Monday, 30 November 2009

The Khmer Rouge Tribunal: Trials and Tribulations


A memorial at the Choeund Ek mass grave site in Cambodia is composed of victims' skulls. A flag is seen reflected in the glass at right.
Sarah Caron / Polaris


By CHRISTOPHER SHAY / HONG KONG
Monday, Nov. 30, 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

When the Khmer Rouge emptied the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh of human inhabitants in 1975, one of Pol Pot's soldiers murdered seven-year-old Theary Seng's father. Later, Theary Seng, her mother and siblings ended up in a prison in southeast Cambodia. One day, Theary Seng awoke to an empty cell — the entire prison population had been massacred overnight. In a rare act of mercy, the Khmer Rouge soldiers allowed the handful of children to survive. Theary Seng eventually escaped to a Thai refugee camp and then to the U.S. Her story is by no means unique in Cambodia. In just this one prison in Svay Rieng province, between 20,000 and 30,000 people were executed, and during the Pol Pot era, about 1.7 million Cambodians died — more than 20% of the country's population.

Still traumatized by those years and subsequent decades of political instability, many Cambodians had hoped that the U.N.-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal, a hybrid Cambodian-international court, would help push the country toward reconciliation. In November 2007, Theary Seng, now a human-rights lawyer in Phnom Penh, applied to become the first civil party at the Khmer Rouge tribunal — whereby she and other Khmer Rouge victims are participating in the criminal proceedings with their own set of lawyers. On Friday, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) — the official name of the tribunal — finished hearing its first case. Prosecutors sought a 40-year jail sentence for Kaing Guek Eav, known as "Duch," (pronounced "doik") who ran the notorious S-21 prison, a Phnom Penh high school transformed into an interrogation center where Duch is accused of overseeing the grisly deaths of approximately 15,000 people. Over the last six months of hearings, the court heard accounts of interrogators who ripped off toe nails, suffocated prisoners with plastic bags, forced people to eat feces, electrocuted prisoners and drained blood to extract confessions. During the trial, Duch, 67, said that Cambodians should hold him to the "highest level of punishment." But he also begged for forgiveness, saying he was only "a cog in a running machine." Duch's defense team painted the former math instructor as a mid-level bureaucrat who didn't personally torture anyone and was only following orders, and on Friday, Duch pleaded for the tribunal to release him.

Such has been the topsy-turvy nature of the tribunal. Indeed, even getting just to the end of the first case was an ordeal. There have been allegations of a kickback scheme where Cambodian employees at the tribunal are forced to pay back a part of their salaries to the government officials who gave them their jobs. On two different occasions, only last-minute donations from Japan allowed the Cambodian-side of the court to pay its staff. Then, in a fiasco dubbed "Waterlilygate," one of the international lawyers said documents found in a moat filled with lilies had been stolen from his office. And last week the New York-based Open Society Justice Initiative, an international law monitor, accused the Cambodian government of meddling with the tribunal, claiming "political interference at the ECCC poses a serious challenge to both the credibility of the court and its ability to meet international fair trial standards."

Despite these issues, Theary Seng says the tribunal has ultimately helped the healing process by encouraging people to talk openly about the Khmer Rouge-era. She says that though most Cambodians assume there is some degree of corruption at the tribunal, "we are not to the point where it should shut down." She says that the Khmer Rouge tribunal is more than a court of law — "it's also a court of public opinion."

About 28,000 people attended Duch's trial at the ECCC on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, and millions more Cambodians followed the tribunal on television and the radio. With about 70% of the Cambodia's 14 million people born after the Khmer Rouge regime, the trial enabled an entire generation to learn about their country's terrible past. Youk Chhang the director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia says that the fact that the tribunal was held in Cambodia was key to sparking interest in the trial and knowledge about the period. In January, the University of California Berkeley's Human Rights Center released a report saying that 85% of Cambodians had little or no knowledge of the trial. Now, with the distribution of a new textbook on the Khmer Rouge coinciding with the trial, Youk Chhang says "the whole country is aware."

The tribunal has also helped Cambodians in unexpected ways. A counselor sits next to every survivor who testifies — at one point during the Duch trial, a judge even ordered a witness to see a psychiatrist, according to Sotheara Chhim, a Cambodian psychiatrist and director of the Transcultural Psychosocial Organization (TPO). An estimated 14% of the population suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, and Sotheara Chhim says the number of people who suffer from depression or anxiety is likely much higher than that. Though information about mental health is still limited in rural Cambodia, "the trial brought out a lot," Sotheara says.

Now comes the waiting. A verdict for Duch isn't expected until March. For Theary Seng, the Duch case "is sort of a test trial" for the more important Case Two when four high-ranking Khmer Rouge leaders will be in the dock: Nuon Chea, 83, who was second in command to Pol Pot; former head of state Khieu Samphan, 78; former foreign affairs minister Ieng Sary, 84; and Ieng Thirith, 77, the ex-social affairs minister. They are expected to face the tribunal in 2011 in a case that could last years. Case Two, says Theary Seng, will make Duch's case look like "a cakewalk." Unlike Duch, the four defendants held high-level positions in the Khmer Rouge, have denied complicity in war crimes and refused to apologize. Time is also running out. With the youngest defendant aged 77, some or all of the defendants may not live long enough to face the tribunal.

If the past year is any indication, the tribunal will face many more hurdles, but Theary Seng says it has benefited Cambodia. The trial, she argues, has generated much-needed discussions about history as well as mercy across the country. Says Theary Seng: "The Khmer Rouge tribunal has triggered a process of forgiveness." And perhaps a process leading finally to closure.

Horror prison lifts the bar on atrocities



Claims of torture haunt Prey Sar jail

Published: 30/11/2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

The Prey Sar prison which is presently home to Thai spy suspect Sivarak Chutipong and thousands of other Cambodian and foreign inmates is under fresh fire for its "appalling conditions".

The complex - described as one of the most notorious jails in Southeast Asia and often compared with the infamous Tuol Sleng prison under Khmer Rouge rule - has been slammed for alleged human rights violations.

"I've often heard about brutal torture against the prisoners there," said a 25-year-old Cambodian woman.

"It's really scary. I think most Cambodian people know well about its conditions."

Prey Sar is the largest of about 20 prisons in Cambodia. It houses 2,500 to 2,600 prisoners despite being originally designed to house a maximum of 1,200, a prison warder said.

Mr Sivarak, who worked at Cambodia Air Traffic Services, was arrested on Nov 12 for relaying information about the flight schedule of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who flew into Phnom Penh a day earlier after being appointed economic adviser to Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Prey Sar, in Dor Kor district about 10km from central Phnom Penh, is under the supervision of the Ministry of Interior and the Health Ministry.

The public perception of the prison is one of "fear and brutality". It is reportedly cramped and lacking in proper health care.

"We have treated all prisoners well - all the allegations are groundless," said the prison warden.

He said all prisoners had good sleeping arrangements.

If they were ill, the prison provided them with proper medication.

"I have seen and talked to Sivarak. He is healthy. We take care of him very well because we know what is what," the warden said.

It has been more than 10 years since the Cambodian government moved prisoners from the centuries-old jail built during French colonial rule in central Phnom Penh near the Royal Palace complex to Prey Sar.

Prey Sar was a commune and detention centre during the Khmer Rouge regime from 1975 to 1979, when more than 1.7 million people lost their lives.

Some say the brutality at Prey Sar is reminiscent of Tuol Sleng, the torture and detention centre also known as S-21 and now a genocide museum.

"Prey Sar is not much different," said 51-year-old Sameth Tul, a victim of the Khmer Rouge regime.

Sameth Tul was 17 when Khmer Rouge soldiers took control of Phnom Penh and later ruled all of Cambodia.

He was living in Takai province, south of Phnom Penh, at the time. His family was sent to work in a nearby commune and lived there for nearly four years until the collapse of the Khmer Rouge regime.

"Fortunately, no one in my family was killed because we were all farmers," he said.

"Those being killed were doctors, teachers, academics and lawyers.

"I remember the whole experience of when I was locked up in the commune camp," Sameth Tul said.

"I had to get up at 3am and [go to] sleep at 11pm.

"Many people died of torture, and lack of food and sleep."

Nth Shore student admits forging driver licences


Monday November 30, 2009

Source: NZPA/ONE News (New Zealand)

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

A Cambodian student pleaded guilty in North Shore District Court to forging scores of drivers' licences on Monday.

Seventeen year old Marcus Lim, also known as Vutha Lim, admitted one charge of forging a drivers' licence, and a new charge of forging 150 drivers' licences.

The Auckland Grammar School boy was remanded on bail to reappear in court for sentencing on April 20.

His lawyer William Spring told the court police were not seeking a term of imprisonment.

A computer seized by police earlier this month contained a database of 250 names of people understood to have received a forged licence.

Almost all were 16 and 17-year-olds from 15 Auckland schools.

More than 60 students have returned their fake licences into police stations, although police believe that many will never be found.

Mum turns to Thaksin's lawyer



Published: 30/11/2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Former foreign minister Noppadon Pattama said on Monday that he had asked the Cambodian government to allow another visit by the mother of the jailed Thai engineer accused of spying.

Sivarak Chutipong, an employee of Thai-owned Cambodia Air Traffic Services (CATS), was arrested on Nov 12 on charges of passing a state secret to Thai diplomatic officials - flight information about fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra when he visited Phnom Pehn.

Mr Sivarak is being held in Prey Sar prison. His mother Simarak Na Nakhon Phanom and younger brother were allowed to visit him on Friday.

Mr Noppadon, a lawyer and close associate of Thaksin, and Mrs Simarak held a press conference this afternoon.

"I have contacted the Cambodian authorities and asked they allow Mrs Simarak to meet her son again," Mr Noppan said. "I called a press briefing on this because I don't want it to turn into a political issue."

He said making an appeal for visiting rights in the name of humanity should be faster than working through the Foreign Ministry. It would be clear within the next day or two whether Mrs Simarak could meet her son again.

Mrs Simarak said the help being provided by the Thai government was quite slow.

"If I have to wait for the Foreign Ministry, I might be able to travel to Cambodia on Dec 7," she said. "I'm ready to do anything to help my son so he can be freed."

"My son is innocent, but I would like my son to talk about the details."

Earlier on Monday, Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said the government was doing its best within the limits of the law to help Mr Sivarak, who had been consulting his Cambodian lawyer Kao Soupha.

"In addition, a lawyer from the Lawyers Council of Thailand is available to help Mr Sivarak, who insists he is innocent," Mr Kasit said.

The diplomatic crisis between Phnom Penh and Bangkok threatens the Trans-Asian Railway

http://www.asianews.it/

11/30/2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

CAMBODIA - THAILAND

The diplomatic crisis between Phnom Penh and Bangkok threatens the Trans-Asian Railway

Realization of the railway threatened - along six kilometres - which crosses the border between the two countries. The line should unite in Kunming in southern China to Singapore, along a path of 5300 km. End of work planned for 2015, for a total cost of 15 billion dollars.



Phnom Penh (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The diplomatic crisis between Phnom Penh and Bangkok is seriously jeopardizing the completion of the Trans-Asian Railway in the area which will connect Kunming in southern China, to Singapore, along a path of 5300 km. The project of 15 billion dollars could vanish over just six kilometers: those needed to join Sisophon, Cambodia, to Aranyaprathet, Thailand.

Cambodian government sources, on condition of anonymity, told the South China Morning Post (SCMP) they understand the reasons why Thailand "does not to continue the project while there are ongoing hostilities." A manager of the Thai State Railways confirmed that "negotiations are ongoing," but the situation is deadlocked.

To undermine the project, the diplomatic crisis flared up between Phnom Penh and Bangkok after the decision of Prime Minister Hun Sen to take as Cambodian economic adviser former exiled Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra sentenced to two years at home for corruption. The two countries withdrew their respective ambassadors. Following this a Thai citizen was arrested in Cambodia on charges of espionage.

The track that crosses the border between the two countries is reserved for freight traffic. The line along Cambodia and Vietnam is the most important part of the project, the completion of which is forecast for 2015. It represents the crossroads between the different rail lines and will serve to improve the Cambodian railway, in a strategic point for the entire region.

Paul Power, one of the engineers on the project, confirms that "it is difficult to imagine the completion of the work" if there is no stretch "along the border" between the two countries. "All this has implications at regional level" he adds, because "there is no point in the link between Ho Chi Minh City and Phnom Penh, without connection with Thailand."

The Trans-Asian Railway (TAR) is a project aimed at creating an integrated rail network for Europe and Asia, sponsored by the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific United Nations (UNESCAP). The work got under way in the 60s of last century, with the aim of establishing a rail link - a 14 thousand km track- which could unite Istanbul with Singapore, that follows on to China.

U.S says to continue help Cambodia to fight HIV/AIDS


2009-11-30

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

PHNOM PENH, Nov. 30 (Xinhua) -- The United States said on Monday that it will continue to help Cambodia in fighting against HIV/AIDS.

"The United States looks forward to continuing our support of successes like these and we are committed to furthering efforts that curb the spread of HIV in Cambodia," it said in a statement released here on Monday by its Embassy.

The U.S is considered as the largest bilateral HIV/AIDS donor in Cambodia, committing 18 million U.S. dollars in 2009 as part of the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.

The U.S helped Cambodia cut its HIV/AIDS prevalence rate by half among the general population and by two thirds among brothel-based sex workers, a remarkable success story in the global fight against the disease.

The U.S. assistance is also helping to provide life-saving antiretroviral medication to more than 31,000 Cambodians living with HIV/AIDS, reaching over 90 percent of those in need, the statement said.

Over the next five years, the United States will place a renewed emphasis on partnering with Cambodia to build the country's national HIV/AIDS response, it added. 

Editor: Li Xianzhi

A 30 Years Commemoration – Civil Society in Cambodia – Sunday, 29.11.2009

http://cambodiamirror.wordpress.com/

Posted on 30 November 2009
The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 640

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

The past weak saw a special anniversary celebration, which is in no calendar of national events: 30 years since NGOs started to work in Cambodia. Nowadays, when the participation of NGOs – foreign and national – is assumed as a regular feature of life in society, it is surely not easy to understand the extraordinary nature that foreign NGOs came to Cambodia in 1979. At that time, the majority of UN member states considered the Cambodian government to be illegal. The so called “Western” countries and the People’s Republic of China agreed on the point that the Khmer Rouge representative continued to legally represent Cambodia at the United Nations until 1990. Seeing this agreement between these two world powers normally not much in agreement, many Third World countries went along with this understanding. Only the socialist countries (except China) and India established diplomatic relations with the government in Phnom Penh after the end of the Khmer Rouge regime. And US citizens, working in Cambodia, even if their salaries did not originate from the USA, had to pay “punitive taxes” in the USA.



Eva Mysliwuec, now the director of Youth Star Cambodia, who had came to Cambodia in May 1980, spoke at the commemoration, on behalf of the NGO Organizing Committee, about the three decades of NGO partnerships with the people and government of Cambodia, saying,

“It is very moving to look around this room and to see so many people who have contributed to the Cambodia in which we live today. How far we have come since 1979!

I remember well my arrival in May 1980, in a country devastated by war and genocide. I remember vividly my first meeting with Samdech HUN Sen who was then Foreign Minister and 28 years old.”

There were only five NGOs, who had dared to break the boycot of their home governments: the American Friends Service Committee, CIDSE, Church World Service, OXFAM, and World Vision – now, as the Prime Minister announced in his speech, there are 3,207 NGOs and associations, that is 1,933 NGOs and 1,274 other associations. Eva Mysliwiec continued:

“The core of NGO work was focused on massive relief, meeting health needs and restoring agricultural production in order to prevent famine. Because of the embargo imposed by the Western Community and with precious few resources, NGOs found themselves in a unique role where they had to provide massive infrastructure assistance as well… NGO work in the eighties spanned virtually every sector of Cambodian society and economy, from the restoration of urban and rural water supply, to the rehabilitation of infrastructure, the provision of basic agriculture, education and health inputs, etc. – the list is endless.”

But in spite of all this emphasis on practical actions, she said:

“In my view, the most valuable role the NGOs played in the eighties was solidarity: bearing
witness to the suffering of Cambodian people, bearing witness to the unearthing of mass graves, bearing witness to the continuing hardship caused by the embargo and isolation and especially bearing witness to the resilience, ingenuity and determination of people to rebuild their country. They created a bridge between Cambodian people and the people in countries whose governments did not recognize Cambodia.”

This history has to be remembered, when nowadays, sometimes the opinion is expressed that NGOs have one role only: “to provide humanitarian assistance” – quite different from the wide variety of activities NGOs are engaged with in other countries of the world.

All the more it was interesting that also the keynote speaker, Ingrid Srinath, Secretary General of CIVICUS (“Promoting a worldwide community of informed, inspired, committed citizens who are actively engaged in confronting the challenges facing humanity” – with member organizations in 110 countries), described the fundamental task of civil society not just in terms of development or humanitarian project implementations, but located their role in the present situation, after the collapse of many schemes based on an free-market system, where human rights an democratic are more under threat than before.

“In Latin America, Africa, Eurasia and Asia authoritarian governments are being permitted to crack down with impunity on civil society and media freedoms through new, draconian legislative and fiscal controls if they control access to energy resources, investment or markets… Funding for defending these rights, for strengthening civil society architecture and for building solidarity across civil society groups is also much harder to come by as donor resources are stretched by increasing domestic needs and by more immediate humanitarian needs…

“The possibilities of mounting a coherent challenge to the economic paradigm of market fundamentalism and the patent inequity of the institutions of global governance have never been greater. For the first time in history peoples from Michigan to Manila, Madrid to Mali, and Mumbai to Moscow can share the realization that the root causes of their individual problems, and hence their interests, are in fact, identical. From slums to forests, fishing communities to assembly-lines, indigenous peoples to suburbia – the people we so often refer to as ‘ordinary’ are increasingly aware of the connectedness of their causes. It’s up to us as civil society to provide the means for them to mobilize in solidarity with each other. We have unprecedented access to the information, networks and technologies that permit us to support their struggles against tyranny and injustice…

“Speaking in Moscow a few months ago, Barack Obama affirmed that ‘meeting these challenges requires a vibrant civil society; the freedom of people to live as they choose, to speak their minds, to organize peacefully and to have a say in how they are governed; a free press to report the truth; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; a government that’s accountable and transparent.’

“We know from experience that active citizenship is the only antidote to this takeover of governance and that investing in the creation, nurturing and protection of civil society rights is the only vaccine. We know, or ought to, that empowering people to defend their own freedoms to exist, engage and express is not only the most sustainable development strategy but the only morally defensible one…

“Despite, or rather because of, our lack of hierarchical command and control structures, our diversity and belief in values-led approaches, civil society is better equipped to grasp, respond to, and evolve collective solutions that require a fundamental shift in world-view than either governments or businesses. And possibly better at displaying the humility required to build the cross-sectoral partnerships without which we cannot possibly resolve these crises…

“Doing so will take more than a business as usual approach from us. It will take each of us as individuals, organizations and alliances setting aside our egos, our brands, our narrow self-interests and our differences to come together in unprecedented levels of collaboration and genuine partnership that focuses on amplifying the voices of those least heard, and of finding common cause across boundaries of nationality, geography and thematic interest.

“If we can aspire to that ideal, we may, just may, address the stupendous challenges before us and even realize the goals you have all dedicated your lives to, whether you approach that goal through the lens of volunteerism or human rights, faith or secularism, charity or human rights – the overarching goal of civil society in all its forms – a world based on equity and justice.”

Such a challenge to reflect, to consider a clear fundamental orientation for the day-to-day work of civil society is important. And it is equally important that civil society communicates clearly to the other sectors of society its claims and commitments. It is important to see what the suggested orientation is: “to struggle against tyranny and injustice, and for equality.”

The address of the Prime Minister dealt, according to reports, a lot with the planned NGO Law. There is some apprehension among the NGO community, because a current draft is not available for public discussion in the community.

Some examples given, why an NGO Law is important – like to prevent terrorist acts planned under the cover of NGOs – were widely not seen as convincing: the intended terrorist attack against the British Embassy had been stopped in time, and the Indonesian terrorist Hambali was arrested – both without an NGO law.

The following reported concern of the Prime Minister is surprising. There are detailed and elaborate forms from the Council for the Development of Cambodia – CDC – where NGOs have to describe source of funding and work plans – on the national level and in the provinces – which serve exactly this purpose since many years ago, though the Prime Minister said now:

“The Royal Government wants to know where NGOs get the money from and how they use it for what. ‘Just this they do not want to tell.’”

Here are obviously some misunderstandings about administrative processes involved. In addition, most donors, providing financial resources to NGO, have requirements for professional auditing, and the results are not secret. Compared to the recent calls by the Prime Minister to curb multiple remuneration payments to government advisers, combined with the repeated calls by the Prime Minister to economize gasoline usage by a better control on the use of public vehicles, allows the assumption that the handling of finance in the NGO world is comparatively well organized and transparent.

What is important, therefore, is the clear statement of the Prime Minister, that the NGO Law will not interfere with the normal activities of NGO: “I guarantee that it is not an action to restrict the freedom of NGOs, please believe me.” Should lower level authorities try to act differently, civil society can appeal to this public promise of the Prime Minister.

Thailand Air Force On the Ready




30 November 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

With the rising tension between Thailand and Cambodia, questions have risen as to whether or not Thailand is ready for a potential military conflict.

TAN NETWORK’s Charlie Samitisirisuk takes a look at whether or not Thailand’s Air Force is strong enough to protect the kingdom.

What will happen if war breaks out with our neighbouring country? Are we ready for one?

This is a significant question to ask, as Thailand has not engaged in combat for a long time.

Yet Air chief Marshal Chaiyapreuk holds great confidence in the kingdom’s force.

"BUT WE BELIEVE THAT WE ARE ONE OF THE BEST AMONG THE FRIENDS AROUND THIIS AREA"

Thailand’s main deterrence is the F 16 Falcon totaling in 57 planes built by the USA to be a mid-range, multi-role jet fighter. Some of them have been in service for nearly 20 years and it is expected to remain in service until the year 2025.

To the East lies the Kingdom of Cambodia, with 5, Aero L-39, a light attack fighter, manufactured in Czechoslovakia. These are fast and agile but are considered to be a minimal threat to the Thai Air Force with its small numbers, short range and limited armament.

On the other side of Thailand,

The Union of Myanmar possesses 12 formidable MIG 29 that was brought over from Russia during the height of the Cold war.

These fighters have proven themselves to be a very deadly force in combat. Myanmar is also ordering 15 additional MIG 29 this year. Totaling up to 27 high performance fighters.

The most likely adversary that Thailand could face is the MIG 29. As one of it's sole purpose of existence is to counter the F 16 Falcon that the Americans use and that is now the only thing Thailand has. So let's look at the MIG 29 armament.

It is equipped with a medium-range air-to-air missile that can shoot down the enemy far over the horizon catching the enemy unaware.

It could also be equipped to carry conversional dumb bombs and cluster bombs that can cover a wide area of destruction.

But some MIG 29 models can carry something more sinister…. a nuclear bomb.

In 2003, the Royal Thai Air Force sent 3 military C-130 transport planes and commando units into Phnom Pehn International Airport, to evacuate 1,000 of Thais.

Who were stranded there after angry local Cambodian mobs burned down Thai Embassy and other Thai businesses.

So what is the mission of the air force if such a thing ever happens again?

"THE MISSION OF THE AIR FORCE IS TO PREPARE THE READINESS IN ORDER FROM THE GOVERNMENT, TO ATTACK, TO SAVE THE PEOPLE, TO BRING BACK AND EVERYTHING. WE ARE IN THE MISSION TO READY TO GO."

Hopefully, the tension will be resolved through diplomatic means rather than military intervention.

Govt doing its best to help Sivarak



Published: 30/11/2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

The government is doing its best within the limits of the law to help the Thai engineer accused of spying in Cambodia, Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said on Monday.

Sivarak Chutipong, an employee of Thai-owned Cambodia Air Traffic Services (CATS), was arrested on Nov 12 on charges of passing a state secret to Thai diplomatic officials - flight information about fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra when he visited Phnom Pehn. Mr Sivarak is being held in Prey Sar prison.

The foreign minister said Mr Sivarak had been consulting his Cambodian lawyer, Kao Soupha.

"In addition, a lawyer from the Lawyers Council of Thailand is available to help Mr Sivarak, who insists he is innocent," Mr Kasit said.

Southern provinces to launch tourism road show in Cambodia


30/11/2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

VietNamNet Bridge – Tourism authorities of southern cities and provinces as well as entrepreneurs will organize a road show in Cambodia next month to promote tourism as well as to make a chance for local investors to develop tourism properties there, a tourism official said.


Huynh Van Son, an official of the HCMC Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, said that the program would run from December 7 to 9 in Sihanouk Ville and Phnom Penh. HCMC will join forces with other southern localities including An Giang and Kien Giang to organize events in the neighboring country.

Local participants will include tourism officials, tourism transport operators, tour operators, investors as well as other relevant services providers. Such participants will go to the neighboring country via the Giang Thanh border gate in Kien Giang Province.

“It’s not only a tourism promotion trip but also the trip for Vietnam and Cambodia tourism participants to have further discussions on cooperation to develop tourist sites and tourism products of the two sides such as caravan tours, sea tourism, health tourism,” he said.

Son said that the exchange of visitors between the two countries has been on the increase. Therefore, stronger cooperation will help the tourism sector better serve such tourists and attract more travelers from the third country to Vietnam and Cambodia.

“The high-ranking officials of the two countries have pledged to cooperate in joint programs for tourism development so the above activity is one of programs that we will do to realize this purpose,” Son said.

He said that another important purpose of the road show is to offer a chance for local investors to have direct meetings with representatives of Cambodia’s Tourism Ministry as well as officials of other localities there to find new opportunities to develop tourism properties in Cambodia.

VietNamNet/SGT

Motorcycle sales gain traction in Cambodia after slow year


2009-11-30

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

PHNOM PENH, Nov. 30 (Xinhua) -- Motorcycle dealers in the capital Phnom Penh say sales have finally started to pick up following this year's downturn prompted by the global economic crisis, as buyers spend money generated in the provinces on upgrading to new models that have recently entered the market for 2010, local media reported on Monday.

Kim Chhay, one of the many dealers who operate on Phnom Penh's Sihanouk Boulevard, was quoted by the Phnom Penh Post as saying that sales had risen between 10 and 20 percent since October "due to demand for new models" of brands including Honda, which he said had recently launched its 2010 range.

Having seen sales plummet from around 100 units a month to between 30 to 40 during the first 10 months of 2009, he said sales have climbed. "Now we're selling around 60 motorbikes per month."

A reduction in retail prices had also spurred demand, he said. Last year's Honda Dreams sold for 1,700 U.S. dollars to 1,800 U.S. dollars per unit, compared with about 1,500 U.S. dollars for the new series.

Taing Ang, another dealer in the capital, said that people from the provinces who had completed land transactions were propping up demand, adding that Honda in particular had seen an upswing in sales.

"The Suzuki series hasn't seen an improvement yet," he said.

Vouch Lay, who deals Suzukis, said she had not seen sales pick up, blaming the rising demand for Honda's newly released models. "I don't see any recovery yet," she said.

She added that Suzuki was due to begin a new promotion shortly, which she hoped would "spur the number of sales to improve on the current situation".

Demand for motorcycles in Cambodia was expected to fall to 100,000 units this year from the previous 140,000 units, according to Matoba Micifumi, managing director of Yamaha Motors Cambodia Co, who previously said Yamaha motorcycle sales had dropped 25 percent in the first quarter.

Editor: Lin Zhi

Critics call for judicial oversight



Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Acid attack victim Ya Soknim speaks at a press conference about the appeal against her attacker Chea Ratha in September. The Appeal Court overturned Chea Ratha’s acquittal on Friday.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Monday, 30 November 2009 15:02 Laura Snook and Meas Sokchea

Chea Ratha case reveals need for reform, rights activists say.

HUMAN rights advocates called Sunday for a judicial inquiry after the Appeal Court overturned the acquittal of a former military police official for her role in an acid attack that left a woman scarred for life.

Former Military Police Brigadier General Chea Ratha, 43, and five accomplices were convicted in absentia on Friday, handed prison sentences of between 15 and 18 years each and ordered to jointly pay US$100,000 to the victim. All five, however, remain at large – prompting fears that they will never be brought to justice.

Sara Colm, senior researcher for Human Rights Watch, said: “One concern is that they have been found guilty but remain at large, and the victim’s relatives are still concerned for their safety. We need a big push from the top levels of government – and if not there, then Cambodia’s international partners – to go after the perpetrators and have them properly serve time.

“The Supreme Council of the Magistracy should monitor and discipline court officials who make decisions based not on evidence but on politics.

But the institution has been weak since its creation and has never called into question any controversial rulings. We hope the government takes this seriously, re-examines the case and does its best to track the offenders down.”

In overturning the Phnom Penh Municipal Court decision, Appeal Court Presiding Judge Seng Sivutha ruled that Chea Ratha – previously acquitted of two similar incidents – ordered the attack after prominent beauty queen In Soklyda fled a forced lesbian relationship.

In May 2008, shortly after In Soklyda went into hiding, her aunt Ya Soknim was approached by two men on a motorcycle. One poured a litre of acid onto her face and chest, leaving her permanently disfigured.

During the yearlong investigation, Phnom Penh Municipal Court received evidence including recordings of phone calls in which Chea Ratha threatened to kill In Soklyda’s relatives; phone logs for Chea Ratha and her co-defendants on the day of the attack, and a report confirming that acid was found in the home of one of Chea Ratha’s associates. The acquittal, announced on August 31 and citing lack of evidence, was jointly condemned by human rights groups Licadho and the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights (CCHR).

Speaking on Sunday, CCHR Executive Director Ou Virak echoed calls for an inquiry. “We have six people convicted, but six people at large,” he said. “We have little hope they’ll serve their sentences. This was a missed opportunity to find justice in this case.”

Ou Virak said the case highlighted a “bigger issue” – problems with Cambodia’s courts. “There is much talk of independence, but the judiciary is not held accountable. It is systematically flawed,” he said. “The bodies tasked to monitor the courts are not doing their jobs, which is a big sign of political interference. The Magistracy is supposed to monitor and punish judges for corruption. The Supreme Council of the Magistracy should be in the spotlight. They should be investigated to see where things went wrong.”


Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Chea Ratha attends a conference – the ex-Military Police official vanished before her trial, and her whereabouts are unknown.

Licadho director Naly Pilorge welcomed the ruling, but called on the judiciary to ensure that Chea Ratha and her accomplices serve their sentences. “This brutal crime is one of many cases committed by high-ranking officials or powerful individuals with impunity,” she said. “Chea Ratha had already committed the same crime on two other victims in the past without any consequences to her or her accomplices. This time, we hope officials will quickly find the six people to ensure they serve their prison sentence and as a way to provide a glimpse of justice to the victim and her family.”

Chea Ratha has reportedly been investigated for involvement in two other acid attacks, Chea Ratha, Meas Moa, 40, and Seak Chandy, 27, were each sentenced to 18 years for violation of an individual’s rights and intent to kill by premeditation. Ea Puthea, 33, Saing Nuth, 29, and Seak Sophal, 25, were each sentenced to 15 years in prison for conspiracy. The acquittal of a seventh defendant, Chan Dara, 34, was upheld.

Oung Vibol, Ya Soknim’s husband, said that although he welcomed the conviction, his family would live in fear until the perpetrators were behind bars. “My family will be scared so long as Chea Ratha remains at large,” he said.

Neither the Supreme Council of the Magistracy nor the Ministry of Justice could be reached for comment on Sunday.

Bid for release rocks KR case




Photo by: AFP
An audience files in to the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia on Friday to attend the trial of former Khmer Rouge prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, in Phnom Penh.

Second KRT letter sent to Keat Chhon

International co-investigating judge Marcel Lemonde has sent a second letter asking Finance Minister Keat Chhon to appear to provide testimony at the Khmer Rouge tribunal. In September, Lemonde sent similar letters to five other government officials: Senate President Chea Sim, Foreign Minister Hor Namhong, National Assembly President Heng Samrin and CPP Senators Ouk Bunchhoeun and Sim Ka. UN court spokesman Lars Olsen said the court had not received a response to the second letter, dated October 6 and published Sunday, or to any of the others. He said he did not know whether second letters had been sent to the five other officials. Speaking on behalf of Lemonde, he said, “Since we have not received a refusal, we would still be hopeful that they would cooperate with the court because, as you know, a summons is not an optional thing. It’s an order to appear before the court. We expect at a minimum that if they don’t intend to show up in court, they will provide the court with a reason.” Keat Chhon could not be reached Sunday. Senior CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said he did not know whether Heng Samrin would respond to the letter.
ROBBIE COREY-BOULET AND CHEANG SOKHA

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Monday, 30 November 2009 15:02 Robbie Corey Boulet

LAST week’s round of closing statements in the case of Tuol Sleng prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, was supposed to be a chance for all parties to refine their arguments and address outstanding questions as they put their cases directly to judges for the last time. In the aftermath of Duch’s request for release on Friday, however, a flurry of new questions has emerged, some of them bigger than the case itself.

The bombshell came at the end of Duch’s final monologue before the five-person Trial Chamber, and his Cambodian co-lawyer, Kar Savuth, later clarified that he was seeking an acquittal. It capped three days of disconnect between Kar Savuth and his international counterpart, Francois Roux. Whereas Kar Savuth declared it to be “an appropriate time for the chamber to release my client and allow him to go home”, Roux stuck with the well-established strategy of pressing for a mitigated sentence by emphasising Duch’s cooperation and contrition.

Perhaps the most pressing question is how the judges will respond. Michelle Staggs Kelsall, deputy director of the Asian International Justice Initiative, noted that the request had effectively transformed the case from a nine-month sentencing hearing to one in which, at least in theory, Duch’s guilt is an open question.

“How does the chamber feel about that? I’m sure that if the judges come to the conclusion that they’ve been misled by the defence, then it will be to the detriment of the accused,” she said. “However, if in their deliberations they conclude that the accused had a genuine change of heart at the close of the case, then I think they’re more likely to take a measured response.”

Anne Heindel, a legal adviser for the Documentation Centre of Cambodia (DC-Cam), said the request was “not a helpful development” for Duch.

“As a result of the last-minute acquittal request, [judges] may agree with the prosecution and civil parties that Duch is not taking full responsibility for his actions and place less weight on that factor than they otherwise would have,” she said.

Acting international co-prosecutor William Smith – who earlier in the week cited Duch’s “conditional remorse and the possible effect it may have on national reconciliation” in requesting a 40-year-sentence – told judges on Friday that Duch should be entitled to “no mitigating factors” if he were to ask for an acquittal.

Khmer Rouge scholar Alex Hinton said the ultimate effect of the request on the verdict could be small. “While the shift in Duch’s defence strategy will clearly need to be addressed, the basic facts and contours of the trial have not shifted,” he said. “In the end, I don’t think this sudden turn of events will cause the Trial Chamber significant delay. But Duch probably did not help himself, since the court may well now cast an even more critical eye on his past statements.”

For his part, Roux said Sunday that he hoped the judges would remember Duch’s acceptance of overall responsibility despite the fact that he seemed to disavow any individual guilt in the end.

“I still say that the accused admitted his crimes,” Roux said. “He apologised to the victims, and that should be the memory of this trial. I confirm that Duch has acknowledged his responsibility, and I hope the court will consider it.”

As for the merits of Kar Savuth’s legal arguments, Eric Stover, director of the Human Rights Centre at the University of California-Berkeley, said they amounted to “last-ditch efforts”, adding that they were inconsistent with “what the defence had been arguing all along”.

The tribunal is empowered to try senior leaders and “those most responsible” for Khmer Rouge crimes, and Kar Savuth said several times that Duch did not fall into either category, an assertion Heindel dismissed as erroneous.

“It is clear that the negotiators included the category of ‘most responsible’ in the ECCC law with Duch specifically in mind,” she said. “Although ultimately it is the judges’ decision if he in fact qualifies, if they had any doubts at all I don’t think they would have allowed the trial to reach its conclusion without voicing them.”

The rift and its origins
To most people following the case, the apparent rift between the two lawyers, as well as the mere mention of acquittal, came as a complete surprise. Roux declined to elaborate on the origins of the split Sunday, and Kar Savuth declined to comment at all.

Some said, albeit with the benefit of hindsight, that signs of disagreement could be seen in earlier appearances before the Trial Chamber.

“In retrospect, the seeds of this split could be seen in the opening arguments, when Kar Savuth argued that Duch was not one of the senior leaders or those most responsible,” Hinton said.

Heindel said Kar Savuth’s courtroom demeanor did not always jibe with the defence’s message of remorse.

“I would say he took a more aggressive line with witnesses and victims than Roux,” she said. “It seemed he challenged them more. I couldn’t understand how that helped support a strategy of accepting guilt and being contrite. Roux never did that.”

Hinton and Heindel said the success of the court’s hybrid structure – under which Duch was represented by two co-lawyers instead of a lead lawyer – required cooperation and communication, both of which seemed to be absent last week.

Staggs Kelsall said the breakdown was proof that the system needs changing. “Clearly, there needs to be a lead lawyer on the defence team,” she said. “While it is a benefit to hybrid structures to have as much collaboration as possible between the national and international sides, ultimately, in order to speak with one voice, there needs to be one party taking the lead. You can’t assume that both sides are always going to agree.”

But Stover said it was too early to say whether the system had failed. “I think there’s no need to come to a decision on this now,” he said. “Let’s wait for the verdict and see how the judges have weighed the facts and theories of the case and what the decision is.”

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY UNG CHAMROEUN AND CHEANG SOKHA

SRP members defected, says ruling party



(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Monday, 30 November 2009 15:02 Meas Sokchea and Sebastian Strangio

OVER a hundred members of the opposition Sam Rainsy Party defected to the ruling party in Meanchey district over the weekend, government officials said Sunday.

Kuoch Chamroeun, Meanchey district governor, said 128 SRP members – including 21 personal bodyguards of the party’s president, Sam Rainsy – gave up their party memberships Saturday and joined the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.

“They were interested in joining the CPP for three reasons: They are fed up with the SRP’s politics, they see that Samdech Techo Hun Sen’s leadership is good, and they see that the SRP’s criticisms are not fair,” Kuoch Chamroeun said.

“Their defection does not come with any preconditions from us, but we will think about it in future.”

Senior CPP parliamentarian Cheam Yeap said the party was “proud” that the SRP members joined the party, but that they were not motivated by personal gain. “The CPP is proud that other parties’ members have seen that their parties lack a clear platform and defected to the CPP. We do not think they just want government positions,” he said.

“We hope that there will be more defections from other districts and provinces after we have received them.”

But SRP spokesman Yim Sovann said that reports of a mass defection in Meanchey district were exaggerated, accusing the CPP of trying to sow discord while party president Sam Rainsy is away in Europe.

Reports from party members, he said, indicated that only “a few” members had defected.

“It is a ruling party trick, while Sam Rainsy is not in the country, to try and split the SRP,” he said.

Yim Sovann also denied that bodyguards had been among the party’s defectors, saying the SRP employed only six men as bodyguards, and that they were all still working as of Sunday.

Before the 2008 national election, CPP officials said that as many as 160,000 opposition members defected, which was disputed at the time by opposition politicians.

Border Killing: Cambodian shot dead in Thailand



(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Monday, 30 November 2009 15:02 Rann Reuy

Border Killing

A group of young men from a village on the Thai border in Oddar Meanchey province say a Thai soldier shot and killed their friend on Friday after a border patrol caught the youths picking mushrooms on the Thai side of the border. Peng Pek, 25, said he and his six friends crossed into Thailand on Friday to gather mushrooms. As they approached the Cambodian border at a spot near the O’dar river, a Thai soldier fatally shot Sok Samnang, 19. “We are young, poor students who were picking mushrooms to earn money for school,” Peng Pek said. “When we saw the soldiers we ran, and they fired at us three times. When the gunman saw Sok Samnang fall down, he stood there laughing.” Peng Pek said that many of the boys from his village of Aphiwat regularly gather mushrooms across the border, selling them to Thai merchants for 2,000 or 3,000 riels per sack. Oddar Meanchey Governor Pich Sokhin said authorities often warn villagers not to cross the border because of the military presence there, but could not comment on what steps would be taken with the Thai authorities. A funeral was held for Sok Samnang in his village on Sunday.

Assembly to start debate on draft budget, finance laws



(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Monday, 30 November 2009 15:02 Tep Nimol and James O’toole

THE National Assembly is scheduled to begin debate today on the 2010 Draft Budget Law and the Draft Law on Finance for 2010 Management, which includes provisions for new taxes on property and automobiles.

Under the proposed laws, a tax of 0.1 percent would be levied on properties that are valued at over 100,000 riels (US$24,000) by a Property Valuation Commission to be established by the Ministry of Economy and Finance. Agricultural land, government property and religious, diplomatic and humanitarian organisations would be exempted from the tax.

Automobiles would be subject to taxes varying by year of production and horsepower, with vehicles of 24 horsepower and above subject to a tax of 2 million riels (US$480).

Cambodian People’s Party lawmaker Cheam Yeap said the proposed taxes are necessary as the government faces a decline in revenues, investment and foreign aid owing to the global downturn.

Sam Rainsy Party spokesman Yim Sovann, however, contended that the new taxes were necessary simply because the government is losing much of its revenue to corruption.

Because Cambodia does not have a history of collecting property taxes, Cheam Yeap said he expected the revenues generated in the first year of implementation to be modest.

“I hope that in the first year of real estate tax collection, we will get about $7 million, because many people may not understand the tax and will therefore fail to pay it,” he said.

In an analysis of the draft budget law issued Saturday, the civil society coalition NGO Forum applauded the introduction of vehicle and property taxes as effective means of boosting government revenues.

The property tax, it said, “is especially expected to promote productive investment by discouraging the holding of unused land for speculation”.

NGO Forum also praised the draft law for following through on the government’s commitment to decentralisation, noting that the 2010 draft budget law allocates $62 million to provincial, district, commune and village authorities, compared with the $42 million allocated in the 2009 budget.

The coalition expressed worry, however, about the relatively small budgetary increases for offices considered crucial to poverty alleviation, including the Ministries of Agriculture and Education.

Increased allotments for the Ministries of Health, Justice, and Rural Development were lauded, and though NGO Forum emphasised the need for monitoring project-implementation, it did not discount the importance of the planning stages.

“The National Budget Law is [the] government’s most important instrument to achieve economic growth and poverty reduction,” the analysis said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JACOB GOLD

Kraya villagers fear official trickery



Photo by: Heng Chivoan
A villager from Kraya commune walks away from the ruins of a home. The community has been cordoned off from the outside world since November 17, when residents revolted against a looming eviction and set fire to several vehicles owned by a Vietnamese rubber firm.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Monday, 30 November 2009 15:02 May Titthara

VILLAGERS in Kraya commune said Sunday that they refused to thumbprint a document that would have opened compensation talks, prompting threats from authorities that a weeklong eviction delay would be revoked.

Community representative Pou Kin said that he and his fellow villagers’ reluctance to cooperate stemmed from mistrust.

“The people refused because they were afraid the authorities would play a trick on them once they got the thumbprints,” he said.

Sun Sithan, a 39-year-old villager, put it more bluntly: “We will not give our thumbprints because they will be used by authorities to say we agreed to relocate. They’ve come to negotiate, but we will ask them to stay in the village. It would be better to die here than to go.”

Santuk district Governor Pich Sophea said the villagers’ obstruction required him to take a hard line.

“Now we are waiting for the response from the villagers. If they agree to thumbprint the agreement to organise representatives for a meeting with us, we will not come to evict them. If they do not reply to us, we will start evicting them on Monday or Tuesday,” Pich Sophea said.

“If we did not come to evict them, the place will become an anarchy zone, and no one will be able to control them. We have prepared everything already; we are only waiting for a response from the villagers.”

Pressured to relocate since their village fell within a land concession to a Vietnamese rubber company in 2007, some 200 residents of Kraya commune turned to violence on November 16, burning four of the company’s excavators and other property before clashing with Military Police.

Since the incident, the village has been blockaded by police hoping to nab alleged instigators.

A November 25 eviction deadline passed as villagers still refused to leave – forcing authorities to postpone the eviction and offer negotiations.

Chi Kraeng villagers to defy govt ban



(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Monday, 30 November 2009 15:01 Rann Reuy

Siem reap Province

MORE than 100 villagers from Chi Kraeng commune in Siem Reap province will attempt to plant dry-season rice on a disputed 475-hectare plot of land today, village leaders said.

Tork Ponloek, a village representative, said that he and some of his fellow villagers intended to defy a ban on cultivating rice in the disputed area, which was previously ruled a part of neighbouring Anlong Samnor commune.

“All we have to do is uproot the grass, and then we can cultivate the rice,” he said. “All we have to worry about is the authorities’ preventing us from reaching the land.”

Chi Kraeng resident Thorng Sareth said that most villagers would stay away from the disputed fields after seeing police officers patrolling the area on Friday. The villagers had come intending to build shelters on the land while they cultivated the rice.

“I don’t think many people are willing to go because [authorities] have threatened the villagers in many forms,” Thorng Sareth said, adding that letters from the National Assembly, the prime minister’s Cabinet, the Ministry of Justice and the Interior Ministry have failed to silence the Chi Kraeng villagers’ claims to the land.

Authorities to keep watch
Pork Sereyrothmony, Chi Kraeng district governor, said that he would deploy sufficient forces to keep security and avoid “any violent activities”.

On March 22, some 100 armed police opened fire on 80 villagers caught harvesting crops on the land in an effort to protest its designation as part of Anglong Samnor commune, seriously injuring four.

Human rights groups have called for an investigation to be launched into the shootings, questioning why no police officer has faced charges as a result of the violence.

Two Chi Kraeng men were sentenced to one year in prison after a court ruled they had punched two Anglong Samnor men in the face during a confrontation.

Seven men were acquitted in the same incident, but still face separate charges.

NAA to target marginalised for assistance



(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Monday, 30 November 2009 15:01 Chhay Channyda and Jacob Gold

Ahead of Tuesday’s marking of World AIDS Day, Cambodia today will commit to protecting the rights of high-risk marginal groups, the National AIDS Authority (NAA) said.

Rights groups say the health of high-risk groups – men who have sex with men, injection drug users and sex workers – often suffers because of punitive government policy.

“The discrimination they face makes them less likely to seek and receive treatment,” Teng Kunthy, secretary general of the NAA, said Sunday.

Oum Sopheap, executive director of the Khmer HIV/AIDS NGO Alliance, said the underground lifestyle of injection drug users made them harder to reach. “Drug users like to live in squatter homes, so people do not usually see them. They like to hide themselves,” he said.

Sara Colm, a researcher at Human Rights Watch, said government practices deny adequate treatment to marginal groups. “Urban poor who are forcibly relocated are often dumped in remote sites with no services, no jobs and inadequate healthcare. For those who are ill, the stress of being evicted and uprooted, and the squalid conditions at the relocation sites, can exacerbate their health problems,” Colm said.

Referring to the government’s relocation site for HIV-affected families evicted from Borei Keila in central Phnom Penh, Colm said: “People living with HIV in Tuol Sambo have told us that their health has got worse since they’ve moved there. Some are getting sicker, they’ve lost weight, their CD4 counts are dropping.”CD4 counts determine immune system strength.

Colm also cited extralegal detentions as increasing risk.

“People ... are swept up off the street and detained in drug rehabilitation centres. People with HIV find themselves in these centres, where they are often denied access to ARV medicines. Meanwhile, these centres have little or no capacity to treat HIV or any other serious health issues, including TB or hepatitis.”

Govt cancels Thai road loan



Photo by: Heng Chivoan
The mother of a Thai national being held on spying charges arrives Friday to visit him in prison.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Monday, 30 November 2009 15:01 Cheang Sokha and James O'toole

CAMBODIA annulled a US$41 million loan from Thailand on Friday, as family members visited the jailed Thai engineer who has become embroiled in the diplomatic spat between the two countries.

The loan, which had been finalised in August, was to have funded renovations of National Road 68, connecting Siem Reap and Oddar Meanchey provinces with Thailand.

“We have sent the diplomatic note for the cancellation of the loan agreement because Cambodia has its own ability to build this road,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong said, adding that Prime Minister Hun Sen will preside over a groundbreaking ceremony for the project on December 5.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva called the loan cancellation the result of “confusion”, downplaying the move’s political significance.

“On one hand, they wanted us to confirm we would lend them the money, and on the other hand, they were afraid we would not extend the loan to them. So they opted to cancel the loan first,” Abhisit told Bangkok’s The Nation newspaper.

Also on Friday, Sivarak Chutipong met with his mother and brother, Simarak Na Nakornphnom and Pongsuree Chutipong, at Prey Sar prison.

Sivarak was arrested on November 12 after leaking the flight schedule of Thai former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra to the Thai embassy during the fugitive billionaire’s visit to Cambodia earlier this month.

Sivarak, who faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted of spying, is scheduled to stand trial on December 8.

Motorcycle sales gain traction after slow year



Photo by: STEVE FINCH
Rows of new Honda motorcycles line the pavement Sunday at a dealership on Sihanouk Boulevard. The Japanese brand has driven a recent recovery in sales, dealers said, following the launch of new models for 2010.

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The Suzuki series hasn’t seen an improvement [in sales] yet.
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(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Monday, 30 November 2009 15:01 May Kunmakara

Dealers say new Honda models are driving recent rebound

MOTORCYCLE dealers in the capital say sales have finally started to pick up following this year’s downturn prompted by the global economic crisis, as buyers spend money generated in the provinces on upgrading to new models that have recently entered the market for 2010.

Kim Chhay, one of the many dealers who operate on Phnom Penh’s Sihanouk Boulevard, told the Post that sales had risen between 10 and 20 percent since October “due to demand for new models” of brands including Honda, which he said had recently launched its 2010 range.

Having seen sales plummet from around 100 units a month to between 30 to 40 during the first 10 months of 2009, he said sales have climbed. “Now we’re selling around 60 motorbikes per month.”

A reduction in retail prices had also spurred demand, he said. Last year’s Honda Dreams sold for US$1,700 to $1,800 per unit, compared with about $1,500 for the new series.

Taing Ang, another dealer in the capital, said that people from the provinces who had completed land transactions were propping up demand, adding that Honda in particular had seen an upswing in sales.

“The Suzuki series hasn’t seen an improvement yet,” he said.

Vouch Lay, who deals Suzukis, said she had not seen sales pick up, blaming the rising demand for Honda’s newly released models. “I don’t see any recovery yet,” she said.

She added that Suzuki was due to begin a new promotion shortly, which she hoped would “spur the number of sales to improve on the current situation”.

Demand for motorcycles in Cambodia was expected to fall to 100,000 units this year from the previous 140,000 units, according to Matoba Micifumi, managing director of Yamaha Motors Cambodia Co, who previously said Yamaha motorcycle sales had dropped 25 percent in the first quarter.