Tuesday, 26 August 2008

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Cambodia - News : Border dispute - 26.08.2008

Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha jointly challenge general election result

Cambodge Soir

26-08-2008

The presidents of the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) and the Human Rights Party (HRP) read out a joint statement to challenge the outcome of the July 27 ballot.

During a press conference held at SRP headquarters on Monday August 25, both opposition leaders reasserted their joint opposition to the mismanagement of the general election. “We have been working together at all stages of the election process. Each party has a working group and views and information are exchanged between Son Chay, SRP representative and Keat Sokun, HRP representative. An alliance might be on the agenda but the modalities need to be fixed and this can only happen once the electoral issues have been solved” declared both political leaders.

Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha have declared that they will start an “evidence campaign” to collect evidence, including thumb-prints of witnesses, to denounce the ballot irregularities. “We focused on the entire country before filing our complaint to the national community”, they said. Both presidents have also sent a joint letter informing the French and Indonesian authorities of the ballot irregularities, as these countries co-chaired the 1991 Paris Agreement. Further on they will inform the authorities of the other countries that signed the Agreement. “ Our goal is primarily to inform France and Indonesia that the 1991 Agreement is being breached and that thousands have had their right to vote denied because their names were deleted from the rolls; they could not vote and several forged documents were used”, they stated without going into further detail. “According to this Agreement, Cambodia is a multiparty democracy, but this is not the case as the Cambodian People’s Party’s (CPP) goal is to rob us of the seats that we should obtain”, Sam Rainsy said. He also added that the CPP took 29 seats from both parties.

“Therefore the National Assembly of the fourth mandate will be illegal”, continued the SRP president. As for Kem Sokha, he announced that he would not be able to attend the first National Assembly session or to take an oath with those who stole his party’s seats. This announcement was accompanied by applause from Sam Rainsy.

The SRP calls for new elections to be held in the provinces of Svay Rieng, Pursat and Kampot, whereas the HRP would like re-votes in the provinces of Kampong Cham and Kampong Speu. According to them, if there had been no irregularities, they would have won at least a seat each in each of these provinces. “To prevent an individual from voting is a serious matter but to lose a seat is extremely serious. With 30 seats for our parties we could table a censure motion”, pointed out Sam Rainsy. Presently the SRP has 26 seats and the HRP three, according to the temporary results given by the National Election Committee (NEC).

The two opposition leaders also highlighted that they did not request any concessions from the CPP but that they would like their complaints to be resolved by the NEC and the Constitutional Council. According to them, people whose names were deleted from the rolls would have voted for parties other than the CPP.

Sam Rainsy introduced to journalists three of his party supporters who were victims of violence. Two of them were hit; another jailed and Sam Rainsy’s wife acted as his legal counsel.

Sam Rainsy to prove election roll fraud

Cambodge Soir

26-08-2008

July 27 ballot validity controversy revived by Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) president.

In a letter dated August 22, Sam Rainsy suggested that the National Election Committee (NEC) communicate evidence of the name deletion of 585,723 voters on electoral rolls across the country. In 2007, when the rolls were set up, the NEC was supposed to update them by removing deceased or moved persons, double inscriptions on the list and those who lost their voting rights. According to the SRP, the NEC relied exclusively on village chiefs and commune councils to update the rolls. “This is unfair because thousand of voters were not able to exercise their right to vote” denounced Sam Rainsy.

Im Sousdey, the NEC chairman, answered saying that this problem had already been mentioned by the SRP. But the National Election Committee cannot provide any evidence proving that these people were removed from the rolls as asked by the SRP.

In a press release dated August 18, the NEC took stock of the filed complaints in the last ballot. Of the ten recorder complaints, seven emanated from the SRP, and the three others from the Cambodian’s People’s Party (CPP). Four were rejected and for three additional complaints the decisions taken by the provincial electoral services were upheld. Two complaints were simultaneously filed by the SRP and the CPP and relate to the debate between both parties and “offending comments” made by Sam Rainsy, according to CPP officials. These complaints were sent to the Constitutional Council. The last case relates to an SRP complaint against six local civil servants in Kampot who did not apply NEC regulations.

Sam Rainsy deemed these decisions unfair and a press conference is planned for August 25.

Health and education hit the jackpot: US$ 34.3 million in USAID money

Cambodge Soir

26-08-2008

This amount will be distributed to fight against Aids and infectious diseases but also to improve elementary education and access to schooling for minorities and the disabled.

On Monday morning, Hor Nam Hong, Minister of foreign affairs and Erin Soto, USAID mission director, signed two memoranda on US$ 34.3 million for health and education.

Out of the total amount, US$ 32.2 million will be allocated to reduce transmission of the Aids virus and to prevent infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, fight avian flu, improve obstetrics medication and strengthen the National Health Service.

As for the US$ 2 million left, it will be used for elementary education and to guarantee schooling for all, especially minorities, the disabled and the underprivileged. It will also be used to implement the new national programme.

The ceremony was held at the Foreign Affairs Ministry, attended by the Cambodian Prime Minister and the American Ambassador, Joseph A. Mussomeli. Hun Sen took this opportunity to declare to the American Ambassador: “We signed a memorandum before the new government was formed, I think that the US do not doubt [the elections result] and will continue to work with prime minister Hun Sen”. A timely statement as the NEC (National Election Committee) did not appreciate the comments of European Union observers, who in their preliminary report, sent shortly after the election, voiced several reservations regarding the campaign.

The funds are provided by the United States Agency for International Development. The Agency is committed to Cambodia in the fields of Human rights, law, the fight against corruption, natural resources management, etc. since 2002 USAID has given around US$ 200 million to Cambodia, mainly to the Cambodian health and education departments. The Agency should support Cambodia to the tune of US$57.5 million for the year 2008.

Paedophile's sentence reduced

Kruispad
26/08/2008 (SA)

Phnom Penh - A Cambodian court on Tuesday cut a convicted Belgian paedophile's prison sentence from 18 years to three years, citing a change in child abuse laws.

Philippe Dessart, 48, was arrested in 2006 in a Phnom Penh guesthouse with a naked 13-year-old boy in his room. He was charged with debauchery and sentenced the same year to 18 years in jail.

The Court of Appeals reduced his sentence after downgrading the charges against Dessart from debauchery to indecent acts against minors.

"The court found Philippe Dessart guilty of committing indecent acts," judge Um Sarith said.
Dessart was not present for the ruling, but his lawyer said he was "satisfied" with the appeal court's decision.

Cambodia used to apply its debauchery law to almost all sex crimes, but has recently updated its statutes to include the new charge of indecent acts.

Dessart has admitted he was convicted in 1992 of child sex charges in Belgium and imprisoned for three years, but has repeatedly insisted he has done nothing wrong in Cambodia since first arriving in the country in 2001.

Dozens of foreigners have been jailed for child sex crimes or deported to face trial in their home countries since Cambodia launched an anti-paedophilia push in 2003 in a bid to shake off its reputation as a haven for sex predators.

Bank of India applies to open in Cambodia

The Earth Times
Tue, 26 Aug 2008
Author : DPA

Phnom Penh - Cambodia has welcomed an initial application by the Bank of India to open in Phnom Penh, local media reported Tuesday. The Cambodia Daily newspaper quoted Finance Ministry director of investment Chan Sothy as saying the nationalized Indian bank, which has a presence in all the major trade centres of the world, applied to open in April.

The paper quoted Sothy as saying he and Finance Minister Keat Chhon met with outgoing Indian ambassador Aloke Sen Friday and "welcomed the Bank of India to open a branch in Cambodia."

The officials discussed various ways of increasing Indian investments in Cambodia, the report said. It quoted banking officials as saying the Bank of India application was still being processed and therefore no concrete date could be set.

The two nations have close historic ties and Cambodia has been keen to foster closer economic ties with India as investment from other powerhouse Asian economies such as China and South Korea continues to grow.

Cambodian runner to depart for Beijing Paralymics on Sept. 1

www.chinaview.cn
2008-08-26

PHNOM PENH, Aug. 26 (Xinhua) -- Kim Vanna, 40-year-old Cambodian runner who lost his right leg below the knee in a landmine explosion in 1989, will depart for Beijing on Sept. 1, for the Paralympic Games from Sept. 6 to 17, local media said Tuesday.

Vanna will compete in the 100- and 200-meter races at the games, English-Khmer language newspaper the Cambodia Daily quoted Yi Veasna, secretary general of the National Paralymic Committee of Cambodia, as saying.

Kim Vanna was selected by the committee on the basis of the silver medal he had won at the ASEAN Para Games in Thailand earlier this year, said Yi Veasna.

"He is our national athlete selection for 2008. He has the most recent medal from the ASEAN Games," he said, adding that the government had recently awarded him 4,000 U.S. dollars for his silver medal.

Meanwhile, China has agreed to subsidize 60 percent of the airfare for Kim Vanna and his accompanying assistant and National Bank of Cambodia governor Chea Chanto also donated 500 U.S. dollars, he added.

Kim Vanna has so far won 18 medals in international competitions, three golds, 10 silvers and five bronzes, and the Beijing trip will be the first time that he attends Paralymic Games.

Editor: Xinhuanet

United States of America Grants More Than US$34 Million for Heath and Education Projects in Cambodia

Posted on 26 August 2008
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 575

“Phnom Penh: The government of the United States of America and the Royal Government of Cambodia will sign two bilateral agreements at a total cost of US$34.3 million as donor funds for 2008, from the U. S. Agency for International Development [USAID] to promote priority sectors in Cambodia – health and education.

“The [signing] ceremony will be held on 25 August 2008 and will be presided over by Samdech Hun Sen, the Prime Minister of the Royal Government of Cambodia, Mr. Joseph Mussomeli, the US Ambassador to Cambodia, Mr. Hor Namhong, a Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, and Ms.Erin Soto, USAID Mission Director, who will sign on behalf of the US government. These new funds will add to nearly US$200 million since USAID granted funds for the health and education sectors of Cambodia since 2002.

“An announcement by the US Embassy on 23 August 2008 said that the first agreement will be a grant of a total volume of US$32.2 million to strengthen the health sector as a priority. This fund will promote all activities aiming at the reduction rate of infections and of the impact of HIV/AIDS, and the prevention and the wiping out of big infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis and bird flu, in order to improve child and maternal health and reproductive health, and to strengthen the public heath system, also including the strengthening of additional technical skills for health staff.

“The second agreement will provide more than US$2 million in total to support plans of the Royal Government of Cambodia for the education sector. The funds will be used for the existing programs to improve the quality of education as the basis to increase access to schools for Cambodian children, as well as for children of minority peoples, and for those who do not get access to employment [disabled persons?], and also support the schooling of very poor children.

This activity will also focus on the implementation of new study programs at the national level with educational standards which will cut down the rates of dropping out of school and of the repetition of classes through the enhancement of the quality of teaching and through assessments of the results of the students’ studies.

“In addition to the activities in the health and education sectors, USAID assists also some programs for the benefit of all the Cambodian citizens, including programs to strengthen human rights, the rule of law, of basic good governance, and of decentralization, the fight against corruption, the development of the private sector, and the fight against human trafficking. USAID expects to grant US$57.5 million to Cambodia in 2008.”

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.16, #4676, 24-25.8.2008
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:Monday, 26 August 2008

Embedded Travel Guide Cambodia: The Cardamom Mountains

SFO MEDIA
8/25/2008
This week, our Cambodia embed, Tim Patterson, is giving us the inside scoop on the country.

The Cardamom Mountains of Cambodia are perfect habitat for Javan rhinoceroses, Indochinese tigers and Asian elephants. Gibbons sometimes serenade at sunrise and Barking Deer yelp at the edge of the jungle. Siamese crocodiles, once thought extinct, have even been seen in the rivers.

But perhaps the oddest animal of all in this wild bit of Cambodia is the spot-bellied eagle owl. Seriously: It's a real bird! Of course, when I saw one, I didn't take a photo to prove I had.

Settling In:

Three years ago, Janet Newman was a barrister who needed a break from cold English courtrooms. In 2005 she took a sabbatical from legal practice and volunteered in Botum Sokor National Park, Cambodia.

Today Janet runs Rainbow Lodge, the only eco-lodge in the Cardamoms, located on the Tatai river near the town of Koh Kong.

As a guidebook writer and the leader of a rugged travel program in Cambodia, I know a good eco-lodge when I see one. Janet's Rainbow Lodge is top-notch.

Jungle Life:

On Google Earth, the Cardamoms are a dark green bruise swelling north from the Gulf of Thailand. Up close, the tropical jungle is a steaming, impenetrable mass, split by virgin rivers. The upper reaches of these pristine rivers have barely been explored.

When I poked around the Cardamoms last year, I ran out of fresh water and contracted amoebic dysentery. But this time, thanks to Janet, I enjoyed good coffee in the early morning, kayaked and clambered around waterfalls all day and drank pitchers of Pims and lemonade on the sundeck in the evening.

You'll still have to watch for snakes--lots of them. When I checked in to the Rainbow Lodge, Janet warned me about a big-eyed pit viper that had taken to lounging on the porch of my bungalow.


The Unfortunate Story of Panda:

Janet cares deeply for animals. Every morning, she gives heartworm medicine to her two pet dogs. There used to be a third dog at the Rainbow Lodge, named Panda. But this spring, one of Janet's neighbors trapped Panda in a net and roasted him for dinner.

Panda's murder was a dreadful shock, though not totally surprising. Her neighbor, who Janet calls "Whiskey Man," raises dogs for meat. The Cardamom Mountains are still wild.

Getting There:The brand new road from Phnom Penh to Koh Kong province is the smoothest slice of asphalt in Cambodia. The highway cuts straight through the jungle, with dramatic views of the Cardamom range.

To get to the Rainbow Lodge, ask the driver to let you off at Tatai, the last of four bridges between Sre Ambel and Koh Kong town. A boat will pick you up at the bridge and whisk you upstream to the bungalows.

Reservations are essential.

What to Do by Day and by Night:

A boat ride or trek to the Tatai waterfall is obligatory, but I also recommend a trip to a set of rapids a few kilometers upstream. Brave travelers can camp out overnight at these rapids, cooking dinner over a barbecue and sleeping in hammocks in the jungle. Just watch out for those elusive spot-bellied eagle owls.

Cambodian Prince Ranariddh to continue pursuing politics: Party

www.chinaview.cn
2008-08-26

PHNOM PENH, Aug. 26 (Xinhua) -- The eponymous opposition party (NRP) headed by Prince Norodom Ranariddh has denied the rumor that he is expected to resign and quit politics, English-Khmer language newspaper the Cambodia Daily said Tuesday.

The prince has never told anyone in the party that he plans to resign from his post as party chairman, said NRP secretary generalSuth Dina.

"This is false information. I believe that the prince will not retire from politics," he said.

English-language daily newspaper the Phnom Penh Post Monday quoted prince Sisowath Thomico as saying that Ranariddh mulls quitting politics in order to return from his current overseas exile.

"I heard of his intention two weeks ago," said Sisowath Thomico, who belongs to the other branch of the Cambodian royal family.

Former king Norodom Sihanouk has often requested that Ranariddh give up politics and focus on improving the nation, he said.

Ranariddh could become chief advisor to King Norodom Sihamoni, something that high-ranking members of the major ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) have frequently suggested, he said.

Ranariddh, who left Cambodia last year under a cloud of legal problems, is living in Malaysia and faces arrest if he comes back.

He once led the co-ruling Funcinpec Party and governed the kingdom jointly with CPP, but later became enemies of major CPP leaders due to power fight.

Editor: Du Guodong

Cambodian ruling party promotes women to deputy provincial governors

www.chinaview.cn
2008-08-26

PHNOM PENH, Aug. 26 (Xinhua) -- The ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) has announced an increase in the number of female appointees to government, according to officials who said women have now been elevated to the position of deputy governor in all but one province, local media reported Tuesday.

"The Ministry of Interior has appointed women as deputy provincial governors in all the provinces and municipalities except Pailin, where it is still looking for a candidate," Sak Setha, director general of the ministry's General Administration Department, was quoted as saying in the Phnom Penh Post.

"We are carrying out our long-term policy regarding the integration of women into (Cambodia's) political affairs," he said, adding that the appointments were made just prior to the July 27 general election, which saw large gains for the CPP.

Each provinces and municipality has five or more deputy governors, posts that have historically been dominated almost entirely by men.

Chou Bun Eng, the director general for social development at the Ministry of Women's Affairs, said the appointments were an important first step on the road to equality.

"Even if there are still no female provincial governors, the women will learn a lot in their new positions," she said.

Editor: Du Guodong

LENAWEE SPOTLIGHT: Student shares information on tuberculosis with Cambodians

By Submitted photo
Sand Creek resident and Defiance College student Kelsey Huff, right, traveled to Cambodia this summer to share information with doctors there about a genetic defect that makes some Cambodians more susceptible to tuberculosis.

The Daily Telegram
By Autumn Lee
Mon Aug 25, 2008

SAND CREEK, Mich. -
As one of several scholars who traveled to Cambodia, a Sand Creek resident had the chance to share information with physicians about a genetic defect found to exist in some Cambodians.

Kelsey Huff, 21, is a molecular biology student in her senior year at Defiance College in Defiance, Ohio. Huff was able to visit Cambodia as a McMaster scholar for two-and-a-half weeks, returning in mid-January.

Through the college’s McMaster School for Advancing Humanity, undergraduate students can conduct original research in response to “community-identified needs in high-need areas” of the United States and the world, according to a news release. This was the fourth year a McMaster group traveled to Cambodia.

Huff wrote a project proposal during the spring of her sophomore year before receiving approval through a board.

Initially her project was to collect medical journals about tuberculosis, and she wanted to get journals on new vaccine development and new methods of testing, she said. Her project changed when she found an article that said 38 percent of Cambodians have a genetic defect in their immune system that makes them more susceptible to becoming infected by tuberculosis. She learned by the end of her sophomore school year that her proposal had been accepted and she would be one of several students going to Cambodia.

“I was really excited about going,” Huff said, but she was also nervous about the trip.

What is happening in Cambodia, she explained, is that when some people are given a PPD (purified protein derivative) skin test, they won’t show an immune response, even if they have active tuberculosis.

Doctors are actually turning people away because the test shows a negative response even though they may be sick with tuberculosis, she said.

While she was in Cambodia, Huff said, “We had to explain to doctors that if you have a patient that is showing signs and symptoms of tuberculosis and give them this PPD test, that even though they have tuberculosis they might not show a positive response to the test.”

They encouraged the doctors to follow up with an X-ray or a sputum test, where mucus or phlegm is cultured to see if it has tuberculosis in it. They explained that those patients may be part of that 38 percent of the population with the genetic defect.

When T-cells react with candida (a yeast) and mumps, it shows a good response, she said. When you take those same T-cells and interact them with the PPD test, there’s no response.

“That tells us that this is a genetic disorder that is specific to mycobacterium tuberculosis,” she said.

It’s specific to mycobacterium as opposed to that individual being “immuno-suppressed” from something like HIV or another disease that affects the immune system, she said. Their immune cells will react to other things but not the mycobacterium. Immune cells are either stimulated or inhibited by certain chemicals that are released in the body.

These individuals are releasing chemicals that are pushing the immune system in a direction that is not protective against mycobacterium, she said.

Huff said someone translated for her while she was there. She had to go over things to make sure they were grasping the concepts and tried to feel out how they were responding to the information, what knowledge they already had, and what information was new to them.

“From what we understood, the doctors had no knowledge of this genetic problem at all,” she said.

Huff said she had to rephrase a lot of things during her presentation.

“I didn’t want to use a lot of terms because I didn’t know how well they would be translated,” she said.

Huff said the doctors were not really receptive at first.

“It’s one thing to be an undergrad and (and another) being a female standing in front of male doctors where it’s culturally unacceptable for me to be addressing them like that,” she said.

While it took the doctors a few minutes to warm up to her, the presentation ended up going over well, Huff said.

When asked about her overall impression of Cambodia she said, “It really opens your eyes to what the rest of the world is like. ... It made me appreciate a lot of things.

“It wasn’t safe for us to travel to the hospital so the doctors had to come to us,” Huff said. Her group had bodyguards with them at all times, and they had to carry cigarettes on them in case they needed to bribe someone.

“When we left our hotel we weren’t guaranteed anything,” she said. “There’s a lot of things you don’t realize (that) people live without as far as electricity, plumbing, telephones and just a clean place to sit down. But it’s something I would do again.”

PM: Meeting with Tea Banh to ease border tension

(BangkokPost.com) - Prime Minister and Defence Minister Samak Sundaravej said his meeting with Cambodia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Tea Banh on Tuesday afternoon led to a better understanding on the disputed border around Preah Vihear temple.

Mr Samak said there are no problems between Thailand and Cambodia any longer, and both sides agreed to gradually remove all their troops stationed around the ancient temple. The two countries also plan to promote the site as a tourism destination without having soldiers around the area, so they can mutually benefit from it, he added.

Following the discussion on Burma with UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari, the premier said Mr Gambari plans to propose the idea of having a third party to oversee the election in Cambodia at the UN meeting this September.

US plans to pledge funds for KRouge court

Joseph Mussomeli said the US was on the verge of making a decision to fund the tribunal

PHNOM PENH (AFP) — The United States will give its first donation to Cambodia's cash-strapped Khmer Rouge genocide trial as soon as the UN-backed court resolves corruption allegations, the US ambassador said Monday.

The tribunal faces a funding shortfall of more than 40 million dollars. Officials travelled to New York in June to petition UN members for more funds.

"The United States government is right now on the threshold of making its decision to directly fund the tribunal," outgoing Ambassador Joseph Mussomeli told reporters at his farewell press conference at the US embassy.

"I think in Washington now everyone is very much looking forward to finding funding to help directly assist the tribunal if we can just work this last thing out," he said.

The Khmer Rouge tribunal this month launched a new ethics monitor to grapple with ongoing claims of corruption within the court after the UN Development Programme made fresh allegations of kickbacks on the Cambodian side of the court, forcing international donors to withhold funding for July.

International backers have appeared hesitant to pledge more money to the process after earlier allegations of political interference and mismanagement, including that Cambodian staff paid money in exchange for their jobs.

But tribunal officials have said the allegations last year were "unspecific, unsourced and unsubstantiated."

The court is preparing for its first trial against Kaing Guek Eav, better known as "Duch," who ran a notorious torture centre in Phnom Penh.

He is expected in the dock in October, once the court has dealt with the prosecution's appeal of his indictment, which it said failed to present a "full and truthful account" of his crimes.

In all, five top Khmer Rouge leaders are now facing charges before the tribunal for crimes committed by the regime.

Up to two million people died of starvation, overwork and execution as the communist Khmer Rouge dismantled modern Cambodian society in a bid to forge an agrarian utopia during its 1975-1979 rule.

Thailand, Cambodia agrees to develop tourism at disputed Preah Vihear temple

BANGKOK, Aug 25 (TNA) - Thailand and its neighbour Cambodia have agreed to promote tourism at the disputed ancient temple ruins of Preah Vihear, after troops of both countries have been withdrawn, said Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej on Monday.

The agreement was made following a private luncheon and talks at Government House here between Mr. Samak and Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Gen. Tea Banh.

Speaking to journalists after the talks ended, Mr. Samak who is also Defence Minister, said both countries had agreed to solve common border problems and promote areas which could attract tourists.

"Territorial problems which cannot be resolved by now will be left for negotiations later," he said, adding that Cambodia has agreed to redeploy its troops from the temple and a "middleman will be appointed to oversee promoting tourism with an aim to bring back tourists".

"Both countries will benefit as Cambodia would collect the gate fee while Thailand will enjoy other benefits," he said.

"But the temple cannot be opened for tourism now," said Mr. Samak, "as no one (soldiers) must be there."

Monday's agreement to promote tourism at Preah Vihear temple came after Thai Foreign Minister Tej Bunnag and his Cambodian counterpart Hor Namhong on August 19 agreed to adopt a provisional arrangement pending a survey and demarcation of the area to be carried out by the Joint Boundary Commission, expected to be convened in October.

The International Court of Justice ruled in 1962 that Preah Vihear belongs to Cambodia, but the surrounding land remains in dispute.

The Thai-Cambodian border has never been fully demarcated, in part because it is littered with landmines left from decades of war in Cambodia. (TNA)

US ambassador urges ASEAN involvement in Cambodia-Thai border issue

The Earth Times
Mon, 25 Aug 2008
Author : DPA

Phnom Penh - The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) could play a key role in resolving an ongoing border dispute between Cambodia and Thailand, outgoing US ambassador to Cambodia, Joseph Mussomeli said at a press conference Monday. Mussomeli, who is ending a three-year mission, said the US favoured a bilateral solution between the two neighbours over disputed territory on the northern Cambodian border.

"Cambodia and Thailand are neighbours and they will stay with each other forever," he told reporters. "Thailand needs Cambodia and Cambodia needs Thailand.

"But if bilateral negotiations fail, if after every effort you cannot find a solution, it is time to consider the option of the United Nations Security Council."

He also said one step that had been overlooked in the negotiation process which could help ensure the dispute was solved within Asian parameters was the 10-member ASEAN, of which both sides are members.

"That is one thing ASEAN could do to make itself really effective," he said.

Tensions arose last month shortly after UNESCO declared the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple, around 300 kilometres from the capital, a World Heritage site over Thai objections.

Thailand sent troops into what it says is disputed territory near the temple and Cambodia says is sovereign territory.

At the end of July, Cambodia made fresh claims that Thai troops had also moved into the Ta Moan temple complex, 150 kilometres west, but Thailand disputed that, saying it had held the area for years.

Corruption only barrier to US funding of Khmer Rouge court

Top News
Submitted by Mohit Joshi
Mon, 08/25/2008

United Nations

Phnom Penh - The resolution of an ongoing corruption scandal at a joint Cambodian-UN court set up to try former Khmer Rouge leaders was the only barrier to direct US funding of the court, the outgoing US ambassador said at a press conference Monday.

Ambassador Joseph Mussomeli, ending a three-year mission in Cambodia, told reporters at the US embassy that he was convinced the tribunal was on the right track.

"The Khmer Rouge tribunal is making slow progress but it is going in the right direction," he said.

"We want to support and fund the Khmer Rouge tribunal directly, but we cannot until we are convinced it is a real tribunal ... and will give Cambodian people a real chance at justice."

He said an ongoing investigation and controversy over kickbacks for jobs allegations and other irregularities which has dogged the Cambodian side of the court since 2006 was close to resolution.

Earlier this month the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, which currently has five former Khmer Rouge leaders in custody, launched a new ethics' monitor to address complaints.

The UN Development Program has expressed concerns and donors have withheld funding for July worth hundreds of thousands of dollars for Cambodian employees until the matter is sorted out.

The court is expected to hear its first case against former S-21 torture centre chief Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, as early as October. Up to 16,000 people are believed to have died at S-21.

As many as 2 million people died of starvation, overwork, disease, torture and execution under the 1975-79 ultra-Maoist Khmer Rouge regime, but the aged and often-ailing leaders lived freely until the court's indictments began being issued last year. (dpa)

Land Crisis Echoes Pre-Revolution Period

By Pin Sisovann, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
25 August 2008

With land disputes widespread in the provinces, longtime Cambodia observers say the conditions are similar to those of the 1960s that gave rise to the Khmer Rouge, even as they warn against revolution.

Human rights and democracy advocates say Cambodia's current land crisis has signaled an evolution of the country's former revolutionaries into powerful officials similar to those that were toppled in the past.

The mechanisms to solve land disputes, which can include forced evictions, arson and arrest of residents, have failed, with most decisions coming in favor of the wealthy and powerful, said Kek Galabru, president of the rights group Licadho.

Victims of land disputes have little recourse, Kek Galabru said, as evidenced by their pilgrimages to Prime Minister Hun Sen's front door.

"Until now, no measures have come out to readily solve the crisis," she said. "Having no other choice, they come to Phnom Penh, begging for the prime minister's intervention. This can't be the way. We must have a powerful system that can solve the crisis effectively, unlike the National Authority for the Resolution of Land Disputes."

Hun Sen has publicly warned land-grabbing officials, who often have high posts in the government or military, to stop the practice or face a revolution over the land, she said.

"The prime minister has warned about this more often than us," she said.

So far, the landless have maintained non-violent protests, Kek Galabru said, but that may not always be the case.

"If more and more farmers continue to lose their land, continue to face a state of anger and suffering, I'm afraid one day they will lose their patience," she said.

The best way to prevent a violent revolution, she said, is the democratic election of leaders.
The full scope of land grabs in the provinces is not known, but they are pervasive, occurring in every corner of the country.

On a trip to the northeast last year, UN human rights envoy Yash Ghai warned that landlessness could lead to political instability.

Keat Sokun, a leading member of the Human Rights Party, pointed out the land-grabs of the early 1960s were actually smaller than they are now. The land thefts that in part fueled the Khmer Rouge took place in the areas of Ta Moeun and Samlot in Battambang province.

"People suffering from land-grabs are falling into a situation where they have nothing to loose," he said. "They are losing hope, which forces them to resort to whatever means and it could lead to what is called a revolution over the land crisis."

Hun Sen has been unable to stop the land crisis because the causes of it are people surrounding him, and even as he solves one dispute, another takes its place, Keat Sokun said.

"I see that those who grab farmers' land are powerful," he said. "They are not punished, but became senators, lawmakers and powerful officials in government. So these ties make the crisis more serious. Do you think senators who would grab farmers' land would write a law to serve the people's interest?"

Those who had led a revolution in years past were now leading a new feudalism, he said, comparing modern Cambodia to the Western novel, "Animal Farm," by George Orwell.

In that book, a group of barnyard animals overthrow their human owners, only to become mired in an authoritarian power struggle of their own.

"We are not different from it," he said. "They are not only pigs, but others join the pack."

Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said such comparisons were not warranted, as the government had been democratically elected, and that a revolution over the current land crisis was not possible.

Around 420,000 people in a population of 14 million are involved in land conflicts, which was a reflection of economic boom, he said, adding that the government was paying close attention to the issue.

Revolution meant violence and was therefore a poor choice, he said.

"It is not like 'Animal Farm,'" he said. "This is a comment from a dream. What I am worried about is not whether revolutionists have become feudalists, but the cry that 'four legs are good, two legs are bad,' which alleges that the ruling CPP is bad and the consequence is 'ducks and chicken protest.'"

Such criticism by the opposition had become stereotypical and ignored the facts, he said. "Don't take what the opposition says as always right."

Whether Cambodia is traveling on four legs or two, powerful men can turn to personal interest, and the quest for land and property can give rise to feudalism, said Lao Monghay, a senior researcher for the Asian Human Rights Commission.

Even Karl Marx saw this, he said. This is normal for human nature and that is why a country needs checks and balances, between executive, legislative and judiciary bodies.

"It is normal among all nationalities of the world turning from poor to rich and revolutionaries toppling feudalism to become feudalists themselves," he said. "Leaders who abided by Karl Mark’s doctrine to topple capitalists become capitalists themselves."

Few communists don't have a desire to be rich, and a lot of revolutionaries forget their own social class or become feudalists, he said.

To keep themselves in power, they motivate the youth to enjoy happy lives and to forget national problems, he said.

Still, he warned, no matter how serious the land crisis becomes, a violent revolution ending in bloodshed is not the answer.

The democratic selection of leaders is a system honored by countries around the globe, and revolution doesn't necessarily lead to a better regime.

Lao Monghay said he had heard this from one of the country's Khmer Rouge revolutionaries, Nuon Chea, the senior-most surviving leader of the regime.

"I asked him to compare the society that he toppled and present society, to say which is better," Lao Monghay said. "He said it was the society that he toppled. I was shocked with anger to hear that Cambodia toppled a better society for the worse."

Two Cambodians Join Human Rights Forum

By Nuch Sarita, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
25 August 2008

Two Cambodians joined a global forum for the improvement of human rights held in the US earlier this month.

Phearun Kuch, an information technology officer of Friends-International in Phnom Penh, and Haksym Chhay, who is studying for a master's degree in health and social science in Thailand, joined emerging leaders from around the world at the Intergenerational Leadership Program, held at University of Connecticut in August.

The "Global Intergenarational Forum Celebrating 60 years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights" gathered participants from the ages of 18 to 30 to discuss their experiences in working for improved human rights.

"I learned a lot from many well-known guest speakers during the whole forum," Haksym Chhay said. "The topics covered were human rights, peace and reconciliation, leadership, fund raising and millennium development goals. Speakers shared their life experiences on leadership and how they have struggled for the promotion of reconciliation and peace and the respect for human rights and democracy."

Human rights in general and child rights specifically are "global issues," Phearun Kuch said. "I'm not alone in doing my work helping children. Since the 75 participants of the 50 countries are from different backgrounds, I found that social issues like human rights, child rights, gender equity, poverty reduction, HIV/AIDS and education will come into a positive solution.

"Participation in the Forum was based on individual commitment to human rights in any field of interest.

Evictee Rep Gets Three Years for Assault

By Chiep Mony, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
25 August 2008

A former representative of the displaced poor from a Phnom Penh development was sentenced to three years in prison Monday for assault, defamation and forgery, following a dispute with a village chief.

Lor Seiha, 42, was accused of beating village chief Seoung Yiko, 60, as well as forging the names of complainants in the eviction of Dei Krahorm village, in the Chamkarmon district on the Tonle Bassac river.

Lawyers for Lor Seiha said during his hearing, which was held Aug. 14, the letter was a legitimate complaint signed by 33 residents. They also denied Lor Seiha had assaulted the village chief or her daughter.

Phnom Penh Municipal Judge Ka Sakhorn handed down the sentence of three years, starting from the time of his arrest, in July, as well as a fine for 1 million riel, about $250.

The charges stem from Lor Seiha's role as a representative of 970 Dei Krahorm families. In April 2006, the city government ordered 1,465 families to leave Dei Krahorm, to be resettled in Dangkao district, on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. The order was to make way for a development by the 7NG company, but many residents refused to move, leading to disputes between local representatives and the company.

Seoung Yiko claimed in her complaint she and her daughter were attacked by Lor Seiha. She also claimed Lor Seiha defamed her by accusing her of corruption in her dealings with 7NG. Seoung Yiko also claimed Lor Seiha forged a letter opposing the city's eviction plan.

UN Finance Expert Arrives at Tribunal

By Reporters, VOA Khmer
Original reports from Phnom Penh and Washington
25 August 2008

A financial expert for the UN side of the Khmer Rouge tribunal began work in Phnom Penh Monday, as the courts continue to face potential funding problems.

David Tolbert, who was brought into the process by the UN secretary-general to assist with country-to-country fundraising, arrived Sunday and is expected to stay through the week, UN tribunal spokesman Peter Foster said.

"He's here as a result of the UN becoming aware of the additional help and ensuring that the budget presented to donors took into account the experiences from all the other tribunals," Foster said. "With his advice and assistance we will be able to put together the revised budget."

Recent accusations of continued kickbacks on the Cambodian side of the hybrid tribunal has led to a freeze in funding, and a tribunal spokeswoman said Monday that while the Cambodian side can run through the end of 2008, the UN side may only have a budget for a few more months.

"We are quite able to proceed for the next year," the spokeswoman, Helen Jarvis, said. "On the UN side, it's a little bit more difficult. They would expect to run out of funds within the next few months."

Prosecutors for the tribunal, meanwhile, say they are still considering whether to charge additional suspects beyond the five now facing charges of atrocity crimes.

Election Violated Peace Accords: Opposition

By Seng Ratana, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
25 August 2008

Khmer audio aired 25 August (1.05 MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 25 August (1.05 MB) - Listen (MP3)

The Sam Rainsy and Human Rights parties on Monday filed complaints over July's election results with two representative countries of the 1991 Paris Peace Accords.

The ruling Cambodian People's Party and the National Election Committee had violated the Accords and denied Cambodians a democratic election, the parties said Monday in complaints to France and Indonesia.

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy said he wanted the countries to intervene, but he declined to say how. The Accords require democratic elections, and Sam Rainsy said July's election had not been democratic.

The CPP has warned that the parties must participate in a swearing-in ceremony of the new National Assembly, scheduled for Sept. 24, or risk having their seats reallocated among other parites.

Both parties reiterated their plan to boycott that meeting in protest of the election results Monday.

Human Rights Party President Kem Sokha said the 18 national signatories to the Accords had a responsibility to ensure free and fair democratic elections.

"They must not only sign, but they have to follow what happens in Cambodia," he said. "Cambodia is not alone."

Sam Rainsy said more than 20,000 people had thumb-printed a petition claiming they were denied their right to vote in the election.

As many as 800,000 administrative forms had been fraudulently issued during the election, allowing nearly 1 million people to vote who were not eligible under election law, he said.

NEC Secretary-General Tep Nitha said Monday the parties had a right to complain to the international community, but the election body had done what the election law required.
Hang Puthea, executive director of the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, said countries that signed the Peace Accords should issue some kind of response to the complaint, in order to demonstrate their continued roles in free and fair elections in Cambodia.

This is the first time parties have complained using the Accords, he said.

The complaints could cause the National Election Committee to pay more attention to regulations for the next election, he said.

Ties, But Less Censure, as Ambassador Exits

Outgoing US Ambassador Joseph Mussomeli spoke at a ceremony for the repatriation of US soldier remains in March.

By Heng Reaksmey, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
25 August 2008

Khmer audio aired 25 August (1.34 MB) - Download (MP3) Khmer audio aired 25 August (1.34 MB) - Listen (MP3)

Exiting US Ambassador Jospeph Mussomeli said Monday the relationship between Cambodian and the US had improved in recent years, but human rights officials say the warmer ties have come at a cost.

Rights officials said in recent interviews US support of human rights groups has decreased in recent years, eroding freedoms of expression and assembly.

"The relationship between the two countries has markedly improved over the last two years," Mussomeli told reporters at the embassy Monday, on his final day in the country. "I'm hesitant to say that, because I think it still has a long way to go. As many of you have heard me say before, a few years of good relations can't really compensate for decades of misunderstandings and distrust."

The US was sharply criticized in 2007 for closer ties with the national police, after the FBI opened a liaison office in Phnom Penh. Human rights workers said at the time the increased cooperation would make rights work in the country more difficult.

Mussomeli left Cambodia late Monday. He will be replaced by a former political officer at the Cambodia mission, Carol Rodley, later this year.

Rights workers said his tenure saw the end of anti-government positions from the United States.
"US government policy has shown clearly that it used to oppose the government; now it shows clearly that they are pro-government," said Thun Saray, president of the rights group Adhoc.

"They seem to have more cooperation with the government than before. That's why they have less criticism of the government."

Democracy had not decreased under the changed position, but local groups were still hard pressed to champion democracy and rights, said Kem Sokha, president of the Human Rights Party.

"I can see progress of democracy in Cambodia," he said. "The United States should not reduce aid to local NGOs, and they should not undertake more cooperation with the government. They should strengthen more democracy and human rights in Cambodia. They should not give more aid to the government, but should strengthen more [aid] to local NGOs, so the local NGOs can strengthen human rights and democracy in this country."

Mussomeli also said Monday Cambodia's potential production of oil would not have a significant impact on relations between the two countries. He warned, however, that revenue from oil must be used properly in order for Cambodia to benefit.

"The oil could be a very good thing for Cambodia," he said, "because Cambodia is such a poor country and the economy is at such a low level that the oil, if it's used properly, if it is used for the benefit of the Cambodian people, if it's used to build roads and develop the educational system and the health system and things like that… it is an opportunity for Cambodia to really jump-start its country and jump-start the economy."

Thun Saray said the oil represented a small market, and the US government was not much interested in the oil in Cambodia.

GMAC warns unions of strikes, says work stoppages taking toll

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Hor Hab
Monday, 25 August 2008

Mounting costs and production losses caused by striking garment workers could make life worse for the rest of Cambodia’s factories

THE garment industry is losing millions of dollars to an increasing number of strikes, industry officials say, warning that work stoppages could imperil the already troubled textile sector.

On average, a factory loses US$20,000 each time it endures a strike, as productivity plummets but electricity and security costs spike, said Cheat Khemara, a senior labour officer with the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia (GMAC).

One factory where workers have now struck for more than 20 days has lost $1 million.

"When there are more strikes, factories can't produce enough to meet their deadlines, so they have to pay higher transport costs to ship by air," Cheat Khemara said. "If they arrive late, then buyers will pay a lower price or refuse to buy them altogether."

Chea Mony, president of the Kingdom's largest labour group, the Free Trade Union (FTU), said about 88 strikes occurred between January and July of this year.

Forty of these involved the FTU, he said. However, he added, many of the unions that stop work are government-sponsored.

Labour leaders have also complained that factory managers often refuse to negotiate with disgruntled workers, forcing them to strike in order to press home their grievances.

But the unions are too quick to walk out of work, Cheat Khemara said, and lose their negotiating power.

"If unions convince workers to return to the line, they can negotiate for better benefits from their employers," Cheat Khemara said.

"If not, they will convince them to find work in other factories.... Factories that need more workers make promises that they never intend to keep," he said.

Cambodia exported more than $1.6 billion in garments to the United States in the first half of 2008, a 2.2 percent increase over the same period last year, according to the US Department of Commerce.

Dutch firm launches super pump

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Hor Hab
Monday, 25 August 2008

New pump can save one hour per day

THE Netherlands' Ideas at Work (IaW) introduced a new water pump system that will make the lives of rural Cambodians easier, a company representative said.

"This is a pump that really could make a difference in the lives of rural people," said company coordinator Angelique Smit.

IaW unveiled the new Kandal pump during a launch event at its factory in Toul Kok for a group of NGO workers, contractors and local residents, Smit said.

The pump technology - previously used in Nicaragua and Nigeria and recognised in the World Bank's Development Marketplace Competition in 2006 - has been endorsed by Cambodia's Ministry of Rural Development, Smit said.

At a cost of US$40, the Kandal is cheaper than previous pumps sold by the company in Cambodia.

An earlier pump model, called the Rovai, was introduced in 2005. Similar to the Kandal, the Rovai included a water-quality tester and water filter but sold for $130, the company's business coordinator, Huy Dara said.

IaW has sold 940 Rovai pumps in the provinces of Battambang, Ratanakkiri, Kampong Thom and Kampong Speu, he added.

The Rovai pumps can draw 40-50 litres of water per minute, far more than conventional pumps, and can deliver cleaner water in a shorter amount of time, according to the company. The basic Rovai pump models reach a depth of eight metres but can go as deep as 30 metres depending on the location, Huy Dara said, adding that they can be installed in under two hours.

Palm wine producer sees profits double on high foreign demand

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Hor Hab
Monday, 25 August 2008

CAMBODIA'S largest palm wine producer, Confirel, expects to earn US$500,000 this year, up from $250,000 in 2007, said Hay Ly Aun, general manager of Confirel Co Ltd.

The company exported between 4,000 and 5,000 bottles of wine to the European Union in 2007.

"We are able to produce 20,000 litres of palm wine a year from palm juice," said Ol Tola, vice president of operations.

The locally-made alcoholic drink is increasingly popular abroad, but suppliers say stiff taxes are limiting the company's growth prospects outside of Cambodia.

"We don't expect to export more to the EU because they have introduced new taxes on alcohol products, so it is hard for us. We are now selling our products to the local market, especially tourists," Hay Ly Aun said.

The company urged the government to support the industry's efforts to export."

If the government does not help us, how can local and international markets know our products and our identity? We need a lot of money to advertise," Hay Ly Aun said.

"We are trying expand abroad, but we are not getting any help from the government and the Cambodian embassies. But if the government helps us, we can [expand] very fast," Hay Ly Aun said.

Sweet palm juice is supplied by 300 families in five communities in Kampong Speu and Kandal provinces, said Ol Tola.

But the Ministry of Commerce said palm wine is not a priority for the Cambodian government. "Palm wine is not a product we are encouraging for export because it is a small industry.... We are helping to upgrade the quality of palm sugar," said Mao Thora, undersecretary of state at the Commerce Ministry.

Confirel said it exported over 20 tonnes of sugar in 2007, and hopes to export 30 tonnes in 2008, Hay Ly Aun said.

But a local restaurant said that palm wine cannot compete with higher quality foreign beverages.

"I used to sell palm wine, but I stopped selling it about two years ago because customers don't like drinking palm wine," an employee at K-West restaurant told the Post.

There roughly three million palm trees in Cambodia supporting the palm sugar industry.

Inflation tops 25pc in first half of year; growth to slow

Rick valenzuela Roth Ven fills a jerry can with oil outside a garage on Sothearos Boulevard, across from the site of the multipurpose International Finance Centre, on Sunday. New building projects have fuelled strong economic growth but Cambodia remains plagued by record high inflation.


The Phnom Penh Post

Written by NGUON SOVAN AND KAY KIMSONG
Monday, 25 August 2008

Foreign interest in Cambodia’s economy remains strong, but the National Bank is working to cool lending for big projects, enhance microfinance

INFLATION rocketed to more than 25 percent in the first half of the year, driven by unprecedented lending and higher investment, as well as rising global commodities prices, according to the National Bank of Cambodia (NBC).

The bank's biannual report, released on August 14, also projected economic growth would slow to 7.2 percent this year as declines in the garment and construction industries are expected to overshadow the continued rise in tourism.

At the end of the June, gross foreign reserves rose to US$2.2 billion - a 24 percent increase since the beginning of the year and a 62 percent rise over the first half of 2007. Commercial bank deposits held at the NBC, a component of international reserves, rose by $141 million, the report said.

"International investors see political stability and economic growth. Development has been tremendous within the past decade," NBC Director General Chea Chanto told the Post in an earlier interview.

The downside of robust foreign direct investment, however, was a 25.1 percent inflation rate over the year's first half, a dramatic increase from 6.0 percent and 9.7 percent in the first and second halves of 2007, respectively, as reported by the bank.

Loans to the private sector by banks and other financial institutions were 83 percent higher in the first half compared with the same period last year. In response, the NBC raised capital reserve requirements in June from 8-16 percent to battle inflation by tightening credit and money supplies and to give banks a hedge against risk.

"The NBC is well aware of the challenges that private sector growth and foreign investment could pose for the stability of the banking sector.... We have observed demand pressure led by increased capital inflows and a resultant sharp credit growth that has contributed to excess liquidity. The new measure on reserve requirements attempts to mop up excess liquidity and ... ease the demand pressure on inflation," Chea Chanto said.

He said that, in the wake of recent spikes in bank lending, "particular efforts are being applied to monitoring the credit risk assessment of banks to ensure that banks are correctly grading loans and making sufficient provisions".

'A global problem'

The report also attributed high inflation rates to rising global costs of commodities and oil.

"This matter is a global problem. The price of crude oil, food prices and the low value of the dollar have all contributed to inflation. Cambodia - as a small, open economy and a price taker - has been very much affected by such developments," Chea Chanto said.

Gross customer deposits were 26 percent higher in the first half of this year compared with the same period last year, and the total number of deposit accounts increased from 456,026 in 2007 to 639,522 accounts as of June 2008.

The riel remained stable in the first half, fluctuating between 4,001 riels and 4,124 riels to the US dollar, according the NBC's tabs. The report also said rural finance in Cambodia continued to expand in size and scope and has played a critical role in the development of agriculture, as well as small and medium enterprises.

" Development has been tremendous within the past decade. "

Microfinance institutions and registered rural credit operators issued loans to 673,725 customers totaling $212 million in the first half, a dollar increase of 73 percent over the same period last year, according to the NBC.

Deposits with microfinance institutions rose 31 percent over the same period last year to $5.7 million. "Currently, the NBC is enhancing the framework for microfinance institutions to accept deposits," Chea Chanto said.

Chea Chanto told the Post that countrywide access to the formal banking and finance sector was a priority for the bank, in order to protect rural people from being "cheated ... in the countryside with high interest rates from informal money lenders".

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY BRENDAN BRADY

US diplomat gets his final say

HENG CHIVOAN US Ambassador Joseph Mussomeli at the National Museum for an official ceremony on August 18.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Roger Mitton
Monday, 25 August 2008

Outgoing US Ambassador Joseph Mussomeli finds Cambodia 'mesmerising' but says much still needs to be done to bring good governance to the Kingdom

During your time here, you've often met Prime Minister Hun Sen. What's your impression of him?
He's smart. He's down to earth. You can talk bluntly with him, as long as you are not obnoxious. We've disagreed quite forcefully on several things, but it's OK. I think perhaps like other prime ministers and presidents and even ambassadors, he doesn't always get all the information he needs - bad news especially is held back and that's not good. But we get along very well on a personal level. His sense of humour is almost as terrible as mine. He does have a strong emotional streak, but lots of people do. So, yeah, I like him.

He is the region's longest-serving elected leader and says he'll stay on as long as people want him. Some even think his son, Hun Manet, will take over after him. Does that worry you?
Not necessarily because of Hun Manet - you know, there are some good historical, even Asian examples of next-generation leaders who really carry out the reforms that the older generation shied away from. And most of the next generation here, whether you are talking about the PM's son or the DPM's or anyone else's, are Western-educated. So there are all sorts of possibilities. But, yes, it's true that you don't know if you have a real democracy until you have a peaceful transfer of power.

So we don't know if there's real democracy here, and many disagree with your view that last month's election was the freest ever held in Cambodia. How do you respond?
It was a flawed election. Nobody says otherwise. We were careful not to say it was free and fair. We just said it was the best so far. And the best so far doesn't mean it's good enough. But we don't think it's productive to keep harping on the fact that it's not good enough. After all, there were some really good things about this election. The lack of violence for the most part. The greater access to the media, although completely inadequate still.

The CPP would have won the election anyway, even if there had been equal access to the media [for the opposition], but I think the numbers would have been considerably different. They would still have had an absolute majority, but that isn't what they wanted. So they don't get a passing grade on media access. It still needs more openness.... I always say that modern Cambodia is only a 15-year old country. Give it some time. It's still an adolescent. It's still developing. And it is very special.

After the war, with the help of the United Nations, it did resurrect itself. And we, as members of the UN, have a stake in its future.
Where do we go from here, now that the CPP has a healthy majority?
Well, they are in charge of everything now. There are two upsides to that. First, if things go well, the CPP gets most of the credit. But if things go wrong, whether on human rights or economically or whatever, it's their fault. There's no one else to blame now.

The second upside is that it could help stop some of the corruption. Now you have a majority on your own; you don't have to give things to people to get them to join a coalition government. You don't have to play fast and loose so much in order to stay in power.

The downside, however, is even more obvious. Nobody in their right mind wants any party, in any country, whether it's America or England or wherever, to be too powerful. It just goes against our democratic instincts. We don't trust people with power. It can make them too hubristic, too arrogant, too confident. And that can cause trouble.

Will the opposition help curb that potential for trouble?
The opposition is committed and determined. Sam Rainsy in particular is a very smart man. He has many good ideas. And he's also clearly a very patient and resilient man, which is good. But I don't know what the future will bring. There's a whole new generation waiting out there, and they will be so different from their fathers and grandfathers.

We really have a bifurcated country here. We have those who suffered through the genocide of the civil war and the foreign invasions. And we have this new generation, more than 50 percent of the population, who don't know any of that. So it's going to be an interesting place for the next 10 to 20 years.

Over that time, do you think the Cambodian economy will continue to do well?
It has some vulnerabilities, but then people have long said that. When I first arrived here three years ago, they said it was going to be a mess - that the garment industry was going to collapse, tourism was going to be saturated and agriculture was destined to have a bad crop. None of that has happened yet. Of course, I'm still worried about all those things, but for now, it isn't going too badly. If we could expand and diversify the economy, it would do even better.

Diversifying the economy seems to have been a dream for a long time.
Well, we now have a window of opportunity because Cambodia is stable enough to be rediscovered, at least for Americans, and to generate more interest in business. Now that Vietnam and Thailand are getting more expensive and are more difficult to work with sometimes, this country is becoming very tempting. And it has good potential because Cambodians themselves make it more attractive. They all want to speak English. They have no sense of xenophobia that you find to the east and west. It's a pleasant place for business.

So you encourage American businessmen to come here?
Yes. Of course, there will be a very frank talk about corruption and how to avoid it. And about engaging early on with the highest levels of government in case you run into trouble. Because the last thing the government here wants is complaints from American business and the American government that there is extortion or blackmail.

Is the corruption situation improving?
I wouldn't say it's improving, that's too pollyanna-ish. I think the government has the political desire to tackle corruption, but I'm not sure they have the political will. They know that it is bad and that they aren't going to be able to take this country where they want to take it with this amount of corruption. But actually dealing with it, on a practical basis, is much harder.

Why is that?
Well, you don't really have a rule of law here. So when you say corruption, you almost miss the mark. It's really a culture of individuals with power and money, rather than a culture of law. And that's what makes any sane businessman nervous. What you want is an independent judiciary that understands contracts and enforces things. And you don't even have that for the most part.

The culture of impunity is still too deeply embedded. The atmosphere is better now and people feel more relaxed and there's a more normal society developing, but I wish I could have pushed that along more. When I talk about this, I always tell the Cambodians that we put around 600 US government officials in jail every year for corruption. It reminds me that we also have a corrupt society and that we are doing the right thing about it. We're putting them in jail. There's no shame in admitting corruption; the shame is in denying it and not doing something about it.

How are US-Cambodia relations?

Getting better. After 50 years of misunderstanding and suspicion, we're laying a foundation for a healthy, normal, multifaceted relationship. The Cambodians are incredibly helpful on issues that matter to us. On counterterrorism, nobody tries harder than the Cambodians. And on counternarcotics, health issues, the return of remains from the Vietnam era and so on, they're a model for much of the region.

It is nice that we have had tangible progress. And it is good that we can talk openly and frankly with this government and this people and not be so misunderstood as in the past. But it would be foolish to be too optimistic because the underlying suspicions and distrust are still there. It's going to take at least another 10 years of commitment and focus from both sides for it to be a really good relationship.

Hun Sen has never visited Washington, and no American president has ever visited Cambodia. Why?
You're right. One of the things that is really missing in the relationship is bilateral engagement. While it's good to have ship visits, which we got for the first time since the war, and to have the Peace Corps here, and to have a trade and investment framework agreement and so on, Cambodia really wants more recognition from the United States.

High-level delegations, not necessarily a presidential visit here, but maybe a visit the other way to Washington, that would do well. We've never had a high-level visit, although we may soon get Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte.

On a person level, have you enjoyed your time here?
Very much. Even if I had not been ambassador, this would have been my favourite tour. Cambodia is so different and so mesmerising - the people, the culture, the country. It is just very special. I've travelled to all the provinces, and I have a map in my office with all the flags in it showing where I've been. I'm leaving it for my successor [Carole Rodley] so she'll be jealous.

So you will leave feeling pretty positive about this place?
Yes. Cambodia has the potential to be a different Asian country. It was so broken, and it then got such a commitment from other countries that it could remold and resurrect itself - so that it's still very Asian and at the same time more open and pluralistic and tolerant and Western-focused than Vietnam or Thailand or any of the others could ever be.

Interview by Roger Mitton

Moving past the pain, victims help others cope with acid attacks

HENG CHIVOAN; Acid-attack survivors Em Hang (L) and Doeb Da were both unintended victims.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chhay Channyda
Monday, 25 August 2008

Survivors of acid attacks, a hideously disfiguring crime that leaves lasting physical and emotional scars, have struggled to overcome depression by working with other acid victims

LIFE has been cruel to Em Hang. Before contracting Aids from her now-deceased husband, she was the victim of an acid attack - as a bystander who was splashed with the corrosive liquid while trying to help the victim. But like many other survivors of acid attacks, the 34-year-old has had to learn to keep going.

"My life is full of bitter memories, like of family members who said I stole someone's husband," she said. "But I will live just to see my daughter have a good future."

The widow and mother from Kampong Thom province recalled how she was an innocent victim of the attack, in which a jealous woman got angry with her husband and poured acid on him. Em Hang went to help, but the wind blew the liquid on her face.

"Everyone said that I was involved with the love affair," she said. "But I was not."

Keeping her whole head covered, except her right eye, Em Hang told the Post that she came for treatment at a hospital in Phnom Penh and was then referred to the Cambodian Acid Survivors Charity in 2002.
_________________
" MANY SURVIVORS ARE ANXIOUS AND DEPRESSED... THEY HATE THEMSELVES. "
_________________

"It has not been easy, with this life, to live until today. I attempted to kill my self several times, as my beauty was gone," she said. "Since acid burned my face, I went out covering my face and head. No one could see my face."

In 2005, she married her second husband in Phnom Penh, but did not know that he was HIV-positive. Her husband died in 2006, and she learned he had transmitted the disease to her.

"I lost my beauty and carried Aids at the same time," she said.

"I am afraid of death now, but I must survive.

"Em Hang is now an assistant to the medical staff at the Children's Surgical Center, which is the sister organisation to the Cambodian Acid Survivors Charity (CASC).

Help others to help yourself

Doeb Da, 19, and Mom Silin, 27, are also survivors of acid violence who turned to CASC in an attempt to forget their own troubles and try to help others in similar circumstances.

They both said that being burned with acid has emotionally and physically devastated them.

"It is a cruel act to take revenge with acid," said Doeb Da. "I want all perpetrators to stand trial.

"My mother died after an acid attack in 2002 when a lady got jealous about her husband," he said. "My mother did not love [this other lady's husband]. She was just a good neighbour."

For Mom Silin, the acid attack robbed him of a bright future as he lost the sight in his left eye and had to give up his studies.

"I really want to continue my studies" he said.

"Now I have a new life at CASC, and I have to struggle and forget the past," he added. "I'm not depressed at all right now. I've gained confidence and continue to live."

A report by the Cambodian rights group Licadho, Living in the Shadows: Acid Attacks in Cambodia, said that almost 30 percent of victims are not intended targets of acid attacks, but are injured by chance.

The report highlights the fact that such attacks are usually calculated and attackers, who were more commonly male, tended to pick their weapon with the conscious aim of permanently disfiguring their victims.

Many survivors describe it as a crime worse than murder, as their psychological scars made life very difficult to bear.

Nora Lindstrom, project manager for CASC, told the Post that the lasting emotional effects of acid attacks were more like a form of torture.

"Many survivors are anxious, depressed, scared. They feel revenge of other people. They hate themselves because it affects them physically. Their sense of self is gone. It is a long journey for them to get self-esteem and confidence back."

She explained that most acid attacks in Cambodia are motivated by an irrational suspicion over extramarital affairs, as well as jealousy and personal disputes.

The majority of perpetrators have never been sent to trial, she added.

Extent of attacks unknown

Treatment for acid attacks is expensive. While those who can afford it travel to neighbouring countries such as Vietnam, most survivors come from a poor background are left helpless.

"We can't get a figure on the number of acid attack each year as there is no report from hospitals or other clinics," she said, adding that right now "there are 195 survivors registered with CASC", which is the only organisation dealing exclusively with acid burns and acid attacks.

She explained that the goal of the organisation is to integrate survivors back into society. "We try to support them, to empower them to become members of society again."

Acid violence is not unique to Cambodia. Attacks occur all over the world, though predominantly in developing countries where acid is relatively cheap and more available.

Independence day

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chhay Channyda
Monday, 25 August 2008

Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema said that this year's Independence Day celebrations on November 9 will be marked with a march involving thousands of citizens and representatives from government ministries. "The march shows that Cambodia is in progress and peace. It represents people's solidarity," he said. CHHAY CHANNYDA

Japan grant to aid development

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Nguon Sovan
Monday, 25 August 2008

Japan has agreed to grant US$228,639 to local authorities and NGOs to aid community development projects in a meeting between Japanese Ambassador Shinohara Katsuhiro and the representatives from the recipient organisations at the Embassy of Japan. Japan will donate $56,600 to the Women's and Children's Rights Development Organisation to renovate a primary school and extend community participation in Kratie. Another $172,039 will be donated to the Department of Education, Youth and Sport to purchase secondhand school equipment for 11 primary schools in Phnom Penh and Prey Veng province.

Villagers reclaim fenced sidewalk

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chhay Channyda
Monday, 25 August 2008

At least 17 families in the Russey Keo district have reclaimed their sidewalk after intervention from district officials. Deputy District Governor Kob Sles said that the families complained to Russey Keo District officials that a rich man built fences over a public sidewalk near their homes. Municipal Court on Friday issued a warrant to tear down the fence.

US funding announced

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by CAMILLA BJERREKAER
Monday, 25 August 2008

Foreign Minister Hor Namhong and USAID Mission Director Erin Soto will sign off on US$34.3 million in 2008 funding from the US government development agency. The first agreement will provide $32.2 million for health projects. The second provides more than $2 million for Cambodia’s education initiatives.

Aeroplane skids off runway

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by KAY KIMSONG AND PETER OLSZEWSKI
Monday, 25 August 2008

A Jetstar Airbus A320 slid off the runway Thursday at 7am at Siem Reap airport, said Khek Norinda, spokesman for Societe Concessionnaire de l’Aeroport (SCA). The plane was carrying 139 passengers and six crew. After touchdown, the plane travelled 400m before veering off the runway. “Passengers did not seem to realise the incident and no injuries,” Khek Norinda wrote. Civil Aviation officials will investigate the circumstances of the incident and JetStar engineers had been dispatched to replace two damaged tyres.

KRT judges regret appeal delays

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by GEORGIA WILKINS
Monday, 25 August 2008

Khmer Rouge tribunal judges have expressed regret at the decision to appeal the indictment of S-21 prison chief Kaing Guek Eav (Duch), saying that it will delay his trial, which was expected to begin in late September. The co-investigating judges “remain determined to do their utmost to ensure that justice is rendered to the Cambodian people as speedily as possible”, they said in a statement Friday. The appeal was filed Thursday by co-prosecutors who said the charges were not broad enough.

KRT judges regret appeal delays

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by GEORGIA WILKINS
Monday, 25 August 2008

Khmer Rouge tribunal judges have expressed regret at the decision to appeal the indictment of S-21 prison chief Kaing Guek Eav (Duch), saying that it will delay his trial, which was expected to begin in late September. The co-investigating judges “remain determined to do their utmost to ensure that justice is rendered to the Cambodian people as speedily as possible”, they said in a statement Friday. The appeal was filed Thursday by co-prosecutors who said the charges were not broad enough.

MEDIA SCRUM: American journalist condemned

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Vong Sokheng
Monday, 25 August 2008

A government spokesman has expressed his disappointment with an American journalist who wrote an article linking the family of Prime Minister Hun Sen with corruption and the mafia. Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith told reporters Sunday that the article, "The World Leader in Corruption Is - Cambodia", was anti-government and was condescending to Cambodia. The author, Joel Brinkley, who first came to Cambodia to cover the fall of the Pol Pot regime and whose stories won the Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting in 1980, said he can appreciate that the government is unhappy with his column but that he stands by his article. "I have been a journalist for 32 years, 23 of them at The New York Times, and I have a fair understanding of my profession's rules and standards."

Police doubling traffic fines for violators who ask for a receipt

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by May Titthara
Monday, 25 August 2008

TRAFFIC police enforcing the new traffic law are countering motorists' demands for official tickets with heftier fines for those demanding receipts.

Informal fines have long been a reality on Phnom Penh's roads, but armed with the new traffic regulations, police have been demanding more money in recent months. Local motorists are increasingly hesitant to cough up the dough without a fight, telling cops to produce a formal ticket.

"But if we ask for a ticket, they double the fine. They want to make it difficult for us because a ticket makes it harder for them to pocket the money," said Mey Rachna, a student at the National University of Management.

"They refuse to write us a proper ticket because it's not a real fine. I always see them in the evenings sharing the money they've gotten," said Vantha, a local NGO employee.

Many commuters see the new traffic law's stipulation that all motorbikes have rearview mirrors as adding to the problem by giving traffic police a new excuse to pull them over. Sok Khen, a traffic policeman on Monivong Boulevard, said traffic police are focusing on mirror violations because there had been an increase in road accidents. "For this violation, we punish them with a 4,000 riel fine, or 2,000 riels if they don't need a receipt," he said, but declined to elaborate why a receipt cost more.

Tin Prasoer, chief of Phnom Penh's traffic police, said authorities are required by law to give receipts when they fine motorists, adding that police who charge extra would be punished. "The official fine for a mirror infraction is 4,000 riels, and this money is supposed to go to the Ministry of Economy and Finance," he said.

Plans under way for PPenh airport park

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chhay Channyda
Monday, 25 August 2008

MUNICIPAL officials have said that City Hall plans to create a new park near the Phnom Penh International Airport to increase green spaces in the capital.

Governor Kep Chuktema told the Post that he is on a mission to beautify Phnom Penh in order to make it a better place to live and to visit.

"We are currently preparing the land to make a beautiful park. However, it is airport land, so we must discuss our plan with the airport first."

The governor added that, if possible, construction on the park would start early next year. He said he does not know how much land or money would be needed for the project.

"The airport is happy about the idea and wants to contribute money to the project," he added.

So Samoth of the Municipal Public Works Department confirmed that the city is planning to build a park at the airport. "We are currently doing the groundwork for the project," he said.

Khem Sophorn, an undersecretary at the Secretariat for Civil Aviation (SCA), said that aviation officials have had three or four meetings with City Hall officials about plans for the park, but added: "While having a park near the airport is a very attractive idea, airport security and runway expansion is our priority."

A source from Societe Concessionnaire de l'Aeroport said that he was not aware of any plans to create a park near the airport.

Adhoc seeks govt help on land seizure

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chhay Channyda
Monday, 25 August 2008

LOCAL rights group Adhoc has asked the central government to cooperate in solving several land-grab complaints in Ratanakkiri after the provincial government refused to accept a petition filed by ethnic minorities over the clearing of their forest.

Adhoc sent a letter to Interior Minister Sar Kheng on Friday asking for his help after a protest by 50 villagers outside the Ratanakkiri provincial offices two days earlier failed to produce results.

O'Chum District Governor Moung Poy said he would not accept the villagers's complaint over land clearing in the district by an area businessman because it should have been first filed with lower-ranking officials.

"Human rights issues involving land grabbing are nearly always related to powerful and rich people so local authorities usually ignore the problem," said Adhoc's Ratanakkiri coordinator, Pen Bonna.

________________
" LOCAL AUTHORITIES USUALLY IGNORE THE PROBLEM. "
________________

"The governor asked the villagers to file the complaint at the commune level instead," he added.

Provincial Governor Bou Lam reiterated that the villagers should bring their complaints to the local authorities first.

"If we do not solve the problem, then they can complain to Adhoc," Bou Lam said.

"We are still waiting for their complaints."

Ethnic minorities , who have little by way of property titles, are especially vulnerable to land grabs.

Prosecutor: Kidnap probe hit back log

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chrann Chamroeun
Monday, 25 August 2008

STATE prosecutor Mey Sokhorn promised Sunday to investigate the alleged kidnapping of a Ratanakkiri teenager who claims she was confined on her abductor's farm for two months, denying media reports that he was ignoring the case.

He acknowledged that he had received the complaint from the 17-year-old girl's parents last week, but that a large backlog was keeping him from immediately dealing with it.

"I received a complaint from her parents on August 18, but I have many cases, and I will take action to solve this case soon," Mey Sokhorn said.

The alleged victim, Klan Chhoeu, said she was kidnapped in June by a man posing as a mototaxi driver and held hostage on his farm until she managed to escape to a nearby hospital on August 14.

Klan Chhoeu's father, Sol Njong, said he has filed complaints detailing the confinement and attempted rape of his daughter by the manager of the farm and Keo Bun Sorn, the local policeman who owns the land.

Keo Bun Sorn said he was not aware of the girl's presence on the land. "I don't know anything about a minority girl who worked on the farmland because I only visit every three months," he told the Post.

But Klan Chhoeu said she met Keo Bun Sorn twice. "He asked me who I was and where I came from," she said.

Kea Chhay, a lawyer for the Mohanokor law group, said that the accusations were serious. "Anyone confining a person for more than a month will be imprisoned from 15 to 20 years according to the criminal law," he said.