Monday, 30 June 2008

Former Khmer Rouge foreign minister Ieng Sary attends his pre-trial hearing at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC)

Former Khmer Rouge foreign minister Ieng Sary attends his pre-trial hearing at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC)REUTERS/Print Samrang/Pool

Former Khmer Rouge foreign minister Leng Sary attends his pre-trial hearing at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC)REUTERS/Print Samrang/Pool

Former Khmer Rouge foreign minister Ieng Sary attends his pre-trial hearing at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC)REUTERS/Nguyen Tan Kei/Pool

Former Khmer Rouge foreign minister Leng Sary is assisted during his pre-trial hearing at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC)REUTERS/Print Samrang/Pool

Former Khmer Rouge foreign minister Leng Sary is assisted during his pre-trial hearing at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC)REUTERS/Print Samrang/Pool

Former Khmer Rouge foreign minister Leng Sary is assisted during his pre-trial hearing at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC)REUTERS/Print Samrang/Pool

Former Khmer Rouge foreign minister Leng Sary is assisted during his pre-trial hearing at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC)REUTERS/Print Samrang/Pool

Cambodians register for a hearing of Ieng Sary, a former Khmer foreign minister, Monday, June 30, 2008, at the U.N.-backed genocide tribunal in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Ieng Sary appeared before Cambodia's genocide tribunal Monday to press for his release from pretrial detention.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

People gather for the first public hearing against the detention of former Khmer Rouge deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs Ieng Sary at the Extraodinary Chambers in the Court of Cambodia (ECCC) in Phnom Penh on June 30.(AFP/Tang Chhin Sothy)

People are seen lining up outside the first public hearing against the detention of former Khmer Rouge deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs Ieng Sary at the Extraodinary Chambers in the Court of Cambodia (ECCC) in Phnom Penh on June 30. Ieng Sary appeared before the court to appeal his detention, in a case that poses the first big test for the tribunal.(AFP/Tang Chhin Sothy)

Cambodians line up as they wait for a hearing of Ieng Sary, a former Khmer foreign minister, Monday, June 30, 2008, at the U.N.-backed genocide tribunal in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Ieng Sary appeared before Cambodia's genocide tribunal Monday to press for his release from pretrial detention.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Foreigners register their name before the attend for a hearing of Ieng Sary, a former Khmer foreign minister, Monday, June 30, 2008, at the U.N.-backed genocide tribunal in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Ieng Sary appeared before Cambodia's genocide tribunal Monday to press for his release from pretrial detention.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Thai court blocks support for temple bid

Asiaone Travel
Mon, Jun 30, 2008

The Nation, ANN

BANGKOK, THAILAND - A Thai court has temporarily blocked the government from supporting Cambodia's bid to have an 11th century temple near the Thai border declared a world landmark.

The Administrative Court issued an injunction early yesterday at the request of the People's Alliance for Democracy, a Thai group opposed to the government of Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej.

The judges voted nine to three to order the government to temporarily suspend "until the court rules otherwise" a Cabinet resolution backing Cambodia's application to Unesco for the Preah Vihear temple to be designated a World Heritage Site, a statement from the court said.

A small amount of territory adjacent to the temple remains in dispute and critics claim cooperation with Cambodia over the heritage site application would jeopardise Thai claims to it.

The court's action is a political embarrassment for the government, which is fighting accusations by opponents that it ceded Thai territory to Cambodia.

The ruling applies to a Cabinet resolution which endorsed a Cambodian map of Preah Vihear temple, as well as a joint communique signed on June 18 in which Thailand said it supported Cambodia's bid.

The communique specifically said the application had no bearing on territorial claims by the countries.

But in its ruling, the Administrative Court said the communique "might undermine Thailand's future standing on the territorial dispute".

Cambodia has an internationally recognised claim over Preah Vihear temple and does not need Thai support for its application.

In 1962, the International Court of Justice awarded the temple to Cambodia, a decision that still rankles Thais even though the temple is culturally Cambodian, sharing the Hindu-influenced aspects of the more famous Angkor Wat in north-western Cambodia.

On Friday, Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong accused Thai opposition politicians of exploiting the cross-border dispute to advance their own domestic political agenda and warned that they might endanger bilateral relations.

"I very much regret that some politicians in Thailand are using Preah Vihear as an issue for their own domestic battle," he told reporters.

"(It) could affect the very good friendship and cooperation our two countries have had so far."

Democrats petition UNESCO against Preah Vihear statement

BANGKOK, June 30 (TNA) – Thai opposition Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva on Monday petitioned the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) against accepting a joint statement from Thailand and Cambodia regarding the disputed Preah Vihear temple.

Mr. Abhisit said he had already submitted his party's written objection to the two government's joint communique issued for UNESCO and affirmed he would call for the reconsideration of the Thai cabinet resolution on the matter after the Administrative Court's injunction on the case.

The court on Saturday issued an injunction temporarily blocking the government from supporting Cambodia's unilateral move to have the 11th century temple registered as a World Heritage site.

Meanwhile, a group of 77 senators led by Bangkok Senator Rosana Tositrakul presented a petition to Senate Speaker Prasobsuk Boondech asking that it be forwarded to the Constitution Court for deliberation. The petition asked the court to consider whether the June 17 Cabinet decision endorsing the Thai-Cambodian Joint Communique supporting Cambodia's unilateral move to apply on Preah Vihear temple was unconstitutional or not.

Meanwhile, Supreme Commander Gen. Boonsang Niempradit said the military was ready to evacuate Thai nationals from Cambodia if there was an untoward confrontation.

He said some people in the northeastern province of Si Sa Ket bordering Cambodia continued protesting and demanding the expulsion of Cambodians out of the overlapping areas of the temple compound.

But military units stationed there had managed to create proper understanding among the people, Gen. Boonsang said.

He said neither the Thai nor the Cambodian sides want to see any clashes between the peoples of the two neighbouring countries.

Rainsy's immunity assured until after election

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Vong Sokheng and Cheang Sokha
Friday, 27 June 2008

Cambodian lawmakers will wait until after the July 27 general election to debate whether to strip opposition leader Sam Rainsy of his parliamentary immunity, in a bid to ease political tensions ahead of the polls, European Union elections observers said.

Rainsy faces investigation and possible arrest over defamation claims made by Foreign Minister Hor Namhong if he loses his legislative protection.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court issued a request on June 16 that the National Assembly “temporarily suspend the immunity of Sam Rainsy,” adding that the court had collected enough evidence to warrant further investigation into the accusations made against him by Namhong.

Namhong alleges he was defamed when Rainsy said during a speech on April 17 that under the Khmer Rouge regime he was the director of Boeng Trabek prison, a detention center for intellectuals and members of the royal family.

Namhong has repeatedly said that he was an ordinary prisoner at Boeng Trabek, denying that he worked for the regime, whose 1975-79 rule over Cambodia resulted in 1.7 million deaths in one of the darkest chapters of the 20th century.

But the EU’s chief election observer, Martin Callanan, told reporter’s on June 20 that Namhong had assured poll monitors that no move would be made against Rainsy until after the election.

“Hor Namhong ... assured [EU] election observers that parliamentary immunity of the opposition leader Sam Rainsy would not be stripped before the July national elections,” Callanan said.

Election monitors said they welcomed the decision, saying Rainsy’s participation in the vote would help ensure a stabile political atmosphere.

“It’s a good that Rainsy can join the campaign because it will make the election go smoothly,” said Mar Sophal of the election monitor Comfrel.

Rainsy last lost his parliamentary immunity in 1995 while he was in self-imposed exile in France, shortly before he was convicted of defaming Prime Minister Hun Sen in a case that drew heavy international criticism.

Although he was later pardoned and returned to Cambodia, Rainsy says the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, of which Hun Sen is a member, is still trying to shut him down and earlier dismissed the July polls as “meaningless” in the face of the CPP’s political maneuvering.

In the weeks leading up to the campaign season Hun Sen ordered an investigation into the Sam Rainsy Party, claiming that defectors had implicated the opposition in a number of violent plots, including the 1998 rocket attack against the prime minister and a 2000 attack in the capital by the Cambodian Freedom Fighters, a band of self-proclaimed coup makers led by a Cambodian-American.

In a letter to the CPP on June 18, the opposition called on Hun Sen to stop intimidating Sam Rainsy followers with threats of prosecution over phantom plots.

“The accusations that the SRP is involved in violence is unacceptable.... The SRP has no culture of violence,” the party’s statement said.

Two jailed for fleecing Vietnamese Montagnards in Cambodia

The Earth Times

Mon, 30 Jun 2008
Author : DPA

Phnom Penh - Two people were jailed for four months each by a Cambodian court for harbouring Vietnamese Montagnards for a fee after they entered the country illegally and then cheating them, local media reported Monday. Khmer-language Rasmei Kampuchea daily reported that Phann Savang, 55, and her colleague Leir Yainghay, 37, had taken in three Montagnards with the promise they could take them safely to a United Nations refugee facility in return for 70 dollars from each.

However, the pair failed to make good on their promise and were arrested in March and accused of taking money under false pretences, Rasmei reported Phnom Penh Municipal Court was told.

Montagnards are a primitive, mostly Christian minority from the Vietnamese highlands who have sometimes claimed refugee status in Cambodia, alleging persecution in Vietnam, and sought repatriation from there to a third country such as the US.

They claim their religion and the fact that they fought with the US against the Vietnamese communists makes them targets of discrimination - charges Vietnam denies.

The fate of the cheated Montagnards was unclear.

Khmer Rouge appeal case to test limits of international law

The UN-backed Cambodian genocide court faces a test when a former Khmer Rouge chief, Ieng Sary, launches an appeal

PHNOM PENH (AFP) — The first big test of the UN-backed Cambodian genocide court begins on Monday when a former Khmer Rouge foreign minister is scheduled to appear in court to appeal against his detention.

Ieng Sary, 82, is one of five top regime cadres currently detained for crimes allegedly committed during the Khmer Rouge's 1975-79 rule over Cambodia.

He has been charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity and is expected to face trial within the next year.

But his lawyers say that Ieng Sary was absolved of any crimes after he surrendered to the government in 1996, when he received a royal pardon for an earlier genocide conviction.

That conviction was handed down in a 1979 trial in absentia conducted by the government installed after Vietnam occupied the country and ended the Khmer Rouge's bloody reign.

"The court will have to decide whether the amnesty is valid or not. Maybe they will have a conflict between Cambodia's constitution and international norms," said Sok Samoueun, head of the Cambodian Defenders Project (CDP).

Deciding whether nationally granted amnesties apply to international trials is a significant area of contention that has been raised in the Sierra Leone war crimes trial and the International Criminal Court, said Rupert Skillbeck, head of the Khmer Rouge tribunal's defence office.

"Amnesty is one of the areas of international criminal law where law and politics collide. But the (Khmer Rouge trial) judges will have to judge it as a legal question to be decided," Skillbeck said.

"It's one of the most significant legal questions for this tribunal to answer and an important question in international criminal law in general," he added.

At Monday's hearing, Ieng Sary's lawyers will seek to have him freed on bail, and are expected to argue later in the week that the charges should be dropped because his amnesty still holds.

As the top Khmer Rouge diplomat, Ieng Sary was frequently the only point of contact between Cambodia's secretive communist rulers and the outside world.

He was also one of the biggest public supporters of the regime's mass purges, researchers say.

"He came as close as any senior (Khmer Rouge) official in power ever did to describing publicly... the policy of executing", said Stephen Heder and Brian Tittemore in their book "Seven Candidates for Prosecution: Accountability for the Crimes of the Khmer Rouge."

Up to two million people died of starvation and overwork, or were executed, as the Khmer Rouge set about dismantling modern Cambodia after seizing control of the country.

But as much as he was an advocate for the regime during its 1975-79 rule, Ieng Sary's later defection to the government proved a fatal blow to the then-disintegrating movement.

His departure came two years before Pol Pot's death in 1998. The two had met as schoolboys in the capital Phnom Penh and later became eager supporters of the communist movement at university in Paris.

His wife Thirith, who also became a minister in the Khmer Rouge regime, was arrested with him in November.

Ieng Sary has suffered from deteriorating health since his arrest, according to his lawyer, highlighting the fragile condition of the tribunal's likely defendants, who are mostly in their 70s and 80s.

Commentary: Body blow

By Veera Prateepchaikul

The blows fell one, two, three on the ruling People Power party and de facto leader Thaksin Shinawatra last week. But mortal danger lurks in Cambodia, and the government is accountable.

Veera Prateepchaikul is Deputy Editor-in-Chief, Post Publishing Co Ltd.

It was really a bad week for the People Power party and its de facto leader, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

In just one week, they were dealt three crippling blows, including one which landed squarely across Mr Thaksin's face. It appeared as if Lady Luck suddenly deserted the party, leaving it to twist alone in the winds of fate.

The first blow came on Tuesday when the opposition Democrats grilled Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej and, particularly, Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama over their alleged mishandling of the 10th-century Preah Vihear temple dispute which could place Thailand at a disadvantage in future border negotiations with Cambodia.

The damning evidence presented during the censure debate by Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva prompted the prime minister to order a rephrasing of a cabinet resolution adopted a week earlier which endorsed the Cambodian map around the temple and pledged Thailand's support for Cambodia's unilateral bid to list the temple as a Unesco World Heritage site.

The word "map" in the resolution was changed to "chart" to avoid future complications.

While the censure debate was in progress, a second blow was unleashed by the Administrative Court. The court ordered the reinstatement of Government Pharmaceutical Organisation board chairman Dr Vichai Chokewiwat and five other board members who were earlier sacked by Public Health Minister Chaiya Sasomsab, a PPP MP from Nakhon Pathom.

The third blow came on Wednesday when the Supreme Court sent Mr Thaksin's three lawyers to jail for six months for contempt of court in connection with the snack box that was stuffed with two million baht in cash. The three lawyers are also facing bribery charges which carry a maximum five years' imprisonment.

Moreover, they may have their law licences revoked for five years by the Law Council of Thailand.

Mr Thaksin's personal secretary, Pongthep Thepkanchana, said his boss has denied any involvement with the snack box scandal and is willing to testify if required. He said Mr Thaksin would not benefit by giving money to court officials.

It's possible Mr Thaksin knew nothing about the alleged bribery attempt. But since the three suspects were his lawyers, he was inevitably linked to the scandal. Hence, his reputation is bruised.

Although the censure debate was over and Mr Samak and his seven ministers survived it thanks to the united support shown by PPP legislators and the coalition parties, the wounds inflicted upon the government by scathing opposition attacks will not be healed unless there is surgery in cabinet. So some heads must roll, including Mr Noppadon's and Mr Mingkwan's.

But the government's difficulty is not yet over even if certain ministers are axed. The Preah Vihear temple controversy is very much in the air. The Administrative Court has issued an injunction in response to a petition filed by the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) asking the court to freeze the Thai-Cambodian joint communique and the cabinet resolution pledging Thailand's support for Phnom Penh's bid to list the temple as a World Heritage site.

The court ruling may well deal a devastating blow to the government and, in particular, the prime minister and Mr Noppadon. It will provide PAD with deadly ammunition to press for Mr Samak's resignation.

But what is of greater concern are the implications of the court decision toward politics in Cambodia where an election is scheduled on July 27. Although the decision has no binding effect on Cambodia, it may be exploited by unscrupulous Cambodian media or politicians to whip up anti-Thai sentiments. It would be similar to an ugly incident some years ago when Cambodian media fuelled an anti-Thai frenzy over a statement about Angkor Wat by a famous Thai actress which eventually led to the burning of the Thai embassy and other Thai properties in Phnom Penh.

Hopefully, the tragedy will not be repeated. Otherwise, the Samak government will be held accountable.

Cambodia Votes 2008

Campaigning is under way for the 2008 Cambodia election, with a colourful launch through the streets of Phnom Penh. [Radio Australia]

Radio Australia
30 June 2008

Cambodian political parties have begun month-long campaigning for a general election that Prime Minister Hun Sen's ruling Cambodian People's Party is expected to dominate.

Connect Asia in Cambodia

Radio Australia]

Radio Australia's Connect Asia program journeys to Cambodia for the start of the 2008 elections, and coverage of the challenges of the country's past, and the issues facing its future leaders.

Connect Asia presenter Sen Lam and producer Bill Bainbridge are joined by Chhieng Yuth from Radio Australia's Khmer Language Service.For the latest coverage:

Khmer Rouge tribunal hears pre-trial appeal

Produced by Radio Australia and Australia Network

Cambodia's Khmer Rouge Tribunal is hearing a pre-trial appeal by Ieng Sary, the third most powerful official during the regime's rule, known as the "Killing Fields".

He has appealed for release from pre-trial detention in what's being seen as the first test for the UN-backed tribunal.

Sary, third-in-command of the Khmer Rouge during its reign between 1975 and 1979, faces charges of committing crimes against humanity.

But he denies that he was responsible for the execution of expatriate Cambodians who were deceived into returning home after the regime seized power.

The United Nations-established tribunal, known as the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, will begin its first proper public trial in September.

Radio Australia's Sen Lam reports from Phnom Penh that over two years since the UN-backed tribunal first opened, the special court says it is ready to hold the trial.

Made up of both local and international judges, the tribunal will try the first of five former senior Khmer Rouge officials.

Kaing Khek Ieu, also known as Duch, is accused of torturing to death some 17,000 Cambodians, including women and children, at Tuol Sleng - the high school which was turned into an interrogation prison by the Khmer Rouge.

Yuma native to teach in Cambodia

ADAM FLYNN, a 2004 graduate of Yuma High who received his bachelor's degree from Princeton in June, will teach English at the Royal University of Phnom Penh in Cambodia
June 29, 2008


Many students dream of snagging a high-paying job right after college. But not Yuma native Adam Flynn.

Instead, Flynn is joining the call to public service even if it seems old fashioned. That's why he's equipped with his brown leather journal, laptop and U.S. passport and is set to travel to Cambodia to teach English for a year.

The 21-year-old, who graduated from Princeton last month with a bachelor's degree in history and played football there for four years, will teach English as a second language at the Royal University of Phnom Penh in Cambodia as part of a fellowship program sponsored by Princeton-in-Asia.

"I'm really happy to be going because it's like an amazing combination of travel experience that can broaden your mind. It's work where you can help people and really make an impact," Flynn said. "And it's fun because I'm going to be living in a completely foreign culture for a year."

He said he realizes that Cambodia is a very young country and it has problems with a division between the rich and the poor. But for him, teaching English in Cambodia will make him happy that he can make a difference.

"You will have a lot of people who want to learn, and for them learning English will significantly better their lives because they have the tourism and they have the businesses. There if you know a scrap of English you have a step up on so many other people," he said.

Another goal of his is to leave a positive impression of America for the people of Cambodia.

"I'm going to be sort of this big, walking, hard-to-miss representative of America," said Flynn who is blond, blue-eyed and is 6 feet 6 inches tall.

There he hopes to learn more about himself and says the only way to do it is to take a step right out of your comfort zone.

"When traveling you place yourself in all these sort of strange situations, you learn things about yourself that you wouldn't normally learn otherwise. If you sort of spend your time entirely in your comfort zone, then it's hard to grow."

At first Flynn was nervous that he wouldn't make the cut for the Princeton-in-Asia program because he noticed that many other applicants had very strong background compared to him. But he believes that it was his versatility and resilience that got Flynn chosen.

"One thing I learned that in a lot of situations, it's always a plus to be a sort of a good-humoured, adventurous and friendly."

Bid to delay Unesco decision

By The Nation
Published on June 30, 2008

Thai World Heritage panel chief expects positive response to plea

Thailand will ask Unesco to delay a decision on Cambodia's proposal to list Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage Site, said Pongpol Adireksarn, head of Thailand's World Heritage Committee.

His statement followed the Central Administrative Court injunction on Saturday against the Thai government supporting Cambodia's bid.

The court said the position taken by the government "might undermine Thailand's future standing on the territorial dispute". The government communique gave Cambodia's bid "active support", the ruling said.

The Unesco World Heritage Committee is meeting from Wednesday till July 10 in Quebec, Canada.

Pongpol cited Unesco's Article 11, Item 3, which states that listing of World Heritage sites that straddle two countries' territories cannot be done without endorsement from both sides.

He expected the committee would respond positively to the appeal.

Pongpol said the proposal to Unesco to list Preah Vihear should be submitted jointly by both countries, which is similar to the position Thailand took on the issue last year. He said he would seek Cambodia's cooperation at the Quebec meeting.

"This temple should unite instead of divide us. This is why we are suggesting a joint application," Pongpol said.

Pongpol said the temple should be a major tourist attraction for both countries. "If there is conflict, no tourists will come to visit because they fear danger," he added. "We can both take care of the temples and of the tourists."

Separately, Foreign Ministry permanent secretary Veerasak Futrakul dismissed growing fears that the court injunction would send Thai-Cambodian ties into a tailspin.

Speaking to reporters after meeting Cambodian Ambassador to Thailand Ung Sean, he said bilateral ties had not been affected by the court's order and Phnom Penh considered the ruling, as well the raising of the issue during last week's no-confidence debate in Parliament, as Thailand's domestic matter.

Embattled Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama remained tight-lipped over the ministry's next move, saying more time was needed to assess the situation in light of the injunction.

The director-general of the ministry's Legal Affairs Department, Krit Kraijitti, did not rule out appealing the injection.

Suwat Apaipak, a member of the legal team that succeeded in getting the court to overturn a June 17 Cabinet decision, urged Noppadon to inform Cambodia and the UN cultural body that Thailand could no longer support the listing bid.

The injunction has proved to be a major political embarrassment for the government. A clearer response should be revealed on Tuesday following the weekly Cabinet meeting, where the issue is expected to be high on the agenda.

Despite the government's insistence that the joint communique calling for the listing of Preah Vihear had no bearing on territorial claims by the two countries, Pongpol said the next move would have to come from the Cabinet.

His predecessor on the committee, Adul Wichiancharoen, said the earlier call for Thailand and Cambodia to jointly apply for the Unesco status was a way to depoliticise the thorny issues of territorial dispute and sovereignty.

Pipob Thongchai, a member of the anti-government People's Alliance for Democracy, said Noppadon should show responsibility by resigning from his Cabinet post.

Pakistani among three arrested in Cambodia

Daily Times
Monday, June 30, 2008

PHNOM PENH: A Briton, a Pakistani and a Taiwanese-American, have been arrested in Cambodia for trying to smuggle 750 grammes of drugs out of the country, police said on Sunday.

Steven Bushel, Sha Hihan and Victor Chhan were arrested on Friday in a hotel room where they were discovered with 450 grammes of crystal amphetamines known as “ice” and 300 grammes of a white powder used to produce the drug, anti-drug police investigator Chea Leng told AFP.

“We had been monitoring them for almost three months and we knew that they were trying to smuggle the drug out of Cambodia,” he said.

Police were still trying to learn where the suspects were smuggling the drugs, he said.

The three men were being held at the Interior Ministry’s anti-drug unit to await trial, he added.


Top Khmer Rouge diplomat in court

Both Ieng Sary and his wife will be tried by the genocide court

BBC News
Monday, 30 June 2008

Former Khmer Rouge foreign minister Ieng Sary has appeared before Cambodia's genocide tribunal to appeal against his detention.

The 82-year-old has been charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the Maoist regime's four-year rule in the late 1970s.

He is one of five former leaders of the Khmer Rouge being detained by the UN-backed tribunal.
Some 1.7 million people are thought to have died under the brutal regime.

Hundreds of thousands starved as the Khmer Rouge tried to create an agrarian society. Many others perceived as educated were tortured and executed.

Trials are expected to begin later in the year.

Royal pardon

About 300 people attended the hearing at the court in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh.

Ieng Sary is the most prominent surviving Khmer Rouge leader - and is still viewed as an influential and respected figure in parts of Cambodia, reports the BBC's Guy Delauney from Phnom Penh.

He received a royal pardon 12 years ago after reaching a deal with the government that resulted in the eventual surrender of the Khmer Rouge.

His lawyers say this is why he should not be facing charges now. They will also argue that a trial would amount to double jeopardy.

The Vietnamese-backed forces which ousted the Khmer Rouge in 1979 tried Ieng Sary in absentia and found him guilty of genocide. That verdict was overturned by the pardon.

But Cambodians who survived Khmer Rouge prison camps feel particularly strongly about the former foreign minister, our correspondent adds.

Many of them were well-educated people who returned to the country after personal appeals from Ieng Sary to help rebuild Cambodia.

They were arrested on arrival, and thrown into brutal detention centres.

Ieng Sary's wife, former social welfare minister Ieng Thirith, has also been charged by the genocide court.

Cambodian gov't appeals for loans to farmers

June 30, 2008

Cambodia's agricultural sector has the potential to compete regionally if commercial banks loan the money needed to modernize, local media reported Monday, citing senior government figures.

Commercial banks are being encouraged to assist farmers through loans, Sun Kunthor, a government advisor and general director of the Rural Development Bank of Cambodia (RDBC), was quoted as saying in the Mekong Times newspaper.

"We needed commercial banks' participation in providing loans to the sector and we are urging them to cooperate," he said.

Nearly all of the RDBC's loans last year went to the agricultural sector, Sun Kunthor said, but even the bank's 20 million U.S. dollars of working capital would bring little improvement alone.

Bu Ros, chief of Canadia Bank's loan department, said his bank also strongly supports loans to the agricultural sector and will provide as many as possible.

"We were advised by the president of the bank to focus mainly on offering loans to the agricultural sector and we are prepared to give 10 percent of the total loan which is 430 million U.S. dollars for the year 2008," he said, adding that around 6 percent of Canadia's loans were to farmers last year.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has recently urged the Ministry of Economy and Finance and the National Bank of Cambodia to consult with commercial banks to provide the credit needed to modernize Cambodian agriculture.


Former Khmer Rouge foreign minister seeks release from pretrial detention

The Associated Press
Published: June 30, 2008

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia: The former Khmer Rouge foreign minister appeared before Cambodia's genocide tribunal Monday to press for his release from pretrial detention.

The United Nations-assisted tribunal has charged Ieng Sary, 82, with crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Ieng Sary is one of five defendants being held by the tribunal, which plans to begin its first trial later this year. His wife, 76-year-old Ieng Thirith, who served as the Khmer Rouge's social affairs minister, is also being held on charges of crimes against humanity.

The tribunal, jointly run by Cambodian and international personnel, is attempting to establish accountability for atrocities committed by the communist group when it ruled Cambodia from 1975 to 1979.

The group's radical policies resulted in the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million people from starvation, disease, overwork and execution.

In their detention order in November, the investigating judges said Ieng Sary is being prosecuted for supporting Khmer Rouge policies that were "characterized by murder, extermination, imprisonment, persecution on political grounds and other inhuman acts such as forcible transfers of the population, enslavement and forced labor."

Ieng Sary has dismissed the charges as "unacceptable" and demanded evidence to support them, according to a copy of his detention order.

On Monday, the defense demanded that Ieng Sary be placed under either house arrest or protective hospitalization and undergo proper psychiatric examination to determine whether he is fit to stand trial.

Ieng Sary's "weak physical and mental capacity" makes him unable to fully assist his lawyers, Michael Karnavas, an American lawyer from Alaska, told the court.

"That's one of our primary issues here — the ability to follow proceedings. We cannot go forward on this very critical issue" relating to Ieng Sary's right to a fair trial, Karnavas said.

"If nothing else, it is a violation of equal protection in a sense that a more robust individual could exercise all of his rights whereas someone who is not as robust, be it physical or mental, will have less," he said.

"I don't believe that these are the so-called international standards that our friends, the prosecution, are advocating," he said.

Ieng Sary and his wife belonged to the inner circle of the Khmer Rouge and were in-laws of the movement's late leader, Pol Pot, who was married to Khieu Ponnary, Ieng Thirith's sister. Ieng Thirith took her husband's surname after they got married.

In 1996, Ieng Sary received a royal pardon from former King Norodom Sihanouk as a reward for breaking away from Pol Pot and leading his followers to join the government. The mutiny foreshadowed the Khmer Rouge's collapse three years later in 1999.

But the pardon had no bearing on the Cambodia-U.N. tribunal pact. Similar appeals by other defendants have failed.

The three other suspects in custody awaiting trial are Khieu Samphan, the former head of state, Nuon Chea, the former chief ideologist, and Kaing Guek Eav — also known as Duch — who headed the Khmer Rouge's S-21 torture center.

The tribunal has said it plans to start Duch's trial in September.

NagaCorp Mulls Casino Rights Sale in Cambodia Capital (Update1)

By Netty Ismail

June 30 (Bloomberg) -- NagaCorp Ltd., the monopoly casino operator in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh, said it may sell a license to foreign companies, giving them the right to develop a new gaming property in the city.

``NagaCorp may consider any subconcession proposal when the timing is right,'' Chief Executive Officer Chen Lip Keong, 60, said in an interview on June 27.

The company has a monopoly to operate casinos within a 200- kilometer (125-mile) radius of the capital until 2035, and isn't subject to any legal restriction on selling secondary licenses.

Cambodia's only publicly traded company is betting on growing wealth at home and in the neighboring countries of Thailand and Vietnam to increase its revenue base beyond gamblers from China, Malaysia and Singapore. Macau overtook the Las Vegas Strip as the world's biggest casino market after the city ended Hong Kong billionaire Stanley Ho's monopoly in 2002, spurring at least $25 billion of investment in the city by foreign operators including Las Vegas Sands Corp.

``As bigger regional players focus on the higher end, we expect NagaCorp will maintain its niche in the mass-end VIP segment,'' said Gavin Ho, a Hong Kong-based analyst at CLSA Ltd.

Singapore awarded bids for two casino resorts in 2006, cutting taxes on gaming revenue to the world's lowest for so- called high-rollers. Japan and Taiwan are also considering allowing casinos in an effort to boost tourism.

Shares Rise

Kuala Lumpur-based Genting Bhd., which will operate one of the two Singapore resorts, plans to build Southeast Asia's first Universal Studios theme-park at its property in the city. Genting is Asia's biggest publicly traded gaming operator.

NagaCorp rose 1 percent to HK$2.12 at 11:57 a.m. in Hong Kong trading, the first gain in three days. The shares have fallen 18 percent this year, less than the 21 percent decline in the benchmark Hang Seng Index and a 31 percent drop in Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd., a Hong Kong-listed Macau casino operator. Genting fell 29 percent.

NagaCorp is catering to ``regional mid-sized'' gamblers taken to its casino by junket operators, who provided about 45 percent of its gaming revenue last year, Chen said.

About 52 percent of revenue comes from the public casino floor. The operator's revenue rose 69 percent to $144 million in 2007.

``We are not competing head on with those high rollers in Macau,'' Chen, a Malaysian, said in Phnom Penh, where the company is based.

`Poor Man's VIP'

Citigroup Inc.'s Hong Kong-based analyst Anil Daswani, in a Feb. 18 report, said NagaCorp was part of the ``poor man's VIP'' market.

NagaCorp operated its casino on a barge moored along the banks of the Bassac River in Phnom Penh for eight years, before relocating in October 2003 to a permanent hotel and entertainment complex, NagaWorld, a few hundred meters away.

The company is expanding the complex to 700 hotel rooms and 300 gaming tables by next year. It had 508 hotel rooms and 176 gaming tables in June.

``They have done a good job attracting customers,'' said Billy Ng, a gaming analyst at JPMorgan Chase & Co. in Hong Kong. ``There will be more competition but I don't think we need to be concerned about it now.''

`Strong Perception Issue'

Visitors to Cambodia have risen to about 2 million from 118,183 in 1993, when Southeast Asia's second-poorest nation emerged from a two-decade civil war.

Chen owns 62 percent of NagaCorp after selling a 5 percent stake in the company in May for ``a small premium'' to Chicago- based Columbia Wanger Asset Management LP, he said.

The Cambodian operator is trading at 8 times its forecast earnings per share for 2009, compared with an average of 21 times for its regional peers, Ho at CLSA said in a report dated June 26.

Ho initiated coverage of the stock with a ``buy'' recommendation, setting a 12-month price target of HK$3.31. NagaCorp's profit is set to grow 37 percent to $77 million in 2009, according to the CLSA report.

``I am situated in a country like Cambodia, I have a strong perception issue,'' Chen said. ``If I don't produce earnings, I am invisible, nobody will notice me.''

Sacravatoons : " Siem Fire-Game "

Courtesy of Sacravatoon at