any other person who might be tempted to evade justice by victimizing children outside of this country," said John Morton, head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. "Boarding a plane to a foreign land is no protection."

Ronald Boyajian, Erik Peeters and Jack Sporich were expected to arrive in Los Angeles later Monday escorted by U.S. authorities after being arrested in February by Cambodian police.

The three suspects were named in separate criminal complaints filed in April and May related to child sexual exploitation. They are expected to appear in court Tuesday. It was not immediately clear whether the men have lawyers in the U.S.

ICE has stationed an agent in Cambodia full-time for at least a year to focus in large part on such cases.

Boyajian, 49, of Menlo Park, is accused of traveling to Cambodia in September 2008 and paying a 10-year-old Vietnamese girl to perform sex acts.

Peeters, 41, of Norwalk, engaged in sex acts with at least three Cambodian boys, authorities said. He gave their parents money and rice, and paid two of the boys between $5 and $10, the criminal complaint said.

Sporich, 75, of Sedona, Ariz., sexually abused at least one Cambodian boy, authorities said. Witnesses claim Sporich drove his motor bike through the streets of Siem Riep, dropping Cambodian currency to attract children.

Several boys stayed at the home, which had a swimming pool, water slide, video games, toys and clothing, authorities said.

All three men were charged under the Protect Act, which became law in 2003 and made it easier for U.S. authorities to prosecute people for overseas sex crimes. ICE has made more than 70 arrests under the act in countries including Cambodia, Thailand and the Philippines, officials said.

Authorities wanted to bring the men back to the U.S. because they could face sentences of up to 30 years for each alleged victim, if convicted, said U.S. Attorney Thomas O'Brien.

"We believe that the sentences that they're going to be facing, should they be convicted in U.S. custody, are going to be severely stronger sentences," he said.

Jeffrey Blom, vice president of investigations for the rights group International Justice Mission, said he would rather see accused sex offenders face charges in this country, where the justice system is tougher.

Federal authorities in California have tried to crack down on U.S. citizens seeking sex overseas. Retired Marine captain Michael Joseph Pepe awaits sentencing for having sex with preteen girls while working as a teacher in Cambodia.

Some of the girls testified at his trial that Pepe drugged, bound, beat and raped them.
___

Associated Press Writer Greg Risling contributed to this report

Child molester expelled from Cambodia, is in U.S. custody


http://www.sacbee.com

By Sam Stanton
sstanton@sacbee.com
Published: Tuesday, Sep. 1, 2009

Jack Louis Sporich, a notorious pedophile who authorities say has molested more than 500 children, was in federal custody and facing new charges Monday after being expelled from Cambodia over the weekend.

Sporich was returned to the United States under the auspices of "Operation Twisted Traveler," an international law enforcement effort aimed at pedophiles who travel as "sex tourists."

Thom Mrozek, spokesman for U.S. Attorney Thomas P. O'Brien in Los Angeles, said Sporich was escorted to Los Angeles by immigration officials along with two other suspected child molesters from California. He had been in a Cambodian jail since February facing molestation allegations there.

Sporich, 75, is a wealthy former engineer who prosecutors say has been molesting children since the 1960s. He was convicted in Ventura County of seven counts of molestation and spent nine years in prison before being sent to the Atascadero State Hospital as a "sexually violent predator."

Sporich was the focus of a 2006 Bee series on the failings of California's efforts to treat such predators. He refused treatment at the hospital and won release in May 2004 after two juries were unable to agree on whether he might re-offend.

The Ventura County prosecutor who convicted Sporich said Monday that his return to U.S. custody "means boys somewhere won't be molested, whether it's Cambodia or Thailand or Arizona."

"Wherever Jack Sporich was, he was going to molest young boys between the age of 5 and 8, typically," said David Lehr, now a private attorney in Ventura.

Lehr said the juries that allowed Sporich to go free did so because some jurors believed he was too old to re-offend. But Lehr said pedophiles such as Sporich are rarely slowed by age.

"They're going to molest until they are dead, period," Lehr said, "unless they receive significant treatment and are monitored very, very closely for the rest of their lives."

Sporich settled into retirement in an upscale Sedona, Ariz., condo until 2006, when he was visited by Bee reporters and insisted in an interview he was not a threat to anyone.

He later moved to Cambodia, where federal court documents state he spent $1.2 million building a home near the tourist destination of Siem Reap. He also became engaged to a 22-year-old Cambodian woman.

Sporich was arrested Feb. 2 after an aid agency, Action Pour Les Enfants-Cambodia, alleged that he had lured three Cambodian boys, ages 9 to 12, to his home with toys and candy and molested them. Court documents state he also attracted boys by dropping Cambodian currency in the street as he rode along on a motor bike.

Sporich, who would have faced a sentence of one to three years under Cambodian law if convicted, remained in custody there while authorities worked to bring him back to this country. In the new federal complaint, he faces 30 years.

Acording to a criminal complaint filed in federal court in Los Angeles in April, Sporich claimed in an interview with authorities that the accusations against him were lies.

Authorities allege in the court documents that Sporich paid the parents of his fiancée $1,000 to $2,000 to become engaged to her and also purchased them a motor bike. Sporich and the woman began adopting boys, the documents state, and he mused about someday turning his home near a golf course into a bed-and-breakfast.

Sporich was returned from Cambodia with two other suspects from California: Ronald Gerard Boyajian, 49, of Menlo Park and Erik Leonardus Peeters, 41, of Norwalk. Both were arrested in February on child sex charges.

Federal officials said the three are charged under a law that went into effect six years ago "and substantially strengthened the federal laws related to predatory crimes involving children outside the United States."

"Abusing vulnerable children anywhere in this world is not acceptable behavior," U.S. Attorney O'Brien said at a press conference in Los Angeles. "Pedophiles are sadly mistaken if they think they can get away with exploiting children in another country in order to satisfy their own perverted desires."

Cambodia: Legal Foundation And Framework

Scoop New Zealand
http://www.scoop.co.nz

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Press Release: Asian Human Rights Commission

Cambodia: Legal Foundation And Framework For The Country's Judiciary Required

The Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) wishes to bring to the attention of the Human Rights Council a major lacuna that constitutes one of the most fundamental obstacles to the enjoyment, protection and promotion of human rights in Cambodia. The lack of the required laws on the statute of judges and prosecutors as well as the lack of the legal underpinning to the organisation of the judiciary are resulting in the judiciary not functioning effectively. This crucial institution is fundamental to the actualisation of human rights and remains ineffective and lacking in independence and capacity to function. It is imperative for any discussion on human rights in Cambodia, for these issues to take centre-stage. Without an effective, legally established and independent judiciary, human rights violations have no effective deterrent and impunity is guaranteed.

By virtue of the Paris Peace Agreements of 1991, Cambodia is bound to all relevant international norms and standards of human rights. It is to set up an independent judiciary so that, as §2 of Annex 5 on the “Principles for a New Constitution for Cambodia” to the “Agreement in a Comprehensive Political Settlement of the Cambodia Conflict,” aggrieved individuals will have the courts adjudicate and enforce their rights.

Cambodia has since honoured many of its international obligations as it has adhered to international human rights instruments and has enshrined many human rights in its 1993 Constitution. As spelled out clearly in the preamble to this Constitution, Cambodia is supposed to be a pluralistic liberal democracy governed by the rule of law and respecting human rights. Its Art.31 states that “The Kingdom of Cambodia shall recognize and respect human rights as stipulated in the United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the covenants and conventions related to human rights, women’s and children’s rights.” In its decision dated 10 July 2007, Cambodia’s Constitutional Council declared that all recognised human rights have become an integral part of Cambodian law.

Cambodia is a constitutional monarchy and, according to Art.8 of its Constitution the king is the guarantor of the rights and freedoms of his people. To perform this duty he has the assistance of the judiciary which, for its part, is also the protector of the rights and freedoms of the Cambodian people (Art.128 if the Constitution).

The Constitution has specifically stipulated a number of laws that need to be enacted, namely, the law on the statute of judges and prosecutors and also the law on the organization of the judiciary (ART. 135 of the Constitution). However, since the creation of the Constitution, these two important laws have not seen the light of day. Amongst the main reasons for this are corruption and executive control of the judiciary. As a result, Cambodians are not in practice entitled to be tried by an independent, competent and impartial tribunal established by law under Art.14-1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Cambodia is a State party.

Over this relatively long period of time, tens of thousands of people have been tried by judges whose status have not been defined by the required law and by courts of law whose establishment has never been based on a law on the organization of the judiciary, although both of these laws that have been specifically stipulated in the Constitution of 1993.

The Cambodian government has delayed, the enactment of these two important laws for what will be 16 years this coming September 24th; a delay that should by itself amount to an unconstitutional omission on the government’s part, although the country’s Constitution is silent on this omission. The delay in the enactment of these two laws stands in stark contrast to the law on the statute of civil servants and the law of members of the armed forces, both of which were enacted more than ten years ago, in the mid-1990s.

The government has preferred to continue to apply the old law on the nomination of judges and the activities of courts, enacted in the communist days on the eve of the country’s pluralistic liberal democracy. This particular law no longer befits the new system of government that abandoned communism and embraced liberal democracy, in order, purportedly, to be governed by the rule of law. This new system adopts the principles of separation of powers, the independence of the judiciary and the jurisdiction of the Supreme Council of the Magistracy as an independent body belonging to the judiciary, and as the supreme judicial body of the judiciary, whose jurisdiction is the nomination and discipline of judges and prosecutors. Furthermore, this particular pre-liberal democracy law is not among laws and regulations that should continue to apply under the transitional provisions of the country’s constitution (Art.158 of the Constitution).

The Constitution’s transitional provision only recognizes the validity of past laws and standard documents pertaining to state properties and the rights and freedoms pertaining to lawfully acquired properties in the past. Art 158 on this transitional provision says: “Laws and standard documents in Cambodia that safeguard State properties, rights, freedom and legal private properties and in conformity with the national interests, shall continue to be effective until altered or abrogated by new texts, except those provisions that are contrary to the spirit of this Constitution.”

The absence of the law on the statute of judges and prosecutors ensures that there are no guarantees concerning the independence of individual judges and prosecutors. The Supreme Council of the Magistracy belongs to the independent judiciary and is chaired by the king. It nominates and disciplines judges and prosecutors, both of which belong to this Council. This Council assists the king in ensuring the independence of the judiciary.

Due to the absence of this law, no age of retirement of judges and prosecutors has been fixed and there have been charges of favouritism levelled about older judges or prosecutors (including four of them recently), who have wished to remain in active service. Furthermore, there have been cases of infringement by the Ministry of Justice and even the government itself on the jurisdiction of the Supreme Council of the Magistracy. The Ministry of Justice controls the Secretariat of the Council, and has made nomination proposals and got the Council to approve them and submitted them to the king for signature, without the Council having much say at all in the process.

A couple of recent examples have illustrated the government’s infringement upon the jurisdiction and independence of the Supreme Council of the Magistracy. On June 21, 2009, the government ignored the Supreme Council of the Magistracy altogether when it retired and replaced four out of eight (two-ex officio and two (of three) appointed) members of the Council and submitted the whole proposals for the king for signature. More recently, on August 4, the Minister of Justice proposed the appointments of over 32 judges and prosecutors (including four over the de facto age of retirement of 60), and had the Council approve them and submitted these to the king for signature.

This practice is very much indicative of the executive’s control over the judiciary. It is unconstitutional, but there is no procedure for constitutional review of acts of government by the country’s Constitutional Council in the same way as the constitutional review of laws operates. This loophole should be removed, lest Cambodia continues to be ruled by decree instead of the rule of law, and the government continues to exercise control over the judiciary.

The prolonged absence of the law on the statute of judges and prosecutors poses a problem concerning the legitimacy of the Supreme Council of the Magistracy as well as of the Constitutional Council itself. Due to necessity during its formative years beginning in 1994, and the then-inability to enact the law on the statute of judges and prosecutors in time, an interim arrangement was made to appoint three judges as members of the Supreme Council of the Magistracy, pending the enactment of that law through which they would be elected by their peers. Since 1994, the law in question has not been passed despite the government’s repeated promises to do so. The election of these three judges has been upheld and they have continued to be appointed. As time passes by the legitimacy of the composition of the Council is becoming increasingly questionable.

The dubious legitimacy of the composition of the Supreme Council of the Magistracy in turn puts into question the legitimacy of the composition of the country’s Constitutional Council, whose jurisdiction is to ensure the constitutionality and interpretation of all laws and to serve as the court of final appeal for election conflicts. Three of the nine members of the Constitutional Council are appointed by the Supreme Council of the Magistracy whose composition lacks legitimacy. When the legitimacy of latter’s composition is also dubious, it is very doubtful whether the Constitutional Council’s authority has its full weight.

With the absence of the law on the statute of judges and prosecutors, and also of the law on the organization of the judiciary, both of which have been specifically stipulated in the country’s constitution, the whole of Cambodia’s justice system do not have any legal foundation and framework.

Recommendations

There is still a long way to go before anyone in Cambodia can be guaranteed being tried by an independent, competent and impartial court established by law. However, it should not take very long to enact a law on the statute of judges and prosecutors and another law on the organization of the judiciary, in order to ensure that a trial court is at least established under the law and that judicial officers in charge of investigations and trials have proper legal status as judges or prosecutors. The Cambodian judiciary can no longer function as a judiciary without a proper legal foundation and framework.

The Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) therefore recommends that the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia and the members of the Human Rights Council pay special attention to the need for an effective, independent judiciary with a proper, constitutionally legal foundation and framework. Without this, all discussions about and work on human rights in Cambodia is unrealistic and unlikely to lead to successes.

The ALRC recommends that the government of Cambodia enact the two laws on the statute of judges and prosecutors and on the organization of the judiciary, if it has any pretence of being serious about the protection and promotion of human rights and democracy in the country. This would greatly improve the conditions of nominations of judges and prosecutors, their independence, the prohibition on their political affiliation, the prohibition on their removal without their consent, their competence and impartiality, salaries, promotion, discipline and removal from judicial services under grave circumstances, and the age of retirement.

With these two laws, the judiciary would become one of the three branches of government with an equal footing with the legislature and the executive and could ensure a system of checks and balances befitting a pluralistic liberal democracy, which Cambodia is under its Constitution. The two branches of government should respect the principle of separation of powers and also the independence of the judiciary as enshrined in Articles 51 and 128 of the Constitution. # # #

About the ALRC: The Asian Legal Resource Centre is an independent regional non-governmental organisation holding general consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. It is the sister organisation of the Asian Human Rights Commission. The Hong Kong-based group seeks to strengthen and encourage positive action on legal and human rights issues at the local and national levels throughout Asia.

Cambodian 'Justice'

David Klein

Without major personnel changes, the Khmer Rouge trial risks descending into farce.

By SOPHAL EAR

While my mother, four siblings and I escaped Pol Pot's Cambodia in 1976, my father died of dysentery and malnutrition after a brief stay at a mite-infested Khmer Rouge "hospital." Although I have harbored grave doubts about the ability of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal underway in Phnom Penh to punish the guilty, I hoped for the best and even filed a civil complaint with the Tribunal's victims unit last year.

But I can no longer in good conscience sit back in silence and watch this theater of the absurd. As with so many other donor-financed projects, the Tribunal—set up in 2006 to bring justice to millions of Khmer Rouge victims—has been mired in an endless stream of corruption and mismanagement allegations.

The latest news came on August 11, when Uth Chhorn was named to the court as an independent counselor. Mr. Chhorn is Cambodia's auditor-general and heads the seven-year-old National Audit Authority, which is supposed to audit the government's activities. It has yet to make a single report public. His appointment was sanctioned by the United Nations, which manages the court alongside the Cambodian government.

This news is only the most recent window-dressing in the Tribunal's brief history. In February 2007, a kickback scheme was exposed by the George Soros-funded Open Society Justice Initiative. Two years and seven international investigations later, basic questions of accountability remain unanswered. The Cambodian authorities have stonewalled and denied wrongdoing.

Confidence in the Tribunal was further shaken by the resignation in May of Keat Bophal, the Cambodian head of the victims unit and an experienced human-rights defender. She was replaced on May 18 by Helen Jarvis, an Australian citizen, in a move to "strengthen" the Tribunal. Several years ago Ms. Jarvis was awarded Cambodian citizenship for her many years of loyal service to the authorities.

Ms. Jarvis's independence came under further question in May when Michiel Pestman, a defense lawyer for one of the Khmer Rouge defendants, Nuon Chea, discovered a 2006 open letter written by the "Leninist Party Faction" of the Democratic Socialist Perspective, an Australian political party, and signed by Ms. Jarvis and her husband. It provides a disturbing window into the mind of a person who played a key role in the Tribunal as its chief of public affairs until her redeployment earlier this year to handle victims' complaints:

"We too are Marxists and believe that 'the ends justify the means.'. . . In time of revolution and civil war, the most extreme measures will sometimes become necessary and justified. Against the bourgeoisie and their state agencies we don't respect their laws and their fake moral principles." Ms. Jarvis refused to comment publicly about the letter. At a June 10 press conference, a U.N. legal communications officer said that Knut Rosandhaug, deputy director of the Tribunal and coordinator of U.N. assistance to the Tribunal, "fully supports the appointment of Dr. Jarvis as the new head of the victims unit." Never mind victims, their concerns, and their rights.

To be sure, a coterie of other left-leaning academics and contemporaries of Ms. Jarvis were to varying degrees little more than apologists for the Khmer Rouge during their reign of terror, including the late Malcolm Caldwell and linguist Noam Chomsky. At the time, Mr. Chomsky hedged his statements of support for the Khmer Rouge with caveats that could later provide plausible deniability. But he and others praised the work of Caldwell and Khmer Rouge groupies George Hildebrand and Gareth Porter whose "Cambodia: Starvation and Revolution" (Monthly Review Press, 1976) ranks with Walter Durranty's New York Times coverage of Stalinist Russia.

Although the Tribunal has shuffled personnel, the wrong people are leaving. Ms. Keat's exit deprives the court of both credibility and a passionate defender of victims' rights. International co-prosecutor Robert Petit will retire from the court today because of obligations to return to work for the Canadian government. Mr. Petit gained acclaim for insisting that the Tribunal try more than five individuals—contrary to the Cambodian authorities' wishes. The bungled testimonies in mid-July of witnesses such as a nurse and a deputy head of S-21, a notorious Khmer Rouge torture center, were an embarrassing comedy of errors for the Tribunal's judges, lawyers and victims alike.

The record of the past two years suggests the Tribunal isn't serious about delivering real justice. The best way to correct this course is for the court to reboot with a new set of personnel, including the director of administration, deputy director and head of the victims unit. We, the victims, deserve no less.

Mr. Ear is an assistant professor of national security affairs at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California.

Cambodia cuts troops at disputed temple

09/01/2009

Cambodia has reduced the number of its troops patrolling the disputed 11th century temple along the Thai border by half, citing improved security and the need for the soldiers to help farmers plant rice, a defence ministry spokesman said on August 31.

Long-standing tensions over the temple’s ownership reached fever pitch in July 2008 when UNESCO, the UN cultural agency, approved Cambodia’s bid to have Preah Vihear named a World Heritage Site. Thailand protested against the move, claiming that it undermined its claim to a small area of adjacent land.

Since then, there have been several gun battles between Thai and Cambodian troops in the area and a number of soldiers from both sides have been killed or wounded. Both sides have refused to back down until now, with each, maintaining their rightful claim to the land.

Lt Gen Chhum Socheat said that the pulling out of troops began last Wednesday and was completed by Sunday. Along with the soldiers, the Thai army has withdrawn its tanks and other heavy equipment from the site around the temple.

“We have pulled out 50 percent of our forces from the disputed border near Thailand because we saw that the situation there was getting better day by day,” said Chhum Socheat, while refusing to provide specific troop numbers because of security concerns.

VOVNews/VNS

Over 200 Mln USD Invest in Cambodia Mobile Phones in First Half

2009-09-01
Xinhua
Web Editor: Hu Weiwei

Cambodia claimed Tuesday that investment in the country's mobile phones sector has increased to 234 million U.S. dollars for the first six months of this year.

According to the Ministry of Telecommunication and Posts, total investment in the sector amounting to 234 million U.S. dollars as of June this year, whereas last year, within the same period of time, the total investment was only 35 million U.S. dollars.

Officials at the ministry also said the number of mobile phone users is remarkably increased with about five millions of the country's total estimate of 14 million populations.

The ministry officials contributed the increase in the sector to the huge demands from Cambodians who enjoy their communication through mobile phone because it consumes less time than traveling to meetings with other people while their businesses are in larger demands.

Other contributing causes to the increase in mobile phone usage are the country's economic growth and the better living standard of the people.

In recent years, telephone and internet are the latest growing modern technology in Cambodia.

Nine mobile phone companies are running businesses in Cambodia, according to the ministry.

Cambodia records 31 cases of flu A/H1N1

www.chinaview.cn
2009-09-01

PHNOM PENH, Sept. 1 (Xinhua) -- Cambodian Health Minister Mum Bun Heng said on Tuesday that the Cambodia's flu A /H1N1 cases have increased to 31 after five people were confirmed positive of the flu in the country on Aug. 31.

"The five people are the latest cases in the country and they all are Khmer," Bun Heng told reporters at a ceremony of receiving a new thermal scanner from Singapore.

"They all are being treated by our doctors," Mum said, adding that "so far nobody died of the flu in the kingdom."

"We have strengthened our existing system to track the suspected people of the flu," he said. The new thermal scanner will be equipped at Phnom Penh International Airport and the old one at the airport will be transferred to install at the Poipet Checkpoint bordering on Thailand.

"We decided to install there because many tourists and travelers are crossing the land border everyday from Thailand into Cambodia. We have to follow them," he noted. "So far, we have had 14 Khmer infecting with the flu," he said, adding that the new thermal scanner is worth over 10,000 U.S. dollars and it is a charitable donation from Singaporean government.

Tan Yee Woan, Singaporean ambassador to Cambodia, said that "the globalization push people to travel a lot and they are facing with infecting the flu and we need to prevent it."

Sok Touch, director of communicable control department of Health Ministry, also expressed his concern, saying that "the second wave of infecting the flu is making us concern about the trend of spread. We have to take measures for the next season."

Editor: Sun

Duch craved acceptance

Photo by: TRACEY SHELTON
Toul Sleng survivor Chum Mey, 78, reads a profile of former S-21 prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, during a visit Monday to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. Civil parties visited the museum after announcing a boycott of trial proceedings.


Civil party group to boycott Duch trial proceedings
TWENTY-eight civil parties announced Monday that they would stop attending the trial of Tuol Sleng prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, in response to Thursday’s announcement by the Trial Chamber that civil party lawyers would not be allowed to ask questions during the phase of testimony addressing the character of the accused. During a press conference Monday morning, civil party Chum Sirath said the group would not attend the proceedings until the Trial Chamber reconsidered its decision. On Monday the group visited Tuol Sleng and the Choeung Ek killing fields to pay respect to victims. Tuol Sleng survivor and civil party Chum Mey said during the visit that he strongly disagreed with the Trial Chamber’s decision. “We used to believe that the court would find justice for us, but now it looks like it will not,” he said. Court spokesman Reach Sambath said the court had “given more rights to the civil parties than other courts in the world” and had tried to make the trial fair. A statement distributed by the civil parties Monday said the court’s treatment of the accused and the victims had been “unbalanced”. CHEANG SOKHA


Khmer Rouge trial civil party members cry at the Tuol Sleng genocide museum in Phnom Penh on Monday. AFP

The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 01 September 2009
Robbie Corey Boulet

Psychologist says a desire for praise drove S-21's chief

THE man who ran Tuol Sleng is a largely unfeeling perfectionist who has often displayed "an absence of guilt" for the deaths of some 16,000 prisoners at the torture facility, two expert witnesses told the Khmer Rouge tribunal Monday.

Nevertheless, Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, has recently adopted a "more personal view" of the Khmer Rouge years, speaking of them as less of an observer and more as a participant who regrets his actions, said Francoise Sironi-Guilbaud, a psychologist and lecturer who has written about torturers and their motives.

She and her colleague, Kar Sunbaunat, director of the Health Ministry's Natural Programme of Mental Health, told the court there was a chance Duch could be successfully rehabilitated and reintegrated into society.

The two experts questioned Duch for nearly 40 hours in February and March 2008, and again during three sessions last week. They said Monday that they had concluded from the sessions that Duch did not suffer from a mental disorder.

Rather, they said, Duch's desire for praise and a sense of belonging fed his singular focus on performing well and pleasing his superiors.

"Duch's life history is, therefore ,determined by his need for an ideal," Sironi-Guilbaud said, adding later that Duch had often been driven by only "one single thought" at any given time.

His dispassionate nature predates his membership in the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK), she said, noting that he had been attracted to stoicism as a student, a doctrine that she said "claims indifference in the face of anything that can have an effect on emotions".

But he said it served him well during his time at Tuol Sleng. Sironi-Guilbaud quoted him as having said during one of their sessions: "I could not at the same time be a revolutionary and have feelings."

A series of disappointments
The two experts said Duch's mental state had been influenced by romantic, ideological and other disappointments that dogged him in his younger years.

Duch told the court last week about a failed attempt to persuade the girl he was in love with to become a maths teacher like him. On Monday, Sironi-Guilbaud also cited the arrest of his friends under the Lon Nol regime, as well as the theft of his bicycle, which she said prevented him from going to school.

"Disappointment is something that is very much present in Duch's life," said Sironi-Guilbaud. She said these letdowns had "dehumanised" him and had likely helped turn him into a man capable of running Tuol Sleng.

"The torturer has always first been dehumanised himself before," she said. "This, of course, is not an excuse."

Another factor contributing to this "dehumanisation" was the fact that he went by several names during his childhood, she said.

This process, she said, was "tantamount to having several successive parallel identities" and "could at the unconscious level be considered as an imposition of identity by somebody else".

The two experts said the same longing for group affiliation that prompted Duch to join the CPK might have inspired his 1996 conversion to Christianity.

Referring to the conversion, Sironi-Guilbaud said God and Jesus represented "new masters whom he will serve with the same amount of zeal as his previous masters".

She said Duch told her he became a Christian in part because it was "the religion of the strongest" that had "defeated communism in Poland and elsewhere".

"I first believed that communism could save my country, but now I know that it is God," she quoted him as saying.

Sironi-Guilbaud said Duch had been "using religion as a therapy", adding that the concept of "new birth" associated with Christian baptism likely appealed to him.

"We discussed this a lot, the issue of a pardon," she said, adding later, "Maybe that was an element that was important for him in his thought process."

Interim co-prosecutor
Also Monday, the tribunal announced that deputy international co-prosecutor William Smith would assume the role of acting international co-prosecutor, effective today.

He will temporarily replace Robert Petit, who announced his resignation in June.

The UN has forwarded two nominees for international co-prosecutor to the Cambodian government. The replacement must be approved by the Supreme Council of the Magistracy.

Chea Ratha acquitted of charges in acid attack

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Chea Ratha was acquitted Monday of charges stemming from an acid attack.


Easy access to acid fuels attacks: group

Regulating the sale of acid in Cambodia is the only way to prevent further attacks, the Cambodian Acid Survivors Charity (CASC) said on Monday. Speaking to the Post, CASC programme manager Sophea Chhun said the low cost and widespread availability of acid must be addressed. “There are no proper regulations. Anyone can buy it, and the bottles do not warn that the contents are dangerous. The government should limit the sale of acid to industries, such as rubber production, that rely on it, and ensure people are educated about its dangers.” Of the survivors registered with CASC, 18 percent were burned in accidents; 16 percent were the victims of jealous partners and 9 percent were attacked for having extramarital affairs. A further 4 percent were attacked after family arguments, 2 percent in business disputes and 2 percent during robberies or land disputes. The remainder did not know why they had been targeted. “In addition to dealing with their physical injuries, which can be extensive, survivors also have to face the stigma,” Sophea Chhun said. “People tend to blame the victims, even if what happened to them was an accident. Onlookers will point at them and laugh, saying they deserved it.” The government could not be reached for comment on Monday.


The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 01 September 2009
Meas Sokchea

A FORMER high-ranking military police official was acquitted in absentia on Monday of charges stemming from an acid attack near Tuol Tumpong market that left a Phnom Penh woman scarred for life.

Chea Ratha, former deputy chief of staff of the National Military Police, was tried in connection with the May 2008 incident. The victim was the aunt of In Soklyda, a prominent beauty pageant contestant who had a love affair with Chea Ratha, who had previously admitted to the affair but denied any involvement in the attack.

The verdict, delivered by Judge Din Sivuthy at Phnom Penh Municipal Court, cleared the 43-year-old Chea Ratha and her co-defendants - Ea Puthea, Meas Mao, Siek Chandy, Chan Dara, San Nuth and Siek Sophal - of all charges. Only two of the accused, Ea Puthea and Siek Sophal, were present to hear the verdict. Chea Ratha is currently abroad but will return to Cambodia soon, her lawyer said.

Speaking outside the court, the victim - Ya Soknim, 35 - condemned the court's decision and made a fresh call for justice. Visibly distressed, she said her family was living in fear and issued a plea to Prime Minister Hun Sen to intervene. "There is no justice in this world," she said. "I fear for my family's safety and need [an NGO] to give us shelter."

Ya Soknim's lawyer, Ouch Sophal, said he regretted the verdict and described it as an injustice. "If there was not enough evidence to secure a conviction, why were they arrested?" he said to reporters.

The judge said anyone disagreeing with the verdict had one month to file a complaint to the Court of Appeal. Asked whether his client would appeal, Ouch Sophal said he did not yet know. In May 2008, the government rescinded Chea Ratha's passport and removed her from all official positions pending her arrest.

Speaking outside the court on Monday, Chea Ratha's lawyer, Keo Ya, urged the government to reinstate her.

"My client's position [with the National Military Police] was terminated when she was accused," he told reporters.

"I would like to request that the government restore her to her previous position."

Am Sam Ath, head of an investigative team with the rights group Licadho, said the courts had a duty to reinvestigate the case.

"If [the court] has exonerated the defendants, the authorities should re-investigate the case and arrest the real offenders," he said.

"If the courts fail to do so, it is a clear case of impunity because the attackers have been allowed to go free."

The daylight attack took place on May 8, 2008, near Tuol Tumpong market.

Ya Soknim was allegedly grabbed by two men who held her down and poured acid over her head and chest.

She suffered extensive burns as a result, losing one ear, one breast and most of her vision.

Shortly after the attack, Interpol joined the hunt for Chea Ratha, who was known to have been having a sexual relationship with the victim's niece.

The international police agency issued a "red notice" for her arrest, allowing foreign countries that have extradition agreements with Cambodia to arrest her and send her back to Phnom Penh.

Chea Ratha was never arrested, however, and is believed to have remained abroad since fleeing Cambodia after the attack took place.

Thais provide photos of missing loggers

The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 01 September 2009
Thet Sambath

Cambodian officials say they are distributing the images among relatives for identification

Photographs of 12 Cambodians arrested in Thailand on suspicion of illegal logging have been sent to the Cambodian authorities in a bid to confirm their identities.

The men, who have been missing for several weeks, disappeared during a series of crackdowns on unlicensed logging activity across the Cambodia-Thailand border last month.

It was originally feared that they had been shot dead by Thai troops who fired on the group in what the military described as self-defence. The bodies of two of their fellows were discovered last week.

Speaking to the Post on Monday, Trapaing Prasat district police chief Keo Tann said the identities of most of the men had now been confirmed. "I received 12 photos of the arrested Cambodians, and I have been showing them to their relatives who have been looking for them," he said.

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I am inviting everyone whose relatives have disappeared to check these photos
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"I am inviting everyone whose relatives have disappeared to check these photos to confirm whether they are the ones they are looking for. A number of them have been recognised by villagers." Four of the 12 men have now been accounted for, he said.

Chhoun Ra, 41, had heard nothing of her 20-year-old son Pol Ben - alias Poy - since August 17, when the Thai authorities arrested a number of Cambodian loggers in Si Sa Ket province. With no way of contacting him, she feared the worst. His photograph, however, was among those handed over.

"I saw my son's photo at the police station," she told the Post. "I am so happy to know he is alive and well in a Thai prison. I have feared for his life since he disappeared more than two weeks ago, but now I know he is fine." Almost all of the missing men appeared in the photos, she said.

Confusion over the men's true identities arose because many gave false names when they were arrested, making it almost impossible to trace them, Keo Tann explained. "Sometimes the men change their names when they have to report to the Thai authorities, so these photos are a clear way of knowing their identity," he said.

In the wake of the disappearances, relatives combed the area and found many of their loved ones' belongings, fuelling speculation that the missing men had been killed. Sos Lonh, whose son was among their number, said: "I did not see any bodies, but I saw many belonging scattered throughout the forest. It is a pitiful place to see because many things have been destroyed by Thai bullets."

Vann Kosal, governor of Oddar Meanchey province, said on Monday that the border authorities were working to prevent more Cambodians from entering Thailand illegally. "Our officials and military are standing at the border to prevent Cambodians from going into Thailand illegally,"he said. "This is for their safety."

Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, said Monday that the men were still being held for questioning in Thailand and that the government was working closely with Thai officials to ensure they are given a fair trial.

US House to discuss rights in Cambodia

The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 01 September 2009
James O'Toole

THE US House of Representatives plans to hold a hearing to discuss the current political and social climate in Cambodia, the US Embassy in Phnom Penh confirmed on Monday.

Embassy spokesman John Johnson said that the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, a group of congressional representatives who monitor rights norms around the world, "will meet on September 10 to discuss the human rights situation in Cambodia, and ... they have invited some Cambodians to participate."

Radio Free Asia reported on Thursday that in addition to members of the US State Department and Congress, SRP parliamentarian Mu Sochua, Licadho rights group president Pung Chiv Kek and Cambodia Labor Organisation President Moeun Tola will be present at the hearing.

The hearing will focus on the recent spate of defamation lawsuits by government officials against the opposition, accusations of government manipulation of the judiciary and land evictions of questionable legality, the RFA report said.

During a visit to Cambodia on August 18, US Senator Jim Webb met with Prime Minister Hun Sen, as well as opposition leaders Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha. The senator said afterwards that he "listened in great detail to the concerns of the opposition leaders" regarding the ongoing crackdown on political speech in the Kingdom, though he stopped short of condemning the government on this point.

Trio summoned over Dangkor land dispute

The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 01 September 2009
Chrann Chamroeun

Court to question men over charge that villagers paid local official $200,000 to support their claim

PHNOM Penh Municipal Court has issued summonses to three men in Kakab commune in the capital's Dangkor district to give testimony in a corruption and bribery case stemming from an ongoing land dispute between local residents and a commune landowner, according to letters written by Investigating Judge Sin Visal and obtained on Monday by the Post.

The letters order Em Chhorn, Heng Sour and Thuon Thou, who claim to represent 120 families involved in the dispute, as well as their lawyer, to appear before the court on Thursday and Friday.

The dispute began with a 2008 directive issued by the Council of Ministers ordering that 120 families be allowed to remain on 6 hectares of land in Kakab commune despite claims of ownership by local landowner Huot Sarom.

Controversy later emerged when Seng Yean, deputy director general of inspection at the Ministry of National Assembly-Senate Relations, was accused of accepting a bribe from a local woman, Di Prem, on behalf of the families.

Seng Yean was removed from his position on July 31 by an order from Prime Minister Hun Sen, and he and Di Prem were officially charged by the court on August 7.

The families have denied any involvement in the alleged US$200,000 bribe, saying they had no means to raise that sum of money.

The three men summoned by the court and their lawyer, Chan Vichet, declined to comment Monday when contacted by the Post.

But Kao Ty, an attorney representing Huot Sarom, said he had seen the summons letters and characterised the families' claims to the land as unjust.

"I firmly hope that the court will provide justice to [Huot Sarom] and certify that she is the legitimate owner of the land," he said.

Kong Yu families refuse to sign away Ratanakkiri land

The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 01 September 2009
Cheang Sokha

Long-simmering dispute pits villagers against sister of finance minister

MORE than 50 Jarai ethnic minority families have rejected an offer to resolve a long-simmering land dispute pitting residents of Kong Yu, a village in Ratanakkiri's O'Yadav district, against Keat Kolney, the sister of Finance Minister Keat Chhon.

The 53 families opted not to thumbprint an agreement that would have given them US$450 each in exchange for dropping the dispute, said Roman Fil, a representative of the villagers.

Keat Kolney has claimed that she purchased 450 hectares of land from the Kong Yu villagers in August 2004 for a rubber plantation, but lawyers from the Community Legal Education Centre (CLEC) filed a criminal complaint on behalf of the villagers in January 2007, saying Keat Kolney had tricked them into thumbprinting transfer documents.

In June 2008, Keat Kolney's lawyers filed a counter-complaint accusing CLEC of incitement and the villagers of illegally occupying the land.

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We have urged the court many times to take the case to trial.
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Ratanakkiri provincial court prosecutor Mey Sokhan announced in April that he had decided to dismiss the complaints.

Lawyers involved in the case said at the time that they remained in the dark regarding the reasons for the dismissals.

Villagers have staged several protests after they grew suspicious that Keat Kolney had conspired with local authorities to cheat them out of the land.

Sourng Sophea, the CLEC lawyer who assisted them with the January 2007 complaint, said the villagers had been under constant pressure from local authorities to stop protesting and to refrain from filing future complaints.

He said they were still hoping that the case would be heard in court.

"We have urged the court many times to take the case to trial, but they have kept their silence," Sourng Sophea said.

"Ethnic minority villagers are still agitating to keep the land from becoming a rubber plantation."
Ratanakkiri provincial court Judge Thor Saron, who has been handling the case, could not be reached for comment Monday.

Chhe Vibol, Keat Kolney's lawyer, contradicted Roman Fil on Sunday, saying there had been an agreement between his client and the villagers to turn over the land as long as it was used for the construction of a school building and health centre that the villagers could use.

"Now we're just waiting for those villagers to fill out the documents," he said.

Biofuel plant closed over pollution scare

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Lam Young Try, 65, dries fish that died in the Tonle Sap at Prek Phnov for sale in the market Monday. The fish are believed to have died from chemical poisoning from a nearby factory.


The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 01 September 2009
Khouth Sophak Chakrya and Nguon Sovan

Officials at MH Bio-Energy deny that a broken water treatment system was the cause of a mass die-off of fish; villagers say livelihoods are under threat

THE Ministry of Industry issued a letter Monday ordering a South Korean ethanol plant in Kandal province's Duong village to suspend operations following complaints by local villagers that toxic waste discharged from the facility was polluting the environment and killing tens of thousands of fish in nearby waterways.

Ith Praing, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy, signed the letter forcing the temporary closure of MH Bio-Energy Group pending further investigation.

"The plant will be temporarily closed and production halted because it is producing bad-smelling liquid and gas waste that has caused harm to the health of local residents and has affected the natural environment," the letter stated.

The ministry was prepared to allow the plant to resume operations once an investigation proved the facility posed no threat to villagers or the environment, the letter added, but threatened permanent closure if the government determined that MH Bio-Energy had indeed contaminated the surrounding area.

Chao Bun Thong, chief of Duong village, said the suspension followed complaints by 29 families that the plant was leaking toxic fluids into Lake Samrong, killing tens of thousands of fish that villagers rely on for their livelihoods.

"Tonnes of fish have died since Saturday due to waste fluids from the plant," Chao Bun Thong said.

Seng Thim, head of the Bassac fisheries office in the province, confirmed Monday that fish totalling about 32 tonnes have died.

"Our initial conclusion is that the fish died from toxic pollutants in the lake that likely derive from the plant," Seng Thim said.

"When we evacuated the remaining fish from the lake, they did not die," he said.
"Now we are collecting water samples to test for contaminants," Seng Thim said.

Lam Yiang Try, 65, a fish farmer in Duong village, said he lost half his stock of fish.

"About 500 kilograms of my fish have been lost since Saturday. I have lost about US$2,000 in earnings," he said.

Lee Dong Jun, director of the MH Bio-Energy plant, declined to comment Monday.

But Sar Peov, head of the company's administration office, said that a malfunction in the plant's water treatment system had produced a discharge of untreated liquid waste.

Unlikely cause
"One of our water treatment systems broke down on Sunday, and untreated water escaped," he said.

Sar Peov added that the biofuel plant normally discharges only treated water into the Tonle Sap river, never untreated water.

"We are repairing the system and hope that it will be operational within a week," he said.

Despite acknowledging the leak, Sar Peov dismissed the possibility that wastewater from the plant had any harmful effect on fish.

"It is too early to conclude that the fish died because of wastewater from the plant," Sar Peov said.
"We will wait to see the results of the ministry's water tests in order to determine how they died," he added.

MH Bio-Energy said in June that it had completed Cambodia's first export of ethanol and characterised it as a major step forward for local biofuel production.

The company, founded in 2007 with a $30 million Korean investment, uses cassava and tapioca to produce ethanol for export, primarily to markets in Europe.

Ros Sopharith, a senior manager with the company, told the Post in June that MH Bio-Energy would also seek local distribution rights.

"I am prepared to ask government permission to sell ethanol locally because it can protect our environment," he said at the time.

"In the near future, we plan to double production capacity to meet global market demand," he added.

Previous problems
But complaints of pollution dogged the company in the months after its opening, when residents and district and village officials said leakage from a poorly designed waste pond of the company was responsible for poisoning and killing tonnes of fish in Lake Samrong.

Company officials at the time dismissed the complaints and suggested that residents with duck businesses might be to blame for releasing animal waste into the lake.

Factory closed after faintings by workers

The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 01 September 2009
Khouth Sophak Chakrya and Mom Kunthear

A GARMENT factory has been temporarily closed after dozens of garment workers fainted there in the past few days for reasons that remain unexplained.

Chhrun Synat, the director of administration at Maurea Garment Corp in Russey Keo district's Svay Pak commune, said Monday that factory officials had decided to let their employees relax at home for a few days after around 60 workers fainted during their shift on Saturday, and about 70 more fainted on Monday morning.

"During this period we will clean the air by adding more fans in the factory," she said.

Hou Samon, the chief of Svay Pak commune, said Sunday that the mass faintings were caused by both factory conditions and workers fasting for the Muslim holiday of Ramadan. Workers at the factory, however, said it was purely the conditions that were to blame.

"I think that the other workers and I fainted from all the air pollution in this factory," said 21-year-old Sar Sareth after recovering from her spell at Calmette Hospital on Monday morning.

Government campaign to boost lightning awareness

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
An electrical storm rages over Phnom Penh. The death toll from lightning strike has risen this year.


The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 01 September 2009
Sam Rith

Banners warning the public of lightning strikes to be posted throughout the Kingdom as deaths this year reach 135, a 42pc rise over 2008's total

A PUBLIC information campaign aimed at warning people over the dangers of lightning is about to begin, government officials said Monday as the number of reported deaths from strikes so far this year climbed to 135.

That number compares with a total of 95 lightning deaths reported last year, said Keo Vy, a communications officer with the National Committee for Disaster Management.

In addition, some 151 people this year have been severely hurt by lightning, which has also killed 36 domestic cattle throughout the country.

"Now we are organising banners to educate people throughout the country in order for them to know how to protect themselves against lightning," Keo Vy said.

"We cannot stop lightning," he said, adding that the banners will be distributed in districts throughout the country.

Seth Vannareth, deputy general inspector and director of Department of Meteorology, said that lightning strikes occur mostly between May and October.

But she said that the number of reported lightning strikes did not appear to be increasing.

Seth Vannareth attributed the apparent rise in deaths to better reporting from provincial and district officials and the rising use of electrical appliances.

"Nowadays, Cambodian people are using more appliances like telephones, televisions, radios and so on, without taking care of lightning," she said.

"People lack the knowledge to protect themselves from lightning.... Do not use the phone or turn on the radio in the middle of a rice field during a rain storm," she added.

"Do not stand under trees during a rain storm, or hold onto metal objects."

Surge protection
Earlier this year a private company began importing products to protect people and property from lightning strikes after recent wet seasons saw electrical storms increase, a shift that experts attribute to climate change.

Officials with the company Dynamic E-Group Limited (DEG) said a reported increase in lightning deaths had prompted them to begin importing lightning-protection devices.

They said DEG's Voltage and Surge Protection Systems, imported from Spain, were designed to be installed in buildings to prevent lightning strikes within a radius of about 120 metres.

The new devices, however, do not come cheaply. Prach Meanith, product manager at DEG, said the price would depend on the size of the building in question but noted that a unit for a three-storey building measuring 6 metres by 12 metres would cost around US$2,000.

Cambodian deminers train, awaiting Sudan's dry season

RCAF Company 405 soldiers receive training in Sudan at the beginning of their mission. Photo Supplied

Life is good for RetuRned deminers

As the soldiers of Company 405 were packing their bags for Sudan, troops from RCAF Company 315 were preparing to come home after serving as UN deminers in Sudan for one year. Mey Sophea, the commander of Company 315, said that thanks to their generous pay, most of the men in his company came home to better lives than they had before they left. After enjoying a month of vacation time following their return, the soldiers returned to their military duties in Cambodia in mid-July. Khun Sophal, one of 139 members of Company 315, said that going to Sudan had made a significant difference in his life at home.“I used the money I earned during my mission to Sudan to repair my house and buy a new motorbike,” he said. “My family has been living much better since I returned.”

The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 01 September 2009
Sam Rith

For the past three years, Cambodian soldiers have worked as deminers on the UN peacekeeping mission in Sudan. Sam Rith looks at one company of deminers three months into their tour of duty.

It has been almost three months since the troops of Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) company 405 left for a one-year United Nations peacekeeping mission in Sudan, but company members say that homesickness and rough conditions are not enough to deter them from their humanitarian effort.

Speaking by phone from southern Sudan, near the Nile River, Company 405 Commander Taing Bunkry told the Post last week that his troops were doing well and had been making progress on their mission.

"We are all safe and healthy here, and have succeeded in some of our work," he said.

Since 2006, the Kingdom has sent 468 peacekeepers to Sudan. With so many unexploded mines still lurking in Cambodia, RCAF troops have over the years developed internationally sought-after demining expertise.

After arriving in Sudan, the troops received six weeks of demining training from the UN before taking an exam to secure their demining licences. So far, Taing Bunkry said, the company has focused on unexploded ordnance, clearing about 10 to date, as well as on educating the local population about the demining process. They will begin demining in earnest in October, after the east African rainy season ends.

The main area that the deminers will focus on during the dry season lies about 200 kilometres from their barracks, so they have yet to visit it.

"We have been studying the mined area only by flying over it in helicopters - we can't travel there by land because there are no roads and the area is covered in foliage during the rainy season," Taing Bunkry said.

During the rainy season, evening temperatures in Sudan average around 18 degrees centigrade, with daytime temperatures between 42 and 45 degrees; during the dry season, midday temperatures can hit 50 degrees.

Despite the inhospitable climate, the RCAF soldiers say they are happy to fulfill their mission.

"When I first came, I got a cold due to the weather, but now I'm fine," said 28-year-old Im Srim, a member of the 52-soldier contingent. "I'm very proud because [we] are representing the whole Cambodian nation as we fulfill our peacekeeping mission."

Although conditions were challenging at first, Im Srim said, he was thrilled to have the opportunity to work in Sudan.

"I really value my work, and this is the first time I've ever participated in an overseas mission," he said, adding that he was very pleased with his monthly salary of US$1,020.

Seang Kunthea, 31, another deminer from company 405, said that when he first arrived in Sudan, he and his fellow soldiers felt homesick for Cambodia, but that they now feel more comfortable because they have been contacting their families frequently by phone.

"We've gotten used to being far away from our families, and we will see them again when we complete our work," he said, adding that he has a wife and a 5-year-old son at home in Cambodia.

Seang Kunthea's wife, 26-year-old San Socheata of Phnom Penh, said that she and her son were patiently awaiting her husband's return.

"I wish my husband was at home, but it is his obligation to support the family and serve his country," she said.