Thursday, 17 September 2009

Reporter Unveils Cambodia's Child Predators


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Cambodia is a top destination for pedophiles from around the world. Sex trafficking of children there is rampant.

ABC News anchor Dan Harris traveled to Cambodia to see first-hand how a local human rights group is working with police to identify and arrest these child predators.

In a special edition of ABC Nightline airing Wednesday night, Harris goes with investigators who have been following several pedophiles, including a man named Harvey Johnson.

Johnson is an American accused of using his job as a teacher to victimize young girls. ABC News was there when police moved in and made the arrest.

Harris spoke with Dan Harris about his report in Cambodia. Click play for his comments and a preview of the Nightline episode airing Wednesday at 11:35 p.m. ET.

ADB Vice-President Signs Agreements Worth $37.3M with Cambodia

17 September 2009

MANILA, PHILIPPINES – Asian Development Bank (ADB) Vice-President C. Lawrence Greenwood today signed grant and loan agreements with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy and Finance, H.E. Keat Chhon, totaling $37.3 million.

A $21 million grant for the Second Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Project will support Cambodia's efforts to deliver improved rural water supply and sanitation to some of the poorest areas around the Tonle Sap Basin. The Northwest Road Improvement Project, a $16.3 million concessional loan, co-financed with a $25.6 million loan from the Republic of Korea, will rehabilitate 113 kilometers of National Road No. 56 connecting the provinces of Banteay Meanchey and Oddor Meanchey provinces and will upgrade a border facility with Thailand.

"The two projects will help Cambodia meet its Millennium Development Goals by improving access to safe water and sanitation, which in turn leads to better health outcomes, and by promoting economic growth and poverty reduction in the northwest region through increased cross-border tourism and trade activities," said ADB Vice-President Greenwood.

The fresh finance allows the Ministry of Rural Development to expand an ongoing rural water supply and sanitation project covering five provinces of Battambang, Kampong Chhnang, Kampong Thom, Pursat, and Siem Reap, into a sixth – Banteay Meanchey. Efforts will focus on rehabilitating existing wells, providing new water supply facilities, and encouraging sanitation behavior change at the household level. The project will work in about 400 villages. The total project costs are estimated at $25.8 million, which include contributions of $1.8 million from the Royal Government and $3 million (mostly in kind) from beneficiaries.

National Road No. 56 is a key conduit for goods and people between northwest Cambodia and northeast Thailand, and also forms a feeder connection to the GMS East-West Economic Corridor. The improved border facilities are expected to aid cross-border tourism as the restored road will connect to a key route to Siem Reap – site of the world famous temples of Angkor.

Time Magazine Calls Weekly Program on Khmer Rouge Trial a 'Sleeper Hit' in Cambodia

With up to 3 million viewers each week, "Duch on Trial" program provides many with primary source of information on the international tribunal.

" The goal is to help make the trial proceedings accessible to everyone in the interest of furthering the process of international justice. "

Honolulu, HI (Vocus/PRWEB ) September 17, 2009 -- A current article in Time magazine calls a Cambodian television program that summarizes proceedings in the U.N.-assisted trial of a notorious Khmer Rouge figure "a sleeper hit" that is the main way many Cambodians find out about the trial. According to the article, the "Duch on Trial" program - a collaborative production of the East-West Center, the UC Berkeley War Crimes Study Center and Khmer Mekong Films - garners up to 3 million viewers each week, or 20 percent of Cambodia's population.

"With one in five Cambodians watching the show every week," writes Time correspondent Christopher Shay, "'Duch on Trial' has become the main way many young Cambodians, who were not taught about the Khmer Rouge in school, learn about the historic Khmer Rouge tribunal unfolding in Phnom Penh -- and, in a lot of cases, hear about this dark chapter of their country's history for the first time."

The program, with English subtitles added, can be viewed online by audiences worldwide at forum.eastwestcenter.org/Khmer-Rouge-Trials.

Hosted by veteran Cambodian journalists Neth Pheaktra and Ung Chan Sophea, the weekly half-hour show endeavors to explain the complex legal proceedings in the case against Kaing Guek Eav, alias "Duch," in an accessible and informative manner through the use of trial footage, expert commentary and interviews. Duch has admitted that he ran the Khmer Rouge's dreaded S-21 torture center.

"We consider these films to be a vital tool in helping the Cambodian public and the world at large better understand the complex issues involved in these groundbreaking trials," said David J. Cohen, Director of the Asian International Justice Initiative, or AIJI, which initiated and oversees production of the "Duch on Trial" programs. "The goal is to help make the trial proceedings accessible to everyone in the interest of furthering the process of international justice."

Gregory Stanton, president of the Washington-based NGO Genocide Watch, told Time that the program, with its millions of viewers, has been uniquely effective in bringing the trial into people's lives. "You'll go out to (a) local little village … and there will be almost nothing there," Stanton said. "Yet there will be a TV set hooked up to set of car batteries, and people watching."

The AIJI engaged Cambodia's premier television production company, Khmer Mekong Films, to produce the "Duch on Trial" programs. The programs are shown on Cambodia's most-watched television network, CTN, as well as being available online for easy viewing worldwide.

The AIJI is a collaboration between the East-West Center in Honolulu, Hawaii, and the War Crimes Study Center at UC Berkeley in California. Prior to the start of the trial, the AIJI conducted extensive legal trainings for the officers of the court, as well as a public education campaign that included several informational films that were shown on Cambodian television and at screenings throughout the country. Major funding for the project has come from the British Embassy in Phnom Penh.

Now that the tribunal's first trial is underway, the AIJI has drawn upon five years of experience by the War Crimes Studies Center in conducting human-rights trial monitoring in Sierra Leone, East Timor, Rwanda, and Indonesia to establish a regionally based trial monitoring and film outreach program. The goal of the project is to raise awareness about fair trial rights in Cambodia, as well as document ways in which the trial's proceedings can have a positive impact on Cambodia's domestic criminal trials through the court's interpretation of human rights and domestic criminal procedures.

In addition to a permanent AIJI monitor, the monitoring team includes young lawyers and legal researchers from Cambodia, Singapore, Indonesia, China, Japan, the Philippines, Switzerland, Germany and the U.S. The monitors write reports on the proceedings as well as assist the film-maker on a weekly basis to choose the highlights from proceedings to be included in 'Duch on Trial'. Additionally, they provide a daily update on the trial which is also utilized by the Court's press and public affairs section. Weekly reports are issued in English, Khmer, Bahasa Indonesia and Mandarin. The team also produces periodic analytical assessments of the trials.

The EAST-WEST CENTER is an education and research organization established by the U.S. Congress in 1960 to strengthen relations and understanding among the peoples and nations of Asia, the Pacific, and the United States. The Center contributes to a peaceful, prosperous and just Asia Pacific community by serving as a vigorous hub for cooperative research, education and dialogue on critical issues of common concern to the Asia Pacific region and the United States. Funding for the Center comes from the U.S. government, with additional support provided by private agencies, individuals, foundations, corporations and the governments of the region.
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Media Contact:Derek Ferrar,Media Relations Specialist+1 808-944-7204

PAD barred from disputed border area

Writer: BangkokPost.com
Published: 17/09/2009

Protesters of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) will not be allowed inside the disputed 4.6-square-kilometre area around the Preah Vihear temple since this could affect relations with Cambodia, Lt-Gen Wibulsak Neepan said on Thursday.

The Second Army commander said this in response to the PAD's announced plan to converge on Phra Viharn National Park in Si Sa Ket's Kantharalak district and demand that Cambodian troops and villagers be pushed out of the disputed area.

Veera Somkwamkid, chairman of the Civil Rights and Liberty Group, which is affiliated to the PAD, has said protesters from various provinces would gather in Kantharalak district before moving to the border area on Saturday.

Pol Lt-Gen Krisda Pankhongchuen, head Region 3 Provincial Police, said about 200 police had been mobilised from Si Sa Ket and nearby provinces to support soldiers in preventing the protesters from entering the disputed area.

Chavanont Intarakomalsut, secretary to Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya, said that during his inspection trip to the border area near the Preah Vihear temple on Sept 13 Mr Kasit and high-level officials of Cambodia agreed to solve the dispute through negotiations.

Mr Chavanont said the Thai-Cambodian Joint Border Committee (JBC) has surveyed the disputed area for border demarcation. The results of the past three meetings of the JBC wers expected to be reported to parliament next month. The problem had existed for a long time and more time was needed to solve it through negotiations, he said.

Mr Chavanont said the protesters should be careful about going inside Phra Viharn National Park because there might still be some uncleared land mines in the area and they were very dangerous.

Somchai Phetprasert, a Puea Thai MP for Nakhon Ratchasima and chairman of the House committee on military affairs, urged the government, foreign minister and armed forces commanders to tell Cambodia that the Thai people have the right to peaceful assembly under the constitution.

At the same time, the army should take measures to prevent the protesters from getting near the disputed area since they might appear provocative to Cambodian troops
.

Cambodia deploys police for Thai border protest

The view of the Preah Vihear temple in Preah Vihear province

(AFP)

PHNOM PENH — Cambodia deployed riot police Thursday at an ancient temple on the disputed border with Thailand where Thai protesters are due to hold a protest at the weekend, the defence ministry said.

Thailand's royalist "Yellow Shirt" movement says it will rally on Saturday near the 11th century Preah Vihear temple to demand that the government push Cambodian forces out of the area.

The disputed frontier around the temple has been the scene of several deadly clashes between Thai and Cambodian forces since the ruins were granted UN World Heritage status in July 2008.

Cambodian defence ministry spokesman Chhum Socheat said at least 50 police with dogs, batons, and tear gas have been deployed at the temple ahead of the demonstration.

"Our anti-riot police have been deployed to the border Preah Vihear temple in case the Thai Yellow Shirt protesters illegally cross the border to cause problems," Chhum Socheat told AFP.

"We will order our forces to prevent them from entering. We don't want bloodshed to happen, but if they don't listen to us, we will use our self-defence measures," he said.

The Yellow Shirts helped the current Thai government come to power with a blockade of Bangkok's airports in December, but have since turned their fire on the administration over its handling of the temple issue.

Their protest is scheduled on the same day as the rival "Red Shirt" movement is due to rally in Bangkok to mark the third anniversary of a coup that toppled former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Cambodia halved the number of troops around the temple at the end of August after tensions eased in the area.

The two countries have been at loggerheads for decades over Preah Vihear.

The World Court ruled in 1962 that it belonged to Cambodia, but the most accessible entrance to the ancient Khmer temple with its crumbling stone staircases and elegant carvings is in northeastern Thailand.

The last gunbattle in the temple area in April left three people dead while clashes there in 2008 killed another four people.

The border between the two countries has never been fully demarcated, in part because it is littered with landmines left over from decades of war in Cambodia.

Thai protestors banned from disputed area around Preah Vihear temple: army official

www.chinaview.cn
2009-09-17

BANGKOK, Sept. 17 (Xinhua) -- Thailand's army will not allow protestors of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) to rally inside the disputed 4.6-square-kilometer area around the ancient Preah Vihear temple.

Thai soldiers have put up barbed wire to prevent the PAD protestors from entering Phra Viharn National Park and set up more checkpoints along the road to the park, the website by Bangkok Post reported Thursday.

Phra Viharn National Park in Si Sa Ged province is the Thai gateway to Cambodia's Preah Vihear temple. Si Sa Ged province is located in the Northeast of Thailand, which borders Cambodia.

The PAD -- one of Thailand's active political groups -- has announced a plan to converge in Phra Viharn National Park in Kantharalak district of Si Sa Ged to demand Cambodian troops and villagers to be pushed out of the disputed border area.

"This (getting inside the disputed 4.6-square-kilometre area around the Preah Vihear temple) could affect relations with Cambodia," the website quoted Lt-Ben Wibulsak Neepan as saying Thursday.

Veera Somkwamkid, chairman of the Civil Rights and Liberty Group, which is affiliated to the PAD, has said PAD protestors from various provinces will gather in Kantharalak district prior to moving to the border area on Saturday.

About 200 police have been mobilized from Si Sa Get and nearby provinces to support soldiers in preventing the PAD people from entering the disputed area, said Pol Lt-Ben Krisda Pankhongchuen, head of Region 3 Provincial Police.

On Wednesday, the PAD group petitioned the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), accusing Thailand's past and present governments of negligence of duty in allowing Cambodia to encroach on the disputed border area near Preah Vihear temple.

The two neighboring countries share a nearly 800-kilometer long common border and they have never fully demarcated their land border.

Demarcating work cannot be carried out, as both sides have different interpretations of historical maps and worry about the landmines left there from years of civil war in Cambodia.

Editor: Fang Yang

Duch testimony ends at trial


Duch, whose actual name is Kaing Guek Eav, has during the trial repeatedly accepted responsibility for his role in governing the jail and begged for forgiveness from the families of the victims. -- PHOTO: AFP

Sep 17, 2009

PHNOM PENH -CAMBODIA'S UN-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal on Thursday wrapped up the presentation of evidence in the trial of the man accused of running the regime's most notorious prison.

Closing arguments in the trial of Duch, the first to be held at the special war crimes court, are scheduled to take place in November and the verdict is expected early next year.

The court has been hearing evidence since late March about Duch's role in overseeing the torture and execution of over 15,000 people at Tuol Sleng detention centre in the late 1970s.

'I would like to declare the adjournment to this morning's proceedings now,' chief judge Nil Nonn told the court, officially ending testimony.

Duch, whose actual name is Kaing Guek Eav, has during the trial repeatedly accepted responsibility for his role in governing the jail and begged for forgiveness from the families of the victims.

In his final testimony on Wednesday, he invited victims of the regime to visit him in detention. He is being held on the premises of the purpose-built court on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.

But the 66-year-old denies several allegations that he personally tortured or killed inmates and denies being a key figure in the hardline communist movement, in government from 1975 to 1979.

Led by Pol Pot, who died in 1998, the Khmer Rouge emptied Cambodia's cities in a bid to forge an agrarian utopia, resulting in the deaths of up to two million people from starvation, overwork and torture.

Four senior Khmer Rouge leaders are currently in detention awaiting the next trial at the court, and judges recently ruled five more cadres should be investigated for possible prosecution. -- AFP

Testimony ends at K.Rouge jail chief trial

A Cambodian looks at skulls displayed at the Tuol Sleng genocide museum in Phnom Penh

Thursday September 17, 2009

PHNOM PENH — Cambodia's UN-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal Thursday wrapped up the presentation of evidence in the trial of the man accused of running the regime's most notorious prison.

Closing arguments in the trial of Duch, the first to be held at the special war crimes court, are scheduled to take place in November and the verdict is expected early next year.

The court has been hearing evidence since late March about Duch's role in overseeing the torture and execution of over 15,000 people at Tuol Sleng detention centre in the late 1970s.

"I would like to declare the adjournment to this morning's proceedings now," chief judge Nil Nonn told the court, officially ending testimony.

Duch, whose actual name is Kaing Guek Eav, has during the trial repeatedly accepted responsibility for his role in governing the jail and begged for forgiveness from the families of the victims.

In his final testimony on Wednesday, he invited victims of the regime to visit him in detention. He is being held on the premises of the purpose-built court on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.

But the 66-year-old denies several allegations that he personally tortured or killed inmates and denies being a key figure in the hardline communist movement, in government from 1975 to 1979.

Led by Pol Pot, who died in 1998, the Khmer Rouge emptied Cambodia's cities in a bid to forge an agrarian utopia, resulting in the deaths of up to two million people from starvation, overwork and torture.

Four senior Khmer Rouge leaders are currently in detention awaiting the next trial at the court, and judges recently ruled five more cadres should be investigated for possible prosecution.

Soldiers fence off Preah Vihear

Writer: BangkokPost.com, AFP
Published: 17/09/2009

Protesters of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) will not be allowed inside the disputed 4.6-square-kilometre area around the Preah Vihear temple since this could affect relations with Cambodia, Lt-Gen Wibulsak Neepan said on Thursday.

The Second Army commander was responding to the PAD's announced plan to converge on Phra Viharn National Park in Si Sa Ket's Kantharalak district and demand that Cambodian troops and villagers be pushed out of the disputed area around Cambodia's Preah Vihear temple.

Veera Somkwamkid, chairman of the Civil Rights and Liberty Group, which is affiliated to the PAD, has said protesters from various provinces would gather in Kantharalak district before moving to the border area on Saturday.

Pol Lt-Gen Krisda Pankhongchuen, head of Region 3 Provincial Police, said about 200 police had been mobilised from Si Sa Ket and nearby provinces to support soldiers in preventing the protesters from entering the disputed area.

Chavanont Intarakomalsut, secretary to Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya, said that during his inspection trip to the border area near the Preah Vihear temple on Sept 13 Mr Kasit and high-level officials of Cambodia agreed to solve the dispute through negotiations.

Mr Chavanont said the Thai-Cambodian Joint Border Committee (JBC) has surveyed the disputed area for border demarcation. The results of the past three meetings of the JBC were expected to be reported to parliament next month. The problem had existed for a long time and more time was needed to solve it through negotiations, he said.

Mr Chavanont said the protesters should be careful about going inside Phra Viharn National Park because there might still be some uncleared land mines in the area and they were very dangerous.

Somchai Phetprasert, a Puea Thai MP for Nakhon Ratchasima and chairman of the House committee on military affairs, urged the government, foreign minister and armed forces commanders to remind Cambodia that Thai people have the constitutional right to peaceful assembly.

At the same time, the army should take measures to prevent the protesters from getting near the disputed area since they might appear provocative to Cambodian troops.

Soldiers have put up barbed wire to prevent PAD protesters entering Phra Viharn National Park, and set up more checkpoints along the road to the park, according to a local reporter in Si Sa Ket province. Entry to Preah Vihear is through Phra Viharn park.

The barbed wire was placed around around the park office and the entrance to the national park and two more military checkpoints were now on the road between Nam Khun and Kantharalak districts, in addition to existing checkpoints manned by para-military rangers.

Large signs opposing the PAD's planned rally have been put up at various intersections along the road between Kantharalak district of Si Sa ket and Muang district of Ubon Ratchathani, the reporter said.

Cambodia on Thursday deployed riot police around the disputed border, its defence ministry said.

Cambodian defence ministry spokesman Chhum Socheat said at least 50 police with dogs, batons and tear gas have been deployed at the temple ahead of the demonstration.

"Our anti-riot police have been deployed to the border at Preah Vihear temple in case the Thai yellow-shirt protesters illegally cross the border to cause problems," Chhum Socheat said.

"We will order our forces to prevent them entering. We don't want bloodshed, but if they don't listen to us we will use self-defence measures," he said.

The two countries have been at loggerheads for decades over Preah Vihear.

The World Court ruled in 1962 that it belonged to Cambodia, but the most accessible entrance to the ancient Khmer temple with its crumbling stone staircases and elegant carvings is in northeastern Thailand.

The last gunbattle in the temple area in April left three people dead while clashes there in 2008 killed another four people.

The border between the two countries has never been fully demarcated, in part because it is littered with landmines left over from decades of war in Cambodia.

Cambodia, Thai riot police sent to disputed border

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia – Cambodia and Thailand have dispatched riot police to backup soldiers at a disputed border area ahead of a weekend rally by Thai protesters that risks reviving a long-standing feud between the neighbors, officials said Thursday.

A group of Thai protesters plans to gather Saturday near the 11th century Preah Vihear temple, which is just across the border in Cambodia. The temple is a source of tensions that recently led to armed clashes between the two countries.

The Thai protesters blame the current and past governments for failing to protect Thai land and national sovereignty, reviving an issue that has drummed up nationalist sentiment on both sides of the border.

Cambodian soldiers have been ordered not to allow any spillover of the rally across the border, said Defense Ministry spokesman Lt. Gen. Chhum Socheat.

"We have ordered our forces not to allow any Thai protesters to enter even one centimeter onto our side. Once they enter Cambodian territory, our forces will quickly crack down," he said.

About 50 Cambodian riot police were sent to the border Wednesday, along with a special canine unit used for crowd control, to assist soldiers, said a national police spokesman, Gen. Kieth Chantharith.

At least 200 Thai police officers will be deployed on the Thai side to keep peace, Lt. Gen. Viboonsak Neepan, the Thai commander in the area, told reporters.

"An area has been designated for protesters to gather safely," he said. "We would like to ask that everyone considers the relations between the countries and safety of their people."

Tensions over temple ownership heated up in July 2008 when UNESCO, the U.N. cultural agency, approved Cambodia's bid to have Preah Vihear named a World Heritage Site. Thailand initially supported the bid but then reneged after the move sparked outrage and protests.

Both sides rushed troops to the border, which resulted in several small gunbattles.

The World Court awarded the temple to Cambodia in 1962, but sovereignty over the surrounding land has never been clearly resolved.

Cambodia and Thailand share a 500-mile (800-kilometer) land border, part of which has never been clearly demarcated because each country relies on different maps.

On Wednesday, Cambodia alleged that last week a Cambodian youth was allegedly shot, then burned alive by Thai paramilitary troops in a disputed border area.

Thailand said that Cambodian villagers had crossed into Thai territory and were simply sent back.

Protesters banned from disputed area

Writer: BangkokPost.com
Published: 17/09/2009

Protesters of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) will not be allowed inside the disputed 4.6-square-kilometre area around the Preah Vihear temple since this could affect relations with Cambodia, Lt-Gen Wibulsak Neepan said on Thursday.

The Second Army commander was responding to the PAD's announced plan to converge on Phra Viharn National Park in Si Sa Ket's Kantharalak district and demand that Cambodian troops and villagers be pushed out of the disputed area around Cambodia's Preah Vihear temple.

Veera Somkwamkid, chairman of the Civil Rights and Liberty Group, which is affiliated to the PAD, has said protesters from various provinces would gather in Kantharalak district before moving to the border area on Saturday.

Pol Lt-Gen Krisda Pankhongchuen, head Region 3 Provincial Police, said about 200 police had been mobilised from Si Sa Ket and nearby provinces to support soldiers in preventing the protesters from entering the disputed area.

Chavanont Intarakomalsut, secretary to Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya, said that during his inspection trip to the border area near the Preah Vihear temple on Sept 13 Mr Kasit and high-level officials of Cambodia agreed to solve the dispute through negotiations.

Mr Chavanont said the Thai-Cambodian Joint Border Committee (JBC) has surveyed the disputed area for border demarcation. The results of the past three meetings of the JBC were expected to be reported to parliament next month. The problem had existed for a long time and more time was needed to solve it through negotiations, he said.

Mr Chavanont said the protesters should be careful about going inside Phra Viharn National Park because there might still be some uncleared land mines in the area and they were very dangerous.

Somchai Phetprasert, a Puea Thai MP for Nakhon Ratchasima and chairman of the House committee on military affairs, urged the government, foreign minister and armed forces commanders to tell Cambodia that the Thai people have the right to peaceful assembly under the constitution.

At the same time, the army should take measures to prevent the protesters from getting near the disputed area since they might appear provocative to Cambodian troops.

Meanwhile, Thai soldiers have put up barbed wire to prevent PAD protesters entering Phra Viharn National Park, and set up more checkpoints along the road to the park, according to a local reporter in Si Sa Ket province. Entry to Preah Vihear is through Phra Viharn park.

The barbed wire was placed around around the office and the entrance to the national park, and two more military checkpoints were now the road between Nam Khun and Kantharalak districts, in addition to existing checkpoints manned by para-military rangers.

Huge billboards opposing the PAD's planned rally have been put up at various intersections along the road between Kantharalak district of Si Sa ket and Muang district of Ubon Ratchathani, the reporter said.

Cambodian opposition leader Mu Sochua speaks of government repression at home

Mu Sochua (Cathy Cockrell/NewsCenter image)
Social-welfare grad faces potential arrest following testimony to U.S. lawmakers, she says

By Cathy Cockrell, NewsCenter
16 September 2009

BERKELEY — "We cannot accept democracy fed to us by the teaspoon; we want full democracy," a Cambodian parliamentary opposition leader, Mu Sochua, told an audience at Berkeley in a brief but impassioned talk Sept. 14.

Her campus appearance came just four days after she testified before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, telling members of Congress that "democracy in Cambodia is experiencing an alarming free fall."
According to the human-rights advocate, that act of defiance has been ill received by the ruling regime back home, and daily radio attacks against her by a government spokesman have taken a serious turn. "This morning … he used the word 'traitor,'" she said, noting that treason carries a prison sentence of 20 years to life in Cambodian law. "I am going home facing jail," Ms. Mu said with emotion.

"I have no fear of jail," she later added, "but I fear something else which I can't tell you — not the bullets, but the acid attack. That is very common."

A Cal alum who earned her master's degree at the School of Social Welfare in 1981 and Berkeley's prestigious Haas International Award in 2006, Mu has spent a quarter century battling sex trafficking, domestic violence against women, government corruption, and illegal appropriation of land in her country. In 2005, in recognition of her efforts, she was one of 1,000 women from 153 countries nominated jointly for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Mu has served in the Cambodian government as adviser on women's affairs to the prime minister and as the nation's minister of women's and veterans' affairs. More recently, as a member of the Sam Rainsy opposition party, her relationship with government authorities has deteriorated. Mu has been stripped of the immunity normally accorded members of Parliament, and on Aug. 4 was found guilty by the courts in Phnom Penh of defaming Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has held power since the overthrow of the Khmer Rouge in 1979.

In her talk before a standing-room-only audience of several hundred, Mu said her life's work had been informed by values she learned at the School of Social Welfare. But "what I learned on the ground," she added, "is that social work alone" — as a means to ameliorate her people's social and economic problems — "will continue to make the people feel as if they are victims.
"We cannot afford to let our people believe they are victims," Mu said. "We have to go one step beyond that…. If we really want a change, it has to be a political issue." Language and culture present barriers to political change, she said: the term "accountability," for example, has no equivalent in Cambodian, while the word for "opposition" implies someone who is confrontational and destructive. Working against such obstacles, Mu, as leader of her party's women's movement, spearheaded a campaign to identify and encourage grassroots women to run for office in their villages.

According to the Asian Human Rights Commission, the Cambodian government is increasingly using the judicial system to silence opposition leaders, journalists, and human-rights organizations. Mu noted that Cambodia receives $1 billion a year in foreign aid, $53 million of it from the United States, despite its flaunting of legal and human rights. She called on members of the campus community to demand that U.S. aid to Cambodia be tied to compliance with human-rights standards and to demand that those Cambodians who speak out publicly against the government not be persecuted for doing so.

"Send a signal to Hillary Clinton," Mu said. "I don't want to go to jail. With your silence, I will go to jail."

More information: "Fighting Cambodia’s Goliath: Mu Sochua (MSW ’81)," from the School of Social Welfare ENews.

China, Cambodia vow to expand exchanges and cooperation


Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping (front, R) meets with Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni (front, L) in Beijing, capital of China, Sept. 16, 2009. (Xinhua/Yao Dawei)

Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping met with Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni in Beijing on Wednesday.

September 17, 2009

Xi said China and Cambodia are good neighbors with long-term traditional friendship, and such a friendly neighborhood has been strengthened in recent years in an all-round way.

The two countries have expanded their friendly exchanges and mutually beneficial cooperation in political, economic, cultural and educational areas, Xi said.

"China-Cambodia relations are a good example of cooperation based on the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence," Xi said.

He praised the contribution of the Cambodian royal family to boosting the ties with China, expressing gratitude for the support on issues concerning China's sovereignty and core interests related to Taiwan and Tibet.

"China attaches importance to the relations with Cambodia, and will make joint efforts to push forward comprehensive and cooperative partnership in a long-term and healthy way," Xi said.

Sihamoni said Cambodia values the relationship with China and will continue to promote their cooperation. He reaffirmed Cambodia will adhere to the one-China policy.

Sihamoni was crowned King in 2004 from his father Norodom Sihanouk who had maintained close relations with China.

Source: Xinhua

MFAIC Dismisses Mu Sochua’s Remarks

dap-news breaking news

Written by DAP NEWS -- Thursday, 17 September 2009

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MFAIC) on Wednesday criticized remarks recently made by Mu Sochua, a Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker (SRP), at a US at human rights commission.

The MFAIC rejection came following Mu Sochua’s claim that human rights and democracy in Cambodia is worsening. She alleged that the kingdom’s court system is not just, as she lost a defamation case against Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

MFAIC Secretary of State Uch Borith revealed details of a meeting with the US ambassador in Phnom Penh about Mu Sochua’s remarks.

“According to the ambassador, it was not a formal and bilateral talk between Mu Sochua and US Foreign Secretary Hillary Clinton [but] was just a meeting by chance in the street, out of the office,” he told reporters.

“Mu Sochua had asked the US Government to send a delegation to Cambodia to study and investigate democracy and human rights in Cambodia, but the response from the US foreign minister was negative,” he claimed. Uch Borith stated that the opposition lawmaker’s remarks would have no effect on cooperation between the US and Cambodia. “It means Mu Sochua told lies, not only to the Cambodian people, but also to the world,” he said.

The minister clarified that the security of Mu Sochua will be ensured. “If our Government was a dictatorship, she could not have left Cambodia.”

The Commission of Foreign Affair, International Cooperation, and Infor- mation of the Cambodian National Assembly (NA) on Monday dismissed remarks made by Mu Sochua, a Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker (SRP ), at the Human Commission of Tom Lantos.

“Removing the parliamentary immunity of Mu Sochua and Ho Vann followed by Article 80 and 88 of the Cambodian Constitution and Article 8 to 12 of the 2006 Lawmaker Statute,” noted the NA statement.

“We reject and dismiss the remarks of Mu Sochua,” the statement said. “Sam Rainsy himself did not acknowledge election result and refused to attend 9 commissions of the NA.”

The NA disagreed with Human Right Commission of Tom Lantos, which apparently only invited Cambodian opposition officials, not allowing members of the Cambodian Government to attend.This action, said the NA, showed that the event was undemocratic and unbalanced. It could put strain on the relationship between Cambodia and US.

Meanwhile, the NA welcomed and supported US Assembly Foreign Affair Commission Director Eni F.H. Faleomavaega, saying he knew the real democracy of Cambodia.

After she lost her case against premier Hun Sen at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, Mu Sochua filed with the Appeal Court, and then travelled to the US to try to publicize the situation in Cambodia.

Thailand denies Cambodian burned alive

dap-news breaking news

Written by DAP NEWS -- Thursday, 17 September 2009 05:40

The Thai Foreign Ministry on Wednesday denied that their armed forces burned a Yun Rithy, a Cambo- dian citizen, alive after catching him cutting down trees illegally on the Thai border.

The Thai rejection came following a diplomatic note from Cambodia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MFAIC) sent to the Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh on Tuesday. The note asked for clarification of details related to the case.

Thai Ministry Spokesman Vimon Kidchob on Tuesday was quoted by the Bangkok Post as saying that the his ministry had checked the report with the Border Affairs Department under the Supreme Command and found it “baseless.”

“Thai soldiers fired bullets into the sky near the border in Surin on Friday last week after finding about eights Cambodian teenagers were sneaking into Thai territory to cut down trees,” Vimon was quoted. “The report was misunderstanding and Thai soldiers did not use force in the incident,” she said.

However, Koy Kuong, Cambodian MFAIC spokesman, told DAP News Cambodia that, according to information published by the Bangkok Post, the denial was not a formal Thai Government statement so the Cambodian MFAIC could not clarify details of it. “Before we sent the diplomatic note to Thailand, we thought deeply,” Koy Kuong added.

Oddor Meanchey Inspection Chief Chhen Sivuth said it was clear that the Cambodian citizen was killed by being burned alive after being shot by Thai soldiers.

“Yun Rithy was killed by burning alive while another named Mao Khloueng was serious injured in the abdomen and is now staying at a provincial hospital,” he confirmed.

The Cambodian MFAIC on Tuesday sent a diplomatic note to the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh, complaining about “inhumane acts,” a reference to the alleged burning to death of one Cambodian citizen, according to the MFAIC diplomatic note.

Cambodia Wants to Become Member of Global Heritage Cults Committee: Sok An

dap-news breaking news

Written by DAP NEWS -- Thursday, 17 September 2009

Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Cabinet Minister Sok An invited all ambassadors to Cambodia to join a meeting to vote for Cambodia to become a member of the Global Heritage Cults Committee (GHCC) on Monday. VIPs and Prime Minister Hun Sen´s intimates will also attend the meeting, a cabinet officer said.

Sok An said at the meeting that Cambodia has never before had a member of the GHCC, a branch of UNESCO. “We hold this meeting to vote for Cambodia to become a member of the GHCC.”

There 13 files to support Cambo- dia’s bid to become a GHCC member, he said, including details of the UNESCO registering of the Angkor Wat and Preah Vihear temples.

“We will send Cambodia candidates to Paris, London, and New York to find supporters,” Sok An said.

“There are 20 countries who supported Cambodia as a candidate member of GHCC including India, Burma and other nations.”

ADB Pledges US$104 Million for GMS Corridor Projects

dap-news breaking news

Written by DAP NEWS -- Thursday, 17 September 2009 05:38

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has pledged to provide US$ 104 million for two Greater Mekong Sub-Region (GMS) corridor development projects (CTDP), a senior ADB official said at the sidelines of the second corridor economic forum in Phnom Penh on Wednesday.

The ADB funds will help with preparatory technical assistance for GMS countries for town development 2010-11, and will include both loan and grant aid, said Florian Steinberg, senior specialist for the Urban Devel- opment, and Transport Division of ADB’s Southeast Asia Development unit. It also will assist public sector and bilateral co-financing and private sector investments, he added, adding that the target funds could be doubled or tripled from ADB funding.

“The sources for providing fund are coming from different countries,” he said. “ The fund will help to strategic economic development planning in economic profiling of towns.”

“It will offer priority infrastructure incentives for private investments and building management capacity in support sustainable urban development and promote private sector investment.”

The preliminary funding plan under the CTDP, Cambodia will get US$26 million in loans and another US$24 million in allocation. Similarly, Laos will get US$26 million as grant aid, while Vietnam will get US$52 million as loans. Funds will also be provided by respective governments to support the projects, he said.

The project is to convert the GMS transport corridor into an economic corridor, and capture economic and social benefits of increased trade and traffic flows. This should help enhance the economic performance of towns and cities in order to bring the prosperity and sustainable development in an urbanizing region, he said.

The governor of each province, as well as local authorities will play a key role in implementing the work because they know the difficulties and challenges on the ground, he said.

Cheang Am, governor of Cambodia’s Svay Rieng provinc,e said that the economic corridor strategy will help poverty reduction in his province and help many people access modern services including clean water and electricity at a price many locals can afford.

Japan to Donates US$163,218 to Cambodia

dap-news breaking news

Written by DAP NEWS -- Thursday, 17 September 2009

In order to promote and improve Cambodia’s economic and social development, the Government of Japan will donate a total of US$ 163,218 though two Japanese NGOs projects, according to a Wednesday statement from the Japanese Embassy in Phnom Penh.

The statement said that, under the Japan’s economic cooperation frame- work and the Grant Assistance for Japanese NGO Projects, the Govern- ment of Japan will provide the US$163, 218 total.

“US$75,817 will be provided by PH-Japan Foundation for the Project for Improving Maternal and child-Health Services in Kampong Thom Province,” the statement said.

“US$87,401 will be provided by Japan League on Developmental Disabilities (JLDD) for the Project for Supporting People with Intellec-tual Disabilities by Community Approach (Phase II),” the statement added. The grant aid agreement will be signed between Kuroki Masafurni, Ambassador of Japan to the Kingdom of Cambodia, and the representatives of the recipient organizations at the Embassy of Japan in Phnom Penh on Thursday.

The Japanese Government has provided thousands of million dollars to Cambodian government in order to promote and improve development in all fields, aiming at reducing the poverty of Cambodian citizens.

French military aid


Photo by: Heng Chivoan

Thursday, 17 September 2009 15:02 Heng Chivoan

Deputy Commander in Chief Hing Bunheang (centre) and French Ambassador to Cambodia Jean Francois Desmazieres greet Cambodian military commanders Wednesday during the inauguration of new French-funded facilities at the Active Military School outside Phnom Penh. The new facilities, built at a cost of nearly US$200,000, feature a military tactics training centre, a shooting range and a French-language training centre. The French organisation Mission for Military Cooperation, which has aided the school since 1994, helped coordinate construction of the new facilities.

A claim for reparations


Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Visitors to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum look Wednesday at displays of Khmer Rouge victims’ skulls and painted depictions of atrocities carried out by the guards at S-21.


Thursday, 17 September 2009 15:03 Robbie Corey Boulet

ECCC civil parties to file for free medical care and other damages.

FREE medical care, the erection of memorial pagodas and the dissemination of apologies from Tuol Sleng prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, are among the reparations requests civil party lawyers are to make in a filing to be submitted today on behalf of their clients in the Khmer Rouge tribunal’s first trial.

The joint filing from all four civil party groups also requests that the final judgement from the Trial Chamber mention the names of the 91 civil parties and specify their connections to the S-21 security complex.

Should Duch be unable to pay for reparations, the filing states, their costs should be covered by the government or by an independent fund drawing on external sources, as well as any “criminally acquired” property confiscated from the prison chief.

Lawyer Alain Werner said the joint filing demonstrated “unity” on the part of the civil parties, as well as their ability “to substantially and efficiently contribute to this process of justice”.

Beyond the joint filing, lawyers plan to include individual reparations claims in final submissions to the Trial Chamber. A decision on reparations will likely be announced at the same time as the verdict, which is expected early next year.

The tribunal’s internal rules stipulate that judges can award only “collective and moral reparations”, citing as examples the publication of a judgement in the media and nonprofit work designed to benefit victims.

Civil party lawyers argue in the filing that the court has great flexibility in determining an award, adding that any award should reflect “past harms suffered, ongoing harms suffered and the cultural context in which the civil parties live”.

In their request for free access to psychological and physical care and free transportation to medical facilities, the lawyers state: “Past torture, forced labour, malnutrition and bad conditions of detention can have a huge impact on the health of victims. Moreover, psychological trauma can also create physical harm. These physical harms often worsen as the victim ages.”

Suggested education programmes include efforts to study past human rights abuses, including those perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge, as well as programmes designed to raise awareness of human rights in contemporary Cambodian society.

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Three women tour the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum on Wednesday.


A wide range of different memorials is suggested, though all would be specific to S-21 victims. Noting that many civil parties live outside Phnom Penh, the filing argues that small-scale memorials – especially pagodas – should be erected in local communities Kingdom-wide.

In addition to the dissemination of apologies already uttered by Duch, the filing also suggests that outreach-related reparations include additional public apologies – provided that Duch “would cooperate and respect” civil parties.

“Respect in this sense means that Duch should not apologise and then claim that he was only following orders,” the filing states. “This excuse-based apology only hurts victims and makes his apologies seem insincere.”

The filing also highlights the challenges faced by the court in providing reparations when the accused has “been properly determined to be indigent”.

The internal rules hold that the cost of reparations should be “borne by convicted persons”. But the lawyers argue that the rules can be interpreted to allow for flexibility when the convicted person is too poor to pay.

The lawyers also ask for further evidence to prove Duch’s claim that he is unable to contribute financially to reparations. More generally, the lawyers say there is “a pressing need for greater accountability and transparency” in determining defendants’ assets as well as “likely strategies” to shield those assets, adding that the issue will likely have “significant implications for future cases”.

____________________________

Dramatic krt testimony finale focuses on remorse

The international defence lawyer for Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, ended the last day of testimony in the Khmer Rouge tribunal’s first case Wednesday with a series of questions clearly intended to demonstrate the sincerity of his client’s apologies and statements of remorse.

Francois Roux prefaced the exchange by quoting former international co-prosecutor Robert Petit, who early in the trial said Duch would need to fully admit to his role at Tuol Sleng before he could “benefit” from his confession. “With regard to this, I have only one question to put to you,” Roux said. “Do you admit that in reality you were the man who, enjoying the trust of his superiors, implemented in a devoted and merciless fashion the persecution by the [Communist Party of Kampuchea] of the Cambodian people in S-21? Do you admit this, yes or no?” Duch responded, “Yes, I completely admit it.” Over the prosecution’s objection, Roux then showed for the court footage of Duch’s February 2008 visit to the Choeung Ek killing fields, during which he expressed in a statement “indescribable remorse” for the atrocities of the regime. In the video, after Duch concludes his statement, Chum Mey, a civil party and Tuol Sleng survivor, thanks him for “admitting his responsibility”, adding, “I have no grudge against him – what I want is justice and peace for our country”. Roux ended the dramatic exchange by asking Duch whether victims would be able to visit him in prison. Duch said they could, adding that he hoped victims “could see my true self”. As the testimony concluded, a voice from the translation booth could be heard exclaiming: “This is a play!”

ROBBIE COREY-BOULET

New court body seen as a threat to free judiciary


Thursday, 17 September 2009 15:03 Sebastian Strangio and Meas Sokchea

Extrajudicial oversight violates the Constitution and sidelines the Supreme Council, critics say.

A NEW task force designed to weed out “irregularities” in criminal cases coming before the country’s courts flirts with unconstitutionality and could compromise attempts to forge an independent judicial system in Cambodia, according to government critics who say the necessary mechanisms of oversight are already in place.

The 26-member panel, formed by Prime Minister Hun Sen this month following a request from the Ministry of Interior, is designed to address cases that judges and other court officials are suspected to have mishandled.

In a letter dated September 4, the prime minister said the new task force, to be staffed with police and Justice Ministry officials, would be able to copy case files in order to “inspect, analyse and evaluate” the courts’ conduct in specific cases.

“In the event that irregularities are found at any point in the case’s progress, it must be reported to the minister of interior and/or the minister of defence and/or the minister of justice to take further action”, the letter states. Any more serious problems, the letter adds, must be reported to the “head of government”, Hun Sen.

But opposition leader Sam Rainsy said the new body was a “step backward” for judicial independence and cited it as evidence the government demanded total obedience from court officials.

“The government is strengthening its grip, and the judiciary will lose whatever independence is left to it,” he said on Wednesday.

“When the prime minister wants to do something using the hand of the judiciary [and it is] somewhat reluctant, [he] is now in a position to make that hand completely obedient.”

Sam Rainsy also said the task force duplicated and effectively sidelined the nine-member Supreme Council of the Magistracy (SCM), which is constitutionally charged with protecting the courts’ independence. “By dealing a blow to the … Supreme Council of the Magistracy, this is dealing a blow to the Constitution itself,” he said.

Chan Soveth, a programme officer at local rights group Adhoc, agreed that the task force appeared to violate the Constitution by theatening judges’ independence, describing it as an attempt to “control the justice” meted out by Cambodia’s courts.

Sok Sam Oeun, who heads the Cambodia Defenders Project, also said the new body could impinge on the Constitution if it scares judges into modifying their rulings.

“I don’t want judges to think that if they acquit the accused, it is an ‘irregularity’ because it might impact their decisions. Maybe they will be scared to release [suspects],” he said.

However, Ith Rady, an undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Justice, whom Hun Sen has appointed to head the body, dismissed claims it violates the Constitution, saying its mandate would not supersede the authority of the courts.

“This is not a review of the criminal cases that have been decided by the courts but is a way of checking the process leading to the court’s decision” from the moment accusations are made to the handing down of verdicts, he said.

“We just want to know how the cases were judged.”

Constitutional tangle
Other analysts said the issues relating to the proposed body were complicated by the vagueness of its mandate.

Sonn Soubert, who sits on the country’s Constitutional Council, said criminal matters – such as the implementation of court verdicts – were the remit of the Ministry of Interior, but that any problems found by the body should be forwarded to the Supreme Council for a resolution. “If the
investigation… results in some kind of irregularity in the functioning of the court, then it has to be addressed to His Majesty the King [Norodom Sihamoni], who is the president of the SCM,” he told the Post.

Naly Pilorge, executive director of local rights group Licadho, said she agreed with the need for the review of some questionable cases, but that the deeply rooted problems with the judiciary would not be solved by undermining it further.

“There are definitely problems between the Ministry of Interior and the courts, and I would agree that there needs to be reviews of some of these cases,” she said.

“[But] a task force composed of police and justice officials should not have jurisdiction over the rulings of judges, as there should be a separation of powers.”

Head monk shielded by fearsome street rep


Thursday, 17 September 2009 15:02 May Titthara

CLERGYMEN who claim they were attacked and bitten by a drunken monk say they dare not file a formal complaint against the prominent religious figure due to fears for their personal safety.

Kiet Chan Thouch, chief monk at Wat Leu, Preah Sihanouk province’s main pagoda, was accused of threatening his colleagues in an alcohol-fuelled tirade this past weekend.

But Wat Leu clergyman Mao Sam Oeun said he won’t launch a complaint. “I dare not file a complaint … because I am worried about my safety,” he said.

“He regards himself as king of monks in this province, and he is not afraid of authority. If I complain, I will die.”

Another monk in the same temple, Koa Suon, 76, claims Kiet Chan Thouch bit and threatened him but said monastic principles prevent him from complaining or being angry with others.

“It’s up to the people who live near the pagoda and the authorities,” he said.

But government officials say their hands are tied without formal complaints.

Kang Dinath, the chief of the provincial Department of Cults and Religions, said he has already spoken with Kiet Chan Thouch, who denied the biting allegations.

“Now I am waiting for the victims to file a complaint,” Kang Dinath said. “If they do not complain, we don’t know what we can do because we have conducted research already and cannot find any evidence.”

Kiet Chan Thouch, who acts as adviser to Supreme Patriarch Tep Vong, declined comment when reached by the Post Wednesday.

“I don’t want to be vindictive with people,” he said.

Congressmen fear for speakers’ fate


Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Foreign Ministry Secretary of State Ouch Borith speaks to reporters Wednesday.


Thursday, 17 September 2009 15:02 Meas Sokchea and James O’toole

Advise US Embassy to offer ‘island of freedom’ to Lantos commission witnesses.

REPRESENTATIVES from the US Congress sent a letter to the US Embassy in Phnom Penh urging the protection of three Cambodians who testified in Washington, as the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs sought to downplay the significance of the US hearing.

Last Thursday, Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian Mu Sochua testified with Licadho rights group president Kek Galabru and Community Legal Education Centre labour programme head Moeun Tola in front of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, a US congressional body that monitors human rights norms around the world. All three witnesses offered fierce criticisms of the government, with Mu Sochua testifying that Cambodian democracy is “experiencing an alarming free fall”.

On Tuesday, two members of the Tom Lantos commission sent a letter to US Ambassador Carol Rodley urging her to monitor the safety of the three witnesses when they return home to Cambodia.

“The US Embassy should represent an island of freedom in a country such as Cambodia, where dissidents and human rights defenders often face threats and discrimination by the government and government-controlled security forces,” US congressmen James Moran and Frank Wolf wrote.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs secretary of state Ouch Borith dismissed concern for the safety of Mu Sochua and the other witnesses on Wednesday as overblown, comparing them to other prominent figures associated with the opposition.

“Have we ever arrested [SRP head] Sam Rainsy?” Ouch Borith asked. “Sam Rainsy is a leading party representative, and he always wants to speak badly about Cambodia when he travels abroad.... As for [Mu Sochua’s] return to Cambodia, don’t worry about this.”

Ouch Borith went on to dispute Mu Sochua’s characterisation of a meeting she had with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last Friday. On Sunday, Mu Sochua told the Post that Clinton expressed interest in sending a US State Department delegation to Cambodia later this year, and “made it very clear that she does not wish to see further deterioration” in the Kingdom’s rights situation.

Ouch Borith said that during a recent meeting with Carol Rodley, the US ambassador clarified to him that the meeting between Clinton and Mu Sochua “was not official – it took place outside [Clinton’s] office”.

To the issue of the US delegation, Ouch Borith said Clinton “didn’t respond at all”.

US Embassy spokesman John Johnson confirmed in an email on Wednesday that Clinton “did meet briefly with Mu Sochua to discuss the current situation in Cambodia” but did not offer further details regarding the meeting.

Pensions preclude jobs: PM


Thursday, 17 September 2009 15:02 Cheang Sokha

STATE employees will no longer be able to supplement their pensions by taking other government jobs, Prime Minister Hun Sen said in a directive issued Wednesday.

Until Wednesday, recipients of retirement or disability pensions could add to their income by taking jobs elsewhere in the government. Under new regulations designed to ease pressure on the state’s already overstreched pension system, employees can choose the higher-paying option between their pension and a salaried job, but can’t have both.

The prime minister ordered all government ministries to register the names of employees who receive state pensions with the Ministry of Social Affairs. Until then, state pensions will be frozen, he said.

Officials mull models for decentralisation


Thursday, 17 September 2009 15:02 Tep Nimol

OFFICIALS were tempering expectations of government reform after a seminar Wednesday aimed at showcasing its much-mooted decentralisation and deconcentration plans.

More than 300 members from municipal, district and provincial councils, as well as government ministers, attended the seminar, where French officials presented decentralisation and deconcentration strategies.

The seminar featured Jean-Philippe Bayon, deputy board director of the Rhone-Alpes region in southeastern France, who shared his experiences of reform in his own country.

But one political official said Cambodia wouldn’t blindly imitate the French model.

“Cambodia will study French decentralisation and deconcentration, and then find out choices and solutions … that respond to Cambodia’s present situation,” said Sak Setha, a secretary of state at the Interior Ministry.

The government arranged commune council elections in 2002 and 2007 to place more power in local administrators. In 2008, reform expanded to include capital, provincial, municipal and district council elections.

Logger killing denied


Thursday, 17 September 2009 15:02 Thet Sambath

Thai ministry says soldiers did not burn teen: report.

A REPORTED denial from Bangkok that Thai soldiers were involved in the death of a Cambodian teenager who was allegedly shot and burned alive was greeted with scepticism in the victim’s home province of Oddar Meanchey on Wednesday.

A spokesperson with Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs rebutted suggestions that Thai soldiers killed 16-year-old Yon Rith, according to a report in the Bangkok Post.

The newspaper quoted spokesperson Vimon Kidchob as saying the ministry had checked its border reports and found the allegation to be baseless. She said Thai soldiers merely fired bullets into the air after finding eight Cambodians sneaking into Thailand to cut down trees.

But Oddar Meanchey Governor Pich Sokhin called the Thai assertion a lie. “How could our people have been injured and killed if their soldiers shot into the air?” he said.

“Their interpretation is a lie to avoid responsibility and to hide their cruelty from the public. Our people are injured and dead. How can they say they have no responsibility?”

The Cambodian Foreign Ministry was still waiting for an official response from the Thais, spokesman Koy Kuong said.

“This [media] comment is not an official one,” he said.

“We sent them a diplomatic note, and we need their written response. Our message is to ask [Thai] authorities to investigate this case and for the responsible persons to be punished.”

Human rights advocates in Cambodia also dismissed the reported Thai denial.

“Thailand’s dignity will decrease for committing crime and violence on Cambodians,” said Chan Soveth, an investigator with the NGO Adhoc.

PM takes on climate change


Thursday, 17 September 2009 15:01 Khouth Sophakchakrya

Hun Sen emphasises importance of protecting the ozone layer.

PRIME Minister Hun Sen issued a statement calling for the conservation and protection of the environment to coincide with Wednesday’s “International Day for the Ozone Layer”.

“The tsunami, drought, storms, rising temperatures and climate change have directly affected Cambodia and many other countries,” the prime minister said in a statement released Monday. “These are all signals to inform humanity about the danger of global warming.”

The prime minister’s remarks came a day before the World Bank released its World Development Report (WDR) for 2010, titled “Development and Climate Change”. In a teleconference from the United States on Tuesday that coincided with the release of the report, a panel of World Bank experts emphasised the need for immediate action to stave off the worst effects of climate change.

A challenge for Cambodia, the World Bank experts said, is the fact that economic sectors that have been among the main engines of the country’s economic growth over the past few years also generate high emissions.

“In the case of Cambodia … you have the construction and the garment sectors, and there is the dilemma between the need for growth and the need for reducing emissions,” said Justin Lin, the World Bank’s senior vice president for development economics.

Although developing nations such as Cambodia currently constitute only 3 percent of global emissions, they will need to adapt to clean-energy technology in the near future to avoid falling behind in the global marketplace, said Xiaodong Wang, the World Bank’s senior energy specialist for the East Asia Pacific Region.

It is this challenge that Hun Sen said the Kingdom is already attempting to meet. Although Cambodia is working hard to develop economically and build its infrastructure, Hun Sen emphasised that these efforts must occur in step with environmentally friendly practices, noting that Cambodia signed 2001’s Montreal Protocol on ozone layer protection.

Cambodia has already ceased importing and producing chemicals that damage the ozone layer, Hun Sen said, vowing commitment on this issue.

“Protecting the ozone layer saves lives on Earth,” he said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JAMES O’TOOLE

KK groups ask Hanoi to address land concerns


Thursday, 17 September 2009 15:01 Vong Sokheng

A COALITION of local Khmer Krom advocacy groups has appealed to the Vietnamese government to intervene on behalf of an ethnic Khmer community that they said has lost farmland to a state construction project in the country’s An Giang province.

In a letter to the Vietnamese Embassy in Phnom Penh dated Tuesday, nine Khmer Krom organisations called on the Vietnamese government to pay appropriate compensation to those affected by a channel-building project, which began last month.

Thech Phoun, deputy president of the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Cultural Centre, said that in August, Vietnamese authorities cracked down on a group of 40 ethnic Khmer demonstrators who were defending their rice fields against the construction, which has claimed 400 hectares belonging to Khmer families.

“I hope the Vietnamese government will help resolve the problem for the affected Khmer Krom families fairly and respect their rights,” he said.

Vietnamese Embassy spokes-man Trinh Ba Cam said the embassy had not yet received a letter from the groups, but that the government has a “clear policy” for compensating people who lose their land to development projects.

Doctors puzzled by R’kiri ‘flower disease’


Thursday, 17 September 2009 15:01 Tep Nimol

AT least 200 people, most of them children, in northeastern Ratanakkiri province, have been struck with a skin infection that has left health officials scratching their heads.

Villagers in the province’s Lumphat district have referred to the unknown condition only as the “flower disease”.

Sar Sophat, a resident of Dey Lo village, said Wednesday that her 2-year-old granddaughter had been infected with the itchy condition.

“It makes us itchy, and many big white spots emerge on the entire body from head to toe,” she said.

Touch Bun Thoeun, a physician at the Lumphat referral hospital, said he has never seen the condition before, warning that it could spread to other areas without protective measures.

“[Patients] can be cured within only one week if they are not so serious,” he said. “But if the spots are scratched and become ulcers, it will be very difficult to cure and will take a long time.”

Touch Bun Thoeun said he thought the infection came from dust or pollen.

Either way, roughly 200 affected people have streamed in to his hospital over the last two months, he said. Most have been children between 5 and 10 years old.

Local governors seen as key to boost GMS trade


Photo by: STEVE FINCH
Local traders cross into Cambodia at the Poipet border gate. Poipet is a key frontier within the GMS trade network.


Thursday, 17 September 2009 15:01 Nathan Green

Asian Development Bank's Southeast Asia director says region must work at provincial level to better develop trade corridors

GREATER involvement by provincial governors and officials in efforts to boost economic ties between Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) countries could lead to a “doubling or quadrupling” of trade in the region, a senior Asian Development Bank official said Wednesday.

Speaking on the sidelines of the opening day of a new economic forum in Phnom Penh, ADB Director General for Southeast Asia Arjun Thapan told the Post that provincial governors from the six member countries hold the key to facilitating trade and investment in the region through the development of so-called economic corridors.

“Intraregional trade in the GMS has remained resilient despite the global crisis,” he said. “Now we are looking at the potential of doubling or quadrupling this intraregional trade by opening up the borders, making the borders work more efficiently and more effectively, and by pulling in investments along the transport corridors to drive economic growth.”

The GMS is an economic zone bound together by the Mekong River. Covering 2.6 million square kilometres, the zone includes Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and China’s southern provinces. The GMS has a total population of over 300 million people.

In 1998, member countries adopted an approach to development that focused on three economic corridors. One, the Southern Economic Corridor, links Bangkok to Ho Chi Minh City via Cambodia.

Thapan said the physical link is in place, but that the corridor’s prospect of reaching its full potential depends on ensuring that towns and cities along it are equipped with the physical and regulatory infrastructure necessary to attract investment. That includes water supply, sanitation, waste management, urban transport, development controls and building regulations.

“That’s what will fuel the investments into the towns, and it is governors that are going to make these investments work, hence the need to get them engaged in the entire process,” he said.

A suitable framework will be provided by the Governors Forum, which was launched Wednesday and will meet regularly, Thapan said.

Sok Chenda, secretary general of the Council for the Development of Cambodia, the government’s key investment agency, acknowledged that Cambodia is starting at a competitive disadvantage compared to its bigger neighbours to the east and west when it comes to securing investment. However, he said the economic-corridors initiative provides a framework to move beyond competition and turn Cambodia into a key component of the region’s economic development.

“This is the beauty of the economic-corridor concept,” he said. “People can legitimately think we are a small country and we will just be a transit point, but this is why we need to move from being a transport corridor, helping goods move from one place to another, to an economic corridor where there is life and economic activity all along the corridor.”

No figures were available Wednesday for intraregional trade. However, figures obtained by the Post this month show Cambodia’s imports from Vietnam dropped 21.85 percent year on year during the first seven months from US$810 million to $633 million. Cambodia’s exports to Vietnam dropped 22 percent from $141 million to $110 million over the same period. Bilateral trade between the two countries was $935 million in 2006, rising to $1.19 billion in 2007 and up to a record $1.64 billion last year.

Six new border gates are set to be established by the end of this year between the two neighbours as part of efforts to boost annual bilateral trade to $2 billion.

Total trade between Thailand and Cambodia fell 31.7 percent to $913.58 million in the first seven months of the year, Thai customs figures show.

Chevron submits latest bid for Area IV


Thursday, 17 September 2009 15:00 Cheang Sokha and Steve Finch

US energy firm Chevron met with Prime Minister Hun Sen Tuesday after submitting a bid to the Cambodian National Petroleum Authority to explore offshore Area IV, a spokesman confirmed Wednesday.

The area, which lies in an region disputed by Phnom Penh and Bangkok, is also subject to a bid by Japan’s Mitsui Oil Exploration, which met with the prime minister earlier Tuesday.

“Many oil and gas companies have submitted applications [for Area IV],” Ieng Sophalleth, the prime minister’s spokesman, said.

It remains unclear whether Mitsui and Chevron would plan to take on Area IV together – they are already jointly developing offshore Block A and have signed agreements with Bangkok to team up on part of Area IV, or blocks B12A, B12B and B13 as they are known in Thailand.

Chevron’s regional spokesperson Gareth Johnstone said Wednesday he could not comment “for commercial and contractual reasons”.

Two Japanese companies – Inpec and Marubeni Oil and Gas – submitted energy bids last month that are also thought to be for Area IV, given that it is the only zone where rights have yet to be awarded.

Jean-Pierre Labbe, head of exploration in Cambodia for Total, which is finalising an agreement for nearby Area III, said Wednesday that awarding the disputed territories could work in Cambodia’s favour in the dispute with Thailand given that a Thai official recently told the Bangkok Post that Phnom Penh’s failure to seal agreements suggested it did not care about the overlapping area. “Awarding the areas will stop these comments,” he said.

Milled rice exports up over 2008


Thursday, 17 September 2009 15:00 May Kunmakara

CAMBODIA has this year already surpassed total milled rice exports for 2008, a government official said Wednesday.

Through the end of August, the Kingdom exported 8,000 tonnes of milled rice, mainly to Europe, Africa and the rest of Asia, Mao Thora, secretary of state at the Ministry of Commerce said on the sidelines of a rice-production seminar in Phnom Penh.

Although he was unable to give an exact figure for 2008, he said Cambodia exported about 5,000 tonnes of milled rice last year. Mao Thora said he expected the country to export more than 10,000 tonnes in 2009.

The government has this year made available US$18 million to the sector for purchasing rice and improving processing capacity through the Rural Development Bank, its Chairman and CEO Son Koun Thor told Wednesday’s conference.

However, Mao Thora said, more funds are needed to develop the rice industry.

“The problem for us now is whether we have enough milled rice for export,” he told the Post, adding that lacking technology and capacity, as well as insufficient credit in agricultural continue to pose problems.

Mobile firms dominate spending on advertising


Photo by: HENG CHIVOAN
Mobile firm Beeline advertises on the streets of Phnom Penh last week.

Thursday, 17 September 2009 15:00 Nathan Green

Research conducted for the first eight months of 2009 shows telcos top the list of the biggest spenders on TV and print ads

SEVEN of Cambodia’s nine mobile phone companies were among the top 10 spenders on print advertising in the first eight months, figures released to the Post by Indochina Research Wednesday showed.

The research, which tracks advertising spend based on published rate cards and does not account for discounts, showed a 30 percent drop in total advertising spending over the period from US$52.8 million in the first eight months of 2008 to $37.5 million.

Joining the mobile-phone companies among the top-10 spenders were an Internet service provider and a mobile-handset supplier. A tobacco company was the only representative from outside of the communications sector in the top 10, slotting in at No 6, according to data collected by Indochina Research’s Media Monitoring Department. None of the companies was named.

There were five mobile-phone companies in the top 10 spots last year, including the four biggest spenders.

Mobile operators took up six of the top 10 spots in terms of television advertising, including the top three places, one more than last year, when five held positions in the top 10.

“One of the reasons for such advertising presence is certainly the ever-increasing competitive environment in which telcos have been operating for the past two years,” said IndoChina Research General Manager Laurent Notin. “Telcos need to create brand awareness to build, then sustain their customer base.”

The top 10 advertisers so far in 2009 accounted for around 35 percent of the total spending on print ads and 30 percent of total television advertising expenditures over the period.

Among those, mobile operators accounted for 19 percent of total television advertising spend, up from 12 percent for the same period in 2008.

“The mobile operators are more of a pillar to the advertising scene than last year over the same period, [and they are] certainly providing some sort of relief to the media sector in the current economic turmoil,” Notin said.

Television series and soap operas attracted the most advertising revenues, Indochina Research’s data showed.

The dinner slot between 6:30pm and 9:30pm attracted 43 percent of advertising revenues over the period, followed by the 10:30am to 2:30pm slot, which attracted 25 percent.