Monday, 4 October 2010

Four convicted in Tiger Head case


Photo by: Pha Lina
Tiger Head Movement leader Som Ek (left) is led from Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Friday.

via CAAI

Sunday, 03 October 2010 21:59 Chhay Channyda

Phnom Penh Municipal Court has handed down guilty verdicts against four of five people charged in connection with a failed bomb plot targeting the Defence Ministry and the TV3 station last year.

Som Ek, the alleged leader of the antigovernment Tiger Head Movement, was sentenced to 28 years in prison for planting explosives and recruiting and training terrorists.

Last month, the court sentenced him to 18 years in prison after finding him guilty of involvement in a failed bomb plot in 2007 targeting the Cambodian-Vietnamese Friendship Monument.

Reading out the verdict on Friday, Judge Din Sivuthy accused Som Ek of “creating the Tiger Head Movement so he could plot against the government”.

“Som Ek used illegal weapons, collected, managed and received funds according to his plan,” Din Sivuthy said.

He said the 2009 plot – which involved the placement of one bomb at the Defence Ministry and two at the TV station – created a “shock to the public”.

The court also found Pov Vannara, Chea Kimyan and Loeuk Bunhean guilty of involvement in the 2009 plot, sentencing each to 20 years in prison.

Phy Savoeung, however, was acquitted, with Din Sivuthy saying there was insufficient evidence against him.

The last day of testimony dealt largely with the case against Loeuk Bunnhean, a former Defence Ministry adviser.

Uch Sophal, Loeuk Bunnhean’s lawyer, said at the time that his client should be released because the case against him hinged largely on a note he has said was part of a Defence Ministry investigation into the Tiger Head Movement. Sem Aknousanak testified that he had written the note in question at the behest of Loeuk Bunnhean, and that the suspect asked him “to take notes so that he could easily report to his boss about the terrorism group”.

But Din Sivuthy said Friday that there was enough evidence to prove that Loeuk Bunnhean was a leader of the movement, also known as the Khmer National Unity Front.

As he left the courtroom after the verdict was read, Loeuk Bunnhean continued to protest his innocence, yelling, “I served the nation for many years, but it turned out like this.”

Som Ek, meanwhile, said the verdict was “unjust”. His lawyer said he planned to appeal.

Drink driving blitz


Photo by: Sovan Philong
Police officer Loy Chen tests one of 30 Breathalyzers donated to Cambodia by Australia’s Queensland police service.

via CAAI

Sunday, 03 October 2010 21:38 Mom Kunthear

Municipal traffic police established nighttime drunken-driving checkpoints in all eight districts of the capital over the weekend, stopping nearly 100 drivers and fining four of them.

Chev Hak, deputy chief of the municipal traffic police, said the checkpoints had operated between 6.30pm and 11pm in Phnom Penh on both Friday and Saturday nights.

National Police Chief Neth Savoeun had originally called for the checkpoints to be set up on September 1 in Phnom Penh and also in Kandal and Kampong Speu provinces.

But the plan was pushed back one month so police could receive training on how to man checkpoints and operate breath analysers.

Chev Hak said the breath analysers had not yet been delivered to the two provinces, and that he suspected checkpoints would be established in both shortly after the Pchum Ben holiday.

He said that on Friday police “checked with 47 car drivers and 11 motorbike drivers, and we fined four people – three motorbike drivers and one car driver”.

“They drove with a rate of alcohol over what the law allowed,” he said.

Under the Law on Land Traffic, drivers can be subject to fines if they are caught driving with an “alcoholic rate from 0.25 to 0.39 [milligrams] per litre of air or 0.50 to 0.79 [grams] per litre of blood”. The law calls for fines ranging between 6,000 riels and 25,000 riels (about US$1.50 to $6) for drunken driving, depending on vehicle type.

Chev Hak said 20 motorbike drivers and 12 car drivers were pulled over on Saturday, but that none were found to have consumed too much alcohol. He expressed optimism that the checkpoints – which police intend to operate nationwide – would reduce traffic accidents and fatalities “all over the country”.

Sann Socheata, road safety programme manager for Handicap International Belgium, echoed this sentiment, saying that drunken driving was the second most common cause of accidents behind speeding.

“I believe that the traffic accidents which are caused by drunk driving will be reduced after we check and fine people who drink and drive,” she said.

The Road Crash and Victim Information System, which collects data from traffic police and health facilities, recorded 12,538 crashes last year, resulting in 21,519 casualties. Of those casualties, 2,353 are believed to have been caused by drunken driving.

Van Chansophal, a 34-year-old who works in the private sector in Phnom Penh and who did not want his company identified, said that the checkpoints would likely prompt him to alter his nightly routine.

On a typical night, he said, he enjoys meeting his friends to drink beer after work. “Normally, I drink eight or more cans of beer at one time. I like going out to drink until I am deeply drunk; then I stop drinking and come back home,” he said.

He said that he supported the checkpoints, and that from now on he would have relatives come to socialise with him and drive him home.

“I will try to change my habit because I am afraid that the traffic police will fine me,” Van Chansophal said.

Train to Kampot back on track


Photo by: Sovan PHILONG
The first train to use the newly renovated Kampot-Phnom Penh track, which reopened on October 1, chugs past an intersection.

via CAAI

Sunday, 03 October 2010 21:04 Sam Rith and Jeremy Mullins

The 117-kilometre Kampot to Phnom Penh railway stretch has reopened, with its first train departing on time, according to the head of railway commissionaire Toll Royal Railways.

“It’s the start of regular service,” said Toll Royal Railways CEO David Kerr.

Although service would initially be limited to freight, he said there were provisions for passenger service at a later date.

Ministry of Public Works and Transport undersecretary of state Yit Bunna said the inaugural train transported cement from a factory in Touk Meas district, Kampot province, to Phnom Penh on Friday.

The 117-kilometre railway largely straddled the existing lines, he said, and added the line from Touk Meas to Preak Sihanouk was expected to be completed next year.

Service will eventually consist of at least one train per day after it is completely renovated, particularly when work on the Touk Meas to Preah Sihanouk line are complete.

Businesses welcomed the newly reopened railway, saying it would help firms cut costs while making the roads safer.

Kampot Cement Factory Vice Chairman Khaou Phallaboth said it could be expensive to send goods by truck, and that rail lines would help reduce risk for regular commuters on the Kingdom’s roads, as there would be less interference from large lorries.

Cambodia represents the largest section of missing track on the planned Singapore-to-Kunming, China, rail line. The Asia Development Bank along with AusAID and Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Companies has committed US$141 million to restoring the Kingdom’s railways.

The 117-kilometre stretch of the 254-kilometre Phnom Penh-to-Sihanoukville South Line is the first section of Cambodia’s rails to reopen.

It will be followed by the 388-kilometre North Line from Phnom Penh to Poipet, and the 48-kilometre missing line between Poipet and Sisophon on the Thai border, according to Toll Royal Railway’s website.

Yit Bunna said work renovating the North Line should begin with the dry season, with the entire project wrapped up by 2013.

Plans call for Samroang Railway Station to be completed in March 2013, with larger containers marshalled at the station, and only shipments of smaller goods such as cement will arrive at Phnom Penh Railway Station, according to Yit Bunna.

Cambodia’s railways, built in 1929, were last upgraded in the 1960s.

Tribunal staffers meet ex-KR


Photo by: Brendan Brady
Khmer Rouge tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath addresses a forum in Pailin province last month. Court staff members including international Co-prosecutor Andrew Cayley attended the meeting

via CAAI

Monday, 04 October 2010 15:02 May Titthara and James O’Toole

Pailin province

WHEN Reach Sambath, a spokesman for Cambodia’s war crimes tribunal, travels to this former Khmer Rouge stronghold along the border with Thailand, he refers to the court by its official name: the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, or the ECCC.

“It’s just the polite way,” Reach Sambath said. “I don’t want to use the words ‘Khmer Rouge tribunal.’”

In Pailin, where Reach Sambath and other tribunal staffers travelled for an outreach event late last month, many have reason to be sensitive about this term. Loyalty to the regime and suspicion about the court are pervasive, as evidenced by remarks at the forum from Pailin deputy governor Mey Meakk.

“The hands of the people involved in Case 002 are not soiled with blood,” said Mey Meakk, himself a former secretary for regime leader Pol Pot. “These four people – it seems to me that they are the victims also, like me, like everyone else.”

The four that Mey Meakk was speaking of – former Khmer Rouge foreign minister Ieng Sary, social action minister Ieng Thirith, head of state Khieu Samphan and Brother No 2 Nuon Chea – were indicted last month in the ECCC’s second case on a variety of charges including genocide and crimes against humanity. In the aftermath of these indictments, staff from the tribunal including international Co-prosecutor Andrew Cayley travelled to Pailin to take questions about the court and explain its plans going forward.

When court officials attend community forums around the country, they are often asked why so few leaders of a regime responsible for the deaths of perhaps 2.2 million Cambodians are being held to account. Residents of Pailin, however, have a different set of concerns.

“Continued, prolonged investigations of other people may not meet the goal of national reconciliation,” Mey Meakk said. “If the judicial investigations continue, there could be revenge.”

After serving for years as a base for the Khmer Rouge insurgency, Pailin became a fiefdom for former regime leaders upon their defection to the government in the late 1990s. Provincial governor Y Chhean previously served as head of Pol Pot’s bodyguard unit, and deputy governor Ieng Vuth is the son of Ieng Sary and Ieng Thirith.

Neither of these men was at the forum in Pailin, though dozens of former Khmer Rouge troops did attend.

After presentations from court officials, questions from the audience ranged from why foreign governments that contributed to the destruction of the Kingdom were not being tried to how many individuals would be tried in further cases.

This latter question in particular has been the subject of debate at the court. Earlier this year, Co-investigating Judges Marcel Lemonde and You Bunleng disclosed that they had disagreed on the timing of investigations in the court’s third and fourth cases, in which five as-yet-unnamed suspects could be prosecuted; Lemonde elected to begin the investigations in June, whereas You Bunleng said he preferred to wait until after indictments had been handed down in Case 002.

At a press conference last month announcing the Case 002 indictments, You Bunleng said he was still undecided about the third and fourth cases.

Cambodian court officials including co-prosecutor Chea Leang have expressed their opposition to these cases, citing concerns, also voiced by Prime Minister Hun Sen, that they could lead to unwanted conflict. In Pailin, court officials assured their audience that regardless of what happens with the five suspects in cases 003 and 004, the mandate of the court will extend no further.

“After the court sentences these 10 people, will they continue to charge an 11th, 12th, or 13th person?” asked Chear Bunna, Pailin’s deputy military police chief, referring to the five suspects detained in Cases 001 and 002 as well as the five under investigation in the third and fourth cases.

Cayley affirmed that prosecutions would end after Case 004, saying rank-and-file members of the Khmer Rouge had nothing to worry about.

“The court tries human beings – it does not try organisations,” Cayley said. “The Khmer Rouge as an organisation is not on trial.”

59-year-old Meas Chea, a former Khmer Rouge soldier, said Cayley’s words came as a relief.

“I was so worried when I heard about the ECCC because I was afraid that I would be arrested,” Meas Chea said. “When I was a Khmer Rouge soldier, I didn’t know I was fighting Khmer people – my purpose was fighting Vietnam.”

58-year-old Tuon Samot, another former KR recruit, said it was an “injustice” that the five suspects in the tribunal’s first two cases were being detained when their foreign patrons – first in Vietnam and then in China – had escaped prosecution. But Nem Doeun, 59, said he was satisfied with the court’s limited mandate.

“I used to be afraid of the Khmer Rouge tribunal because I thought they would arrest all Khmer Rouge people,” he said. “If the court were to charge all Khmer Rouge people, I think everyone in Pailin would be on trial.”

The Phnom Penh Post News in Brief


via CAAi

King feted in Shanghai

Monday, 04 October 2010 15:01 James O'Toole

KING Norodom Sihamoni met on Saturday in Shanghai with Wu Bangguo, China’s top legislator, the Xinhua news agency reported. Wu, the chairman of the standing committee of China’s national people’s congress, reportedly thanked the King for his visit to the Shanghai World Expo and said China “attaches importance to relations with Cambodia”.

Official lauds Kim Il Sung

Monday, 04 October 2010 15:01 James O'Toole

KONG Kantara, an undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, expressed his “boundless veneration” for late North Korean president Kim Il Sung while attending the Pyongyang International Film Festival, North Korean state media reported last week. “We always remember the fact that the Generalissimo [Kim Il Sung] paid deep attention to the Cambodian people’s struggle for national sovereignty, independence and peace,” Kong Kantara was quoted as saying.

Kem Sokha to appear at Municipal Court

Monday, 04 October 2010 15:01 Meas Sokchea

HUMAN Rights Party leader Kem Sokha will return to Cambodia on Wednesday and appear for questioning at Phnom Penh Municipal Court on October 21, HRP spokesman Yem Ponharith said yesterday. Kem Sokha’s case dates back to 2006, when he was the president of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights and former CCHR staffers accused him of defamation and the use of false documents. “Generally, we have nothing to be worried about,” Yem Ponharith said. “We do not have the aim to escape from the court.” He added that Kem Sokha, who has been abroad for about a month, would be defended by 70-year-old lawyer Sa Sovan, as no one else was willing to take the case.

City Hall rejects plan for teachers’ rally


via CAAI

Monday, 04 October 2010 15:02 Tep Nimol

CITY Hall has refused to allow the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association to hold a rally at the old National Assembly building on Tuesday to mark World Teachers’ Day, officials said.

A letter signed by Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema on Saturday said the government preferred that CITA organise at its office rather than at the building – located near Wat Botum in Daun Penh district – because police would be busy protecting the pagoda during the Phchum Ben festival.

“The Phnom Penh Municipality insisted that the association organise the day at its office, which is located in Boeung Keng Kang 3 commune in Chamkarmon district,” said Koeut Chhe, City Hall’s deputy administrative director. He added that City Hall feared the event as proposed by CITA President Rong Chhun would “cause trouble to public security, safety and order”.

But Rong Chhun said he planned to go ahead with it anyway.

“I cannot accept the decision made by the Phnom Penh Municipality official,” he said.

“We will still be sticking to our stance of rallying in front of the old building of the National Assembly and marching in a procession on the day.”

He added that he expected about 250 teachers to mark World Teachers’ Day, which has been held each year on October 5 since 1994.

Kirt Chantharith, spokesman for the National Police, could not be reached yesterday.

Road tax offenders could be fined: official


via CAAI

Monday, 04 October 2010 15:02 Khoun Leakhana

VEHICLE owners who have not paid their road taxes could be fined by the Ministry of Economy and Finance later this month, an official at the ministry’s tax department said yesterday.

Om John, the department’s deputy director, said officials would begin searching for vehicle owners with outstanding taxes on October 21, one day after the deadline.

Collected annually, road taxes range from 4,500 riels (about US$1.05) for some motorbikes to more than 1 million riels ($238) for some cars. Fines are equivalent to double the tax payment.

“We will cooperate with the police and tax officials to check whether all the vehicles have paid the road tax or not,” Om John said. “And if they haven’t paid, we will fine them.”

Om John said approximately 90 percent of motorbike owners and 65 percent of car owners had paid the tax so far this year, figures he said marked an improvement over previous years. He declined to provide figures for last year.

“The payment of road taxes has been better this year than other years, because people seem to understand that it’s their duty,” he said.

The tax collection process has recently come under fire, however. The Affiliated Network for Social Accountability in East Asia and Pacific said last week that collection agents had forced some motorists to pay as much as US$1 million in excess charges. These allegations have been brought before the Anticorruption Unit.

Pigs burned after several test positive for blue-ear


via CAAI

Written by Kim Yuthana
Monday, 04 October 2010 15:02

OFFICIALS in Kandal province on Saturday torched the carcasses of 49 pigs imported from Vietnam after four pigs were found to be infected with porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome, more commonly known as blue-ear.

Has Piseth, deputy director of the Department of Animal Health and Production at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, said yesterday that the pigs were confiscated by Muk Kampoul district police on September 22 from a trader who had imported the pigs from Vietnam earlier that day.

Several of the pigs died shorly thereafter, prompting suspicions that they had blue-ear, he said.

“We tested four of the 49 pigs and found that they had blue-ear. Therefore, we ordered officials and the police to burn the bodies to prevent the disease from infecting other pigs,” he said.

“The pigs were electrocuted until they fainted, beaten to death, put in a big hole, and then sprayed with disinfectant before they were burned.”

On August 4, Prime Minister Hun Sen banned the importation of pigs from Vietnam and Thailand in order to prevent the spread of blue-ear.

In the wake of a reported outbreak, thousands of pigs died or were killed by officials in at least seven provinces.

Land-related protests rise, Adhoc says


via CAAI

Written by May Titthara
Monday, 04 October 2010 15:02

THE number of land dispute-related protests so far this year is already more than double the total figure for last year, and the number of protests to have been forcibly broken up by police and military police has also increased, according to a new report from the rights group Adhoc.

The report, released Friday, says that 145 protests stemming from land disputes have been staged so far this year, 17 of which were broken up by police and military police. Adhoc recorded 67 protests last year, six of which were broken up.

Ouch Leng, land programme officer for Adhoc, said 11 of the 17 protests broken up by police so far this year had been held outside Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Phnom Penh villa, an area that he said police protected particularly fiercely.

“They use violence on villagers, such as using batons, electric batons, protective shields, and guns, because they don’t want protesters to reach in front of the prime minister’s house,” he said.

Touch Naruth, Phnom Penh municipal police chief, acknowledged yesterday that protesters had frequently been removed from outside Hun Sen’s house, but denied that police used violence to break up peaceful protests.

“We have never used violence on them,” he said. “We just carried them from in front of the prime minister’s house and into the truck to [take them] in front of Wat Botum pagoda.”

The capital’s new demonstration zone, which was constructed in accordance with the Law on Nonviolent Demonstrations, is located in a public park along Streets 106 and 108, and is within walking distance of City Hall.

Rights groups have criticised both the new legislation, which was enacted in December last year, and the introduction of designated demonstration areas, saying they would limit the effectiveness of protests.

Ty Dory, chief of the municipal Office of Land Management Affairs, said the zone would come into use soon.

“We have finished construction already,” he said. “We are only waiting for the official inauguration.”

Two drown fleeing Thai border police


via CAAI

Monday, 04 October 2010 15:01 Cheang Sokha

TWO women from Battambang province who were seeking work in Thailand drowned while fleeing Thai border authorities last week, a Cambodian border official said.

Dy Phen, deputy director of the Cambodia-Thailand Border Relations Office in Banteay Meanchey province’s Poipet town, said the two women crossed into Thailand illegally with about 20 other migrants on the night of September 30th to look for work in Pattani province.

Thai soldiers tried to stop the car at a checkpoint about 10 kilometres inside Thailand, Dy Phen said, but the car drove through the checkpoint and then stopped after another kilometre because of a flat tyre. Thai soldiers fired warning shots into the air, and the migrants fled, he said.

Dy Phen said officials believed two women – Muon Saroeut, 59, and her daughter, 15-year-old Soeun Chantrea – leaped into a canal in an attempt to escape. “They are illegal migrants who were brought into Thailand by a broker, so they feared arrest”, he said. Both women drowned, and Thai authorities cooperated in arranging for their bodies to be repatriated yesterday, Dy Phen said.

Taing Lay, a 25-year-old prospective migrant from Kampong Cham province, and her 5-year-old daughter also dove into the canal and nearly suffered the same fate but were saved by Thai soldiers and sent back to Cambodia over the weekend, Dy Phen said.

He said that the other 20 or so migrants remain in hiding somewhere in Thailand.

Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said yesterday that consular officials in Sa Kaeo province were negotiating with Thai officials to seek compensation for the families of the women who died, but that they “have yet to have any result”. He said a medical examination had confirmed that the two women had drowned.

Also repatriated yesterday was the body of a 27-year-old Cambodian man, Lam Thy, who died on Saturday from injuries suffered during a fight in Sa Kaeo province, Dy Phen said. The man had been working as a guard at a market.

Apsara Authority set to sue homeowner


via CAAI

Monday, 04 October 2010 15:01 Rann Reuy

AN Apsara Authority official said yesterday that the body would sue a homeowner who allegedly hired security guards to defend an unauthorised construction on his property, which lies within a protected area of Siem Reap district’s Thnal village.

Prom Karona, director of the Apsara Authority’s Public Order and Cooperation Department, said around 70 security guards hired by homeowner Ros Chhoudeth had threatened and injured members of a team of around 30 Apsara Authority officials and workers who had attempted to shut down construction on the property on Friday.

“We will sue him for preventing our officials from enforcing the law,” he said.

“We are preparing the documents.”

He said Apsara Authority employees had gone to the property to tear down around 20 metres of corrugated tin fencing on Friday, after Ros Chhoudeth had twice ignored orders to stop construction in the area.

Ros Chhoudeth yesterday denied that he had hired security guards to defend the site, and said that he had only been trying to build a garden on his own property.

He said Apsara Authority officials clashed with a group of around 10 of his construction workers who were on the property to collect their monthly wages.

He said that he had applied “a long time ago” for permission to build the garden, and that he had eventually begun the unauthorised construction out of frustration after the Apsara Authority failed to respond.

Kim Sophat, a villager who witnessed the clash, also said that there were no security guards on the property when “armed forces” sent by the Apsara Authority arrived on Friday.

He said that the Apsara Authority officials had clashed violently with a group of approximately 10 construction workers.

“It is so cruel. They stepped on the workers’ necks and beat them with mobile radios,” he said.

He said none of the workers had been arrested, but that some had been hospitalised with head injuries.

The Apsara Authority, a government body responsible for the protection of Angkor Archaeological Park, which encompasses around 400 square kilometres of land in Siem Reap, has pledged to hold a public forum in order to explain rules concerning construction in the area, following criticism that it is too restrictive.

Police Blotter: 4 Oct 2010


via CAAI

Monday, 04 October 2010 15:01 Sun Narin

Mentally ill officer goes out with a bang
A 51-year-old former military policeman committed suicide in Battambang province on Friday by blowing himself up with a hand grenade. The man’s wife said her husband, who she believes was mentally ill, had previously tried to commit suicide numerous times by “drinking poison and strangling his own throat”, but had always been saved by family members or neighbours. Family members tied the man up to protect him from himself the night before he died, his widow said, but he escaped in the morning and “exploded himself”.
RASMEY KAMPUCHEA

Motodop robbed and killed in Koh Kong
A 38-year-old motorbike-taxi driver was robbed and killed in Koh Kong province on Thursday. Police said an assailant strangled the victim with a metal wire before taking off with his motorbike, mobile phone, a ring and around US$50 in cash. The victim’s wife said she had reported her husband missing when he did not come home after working on Thursday. She said, however, that she ended up launching her own search party and finding her husband’s body after police failed to do so.
KOH SANTEPHEAP

Shame prompts man to take his own life
A man committed suicide by jumping from the top of an electricity pole in Preah Vihear province on Friday because he was ashamed that he could not afford to take his family to the local pagoda. His widow told police that her husband, who she suspected was mentally ill, had appeared distraught after she told him they could not afford to buy offerings to take to the pagoda. Later that day, he jumped from a 10-metre electricity pole and died on impact, she said.
RASMEY KAMPUCHEA

Car kills motorcyclist, hits rubbish collectors
At least one person died and three others were seriously injured after a speeding car hit a motorbike driver and veered off National Road 5 in Russey Keo district to hit a group of rubbish collectors on Wednesday. Police said the motorbike driver died instantly at the scene. They said the speeding driver had escaped, but that they had confiscated his car and were investigating the case.
KAMPUCHEA THMEY

One killed, one injured in motorbike crash
A 42-year-old man died and another man was seriously injured in a traffic collision in Phnom Penh on Wednesday. The man who died was riding on his motorbike when he was hit by another motorbike while attempting to cross Russian Federation Boulevard, according to witnesses. Police confiscated both motorbikes pending an investigation.
KOH SANTEPHEAP

Analysis: Employers have rights, too


 
via CAAI

Written by Ken Loo  
Monday, 04 October 2010 15:01
 
Analysis

Ken Loo






Photo by: Pha Lina
Garment workers in Kandal province protest against an announcement that employees taking part in strikes last month over the minimum wage would not be allowed to return to work. PHa Lina
In Dates:

July 8, 2010
Labour Advisory Committee raised the minimum wage from US$50 to $61. The LAC announced that other allowances will be open for negotiations at a later date.

July 9, 2010
Free Trade Union submitted request to negotiate other allowances.

July 11, 2010
Met FTU’s Mr Chea Mony and agreed to negotiate but only after October 2010. Mr Chea Mony agreed and called off strikes scheduled for July 13.

July 14, 2010
CCTU’s Mr Vong Savann submitted request to negotiate other allowances.

July 16, 2010
Met with Mr Vong Savann and expressed willingness to negotiate but after October 2010. He agreed.

July 18, 2010
NACC’s Som Aun submitted request to negotiate other allowances.

July 20, 2010
Met with Som Aun and expressed willingness to negotiate but after October 2010. Som Aun agreed.

August 3, 2010
Received official notification from CLC and CNC threatening to strike unless GMAC renegotiated minimum wage; GMAC replied that it will not renegotiate minimum wage again and that a request must be submitted to LAC to negotiate other allowances.

August 19, 2010
Received CC’d letter from CLC and CNC to minister of labor demanding renegotiations in minimum wage and threatening to strike from September 13-18.

August 21, 2010
Official reply informing CLC and CNC that GMAC will not renegotiate minimum wage and to submit request on other allowances to the LAC.

September 6, 2010
Met with CLC and CNC at GMAC office and indicated willingness to negotiate other allowances but only after October 2010. CLC and CNC demanded immediate renegotiation of the minimum wage, which GMAC rejected.

September 10, 2010
Received letter from CLC and CNC threatening a strike on September 13-18 and demanding immediate negotiations on living wage and related allowances.

September 13, 2010
Strikes occur at 10 factories.
Directly after the meeting of the Labour Advisory Committee, it was clear that there would be negotiations on other allowances in addition to the change in the minimum wage. The five other union representatives of the LAC understood this point and proceeded to submit their respective demands to Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia for negotiations on these other allowances. The Free Trade Union – which had threatened to strike on July 13 – was the first union to do so. After meeting with GMAC and hearing our explanations and reasons, all six unions representing the majority of workers in the apparel and footwear industry agreed to delay such negotiations until after October 2010.

Only Mr Ath Thon and Ms Morm Hhim refused to accept the decision of the LAC, even though they were full voting members of the committee and the decision passed by an overwhelming majority of 25 out of a possible 27 votes. They continued to call for further negotiations on the minimum wage, claiming that the process was flawed and biased. In any democratic society, it has always been that the minority has to comply with the wishes of the majority, but we have a case here where the minority is creating trouble through inappropriate behaviour and objections to the decision of the majority.

Upon receiving their correspondence on August 19, in which unions threatened to strike from September 13-18 unless fresh negotiations took place over the minimum wage, GMAC replied via letter (reference number 081/08/10) that we would not renegotiate the minimum wage, as this had already been decided by the tripartite LAC. GMAC also informed the CLC and CNC that they should forward all other requests on related allowances to the LAC for consideration. We also responded similarly in all our interviews with the local and international media.

In a further attempt to reach a compromise and arrive at a satisfactory outcome for all, GMAC met Mr Ath Thon on two occasions to present our case casually and reason with him. Seeing no positive outcomes from these two meetings, GMAC called for an official meeting with the CLC and CNC on September 6 in a final attempt to find a compromise. We reiterated our position that we were willing to negotiate the other allowances but only after October 2010. Our main reason was to allow for the implementation of the increase in minimum wage and provide ample time for our members to assess the impacts this would have on our bottom line. However, they continued to insist on immediate negotiations that we were unable to comply with.

In a sudden twist, we received a letter on September 10 indicating that they were amending their demands from minimum wage to living wage.
The letter again threatened that GMAC must hold negotiations before September 13 or strikes would go ahead as planned.

The CLC and CNC have always claimed that the strikes were legal by virtue of the fact that they had given ample prior notice. We would like to ask for the opinion of all stakeholders if the notice given on September 10 was sufficient. In addition, was it reasonable to expect GMAC to organise negotiations over the weekend before the September 13 deadline? In any case, the labour dispute resolution process in Cambodia clearly indicates that any labour dispute must undergo arbitration before any industrial actions are sanctioned.

The strikes from September 13-16 have resulted in direct losses for our members in excess of US$15 million. This is an extremely conservative estimate based on production loss, extra costs incurred to arrange alternate transportation for delayed shipments, discounts offered to buyers because of delays in shipments and direct damage inflicted on factory property. We have not even begun to estimate the damage to reputation and good will in each factory, and indeed, the industry at large when buyers cancel and/or reduce orders. In addition, striking workers have also suffered from a loss of wages and allowances during the strike days. Workers that were prevented from turning up to work also suffered a loss of wages.

GMAC feels all these losses to the various stakeholders are totally unnecessary. The end result of such strikes is that GMAC and the unions may soon engage in negotiations on the various allowances. However, GMAC had always given our commitment to carry out such negotiations after October 2010. Had it not been for the strikes, GMAC would have had ample time to prepare for such negotiations that could begin over the next few days. But as we are still reeling from the shock and impact of the strikes, any negotiations will now have to be delayed for at least one month.
Are the unions in question really fighting for the benefits of the workers?

Finally, we would like to say that it is stated clearly in Article 337 of the Cambodian Labour Law that the courts have sole jurisdiction to rule on the legality of any strike. Hence, employers have no choice but to seek the courts’ decision to ascertain if there has been any violation of the law.

Indeed, it is for the sole purpose of upholding the rule of law in Cambodia that we turn to the courts. In the event the courts deem the strikes as illegal, all we seek is justice for our members. To respond to allegations that employers are “intimidating union activists and violating workers rights to organise and strike”, GMAC wishes to state categorically that we respect such rights of the workers but only if the strikes were conducted in compliance with procedures. We would humbly ask that all stakeholders respect our rights to protection under the law.



Ken Loo is the secretary general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia.

Russia and Poland look to Cambodia for rice


Russia and Poland have shown a strong interest in buying rice from Cambodia. Photo by: Pha Lina

via CAAI

Monday, 04 October 2010 15:01 Vong Sokheng

A CAMBODIAN trade delegation to Russia and Poland has attracted buyers to discuss deals that could see 40,000 tonnes of rice exported to the two countries in 2011.

Composed of government officials and industry representatives, the Cambodian delegation visited the two nations in September, leading to further discussions planned for January to finalise the deal, according to Thon Virak, director general of state-run Green Trade Company.

“If there are no obstacles, we will make the contract for delivery at that time,” he said at a Ministry of Commerce press conference on Friday. The buyers from Russia and Poland are expected to order at least 4,000 tonnes per month, he said.

“I hope the number of rice export to Europe market will increase in the coming year, and we have enough quantity for exports,” he said.

Representatives of nine rice millers, including two private companies; and four government representatives from the Ministry of Commerce visited Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Germany and Poland from September 22 to 24 in search of opportunities for rice exports.

The visit also allowed industry insiders to meet with European rice traders and distributors to learn more about the regulations and quality standards required to access the European market, he said.

The delegation found that trust and reliability was the most important issue for European buyers, especially with regard to filling deliveries on schedule. Ensuring quality standards and competitive pricing were also primary concerns for European dealers.

“Before the visit to Europe we had no real idea of what the market required, but now after seeing it with our own eyes and talking directly to the buyers we know what EU consumers want,” Norng Veasna, a rice miller from Kampong Cham province said in a statement.

Lim Bun Heng, a representative from Loran Import Export, added that local rice millers need to improve processing technology to become more competitive regarding both quality and quantity.

Mao Thora, secretary of state at the Ministry of Commerce said improving milling capacity would greatly boost future exports.

Local millers are able to process a maximum of 100,000 tonnes per year at present, he said. If milling capacity was not improved, it would be difficult to meet the Kingdom’s goals for rice exports.

Many donors are funding developments in the agriculture sector. Agence Francaise Development had allocated between $10 million and $15 million for the local millers to improve capacity, but more was needed, Mao Thora said.

EU official says don’t just bank on ASEAN


via CAAI

Monday, 04 October 2010 15:01 May Kunmakara

Jakarta

CAMBODIA stands to benefit as the European Union strengthens ties with members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, but it should remember its “old friends” according to a senior EU official.

Relations are on the fast track between Europe and all ASEAN member nations, but the Kingdom would do well to ensure strong international relations, said the head of the EU delegation to Indonesia Julian Wilson.

“[Cambodia] must remember that the foundation of economic development is the need to keep a stable relationship for the future, as new friends emerge on the global scene,” he said.

The EU has granted duty-free status to the majority of exports from the Kingdom under its Everything But Arms initiative, aimed at benefiting United Nations-designated least-developed Countries.

Cambodia is greatly benefiting from EBA, according to the Cambodian Ambassador to Indonesia Kan Pharidh.

“We receive much support and assistance from Europe to boost our economy,” he said. “Europe wants to strengthen regional cooperation – not only with Cambodia, but with all of ASEAN as well.”

Cambodia’s main exports to Europe were garments and textiles, which increased 12 percent to US$405.5 million over the first seven months of this year compared to last year, according to the Ministry of Commerce.

The EU is presently ASEAN’s fifth-largest trading partner: Trade between the two blocs reached €134 billion (US$185 billion) in 2008.

ASEAN deputy secretary-general for community and corporate affairs Bagas Hapsoro said ASEAN's newest members still faced a number of challenges – human resources capacity-building being the biggest.

The riel turns the corner, but devaluation continues


via CAAI

Monday, 04 October 2010 15:01 Steve Finch

FOLLOWING months of concern over the sliding riel as the National Bank of Cambodia purchased US$48 million worth of the local currency, the decline now looks to have eased. However, signs the Cambodian currency has turned the corner have little to do with domestic monetary policy and everything to do with the performance of the greenback.

As most Phnom Penh money changers were offering 4,230 riels to the dollar yesterday – stronger than the 4,240-riel rate for most of last week and certainly an improvement on the typical 4,260 rate available from around May to August – the dollar has taken a turn for the worse.

Whereas a falling euro in the wake of the Greek debt crisis in April fuelled a surging greenback (and in turn, a plummeting riel), last week the dollar fell to its lowest against the euro since March as the United States Federal Reserve suggested it was considering further economic stimulus measures and would keep interest rates low in a bid to aid the misfiring American economy. So whereas investors sought safety in the US currency back then, now many appear to be avoiding a weak dollar at all costs.

The greenback hit a six-month low against the euro at US$1.379 on Friday as the US currency also slid against the yen, the Australian and New Zealand dollars, the South Korean won and the Swiss franc. It’s the same steady decline that saw Asian currencies complete a fifth weekly advance against the dollar last week. That is good news for the riel, which has struggled in recent months – and its prospects are only likely to improve up to the end of the year.

Bloomberg reported that economists have revised forecasts for the euro-dollar exchange rate up to $1.30 for the fourth quarter, a sign the greenback will remain weak on international markets in the coming months, and that the riel will likely get further breathing space.

Typically the riel strengthens at the end of the year anyway as the harvest prompts demand for the local currency when agricultural transactions – almost exclusively conducted in riel – escalate significantly. In each of the past three years, the riel rate has climbed in December on the average in July, and that looks almost certain to continue this year. Still, the Cambodian currency has fallen overall year-on-year since 2006.

In the longer term, the riel is likely to continue its slow downward slide – the Economist Intelligence Unit is forecasting an average 1.5 percent drop in the value of the local currency against the dollar this year and in 2011.

But, for the moment, the riel is in recovery.

Perhaps there is a small opportunity to develop a window of rising riel confidence in the meantime given that savings deposit rates in the local currency are the most competitive ever as more microfinance organisations obtain deposit licences and as the central bank clamps down on unregistered money changers.

These are only small developments, however. Ultimately, the tiny riel remains beholden to the whims of the mighty dollar. And thankfully, over the coming weeks the dollar is looking anything but strong.

Trans-Pacific free-trade area ratified


via CAAI

Monday, 04 October 2010 15:00 Chun Sophal

CAMBODIA’S ratification of the ASEAN Free Trade Zone with Australia and New Zealand is expected to increase trade, investment, and tourists exchanged among the signatories, according to officials.

Cheam Yeab, chairman of the National Assembly’s Economy, Finance, Banking and Audit Committee said he anticipated that the Kingdom’s approval of the free trade agreement would prove beneficial to the economy.

“Our door is now widely opened for the inflow and outflow of goods with the two countries,” he said yesterday.

The ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand FTA officially came into force on January 1, 2010, but was not ratified by the National Assembly until last Friday. It aims to realise full free trade between ASEAN members and Australia and New Zealand by 2015.

“The [free-trade] agreement hopes to create a trans-Pacific free-trade zone comprising a market of 600 million people with a combined GDP of US$2.7 trillion,” it said.

The initial agreement to establish the FTA was signed in Thailand during February 2009.

Banking boost


via CAAI

Sunday, 03 October 2010 21:18 Nguon Sovan

Cambodia's largest banks have reported substantial profit increases for the third quarter ending September, with demand for loans rising because of a resurgence in the garment, agriculture and tourism sectors.

Canadia Bank and ACLEDA Bank saw significant profit increases for the quarter from July to September compared to the previous three months, as industry officials voiced optimism about domestic economic growth.

The profit figures follow a spate of positive news for the Kingdom’s economy last week, including the Asian Development Bank increasing Cambodia’s growth forecast for this year to 5 percent from 4.5 percent and international experts at a conference in Malaysia lauding the forthcoming national stock exchange.

Canadia Bank – the Kingdom’s second-largest and most profitable bank last year – saw gross profits before tax increase by 14 percent quarter on quarter, according to Vice President Dieter Billmeier.

He said the increased profits enabled Canadia to boost its lending faster than expected with loans already surpassing its planned US$450 million budget for the year.

The increased demand was particularly from sectors such as agriculture, service, wholesale and retail, and import-export during the most recent quarter, he said.

“That clearly shows the continuing support and trust of the general public in Cambodia’s banking and finance sector,” he said.

ACLEDA Bank CEO In Channy said the garments, tourism, and agriculture sectors were all performing well, contributing to profits.

The bank – Cambodia’s largest by number of branches – earned a net profit after tax of $7.2 million in the third quarter, up 29.6 percent compared to $5.5 million in the three months previously.

“We forecast demand for loans will continue to be high towards the end of the year,” he said, and added that the gains had led to a boost in the bank’s ability to lend.

Outstanding loans climbed 9.35 percent to $671.9 million in the latest quarter, from $614.5 million during the second quarter. Deposits grew 8.17 percent to $858 million at the end of the third quarter.

Its non-performing loan rate declined to 0.7 percent by the end of the third quarter from 0.94 percent at the end of the second quarter.

Stephen Higgins, CEO at Cambodia’s fourth-largest bank ANZ Royal, said his company was seeing more transactions in agribusiness and profits were still holding up well, despite some unsustainable pricing strategies by competitors.

The bank’s NPLs were 5.4 percent last year, according to National Bank of Cambodia statistics.

Higgins said the rate of new NPLs had been fairly negligible this year.

Meanwhile South Korea’s largest bank, Kookmin Bank, saw deposits at its Cambodian subsidiary increase 53.8 percent during the quarter to $20 million. The bank – which set up shop in Cambodia in May last year – also saw outstanding loans increase 33 percent to $16 million, according to its Cambodian CEO, Jang Ki-sung.

Spinners and silk weavers win support from EU


Silk weaving benefits rural women, experts say. Photo by: Sweet Redbird

via CAAI

Monday, 04 October 2010 15:00 Thik Kaliyann

HANDMADE silk in Cambodia was in the spotlight during a conference held by the National Silk Centre, with the support of the European Union, at Pouk District on the outskirts of Siem Reap.

The Silk Day was organized to promote the quality of handmade silk products and to give an insight into the industry and the challenges it faces. The event also marked the completion of a project to develop and promote the silk sector in Siem Reap and Bantey Meanchey provinces.

This was part of European Union-funded scheme and was implemented by Chantiers-Ecoles de Formation Professionelle and Khmer Silk Villages.

Mr Ke Munny, KSV deputy general secretary, told participants that Khmer silk generates 19 different export products.

“This year in southern Cambodia, there are 20,500 weavers working with silk. The entire silk sector in Cambodia generates roughly US$25 million in turnover, and employs about 25,000 professionals.’’

Dr Sok Siphana, advisor to the Royal Government of Cambodia said: “Our silk products are also attractive to tourists because they are hand-made.”

He added that silk was also an important employment opportunity for Cambodian women, helping to alleviate poverty in rural areas.

“Silk production is traditionally undertaken by women – 99.54 percent of the beneficiaries are women,” he said.

It is estimated that Cambodia consumes 400 tons per year of imported industrial white silk yarn for weaving, while it produces about three tons annually of high quality handmade golden silk.

TFC remembers lost stars during Killing Fields visit


Tennis playing veteran Yi Sarun (left) and TFC General Secretary Tep Rithivit are filmed by a CNN camera crew as they visit the Choeung Ek genocide memorial park on Thursday.
Photo by: Chheang Sowann

via CAAI

Monday, 04 October 2010 15:00 H S Manjunath

THE Tennis Federation of Cambodia paid an emotional visit to the Choeung Ek genocide memorial park, also known as the Killing Fields, last Thursday as part of their recordings for a CNN programme to be aired next month.

65-year-old tennis player and Khmer Rouge survivor Yi Sarun was accompanied by TFC Secretary General Tep Rithivit, who admittedly lost nearly a dozen of his family during the Khmer Rouge atrocities. With his eyes welling up with tears, voice breaking up and clearly overwhelmed with sadness, Tep Rithivit said: “Some of my relatives could be right here or, for that matter, some of the dozens of tennis players at the time who vanished without a trace could be here.”

Estimates believe that of the 40 odd players who were active on the courts in those days, only three survived - Yi Sarun, his younger brother Yi Sarin, and national team player Pel Oum.

“Because of its elitist tag, tennis and its players were obvious targets [for execution]. What is so tragic is that their identities have been destroyed and we have been left with nothing to remember them,” said Tep Rithivit.

“The revival of tennis is a tribute to those who perished and it is that spirit which is ingrained in our ‘Killing Fields to Tennis Courts’ message.”

The TFC started a vigorous campaign to spread this message with specially printed T-shirts endorsed by top tennis stars including Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. The newly named TFC goodwill ambassador Leander Paes proudly sported a T-shirt during his recent visit.

“It is an eerie feeling as I walk past these graves. I could have been in one of them,” said Yi Sarun as he fought back tears. “I have nothing left from those hard days. I had to destroy all things tennis – my kit, photographs and trophies – to save my skin.”

The oldest active player in the Kingdom, who has never lost his zest for tennis through those years of hardship, grabbed centre stage last week with Leander Paes showering him with praise and the CNN team meticulously capturing his life and times on camera for an episode that is bound to stir passions all over the world. Yi Sarun could well prove to be a talisman for the now thriving TFC.

Pies are premiers


via CAAI

Monday, 04 October 2010 15:00 David Boyle

The colliwobbles are over and hordes of roaming diehards Magpie supporters stand above us claiming bragging rights that will be heartily articulated for at least the next 12 months.

In the sequel to last week’s dramatic tied grand final, Collingwood came out firing from the get-go Saturday, playing with the intensity and defensive pressure that has helped them carve up opponents all season.

It is a trait that coach Mick Malthouse is legendary for drilling into sides – military-like discipline and undying commitment to the contest – and this intent was made clear in the opening minutes of the match.

Heath Shaw’s lunging goal line smother on Nick Riewoldt as he ran into an open goal shortly after the opening bounce was the first of a relentless series of selfless Collingwood defensive acts that unnerved the Saints and left them in the midst.

From there, the Pies amassed a lead similar to last week but no room was allowed in the second half for St Kilda to work their way back as they did in the previous contest.

Once again Nick Maxwell and Dale Thomas gave the Pies sensational accountability and rebound out of the backline, as did Harry O’Brien.

Norm Smith medalist Scott Pendlebury carved up the Saints through the middle, while last week’s winner, Lenny Hayse, was well held by former teammate Luke Ball.

But perhaps most impressive of all was Collingwood’s most famous fan, Joffa, dressed in a more fittingly bogan gold sequin shirt that better optimized the sole of the club than his fancy white suit last week.

Surrounded by disciples, Joffa was celebrating early in the second half as Collingwood ran St Kilda into the ground and then nailed the point home with a spectacular cross body snap from Alan Didak.

Club president Eddie Maguire was in tears at the final siren as the mass of the Collingwood faithful joined together in their first title in the last twenty years.

They now sit just one premiership behind Carlton and Essendon, with their 15th beer-stained Cup safely locked up somewhere in the heartland.

Duo slump in Vietnam


via CAAI

Monday, 04 October 2010 15:00 H S Manjunath
IT was a disappointing day for Long Samneang and Orn Sambath Saturday, as both the Cambodian entries at the Vietnam International Juniors Championships at Bac Lieu failed to clear the first hurdle in the 32-player qualifying draw.

In less than an hour, top seed Christoffer Solberg of Sweden made short work of Orn Sambath, dropping just one game in a 6-1, 6-0 clean up.

The 16-year-old Swede, who is unbeaten in six matches this year and holds a junior ranking of 1,003, never allowed the Cambodian of the same age any liberties on the court.

Tennis Federation of Cambodia coach Chea Pouv said: “the Swedish player was too consistent and solid for Orn Sambath.”

Meanwhile, Long Samneang put up a fairly decent fight against his Thai opponent Chaitawat Paisalsiri before going down 6-2, 6-2 in a game where the Cambodian succumbed to his own unforced errors.

Both Orn Sambath and Long Samneang will play in another qualifying draw at a different venue next week when national head coach Braen Aneiros will join them.

Sunaday 03 October 2010, Mam Sonando at CAAI's Temple (Wat Odom Samakum Khmer)







War Criminal Henry Kissinger Top Speaker At State Department Conference


via CAAI

By Jeffrey Kaye
The Public Record
Oct 3rd, 2010

Henry Kissinger at the World Economic Forum's 'India Economic Summit', November, 2008, New Delhi. Phot/Wikicommons

There was also a deficiency in imagination likely to circumscribe the value of any study by Kissinger of Kissinger. Asked about his role in the Cambodian war, in which an estimated five hundred thousand people died, he’d said, “I may have a lack of imagination, but I fail to see the moral issue involved.” — Joseph Heller, Good as Gold (Kissinger’s original quote is from William Shawcross’s Sideshow: Kissinger, Nixon, and the Destruction of Cambodia)

Fred Branfman has a great article up over at AlterNet pillorying the State Department’s invitation to Henry Kissinger to address a conference on “the American Experience in Southeast Asia, 1946-1975.” The conference was scheduled for September 29-30 at the George C. Marshall Conference Center at the U.S. Department of State. Along with bona fide war criminal Kissinger, the other invitees included current Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard C. Holbrooke, and Former Deputy Secretary of State, and Former Director of National Intelligence John D. Negroponte.

It was only last April here at The Seminal/Firedoglake that I reported on the declassification of a 1976 State Department cable from Henry Kissinger to “his assistant secretary of state for Inter-American affairs, Harry Shlaudeman, to cancel a formal demarche to the Uruguayan government, protesting the assassinations and other activities of Operation Condor.” Only five days later, former Chilean diplomat Orlando Letelier and his assistant Ronnie Moffat were assassinated on the streets of Washington, D.C. by a CIA-supported Chilean secret police killer.

But, as the Obama administration rehabilitation of the odious Kissinger demonstrates, memory is short in Washington, even when there is blood on the streets… unless that blood can be turned in for demagogic currency, as is the case with the deaths on 9/11. To have Kissinger honored as an authority on the Indochinese War is an obscenity of the first order. Branfman recalls some of the essential history: . . .

Kissinger orchestrated the most massive bombing in world history, dropping 3,984,563 million tons on an area inhabited by some 50 million people, twice the 2 million tons dropped on hundreds of millions through Europe and the Pacific in World War II. He dropped 1.6 million tons on South Vietnam, as many as Lyndon Johnson at the height of U.S. involvement; quadrupled the bombing of Laos, from 454,200 to 1,628,900 million tons; initiated widespread bombing of previously peaceful Cambodia, including B52 carpet bombing of undefended villages, for a total of 600,000-1 million tons; and vastly expanded the bombing of civilian targets in North Vietnam….

In Cambodia, Kissinger told Alexander Haig to undertake “a massive bombing campaign in Cambodia. Anything that flies or anything that moves,” the clearest possible violation of international law requiring the protection of civilians. Two million people in Khmer Rouge zones, as estimated by the U.S. Embassy, were driven underground by massive U.S. bombing that featured regular B52 carpet-bombing of undefended villages.

But when it comes to crimes, we’re just getting started here. Christopher Hitchens positioned part of his career as a would-be prosecutor for war criminal Kissinger. A quick review of just the first part of his March 2001 article at Harpers, “The Making of a War Criminal,” notes Kissinger’s activities. For instance, there was the “recruitment and betrayal of the Iraqi Kurds, who were falsely encouraged by him to take up arms against Saddam Hussein in 1972-75, and who were then abandoned to extermination on their hillsides when Saddam Hussein made a diplomatic deal with the Shah of Iran…” Or consider “Kissinger’s orchestration of political and military and diplomatic cover for apartheid in South Africa.” Or read Hitchen’s detailed, documentary discussion of Kissinger’s brain-trusting for assassination and coup plotting in Chile.

What Has Hillary Wrought?

Of course, Hillary Clinton deserves her own share of obloquy for inviting Kissinger and friends, including former Kissinger protege Holbrooke and the latter’s former Saigon Foreign Service roommate, the unsavory John Negroponte. (Negroponte worked at the U.S. Embassy in Saigon from 1964-68… uh huh.) One could write an entire column about the war crimes of Mr. Negroponte, who, according to the introduction by the National Security Archive (NSA) to a slew of documents implicating him, as former U.S. Ambassador to Honduras in the 1980s “sought to undermine regional peace efforts” in the Nicaraguan Civil War. NSA also cites “multiple reports of meetings and conversations [by Negroponte] with Honduran military officers who were instrumental in providing logistical support and infrastructure for CIA covert operations in support of the contras against Nicaragua.”

Holbrooke, of course, was recently implicated in a controversy with General Stanley McChrystal over policy in Afghanistan. MrChrystal got the heave-ho for being injudicious in his comments to a Rolling Stone reporter, and even though Holbrooke has been critical of U.S. goals in Afghanistan, it’s Holbrooke on the State Department podium, while McChrystal is out in the wilderness (for the time being). Branfman notes the ironies, and political agenda, behind the invite:

Clinton has also invited Richard Holbrooke, who as State Department head of Afghanistan/Pakistan policy has learned nothing from history and is repeating precisely the same policies that caused the U.S. to lose in Indochina — support of a corrupt and unpopular regime that cannot stand on its own. Inviting Holbrooke is particularly egregious, because following Obama’s strategy review, according to Bob Woodward’s new book, “perhaps the most pessimistic view came from Richard Holbrooke. “It can’t work,” he said. Lacking even a fraction of the integrity and moral courage of a Daniel Ellsberg, Holbrooke continues to promote in public a policy he privately believes is doomed to fail.

Branfman also notes that Kissinger is on hand to promote his “we lost Vietnam” garbage, claiming it was Congressional betrayal that failed the U.S. mission in Vietnam at the end. And sure enough, Kissinger was true to form at the conference, as reported by WRGW News:

“I believe most of what went wrong in Vietnam we did to ourselves,” said Kissinger, speaking candidly about his Vietnam experience in front of a capacity audience, including the Vietnamese Embassy….

Henry Kissinger… explained that during the Vietnam War “the faith of Americans in each other became destroyed in the process” of America reaching the limits of its foreign policy….

“America wanted compromise, Hanoi wanted victory,” he stated.

According to Dr. Kissinger, lack of support at home ultimately lost the war for South Vietnam and the United States.

Kissinger, Holbrooke, and Negroponte at the podium represent the true face of U.S. diplomacy today, which relies on the nostrums and machinations of an entire post-WWII generation which saw nothing wrong in ruling American Empire by means of mass murder, assassination, and the bombing of civilians. Today, the Obama administration steps up bombings in Pakistan, escalates the war in Afghanistan (as an exit strategy?), and conducts a world-wide Murder, Inc., which grants itself the right to execute without due process American citizens by Hellfire missiles, even as it trumpets secrecy for everything it does.

Obama’s embrace of Kissinger tells you all you need to know about what this administration is about. Behind the special treatment for war criminal Kissinger is the current administration’s aggressive pursuit of war in Afghanistan and military and covert operations around the world.

I try to imagine how the left would have responded if Bush had invited Kissinger to reflect for history upon the Vietnam War. I’d like to think there would have been universal derision. Today, there’s very little outrage expressed by this official government appearance by a bona fide war criminal. Whether it is fealty to Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, or a U.S. military and national security apparatus that says it stands for democracy but really stands for endless war, the state right to assassinate U.S. critics, and to intervene anywhere in the world that U.S. “interests” are involved, what stands for politics in this country is a joke. Something is very, very rotten at the core of this country. The falsification of history by the very criminals who conducted crimes against humanity is a primary exhibit of the degeneration of political discourse in America.


Jeffrey Kaye is a psychologist living in Northern California who writes regularly on torture and other subjects for The Public Record, Truthout and Firedoglake. He also maintains a personal blog, Invictus. His email address is sfpsych at gmail dot com.