Thursday, 4 March 2010

Royal Cambodian Armed Forces tests rockets

Photo by Koh Santepheap Newspaper

Cambodian army test fires multiple rocket launchers on Thursday, march 4, 2010 at Krang Lieu village, Kampong Chhnang province, some 100 kilometers (62 miles) northwest of capital Phnom Penh, Cambodia. About 200 rounds of Russian-made BM-21 rockets will be fired, according to the army. (AP photo/Heng Sinith)

Russian-made BM21 rockets are fired during a multiple rocket launch system test at Kampong Chhnang province, 120 km (74.6 miles) northwest of Phnom Penh, March 4, 2010. BM-21 rockets were launched during the test, the first live munitions test since military integration after the end of the civil war in 1998, Cambodia's defence spokesman, Chhum Socheath said. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Russian-made BM21 rockets are fired during a multiple rocket launch system test at Kampong Chhnang province, 120 km (74.6 miles) northwest of Phnom Penh, March 4, 2010. BM-21 rockets were launched during the test, the first live munitions test since military integration after the end of the civil war in 1998, Cambodia's defence spokesman, Chhum Socheath said. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Cambodian army test fires multiple rocket launchers Thursday, March 4, 2010 at Krang Lieu village, Kampong Chhnang province, some 100 kilometers (62 miles) northwest of capital Phnom Penh, Cambodia. About 200 rounds of Russian-made BM-21 rockets will be fired, according to the army. (AP photo/Heng Sinith)

Cambodian soldiers test fire multiple rocket launchers (BM21) at the air field in Kampong Chhnang province, some 120 kilometers northwest of Phnom Penh on March 4, 2010. Cambodia's military mounted a rare public test of rockets on March 4, amid a lingering troop standoff over disputed territory with neighbouring Thailand. (AFP/Tang Chhin Sothy)

Cambodian soldiers prepare Russian-made BM-21 rockets during multiple rocket launch system test at Kampong Chhnang province, 120 km (74.6 miles) northwest of Phnom Penh, March 4 , 2010. Russian-made BM-21 rockets were launched during the test, the first live munitions test since military integration after the end of the civil war in 1998, Cambodia's defence spokesman, Chhum Socheath said. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Cambodian soldiers walk in a line after test firing Russian-made BM-21 rockets during a multiple rocket launch system test at Kampong Chhnang province 120 km (74.6 miles) northwest of Phnom Penh, March 04 , 2010 . Russian-made BM-21 rockets were launched during the test, the first live munitions test since military integration after the end of the civil war in 1998, Cambodia's defence spokesman, Chhum Socheath said. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

A Cambodian soldier prepares Russian-made BM21 rockets during multiple rocket launch system test at Kampong Chhnang province, 120 km (74.6 miles) northwest of Phnom Penh, March 4, 2010. Russian-made BM-21 rockets were launched during the test, the first live munitions test since military integration after the end of the civil war in 1998, Cambodia's defence spokesman, Chhum Socheath said. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Russian-made BM21 rockets are fired during a multiple rocket launch system test at Kampong Chhnang province, 120 km (74.6 miles) northwest of Phnom Penh, March 4, 2010. BM-21 rockets were launched during the test, the first live munitions test since military integration after the end of the civil war in 1998, Cambodia's defence spokesman, Chhum Socheath said. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

To Catch a Pedophile

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03/04/2010

Assistant secretary of homeland security for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, John Morton, said they will boost their efforts to catch American pedophiles in Cambodia.

So far, 14 child sex tourists have been returned to the US to face prosecution. Morton said it isn´t the end of American child sex tourism, but they have a long-term strategic plan to deal with American pedophiles in Cambodia.

According to World Vision, there are 2 million children that are caught in the international sex trade and that globally, 25% of the child sex tourists are Americans. A 2006 study showed that Asians were the most prevalent pedophiles in Cambodia.

Man Tortures Wife for Decade


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03/04/2010

Meas Kunthy, the owner of a restaurant in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, is currently behind bars and awaiting prosecution for brutal domestic violence against his wife.

Kunthy´s wife claims that she had been sexually, mentally and physically tortured by her husband since their marriage in 2000, but she thought it was normal and was too frightened to say or do anything about it.

The victim says she is relieved Kunthy is in prison as he had been threatening to kill her and her parents.

In a 2005 study in Cambodia, one-quarter of female respondents reported suffering violence at the hands of their husbands.

E-mailing in Political Change


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March 04, 2010
By Bryony Taylor

Can a political party change an oppressive system from abroad? Cambodia’s self-exiled opposition leader, Sam Rainsy, hopes so.

On January 27, as the trial of Cambodia’s main opposition leader drew to a close, armed police officers and security officials stood guard outside the closed gates of the Svay Rieng Provincial Court.

The two-year jail sentence awarded to Sam Rainsy, who was sentenced in absentia, was handed down behind closed doors. He was convicted of inciting racial discrimination and damaging public property and also fined $2,000.

Such treatment isn’t unusual for lawmakers in Cambodia. Despite the opposition and media’s best efforts, lawmakers and journalists are frequently hit with lawsuits by the ruling party. It’s probably no surprise then that, according to international NGO Freedom House, Cambodia ranked 132 out of 195 countries in terms of press freedom.

Rainsy’s latest brush with the justice system stemmed from his now infamous trip in October last year to Chantrea district’s Samraong commune in Svay Rieng Province, which borders Vietnam. While visiting the area, Rainsy uprooted six border demarcation posts, because, he said, they had been placed in the rice farm of Meas Srey and not on Vietnamese territory. Srey and another village were for their part both handed one-year jail sentences.

Rainsy’s actions and vocal criticism of the government’s border demarcation process riled lawmakers in the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP). Government officials denied villagers’ accusations of Vietnamese encroachment and voted to strip Rainsy of his political immunity so he could face a criminal investigation over the incident. However, Rainsy fled the country to a home in Paris from which he now runs the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP).

‘You’ll see new and unexpected developments in the coming months,’ Rainsy told this writer by e-mail. ‘Unprecedented evidence of large-scale border encroachment by Vietnam; exposing of CPP neglect for our country’s interest and their trick to divert public attention to border issues with Thailand instead; international lawsuits involving Cambodia’s top leaders, renewed world attention on Cambodia following different initiatives taken abroad.’

Rainsy says he believes that by remaining free and living abroad, he can do more for Cambodia than if he returned and was forced to protest from a jail cell.

‘I want people to concentrate on issues rather than on my personal situation, which would be the case if I came back to Cambodia now,’ he says.

As part of an increasingly predictable political game, the SRP has petitioned King Norodom Sihamoni to pardon its leader and reinstate his parliamentary immunity (Rainsy was able to return home following a royal pardon after he expressed regret following a previous ‘enforced exile’ in 2006).

But how effective Rainsy’s overseas strategy is likely to be is open to debate. Although Rainsy maintains that his enforced exile proves he is a threat to Prime Minister Hun Sen, now in his 25th year in power, the fact is that he has effectively been ‘removed’ as head of the main opposition party for an unspecified period by the CPP. And, while the Cambodian Constitution does allow the King to pardon and grant amnesty, such requests have in the past been made by Hun Sen himself, who in this case has made abundantly clear he has no intention of doing.

Rainsy isn’t the first politician in recent months to be stripped of his immunity, nor to be threatened with the loss of a parliamentary seat, a fine and jail time by a ruling party apparently happy to use the justice system to do its bidding.

In August, prominent SRP lawmaker Mu Sochua was convicted of defaming Hun Sen in an almost comical ‘he said, she said’ legal battle that Sochua was forced to fight largely without a lawyer after her representative was warned his career could be ended.

Sochua announced in April she intended to sue Hun Sen over a speech broadcast on national TV in which he insulted a prominent woman, widely assume to be Sochua, using the colloquial insult ‘cheung klang’ or strong leg. However, Hun Sen counter-sued on the basis that her filing against him was itself defamation. The court ruled against Sochua, leaving her to appeal to the Supreme Court against the conviction and demand for a total of $4000 in fines and compensation.

Not one to take such injustice lying down, Sochua travelled around the United States and Europe with a public relations savvy more often seen in the West to try to secure support for her cause, including appearing before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission in Washington DC. However, the CPP dismissed all the accusations put forth at the commission as biased.

But Sochua continues to plead her case, and still holds out hope for change.

‘In a country that is led by the power of a single man, the opposition to such power doesn’t emanate only from a political party…The opposing force to dictatorship or undemocratic leaders can also be brought by the people themselves,’ Sochua says. ‘In Cambodia, this opposition movement is being formed despite various efforts by the government to silence the main opposition and by cracking down on the voices of dissidents.’

‘The Sam Rainsy Party is the loyal opposition in parliament but an opposition movement to the Hun Sen government. SRP is not about Rainsy and he would never claim that the party is his own,’ she says, although she adds she expects him to continue to play a central part in any attempt at change.

‘Mr Rainsy has a very key role to play outside of Cambodia and his voice must be heard by the Cambodian people for hope to be sustained,’ she says, adding that modern communication technology should make his geographical location irrelevant.

Yet it remains unclear how many Cambodians will actually get to hear Rainsy’s distant voice. According to the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, for example, a mere 0.3 percent of Cambodia’s 15 million people had internet access in 2007 (the most up-to-date figures available).

Meanwhile, Sochua says, the CPP will continue clamping down on its critics in an effort to maintain their political advantage. She says the first step in preventing this–and to stop future elections from being rigged–would be to ensure the neutrality of the National Election Committee and to invest in an independent judiciary.

‘Corruption must be dealt with, and the culture of patronage must be stopped,’ she says. ‘The merger of the opposition forces is a must and work is being done to put it into reality.’

And, despite CPP intransigence in the Rainsy case, there are some glimmers of hope that the party might be becoming more flexible. Last month, for example, Radio Free Asia reporter Sok Serey was acquitted in his disinformation case in Takeo Province.

‘We at Radio Free Asia are pleased our reporter has been acquitted of the baseless charges against him,’ says RFA President Libby Liu. ‘We hope this ruling will reverse the growing pattern of using Cambodia’s legal system to suppress free speech and freedom of press.’

A small start, perhaps. But a start nonetheless.

New Vietnam-Cambodia bordergate opens


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03/04/2010

The People’s Committee of Binh Phuoc province on March 3 inaugurated the Hoang Dieu-Lapakhe Bordergate in Bu Dop district, which is contiguous to Cambodia’s Mundulkiri province.

The upgrade of the bordergate to the national-level one will create the conditions for the two provinces in particular and the two countries in general to strengthen friendship and expand cooperation, said Chairman of the provincial People’s Committee Truong Tan Thieu.

The import and export of goods, especially agro-forestry and industrial products such as rubber, wheat and ore through the bordergate will become easier, contributing to economic development in border areas, he added.

In the coming time, the two sides will continue upgrading infrastructure around the bordergate, including roads, and ground-sand warehouses, in order to better serve cross-border commercial activities.

ADHOC Encourages the Siamese Authorities to Investigate Shootings against Khmer Citizens Who Crossed the Border Illegally – Thursday, 4.3.2010

http://cambodiamirror.wordpress.com/
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Posted on 4 March 2010.
The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 654

“The Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association [ADHOC] again appealed to the authorities of the Siamese [Thai] government to investigate cruel shootings by Siamese solders against Khmer citizens who just crossed the border illegally to find jobs to earn their daily living.

“The chief investigator of ADHOC, Mr. Ny Chakriya, said in a press conference at the organization’s headquarters in the morning of 3 March 2010, ‘We ask the [Cambodian] authorities to please put pressure on the Thai authorities and soldiers who fatally shot innocent Cambodians.’

“The appeal was made towards the international community, especially all signatory countries respecting human rights, to look at the cruelties of Siamese soldiers against Cambodian civilians, because since 2008, it has been observed that more than 20 Khmer citizens had been shot dead or wounded.

“Mr. Ny Chakriya said that such cases were seen happening from 2008 to early 2010, but the Thai authorities have not conducted any investigations. According to Mr. Ny Chakriya, this call being made during a press conference is another invitation to the Siamese authorities and government to take urgent actions to investigate the crimes, according to the laws, in order to show that Siam [Thailand] is a country that respects the law.

“To reflect the atrocities of Siamese authorities and soldiers against Khmer citizens, during the Wednesday conference, ADHOC invited victims who had been able to escape from shootings by Thai soldiers, and victim’s families, to tell journalists about their sufferings.

“Ms. Boun Tha, 43, living in Sla Kram commune, Siem Reap, whose children were shot dead, recalled that Siamese authorities had called her to take the bodies of her children, but along the way, she saw that some Thai persons dragged her children’s bodies and kicked them like animals.

“She added, ‘It was very cruel; they had covered and bound my children’s eyes and they kicked my children with their boots, disfiguring their faces. They were very bad. They mistreated innocent Khmer citizens.’

“In addition, she stressed that according to those who witnessed the evenf directly, her 18-year-old son cried for help from his father many tines until he fainted. After that, they hit his face with their boots and shot him.

“According to ADHOC, by now it has been already 20 months during which 20 Cambodians suffered from shooting, torture, and killing by Thai soldiers along the Cambodian-Thai border. But so far, the Thai authorities have not shown a real intention to investigate, accuse, and prosecute the perpetrators, in order to provide justice to the Cambodian victims.

“Therefore, ADHOC criticized that the Siamese authorities do not show respect for human rights. Quite in contrast, there are no actions taken against perpetrators, which seems to mean that the Siamese authorities are allowing such bad violence to happen.

“According to ADHOC, the victims and their families who encounter such atrocities from Siamese solders, together with other witnesses, will file lawsuits related to these crimes committed by the Thai authorities. It is time that the Siamese authorities take notice of these complaints, and they have to respond to what happened.

“In the meantime, the human rights organization ADHOC warned that there must be no more such serious human rights violations without punishment according to the laws. ADHOC stressed that the political tension between Cambodia and Siam is not the reason that the military of their country shows their anger in this way against innocent people. ADHOC said the military tension between Cambodia and Thailand is not an appropriate reason for fatal shootings of weak and innocent people.

“However, regarding serious human rights violations by Siamese solders and their authorities, both civil society and Cambodian citizens demand the government to increase honest investments in Cambodia and to halt grabbing land of farmers for wicked investors.

“This is the only way to reduce the risky migration of Khmer citizens [abroad looking for employment]. Also, this will help to keep the government’s face from being embarrassed, as it happened recently, when it was reported that Siam and Yuon [Vietnam] sent Khmer beggars back to Cambodia. Otherwise, that Khmer officials are rich, only around 18% of the millions of Khmer citizens, as found by the Asian Development Bank, is just the richness of millionaires on a garbage dump.”

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.17, #3823, 4.3.2010
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Thursday, 4 March 2010

Cambodia claims successful testing of rocket launchers

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March 04, 2010

Cambodia claimed on Thursday that the first-ever testing of BM-21 rocket launchers was successful.

Speaking at a testing event in Kompong Chhnang province, about 100 kilometers north of Phnom Penh, Tea Banh, deputy prime minister and minister of national defense said the testing was " successful" and this success has proved Cambodia's full competence in defending the "country's territorial integrity and sovereignty."

He said all the 215 shells tested had hit the target and goal from 20 km to 40 km as planned.

The testing was conducted while border dispute with Thailand remains unsolved.

But Tea Banh said the testing of the rocket was not aimed at preparing a war with any country, but to get ready for any circumstance that Cambodia is met with foreign invasion.

Also, on Thursday, Hun Sen said Cambodia has had BM-21 since the 1980s and military exercise is normally practiced worldwide.

The test was first announced by Prime Minister Hun Sen on Feb. 24, who said that his country will conduct a military exercise by firing about 200 rounds of BM-21 to make sure his military operators are able to operate well and to also test the quality of these BM-21 rocket launchers after they have been kept for long in warehouse.

Fearing criticism from outsiders, Hun Sen said the test by firing these rocket launchers are not intended to show off military muscle, but to only check the capacity of the country's military affairs as a sovereign state.

He added that Cambodia is committed to positioning itself as peaceful neighbors and intend not to stage war with any country.

According to Hun Sen, prices of one BM-21 range at 1,200, 2,800 and 3,800 U.S. dollars.

Source: Xinhua

Cambodian military tests rockets

Cambodian soldiers test fire multiple rocket launchers (BM21) at the air field in Kampong Chhnang province

Cambodian soldiers prepare to test-fire a multiple rocket launcher

Cambodian troops fired some 200 rockets in their first public drill since the country's civil war ended

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By Suy Se (AFP)

KAMPONG CHHNANG, Cambodia — Cambodia's military mounted a rare public test of rockets on Thursday amid a lingering troop standoff over disputed territory with neighbouring Thailand.

In their first public drill since the country's civil war ended more than a decade ago, troops fired some 200 rockets from truck-mounted launchers at an airfield 180 kilometres (about 110 miles) from the Thai border.

Cambodian defence ministry spokesman Chhum Socheat told AFP the display was "not about flexing our muscles" against Thailand.

"The drill is not a threat or a show of force against neigbouring countries or foreign countries," Chhum Socheat said before the rockets were fired in front of assembled media and top brass.

Muffled thumps could be heard as salvos of rockets landed far from the launch site.

"It is about the strengthening of the abilities of our forces in order to fulfil the duties of national defence against invaders," Chhum Socheat added.

Prime Minister Hun Sen declared in a speech last week the rockets would be fired to gauge the quality of the Russian and Chinese-made Cold War-era weapons which have long lain unused in warehouses.

Cambodia and Thailand have been locked in nationalist tensions and a troop standoff at their disputed border since July 2008, when Cambodia's 11th century Preah Vihear temple was granted UNESCO World Heritage status.

Four soldiers were killed in clashes in the temple area in 2008 and three more in a gunbattle last April. Smaller flare-ups continue to be reported between troops in the area.

The Thai-Cambodia border has never been fully demarcated, partly because it is littered with landmines left over from decades of war in Cambodia, which ended in 1998.

The World Court ruled in 1962 that the temple belonged to Cambodia, although its main entrance lies in Thailand. The exact boundary through the surrounding grounds remains in dispute.

Relations plunged further in November after Hun Sen appointed ousted Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra as his economic adviser and then refused to extradite him to Thailand, which he fled to avoid a jail term for corruption.

Thailand's government downplayed the Cambodian rocket drill and said there had been no troop reinforcements on the disputed border.

"I don't think Cambodia wants to intimidate us, as we have sent them a clear signal that we don't want the dispute to go out of control and affect people in both countries," deputy Thai prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban said.

Thai government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said the drill was "nothing to do with us, they are not firing into our territory."

..Half a Million Workers to Be Deported From Thailand

Migrant workers from Burma at work in a shrimp factory in Mahachai, on the outskirts of Bangkok. More than half a million migrants workers in Thailand, from Burma, Cambodia and Laos, face possible deportation and abuse if they fail to meet a deadline this week to register with authorities. (Nicolas Asfouri/AFP/Getty Images)

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Epoch Times Staff

Thai authorities are about to deport approximately 500,000 workers—originally from from Burma, Laos, and Cambodia—for failing to seek worker's permits before the deadline was reached, according to Thai newspaper, The Nation.

Nearly 1.3 million Burmese, Laotian, and Cambodian workers live in Thailand. They were required to submit permits by Tuesday. Gothom Arya, the chairman of the Human Rights and Development Foundation, requested Thai officials to be mindful of Burmese workers who are to be deported.

Gothom said the Burmese feel that their lives will be put in jeopardy if they go back to Burma, citing political and ethnic tensions. The rights activist added that the government should extend the deadline because many of the Burmese workers would stay in the country illegally anyway.

Cambodia tests rocket launcher in show of force

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By SOPHENG CHEANG,Associated Press

PONGROR, Cambodia – Cambodia successfully tested a multiple rocket launcher Thursday, the country's defense minister said, in a show of force that comes amid simmering tensions with its neighbor Thailand.

Some 200 rounds from the Soviet-made, BM-21 rocket launcher were fired in the mountains of remote Kampong Chhnang province, some 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of the capital Phnom Penh.

Defense Minister Tea Banh said the launch of the truck-mounted, 122-mm rockets was part of ongoing efforts to protect Cambodia's territory.

"The firing was not to prepare for war with any neighboring country, rather we want to see the quality and the efficiency of those rockets," Tea Banh said.

Last week, Prime Minister Hun Sen said the launch was a routine military drill and not intended to demonstrate Cambodia's military muscle.

Relations between Cambodia and Thailand have been strained over the status of a historic temple along a disputed border. Both sides have repeatedly rushed troops to the area, which resulted in several gunbattles.

Thailand was also angered last year when Cambodia named fugitive former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra as an adviser on economic affairs. The subsequent visit by Thaksin, and Cambodia's rejection of a formal request from Bangkok to extradite him, drew a negative reaction from Bangkok.

Cambodian military tests rockets


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Published: 4/03/2010
Online news: Asia

Cambodia's military mounted a rare public test of rockets on Thursday amid a lingering troop standoff over disputed territory with neighbouring Thailand.

Cambodian soldiers test fire multiple rocket launchers (BM21) at the air field in Kampong Chhnang province, some 120 kilometers northwest of Phnom Penh on March 4, 2010. Cambodia's military mounted a rare public test of rockets on March 4, amid a lingering troop standoff over disputed territory with neighbouring Thailand.

In their first public drill since the country's civil war ended more than a decade ago, troops fired some 200 rockets from truck-mounted launchers at an airfield 180 kilometres from the Thai border.

Cambodian defence ministry spokesman Chhum Socheat told AFP the display was "not about flexing our muscles" against Thailand.

"The drill is not a threat or a show of force against neigbouring countries or foreign countries," Chhum Socheat said before the rockets were fired in front of assembled media and top brass.

Muffled thumps could be heard as salvos of rockets landed far from the launch site.

"It is about the strengthening of the abilities of our forces in order to fulfil the duties of national defence against invaders," Chhum Socheat added.

Prime Minister Hun Sen declared in a speech last week the rockets would be fired to gauge the quality of the Russian and Chinese-made Cold War-era weapons which have long lain unused in warehouses.

In Bangkok, Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban downplayed the Cambodian rocket drill and said there had been no troop reinforcements along the disputed border.

"I don't think Cambodia wants to intimidate us, as we have sent them a clear signal that we don't want the dispute to go out of control and affect people in both countries," Mr Suthep said.

We always have been making sure that the dispute will not exacerbate," Mr Suthep said. "Each side must be cautious and must not do anything that will trouble people living along the Thai-Cambodian border."

When reporters asked him whether Cambodia deliberately held the drill while Thailand was busy with its own political problems, he said it would be improbable.

Government spokesman Panithan Wattanayagorn said the drill was "nothing to do with us, they are not firing into our territory".

Cambodia and Thailand have been locked in nationalist tensions and a troop standoff at their disputed border since July 2008, when Cambodia's 11th century Preah Vihear temple was granted UNESCO World Heritage status.

Four soldiers were killed in clashes in the temple area in 2008 and three more in a gunbattle last April. Smaller flare-ups continue to be reported between troops in the area.

The Thai-Cambodia border has never been fully demarcated, partly because it is littered with landmines left over from decades of war in Cambodia, which ended in 1998.

The World Court ruled in 1962 that the temple belonged to Cambodia, although its main entrance lies in Thailand. The exact boundary through the surrounding grounds remains in dispute.

Relations plunged further in November after Hun Sen appointed ousted Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra as his economic adviser and then refused to extradite him to Thailand, which he fled to avoid a jail term for corruption.

Market views

Photo by: Rick Valenzuela

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Thursday, 04 March 2010 15:02 Rick Valenzuela

A boy watches market life from kneecap level in front of a fruit vendor in Deum Tkov Market late last month. According to figures from the Planning Ministry’s National Institute of Statistics, fruit prices rose 2.4 percent year-on-year in January. Figures for the month of February are expected in about a week.

Ministers discuss tobacco use

Photo by: Rick Valenzuela

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Thursday, 04 March 2010 15:03 Khoun Leakhana

A man displays home-grown, hand-rolled cigarettes in front of a tobacco pack house on Koh Pen island, near Kompong Cham in January. A two-day inter-ministerial meeting to discuss tobacco-related issues and regulations with health experts began in Phnom Penh on Wednesday.

Bank bailout shows cracks in Indonesian government

Indonesian protesters step over barbed wire during a protest against Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in Jakarta on Wednesday. Indonesia’s parliament was to decide the fate of the country’s top two reformers over a controversial bank bailout, amid warnings the government’s rainbow coalition is close to breaking up. AFP

An Indonesian protestor throws a large stone at riot police during a clash outside the parliament building in Jakarta on Tuesday. AFP

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Thursday, 04 March 2010 15:05 AFP

Governing coalition could collapse as lawmakers remain split on whether leading officials should face charges, analysts say

JAKARTA – Indonesia’s parliament is to decide Wednesday the fate of the country’s top two reformers over a controversial bank bailout, amid warnings the government’s rainbow coalition is close to breaking up.

Lawmakers are divided as to whether Vice President Boediono and Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati should face criminal investigations for authorising the US$724 million rescue package for Bank Century.

The two have been under intense pressure from lawmakers after the country’s top auditor found strong indications of “violations” in the November 2008 bailout of the medium-sized lender.

The rescue package disbursed to save the bank was around 10 times larger than initially approved and the hearing into the bailout has been accompanied by fierce protests outside parliament.

On Tuesday stick-wielding protesters burned flags of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party and hurled stones and bottled water at police, who responded with tear gas and water cannons.

The controversy has put President Yudhoyono in a difficult position as he has to decide between keeping his two top reformers and preventing his rainbow coalition from disintegrating, analysts said.

“SBY needs solid political support as he still has four years ahead to rule the country,” Bantarto Bantoro from the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) said, referring to Yudhoyono by his initials.

Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party and its political allies said the bailout was necessary to prevent a systemic economic meltdown at the height of the global economic crisis.

The former ruling party Golkar and the Muslim-based Prosperous Justice Party, both represented in the coalition cabinet, joined main opposition Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) in pushing for Indrawati and Boediono to be prosecuted.

Yudhoyono, who has vowed to take responsibility for the case, will have to decide if it is best for the political parties to stay together or go their separate ways, political analyst Pande Raja Silalahi said.

“The coalition is on the verge of breaking up.... There will be a deadlock today,” he said adding that the president should settle the issue quickly.

Yudhoyono on Monday defended his colleagues, saying he accepted responsibility for a decision necessary to save the country’s entire banking sector.

“It’s correct, and I’m responsible for it,” he told bankers at a gathering at the state palace. “Though I didn’t issue any instruction or directive, I approved of it.”

Yudhoyono has won two elections since 2004 on the back of promises to root out corruption, which riddles every aspect of Indonesian public life from the courts to the customs office. AFP

Analyst rips Uighur deportation


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Thursday, 04 March 2010 15:05 Sebastian Strangio and Cheang Sokha

LAST-MINUTE changes to a sub-decree regulating procedures for screening asylum seekers paved the way for the government’s forced deportation of 20 ethnic Uighur asylum seekers, violating their rights under local and international law, an Australian academic has asserted.

Writing in the Australian magazine Eureka Street on Wednesday, Frank Brennan, a professor of law at the Australian Catholic University’s Public Policy Institute, described the new sub-decree, passed two days before the Uighurs’ deportation on December 19, as a “sham”.

Cambodia “may be a signatory to the [1951 UN Refugee Convention], but to date that counts for nothing”, he wrote in the article.

Brennan says that a section of the Sub-decree on Procedures for Examination, Recognition, and Provision of Refugee or Asylum Status for Aliens in the Kingdom of Cambodia, was inserted as “a last-minute change” to the law.

The relevant section of the sub-decree, Article 5, states that “the recognition of a refugee, the termination of refugee status and the removal of refugee status shall be determined by the prakas (ministerial order) of the Interior Minister”.

A total of 22 Uighur asylum seekers arrived in Cambodia in November 2009 after fleeing ethnic violence in Urumqi, the capital of China’s restive Xinjiang province.

On December 19, two days after the passing of the sub-decree, the Uighurs were forced onto an unmarked charter flight to China, despite having been registered as “persons of concern” by the local office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

Two escaped prior to the deportation and are currently unaccounted for. Cambodian officials say the remaining 20 were deported for breaching the country’s Law on Immigration, but many observers linked the deportation to the arrival the following day of Chinese Vice President Jinping, who proceeded to sign US$1.2 billion in economic aid agreements with the government.

Brennan said that the rushed passage of the sub-decree two days before the deportation was “simply a matter of political convenience” for the government, which feared embarrassing its Chinese ally.

“The prompt passage of the sub-decree after years of waiting was a political artifice for the exercise of unreviewable, arbitrary power,” he wrote.

Rights ignored
Article 5 of the new sub-decree appears to give Interior Minister Sar Kheng the right to override its remaining provisions, which set out the process for determining the status of asylum seekers and allowing them to appeal decisions.

Article 10 states that in the event that an asylum seeker’s claim is rejected by the authorities, “reasons shall be given to the rejected applicant”.

It adds that rejected applicants may file appeals to the Department of Immigration within 30 days to have their cases reviewed.

All asylum seekers also have the right to be granted a temporary entry visa or other entry clearance to cover the length of the application process.

Taya Hunt, a legal officer at Jesuit Refugee Services (JRS) who represented the Uighur asylum seekers, said the group’s rights under Article 10 were ignored by the government in the days leading up to their deportation to China.

“They absolutely did not receive a decision about their asylum application in accordance with the recently passed sub-decree and UNHCR procedural guidelines,” she said.

“Even if they did receive a reason while they were in the bus on the way to the airport, they weren’t given an opportunity to appeal.”

Article 7 of the new law does give the Ministry of Interior the right to “immediately reject the application for refugee status” if the applicant does anything to “harm the national security or public order” or fails to cooperate in the processing of a case.

JRS Director Sister Denise Coughlan, however, denied that any of the Uighurs were involved in activities that could be interpreted in such a way.

“They didn’t cause any harm at all,” she said.

Coughlan said it was her understanding that the sub-decree underwent a last-minute revision, but she did not have any firm evidence of the changes.

The passage of the sub-decree on December 17 was the culmination of the transfer of asylum-seeker registration and screening duties from the UNHCR to the Cambodian government.

At the time, Sara Colm, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, said it was “astonishingly poor timing and a gross error in judgment” for UNHCR to hand control of refugee-processing to the Cambodian government at that particular juncture.

Kitty McKinsey, UNHCR’s Asia spokeswoman, said she did not wish to comment on the sub-decree’s creation or application, saying such questions should be forwarded to the Cambodian government.

“As for the lessons for the future, it is clear that only governments can provide protection for refugees,” she said.

“Despite the aberration of the deportation of the Uighurs, which we spoke out strongly against at the time, UNHCR needs to work with Cambodia to build its capacity to implement the responsibilities Cambodia took on when it signed the 1951 Refugee Convention.”

Sok Vichea, the director of the Refugee Office at the Ministry of Interior, denied that the Uighurs had been stripped of their rights.

“What the Cambodian government did with those 20 Uighur people was in compliance with the law,” he said on Wednesday. “You have to understand the difference in status between asylum seekers and refugees.”

Thailand prepares to return migrants

Photo by: AFP
Migrant workers from Myanmar play sepak takraw outside their home in a minority settlement on the outskirts of Bangkok.

via CAAI News Media

Thursday, 04 March 2010 15:05 James O’toole and Sam Rith

THAI officials say they will begin preparations to deport hundreds of thousands of migrants, including thousands of Cambodians who have failed to register to renew their work permits.

Tuesday was the deadline for Thailand’s roughly 1.3 million registered migrants to initiate participation in a process of nationality verification, wherein they were to submit documents to their home governments in order to secure new work permits in Thailand. Bangkok has said that workers who miss the deadline will be deported in the weeks to come, though officials in Thailand gave little indication of when that process might begin.

Thailand’s ministry of labour is “assessing the verification process, collecting the numbers of how many people have finally submitted their applications,” said Thai Ministry of foreign affairs deputy spokesman Thani Thongphakdi. “Once they get a clearer picture of the numbers ... they will make an assessment and make a recommendation.”

Speaking in the Thai-language Matichon newspaper, Supat Guukhun, deputy director general of the employment department at the Thai ministry of labour, said 707,246 migrant workers had begun the process of nationality verification by the deadline, according to an unofficial translation of the article provided by the Migrant Justice Programme (MJP) of the Human Rights and Development Foundation.

A total of 650,746 registered workers missed the deadline, Supat reportedly said, and therefore “coordination ... with the Immigration Department shall be undertaken in order to send a list of these persons’ names to the immigration authorities to arrest, detain and deport” workers who do not intend to register.

Supat did not give a timetable for this action, however, and Karun Kitpun, head of the national verification division of Thailand’s ministry of labour, said Tuesday that Bangkok was still deciding how to proceed.

“The government will decide later how to enforce the rule of law on these people,” he told the Wall Street Journal.

In addition to the 650,746 registered workers who missed the deadline, Thailand’s thousands of undocumented workers will likely also face deportation if apprehended by Thai authorities, said MJP Director Andy Hall. While exact figures are unavailable, Hall estimated that perhaps 1 million such workers are currently in Thailand.

Thailand has drawn criticism from the UN and other organisations who say awareness of the nationality-verification process among workers is limited, and that with brokers’ fees costing in some cases as much as two to three times a worker’s monthly salary, it is too expensive for many.

Workers from Myanmar make up roughly 80 percent of migrants in Thailand, and concern has focused especially on the fact that they may face persecution for political or ethnic reasons by Myanmar authorities if forced to return home. Workers from Laos and Cambodia also constitute significant percentages of the migrant population in Thailand, however, and they too face the prospect of mass deportations.

Thani said the initiative aimed to regulate the flow of migrant workers and give them access to government services available to Thai citizens.

“I think everybody agrees that there is a need to regulate migrant workers to make it an orderly process, and to make sure that workers benefit from social services,” he said.

With so many workers having failed to register for the process on time, however, Hall said Thailand needed to rethink its policy.

“The government has been very clear that there will be no extension of the deadline and they won’t reopen the process,” Hall said. “Given that they’ve refused to extend the deadline, I think we can say that the process has been a failure.”

A total of 124,902 Cambodians were registered to work in Thailand as of February, according to Thailand’s ministry of labour, and Hall said that perhaps more than 200,000 Cambodian migrants are in Thailand, including illegal workers.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong said Wednesday that although the Cambodian government had dispatched a delegation to Thailand to assist Cambodian workers in the nationality-verification process, he was unsure of how many workers had registered on time. Officials at Cambodia’s Ministry of Labour declined to comment.

Dy Phan, director of the Cambodian-Thai border communication office, said Wednesday that the number of Cambodians crossing back into the Kingdom from Thailand via the Poipet border crossing remained steady in the aftermath of the deadline.

Thais deny responsibility for killing of Cambodian loggers


via CAAI News Media

Thursday, 04 March 2010 15:05 Tep Nimol and Chrann Chamroeun

A THAI government spokesman said there is no proof Thai soldiers have killed innocent Cambodian civilians along the disputed border area, even as a local rights group stepped up calls Wednesday for Thai authorities to end what it described as a “brutal” series of recent slayings.

Ny Chakrya, senior investigator of the rights group Adhoc, said his organisation has firsthand evidence that Thai troops have shot and killed at least 20 Cambodian civilians in the border area over the last two years.

“We have enough evidence, such as eyewitness victims who are still alive, for the Thai embassy to push their government to step up investigations of Thai troops,” Ny Chakrya said during a press conference Wednesday.

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WE WILL ACCUSE THE THAI GOVERNMENT OF DELIBERATELY KILLING OUR CIVILIAN PEOPLE.
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The group, as well as Cambodian authorities, says Thai soldiers have shot, killed and, in some cases, “brutally tortured” civilians.

“If the Thai government still ignores us, we will accuse the Thai government of deliberately killing our civilian people,” Ny Chakrya said.

Cambodian authorities have reported multiple cases of Thai soldiers shooting at civilians.

Many of the alleged attacks have involved people accused of illegal logging in Oddar Meanchey province, including a September case in a 16-year-old boy was shot and then burned alive by Thai soldiers, according to his relatives.

Thai authorities denied the allegation.

‘Armed groups’
Thai ministry of foreign affairs spokesman Thani Thongphakdi said there have been no verified instances of Thai soldiers firing on innocent civilians.

“We have in all these cases coordinated with the military forces on the ground to verify the facts of the matter, and I think, so far as we have been told, there have not been any cases as alleged,” he said.

Thani said Thai soldiers have only confronted people they believed were encroaching on Thai territory to engage in illegal logging.

“Many times, these people are armed groups.... We try to apprehend and prosecute them according to the law,” he said.

However, villagers who Adhoc brought to Phnom Penh for a press conference Wednesday say that they were shot at by Thai soldiers.

Phal Sokha, 22, said he was shot after venturing into Thai territory to find wood. “I will be paralysed for my whole life,” he said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY IRWIN LOY

PM says firing of rockets isn’t show of force


via CAAI News Media

Thursday, 04 March 2010 15:05 Cheang sokha and David Boyle

THE Royal Cambodian Armed Forces plans to test-fire 200 BM-21 rockets today in Kampong Chhnang province, a move Prime Minister Hun Sen has described as a normal part of military exercises, but which some observers say could be a show of force directed at Thailand.

Minister of Defence Tea Banh will oversee today’s exercise, ministry spokesman Chhum Socheat said Wednesday, adding that officials were looking to determine whether the Russian rockets are still operational.

“We’ve kept them too long. But these weapons were used many times during the Khmer Rouge period,” Chhum Socheat said.

Hun Sen announced the tests during a speech late last month, during which he sought to pre-empt speculation that the move had anything to do with the ongoing border row with Thailand.

“We are not flexing our muscles – this is work to strengthen the abilities of the military in national defence,” Hun Sen said on February 24.

However, Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, said Wednesday he suspected that muscle-flexing was exactly what the government had in mind.

“I think it’s very irresponsible because of the attention we have at the border,” he said, referring to the dispute over land surrounding Preah Vihear temple that intensified after Cambodia’s application to register the ruins as a World Heritage site was approved in July 2008.

“It is probably more the case that this is more about the border conflict.”

He added that he believed the exercises were more likely designed to stir up domestic support for the government rather than to intimidate Thailand.

Thai government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn declined to comment beyond saying that he hoped Cambodian military officials would keep their Thai counterparts sufficiently informed.

“We have no comment, but we hope that the local military officials have been in contact with each other. That is the normal procedure,” Panitan said.

Border row could go to World Court

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Troops look at the Cambodian and UN flags at Preah Vihear temple in November 2008. Hun Sen said Wednesday that he had finalised a draft for a complaint to be sent to the International Court of Justice.

via CAAI News Media

Thursday, 04 March 2010 15:04 Vong Sokheng

CAMBODIA is ready to take the ongoing border dispute with Thailand to the global stage and will do so when authorities “lose patience” with the current stalemate, Prime Minister Hun Sen said Wednesday.

Speaking at an event marking National Cultural Day, the premier said he has finished drafting an official complaint for the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

“Yesterday, I already finalised my draft to send to the UN security council,” Hun Sen said. “If it is necessary, and when I completely lose patience, then it will be immediately submitted.”

The premier’s warning continues the rhetoric concerning a disputed area adjacent to Preah Vihear temple. Hun Sen threatened to take the issue to the ICJ, the judicial arm of the UN, following a contentious trip to Preah Vihear last month.

However, it remains unclear whether the international court has jurisdiction over Cambodia’s complaint. UN members can apply to appear before the court, but the ICJ is only allowed to deal with disputes in which all concerned states have recognised its authority on a given issue.

“We don’t recognise the compulsory jurisdiction of the ICJ,” said Thani Thongphakdi, deputy spokesman for the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “It very much depends on what issue is raised.”

Instead, the two nations should settle the disagreement bilaterally using the stalled Joint Border Commission, he said.

“We continue to maintain bilaterally should be the best way of handling the issue, within the framework of the joint committee for the demarcation of the boundary,” Thani said.

Also Wednesday, Hun Sen called on local broadcasters to produce programming focusing on traditional culture and music in order to promote Khmer values, criticising TV stations for focusing on beauty contests and fashion shows. “They have completely lost Khmer culture,” he said of the stations.

The premier said he would order the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts to boost training for traditional artists.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY IRWIN LOY

Lan Protest: NGOs slam police action in Dangkor


via CAAI News Media

Thursday, 04 March 2010 15:04 Sebastian Strangio

Lan Protest

Four prominent local rights organisations have expressed their “deepest concerns” after Dangkor district police prevented a demonstration by villagers protesting the alleged seizure of their farmland by an official in the Ministry of Interior. In a statement issued on Wednesday, Adhoc, Licadho, the Community Legal Education Centre and the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights all criticised the “reported blackmail of villagers who attempted to take part in the demonstration” and the confiscation of cameras from rights activists. “We call for the immediate cessation of threats of detention by the authorities involved in this case in their apparent efforts to end the claim of these villagers to the land in question,” the statement read. On Monday, villagers told the Post that police were deployed to prevent them from travelling to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s residence in Takhmao. The villagers have said In Samon, director general of the Ministry of Interior, seized 18 hectares of farmland belonging to the village. Local officials say he has had title to the land since the 1980s.

KKrom seeking help from UNHCR

Photo by: Pha Lina
Thach Soong, a Khmer Krom returnee (left), discusses paperwork with a UN refugee agency official in front of UNHCR offices Wednesday.

via CAAI News Media

Thursday, 04 March 2010 15:04 Khouth Sophak Chakrya

A GROUP of 22 Khmer Krom deportees protested in front of the Phnom Penh office of the UN refugee agency Wednesday, bringing their pleas to an organisation that maintains it is powerless to help them.

Thach Soong, who is representing the deportees, said they are asking the UNHCR to help solve a conundrum that has left the group’s legal status in limbo since the ethnic Khmer fled Vietnam only to be deported from Thailand last year.

The government has refused to issue identity documents as long as the group has no fixed address. The deportees, in turn, say they can’t find jobs and rent homes without IDs.

“We are asking the UNHCR in Phnom Penh to respond and help us find homes,” he said. “If not, we will certainly live with fear in Cambodia forever.”

However, because the government has already recognised the ethnic Khmer as Cambodian nationals, they do not fall under the UNHCR’s protection, a spokeswoman said.

“To a significant degree, they have been recognised as Cambodian nationals, and we’re a refugee organisation,” Kitty McKinsey, UNHCR’s Asia spokeswoman, told the Post this week.

In the meantime, another UN agency, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, has pledged to step in with financial support after funding for rent and food from a local NGO ran out this week. But that agency has not specified how long that support will last.

In the meantime, the group’s current landlord said he will not rent his property to the deportees if they do not have identification documents.

“They have lived in my rented house for two months because [local rights group] Licadho rented it from me,” said Chan Samon. “But if they tried to rent it directly without any legal identification documents, I will not rent it to them.”

Five tour boat captains decide to quit association, go it alone


via CAAI News Media

Thursday, 04 March 2010 15:04 Chhay Channyda

AT least five members of a new tour boat association that has come under fire from some boat operators have left the organisation during the past week, saying that rules governing bookings have hurt their businesses.

The association’s head told the five on Wednesday that captains will no longer be able to ply their trade in the waters near the capital if they decide to leave, one boat owner said.

The Association of Phnom Penh Water Tourist Transport was created late last year and began operating on January 18, with the stated aim of streamlining bookings and bringing order to the competitive tourist boat trade on the riverside.

However, some of its 31 members have expressed dissatisfaction with booking fees and the centralised booking system, which prevents boat owners from soliciting business themselves.

Boat owner Noh Ibrahim said he submitted his letter of resignation last Friday, adding that Ly Puthy, the head of the association, told him that he would no longer be able to conduct boat tours despite having a licence.

“I cannot make a living by waiting until it is my boat’s turn,” Noh Ibrahim said in explaining his decision to leave the group.

“I want to leave the association, but I am not allowed or my boat will be prevented from doing business.”

He added that at least four other boat owners had also decided to leave the group.

Ly Puthy said that the boat owners who had submitted letters of resignation were seeking “overwhelming freedom”.

“They want to compete violently for clients. It creates disorder,” he said, before declining to comment further.

Sam Chanren, deputy director of Phnom Penh’s Department of Tourism, said officials planned to step in and resolve the dispute. “City Hall is arranging a meeting to find a solution for boat owners,” he said.

Anti-graft law in NGOs’ sights


via CAAI News Media

Thursday, 04 March 2010 15:04 Meas Sokchea

CIVIL society groups will continue to push the government to pass a long-delayed anticorruption law, advocates promised Wednesday as they met to discuss a coalition aimed at improving government transparency.

Made up of 40 civil society groups, the Coalition for Integrity and Social Accountability will lobby for a law targeting graft.

“All of us need to find a way to eliminate corruption and improve people’s living conditions,” said Yang Kim Eng, a member of the coalition and the director of the People’s Centre for Development and Peace.

“Meanwhile, we have much concern that the anticorruption law has so far not appeared. We are looking forward to seeing it.”

A law on corruption was first proposed in the 1990s, but until now there has been little movement on the issue.

However, a draft of the law has been approved by the Council of Ministers, and officials have suggested it could be passed this year after the National Assembly reconvenes in April.

Donors have also pushed for an anticorruption law in Cambodia, which was ranked 158th out of 180 countries last year in the group Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index.

“Cambodian people hope that the anticorruption law will be adopted soon,” said Flynn Fuller, mission director for USAID, the US government’s development arm.