Monday, 26 April 2010

No news feed until the 1st June 2010

Dear Reader,

The News Feed team for this blog are currently on their annual leave starting from today until the 31st May 2010, and therefore there will not be any news feeding into this blog during this period.

We look forward to seeing you again from the 1st June 2010.

Best regard
News Feed Team

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Cambodian war correspondents mourn ex-colleagues

In this photo taken on Thursday, April 22, 2010, former foreign correspondents of war in Cambodia walk carefully at a paddy field of Kandoul, Kampong Speu province, about 70 kilometers (43 miles) south of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, for their visit to the grave site. Two dozen aging colleagues trekked to this village to mourn and remember Thursday. And they honored the dozens of reporters, photographers and cameramen who died covering the five-year war that ended in 1975 with the takeover by the brutal Khmer Rouge. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)


via CAAI News Media

By MIKE ECKEL and SOPHENG CHEANG (AP)

KANDOUL, Cambodia — The bodies were dumped in a shallow grave amid the untilled earth of rice paddies: five journalists who had been ambushed by Khmer Rouge and Viet Cong guerrillas on May 31, 1970.

Om Pao, then 12, remembers the stench of decay for days after. He helped his father heap more earth on top of the remains to keep the smell down, the pigs out and the bodies from floating away.

In all, nine journalists — American, Indian, Japanese, French and Cambodian — were attacked that day near this dusty village south of the capital, Phnom Penh. All are believed to have been killed. It was one of the deadliest incidents for reporters in the wars in Vietnam and Cambodia, in a year that remains one of the deadliest anywhere for journalists.

This week, 40 years later, two dozen aging colleagues trekked to Kandoul to mourn and remember. They honored the dozens of reporters, photographers and cameramen who died covering the five-year war, which ended in 1975 with the takeover by the brutal Khmer Rouge.

"It's not only sadness for our colleagues, but also for our Cambodian friends," said Elizabeth Becker, who covered the war for The Washington Post, "but the biggest sadness is that it's taken so long for this country to recover."

Impoverished Cambodia, already roiled by the fighting in neighboring Vietnam, plunged into open war in March 1970 when Gen. Lon Nol overthrew Prince Norodom Sihanouk and seized power in a CIA-backed coup.

Two months later, as Lon Nol's forces battled Khmer Rouge insurgents and their Vietnamese allies, a six-man crew from CBS News was ambushed on the morning of May 31 as the team drove south of Phnom Penh, looking for a battle. Three men from NBC News, rushing after their competitors, were also captured.

According to former CBS cameraman Kurt Volkert, who compiled a detailed reconstruction based on witness accounts, four of the CBS employees were killed instantly. The five others are believed to have been taken to Kandoul in the days after and executed. They had their hands bound and possibly were clubbed to death.

In 1992, Volkert helped a U.S. military forensics team locate the grave just outside Kandoul. Four bodies were recovered and identified as the three NBC employees and one from CBS. The fifth body was never found.

In all, more than three dozen foreign and Cambodian journalists were killed or listed as missing during the 1970-75 war. As many as 26 were killed in the war's first year, according to tallies compiled by former Associated Press correspondents.

Earlier this year, amateur searchers digging northeast of Phnom Penh unearthed what they believe to be the remains of war photographer Sean Flynn — son of Hollywood star Errol Flynn. Sean Flynn went missing nearly two months before the U.S. television crews were ambushed.

After the Khmer Rouge took over in April 1975, dozens of other Cambodian journalists — mainly freelancers for foreign media — were executed or simply disappeared.

On Thursday, reporters, photographers and cameramen who covered Cambodia's upheaval joined throngs of curious villagers, huddling from the scorching heat under an orange and yellow tent in the middle of a rice paddy.

The smell of burning incense and the chants of Buddhist monks mixed with the sound of passing ox carts. Several visitors wept as the names of the dead reporters were read aloud. Children, naked and barefoot, begged for handouts, sipped coconut juice being sold by a vendor and splashed in the nearby puddle where the four bodies had been exhumed in 1992.

"We remember those who have died seeking both truth and reality in Cambodia," said Chhang Song, the minister of information in the Lon Nol government who worked closely with many of the reporters and helped organize the reunion.

Om Pao, whose father's paddy was just yards away from the grave in 1970, said: "To hold a Buddhist ceremony like today is good for dead people, to show the gratitude to the dead and to offer their souls a chance to rest in peace."

Former AP correspondent Carl Robinson said covering Cambodia's turmoil was much more dangerous than Vietnam. Journalists were more often on their own, without the protection of the U.S. military. And, he added, he was troubled by the U.S. role in Cambodia.

"It was nightmarish to cover it all," he said. "It's too hard to look back upon. The whole thing had been a disaster. I left feeling guilty and bitter, as a reporter, as an American, it was just shameful and the Cambodians suffered."

For Jeff Williams, a former correspondent for AP and CBS, the trip was a chance to remember the collegiality of the foreign press corps at the time.

"I don't believe in closure. Maybe it's just me, but nothing ever closes," he said. "You just move ahead."

Dancing Across Borders

Dance documentary blindsided by good intentions

Sy Sar (left) performs Khmer, a traditional dance of Cambodia, in Anne Bass’s film “Dancing Across Borders.’’ (First Run Features)

via CAAI News Media

By Wesley Morris
Globe Staff / April 23, 2010

Sometimes with documentaries, the best intentions have a way of making decent people look bad. “Dancing Across Borders’’ is a dismaying case in point. Ten years ago the socialite Anne Bass was on a trip to Cambodia. She caught a performance by a traditional Cambodian dance troupe, and the charisma of one 16-year-old so knocked her out that when Bass returned to the States, she pulled some strings and got the dancer an audition at the School of American Ballet in New York. The dancer, Sokvannara “Sy’’ Sar (it’s pronounced “See’’), had never danced ballet. But for two years, he trained with the dance instructor Olga Kostritsky, honed his skill, and became a success story.

In the film, the agents of Sy’s good fortune speak at length about how they refined his raw talent. Occasionally, they do this with Sy seated silently a foot away. Rehearsal and performance footage meant as progress reports for Sy’s family back in Cambodia are repurposed as the movie’s spine. Sy returns home to watch the kids perform at his old dance school and, in the final minutes, mentions how he no longer feels he belongs anywhere. It’s a rare self-reflective moment in a gauzy, dewy movie that accentuates the positive because it flatters his patrons, none more so than Bass, who happens to be the film’s director.

Objectivity is a mythical requirement for documentary. But perspective is a must. If it ever occurred to Bass that she risked the charge of vanity by using her already problematic charitable impulse to get a movie shown in the world’s art houses, we never see it. “Dancing Across Borders’’ — that title makes Sy’s experience seem so easy — avoids all the thorny culture clashes of East being shoehorned into West. It makes “The Blind Side’’ seem like a complex critique of race, class, and self-congratulation in the American South. Sy is less passive than the Michael Oher character in that film. But his life never seems entirely in his own hands, either.

Of course, it doesn’t feel like Bass set out to make a documentary at all. Well-meant though it may be, the movie has an advertorial gloss. It’s more convincing as the work of people looking to reap a return on their investment.

Wesley Morris can be reached at wmorris@globe.com. For more on movies, go to www.boston.com/movienation.

DAP News ; Breaking News by Soy Sopheap

via CAAI News Media

German Helps Cambodia to Launch more Gender Awareness

Friday, 23 April 2010 10:51 DAP-NEWS/ Ek Madra

CAMBODIA,PHNOM PENH, April 23 – German’s aid agency (GTZ) official said it is very important to educate young Cambodian generation so as to reduce domestic violence in the former war-torn nation where the victims by the crimes and rapes are still high.

Ms. Franziska Böhm, GTZ - PWR team leader, informed DAP News Cambodia that “it is very important for Cambodia to change the attitude of people to fight domestic violence.”

“And it is very important to start with young people as they can play role to reduce violence in the future,” said Ms. Böhm.

Cambodian women’s affairs ministry joins with German’s aid agency, GTZ, to Launching of “A Young People’s Toolkit On Issues Connected To Gender-Based Violence – Raising Awareness on Roles and Responsibilities in Relationships” on April 30, said a release.

“This Young People’s Toolkit is an easy to use, flexible and accessible toolkit for use with young people aged 15 -18 years, related to gender-based violence, said a joint release of Women’s Affairs Ministry and GTZ.

Women Minister Ing Kantha Phavi said in on the Women Day March 8 that there considerable progresses in the areas such as women in public decision-making and politics, legal aspects, economic empowerment for women, and women’s health as well as improving in education field for the group.

But the Minister noted that members of the group have been continued as victims by the domestic violence and rapes, which is still high.

“It seems over the last 15 years the domestic violence and violence against women and children are still high”.

“Rape and forced sex have been on the increase, particular among minors aged from 5 to 18,” said the women minister.

“There is also an increasing fear of gang rapes by teenagers, which is likely to have been caused by consumption of alcohol, drugs and pornography through the internet, mobile phones and pornographic movies.”

A joint release also said that the overall objective of this project is to support the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and other government agencies, as well as civil society organizations, to implement the Law on the Prevention of Domestic Violence and the Protection of the Victims (DV-Law) effectively and efficiently.

Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID) and GTZ has altogether injected Euro 4 million for 2006 - 2010 to fund the ongoing project of fighting against domestic violence , Ms. Böhm told DAP.

The Ministry of Women’s Affairs in cooperation with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische

Zusammenarbeit (GTZ), on behalf of the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), is implementing the project Promoting Women’s Rights (PWR).

There Was a Time When King Rama IX Used His Power to Bless

Friday, 23 April 2010 09:42 DAP-NEWS / Sam Sotha

CAMBODIA, PHNOM PENH, April 23-I have read two articles on Bangkok Post on line, breaking news, published on April 19, 2010 entitled “Chavalit Seeking Audience with King”, another article in response to the above mentioned, on the following day on April 20, 2010 under the title “PM questions Chavalit’s motives”, and on the same topic in The Nation, published on April21, 2010 entitled “Chavalit, Somchai draw flak for seeking King’s intervention”.

I sympathize with the two former prime ministers: Gen.Chavalit Yongchaiyuth and Mr.Somchai Wongsawat, for both of them wanted to assist the current government to solve the growing political crisis, which has escalated and reached its climax with violent and deadly clashes between the Red protesters and the army on April 10, 2010 resulting in at least 24 deaths and more than 840 injured.

Personally, I find the current situation unacceptable, as it will end up with unavoidable violence, similar to the military crack down on protesters during the “Black May” period from May 17-19, 1992, when Gen. Suchinda Kraprayoon ordered the military to disperse demonstrators and to handcuff Mr. Chamlong Srimuang, the leader of the demonstration, a decision which triggered the violence to escalate gravely.

The clashes of these 3 days and nights resulted in at least 52 deaths, many disappearances, hundreds of injuries, and over 3,500 arrests. Many of those arrested were allegedly tortured. The West views these episodes as social unrests.

Similarly, when I closely monitor the situation in Thailand since early March 2010, I can understand the demands from the protesters and the responses from the government.

There are several political camps, but could be grouped in two, the camp of the ruling

Democratic Party led coalition government, and the camp of the oppositions led by the Peu Thai Party chaired by former Prime Minister Mr. Chavalit Yongchaiyuth and surrounded by many other core members, who were dispersed from Thai Rak Thai Party (TRT) and People’s Power Party (PPP).

The first camp is supported by the People’s Alliance for Democracy, the PAD, the second is supported by the United front for Democracy against Dictatorship, the UDD, and called themselves the “Red Shirts”, while the PAD called themselves the “Yellow Shirts”.

Most of the Red Shirt members are farmers and peasants from the countryside. They are overwhelmingly supportive of the TRT and the PPP, the parties which were dissolved by the Constitutional Court, respectively on May 30, 2007 and December 2, 2008

In my view, Thailand is still a borderline between developed and developing country. On the many occasions that I had met with several western country Ambassadors, he/she said “We ceased to provide grant aid (bilateral aid) to Thailand because she is now a developed country. In our judgment, Thailand is now a developed country which is providing grant aid to the neighboring countries”. But in fact there is a wide disparity of distribution of wealth, between the rich and the poor, between the rural citizen and the urban citizen.

On April 19, 2010, there was an article, written by a CNN reporter, Mr. Arwa Damon, entitled “Red Shirt supporters say they are willing to take risks in an attempt to secure change”. He interviewed numerous poor supporters and found that: “despite the impact on their miserly income, they said they had to make a trip to Bangkok to take part in the Red Shirt demonstrations”. “They viewed Abhisit’s government as illegitimate, and they are calling them to step down”.

“They say that out there Thaksin is seen as a hero, the man who gave them a voice, fought for their rights, and eased their economic burdens”.

After the clashes on April 10, many families in the countryside were called to return home, but the CNN reporter quoted these people as saying “We have to help our people win. We are not worried about our financial loss, but that it is a risk we are willing to take to fight for long term change.” The word “illegitimate government”, for everyone understands, is used only by the opposing camp. Since the protest started from mid of March, the protesters demands were consistent: “You, Prime Minister, you have to dissolve the Parliament and leave the country, that the general election be organized the soonest possible.

These demands, if you are driving backward to the period of 19 years ago during “Black May 1992” you will see that there is no material difference. On February 23, 1991, Army chief General Suchinda Kraprayoon overthrew (Ret) Gen. Chatichai Choonhavan. The coup makers, who called themselves the National Peace-Keeping Council, appointed Mr. Anand Panyarachum as Prime Minister. Anand’s interim government established a new constitution and scheduled parliamentary elections for March 22, 1992.

A government coalition with 55% of the House of Representatives was formed and appointed General Suchinda as Prime Minister. Massive public protest immediately followed, as it became clear the government parties would not honour their word, thus plans went ahead for a strike on Sunday 17 May. As General Chavalit had experienced and seen the situation repeated, he adopted the same tune as “Black May” and called upon former primer Somchai Wongsawat to join him in issuing a statement calling on the government to dissolve the House of Representatives and revoke the emergency decree. To this end Gen. Chavalit tried to get an audience with His Majesty the King in a bit to end the growing political crisis, calling for royal intervention to resolve the political stand-off. In the articles from Bangkok Post and the Nation, I found reactions, particularly from Mr. Abhisit, the Prime Minister and the Democrat’s ruling partner namely Chart Thai de-facto leader Banharn Silapa-archa, said “the call could put undue pressure on His Majesty the King who is still recuperating at Siriraj Hospital.”

Democrat chief advisor to Democratic Party and former prime minister, Mr. Chuan Leekpai echoed that ‘” the monarchy was above and beyond politics and it is inappropriate for Chavalit to invoke His Majesty the King in a political context.”

Both camps should remember His Majesty, on his birthday on December 5, 2009; “called on all parties to join hands in returning normalcy to the country and to set aside personal benefits for the sake of the public interest if you wanted to make me happy on my birthday”.

To prevent further bloodshed in my opinion it is time to reconcile with one another

Follow the footstep of HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej Rama IX who called Mr. Chamlong Srimuang and the Prime Minister on May 20, 1992 and demanded that the two men put an end the confrontation and work together through “Parliamentary procedure.”

Following the wisdom of their King, Suchinda released Chamlong and announced an amnesty for detained protesters. He also agreed on an amendment requiring the prime minister to be elected. Chamlong asked the demonstrators to disperse, which they did. On May 24, 1992;General Suchinda Kraprayoon resigned as Prime Minister of Thailand. In the same day Mr.Meechai Ruchuphan was appointed by royal decree as acting prime minister and resigned onJune 10 to make way for Mr. Anand Panyarachun who was elected by the House of Representatives. Mr. Anand, the new prime minister then set September 13, 1992 as the date for the general election. The Democrats won a narrow majority and Mr. Chuan Leekpai wasappointed on September 23, 1992 as 20th Prime Minister of Thailand.

So, it is about time that all parties call upon King Rama IX to receive His Majesty’s blessing in the same way the King granted a private audience to Mr. Abhisit Vijjajiva on Monday,March 3, 2010 on the 14th floor of the Chalermphrakiat, Siriraj Hospital, for the King toreceive a briefing on the situation in the country and on Abhisit’s decision to apply the Internal Security Act to metro Bangkok and assignment of 6,000 soldiers to duty.

About the author: Mr. Sam Sotha is the author of the “In the Shade of A Quiet Killing Place”, His Personal Memoir. About the book visit the www.heavenlakepress.com and H.E Sam Sotha is advisor to Samdech Techo Prime Minister Hun Sen and secretary of state of the council of ministers.

Royal Plowing Day To Conduct at Siem Reap Province This Year

Friday, 23 April 2010 05:12 DAP-NEWS/ Tep Piseth

CAMBODIA, PHNOM PENH, April 23-The Royal Plowing ceremony this year will be conducted at Siem Reap Province, the statement from the national festival committee said on Friday.

The ceremony will be presided over by King Norodom Sihamoni, it said, adding that it will fall on May 2. The plowing ceremony will predict about the product of agricultur crops this year and which crop should be grown by the farmers.

last year, Cambodia gained 7 million tons of rice product and it remainded about 3 million tons for export.

Thailand Has Obligations to Hand over Ancient Khmer Artifacts

Friday, 23 April 2010 04:24 DAP-NEWS/ Tep Piseth

PHNOM PENH, April 23-Thailand needs to implement international norms and to hand over the ancient Khmer artifacts that it was seized years ago from illegally cross- border smuggled artifacts, an official said on Friday.

One piece of the inscription from 11th century Khmer Preah Vihear temple has been installed at Thai National Museum in Bangkok, and Thais took from Preah Vihear temple years ago, and we asked them many times but they did not provide to us,” Hang Soth, secretary general of Preah Vihear temple Authority said by phone from Preah Vihear zone.

He noted that Thai authorities took many pieces of artifacts from Preah Vihear temple before they agreed to leave the temple in 1962. When the international court in Holland released the verdicts that Preah Vihear temple belongs to Cambodia.

Those artifacts are human being’s properties and world heritage. They need to hand those sculptures for us,” he said, adding that we will show more proof for other pieces belonging to Preah Vihear temple of Cambodia.

In April 2009, Thai Prime Minister Abhisit handed over 7 pieces to Cambodia when he visited here and one of them was handed over to Cambodian side during the sidelines of 14th ASEAN summit in Pattaya. But Cambodia asked Thailand to hand over other around 40 pieces of artifacts which confiscated by Thai authorities from robberies and illegal smuggling from Cambodia. So far Thailand has not given us those remaining artifacts, the official of rcultural ministry said.

On Feb. 24, 2009, the Thai cabinet adopted a resolution to restitute the seven artifacts to the government of Cambodia in accordance with an agreement signed between the two countries to combat against illicit trafficking and cross-border smuggling of movable cultural property and to restitute it to the country of origin which Thailand and Cambodia signed in 2000. Those artifacts are not involved in political issues of the two countries and they are the humanitarian values.

Cambodia and Thailand relation has soured after Thai troop invaded Cambodian soil in July 15 2008 when Cambodia successfully listed Preah Vihear temple as world heritage site with world heritage committee in July 7, 2008.

Thai troop occupied an area near the temple and that area is the main strategic road to Preah Vihear temple from Cambodia. Analysts said that Cambodia could not develop Preah Vihear temple or promote the temple as tourism destination for foreigners because the road was blocked by Thai army with heavy weapons. After fighting occurred many time, thai troops moved back, and moved to other of areas. During Khmer New year on April 14-16, around ten of thousands of local and foreign tourist went to see the temple.

This year, we have a lot of tourists to visit here in during New Year, Hang Soth said, adding now the situation is normal.

Cambodian and Thai troops exchanged fire for many times since 2008, and it led dozen of soldiers from both sides died. The last fighting earlier this week, it caused two Thai soldiers hurt.

Thailand used the unilateral map to deal border issues with Cambodia, that were drawn by themselves, and Cambodia used the border treaty in 1904-1907 which is official one for both countries. Thailand is arrogant during the negotiation with Cambodia. Thailand always rose many times about the own unilateral map. Last year, Cambodian military commander in Chief POL Sareoun tore down Thai unilateral map in front of Thai delegation. Pol Saroeun at that time hated the manner of Thai delegation, the army said.

Even now, it has some signs that Cambodia and Thailand could mend its ties after both sides recalled their ambassadors respectively. Cambodia is waiting for Thai side to send its ambassador first only because Thailand last year recalled their ambassador first. Cambodia will follow next step. Thailand at that time said that recalling of the ambassador because Cambodia did not send former Thai PM Thaksin under extradition of the two countries but Cambodia told back that under extradition agreement, point number four, both sides will not send political prisoners to each other. From that point, Cambodia did not send former Thaksin and he was appointed as economic advisor. And Thailand recalled its ambassador. Thailand accused Cambodia of putting the hand into Thai internal affairs. Cambodia told back that the relation started tension because Thailand sent troops to invade the region of the area.

Lake plan remains shrouded

Photo by: Pha Lina
Children play football Thursday on a section of Boeung Kak lake that has been filled in as part of a controversial development project. Officials met behind closed doors at City Hall yesterday afternoon to discuss the latest plans for the site.

via CAAI News Media

Friday, 23 April 2010 15:03 Khouth Sophakchakrya and Irwin Loy

Residents and media barred from presentation of Boeung Kak development

PHNOM Penh officials met behind closed doors Thursday to discuss plans for the controversial Boeung Kak lake development site, though new details have been disclosed in recent days to some of the families who stand to be affected by the secretive project.

Residents were not invited to the meeting, while a reporter was also turned away – further proof, housing rights advocates said, of the lack of transparency surrounding the plans for the site.

Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema was scheduled to host a presentation Thursday to show the master development plan for the Boeung Kak lake area, where an estimated 4,000 families are facing eviction.

Asked to provide details after the meeting, Kep Chuktema said he was too busy to talk. Deputy Governor Mann Chhoeun confirmed that the presentation took place, but declined to comment on its contents.

However, a newly produced graphic (see page 2) detailing the most recent vision for the development suggests the plan has changed from previous designs.

Photo supplied
A graphic shows development plans for the Boeung Kak lake area. The illustration has been distributed to some residents who stand to be affected by the project.

The graphic, obtained by the Post on Thursday, depicts a series of towers lining the western and southern edges of the site. An access road from the south leads into the complex, runs between two large towers and heads towards what appears to be a drastically smaller lake in the centre of the development.

In addition, the graphic shows what appears to be a stream that branches out of the lake and snakes towards the northeast corner of the development area. Smaller buildings line the stream as it curves and ends in a second lake.

Sia Phearum, the secretariat director of the Housing Rights Task Force, said he has spoken with affected residents who have also seen a copy of the graphic.

He said the villagers think the design looks “nice”, but that they are also dismayed that planning for the development is proceeding even as the fate of their homes remains unresolved.

“They think the picture looks very nice and interesting,” he said.

“But they’re unhappy and disappointed because they designed it without consulting the community.”

‘Not for everyone’

City Hall has promised to compensate affected families, but residents say previous offers of US$8,000 or a plot of land on the outskirts of the capital are insufficient or unacceptable. Although an estimated 1,000 families have already been moved, those who remain have been left in limbo.

“The development moves so fast,” Sia Phearum said.

“We are all humans. We should talk together. If we can’t talk, then there are no fair negotiations and no good solution. This development is not for everyone; it’s only for a small group of people.”

Concrete details on the Boeung Kak lake project have rarely been released since officials first announced plans to develop the area more than three years ago.

The city agreed to a 99-year lease of 133 hectares surrounding the lake to a local company called Shukaku, which is headed by Lao Meng Khin, a senator in the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.

Since then, however, officials have been tight-lipped over the size and scale of the project, despite the fact that workers have already begun filling in sections of the lake with sand.

An early master plan for the area detailed residential and commercial zoning, complete with office buildings, recreation centres and entertainment complexes.

A map showing the outer limits of the development wasn’t shown to affected villagers until earlier this year.

Thursday’s closed-door meeting was another example of the government deliberately with-holding information from the public, residents and rights activists said.

Soy Kolab, who lives in Village 6 in the northeast section of the lake area, said some villagers knew about Thursday’s meeting but were not allowed to participate.

“The authorities are always saying they do development projects to reduce poverty in Cambodia and demand that we join together, but they have never called us to join in meetings or to listen and share suggestions with them,” Soy Kolab said.

Ing Navy, who lives in Village 24, bemoaned what she said was an attempt by the authorities to “confiscate my homeland”.

“We have lived here for more than 20 years, but they accuse us of living illegally,” she said.

David Pred, executive director of the group Bridges Across Borders Cambodia, said authorities have shown a “stunning lack of regard” for the residents, who stand to lose their homes if the project is completed.

“It is extraordinary how non-transparent the largest and most invasive development project in Phnom Penh has been,” Pred said.

“More than 1,000 families have already been displaced from the area, while many others have seen their homes collapse or flooded with waste water. Yet, to this date, hardly any information about the development plan has been released to the public.”

Advocates say most of the families who live in Boeung Kak are long-term residents who are eligible for ownership of their land under the 2001 Land Law, and that the deal granting a lease to Shukaku is illegal.

Authorities, however, insist that the land belongs to the state.

Mystery also surrounds the development’s financial backers.

Earlier this year, the Post reported that a succession of Chinese companies have been linked to the project. Reports in Chinese news media pegged the total cost of the project at around $1.5 billion, with one report claiming that the development was to be completed in 2013.

Additional reporting by May Tithara

Billiton to look into corruption allegations


via CAAI News Media

Friday, 23 April 2010 15:02 James O'Toole

INTERNATIONAL mining giant BHP Billiton has announced that it is conducting an internal investigation of corruption allegations prompted by the United States securities and exchange commission (SEC) in a case that may be linked to a Cambodian mining concession.

In its quarterly Exploration and Development report, posted on its website on Wednesday, BHP said evidence of impropriety arose after the SEC requested information “as a part of an investigation relating primarily to certain terminated minerals exploration projects”.

“The Company has disclosed to relevant authorities evidence that it has uncovered regarding possible violations of applicable anti-corruption laws involving interactions with government officials,” the report said. It added that BHP’s has opened its own investigation.

BHP and Mitsubishi Corp signed an agreement with the Cambodian government in 2006 securing rights to a 996-hectare mining concession in Mondulkiri province that was hoped to yield bauxite, an unprocessed aluminum ore.

The companies abandoned the concession last year, saying that a feasibility study had determined that large-scale mining operations there would not be cost-effective.

Amanda Buckley, a BHP spokeswoman in Australia, confirmed on Thursday that the investigation was not related to the company’s marketing or product sales, nor its operations in China. Rio Tinto, another Australian mining corporation, was ensnared in scandal last year when four of its employees in China were arrested for bribery and espionage, receiving lengthy prison terms in March.

Buckley declined to answer questions about the firm’s operations in Cambodia, saying she could not comment on “any expired minerals-explorations projects”. An SEC spokesman said it was “firm SEC policy that we don’t comment on any ongoing, potential or past investigations”.

Although BHP has not named the country in which the alleged violations took place, speculation has focused on Cambodia and the Mondulkiri concession. The Australian newspaper reported Thursday that it had learned that the case was focused on the Kingdom, though no source was cited.

Suspicions have arisen in part due to comments in 2007 by Minister of Water Resources Lim Kean Hor that were included in a 2009 report on Cambodia by watchdog group Global Witness. The report said the minister told the National Assembly that BHP had paid US$2.5 million to secure a mining concession, describing the payment as “tea money”, or an off-the-books fee.

In response to Lim Kean Hor’s comments, Global Witness wrote to BHP in 2008 to inquire about the payment. BHP said the $2.5 million had been earmarked for a “social development fund” focused on health and education projects in Mondulkiri and overseen by BHP.

“BHP Billiton has never made a payment to a Cambodian Government official or representative, and we reject any assertion that the payment under the minerals-exploration agreement is, or the amounts contributed to the Social Development Projects Fund are, ‘tea money,’” the company told Global Witness. The company also said it had paid $1 million to the government in 2006 as part of the formal concession agreement.

Global Witness subsequently found that in the Ministry of Economy and Finance’s accounting figures for 2006, only $443,866 in non-tax revenue from mining concessions was reported, raising questions about what happened to BHP’s $1 million payment but not necessarily implicating BHP in mismanagement.

Morihiko Kondo, Mitsubishi’s general manager for its Cambodia office, said his company had paid nothing to the government for its part in the joint venture beyond payments included in the formal agreement and the social development fund.

“For the project with BHP Billiton, we just gave the social contribution, and it is clearly mentioned in the agreement,” Morihiko said, adding that so-called “tea money” payments were strictly prohibited by his company.

“Even I stopped giving the Khmer New Year gifts to government officials,” he said.

Global Witness campaigner Eleanor Nichol said Thursday that she had heard anecdotally that BHP funding had, as the company said, supported social development projects in Mondulkiri, and Kaun Deyoun, office manager at the Mondulkiri office of the health NGO Nomad RSI said the same.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said he was unfamiliar with the case, but he pointed to the March passage of the Anticorruption Law as evidence of a commitment to “highlight transparency”.

Under the US’s Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, if found guilty by the SEC of making illegal payments, BHP could be fined “up to twice the benefit that [it] sought to obtain by making the corrupt payment”, and the employees implicated could face up to five years in prison.

Nichol noted that there is no proof at this point that Cambodia is involved in the BHP inquiry, but she said that even ostensibly legal payments made within the Kingdom’s highly corrupt extractive industries deserve scrutiny.

“I think there’s a question mark about BHP here, generally,” she said. “Any payments made to a government like Cambodia’s, which we know is highly corrupt and is essentially a captured state ... when you’re dealing with a state like that, what safeguards do you put in place?”

Police Blotter: 23 Apr 2010


via CAAI News Media

Friday, 23 April 2010 15:00 Thet Sambath

‘GANGSTER’ SCRAP INJURES MANY
A number of people were injured following a brawl between rival “gangsters” in Battambang province. The fight, involving a group of 10 men on one side and a group of 15 on the other, happened on the last day of Khmer New Year. Police said one man was arrested and told authorities that he has no idea what actually caused the dispute. Witnesses said the two sides were fighting each other “fiercely”. It was decided that both groups suffered injuries, but the group of 10 men was more seriously injured. Even so, the smaller group ganged up on one man from the larger group and beat him “almost to death”, witnesses said.
KOH SANTEPHEAP

ATTACK WAS REVENGE, NOT ROBBERRY: POLICE
Police in Pursat province say a 47-year-old man there has been shot dead by unknown assailants. Police said the man was drunk and stumbled back home to sleep. But then four men, one of whom carried an AK-type gun, came over, called to the man, then shot him twice in the chest, killing him instantly. Then the men allegedly threatened the victim’s children and collected valuables including a necklace and a watch. Even so, police concluded the incident was not robbery, but intractable revenge. Police said the man’s wife was killed last year after she was struck with lightning, leaving behind six daughters.
KOH SANTEPHEAP

MAN ACCUSED OF AXE ATTACK ON HIS WIFE
A man in Kratie province has been arrested after he allegedly got drunk and attacked his wife with an axe. Police said the man was drunk during Khmer New Year festivities. When he got home, the couple got into a heated argument that somehow resulted in the man allegedly striking his wife in the head with an axe. Police said witnesses tried to stop the man from injuring his wife further. The man was eventually arrested and sent to court. His wife is being treated in hospital.
KOH SANTEPHEAP

SPEEDING DRIVERS BLAMED FOR DEATHS
Two 19-year-old men were killed after they sped down a road in Preah Vihear province in an attempt to overtake other traffic but instead ended up sliding to their deaths under a passing truck. Authorities said the men were driving extremely fast and appeared to be goofing around and competing with other drivers, but they died instantly when they tried to overtake one car and ended up dying as their motorbike was crushed by a truck. Witnesses said the crash lay on the shoulders of the two men, who lost control because they drove too fast and tried to compete with other drivers. Both the truck and the crushed motorbike are being held by local police.
KAMPUCHEA THMEY

Limit drilling of aquifers in SReap: PM


via CAAI News Media

Friday, 23 April 2010 15:02 Cheang Sokha

PRIME Minister Hun Sen on Thursday instructed hotel and guesthouse owners in Siem Reap province to limit their use of underground water sources, warning that excessive drilling could lead to earthquakes that could cause the collapse of the Angkor Wat temple complex.

“If an earthquake occurs, the safety of Angkor Wat and other heritage temples cannot be guaranteed,” Hun Sen said during a ceremony in Siem Reap marking the inauguration of the Siem Reap Wastewater Management System, a project funded in part by the Asian Development Bank.

“I would like to remind all hotel owners that work on drilling water has to be clearly inspected,” Hun Sen said, ordering Minister of Industry, Mines and Energy Suy Sem to closely monitor such work so as to prevent “disaster”.

Seung Kong, deputy director general of the Apsara Authority, the government body that manages the temples, said that the drilling of underground water could indeed lead to the collapse of the temples, arguing that the ground would dry up and thus “no longer be able to support” them.

He said most residents – not just hotels and guesthouses – are presently reliant on underground water. “Most of the residents in the provincial town use underground water, as they do not yet have connections to clean water, and the water in the Siem Reap River is polluted,” he said.

“We have informed them about the danger of the temple, but so far we have not seen any sign that they have heeded the warning.”

Also on Thursday, Hun Sen warned Cambodians to beware of lightning strikes during the rainy season.

“The lightning this year is vicious, and I would call on everyone to pay attention over the issue of lightning in order to avoid it,” he said. “You need to keep iron substances away from your body, and turn off your telephone and radio during heavy rains in the rice field. However, it is difficult to escape lightning.”

Six villagers in Pursat province were killed by lightning strikes on Monday, officials in the province said.

Lightning strikes resulted in a total of 140 deaths last year.

The ADB said in a statement Thursday that the Siem Reap Wastewater Management System, which includes a sewage and drainage system in addition to a wastewater treatment plant, would “help end bouts of serious flooding in the city”.

Anti-graft unit seen as unprepared



Photo by: Sovan Philong
The Anti-Corruption Institution is located on Norodom Boulevard. Officials said Thursday that the government’s Anticorruption Unit needed more training before it could effectively fight graft.

via CAAI News Media

Friday, 23 April 2010 15:02 Vong Sokheng and Brooke Lewis

THE government’s Anticorruption Unit needs more training before it will be in a position to effectively combat graft, officials said at a ceremony marking the completion of a nine-week training programme Thursday.

The Anticorruption Unit (ACU), which operates under the Council of Ministers and is expected to assume responsibility for the day-to-day investigation of corruption in the public and private sectors, was established in August 2006 but is still in its development phase, said member Sar Sambath.

The long-awaited Anticorruption Law, passed in March, includes provisions that would give the ACU the ability to punish, among other things, “illicit enrichment”, an unexplained increase in an individual’s wealth. The law is set to come into effect in November.

However, Sar Sambath said Thursday that he did not know precisely how the ACU would operate under the new law.

“We don’t know when we can identify an area for investigation of corruption issues yet, because we need more training for the officials,” he said, and added: “Our priority now is to strengthen education for the officials.”

He said that the ACU would soon launch a campaign to raise awareness of corruption among the general public.

“An education campaign for the public is the worldwide basic to begin fighting corruption,” he said. “We would not be able to crack down on corruption while the public has not yet realised the corrupt activities.”

Kheang Seng, head of the ACU’s law enforcement section, said in a statement issued Thursday that the training programme, which was attended by senior officials and ACU members, was designed to spread information on procedures for conducting financial investigations, the management of complaints and cases, and asset-declaration requirements.

Flynn Fuller, mission director of USAID, which funded the training, said Thursday that he had received reports that it had gone “very well”, but suggested that the ACU was not yet ready to become fully operational.

“It is a good start and has addressed some of the basic needs of the ACU,” he said. “However, it is only a beginning, and there is more needed to develop the capacity of the ACU as an effective anticorruption enforcement agency.”

Sar Sambath said the ACU currently has 56 staff members, and that officials are considering whether it needs to be expanded in light of the passage of the Anticorruption Law.

Lost but not forgotten: the ongoing search for two of the missing

Photo by: Michael HayeS
A JPAC team sifts through soil at the site where Dave MacMillan found human remains that are now believed to be those of a Caucasian.

via CAAI News Media

Friday, 23 April 2010 15:02 Michael Hayes

The first time I heard about Sean Flynn and Dana Stone was back in 1992 when I first met Tim Page, who had obviously been carrying around their unknown fates in his mind like a nagging headache for several decades.

A mutual friend, Nate Thayer, who was then writing for The Phnom Penh Post and the Far Eastern Economic Review, said to me: “Hey Mike, let’s go to the Samaki [now Raffles Hotel Le Royale]. You got to meet this guy Tim Page. He’s totally insane, you’ll like him.”

Page was bivouacked in one of the old, now torn down, bungalows behind the hotel. He, like many other old Indochina hacks who had covered the war in the ’60s and ’70s, was back in town for UNTAC. The frenzy, uncertainty and excitement of the time was like an elixir for guys reared on it during their adrenaline-filled youths.

Thayer and I walked into Page’s bungalow, greeted there by the distinct aroma of opium in the air. A bevy of commando-like Vietnamese hookers, referred to as the “A-Team”, added a cacophonous spice to the pungent mix.

Photo by: Michael Hayes
Bones and medical vials found in December 2008 at the former Khmer Rouge hospital site near Pkhar Doung village. Turned over to JPAC, the bones were identified as non-human.

Page, then as now, was holding court and delivering authoritatively an endless river of tales, some of which have gotten taller over the years.

One recurring saga was the story of how his friends, American photographers Sean Flynn and Dana Stone, had gone missing in Cambodia on April 6, 1970, never to be heard from again.

In the late 1980s bits of intelligence from interviews done with defectors and others started to surface that gave vague clues as to what had happened to Flynn and Stone, and many others who had gone missing during the 1970-75 civil war.

In late 1990, Page, armed with some of this information, headed off to Kampong Cham to poke around obscure villages and see what he could find out. One source led him to the village of Bei Met, opposite Kampong Cham city, farther north and inland from the Mekong. He tracked down a family that said two foreigners had been held captive under their house for seven months in the early ’70s. Remains were uncovered, and Page was initially optimistic that he had found his friends. Only later did it become clear that these were the teeth of Clyde McKay, who along with Larry Humphrey was one of two Americans who had mistakenly sought refuge with the Khmer Rouge after escaping from a Lon Nol prison in 1970 and were eventually executed.

Photo by: Michael Hayes
Ung Nit (right) interviews Hau Sou and her husband Ou Yoeun at their home in Phum Krek. Both said they had worked at the Khmer Rouge hospital where Sean Flynn and Dana Stone may have stayed in the 1970s.

During the ’90s, Page became a regular resident houseguest at the Post’s old headquarters, where he camped out on the top floor. It was usually a sound bet that his presence in town meant some bizarre adventure was afoot.

The Flynn-Stone trail went cold for some years, and then two reports surfaced that indicated foreigners had been held at a KR hospital several kilometres east of a village named Pkhar Doung in Kampong Cham.

One report came from a 1974 interview conducted by AP journalist Matt Franjola with a Khmer Rouge defector in Saigon. The turncoat, Heng Peng, was a doctor, and he gave indications that some foreigners had been killed by lethal injection at a base in Kampong Cham. A second report from an intelligence source was an interview with a woman called Hau Sou, who was allegedly a nurse at the same base. She was assumed to be still living in a village south of Kampong Cham city.

Armed with only these sketchy details, Page decided to go back to the area in 2008 and see what he could find out. He invited me to tag along.

Sean Flynn self-portrait.

We hired a van and a fixer and headed north on December 24. Arriving in the provincial capital, we stopped for lunch at the well-appointed Hao An restaurant. Our fixer, Ung Nit, just happened to ask a moto driver outside if he had heard of Hau Sou. To our amazement, he said he knew her personally and even had her telephone number.A call was made, and then the next morning we trundled over many miles of dirt roads to find her house south in the village of Phum Krek.

Hau Sou welcomed us into her spartan one-room abode. Page explained the reasons for his search, and Hau Sou shared with us her story – how she had been an administrator at the hospital in question from 1972 on.

We asked her if she knew of anyone who had been there before that time. She replied: “Yes, my husband. I met him there.”

Ou Yoeun was sitting quietly next to her, wearing his age badly, with one eye lost and still weeping from an errant bamboo splinter many years ago.

Photo by: Associated Press
Dana Stone.

After sharing with us stories of their years at the hospital, we asked the couple if they could come with us the next day and show us the site, as we had no idea where it was. They agreed.

The next morning we were off early. At Chup on Route 7, we turned north and zigzagged our way through miles of rubber plantations before finally heading east past scrubby fields of cassava towards the village of Pkhar Doung.

We parked our van near the edge of town, and then, accompanied by some locals, started walking farther east into the jungle. About 5 kilometres on, plodding through the draining heat on dirt tracks, we reached the site.

The cement well used by the hospital was still in place, though it was half-filled with silt. Surrounding it were numerous overgrown trenches that Hau Sou said were the various wards and offices of the field clinic. She told us that at any one time it held about 150 patients.

She and her husband said that they hadn’t seen any foreigners at the time. They also said that they hadn’t seen any Vietnamese either, a comment that was contradicted by others we interviewed subsequently.

The general picture, gleaned from several sources, was that this was possibly also a major depot and transport hub of the regime’s Zone 203, headed at the time by Sao Phim. It’s likely the area was an extremely busy place in the early ’70s, with NVA and KR troops and supplies coming and going all the time. Maps showing US B-52 bombing sorties in Kampong Cham during those years indicate the place was practically carpeted red.

We poked around a bit and then headed home. Back in Phnom Penh, as we digested what we had learned, Nit told us that our driver had found some bones at the site. Predictably spooked, he had decided to throw them out.

Page’s jaw dropped. He looked at me and said, “We’re going back.”

On New Year’s Day, we were once again at the hospital site, scuffing around the bush. We found some bones and some medical vials, too, the ones used to fill syringes for injections. We could only speculate as to whether we had found the site where Flynn and Stone were killed. At one point, Page suggested we buy some shovels and hire villagers to start digging. I told him I would walk if he did so. The idea was quickly abandoned.

In Pkhar Doung we lingered, looking for old people to stop and question. We noticed one guy walking on the street and came to an abrupt halt. It turned out that he had two foreigners spend a night under his house in 1970, held captive in shackles by the KR and tied to a pillar. He even showed us the site, but said his family was too afraid to talk to the captives.

Another old man said that as a young cow herder in the ’70s he saw a white man killed behind the village wat. He showed us the place, and we could see that others had also been buried there more recently.

We packed the bones and vials and took GPS readings for the hospital and cemetery. All of this was shortly turned over to the defense attaché’s office at the US Embassy, where it was in turn forwarded to the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) office in Hawaii for examination.

Months later, Page was informed that the bones were not human. No word yet on the vials, some of which still contained liquid when we found them.

Page made two more trips to the east side of the Mekong in Kampong Cham in February and March. On one, he and I bumped all over the province, tracking down a JPAC dig site near Memot, where, it was reported, the US defector McKinley Nolan had been killed. We drove many miles to see a memorial for KR victims, and all along the way picked old people’s brains for clues that could help us piece together what was obviously the massively complex but rapidly fading jigsaw puzzle of what exactly went on 40 years ago.

Then, late last month, out of the blue, I got a panicked phone call from Page in Brisbane. He related how Dave MacMillan and Keith Rotheram, two Australians he’d met in Ho Chi Minh City last year, had organised a dig on their own in Pkhar Doung, found teeth and bones and were claiming that they’d found Flynn.

They’d taken the remains and were holed up in Sihanoukville, refusing to deliver them to the US Embassy and threatening to sneak them across the border back to Vietnam for who knows what purpose.

Page was almost apoplectic. Photos of a jawbone and teeth with what looked like Western-style crowns were circulated among old hacks all over the planet by email – including a picture of a backhoe used for the dig. Page said he would try to jump-start his return to Phnom Penh for the old hacks’ reunion beginning April 20 to help sort out the snafu.

I tracked down MacMillan by phone and encouraged him to just give the remains to the Americans. He said he felt a bit spooky carrying around a suitcase filled with bones. He had been in direct contact with the Yanks as well and eventually showed up at the embassy for the handover a few days later.

Page was back in town on April 3, and we quickly headed off to Kampong Cham to see what was up. We assumed that MacMillan had dug at the cemetery, but on arrival discovered the site had been untouched. A cop showed up quickly and prevented us from going to the hospital site or anywhere else. He said the MacMillan dig was bout 500 metres away and was being guarded by police.

Back in Phnom Penh, I met with MacMillan, who said he had undertaken the operation after being nagged by Rory Stone, Flynn’s half sister, for “about a month”.

MacMillan said he was in Pkhar Doung for five months and had dug “about 40 or 50 holes, slit trenches”.

“We dug up about a football field,” Macmillan told me.

He said his motivation stemmed in part from reverence of Errol Flynn, who he referred to as “a great icon for Australians”.

He also said he kept one tooth and sent it by express mail to Rory Flynn. It’s unclear if he kept any other remains, and JPAC and others remain concerned that he might have.

As to the propriety of his methods – in particular, the use of a massive backhoe to dig at an alleged grave site – MacMillan said, “I’ve had support the whole time from JPAC,” something that JPAC flatly denies.

MacMillan now denies that he ever claimed he found Flynn, although earlier postings on his Facebook site and phone calls with Page indicate otherwise.

“We know 100 percent we found one of the Caucasian journalists,” said MacMillan. “It could be anybody. It was a secret operation that we pulled off over there, and that was it.”

The old man who showed him the place to dig has since passed away from dysentery, but MacMillan says he has seven hours of film footage in which the old man describes in detail how the person found at the site was killed.

At the very least, MacMillian’s dig-and-run operation set off alarm bells back at JPAC headquarters in Hawaii.

Lieutenant Colonel Wayne Perry, JPAC’s director of public affairs, said that when the first story about the MacMillan dig appeared in the Daily Mail, his phone stared ringing off the hook.

JPAC quickly pulled staff members from other ongoing recoveries and sent a team to Cambodia to run damage control and initiate “a pop-up operation”.

The JPAC team arrived in Pkhar Doung on April 8, and they let Page and I visit the site on April 12.

A crew of 21 Cambodians and six Americans were toiling away in the heat at a site down a dirt road behind the cemetery, pulling buckets of soil from a pit and then sifting through it, a labour-intensive process that lasted five days.

Hugh Tuller, the on-site forensic anthropologist, said they had found 20 to 30 skull parts, showing us a bag with one piece about 4 inches square.

He said he was obliged to go through all the dirt dug up by MacMillan and then some.

“We were backed into a corner to come here and do this operation,” said Tuller.

Bits of clothing had been found, but Tuller said that because of MacMillan’s digging methods the evidence was now useless.

“What they did was totally inappropriate,” said Tuller. “It’s lost its context, it’s lost its provenience; it’s now garbage,” said Tuller.

However, Perry said he thought the remains turned in by MacMillan were those of a foreigner. “We believe it was a Caucasian. That’s all they’d tell us back in Hawaii,” he said.

So the plot thickens, a bit.

Page says there are no known existing dental records for Flynn. He tried to track some down years ago and learned that two sets – one in Singapore and another in Miami – had been destroyed.

Out of respect for surviving family members, JPAC doesn’t comment on ongoing tests being conducted on remains. And in many cases, nobody is ever finally identified. Johnie Webb, JPAC’s deputy commander, said JPAC has about 900 case files of remains that cannot be confirmed to match any of the known soldiers or civilians missing in action.

There’s a final quirky wrinkle to the latest chapter of this story.

In combing through various intelligence reports and interviews of the era, two names kept popping up connected to the Khmer Rouge’s security apparatus, the one that would most likely be involved in “smashing enemies”. One was Ta Sabun, the Zone 203 security chief, and the other his deputy, Chan Seng.

Sabun was interviewed by Page in the early ’90s and denied knowing about any foreigners held captive. He has since died.

The name Chan Seng sounded familiar to me, and then I remembered that my landlady’s deceased husband was named Chan Seng. I also remembered that my landlady hailed from the village of Trapaeng Russei in Kampong Cham, which is not so far from Pkhar Doung.

I emailed Khmer Rouge expert Steve Heder last year and asked him if my landlady’s Chan Seng, who came back with the invading Vietnamese in 1979 as a member of the People’s Republic of Kampuchea Central Committee, was the same Chan Seng mentioned in reports of the Zone 203 security bosses.

Heder replied: “Yup, that’s the guy.”

So the question lingers: Is Tim Page, one of my most frequent and currently ensconced house guests, sleeping in the bed of the guy who may have been involved in the death of his mates Sean Flynn and Dana Stone?

Spooky, that one.

I just haven’t figured out how to approach my landlady with the issue in a manner that doesn’t convince her I’m an unwanted tenant.

Page, for his part, has been sleeping soundly of late, if at times with the help of a bit of Xanax, no doubt judiciously prescribed by his doctor.

Honouring fallen comrades


Photo by: Rick Valenzuela
Kurt Volkert, seated in the foreground, weeps Tuesday at Wat Po as the names of fallen journalists are read aloud

via CAAI News Media

Friday, 23 April 2010 15:02 David Boyle and Mom Kunthear

Kampong Speu Province

A T the site where five journalists were beaten to death 39 years ago, former war correspondents gathered for an emotional ceremony on Thursday with local villagers to mourn the deaths of all journalists killed during the 1970-75 civil war in Cambodia.

More than two dozen former correspondents participated in the ceremony commemorating their fallen colleagues, planting a tree at Wat Po in Kampong Speu province and joining in a Buddhist ceremony that offered up blessings for the dead along with food and other gifts.

With tears in her eyes, Elizabeth Becker, who covered Cambodia for The Washington Post, read the names of all the journalists who died during the Lon Nol regime. At her side was Yoko Ishiyama, whose husband, Koki Ishiyama, was one of those killed at Wat Po in May 1971.

“Koki and I were very good friends, and I’ve written about him, and he was one of the very special people in the press corps,” Becker said afterwards. “And I had never met [Yoko] before, and I think her presence as a Buddhist and her spirit lighting the sticks gave it the profundity it wouldn’t have had otherwise.”

“And then just reading everybody’s name, that’s why we came thousands of miles,” she added.

On May 31, 1971, a group of nine journalists from rival networks CBS and NBC encountered Vietnamese and Khmer Rouge troops advancing down National Road 3 in Kampong Speu.

Four journalists who had ventured past a destroyed bridge were killed instantly by a rocket-propelled grenade and gunfire, and the remaining five were soon captured and taken to Wat Po the next day.

Orm Pav, who at the time was 13 years old and living in a nearby village, said on Thursday that those five journalists were killed because their captors regarded them as spies.

“They escorted those people to a the small stream and killed them at around 7:30pm at nighttime by chopping them in the neck with a hoe,” he recalled.

Though he said he found Thursday’s ceremony “strange”, he added that he had been touched by the fact that the former correspondents travelled so far to honour their dead friends.

“This is the first time that I have seen a large group of foreigners come here to pray for them, and I want to have this event every year in order to make a memorial in this place,” he said.

Jeff Williams, a former reporter for AP and CBS, on Thursday recalled drinking with two of those killed at Wat Po – George Syvertson and Gerry Miller – two nights before their deaths.

“George was more conservative, and Gerry Miller was a very effervescent guy, and he kept saying, ‘I’m in a combat area, I’m in a combat area, right’ – little knowing that in two days he was going to be in more combat than he ever imagined,” Williams said.

En Thoeun, another villager, said that he was the first person to discover the remains of four of the five men killed at Wat Po, just hours after an excavation effort conducted with US support concluded without success.

“I am happy and surprised that there are many foreigners who have come to offer gifts to the monks to dedicate to dead people,” he said Thursday.

Kurt Volkert, a former journalist and the man who initiated the effort to retrieve the bodies, said he had been moved by Thursday’s ceremony, though he was distressed that the remains of cameraman Tomoharu Ishii had not been found.

“There was the planting of a tree, which I think is much more appropriate than a monument with names – it’s more anonymous, it’s natural and I thought it was a very good, sensitive idea,” he said.

He added, though, that he did not believe he would return to the site.

“I don’t think I will be coming back.... It’s time for closure, for me. Others will come back. It doesn’t mean I’ll forget about it, but I think you don’t always need a physical presence to remember a place or to remember an important part of your life – this strengthens the memory, but life goes on.”

For a comprehensive multimedia wrap-up of the war correspondents’ reunion, including video interviews and an interactive historical gallery, visit www.phnompenhpost.com.

Prosecutor objects to release of suspect


via CAAI News Media

Friday, 23 April 2010 15:02 Kim Yuthana

A PROSECUTOR in Kampot provincial court has asked the Appeal Court to override a decision by a provincial judge to release a man accused of firing a gun at a couple staying at a guesthouse on April 17.

“I think it was legally wrong that he failed to take action in the gunshot case,” the prosecutor, Chun Saban, said Thursday.

“Therefore, by law, I have the right to file an appeal against him.”

He said the suspect had been briefly detained and then released on the night of the incident, and that no investigation had ever been initiated.

The judge, Chuon Vannak, could not be reached on Thursday.

Sem Hoeun, chief of the security office at Kampot’s military police station, said Thursday that the “gunshot incident” had occurred at the Heng Reaksmey guesthouse in Kampot town’s Anduong Khmer commune. He declined to identify the shooter, but said the incident was spurred by “romantic jealousy”.

He added that he no longer had any role in the case.

“Whether the court takes action or not is the court’s responsibility,” he said.

Residents of Memot angry that battery furnace yet to be closed


via CAAI News Media

Friday, 23 April 2010 15:01 Tep Nimol

RESIDENTS of Kampong Cham province’s Memot district on Thursday expressed frustration with the fact that a factory blamed for harming the health of families living nearby has continued to operate, even though officials ordered its closure on Wednesday.

Chork Roth, a representative of more than 100 families who filed complaints Tuesday with local officials and the NGO Adhoc against the factory, which is equipped to melt down batteries for the production of lead, said Thursday that he had seen two cartloads of coal and four cartloads of batteries being brought into the factory for processing.

“The sound of the machinery crushing batteries can still be heard, and smog was coming from [the factory’s] furnace on Wednesday,” he said.

“Even this morning, the factory still continues to melt down recycled batteries. We are afraid that the authorities told us a lie.”

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
EVEN THIS MORNING , THE FACTORY STILL CONTINUES TO MELT DOWN... BATTERIES."
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Residents had accused pollution from the factory of causing nausea, vomiting, skin allergies, stomachaches and diarrhoea, among other ailments. Memot district governor Chek Sa Om said Wednesday that public health experts had examined the factory and the health of local villagers before determining that its furnace was emitting pollutants.

Chek Sa Om could not be reached for comment on Thursday, nor could the owner of the factory, Bin Kea.

Suon Dy, director of the provincial Department of Industry, Mines and Energy, said the reason for the delay in the shutdown could be simple bureaucracy.

“The provincial governor just signed the termination of the license of the company on Wednesday, so the letter of termination may not have arrived in the hand of the factory owner yet,” he said.

He said, though, that the factory would be shut down because “it has breached the agreement in which it promised not to harm the environment and the people’s health”.