Sunday, 11 January 2009

2008: 73 Factories Closed and 64 Opened - 20,000 Workers Were Dismissed and 10,000 Found New Work

Posted on 11 January 2009
The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 594

“In Cambodia 73 factories were closed in 2008, making nearly 25,000 workers unemployed. But 64 new factories opened, absorbing 10,000 new workers. The export of garments to international markets declined by 2%, which has created general concern. Difficulties will last 3 to 6 months further, but officials said that there will be no serious effects on the garment sector.

“The president of the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia [GMAC - the web link has, under "Members" a detailed database with information about all GMAC members], Mr. Van Sou Ieng, said in a press conference in the evening of 7 January 2008 at the Hotel Le Royal, that more than 60 garment factories closed in 2008, causing around 25,000 workers to loose their employment. The export of garments to international markets dropped by 2%, while before, he expected that it would drop by between 5% and 7%. Therefore, the global financial crisis affected this sector very little. He added that Cambodia might face difficulties from 3 to 6 months, and in 2010, we can hope again. In every of the previous years, this sector grew by 15% to 20%.

“A secretary of state of the Ministry of Labor and Vocation Training, Mr. Oum Mean, reported to Kampuchea Thmey on 9 January 2009 that 73 factories closed and 24,397 workers had lost their work. However, in the same year, 64 new factories had opened, absorbing 13,000 workers by now. The number of workers might further increase, because newly opened companies are in the suburbs. Thus, recently unemployed workers will continue to work at new factories, and most of them have skills because of several years of experience. Some workers go to work for factories in special zones located near their home villages or towns, like in Svay Rieng and in other areas.

“There are different number given, because some of the closed factories were not among the members of the GMAC.

“Mr. Oum Mean went on to say that more than 20,000 workers will find jobs in new factories. While the world faces a financial crisis which affects big countries, such as the Untied State of America and Europe, Cambodia is also affected, because those big countries are garment importing countries from Cambodia. While citizens of those countries meet difficulties, they will cut down their expenses, and this affects the buying orders, ‘but we are not strongly affected, because the Cambodian economy depends on agriculture as the basis – even though before, the prices of fuel had increased and the prices of goods followed the market prices and general needs.’

“Coming from the ministry in charge of observing working condition, Mr. Oum Mean said, as the world faces a financial crisis causing common effects, that Cambodia, which exports garments to international markets, is also concerned, including the Royal Government, workers, and employers. ‘We have to join efforts and be patient, so that our factories remain stable and develop, because many countries recognize that the working conditions in Cambodia are acceptable according to international standards. When we export our goods with the labeled “Made in Cambodia,” both Europe and the United States of America always agree to buy them, since they know that these goods have quality, and our workers get enough benefits. We have to continue maintaining this reputation well.’

“He did not prohibit to have protests or demands by workers, but before doing something, they must be wise to avoid to act inappropriately affecting the fate of all, because when factories close, also employers loose, though they are owners, since the factory is a rice pot for all.

“Regarding the above problems, the president of the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia, Mr. Chea Mony, mentioned some numbers in the morning of 9 January 2009, that in 2008, there were 27,000 workers who lost their work, and 26 factories closed.
“However, in 2008, all together 37 factories closed, but it was not because they were bankrupt - but it was because they relocate their factories to new locations in the suburbs, and they just changed their factory names. Another reason was that some factories lost their money in speculation. Also, because of the global financial crisis, some factories that were affected were run by Korean owners, such as the Woosu CNS Factory, the Chantechay Factory [phonetic] which suspended their work, also the Cambohenshare Factory [phonetic - 'Cambo Hansae'?] suspended its work, and also the Tay Factory [phonetic]. Some factories suspend their work for 2 or 3 months; so workers will not wait and go to work at other factories.

“Mr. Chea Mony added that while workers face unemployment, ‘we will help them according to the law. When factories close, they have to settle final payments for their workers according to the law. … The government is also responsible to solve problems of unemployment of workers. Some workers turn to find jobs in Thailand, but we help workers, according to the law, in order to help them to stay in Cambodia.’

“Mr. Van Sou Ieng said after the end of the 26th council plenary session of the ASEAN Federation of Textile Industries on 7 January 2009, that buyer orders will be finished by February and March 2009, and there is no buying order for May and June 2009. Buyers offer only US$3 for 1 shirt while before, they offered US$4. Big companies agreed to loose US$2 or US$3, but from May to June buyers must offer US$4 again. As for small factories, they might close, because they cannot stand the loss.

“Mr. Chea Mony agreed with Mr. Van Sou Ieng, who said that big companies are less affected while small factories are more seriously affected, because they produce their garments for big factories. But he did not agreed with what Mr. Van Sou Ieng said, that the buyers from international markets are lowering their price offers; this would be impossible, because each buying contract contains clear agreements. Mr. Chea Mony asked Prime Minister Hun Sen to kindly take action with officials of relevant ministries regarding corruption which affects the garment sector. He asked also the head of the Royal Government to reduce the prices of goods at the markets, which affect the living standard of workers who earn small salaries.

“The president of the Cambodia Workers Labor Federation of Trade Union Mr. Vong Sovann, expressed his concern in the morning of 9 January, that some factories were closed for good, and buying orders dropped in 2008. Bur only small factories having 200 or 300 workers were closed. Some factories closed in the city but opened in the suburbs, and some new factories do not have enough workers.

“Mr. Vong Sovann added that his union will provide more broad educational information about the economy for workers, so that they understand the present economic situation, and what causes demonstrations and strikes. ‘We will try to explain to workers to be patient and to solve problems through negotiations. As a result, in late 2008, demonstrations and strikes declined, which showed that workers became more knowledgeable.’

“The president of the Cambodia Labor Union Federation, Mr. Som Oun, said in the morning of 9 January 2009 that 64 new factories had opened and 73 factories had closed, including factories sub-contracted by bigger factories, and some of the factories do handicraft work. There were only around 20 factories [of those closed?] exporting garments by themselves. The number from GMAC and the numbers from the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training are not in line with each other, and GMAC did not give a number of new factories. The number of factories closed was comparable to 2007. Workers loosing their employment go to work for other factories; therefore, the number of unemployed workers was not so high. Some unemployed workers of some factories returned to their homes to help harvest paddy rice.

“Mr. Som Oun said that some factories do not have enough workers. Obviously, a shoe factory in Kandal’s Ang Snuol district asked him to help recruit up to 2,000 workers, because this factory added another big building, and now the workers have to eat their meals in the factory. Therefore, he did not worry that workers are unemployed, ‘We still have buying orders from the United States of America and from Europe, because, according to the International Labor Organization, Cambodia is the country in the region which best respects working conditions. Buyers from the United States of America wait until the new president takes his position in the middle of this month, then they will continue buying.’”

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.17, #4791, 10.1.2009
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Saturday, 10 January 2009

Japan gives $21 million more to Khmer Rouge trial

Former Khmer Rouge S-21 prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, sits in a courtroom during a pre-trial in Phnom Penh December 5, 2008.(Tang Chhinsothy/Pool/Reuters)

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) – Japan gave another $21 million to Cambodia's Khmer Rouge tribunal Sunday and called on regional rival China to contribute as well despite Beijing's backing for Pol Pot's "Killing Fields" regime.

"The donor community as a whole should contribute to these kind of activities, including China," foreign ministry spokesman Takeshi Akamatsu told reporters in Phnom Penh after Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone met Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Tokyo's latest contribution doubles its overall funding to the court, which has indicted five of Pol Pot's top surviving henchmen on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

It also takes funding for the $143 million trial budget to above $100 million.

The Khmer Rouge are blamed for the deaths of 1.7 million people in their 1975-79 reign of terror. Many of their victims were tortured and executed. The rest died of disease, starvation or exhaustion.

Beijing, a major donor and investor in Cambodia, has pledged no money to the court, but has taken no active steps to block the trial.

(Reporting by Ek Madra; Editing by Ed Cropley and Dean Yates)

PM Abhisit: Cambodia won't raise temple dispute at ASEAN summit

MCOT English News

BANGKOK, Jan 11 (TNA) – Reassuring the Thai public that Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen will attend the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit next month, Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said he believed his Khmer counterpart will not raise the as yet unresolved Preah Vihear temple dispute at the regional meeting.

ASEAN members think of group spirit first, Mr. Abhisit said, adding that there was nothing given in exchange for confirming Premier Hun Sen's presence at the ASEAN summit to be held in Thailand's Hua Hin resort February 27-March 1.

Disputes are bound to occur when countries share a border, Mr, Abhisit said, but bilateral problems which could spoil ASEAN's mutual work will not be brought up.

"This principle has already been agreed and is implemented under the framework of the year 2000 memorandum of understanding," he said, adding that he would seek Cabinet approval so that the mechanism could continue functioning.

Responding to reports that Cambodian workers are now building a road leading to Preah Vihear temple, Mr. Abhisit said he had received the information and the issue needed to be discussed because the agreement clearly indicated that both countries must not change the environment in ways which could affect the border delineation.

Thailand had in the past protested to Cambodia several times and a new protest will have to be submitted in this case, Mr. Abhisit said.

Tensions between the two neighbours flared last July when the ancient Preah Vihear was awarded UN World Heritage status. The foreign ministers of the two countries also agreed in the same month to find a peaceful end to the diplomatic and military spat, centring on 1.8 square miles (4.6 sq. km.) of scrub near the temple.

Although the World Court ruled in 1962 that the historic Hindu temple belonged to Cambodia, the most accessible entrance is in Thailand's northeastern province of Si Sa Ket. (TNA)

Striking the Brothels’ Bottom Line

Nicholas D. Kristof/The New York Times
Two teenage girls in the room they share in a brothel run by Sav Channa.

Nicholas D. Kristof/The New York Times
A group of girls in front of the brothel in which they work in Poipet, Cambodia. The toddler is the daughter of either the brothel-owner or of a prostitute.
Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times
Nicholas D. Kristof
The New York Times

By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
Published: January 10, 2009

POIPET, Cambodia

In trying to figure out how we can defeat sex trafficking, a starting point is to think like a brothel owner.

My guide to that has been Sok Khorn, an amiable middle-aged woman who is a longtime brothel owner here in the wild Cambodian town of Poipet. I met her five years ago when she sold me a teenager, Srey Mom, for $203 and then blithely wrote me a receipt confirming that the girl was now my property. At another brothel nearby, I purchased another imprisoned teenager for $150.

Astonished that in the 21st century I had bought two human beings, I took them back to their villages and worked with a local aid group to help them start small businesses. I’ve remained close to them over the years, but the results were mixed.

The second girl did wonderfully, learning hairdressing and marrying a terrific man. But Srey Mom, it turned out, was addicted to methamphetamine and fled back to the brothel world to feed her craving.

I just returned again to Ms. Khorn’s brothel to interview her, and found something remarkable. It had gone broke and closed, like many of the brothels in Poipet. One lesson is that the business model is more vulnerable than it looks. There are ways we can make enslaving girls more risky and less profitable, so that traffickers give up in disgust.

For years, Ms. Khorn had been grumbling to me about the brothel — the low margins, the seven-day schedule, difficult customers, grasping policemen and scorn from the community. There was also a personal toll, for her husband had sex with the girls, infuriating her, and the couple eventually divorced bitterly. Ms. Khorn was also troubled that her youngest daughter, now 13, was growing up surrounded by drunken, leering men.

Then in the last year, the brothel business became even more challenging amid rising pressure from aid groups, journalists and the United States State Department’s trafficking office. The office issued reports shaming Cambodian leaders and threatened sanctions if they did nothing.

Many of the brothels are owned by the police, which complicates matters, but eventually authorities in Cambodia were pressured enough that they ordered a partial crackdown.

“They didn’t tell me to close down exactly,” said another Poipet brothel owner whom I’ve also interviewed periodically. “But they said I should keep the front door closed.”

About half the brothels in Poipet seem to have gone out of business in the last couple of years. After Ms. Khorn’s brothel closed, her daughter-in-law took four of the prostitutes to staff a new brothel, but it’s doing poorly and she is thinking of starting a rice shop instead. “A store would be more profitable,” grumbled the daughter-in-law, Sav Channa.

“The police come almost every day, asking for $5,” she said. “Any time a policeman gets drunk, he comes and asks for money. ... Sometimes I just close up and pretend that this isn’t a brothel. I say that we’re all sisters.”

Ms. Channa, who does not seem to be imprisoning anyone against her will, readily acknowledged that some other brothels in Poipet torture girls, enslave them and occasionally beat them to death. She complained that their cruelty gives them a competitive advantage.

But brutality has its own drawbacks as a business model, particularly during a crackdown, pimps say. Brothels that imprison and torture girls have to pay for 24-hour guards, and they lose business because they can’t allow customers to take girls out to hotel rooms. Moreover, the Cambodian government has begun prosecuting the most abusive traffickers.

“One brothel owner here was actually arrested,” complained another owner in Poipet, indignantly. “After that, I was so scared, I closed the brothel for a while.”

To be sure, a new brothel district has opened up on the edge of Poipet — in the guise of “karaoke lounges” employing teenage girls. One of the Mama-sans there offered that while she didn’t have a young virgin girl in stock, she could get me one.

Virgin sales are the profit center for many brothels in Asia (partly because they stitch girls up and resell them as virgins several times over), and thus these sales are their economic vulnerability as well. If we want to undermine sex trafficking, the best way is to pressure governments like Cambodia’s to organize sting operations and arrest both buyers and sellers of virgin girls. Cambodia has shown it is willing to take at least some action, and that is one that would strike at the heart of the business model.

Sexual slavery is like any other business: raise the operating costs, create a risk of jail, and the human traffickers will quite sensibly shift to some other trade. If the Obama administration treats 21st-century slavery as a top priority, we can push many of the traffickers to quit in disgust and switch to stealing motorcycles instead.

I invite you to comment on this column on my blog, On the Ground. Please also join me on Facebook, watch my YouTube videos and follow me on Twitter.

Students remember visit to Cambodia

By Wayne Laepple
The Daily Item

January 10, 2009

MILTON -- A month after their visit to Southeast Asia, emotions still run high among Milton High School students who made the trip.

"I still see the faces of the kids at the school," said Nicole Unroe. "Even though they couldn't tell us, we knew they appreciated what we had done."

Unroe was one of eight Milton students who made a weeklong trip to Vietnam and Cambodia. The high point of the trip was the dedication of the Milton School in Mean, a tiny village in Kampong Cham province, Cambodia. The school was made possible with more than $30,000 collected by Milton students and donated to an international aid agency.

"It was an amazing experience," agreed Sarah Haas, seated next to Unroe as they both looked at photographs of their trip.

Particularly moving, the two said, was their arrival in Mean on the morning of Dec. 8. They had bounced and jounced along rutted roads and followed a nearly non-existent cattle trail for more than two hours. When they got off the bus, they found the students at the school lined up in two lines, applauding as the 14 Americans walked onto the school grounds.

"I'll never forget what we saw and what we did," said Haas. "They were clapping for us, and we were all crying."

The American students and their six adult chaperones, some of whom had never traveled outside the United States, visited cultural and historic sites in Vietnam and Cambodia before making the pilgrimage to the school on the final day of their trip.

J.C. Reich, the only boy on the trip, remembered what he felt at the dedication ceremony, which was all conducted in Khmer, the language of Cambodia.

"I was thinking to myself that we had a lot more to do," he said soberly. "Going there didn't mean anything. There's so much more to do, and we have to work out how to keep what happened in Cambodia from ever happening again."

Reich was talking about the reign of terror in Cambodia that happened at the conclusion of the country's civil war. The Khmer Rouge, a communist organization, won the war, and over the next 20 years, they murdered at least two million of their fellow Cambodians, including teachers, doctors and other educated people, burned books and demolished schools.

"We can't just pat ourselves on the back," Reich said. "We have to do more."

"It won't change the world, but it will change the lives of those kids. We were humbled by what we saw," said Michael Conn, the Milton social studies teacher who helped start the "Team Cambodia" fundraiser and escorted the group. Conn said more funds would help the school add more solar panels to power additional computers, as well as additional classrooms, teachers and materials.

Conn hopes to escort another group to Southeast Asia in June, 2010, during which the group will visit Angkor Wat, a long-abandoned city, as well as other historical and cultural sites and also make another visit to the school. Conn said anyone interested in joining the tour next year may call him at 524-0261.

In spite of everything the people of the country have been through, and the fact that Cambodia is considered one of the poorest countries in the world, the people all seem happy, said Haas.

"They have nothing, yet they were so happy," she said.

Fermented palm wine is better than champagne in Cambodia?

A Cambodian fermented palm wine vendor sits on the roadside as she waits for customers in front of Royal Palace in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Friday, Jan. 9, 2009. Fermented palm wine is regarded as special wine and remains popular for Cambodian men in the rural areas.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

A customer looks at bottles of wine at a shop in Madrid December 22, 2008. As the Spanish economy heads into recession in the fourth quarter of this year, the wine sector faces Christmas amid a crisis which could affect winemakers as well as customers, and even restaurants and specialised shops. Picture taken December 22, 2008.REUTERS/Juan Medina (SPAIN)

Bottles of champagne are seen on display at the Healthabit Natural Foods and Wine store in Goldsboro, N.C. on Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2008.(AP Photo/The Goldsboro News-Argus, Greg Sousa)

Students have global concerns

Danville students (from left) Aaron Skwarcan, Amy Skwarcan, Grant Koenig and Tyler Yentes are promoting awareness of human trafficking through "Love Can't Be Baht." - Photo provided by Tyler Yentes

IndyStar.com

Danville teens launch group to help victims of trafficking

By Gretchen Becker
Posted: January 10, 2009

Last summer, best friends Tyler Yentes and Grant Koenig decided to put $1 in a pot every time they got together and donate it to a good cause at the end of the summer.

Saturday, the Danville Community High School seniors will launch what they hope to be their own nonprofit venture, called "Love Can't Be Baht."

During a church youth conference, Yentes and Koenig watched a documentary called "Baht" that brings awareness about women who are victims of human sex trafficking in Cambodia in Southeast Asia. Baht refers to a form of currency in Thailand.

"Our hearts were wanting to help a cause," Yentes said.

Instead of giving their small amount of money into one cause they might never see results from, Yentes and Koenig decided to form their own group with the help of the their church, Northview Christian Church in Danville. They are working toward gaining nonprofit status. Donations are currently going through the church.

"I'd never really heard much about human trafficking," Yentes said. "I like to consider myself pretty informed, and if I don't know about it, I don't think a lot of people my age know about it."

With the help of siblings Amy and Aaron Skwarcan, fellow classmates and church members, Yentes and Koenig have organized support for their cause. They've developed a My Space page, a group on Facebook, created T-shirts and have found a safe house to help that protects women in Cambodia, called Rapha House.

Northview loaned the teens money to get started, but they have already paid it back, and a donor gave funds to pay for Saturday's coffeehouse-style launch, which will feature acoustic sets from three local bands: The Holiday from Indianapolis; Ironsides Band from Noblesville; and News from Verona from Greenwood.

Melissa Jackson from Rapha House also will speak, and guests can watch a screening of "Baht."

Scott Ancarrow, Northview student minister, said the four students have really make the movement happen themselves, and they are also student leaders in the church.

"They watched the video, and we left them with the question, 'What are you going to do with this type of injustice?' " Ancarrow said. "Our staff has given them a facility and a place to throw out their ideas."

He hopes the kickoff event will spark dialogue among attendees about what they can do to help stop social injustices such as sex trafficking.

The students are hoping to raise $3,000 to send to Rapha House and help them afford to travel to concerts this summer to spread the word about Love Can't Be Baht.

"I think it's awesome when faith has feet," Ancarrow said. "It's not just talking a good game. It's using their own time and money that they don't have a lot of, in partner with God. It quickly became bigger than Northview and bigger than them."

Foreign Co-Defense Lawyers of Nuon Chea File a Complaint about Corruption at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal - Friday, 9.1.2009

Posted on 10 January 2009
The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 594

“Phnom Penh: A foreign co-defense lawyer of [former Khmer Rough leader] Nuon Chea demanded the Phnom Penh Municipal Court to open an investigation regarding corruption allegations at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal. This demand was made through a complaint to the Royal Prosecutor of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday on 8 January 2009. The Royal Prosecutor of the Phnom Penh Municipal Count has not yet accepted this criminal complaint [on 8 January – Note: But on 9 January he did]

“Representing a group of three foreign co-defense lawyers of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, Mr. Michiel Pestman presented this complaint to the Royal Prosecutor of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court. The plaintiffs declared to be victims of a violation of the criminal law of the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia [UNTAC] of 1992, the plaintiffs especially raised the allegation of corruption in the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, which can lead to destroy the basic right to receive just hearings.

“Through the complaint, the three foreign co-lawyers, Mr. Michiel Pestman, Mr. Victor Koppe, and Mr. Andrew Lanuzzi, as plaintiffs, base their complaint on a statement of the Open Society Justice Initiative [OSJI] of February 2007, a report by UNDP, and some local press articles. These documents alleged that the general staff as well as some judges of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal paid a portion of their salaries to higher officials of the Cambodian government, in response to having received their positions at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal.

“The foreign co-defense lawyers mentioned also the history of facts related to previous corruption allegations related to the Khmer Rouge tribunal.

“The foreign co-defense lawyers of Mr. Nuon Chea asked the Royal Prosecutor of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court to open an investigation about corruption at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal.

“They said they make this demand, because their efforts to receive information from the Cambodian side and from Deputy Prime Minister Sok An regarding the accusations about corruption at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal had not been successful, because no information was provided. That is why the foreign co-defense lawyers concluded that the people mentioned above and others acting similarly might violate the UNTAC criminal law of 1992, or other similar rules of prosecution by directly coordinating to help each other and to encourage corruption relating to the assignments at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal during the continuing investigation.

“Coming once in the morning and once again in the afternoon to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday, on 8 January 2009, Mr. Michiel Pestman told reporters that the clerks did not accept his complaint, even though he had tried to deliver documents of complaint to the Royal Prosecutor’s clerks, and he had indicated that foreign lawyers would come again to meet them at 3:00 p.m. on 8 January 2009. But the clerks still did not accept the complaint and required them to come to the court again on Friday, 9 January 2009.

“Mr. Pestman added that the clerks had said that the complaint lodged by the foreign co-defense lawyers was a special one so they need to first talk to their superiors.

“Mr. Pestman went on to say that the corruption allegation, related to the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, is a serious problem, and it can negatively impact on rights of the accused so that they not receive just hearings; it is a major concern of everyone involved in the process of these procedures.

“He went on to question with great concern how the Khmer Rouge Tribunal could provide justice to his defendants without clarification? Paying a portion of the salaries of officials of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal to high ranking officials of the government makes these officials of the court unable to work independently.

“Mr. Pestman clearly indicated that staff of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal did cut a portion of their salaries as a kick-back to high ranking officials of the government, depending on reports published by the United Nations, but he did not know who those Khmer staff were, and to whom they had paid their money.

“Nevertheless, the spokesperson of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, Mr. Reach Sambath, did not make any comment on the complaint of the foreign co-lawyers, filed at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court. Mr. Reach Sambath considers the corruption case at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal to be a past problem, for which no facts had been found to support it. But he emphasized that the Cambodian side in the Khmer Rouge Tribunal is highly committed to fight inequities. The court created a mechanism with a code-of-ethics councils and with mail boxes for staff to lodge complaints regarding corruption.”

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.17, #4790, 9.1.2009
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Friday, 9 January 2009

Japan to give 1.46 bil. yen fresh aid to Cambodia, Laos on FM visit+

TOKYO, Jan. 10 (AP) - (Kyodo)—Japan will provide 1.2 billion yen of grant aid to Laos for poverty reduction and up to 255 million yen to Cambodia for a dam project and infectious disease control when Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone visits the two nations on Sunday, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said Friday.

Nakasone is set to sign exchanges of notes for the respective projects with his Laotian counterpart Thongloun Sisoulith and Cambodian counterpart Hor Namhong during his trip. He will also attend a ceremony to deliver three Japan-made demining tractors in Cambodia.

The assistance for Laos will be earmarked for purchasing fuel, construction materials and other necessary items for stabilizing the economy, the ministry said.

Japan hopes the aid will help boost the Laotian economy, which is suffering from significant annual fiscal deficits mainly due to heavy dependence on imports of essential goods.

For Cambodia, the grant will be used partly to upgrade two apparatuses for controlling the flow of water along the Prek Thnot River with the hope of securing irrigation water for some 12,000 farmers in the Roleang Chrey area.

The aid will also be allocated to secure measles vaccines as well as necessary storage equipment and is expected to benefit about 2 million children under age five, the ministry said.

Nakasone will visit Cambodia and Laos over the weekend to strengthen Japan's bilateral relations with the two nations as well as coordinate responses amid the global financial crisis. He also hopes to promote cooperation in the Mekong region on the whole.

The foreign minister is scheduled to stop over in Bangkok on Saturday for talks with Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya to discuss measures to tackle the economic crisis on his way to Cambodia, ministry officials said.

Japan and the Mekong region nations, which comprises Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, celebrate the Mekong-Japan Exchange Year this year.

China not attending AseanSummit in Thailand

The Brunei Times
BANGKOK
Saturday, January 10, 2009

CHINA will not attend the upcoming 14th summit of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (Asean) if it is held on February 27 to March 1, as tentatively planned, officials said Wednesday. Thailand was initially scheduled to host the 14th Asean Summit in mid-December 2008, but had to postpone the regional meeting indefinitely because of political chaos at home that had led to the closure of Bangkok's two airports from November 26 to until the December 3.

Bangkok has proposed several new dates for the summit, with the latest being set for February 27 to March 1.

"Most of the dates China could accommodate, but the it happens that the last date of February 27 to March 1, China has another important prior engagement," said Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Tharit Charungvat.

China will be busy with its National Congress in late February and early March.

Although China is not a member of Asean, it has come to play a leading role at recent summits as international attention shifted away from South-East Asia towards China.

China, along with Japan and South Korea, has attended past Asean summits to participate in Asean-Plus three summits on the sidelines of the regional gathering to foster closer relationship within these nations especially in trade and other economic cooperations. DPA

Complaint about corruption allegations at the ECCC: Cambodian judges offended

cambodia.ka-set.info
By Ka-set
10-01-2009

In a communiqué released on Friday January 9th, Cambodian judges at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), in charge of trying former Khmer Rouge leaders, reacted strongly against the complaint submitted to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court by Nuon Chea's co-lawyers regarding allegations of corruption within the ECCC.

National judges working at the hybrid court, composed of Cambodian and foreign magistrates, say they “deeply regret hearing the new reports today that co-lawyers Mr. Michiel PESTMAN and Mr. Victor KOPPE and Mr. Andrew IANUZZI have filed a complaint with the Municipal Court of Phnom Penh charging corruption within the ECCC, which states that this may infringe the fundamental right to fair trial and that a portion of national judges' salaries are used as kickbacks to government official/s”.

Cambodian judges particularly reproached the lawyers for having leaked their action to “the public media”, “causing confusion and seriously affecting the honour and dignity of all individual judges and this institution as a whole”.

In the same release, they go back on the fact that all judges at the ECCC “entered into service by decision of the Supreme Council of Magistracy, chaired by His Majesty the King of the Cambodia”, who signed a Royal Decree appointing them to work in the court.

“Therefore”, the Cambodian judges argue, “there is no reason for judges to cut their salaries to pay kickbacks to government officials, as alleged. We absolutely reject such an accusation.”

Finally, the national ECCC judges state that if the accusation “stems from bad faith in putting the blame on the judges”, they reserve the right “to legal recourse against any individuals who have provoked such a problem”.

The complaint lodged by the Defence Team for former Khmer Rouge Nuon Chea on January 8th was officially registered at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court the morning after it was submitted. It is now up to the Municipal Court to decide whether an investigation on allegations of corruption concerning ECCC Cambodian staff needs to be launched or not.

Vietnam-Cambodia trade hit US$1.7 billion in 2008

VOV News
01/10/2009

Two-way trade between Vietnam and Cambodia hit nearly US$1.7 billion in 2008, an increase of US$400 million from a year earlier, according to the Vietnamese Trade office in Phnom Penh.

Of the total figure, Vietnam exported US$1.45 billion worth of goods to Cambodia, the office said on January 10.

Between 2004-08, the volume of Vietnamese goods exported to the neighbouring country increased by 40 percent annually and the export value rose fivefold compared to the import value.

The leading export staples to Cambodia in 2008 were building steel, agricultural machines, fertilisers, plant pesticides, household utensils, farm produce, milk, seafood and petrol. Seafood products made up 80 percent of Cambodia’s market share, followed by building steel (68 percent) and farm produce (67 percent).

Cambodian exports were mostly wooden products, rubber latex, grains, unprocessed cashew nuts, tobacco and cassava.

By late 2008, 120 Vietnamese businesses opened their representative offices and showrooms in Cambodia. Currently, Vietnam is Cambodia’s 10th largest foreign investor, with 19 licensed projects capitalised at US$228 million.

Floral Basket and Congratulatory Letter to Kim Jong Il from Cambodia

Pyongyang, January 9 (KCNA) -- General Secretary Kim Jong Il was presented with a floral basket and congratulatory letter by Chea Sim, president of the Senate of the Cambodian Parliament, on the occasion of the New Year Juche 98 (2009).

They were handed to an official concerned on Friday by Chhorn Hay, Cambodian ambassador to the DPRK.

Four arrested in Cambodian bomb plot

Four arrested in Cambodian bomb plot

PHNOM PENH (AFP) - - Cambodian authorities have arrested four men on suspicion of planting three bombs around the capital last week, a senior police officer said Saturday.

Deputy national police commissioner Sok Phal told reporters that one of the four alleged plotters was 44-year-old Som Ek, a dual Cambodian-Thai national who had previously worked as a Cambodian military policeman.

"He (Som Ek) told the police that his bomb plot was to bring attention to the group inside and outside the country, so he could extort money," Sok Phal said.

"This is just some kind of business just to rob or extort money," he added.

He said Som Ek had been arrested on Wednesday and told authorities that his group was backed by people outside Cambodia.

The deputy police commissioner gave no further details on the alleged group or other three suspects.

No one was harmed in the bomb plot in which police found three explosive devices on January 2 planted near the Ministry of National Defence and a television station.

Mine clearance personnel destroyed the bombs later that day.

Cambodian retailers shaken by the after-effects of land speculation and economic crisis

Phnom Penh (Cambodia), 16/08/2008. A SUV showroom© John Vink / Magnum

cambodia.ka-set.info
By Ros Dina
09-01-2009

In the middle of town or on the outskirts, in shopping centres or on little public market stalls, the sad diagnostic made by sellers is the same: for a few months now, business has been desperately slow. Already weakened by the consequences of the world economic crisis, Cambodia is experiencing the after-effects of several months of mad and unparalleled speculation in land. Indeed, many Cambodian consumers, among the wealthier, suffered the freezing of the savings they had invested in land, now affected by price stagnation. From jewellers to small street sellers, the effects of a reduced level of consumption are logically felt among merchants.

“Nowadays, Sundays are as bad as Mondays”, young Dary deplores. She sells fancy jewellery in a small shop on the third floor of Phnom Penh's brand new shopping centre, the Sovanna Shopping Mall. The first days after its opening at the beginning of 2008 saw crowds rushing in, but these days are now bygone, “even Sundays”, a traditional shopping and relaxing day for Cambodians. “Earning money is really difficult today. There are fewer and fewer customers, people do not come to the market any more”, the young woman adds, standing in front of her cheap necklace and bracelets.

11am. Around that time of the day, people usually rush about, but the market aisles are unusually quiet. Retailers are trying to keep busy reading newspapers and magazines outside their shop, while waiting for potential customers. Others mechanically dust their goods for the umpteenth time in the day...

The context then gives way to all sorts of situations, and anything will do to lure rare shoppers: a battle of promotions ensues, and signs offering 5% to 30% discounts cannot be missed. The shopping centre manager also did his own part and organised a prize draw boasting some big surprises, to attract a clientèle usually very fond of that type of game. Alas, customers are nowhere near the usual bustle. The majority of people who go to the new shopping centre is composed of high-school students, strolling around in groups of 3 or 4, but often more interested in the video game room located on the third floor than in window-shopping...

Where have all the customers gone?

“High-schoolers are not really good buyers”, Dary says, cursing her bad luck. “I rather find my best customers among the children of people affiliated to the high circles of power, or the children of wealthy Cambodians, who live here or abroad... But today, I have no idea where they may have all gone... Maybe they have gone back abroad”, she wonders. The young retailer, who used to earn a daily US$300 worth of sales when the Sovanna centre opened is now struggling to make more than US$50 a day.

Bargaining becoming fiercer with the days

Sok Long, a young Sino-Khmer owner of a mobile phone shop located near Dary's jewellery shop, shares her misfortune. In front of customers' demands, who are more and more inclined to bargaining, the young man feels desperate: “Even when I accept to cut my selling prices by a few dollars, customers don't want to buy... When a phone cost me US$120, they offer US$50 for it! I cannot lower my prices more... For a new mobile phone, I only make 2 to 3 dollars' profit”, Sok Long tells us, remembering the good old time - not so long ago - when high-ranking officials and their children used to buy two or three phones at once, without even trying to negotiate the prices...

Struggling to pay their business rent

The consequences of this slump in sales are starting to be felt: today, retailers find it hard to make ends meet and be able to pay for their business premises monthly rent. Little by little, Sok Long used all of his savings to be able to pay for his monthly US$875 rent, for an area equivalent to two shops. And he is not the only one making every effort to cover his expenses. On December 11th, shop-keepers at the Sovanna shopping centre went on strike for four days, demanding that the director reduce rents by 30% for nine months, due to bad business. Facing their discontent, the director-general eventually agreed to reduce rents by 10% for a period of 6 months.

From mobile phones to fruit and veg...

Mobile phone and jewellery shops in modern shopping centres were among the first ones to be affected by consumption decrease, but the crisis also struck those who sell vital products. Roth, a fruit and vegetables wholesaler and retailer at the O'Russey market in the centre of Phnom Penh, has not yet felt any change among his individual private buyers, he explains while tidying up his stall with the help of his wife. However, he did notice a drastic drop in whole sales. His eight main customers, who are restaurant owners, reduce their orders with every passing day, themselves experiencing difficulties with their clientèle. “At weekends, I used to sell US$800 to US$1000 worth of vegetables in just one day. Now, I only sell a quantity worth US$300 to US$500. For instance, an important restaurant owner, who makes noodle soup, only buys 10 dollars worth of vegetables every day - not that long ago, he spent 80 dollars.” For a few weeks now, Roth has watched his profit go down every day by 30%.

Households forced to cut their expenses

Nguon Chanthorn, who sells clothes at the Chom Chao market, to the South of the Phnom Penh airport on the outskirts of the capital, explains that she also tries to cope with the situation, like other retailers selling in that area of town. The mere income she manages to earn is not enough for her to sustain her standard of living. “Because of that situation, I had to reduce my daily food expenses to 3,000 riels (around 0.75 dollar) when I normally spend around 15,000 riels (3.75 dollars). Now, I only bring back home between 30,000 and 40,000 riels (between 7.5 and 10 dollars) every day, that is ten times less than before. So I only spend my money in vital goods now”, she stresses.

Near the Olympic market, this time, in the centre of town, a rice soup seller, having no customers to serve, watches people walk by. She started reducing her soup production weeks ago and now only makes half the quantity of soup she used to prepare. “Very few people have their breakfast out at the moment. Before, there was not enough room for everyone to sit. Today, my stall is very quiet, but it is even worse in other places!”, she said as her daughter, doing the washing-up, tries to explain: “It is probably because they invested their money in land, for speculations, and now they cannot sell it any more because of the economic crisis. When they used to come and have their rice soup here, they always talked land speculation and profit”...

Money frozen in pieces of landThis analysis tallies with the one made by president of the Cambodia Economic Association (CEA) Chan Sophal. “I believe that the main reason [for consumption decrease] is linked with the bad transactions generated by land speculation”, the economist puts forward. “Last year, in times of high economic growth, most Phnom Penh residents invested in land with a view to speculate. But this money now stays frozen”, he says, when income tends to decrease and consumers lack confidence, in a gloomy context of global economic recession.

The first victims of this contraction in demand, Chan Sophal details, are those sellers who cannot sell to customers, who themselves try to limit their expenses as much as possible, hoping for brighter days. But at the end of the day, this problem affects the whole economy, since sellers are buyers too... “When clothes sellers do not sell much, they reduce their expenses. Same goes for meat sellers: they do not have enough money to buy clothes”.

However, the CEA president would like to believe that the situation is not hopeless, but still reckons that a year at least will be needed before the situation goes back to normal.

Cambodian genocide judges reject corruption claims

Friday, January 9 2009
By SOPHENG CHEANG, Associated Press Writer

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia

Cambodian judges denied Friday that they paid kickbacks to government officials to secure jobs on a genocide tribunal to try former Khmer Rouge leaders.

The judges were responding to a complaint filed by lawyers for Nuon Chea, one of five former senior Khmer Rouge leaders due to be tried by the U.N.-backed tribunal for crimes against humanity and other offenses.

The dispute could further delay the tribunal's much-postponed first trial, which was slated to begin early this year. The tribunal is tasked with seeking justice for the atrocities committed by the ultra-communist regime, whose radical policies caused an estimated 1.7 million deaths during its four years in power in the 1970s.

Many Cambodians are frustrated that the Khmer Rouge leaders have still not been tried three decades after the regime fell in 1979, and fear the aging and infirm defendants could die before they face justice. Cambodian politics and disagreements between the government and the U.N. delayed the establishment of the tribunal for years. Disputes over procedure _ and allegations of corruption _ have further held up its launch.

The lawyers' complaint filed in a Phnom Penh court on Thursday alleged the judges were paying a portion of their salaries to the government officials who had awarded them their prestigious tribunal jobs. The alleged corruption "could undermine the fundamental right to a fair trial," the complaint said.

The judges denied they had made any illegal payments and said they would sue their accusers.
"We absolutely reject such an accusation ... (and) we reserve the right to legal recourse against any individuals," they said in a Friday statement.

Nuon Chea, 81, was the chief ideologist for the Khmer Rouge. The others detained for trial are: former head of state Khieu Samphan; ex-Foreign Minister Ieng Sary; his wife Ieng Thirith, who served as the Khmer Rouge social affairs minister; and Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, who headed the former S-21 prison, the Khmer Rouge's largest torture facility.

Top Cambodian KRouge trial officials to be investigated for graft

Sean Visoth, Director of the Khmer Rouge tribunal's Office of Aministration

PHNOM PENH (AFP) — A Phnom Penh court will hear a corruption complaint against top officials at the UN-backed Khmer Rouge war crimes tribunal, a judge told AFP Friday.

Chief judge of Phnom Penh Municipal Court Chev Keng said he would accept the complaint against Sean Visoth, the top government official at the court, and Keo Thyvuth, its former chief of personnel, lodged Thursday by defence lawyers.

The lawyers allege the pair have received kickbacks from court workers, but on Friday the tribunal's Cambodian judges released a statement denying any involvement.

The judges added the complaint "was causing confusion and seriously affecting the honour and dignity of all individual judges and this (Khmer Rouge tribunal) institution as a whole."

Thursday's complaint was lodged by international lawyers for Khmer Rouge "Brother Number Two" Nuon Chea, one of five former leaders due to stand trial.

They said the failure to address corruption allegations undermined Nuon Chea's right to a fair trial on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Last year the UN launched an investigation into allegations that Cambodian workers had been forced to pay for their jobs, and withheld at least 300,000 dollars in July funding and court salaries.

The investigation's findings were never made public but Keo Thyvuth was later transferred from the court and Sean Visoth put on leave.

The tribunal opened in 2006 after nearly a decade of wrangling between the United Nations and Cambodia.

It is expected to hear its first case within the next few months, against former Khmer Rouge prison chief Duch, whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav.

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

PM Abhisit confident Cambodia's Hun Sen will attend ASEAN

MCOT English News

BANGKOK, Jan 10 (TNA) -- Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is confident that all the leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member countries, including Cambodia, will attend the group's summit to be held in Thailand's Hua Hin resort late next month.

Mr. Abhisit said what his Cambodian counterpart said was probably a suggestion that the ASEAN summit should be held concurrently with the group's dialogue partners, whom the Thai government had already informed of the necessary to hold the summit first as several agreements must be jointly signed by ASEAN leaders.

The Cambodian leader has been contacted and he has confirmed that he will attend the ASEAN summit February 27-March 1 in Hua Hin.

Mr. Abhisit announced on Wednesday that his coalition government had decided to move the summit to Hua Hin, southwest of Bangkok, instead of the capital, to avoid possible disruption by anti-government protesters threatening to interfere with he summit.

Due to complications, ASEAN's meeting with its dialogue partners --China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand -- is now expected to be held in April with an as yet undetermined venue, Mr. Abhisit said.

Despite confirmation by the Thai government leader that his Cambodian counterpart will attend the summit, Cambodian government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said in Phnom Penh on Friday that Mr. Hun Sen may not attend the ASEAN summit because it would be costly and difficult for him to attend.

Also, the spokesman said talks with China, Japan and South Korea were critical because they are expected to give US$80 billion in regional aid to reduce short-term liquidity problems, in line with the so-called Chiang Mai initiatives agreed following the 1997 Asian financial crisis.

Thailand presently holds the rotating chairmanship of ASEAN, which groups it with Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam. (TNA)

Regional garment manufacturers must increase cooperation

PHILIPPINES NEWS AGENCY

PHNOM PENH, Jan. 10 (PNA/VNA) -– ASEAN garment manufacturers stressed the importance of free trade and cooperation to address an alarming drop in demand during a two-day conference, which concluded on Jan. 9 in Phnom Penh.

They proposed a number of crisis measures, including a move to purchase raw materials regionally to reduce production costs instead of importing them from other countries.

"How are we to survive the current [economic] situation? To survive, we need to find a strategy and fight," Cambodian Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh was quoted as saying. "But we must not fight with each other or compete among member states," he added.

Minister Prasidh also urged garment makers to target low-price markets. Van Sou Ieng, president of the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia, said the lack of locally-produced fabric has driven up manufacturing costs by forcing factories to import raw materials.
"Developing countries have been given some incentives, with the European Union, Canada and Japan allowing us to export garments duty-free," he said.

Van Sou Ieng said some progress had also been made in easing regional trade barriers.

"In the past, fabric purchased in Thailand attracted 15 percent in duty. Now, Cambodia pays no duty. Our buyers also no longer require customs permits for purchases," he said.

ASEAN includes Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. (PNA/VNA)

Three Held, More Sought in Bomb Plot

By Heng Reaksmey, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
09 January 2009

Cambodian police continue to search for suspects in an alleged bombing plot, having arrested since Tuesday a married couple in the border town of Poipet and one man in Kandal province on the outskirts of the capital.

Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said Friday the suspects will be displayed to the public in a press conference at the Ministry of Interior Saturday morning, before being sent to Phnom Penh Municipal Court.

Authorities hope to charge the three with involvement in a plot to explode a series of TNT explosive devices at two government buildings: one in the garden in front of the Ministry of National Defense and two on a street corner near the headquarters of TV3.

Suspect Ty To, 51, who has four different aliases, was arrested in Poipet Tuesday, along with his wife, Houl Kim Lang, 28, while Phy Savoeung, 49, was arrested Thursday afternoon in Kandal’s Kien Svay district.

Khieu Kanharith said police are still looking for additional suspects, including a mastermind behind the plot.

The three bombs were found by authorities on Friday, Jan. 2, and were disposed of by a unit from the Cambodian Mine Action Center that afternoon.

No Party Gigs for Band of Disabled

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
Washington
09 January 2009

For members of the Disabled Band, whose members are blind or amputees, playing parties and weddings has become difficult, as organizers seek to throw happy events with beautiful beer girls and singers.

“There are some people who mind that we are disabled; they do not want us,” said Kheng Sovann Reaksmey, who was a guest on “Hello VOA” Thursday.

“But that’s OK,” he said. “I do not mind them.”

Kheng Sovann Reaksmey lost is right eye and right arm in an explosion of ordnance left over from years of Cambodia’s wars, becoming one of thousands of victims still found in Cambodia, sometimes wandering the streets or markets as beggars.

He and other members of the band make a living playing outside a supermarket in Phnom Penh, earning between 10,000 riel, or $2.50, and 100,000 riel, $25, a day, despite what they say is a prejudice against them for other venues.

Sometimes they play NGO parties, Kheng Sovann Reaksmey said, but the band was losing some of its equipment.

Still, he said, a disabled musician with enough talent can find work with ordinary bands.

Foreign Investment Expected to Slump

By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
09 January 2009

Foreign direct investment is expected to drop by $200 million in 2009, from more than $800 million last year, according to a recently published World Bank report.

The drop in foreign investment would cause a fall from a high of 10 percent of GDP in 2007, to 5.2 percent in 2009, “as foreign investors become more cautious about investing in developing countries,” according to the report, “East Asia: Navigating the Perfect Storm.”

Cambodia saw a record $866 million in FDI in 2007, followed by $812.7 million in 2008. But the World Bank report predicts about $596 million in foreign investment to reach the country this year.

“We recognize the downturn of FDI, because of the global economic crisis, but the slowdown in 2009 is better than [the investment] in the early 2000s,” Hang Chhuon Naron, secretary general of the Ministry of Finance, said Friday. “But the government has taken measures to pay its budget for public investment.”

Opposition lawmaker Yim Sovann said he was “very concerned” about the drop in investment.
“It affects the people’s living, and the people will have no job to do,” he said. “It causes the government policy to reduce poverty fail.”

Demonstration of Plantation Workers Halted

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
09 January 2009

A demonstration planned by rubber plantation workers in Ratanakkiri province was postponed Wednesday when local authorities refused to grant them permission.

Demonstrators claim the Tay Seng company falsified documents and thumbprints to engineer the dissolution of plantation groups, a process they planned to protest in front of the provincial governor’s house on Friday.

A representative of the company denied the allegations.

“They can accuse me, but I don’t know about any fraudulent documents,” said the representative, Ly Hong Sin. “I proposed to dissolve the groups because it exploited the workers.”

Workers allege that falsified documents made it appear as though eight representatives supported the breakup of the plantation group, which they called a “trick.”

Ratanakkiri Governor Chey Sayoeun said he would not allow a demonstration, but he did not elaborate.

“It is not in adherence to the law that the authorities rejected our proposal,” said Che Chan, a representative of the workers.

Tribunal Judges Lash Out at Defense

By Kong Sothanarith, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
09 January 2009

Cambodian judges lashed out at defense attorneys for jailed Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea Friday, claiming a suit they filed in Phnom Penh Municipal Court against alleged corruption in the courts damaged their honor and dignity.

“We would like to state that all the judges of this Court entered into service by decision of the Supreme Council of Magistracy, chaired by His Majesty the King of Cambodia,” Cambodian judges for the Khmer Rouge tribunal said in a statement. “We absolutely reject such an allegation.”

The judges reserved the “right to legal recourse against any individuals” provoking problems related to “bad faith” or putting the “blame” on them.

“I am surprised that they seem to see me and my colleagues as the problem and not the corruption itself,” lead defense attorney Michiel Pestman told VOA Khmer Friday. “They seem to be shooting the messenger.”

Pestman said he considered the letter a threat for legal action and was not used to such threats from judges.

“That will certainly impact on my work [and] that will make it even more difficult to have a fair trial,” he said.

Corruption allegations at the ECCC: a Defence Team refers the matter to the Municipal Court

Phnom Penh (Cambodia), 08/01/2009. Michiel Pestman, Defence Lawyer at the ECCC. © Vandy Rattana
cambodia.ka-set.info
By Stéphanie Gée
08-01-2009

The Defence Team for Nuon Chea, considered to be the ideologist of the Khmer Rouge regime and charged by the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), tried to submit a criminal complaint on Thursday January 8th to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court. Its goal? Having the legal body examine the allegations of corruption which appeared within the Khmer Rouge Tribunal but have not been concretely followed up yet. This approach is a never before seen and stands out among other examples of international criminal courts which, unlike the ECCC, are placed entirely under the responsibility of the United Nations.

Nuon Chea's Defence Team explained they were “victims of violations of the 1992 UNTAC Criminal Code and/or analogous provisions contained in any other applicable Cambodian penal code”. More precisely, the complainants, who claim to be acting on their own behalf and not on behalf of their client, “alleged that institutional corruption at the ECCC could undermine the fundamental right to a fair trial”. “The allegations are very serious... We are seriously worried about the legitimacy of the Court.”

A legitimate complaint?

After two unsuccessful attempts made on Thursday, Nuon Chea's lawyers were eventually granted an appointment the next morning with Ouk Savuth, Royal Prosecutor at the Municipal Court. Their complaint, said to be “special”, required to be “submitted to a superior first” and is now under the responsibility of the Court but as a consequence could not be formally registered.

Is the complaint admissible? Michiel Pestman, the Dutch co-lawyer for Nuon Chea, is certain about it. “The Prosecutor is obliged to register a complaint, as the law prescribes! It must be accepted by the ECCC which refer to the Cambodian penal code. Then, the Prosecutor has two months to decide what he wants to do with the complaint.” Even if the United Nations open an internal investigation, he adds, the ECCC do not have jurisdiction over the investigation of corruption allegations. Besides, Michiel Pestman observes, “the Cambodian government has received a copy of the UN report – which put forward strong suspicion regarding a few people – and must act. But up until now, nothing has happened... There is an apparent refusal on the part of the government to take this seriously! [...] The Cambodian government failed to investigate those cases, now it is up to the judiciary. People who are paying kickbacks cannot be independent and if there are many people doing that within the ECCC [on the national side of staff], this affects the functioning of the court.” The lawyer nonetheless acknowledged that these are just speculations, since he was not able to obtain a copy of the UN investigation report, despite repeatedly requesting for it.

Facts in brief

In February 2007, the organisation Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI) made waves when it publicised allegations according to which "Cambodian court personnel, including judges, must kick back a significant percentage of their wages to Cambodian government officials in exchange for their positions on the court". Four months later, as detailed in the complaint, "the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) released a similarly damning report".

As a result, the European Commission called for an independent review of the ECCC in October 2007, and the UNDP set up a team of foreign consultants to review the court's hiring practices.

In June 2008, the allegations of corruption involving “payroll embezzlement” resurfaced and were denounced in complaints forwarded to the United Nations Office of Internal Oversight Services (UNOIOS), a measure which resulted in the freezing of funding to the tribunal's Cambodian side.

Stuck in a standoff, deputy Prime Minister Sok An, who also chairs the Task Force for the Khmer Rouge trials appointed by the Cambodian government, requested that the Cambodian authorities be the only ones to deal with that particular case. After the sudden departure of Cambodian E CCC Chief of Personnel Keo Thyvuth, Sok An announced the establishment of a new anti-corruption committee to investigate any graft allegations raised by staff. The results of the UN investigation were turned over to Cambodian authorities in September 2008 and since then, nothing...

In a communiqué released on September 19th, the office of the Cambodian Council of Ministers tried to be reassuring and pointed out that Sok An had on many occasions pledged that for any complaint submitted to a competent Cambodian authority, “appropriate action [would] be taken”. On August 29th, the deputy Prime Minister released an administrative Circular formalising a mechanism to address any complaints received.

The Defence team's procedure

Before lodging their complaint at the Office of the Royal Prosecutor of the Municipal Court in Phnom Penh, Nuon Chea's lawyers knocked on several doors in order to gather information about these allegations of corruption and the results of the UN investigation. They sent requests to the ECCC Office of Administration and to the UNAKRT (United Nations Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Trials) on September 19th, and explained that their aim was to “reassure their client on the fact that the ECCC is capable of delivering the kind of justice which accords with international standards of fairness”.

They also wrote to deputy Prime Minister Sok An on October 31st 2008. In that letter, the lawyers implied that the UNAKRT coordinator and the Cambodian director of the ECCC Administration kept passing the buck. As a matter of fact, they were told by the first one that the United Nations would not oppose disclosing the requested information should the government agree to it, when the second one replied that neither he nor any other Cambodian official in the ECCC was in possession of information related to complaints "that were apparently taken to New York for examination by the United Nations". In the meantime, Michiel Pestman adds, “Sok An has not even replied to us [...] which suggests that corruption might be more widespread than we thought...”

Will the Municipal Court assert its competence on that case? Nuon Chea's lawyers' initiative will nevertheless bring a spotlight on an issue which worries the whole tribunal. “If tomorrow [Friday] the Court refuses to register our complaint and start the investigation, we are going to appeal to the Court of Appeal!”, the lawyer announced. Moreover, if the Court of Appeal itself does not pay him much more attention, Michiel Pestman says he will reconsider whether he wants to “continue working in that system”. The Defence Team seem ready to exhaust all legal and administrative possibilities to make the Khmer Rouge tribunal face its responsibilities.

All is not bleak..?

Helen Jarvis, chief of Public Affairs at the ECCC, said on Thursday January 8th that she did not know about the lawyers' complaint, adding that it pertained to judiciary authorities to choose which appropriate decisions should be made. As for the allegations of corruption, she preferred referring to the December 10th “positive” press release, jointly drafted by the United Nations and deputy Prime Minister Sok An, in which both parties explained they agreed on the need to enhance the tribunal's human resources management, including anti-corruption measures. They also agreed on “setting up joint sessions between the national and international related structures to ensure that the entire administration operates in a transparent, fair and efficient way”. Both parties agreed on the need to act expeditiously and announced that the Government Task Force on the Khmer Rouge Trials and the tribunal's Steering Committee would be informed of the results of the joint sessions by the end of January 2009.

Co-investigating judge Marcel Lemonde, who was not aware either of Nuon Chea's lawyers' initiative, stressed that judges were “fully determined to not take part in a trial that would be tainted by corruption” and that for the time being, there was no evidence that it is indeed corrupt. “We remain vigilant. This court must be clean and we closely follow anything that is being said on that matter.”

Cambodian garment industry eyes Japan as alternative market

Source: Xinhua
01-09-2009

PHNOM PENH, Jan. 9 (Xinhua) -- Japan might become the alternative market for the garment producers of Cambodia, as the demand of traditional purchasers has sharply sagged, Chinese-language newspaper the Commercial News reported on Friday.

"Currently, Japanese orders are few, because their quality demand is so high that we can hardly meet it," said Van Sou Ieng, chairman of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC), at the annual meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations' Federation of Textiles and Apparel (AFTEX), which was held here on Thursday.

Fortunately, Japanese buyers have already listed some proposals that can help Cambodia improve product quality, he said.

The United States, as the largest buyer of Cambodian garment products, may need 2 to 3 years to cope with its economic recession, so it has become ever more urgent for Cambodian garment producers to find new markets, he said.

The garment export of Cambodia went down by 2 percent in 2008 over 2007.

Previous local reports have contributed it to the withering demand of traditional client countries.

Around 70 percent of Cambodia's garment products were sold to the United States, 4 percent to Canada and the rest mainly to European countries.

The export volume of the garment industry used to account for over 70 percent of the kingdom's total annual export volume.

In 2007, garment export earned 2.93 billion U.S. dollars for Cambodia, according to official figures.

Editor:Qin Yongjing

Cambodian garment export down by 2 pct in 2008

Source: Xinhua
01-09-2009 16:33

PHNOM PENH, Jan. 9 (Xinhua) -- Garment, the foremost pillar industry of Cambodia, has seen a 2 percent decrease in its export in 2008 over 2007, Chinese-language newspaper the Commercial News reported on Friday.

The information was from Cambodian Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh, at the annual meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations' Federation of Textiles and Apparel (AFTEX), which was held here on Thursday.

"This is better than my own expectation. I thought that it would have been down 5 to 7 percent," said Van Sou Ieng, chairman of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC).

He didn't give the reason of the slowdown.

Previous local reports have attributed it to the withering demand of traditional client countries.

Around 70 percent of Cambodia's garment products were sold to the United States, 4 percent to Canada and the rest mainly to European countries.

The export volume of the garment industry used to account for over 70 percent of the kingdom's total annual export volume.

In 2007, garment export earned 2.93 billion U.S. dollars for Cambodia, according to official figures.

Editor:Qin Yongjing

Khmer Rouge Tribunal: Nuon Chea's lawyers' complaint registered by the Municipal Court

cambodia.ka-set.info
By Stéphanie Gée
09-01-2009

After two unsuccessful attempts made the day before, the Defence Team for former Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea managed to have their complaint registered on Friday January 9th at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court and therefore have the court open an investigation on the graft allegations concerning Cambodian staff at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC).

Dutch co-lawyer for Nuon Chea, Michiel Pestman, was received by the Municipal Court Chief Prosecutor Ouk Savuth, who immediately appointed a prosecutor to deal with the case. "He gave us the impression that he was going to do something with it. He now has two months to decide if the complaint will be followed up or not. If our request is rejected, we will refer the matter to the Court of Appeal", the lawyer commented shortly after his meeting with Ouk Savuth.