Sunday, 8 February 2009

National concerns take regional stage

The Star Online


Hot domestic issues in Thailand are spilling over its borders into the rest of the region.
THE new Thai government is reaching beyond Bangkok-based protests to address other, broader concerns. With an Asean summit to host in less than three weeks, this workload is urgent but involuntary.

After last month’s Cabinet-level visits to the troubled southernmost provinces, the defence minister has been in discussions with his counterpart in Cambodia. Both countries last July began their latest round of rival claims over Preah Vihar temple, in an on-off feud since 1954.

On Friday Gen Pravit Wongsuwan and his ministerial colleagues were in Phnom Penh on his first official visit to discuss normalisation of relations and troop pullbacks in the temple area.

Pravit had said this introductory visit for the Joint Boundary Commission would not raise issues concerning border disputes. The new government is hoping that a fresh initiative on familiar problems would help resolve them, and Cambodian leaders are responding accordingly.

Easing tensions: Thailand’s Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya (left) and Cambodia’s Foreign Minister Hor Namhong holding a news conference after their meeting in Phnom Penh on Jan 26. Kasit was in Cambodia to discuss the disputed land around the Preah Vihear temple. — Reuters

The Hindu temple’s location seems destined for controversy and rival territorial claims. It is poised on a hill in the Dangrek Mountains on the Thai-Cambodian border, with the site shifting in national origins between the two countries.

For Thailand, the temple had been built in Bhumsrol village in Bueng Malu sub-district and Kantharalak district of Sisaket province in eastern Thailand.

But after its 1962 World Court ruling, Preah Vihar came to be in Svay Chrum village of Kan Tout commune, in Choam Khsant district of Preah Vihar province in northern Cambodia.

The sticky situation owes much to geographical ambiguity and historical uncertainty, as well as easier access to the temple being from the Thai side.

Today’s frequently prickly sense of territory only worsens the vicious cycle of division, separation and exclusion of age-old identities in the region.

In 1010, Suryavarman I ascended the throne as king of the Khmer Empire. Twelve years later he, said to be of aristocratic birth and Malay origin, expanded his rule into parts of Siam and Laos.

Occasionally niggling pettiness creeps in, even in the naming of the temple. Thailand wants it known as Phra Viharn-Preah Vihear, but Cambodia prefers the more internationally accepted Preah Vihear.

There may also be deeper interests at play to make the dispute more substantive and intractable. A patch of land around the temple coincides with a disputed oil-rich offshore block claimed by both countries.

All of this serves to bring more worldly concerns into perspective for Thailand and Cambodia, including another planned meeting of Thais in the neighbouring country.

On Wednesday some 30 parliamentarians from the Pheu Thai party allied to former premier Thaksin Shinawatra were hoping to meet him in Koh Kong, south-western Cambodia.

The next day the Cambodian ambassador to Thailand denied any knowledge of an impending visit by Thaksin there.

Yesterday, one of the MPs said the trip to Koh Kong was postponed indefinitely. Another said the meeting would be in Hong Kong instead.

Meanwhile billionaire Thaksin, on the run after a two-year court conviction for graft, has reportedly been hiring US lobbyists to discredit Thailand in the past two years. In his phone-in to supporters in Thailand last Monday, he admitted to financing anti-government actions.

The matter concerning American lobbyists in Thaksin’s pay will be raised in discussions with the US ambassador on Tuesday by former premier and current chief government adviser Chuan Leekpai.

Britain and Japan have already barred Thaksin from entering because of his conviction. China has yet to oppose his visits, but requires that he must not use Chinese territory to destabilise the situation in Thailand.

Democrat Party spokesman Buranat Samuttharak on Friday reminded Thaksin’s supporters of this requirement following reports that he might now meet them in Hong Kong or Macau.

This followed criticism of Thaksin the day before by Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Tuagsuban that Thaksin was now trying to usurp the royal prerogative by trying to become Thailand’s first president. That provoked a pro-Thaksin MP to censure Suthep for undue mudslinging.

Nonetheless, there is public disquiet over Thaksin’s phone-in when he admitted to being behind red-shirted protesters. He did not endear himself to critics or neutral observers either when he then compared himself to once-persecuted African leader Nelson Mandela.

Thaksin’s supporters are still pushing the envelope to discredit the government during the coming Asean summit. Government officials have already moved the venue from Bangkok to Hua Hin in anticipation of more street demonstrations.

Pro-Thaksin activists are also seeking to have the Asean Charter rewritten, arguing that it is “a direct product of the (post-Thaksin, coup-mediated) dictatorial regime.” While such arguments are unlikely to carry weight with Asean, their accompanying sentiments and actions can still pose a challenge to security.

A pro-Thaksin MP now wants Japan and China to clarify reports of travel restrictions placed on Thaksin, warning that his 10 million-strong supporters might boycott Chinese and Japanese goods. But to exercise that threat, Thaksin’s supporters would need to overcome the popularity of Chinese and Japanese products.

Although now out of politics, Thaksin is still competing for popularity, this time with imported goods.

Australia struggles to battle wildfires - 7 Feb 09

Thousands of firefighters and hundreds of volunteers are battling wildfires in southeastern Australia.

In the state of Victoria, dozens have been killed and at least 100 homes destroyed in the blazes.

People are busy trying to protect their homes and to avoid the heat, as the temperature reaches record levels.

Al Jazeera's Jayne Azzopardi reports.

Cambodia: 'Country for Sale'

Global Witness discuss on Al Jazeera the findings from their latest report 'Country for Sale', which documents how rights to exploit oil and mineral resources have been allocated behind closed doors by a small number of powerbrokers surrounding the prime minister and other senior officials.

The beneficiaries of many of these deals are members of the ruling elite or their family members. Meanwhile, millions of dollars paid by oil and mining companies to secure access to these resources appear to be missing from the national accounts.

To download the Global Witness report go to:

MPs delay Thaksin visit

MPs from the Pheu Thai Party had earlier planned to meet Thaksin (left) over the weekend. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

Feb 8, 2009

BANGKOK - OPPOSITION politicians loyal to convicted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra have postponed their trips to meet him in Cambodia and Hong Kong out of fear for his safety, some of them said on Saturday.

The MPs from the Pheu Thai Party had earlier planned to meet Thaksin over the weekend.

Jatuporn Promphan, a Pheu Thai party-list MP, said he was concerned about Thaksin's safety and the difficulties the former premier was facing due to his irregular residency abroad.

Party MP Samart Kaewmechai said some MPs may have the right to decide if they wanted to go and see Thaksin but he believed that all MPs from the party already had some way to contact him.

Surawit Konsomboon, another Pheu Thai MP from Chaiyaphum, said he would also postpone his plan and added that it may be best that a small batch of MPs meet Thaksin at a time.

Other MPs such as Pracha Prasopdee said his plan to meet the former premier in Hong Kong this weekend has been postponed indefinitely. However, he added that some northeastern MPs might meet Thaksin through an arrangement made by the former PM's younger brother Payap Shinawatra.

Democrat Party spokesman Buranat Samuttarak said he believes the meeting will be about choosing a new Pheu Thai leader and the fact that Thaksin is still the man who will decide means the party cannot choose its own leader through a proper process.

A new Pheu Thai leader, said Buranat, will likely assume the role of mobilising red-shirt protesters against the government and will bring about a new round of political conflict.

"Thaksin has the right to express his views through his phone-ins but he must consider the country's law by fighting through the judicial process. The Democrat Party has reiterated that the government will guarantee his safety," Mr Buranat said.

In a related development, Thepthai Senpong, personal spokesman of Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva, said every nation has the right to decide whether to bar individuals like Thaksin from entering its country or not and urged Pheu Thai MPs not to cause diplomatic strains.

"I have all the documents but fear that it wouldn't be proper to reveal it. Pheu Thai MPs shouldn't worry that it will affect bilateral relations but these MPs must be careful in pressuring embassies of various states or threatening to boycott their goods, as it will affect bilateral relations. If they want to know, they can ask during the House session," Thepthai said.

He added that some discussion can be done in confidentiality without naming affected countries in question. -- THE NATION/ANN

The Khmer Rouge tribunal: Lessons for Kenya?


By Yash Ghai

Criminal trials in international tribunals or a tribunal with national and international membership are increasingly being viewed as the only way to bring dictators, and other highly placed state officials, responsible for the misery of thousands to justice. The best-known instance of this kind of hybrid court is the Cambodian tribunal for trial of leading members of the Khmer Rouge regime. There are similarities with Kenya, and interestingly, Dr Kofi Annan played a key role in the establishment of the Cambodian tribunal.

In the mid 1970s, the Khmer Rouge, a communist party, committed to the "moral" regeneration of Cambodia, seized power and embarked upon the total re-organisation of State and society. Millions of people were forcibly moved out of cities into the country side, subjected to forced labour, humiliated, tortured, and killed- 1.7 millions of them, a quarter of the population.
In Cambodia, as in Kenya, a compelling reason for an international or a hybrid court is the weaknesses in the national legal and judicial system.

The Khmer Rouge regime had destroyed the previous system, including statute books and legal records, and killed such judges and lawyers as were unable to flee the country. Key members of the regime that came into power after the UN’s "rehabilitation" of the country with close association with the Khmer Rouge movement had little inclination to institute legal proceedings against those most responsible for the genocide and other crimes.

Unlike Kenya, the purpose of the special tribunal was not to deal with immediate or contemporary problems but the recent past. Its main objective was accountability to Cambodians for the crimes of the Khmer Rouge. There was an element of national reconciliation, perhaps more accurately, putting the past behind them.

It was also intended to repudiate emphatically the practice of impunity, which characterised past and present regimes.

It was to promote awareness among the people about the meaning of justice.

The international community played a key role in bringing peace in Cambodia after the collapse of the Khmer Rouge regime.

The UN helped to rehabilitate the infrastructure and the economy, and in the transition to democracy. After a general election and a new constitution, the UN was given a special role to monitor and strengthen the protection of human rights, with the assistance of the Secretary General’s Special Representative for human rights.

The process of negotiating and organising an internationally acceptable tribunal for trials of Khmer Rouge leaders started in 1997. Experts advised then Secretary-General Kofi Annan that, due to wide scale corruption among judges and prosecutors, and their subservience to the government, it was impossible for a local tribunal to conduct fair and credible trials. They also ruled out a hybrid court, being convinced that its Cambodian members would take orders from prime minister Hun Sen, who, along with some of his Cabinet colleagues, had previously been part of the Khmer Rouge. It recommended a fully international tribunal, sitting outside Cambodia, but in a neighbouring country, so that Cambodians could follow the proceedings. Annan favoured this approach.

The UN-Cambodia Agreement and the Status of the ECCC Law

After long and intense negotiations, in which almost all the points of a UN draft were rejected by the Cambodian government, and under pressure particularly from the governments of France and Japan, UN negotiators reached an agreement based largely on a 2001 Cambodian law, which envisaged a tribunal, which was part of the Cambodian system.

But the ECCC is detached from the Cambodian system, having a self-contained system of investigations, prosecutions, trials and appeals, unconnected to the rest of the national system. The UN was also able to extract the concession that although the tribunal would operate under Cambodia law (which included elements of international law), this could not be amended without consultation with the UN. And it agreed that if the ECCC did not or could not function independently in accordance with the Agreement, the UN would withdraw and provide no further assistance.

Structure of the ECCC

The principal organ is the Trial Chamber and the Supreme Courts Chamber. Following the French legal system, there are investigating judges who review the investigations conducted by the prosecutions and decide whether the case can proceed. There are also offices of the prosecutors and defence, supported by the UN.

The Supreme Court Chamber consists of four Cambodian and three international judges and the Trial Court of three Cambodian and two international judges. There are two co-investigating judges and two prosecutors, for each; one local and one international member. The local judges and prosecutors are appointed by the Cambodian Supreme Council of Magistracy (an independent, constitutional body), and the international by the same body from a list of nominees presented by the UN Secretary General. Thus the Cambodian authorities make the final decision even on international judges and prosecutors (although within limits) while the UN has no say on local judges. The appointments are made for the duration of the tribunal. The law says that judges and prosecutors, who should be persons of high moral character, integrity, impartiality and "shall be independent in the performance of their functions and shall not accept or seek instructions from any Government or any other source".

Decision making

The law enjoins all judges and prosecutors to "attempt to achieve unanimity in their decisions". If investigating judges or prosecutors cannot agree, the case proceeds, but either collectively or individually, they can refer the matter to the judges of a special court, the Pre-Trial Court. This court consists of five judges, three Cambodian (including the presiding judge) and two international, and may, by a vote of at least four judges stop the trial. The decision of the Trial Court is also made by at least four of the five judges; and that of the Supreme Court by at least five judges. When the court is divided, both majority and minority judgements must be delivered.

Administration of the ECCC

The ECCC has, at the insistence of the Cambodian government, no Registrar as head of the administration and representative of the court – only an Office of Administration, headed by a Cambodian appointed Director. This gives the Cambodian government great control over the administration, critical to the functioning of the tribunal. Numerous allegations of corruption have been made against the Cambodian judges and staff.

Funding of the ECCC

In principle, the UN is responsible for the expenses associated with the international participation, including salaries of international judges, prosecutors, defence and administrative staff, and security arrangements. The Cambodian government is responsible for the salaries of local judges, prosecutors and staff, and provides the premises. It is now clear that the trials will take longer than anticipated (even if no new additional persons are charged). The total costs will certainly exceed US$100 million (from the original estimate of around 19 million). The UN is expected to pick up at least 90 per cent. Cambodia has been reluctant to deliver its contribution and friendly governments have paid substantial sums for it.

Annan’s request for funding from the regular UN budget was rejected. Though there is a Trust Fund administered by the UNDP, there are always financial pressures, throwing into doubt the continued existence of the tribunal, the completion of trials of accused already indicted, and has a dampening effect on investigations for fresh indictments.

Jurisdictional issues

The applicable law is a combination of Cambodian and international law. The international crimes include genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. Cambodian crimes (provided for under the ECCC law) include homicide, torture, religious persecution and destruction of cultural property in armed conflict.

Persons to be tried are "senior leaders of Democratic Kampuchea (the Khmer Rouge regime) and those who were most responsible for the crimes and serious violations of Cambodian penal law, international humanitarian law and custom, and international conventions recognised by Cambodia," between 1975 and 1979.

There was considerable discussion before the tribunal was set up as to who should be tried, and how many. The Cambodian government was anxious to limit the trial to two or thee persons. The expert team had envisaged about 20. Recently, it became public that the Cambodian prosecutor on the tribunal has refused to sanction any new prosecutions, contrary to the assessment of the international prosecutor. There is also the issue of the cut off date for prosecution, since atrocities have continued to be committed, implicating several senior members of the current government.

It is accepted that due to the problem of time and money, only a handful of accused can be tried in international tribunals. Still to restrict trials to old men, whom only intensive medical treatment can keep alive to stand trial, and who have freely admitted their guilt and remorse, seems to go against the whole idea of such trials.

Legal procedure and representation

The Cambodian rules of procedure apply but where they are unclear or inconsistent with international standards, "guidance may also be sought in procedural rules established at the international level".

The rights of the accused include the full protection ensured in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, including presumption of innocence, fair and public hearing, and legal representation. The tribunal has recruited experienced lawyers who represent the accused.
Representatives of Member States of the UN, of the Secretary General, of the media and of national and international NGOs are guaranteed access at all times to the proceedings (unless publicity would prejudice justice). NGOs are playing a critical role in monitoring and identifying improper practices.

Protection of witnesses, experts, members of the ECCC

The Agreement says that witnesses and experts, the judges, or the co-prosecutors shall not be prosecuted, or subjected to any restriction on their liberty by the Cambodian authorities. They shall not be subjected by the authorities to any measure, which may affect the free and independent exercise of their functions.

Punishment, penalties, and amnesties

Cambodia is notorious for impunities that members and friends of the government enjoy as well as for the harassment of its opponents through prosecutors and judges. Constitutionally, pardons and amnesties can only be granted by the King, in his own discretion; in practice decisions on these matters are the prime minister’s. The Agreement forbids an amnesty or pardon for any persons who may be investigated for or convicted of crimes referred to in the present Agreement. Consistently with the UN practice, the maximum possible penalty is life imprisonment.


The institutions and rules for decision-making are complex, indeed cumbersome. They require constant negotiations between the international and local judges, prosecutors and administrative staff. The use of three languages and some tensions between judges trained in the common law and those in the civil law have added to the problems.

The Cambodian government has interfered in various ways in the work of the ECCC. In this way the weakness and corruption within the national legal system have infected the ECCC, instead of the ECCC influencing the conduct of local judges and prosecutors.

Lessons for Kenya

If the national regime is not interested in the punishment of perpetrators of crimes against humanity, and particularly if important members of the Government may have been implicated in the violence, it is exceedingly hard for the international community, particularly through a hybrid tribunal, to ensure that justice is done.

Secondly, criminal trials cannot achieve the variety of tasks (including "transitional justice") envisaged in Cambodia, and their tasks should be confined to impartial and thorough investigation, fair trials and punishment of the guilty.

Thirdly, structural features, including the balance between local and international components and the extent and form of funding, will determine the effectiveness of the tribunal.

Fourthly, it is important to have adequate systems of monitoring, both official and non-governmental. Looking at the recommendations of the Waki Commission, it seems that some of these lessons have been taken on board, and others should be included in the Statute of the Special Tribunal.

Armed forces chief denies troop withdrawals at Preah Vihear

BANGKOK, Feb 7 (TNA) -- Thailand's Supreme Commander Gen. Songkitti Jaggabatara on Saturday denied an international news report from Phnom Penh that Thailand and Cambodia had agreed to withdraw their troops from the disputed Preah Vihear temple.

The Thai rebuttal followed a news report Friday quoting Cambodia's prime minister after meeting Thailand's Defence Minister Gen. Prawit Wongsuwan as saying that the two countries had resolved their main differences and had agreed to withdraw their troops Preah Vihear.

The report quoted Prime Minister Hun Sen as saying that the withdrawn troops would be replaced by joint observer teams next month to facilitate de-mining and border demarcation.
But Gen. Songkitti said Gen. Prawit's one-day official visit to Cambodia was meant only for introducing himself to Cambodian leaders after his appointment.

Despite it not being on the agenda, Gen. Prawit and Mr. Hun Sen discussed the Preah Vihear issue, but they only agreed that clashes should not occur there again, which is a positive sign, Gen. Songkitti said.

Regarding troop withdrawals from the temple area, Gen. Songkitti said, the issue would be left for further discussion by concerned committee members.

Tensions at the Thai-Cambodian border arose after Preah Vihear was awarded world heritage status by the United Nations last year. The International Court of Justice ruled in 1962 that the 11th-century temple belongs to Cambodia, but the demarcation of the surrounding land remains in dispute. (TNA)

Global Witness Encourages Donor Countries to Use Their Influence on the Government to Check how Oil, Gas, and Minerals Exploration Licenses Were Given

Posted on 8 February 2009
The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 598

“Global Witness released a report for 2008 with big titles on the book cover ‘Country for Sale - How Cambodia’s elite has captured the country’s extractive industries.’ This book describes mysteries, corruption, and irregularities related to the provision of concessions to foreign oil, gas, and minerals exploring companies in Cambodia - but some high-ranking officials of the Cambodian government denied all Global Witness allegations.

“Global Witness, based in London/England, an organization monitoring the exploitation of global natural resources ['Global Witness works to increase transparency in the granting of mineral concessions, in the flow of revenues from oil and gas companies to governments and in the trading of resources'], released a [72 pages] report on 5 February 2009 with the title, Country for Sale, in which it revealed many things about top officials of the government of Cambodia, allegedly involved in and colluding with corruption, jeopardizing forests and other natural resources.

“The report of Global Witness said that during the last 15 years, 45% of the land in Cambodia has been contracted out by concessions to foreign entities, and millions of dollars were received by the government from private companies to secure their concessions – but it is known that this money was lost and did not go to the books of the Ministry of Economics and Finance. Global Witness reports that its investigations discovered that oil, gas, and mineral exploring licenses were provided secretly to ruling officials and their relatives, and especially, that they are controlled by the military of Cambodia. Those top military officials are General Ouk Koasa, the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces – RCAF – commander in charge of military development regions; Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh’s brother, Mr. Cham Borei; Prime Minister Hun Sen’s younger cousin, Okhna Dy Chouch or Hun Chouch; army commander, General Meas Sophea; a senator, Oknha Ly Yong Phat; a special advisor to Prime Minister Hun Sen and the chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights of the government, Mr. Om Yentieng; a senator and director of the Pheapimex Company, Mr. Lao Meng Khin; the RCAF commander-in-chief, General Pol Saroeun, and Oknha Try Heng.

“The report of Global Witness found that RCAF forces were deployed to guard areas rich in mineral resources such as in Preah Vihear, Stung Treng, and Pursat, and citizens’ land in those areas was grabbed through threats and violence. The report spoke also about the institution in charge of the oil and gas industry, called the Cambodian National Petroleum Authority, an institution under direct control of the government – administered by Deputy Prime Minister Sok An

“Global Witness added that all ministries, departments, institutions, or authorities do not have any power over that institution, adding that the same politicians and powerful people involved in illegal logging now take control over the oil, gas, and mineral resources, and a handful of powerful people ruling the country have awarded expensive land concessions to private companies without transparency. Global Witness stated that mineral resources and the forest in Cambodia exist only once, and when those valuable natural resources are exhausted, they will disappear forever. All persons mentioned in the allegations by Global Witness regarding corruption, like some generals, oknhas, high-ranking officials of the government, such as General Ouk Koasa, Mr. Cham Borei, Mr. Dy Chouch or Hun Chouch, General Meas Sophea, Senator Ly Yong Phat, Senator Lao Meng Khin, and Oknha Try Heng could not be reached for comment. However, some government officials who provided interviews to Global Witness, claimed that the Global Witness report exaggerates the facts and is not true.

“Global Witness found that a special advisor to Prime Minister Hun Sen and the president of the Human Rights Commission of the Royal Government of Om Yentieng, has received a mineral exploration license quietly; he said that Global Witness has distorted information about the Cambodian government for many years, adding, ‘I think that if that organization Global Witness knows what is right and wrong, and has trust towards the respect of the truth, one could call it to swear an oath with me. If I am wrong, I would die, and if I am not wrong, it [Global Witness] would die. This would be a quick and trustworthy method for the listeners to judge. But I believe that if they [Global Witness] want to lie, they do not lack continuing lying stories. Therefore I think that this is not strange and surprising, because they have lied for many years already. They have distorted information about Cambodia for many years.’

“A Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, Mr. Tea Banh, reacted strongly to the Global Witness report, saying that he cannot accept allegations by this organization without any evidence. Mr. Tea Banh added that those having mineral exploration licenses have them all legally.

“The RCAF commander-in-chief, General Pol Saroeun, about whom Global Witness has written in the report, accusing him of having received a mineral exploration license quietly, denied that he is involved as a businessman, he said that he is just a military person. Mr. Pol Saroeun added, ‘No, I never had a company. I never do business. I am a soldier. Why is Global Witness accusing people like silly? They seem to look down on people too much.’

“A secretary of state of the Ministry of Industry, Mines, and Energy, Mr. Ith Prang, said that the oil resources ow being explored to be exploited in future, have not yet produced even one percent of what is expected. The Cambodian government is not stupid in managing all natural resources.

“He continued to say, ‘So far, no oil has yet been produced, we just known that there is oil. Therefore, we have not planned how to use it, because no oil has been extracted yet. But the government is not stupid in distributing revenues of its resources.’ A secretary of state of the Ministry of Environment, Mr. Prach Son, said that many oil and mineral exploration companies in Cambodia are from foreign countries, from China or from Australia. All those companies get exploration licenses in Cambodia, but they are not allowed to take raw materials to their countries.

“Global Witness has tried to ask for explanations from government officials, oknhas, generals, companies mentioned in its report, but has, so far, not received sufficient explanations. It has not even obtained a response from Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen reacting to the report since it was released officially. There is only the Li Phoeung [?] company of China that provided an explanation, but Global Witness does not show the details [original unclear – actually, only the Swedish company Lundin Petroleum responded to the inquiries of Global witness – but for information referring to their website].

“The Global Witness director, Mr. Gavin Hayman, said that what the Cambodian government should do is not to provide new concessions too quickly to private companies. The Cambodian government should rather verify and conduct audits on the concessions already provided to those private companies. He went on to say that all donor countries should put pressure on the Cambodian government not to provide new concessions too quickly to private oil, gas, or mineral exploration companies, and to verify them again. The report has found that 70 companies have already received concession contracts and are exploring minerals. Those concessions have been provided without transparency, because there is no clear system in place for providing concessions, besides delivering them to high-ranking officials of the government. Also, he voiced concern about the loss of mineral resources for which concessions have been provided to foreign companies involved in serious human rights abuses in Cambodia, and the government should work effectively to control them.

“Global Witness showed in its report that some oil exploration companies in Cambodia had paid money to the Cambodian National Petroleum Authority, and that money was probably not put into the National Treasury. The report added that oil, gas, and mineral exploration companies are required to pay kickbacks for signing up to bids for concessions with the Cambodian National Petroleum Authority. Like a company from Indonesia, PT Medco Energi Internasional, which has spent US$7.5 million to the Cambodian National Petroleum Authority. Moreover, each company having stakes in mineral exploration according to contracts, is also required to pay taxes annually. In the first year, a tax with the amount of US$800,000 was required to be paid for each concession.

“Global Witness added that in 2006 and 2007, money was not seen to have been put into the Ministry of Economy and Finance. The report said also that an oil exploration company has been exploring oil along the Tonle Sap Lake, the biggest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia, which produces between 40% and 70% of fish for the Cambodian people. The Tonle Sap basin is part of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Global Witness criticized donor countries for not using their influences through development funds to improve good governance, while the annual international aid for Cambodia is equal to half of the national budget.”

Khmer Aphivaot Sethakech, Vol. 7, #336, 6.2.2009
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Friday, 6 February 2009


Bangkok Post

Published: 8/02/2009 at 12:00 AM

Thailand has not agreed on the proposed troop withdrawal from the disputed territory surrounding the Preah Vihear Hindu temple as claimed by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Wibulsak Neepal, commander of the 2nd Army Region, said no agreement on a troop pullout was reached at Friday's meeting between Mr Hun Sen and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan during his visit to Phnom Penh.

"There is no agreement. The matter has been raised during the defence minister's self-introduction visit to Cambodia after assuming office," he said. He added that the troop withdrawal call would be looked into by a working committee set up to handle border demarcation disputes and that he expected an outcome soon.

However, the Thai-Cambodian Joint Boundary Commission, which is working to resolve the outstanding issues, met in Bangkok this week without making any progress. The delegations could not agree on the name of a military team which will monitor the border area and on the name for the temple.

Lt-Gen Wibulsak stressed that even if a troop pullout agreement was reached, Thailand was unlikely to make full withdrawal from the disputed areas. Those in charge of coordination would remain in place and the troop pullout would not put Thailand at a disadvantage, he said, pointing to the fact that the military has procedures to follow to uphold sovereignty.

Lt-Gen Wibulsak noted that the army was considering reopening Pha Mor E Daeng in Kantharalak district in Si Sa Ket province to tourists. The area has been off-limits following the flare-up of border tensions. A source said yesterday the Cambodian prime minister demanded Thailand pull all its troops out of the disputed border areas.

"We never agreed. If we do, it will not be easy to send them back in again," said the source.

Phnom Penh court dismisses probe into Khmer Rouge court kickbacks+

PHNOM PENH, Feb. 7 (AP) - (Kyodo)—Phnom Penh Municipal Court has dismissed an investigation into corruption charges filed against Cambodia's deputy prime minister and some senior officials, a prosecutor said Saturday.

Sok Kalyan, a prosecutor at the court, said the decision was made Thursday.

Andrew Ianuzzi, one of three complainants, confirmed he had received notice dismissing the complaint and suggested the dismissal might be related to "political motivation."

Last month, co-lawyers Michiel Pestman and Victor Koppe and legal consultant Ianuzzi filed the complaint with the municipal court charging corruption within the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia.

The lawyers are international co-lawyers for Nuon Chea, who is detained at the ECCC's facilities on war crime and crimes against humanity charges.

The trio alleged a portion of salaries for Cambodian judges and staff at the ECCC was kicked back to several government officials.

Among those they alleged to have benefited are Sok An, the deputy prime minister in charge of the Khmer Rouge trial, Sean Visoth, director of the ECCC administration, and his former chief of personnel Keo Thyvuth.

"There is no reason for judges to cut their salaries to pay kickbacks to government officials, as alleged. We absolutely reject such an accusation," the ECCC co-judges said in a statement released soon after the complaint was filed on Jan. 9.

Thailand 'won't withdraw' from temple

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen

Bangkok Post

Thailand denied on Saturday a statement by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen that it had agreed to a proposed troop withdrawal plan from disputed territory surrounding the Preah Vihear temple.

Lt-Gen Wibulsak Neepal, commander of 2nd Army Region, said no agreement on troop pullout was reached in a Friday meeting between Mr Hun Sen and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan during the latter's visit to Phnom Penh.

"There is no agreement. The matter has been raised during the defence minister's self-introduction visit to Cambodia after assuming office,'' he said.

He said that a troop withdrawal proposal would be developed by a working committee set up to handle border demarcation disputes and that he expected an outcome soon.

However, the Thai-Cambodian Joint Boundary Commission, which is working to resolve the outstanding issues, met in Bangkok this week without making any progress. The delegations could not agree on the name of a military team which will monitor the border area and on the name for the temple.

Lt-Gen Wibulsak stressed that even if a troop pull-out agreement was reached, Thailand was unlikely to withdraw all forces from the disputed areas. Those in charge of coordination would remain in place.

He also said troop withdrawal would not put Thailand at a disadvantage, saying the military has procedures to follow to uphold sovereignty.

Lt-Gen Wibulsak noted that the army was considering reopening Pha Mor E Daeng in Kantharalak district in Si Sa Ket province to tourists. The area was off limits following border tension.

A source said Saturday the Cambodian prime minister demanded Thailand pull its troops out from the disputed area along the border.

"We never agreed. If we do, it will not be easy to send them back in again,'' said the source.

Supreme Commander Gen Songkitti Jaggabatara said Saturday border disputes were raised during the meeting but no agreement was reached.

He said the issues would be worked out by joint committees set up to demarcate and develop the Thai-Cambodian border.

"But we do agree there should not be any incident in the border areas,'' said the supreme commander.

Gen Songkitti was apparently referring to clashes between Thai and Cambodian troops in October last year which left four soldiers dead.

Tension along the border flared up last July when Cambodia moved to have the temple of Preah Vihear listed as a world heritage site.