Tuesday, 17 February 2009

"Killing Fields" torturer on trial in Cambodia

Prosecutors Chea Leang of Cambodia (R) and Robert Petit of Canada await the start of the trial of Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, on the outskirts of Phnom Penh February 17, 2009.(Adrees Latif/Reuters)

By Darren Schuettler and Ek Madra

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) – The chief Khmer Rouge torturer went on trial for crimes against humanity on Tuesday, the first case involving a senior Pol Pot cadre three decades after the end of a regime blamed for 1.7 million deaths in Cambodia.

Kaing Guek Eav, known as Duch and ex-commandant of the notorious S-21 prison, sat impassively in a blue shirt as a judge read the opening statements in court.

Hundreds of victims of Khmer Rouge atrocities lined up to get into court, but the proceedings are mostly procedural, with the main trial starting in March and a verdict due by September.

Duch, now a born-again Christian, expressed remorse on the eve of his trial by the "Killing Fields" court set up to prosecute "those most responsible" for the 1975-79 reign of terror, one of the darkest chapters of the 20th century.

"He said to the victims, 'I ask your forgiveness, I ask your forgiveness'," French lawyer Francois Roux told Reuters Television after visiting his client at a detention center near the specially built court outside the Cambodian capital.

The trial is a landmark for the strife-torn country where nearly every family lost someone under the Khmer Rouge.

"This is the day we have waited for 30 years. But I don't know if it will end my suffering," said Vann Nath, an artist who managed to get a seat near Duch.

He was one of only a handful of people to survive S-21, saved because he was chosen to paint portraits of Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot.

The trial ends a decade of delays at the Cambodian-U.N. tribunal due to wrangling over jurisdiction and cash, but critics say the court's integrity is threatened by allegations of corruption and political interference over who to prosecute.

"Any hint of political manipulation at the tribunal will undermine its credibility with the Cambodian people," said Sara Colm, Cambodian-based senior researcher at Human Rights Watch.

Four other Khmer Rouge cadres have been charged but a bid to go after other suspects was brushed aside last month by the tribunal's Cambodian co-prosecutor, who said it would not help national reconciliation.

Cabinet spokesman Siphan Phay denied any meddling and said the government wanted to complete the trials of the five people already facing charges before going after other suspects.

"First things first," he told reporters. "We have never said we opposed anything, but let's finish these first."

YEAR ZERO

Duch also faces charges of war crimes, torture and homicide while chief of S-21, where at least 14,000 "enemies of the revolution" were jailed and later killed.

The graying 66-year-old is one of five aging senior cadres charged for their roles in Pol Pot's "Year Zero" revolution to achieve an agrarian utopia.

He is expected to be a key witness in the trials of "Brother Number Two" Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan, who was the regime's ex-president, and Ieng Sary, its foreign minister, and his wife.

These four have denied knowledge of any atrocities by the Khmer Rouge during its rule, which began by driving everyone out of the cities with whatever they could carry.

If convicted, the five could face life in prison.

Some 300 local and foreign journalists are accredited for the first day of the trial, which is being televised in Cambodia.

Duch has confessed in interviews with Western reporters that he committed multiple atrocities as head of the infamous Tuol Sleng, or S-21, interrogation center.

Most victims were tortured and forced to confess to a variety of crimes -- mainly being CIA spies -- before being bludgeoned to death in a field on the outskirts of the city.

Women and children were also killed. Only a few survived.

"Duch's hands are full of blood. It's time for Duch to pay for his actions," said 39-year-old Norng Chan Phal, a child survivor whose mother was killed at S-21 months before Vietnamese soldiers toppled Pol Pot's regime in 1979.

Pol Pot's death in 1998 was followed by a formal Khmer Rouge surrender which helped to usher in a decade of peace and stability, threatened now by the global economic downturn.

(Additional reporting by Noppawan Bunluesilp; Editing by Alan Raybould)

Khmer Rouge prison chief stands trial in Cambodia

Kaing Guek Eav (L), also known as Duch, awaits the start of his trial on the outskirts of Phnom Penh February 17, 2009. Duch, the ex-commandant of the notorious S-21 prison and chief Khmer Rouge torturer, faced trial for crimes against humanity on Tuesday, the first by a senior Pol Pot cadre three decades since the end of a regime blamed for 1.7 million deaths.REUTERS/Adrees Latif (CAMBODIA)


Prosecutors Chea Leang of Cambodia (R) and Robert Petit of Canada await the start of the trial of Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, on the outskirts of Phnom Penh February 17, 2009.(Adrees Latif/Reuters)

By Miranda Leitsinger CNN

(CNN) -- A former member of Cambodia's genocidal Khmer Rouge regime became the first from the ultra-Maoist movement to stand trial before a U.N.-backed tribunal Tuesday.

Kaing Guek Eav, known as Duch, faces charges that include crimes against humanity and grave breaches of the 1949 Geneva Convention during the regime's 1975-79 rule.

He is standing trial just outside the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh, before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, which is made up of Cambodian and international judges.

At least 1.7 million people -- nearly one-quarter of Cambodia's population -- died under the Khmer Rouge, from execution, disease, starvation and overwork, according to the Documentation Center of Cambodia.

More than 500 people -- including three survivors from the prison Duch ran -- filled the tribunal. About 50 people came from Kampong Thom province, the birthplace of now-dead Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot.

"I have been waiting for this hearing for 30 years. I never thought that it would happen. Now I hope that the ECCC will bring justice to all Khmer Rouge victims. I lost three members of my family during the regime and I am a sufferer of the regime," Luch Bunthort, of Kampong Thom, told The Phnom Penh Post newspaper.

The initial hearing was primarily procedural and was likely to last a few days. No one -- Duch, witnesses or experts -- was expected to speak, though Duch was in the courtroom.

The substantive part of the trial begins in March and is expected to last three or four months. If convicted, Duch faces from five years to life in prison.

In addition to running the Tuol Sleng prison, Duch led the Santebal, which oversaw internal security and operating prison camps, according to the Cambodia Tribunal Monitor, a group of academic and nonprofit organizations.

Court spokesman Sambath Reach said many in the public have had a hard time believing the trial was happening.

Vann Nath, one of the few survivors of the prison run by Duch, told The Phnom Penh Post: "I couldn't sleep last night. I was dreaming about my time at S-21."

News of the trial's start made headlines in the country, and people were feeling "very numb," said Youk Chhang, head of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, where about 20 members of the public had gathered to watch the televised proceedings.

"It's important for Cambodian history, but it's not exciting the public because it's not a senior leader," he told CNN by telephone.

Still, there was relief that one of the regime's former leaders was facing justice.

"I think there is a feeling of, well you know, finally -- now it's finally happening after all these years of waiting -- hearing, fighting, negotiating," Youk Chhang said. "People have that kind of sense of relief that it's now moving. When I ask people around the center today, people say, 'Oh, it's about time.'"

"I think perhaps the expectation is not watching this, but watching later," he added. "What they want to see the most is the final judgment of the leaders."

One man at the center watching the proceedings, 37-year-old Quen Ieng, said through a translator that the start of the trial was a good step for Cambodia.

"It's for those who have died," said the carpenter, who survived the regime.Four of the regime's other former leaders are also awaiting trial before the tribunal for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Duch to stand trial today as first cadre to face justice for Khmer Rouge crimes

Photo by: Sovann Philong

THREE DECADES AFTER
... a legacy of brutality

The communist Khmer Rouge seized control of Cambodia in April 1975 and immediately began dismantling modern society in their bid to forge an agrarian utopia.

The regime abolished religion, schools and currency, and exiled millions of people onto vast collective farms. Clergy, the educated elite and, eventually, the regime's own cadre were targeted, and an estimated 1.7 million people died of starvation, overwork and execution before the Khmer Rouge were toppled in 1979. Tens of thousands more perished in the aftermath, as famine and civil war continued to ravage the country. But it is not until now that the regime's former leaders have been brought to court.
The Phnom Penh post

Written by Michael Hayes
Tuesday, 17 February 2009

COMMENT

BY MICHAEL HAYESEDITOR-IN-CHIEF

There is absolutely no way those who suffered under the Khmer Rouge regime can ever be adequately compensated for the pain endured, nor can any of the 1.7 million or more loved ones who perished during the three years, eight months and 20 days of KR madness ever be brought back to life.

These scars, so many angry, restless ghosts and the difficulty of how to deal with them are a permanent legacy of the Khmer Rouge regime.

But today marks the most visible beginning of a process that may result in some form of justice for those most responsible for the crimes committed during the Khmer Rouge's murderous years in power.

At 9am this morning in the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, or Khmer Rouge tribunal as it is more informally known, Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, is to take his place in the dock before five of the KRT judges to begin the initial hearing of his trial on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and the domestic charges under Cambodian law of premeditated murder and torture.

It is an event that has been delayed for decades by the hardnosed politics of the Cold War. It is an event that almost didn't happen because the number of people who were pushing for the creation of a trial was so pitifully small. (Seven years ago I was told there were about 10 people outside of Cambodia pushing for the trials.) It is an event that has taken years of wrangling over the actual existence and format of the tribunal. It is an event that is already surrounded by controversy with accusations of a flawed tribunal process plagued by corruption and misuse of funds.

But it is an event that must happen and one that offers the last best chance to understand how things went so terribly wrong in Cambodia so long ago.

"Duch's trial, and the trials that will follow it, are very significant. These trials will be the first to try leaders of a communist regime for mass murder, besides the trials of the Dergue regime in Ethiopia. It will also show war criminals that they are never safe, even 30 years after they committed their crimes. There is no statute of limitations on the prosecution of genocide and crimes against humanity," said Gregory H Stanton, executive director of Genocide Watch.

Duch headed the S-21 detention and torture centre in Phnom Penh, where more than 16,000 so-called enemies of the regime were tortured and then led to their executions. Only a handful survived.

The details of the crimes committed at Tuol Sleng are so horrific that they defy comprehension. Even worse, S-21 was just one of about 150 sites in a prison and extermination network that extended over the entire country, a killing machine that destroyed hundreds of thousands of lives.

"Duch's trial is very significant because he was actually quite high in the Khmer Rouge hierarchy as the commandant of the central prison where the highest ‘enemies of the state' were tortured and executed," Stanton told the Post. "It is also significant because Duch reportedly intends to confess and tell the truth about his crimes, and his testimony will prove very significant for all the other trials of the tribunal, because Duch received his orders from Nuon Chea, Son Sen, and other top leaders of the Khmer Rouge."

So what does this trial mean for the Cambodian people?

It would be nice if it meant the beginning of the end of impunity for those who break the law. It would be great if it led to reforms of a judicial system that is perceived as biased towards those with power. It would be helpful if it added to the process of national reconciliation. It would be a blessing if it helped bring closure on the darkest chapter in recent Cambodian history.

All of these expectations may be a bit much to expect of the KRT given the limitations placed on it by the political expediencies of those who are still fearful of the full story coming to light.

At the very least it would be beneficial if Duch and his colleagues told the truth. That in and of itself would be a useful first step but is also one which remains to be seen. The good news is that we don't have to wait much longer to find out.

"Human justice will always be imperfect because it has to be dispensed by human beings. But the ECCC, despite its imperfections, is still likely to do a very good job of trying the Khmer Rouge top leaders and in dispensing justice to them. The larger questions of restorative justice for Cambodians will have to be dealt with in other ways. But the ECCC will make an historic contribution by revealing the facts about the Khmer Rouge regime, and will help future Cambodians and other people understand and refuse to deny those truths," Stanton wrote.

‘The larger question of restorative justice ... will have to be dealt with'

worse, S-21 was just one of about 150 sites in a prison and extermination network that extended over the entire country, a killing machine that destroyed hundreds of thousands of lives.

"He was actually quite high in the Khmer Rouge hierarchy as the commandant of the central prison where the highest ‘enemies of the state' were tortured and executed," Stanton told the Post. "It is also significant because Duch reportedly intends to confess and tell the truth about his crimes, and his testimony will prove very significant for all the other trials of the tribunal."

So what does this trial mean for the Cambodian people?

It would be nice if it meant the beginning of the end of impunity for those who break the law. It would be great if it led to reforms of a judicial system that is perceived as biased towards those with power. It would be helpful if it added to the process of national reconciliation. It would be a blessing if it helped bring closure on the darkest chapter in recent Cambodian history.

All of these expectations may be a bit much to expect of the KR tribunal given the limitations placed on it by the political expediencies of those who are still fearful of the full story coming to light.

At the very least, it would be beneficial if Duch and his colleagues told the truth. That in and of itself would be a useful first step but is also one that remains to be seen. The good news is that we don't have to wait much longer to find out.

"Human justice will always be imperfect because it has to be dispensed by human beings. But the ECCC, despite its imperfections, is still likely to do a very good job of trying the Khmer Rouge's top leaders and in dispensing justice to them. The larger questions of restorative justice for Cambodians will have to be dealt with in other ways. But the ECCC will make a historic contribution by revealing the facts about the Khmer Rouge regime, and will help future Cambodians and other people understand and refuse to deny those truths," Stanton wrote.

KRT The Team
Editor-in-Chief Michael Hayes and the Post's team of reporters and photographers brings more than 30 years of combined experience to provide readers with the most comprehensive coverage of the Khmer Rouge tribunal.

Official expresses concern about chemicals in food

Photo by: TRACEY SHELTON
A meat vendor in a Phnom Penh market sits at his stall at Central Market. Of 648 market vendors surveyed, some 266 treated their food products with chemicals.



The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Mom Kunthear
Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Recent data suggests the use of chemicals on food sold in market stalls has not gone down despite education efforts

THE application of harmful preservative chemicals to food sold in market stalls remains a threat to consumers despite efforts - some dating back more than a decade - by doctors and other officials to discourage their use.

Food vendors often use chemicals including pesticides and hydrochloric acid either to preserve food or to make it more visually appealing to customers, said Chhouv Kong Phally, director of the Health Promotion Program at the Ministry of Health, who said he's periodically visited markets since 1995 to warn about the health dangers chemicals pose. These include everything from minor ailments like headaches and diarrhoea to life-threatening diseases, notably cancer, he said.

While public awareness of these dangers has increased, he said, the chemicals themselves are still relatively prevalent. A 2008 study by CamControl officials found that of 648 Phnom Penh vendors surveyed, 266 treated their food with chemicals. Of 273 products included in the survey, chemicals were used on 121 of them, representing a decrease of less than three percent since 2007.

"We see that people understand and are careful to avoid chemicals when they buy food or eat meals [in restaurants], but what worries us is that some food in Phnom Penh [markets] still has chemicals," he said.

"I think sellers should be honest with buyers and should show more appreciation of the value of life and health," he said.

During a break between classes one afternoon last week, a group of students at the Royal University of Phnom Penh discussed their day-to-day efforts to avoid foods that have been chemically treated.

Phuong Chhunleang, 23, said he only became concerned about chemicals recently. Before, he said, he did not think the average farmer or vendor would bother to pay for the harmful preservatives.

He said he now realises that farmers have an economic incentive to do so, as the chemicals can reduce the amount of food that spoils before it is sold.

"Now I am worried about eating food that is sold in the market because I feel I am making my life shorter and shorter," he said.

He said consumers need to be vigilant in screening out chemicals from their diets, as the government has not launched a concerted effort to eliminate their use.

"I want the relevant ministry to be strict and control the chemicals used in food," he said.

Asked about his personal techniques, he said, "I don't have great methods to reduce chemicals from meat and vegetables. But I know from my friends that before I eat a vegetable, it is good to soak it in lemon juice or put salt on it."

But Chhouv Kong Phally said salt would only reduce the concentration of a preservative by 10 to 20 percent.

Market outreach

Keang Leak, the market chief at O'Russei Market, said vendors cooperate with CamControl officials in their weekly efforts to screen food and vegetables sold there.

"I started to focus on this problem in 1999 because I realised then that nearly 100 percent of sellers used chemicals in their food, including in meat, vegetables, noodles, sausage, meatballs, fish paste and palm sugar," he said.

"Today, I can say that we have been largely successful in removing chemicals from their goods, and I am proud of the sellers in my market," he said.

Keo Phanha, 31, a vendor at a market in Takeo province, said she has no way of knowing whether the food she sells has been treated with chemicals.

But she said officials should not blame vendors for the use of chemicals because food is often treated by suppliers or by the factories in which it is made.

"We are very careful, but what can we do if we can't know which food has been treated?" she said.

Court sentences Dey Krahorm leaders to five years' probation

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chhay Channyda and May Titthara
Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Private developer 7NG wins in court for charges against community representatatives of inciting attacks on its workers and property

PHNOM Penh's Municipal Court Monday sentenced three community leaders of the recently evicted Dey Krahorm shanty town to 18 months in prison but commuted it to five years' probation for inciting destruction of property and bodily harm to workers of the private developer, 7NG, that now possesses the 3.6-hectare lot.

The accused, Chan Vichet, Ly Yuleng and Bun Thoeun, were also fined 800,000 riel (US$195) and 1.2 million riel ($293) to be paid as compensation to 7NG and the two injured workers, respectively.

Ham Sunrith, one of the three lawyers provided to the representatives by local rights group Licadho, called the ruling "unjust" and said the testimony of the company's workers was full of holes.

He said Chan Vichet had in fact urged peace and calm among the residents, who became irate after 7NG moved an excavator into their community late at night in what they saw as an intentionally provocative act.

Ly Yuleng said she was eating at the time of the altercation between residents and 7NG workers, who said residents threw stones at them and tried to destroy their equipment. Khiev Bunthoeun said she arrived on the scene after tensions escalated.

For Chan Vichet, justice had been turned upside down. "They demolished our homes and evicted us - that was the crime," he said.

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They [7NG] demolished our homes and evicted us – that was the crime.
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Presiding Judge Chey Sovann told the Post after the hearing that the charged had 30 days to appeal the ruling. The defence lawyers said the three charged had yet to decide whether they would file an appeal.

Protests weaken in resolve

As the court ruled against the representatives of the now bulldozed Tonle Bassac community, some 50 of the residents who were forcibly removed from Dey Krahorm in a blitz eviction late last month protested in front of City Hall to demand cash compensation be restituted.

Following the eviction, 7NG limited its compensation offer to homes for those families it considered eligible, removing a cash offer of $20,000 from the table.

Evicted residents have said the relocation homes in Damnak Troyoeng, 16 kilometres outside the city, are too far from the jobs and social services they had access to in the city.

Protests by the evictees have become increasingly weak in numbers as forcibly removed families say their resolve has been weakened by the city and developer's unwillingness to negotiate.

"It's been 23 days since we've been evicted and moved to Damnak Trayoeng," said Horn Sar, who has been living with his family in a makeshift shelter in a field at the relocation site. "We go to talk with 7NG and they send us to City Hall, and when I go to City Hall, they tell us to speak with the company. It's driving us crazy."

He said the group would protest outside Prime Minister Hun Sen's house today.

NGO law key to security: PM

Photo by: TRACEY SHELTON
Prime Minister Hun Sen shown here in a file photograph


The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Cheang Sokha and Vong Sokheng
Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Hun Sen warns of terrorist cells via NGOs, while development groups say bill is overkill and would curb efficacy of their work

PRIME Minister Hun Sen on Monday reaffirmed his intent to have a law passed to regulate the country's nearly 2,000 domestic and international nongovernmental organisations.

"Some civil society groups perform illegal activities, but how can we control them if we do not have a law," Hun Sen said during an economic conference in Siem Reap attended by government officials, diplomats and private-sector representatives.

The Interior Ministry drafted the Local Associations and Non-Government Organisations Law in 2006, and it is expected to be passed soon.

Hun Sen said the sources of NGO funds, in particular, needed to be tracked by the government. He referred to a Saudi-funded Islamic group that began operating as an NGO in Cambodia in 2003; a year later, its director was accused of involvement in a planned bomb plot on the embassies of the United States and Britain in Phnom Penh.

While the Cambodian government has opened its arms to the development community, NGOs, in turn, have refused to disclose their operations, Hun Sen contende.

"They want us [the government] to have transparency, but the NGOs themselves have no transparency," he said.

Opposition lawmakers and local rights groups have criticised the government's proposed introduction of tighter regulation for NGOs, saying the restrictions go beyond what is needed for accountability in the NGO sector.

Theary Seng, executive director of the Centre for Social Development, said the law could hinder the independence and vigour of development groups in Cambodia.

Ou Virak, director of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, said the government was misguided in focusing on a law to monitor NGOs when other major legislation, such as the anti-corruption draft law, has remained idle in the halls of government for years.

He said uncertainty surrounding the particular contours of the draft law, which the government has not disclosed, has many NGOs concerned their work may be curtailed by the government. "NGOs will be prevented from protecting the interests of the public if the NGO law is passed," he said.

Two Svay Rieng officers accuse boss of accepting bribes

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by May Titthara
Tuesday, 17 February 2009

The officers say a top official in Svay Rieng’s serious crime office released a rape suspect prematurely after a cash payment

A HIGH-ranking officer of Svay Rieng's serious crime office has been accused by two police officers in his department of taking money from suspects in exchange for releasing them without charge.

The top official was accused last week of taking a bribe of six million riels (US$1,500 dollars) from a man who had been arrested in connection with a rape in Romeas Haek district. The suspect was held for just a few hours at the offices of the division before being released.

The whistleblowing police officers both work in the province's serious crime division. Both asked not to be named. They said officers in their division regularly released suspects after being paid off and that they wanted to speak out against such corrupt practises.

"This latest case happened on Tuesday last week when [the official] released this man who stood accused of rape," one of the officers told the Post. "After spending just a few hours in his office, he was set free."

"The reason I know this is because the suspect lives near the father of the girl who was raped, and the father came to complain that the accused had been released," he explained.

Both whistleblowers said that suspects held by the serious crime division paid six million riels to avoid having their cases sent to the provincial court and to obtain their freedom.

Accusation denied

When the Post tried to contact the official, his phone was turned off. His boss denied any knowledge of the bribery allegations.

"I don't know anything about this," said Ros Viravuth, the head of the province's serious crime division. "I have never taken any money from suspects."

Prach Rem, Svay Rieng's provincial police chief, declined to comment on the allegations, saying he was on his way to a medical appointment.

The chief of Svay Rieng's prison, Ken Savoeun, said he was not aware of the allegations against the police division. But he said his jail is run in accordance with the law.

Ousted Hotel Renakse manager says court hearings a 'game'

A LONG HISTORY
Kem Chantha said she signed her first lease on the hotel in 1989. She upgraded to a 20-year lease in 1992 and a 49-year lease in 2001 so that she could see a return on what she described as a considerable investment in the upkeep of the building.


The Phnom Penh Post

Written by May Titthara and Robbie Corey-Boulet
Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Kem Chantha, accused of allowing the hotel to fall into severe disrepair, says she believes the court will not resolve the dispute fairly

THE former manager of the Hotel Renakse said she planned to ignore two summonses to appear in Phnom Penh Municipal Court today for hearings that are part of the ongoing legal battle over the fate of the hotel, dismissing the proceedings as "a game".

Kem Chantha managed the hotel for nearly two decades before police and officials, wielding a court order stating that the French colonial-era building had fallen into an unacceptable state of disrepair, barred her from the premises on January 6 and evicted guests and staff.

The first hearing, scheduled for 8:30am, is part of her case to save the hotel from demolition. The second hearing, scheduled for 9:30am, is part of the CPP's lawsuit claiming that her 49-year lease on the hotel should be voided because she failed to adequately maintain it.

"I will not go to appear at the court, and my attorney won't either because it is a game," Kem Chantha told the Post Monday.

Is the court fair?

She said the court would not be able to resolve the issue fairly because the company director of Alexson Inc, which has purchased the hotel for US$3.8 million, is married to the nephew of Ke Sakhorn, the court's deputy director who issued the January 6 order.

She said she plans to take her case to the Supreme Court if the lower courts do not rule in her favour.

Ke Sakhorn could not be reached for comment Monday. Chiv Keng, president of Phnom Penh Municipal Court, declined to comment.

'I have waited 30 years for this trial': Vann Nath


AFP PHOTO/TANG CHHIN SOTHY & TUOL SLENG GENOCIDE MUSEUM ARCHIVES
Bou Meng, one of the few survivors of Tuol Sleng prison, points out his picture at Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh (above). Bou Meng is pictured third from right in the photo, which was taken in 1980, shortly after the liberation of the prison.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Cat Barton and Neth Pheaktra
Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Tuol Sleng's survivors and their former tormentors alike say they have waited decades for today’s hearing and hope to find justice

IN Cambodia, where the survivors of one of the most brutal regimes of the 20th century often eke out a living on the margins of their rapidly changing society, one could question the wisdom of spending tens of millions of dollars on a hybrid tribunal.

Tasked with trying those who plunged the Kingdom into Year Zero, the UN-backed Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) has struggled with spiralling costs and plummeting levels of public confidence, and it has been battered by allegations of corruption and political interference.

That has prompted some to argue the task itself is pointless, impossible and should be abandoned.

But after years of obfuscating and months of impenetrable investigations, the beginning of the end is in sight.

Today, the ECCC will finally begin the public process of holding former Khmer Rouge leaders to account for atrocities committed during the regime's 1975-79 stranglehold over Cambodia.

Kaing Guek Eav, the former cadre better known by his revolutionary name Duch, who oversaw Tuol Sleng prison, is to go on trial today, charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity.

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What will flow from the trials in terms of closure or reconciliation is impossible to determine.
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"I have waited 30 years for this trial," said 63-year-old Vann Nath, a painter who survived the Tuol Sleng prison camp (also known as S-21) by dint of his artistic skills.

"I am going to attend Duch's hearing and allow the judges to decide on his crimes. I will wait with impatience for their judgment."

Fellow S-21 survivor Chum Mey said he would attend in order to hear Duch explain the killing of prisoners.
"Even though there are accusations of corruption and criticism of the court by some people, this court doesn't stop yet but continues to work for victims' justice," he said.

Emotion will be high for not only survivors, but also perpetrators. Him Huy was the chief of the guards at Tuol Sleng. He had 10 guards under his command and is ready to tell the court what went on. He said that he felt he was a victim, too.

"I did not want to work at S-21 prison," he said. "I suffered, too, when I worked there. Duch ordered my relatives to be killed, and Comrade Hor, his deputy at S-21. We were guards of S-21, but we were executed like prisoners."

Although today's hearing deals only with procedural matters, it marks a welcome step forward, says Heather Ryan, a court monitor for the Open Society Justice Initiative.

"The beginning of the Duch trial ... should go a long way toward reassuring the public that the court can meet its goals."
Of the atrocities committed during the KR era, those of Duch (whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav) are unquestionably the most graphically documented, said Sara Colm, a researcher for Human Rights Watch.

HRW is no fan of the ECCC. Last weekend, the organisation issued a statement criticising the court for allowing political considerations to limit prosecutions of other former KR cadres.

"Despite this, and no matter what the flaws are in the tribunal, no matter what the delays have been, this is still an extremely important and historically significant day," Colm said.

The search for answers

For its part, the government denies interfering in the trial and maintains it has seen no evidence of corruption.

Although the prime minister once famously said it would be better to "dig a hole and bury the past in it", as the long-awaited trials finally come to fruition the government said understanding what happened would help with national reconciliation.

"This hearing is very meaningful for Cambodia to bring justice to KR victims even though there has been some criticism of this court," said Khieu Kanharith, minister of information and government spokesman.

"We will find the answers as to why there were large-scale executions under the Khmer Rouge."

On the eve of the trial itself, the mood is one of "anticipation and excitement". said Theary Seng, a civil party to the trial and the head of an organisation that facilitates victim participation in it.

"We've been thinking so much, talking so much about it ... but now to have actually a trial scheduled on paper, to have people actually coming, it makes it real," she said.

Of the five surviving accused, Duch's personal culpability is the clearest, his crimes the most well-documented and his attitude the most cooperative. His lawyer, French advocate Francois Roux, expects the trial will last up to three months, with judgement handed down by the end of the year.

"Duch will tell the court that he was a person who obeyed orders. He does not contest his personal responsibility," Roux said.
"Duch has told the co-investigating judges already that he was a perpetrator of crimes and, at the same time, a hostage of the [KR] regime."

It has taken 12 years of negotiations and controversies to get this far.

"Now, the real test begins to ensure that a fair trial is held that upholds justice and helps educate the Cambodian people and the world about what transpired during the Pol Pot regime," said David Scheffer, the former US ambassador for war crimes.

Public trials will, it is hoped, offer the people of Cambodia a chance to see the court and judge for themselves whether it meets their needs for justice and impunity.

But as historian David Chandler said: "What will flow from the trials in terms of closure or reconciliation is impossible to determine."

How the first day is expected to unfold

Nuon Chea

Known as the regime's chief ideologist, "Brother No 2" Nuon Chea was in charge of training, internal party organisation and propaganda for the regime, occasionally serving as acting prime minister and rarely straying from Pol Pot's side. He was born in Battambang in 1927 and studied in Thailand, where he joined the Communist Party of Thailand. Nuon Chea was arrested in Pailin province in September 2007, and later charged with crimes against humanity and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions. Though he has consistently denied responsibility for the mass killing committed by the regime, he told the Associated Press in 2004 that his affiliation with it had been "a mistake". He is represented by Son Arun, Michiel Pestman and Victor Koppe.
Khieu Samphan

A native of Svay Rieng province, former Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan studied with Pol Pot and Ieng Sary in Paris in the 1950s. After returning to Cambodia, he taught mathematics and also founded and edited a French-language newspaper, L'Observateur, that focused on political and economic issues. He was named president of Democratic Kampuchea in 1976, and has been charged with crimes against humanity and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions. He is represented by Jacques Verges, famous for his defence of terrorists and war criminals including the Nazi Klaus Barbie. Like Ieng Sary and Ieng Thirith, Khieu Samphan has appealed the November extension of his detention. A public hearing has been scheduled for February 27.


Ieng Sary

As the regime's foreign minister, Ieng Sary served as its representative to the outside world, travelling overseas and receiving foreign visitors. He was born in southern Vietnam and came to Phnom Penh to study, where he first became exposed to Marxist-Leninist literature. He met Saloth Sar, better known as Pol Pot, in 1947. The two men would go on to study in Paris in the 1950s. Although he was sentenced to death in absentia by a Vietnamese-backed trial in 1979, he received a pardon from the King in 1991. Along with his wife, Ieng Sary is currently appealing the recent one-year extension of his detainment, for which a hearing has been scheduled for February 26. He is represented by Ang Udom and Michael Karnavas, and charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes.
Ieng Thirith

The daughter of a Battambang judge, Ieng Thirith was a teacher before she became the regime's minister of social affairs under Khieu Samphan. She married former Khmer Rouge foreign minister Ieng Sary in 1953 while they were studying in Paris along with her sister, Khieu Ponnary, and her sister's husband, Pol Pot. She was arrested on November 12, 2007, and charged with crimes against humanity including murder, extermination, imprisonment and "other inhumane acts". The tribunal extended her detention for one year last November, rejecting her request for house arrest. She has since appealed that decision. A hearing has been scheduled for February 24. She is represented by Phat Pouv Seang and Diana Ellis.




Tune In Media schedule

Follow the Duch trial live on the following television and radio stations:

TVK Broadcasting from 8:45am
CTN Offering a summary of the proceedings at 9am and again in the afternoon
National radio Will also broadcast reports from TVK from 8:45am Suivre l’audience initiale pour Duch diffusé en direct sur les cha?nes de télévisions et de radio:
TVK Diffusion à partir de 8:45am
CTN Faire le sommaire d’événements à 9am et encore dans l’après-midi
Radio Nationale va diffuser aussi des émissions de TVK à partir de 8:45am

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Georgia Wilkins
Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Today's hearing is largely procedural, but will set important precedents for the trial proper, court officials say, adding that this first proceeding is a ‘learning process'

MORE than 1,000 people were expected to descend on the grounds of the Khmer Rouge tribunal this morning for what has been called a procedural but symbolic start to its first trial.

As anticipation has mounted, legal experts have begun speculating on what will unfold during the hearing and what it will mean for the ensuing trial of Tuol Sleng prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch.

Although no witnesses will be called to testify at today's initial hearing, experts say it is likely to set the course for the ensuing trial, mapping out any legal or logistical hurdles that remain unresolved.

"From a strictly legal perspective, the key thing to watch will be whether submissions or challenges get flagged early and any issues regarding civil party participation get ironed out as soon as possible,"

Michelle Staggs Kelsall, deputy director of the Asian International Justice Initiative at the East-West Centre, a court monitor, told the Post Monday.

She said the opening stages of trials at previous international tribunals have focused on preliminary issues, such as when testimony will begin, how many witnesses will be called and how many days the court will sit. Jurisdictional challenges, such as the issue of "prosecutorial discretion", are also often raised early on, she said.

She said other courts have raised the issue of prosecutorial discretion, meaning that the manner in which the mandate of the court is being applied has been called into question during opening proceedings.

"Arguably, Duch is not one of those most responsible if you consider the crimes that occurred under the Khmer Rouge as a whole. The defence may raise this," she said.

She added that defence attorneys may argue that the statute of limitations for his domestic offences might have already expired.

Quietly confident

Though the largely procedural questions expected to be at the heart of today's hearing might underwhelm those expecting a substantive trial to begin, the court's spokespeople said they were confident those with high expectations for the hearing would not be disappointed.

"On the contrary, I think they'll be excited," spokesman Reach Sambath told the Post.

International Co-prosecutor Robert Petit said he hoped the recent flurry of attention would not dissipate when the potentially laborious process begins.

"Tuesday's hearing will allow the court to put a very public face on its proceedings, but the focus is not on the substantive but rather on the procedural, so hopefully the public's expectations are realistic," he said by email.

He added that observers should expect the court, which is legally and procedurally experimental, to grow into its role as its first trial plays out on the public stage.

"Obviously, this will be for all parties a learning process and will no doubt improve as the trial moves forward," Petit said.

The greatest experiment in the court is the role of victims in the trial. It is the first time in history that the rules of an international tribunal of this kind give victims the possibility to participate legally as civil parties.

Keat Bophal, director of the court's Victims Unit, said she was confident the court would meet the challenges posed by this innovation.

"Victim participation is important not only for the legacy of the court but also in setting a precedent for other tribunals," she said. "We want it to succeed and it to be meaningful."

Though she said she could not predict what today's hearing would reveal, she said she hoped it would advance this goal.

"It is very important for victims of the Khmer Rouge that they can participate in these proceedings," she said. "So far, we have been moving with no problems."

Lawyers for the accused say they were ready to face the court. "I'm ready to defend my client in the hearing and demand justice for my client based on institutional law and ECCC law," Duch's Cambodian co-lawyer Kar Savuth said.

"I also hope the ECCC will find the facts to provide real justice to the people who died in Pol Pot's time and the people who survived the cruelty of the regime," he said.

He said he believed the court as a whole was ready as well, a point with which Reach Sambath concurred.

"It is going to be a big day," Reach Sambath said. "[But] the judges, prosecutors, lawyers, civil parties, they are all ready," he added.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY KHOUTH SOPHAK CHAKRYA

LAST CHANCE CATCH

Photo by: HENG CHIVOAN

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Heng Chivoan
Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Young fishermen cast their nets on the Tonle Sap river in Phnom Penh on Monday, the last day of the prahok season. The small fish, also known as "riel fish", are used to make the staple ingredient fish paste.

No special oil and gas tax law, says Hun Sen

Photo by: TRACEY SHELTON
Hun Sen, seen in this file photo, said Monday that oil, gas and mineral revenues will be taxed under existing law.


TALKING BUSINESS
Monday's Business Roundtable saw business leaders and the government discuss key questions on the future of the Kingdom’s economic environment including dollarisation, future investment and oil and gas revenues.

The Phnom Penh Post

SIEM REAP

OIL, natural gas and mining revenues will be taxed under existing laws, and funds reinvested in infrastructure, Prime Minister Hun Sen said Monday at an economic conference in Siem Reap.

The conference, titled "Business Roundtable with the Government of Cambodia", brings together top business and government leaders.

"In order to manage resources, we are drafting a tax revenue [law] by including oil, gas and mining," said Hun Sen at a conference organised by the Economist Group.

The prime minister spent much of the speech lashing out at critics who accuse the government of misappropriating resource proceeds and failing to publicise contracts.

"[Nongovernmental organisations] are crazy ... how could we have committed corruption if the oil resources are still in the seabed?" he said.

He urged the US embassy and Chevron to help Cambodia collect royalty fees.
Foreign oil companies are exploring for oil and natural gas in the Gulf of Thailand, and Chevron announced in 2004-05 that hydrocarbons had been discovered.

The sector had been expected to generate tens of billions of dollars for the country, but estimates have been revised downwards following lower-than-expected drill results and falling energy prices.

Lack of transparency

Chevron remains tightlipped about its plans and is reportedly negotiating with the government on taxation.
The World Bank says the government signed production-sharing agreements for all six of Cambodia's offshore blocks, but little information is available about the details of the deals.

"This is how we will manage the budget of Cambodia for double-digit growth, which is estimated to account for nine percent of GDP within the decade," Hun Sen said.

But opposition leader Sam Rainsy said that the country needs a petroleum law to regulate the sector.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

How could we have committed corruption if ... oil resources are still in the seabed?
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"When there is a new source of revenue that will change the taxation structure and budget; we need to draft a special law to regulate the sector and incorporate it into the state budget," he said.

The prime minister also used the conference to fight back against donors' demands for an anti-corruption law, saying that the legislation will be part of a package of laws.

"[The anti-corruption law] will be passed after the criminal code is passed. ... Japan and France are helping us draft the law," he said.

"I am able to tell you that the anti-corruption law is not a miracle medicine to fight corruption," he said.
_____________

Commodity Prices

Prices shown are aggregates of Phnom Penh market rates collated on Monday, Feb 16.
Prices are indexed using the January 1, 2009, base rate.

- Rice 2,400 riels/kg -4.0 percent
- Paddy 1,120 riels/kg +12 percent
- Beef 23,600 riels/kg -1.67 percent
- Pork 16,600 riels/kg +3.75 percent
- Chicken 18,200 riels/kg +1.11 percent
- Tomatoes 1,600 riels/kg -54.29 percent
- Bananas 1,880 riels/hand +17.5 percent
- Palm sugar 2,960 riels/kg -22.11 percent
- Granulated salt 1,440 riels/kg +20 percent
- Cambodian milk 2,520 riels/can +0.8 percent
- Gasoline 3,150 riels/ltr +6.78 percent
- Diesel 2,900 riels/ltr +1.75 percent
- Water 550/cubic metre unchanged
- Steel 2,645 riels/kg +11.32 percent
- Gas 61,845/cubic metre +30.06 percent Source: Ministry of Commerce
____________

NO THAI WAR, SAYS PM

PRIME Minister Hun Sen assured more than 100 local and foreign business leaders Monday that there would be no confrontation with Thailand that could interfere with business in the Kingdom. Speaking at a business conference in Siem Reap, Hun Sen said that development on the border was the main priority. “Cambodia has not prepared to create a big war with neighbouring countries. What we need is investment, road infrastructure and development in border areas,” Hun Sen said. He added that offshore disputes with Thailand were also being dealt with in a bid to help promote commerce – Deputy Prime Minister Sok An is preparing to negotiate a revenue-sharing agreement with our neighbour, the prime minister said. Hun Sen proposed splitting the concessions by block or by percentage. Cambodia and Thailand have disputed the maritime border in the Gulf of Thailand, an area that has been found to contain large deposits of oil and gas.

Cambodia, Albania negotiate rice deal

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by HOR HAB AND GEORGE MCLEOD
Tuesday, 17 February 2009

CAMBODIA'S efforts to diversify rice exports have taken a small step forward with a planned deal that would see 5,000 tonnes of rice sold every month to Albania, starting with a 300-tonne shipment.

"Albania has contacted us to buy 300 tonnes of 10 percent-broken rice from Cambodia as a trial purchase ... Cambodian rice has a lot of potential in the market," said Outh Renne, secretary general of Small and Medium Industry of Cambodia.

"We sent them a sample of 25-percent, 10-percent, and five-percent broken rice, and they are interested in the 10-percent broken rice," he said.

Negotiations are continuing with the Albanians having offered US$475 per tonne and Cambodia asking $490, down from its previous offer of $500, Outh Renne said. The deal could also see 4,000 tonnes of corn sold per month to Albania.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Cambodian rice has a lot of potential in the market.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The move to tap the Albanian market follows government efforts to diversify Cambodia's rice exports and increase production of milled rice. Late last year, Cambodia announced it was in talks with Senegal to sell 10,000 tonnes of rice per month. Discussions are ongoing, and authorities say they are arranging transport and waiting for the UN Development Program to reconvene the talks. "Negotiations will resume with Senegal after a two-month delay," said Mao Thora. "Our main obstacle is the price and transportation."

Trade officials say they are also in talks with Congo-Brazzaville to sell low-grade rice.

Tes Ethda, president of the national Rice Millers Association of Cambodia, said that the country is making headway tapping markets for low and medium-grade rice.

"The biggest market for rice and corn is Asia and Africa, and we have more potential to tap that market, but we still have some problems with transportation costs," he added.

Cambodia exports about two million tonnes of rice per year, but yields remain low at only 2.6 tonnes per hectare compared with 3.5 tonnes in Thailand and about six tonnes in China. Poor irrigation, a lack of fertilisers and inadequate dissemination of market information are among the challenges the sector faces. Government spending on agriculture is a low three percent of agricultural GDP, versus 10 percent in China and Thailand, say World Bank figures.

Bank technology to take hit

BLOOMBERG
Phnom Penh branch of ANZ Bank. The sector has embraced technology, but the downturn could affect further development.


The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Hor Hab
Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Cambodia has rapidly caught up with the rest of the world when it comes to banking technology, but the downturn will slow development, industry says

LEADERS in the country's IT industry expect that the global financial crisis will slow investment in Cambodia's banking technology, but are optimistic the sector is well-positioned for an eventual recovery.

"Had it not been for the world economic downturn, we would be expecting rapid development of banking technology - because that is always the case when one starts from behind," said Chum Sirath, managing director of Net I Solutions Co Ltd, a leading local IT firm.

Chum Sirath said that because services such as mobile banking and ATMs were new to the country, local banks could install cutting-edge systems immediately without having to perform costly upgrades on outdated technology. And, he said, they ought to do more - for instance, customers are not able to bank electronically.

Phu Leewood, secretary general of the government's National ICT Development Authority, said the country was in the comparatively early stages of IT enhancement in the banking sector. He said the banks ought to use the global downturn as an opportunity to upgrade.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Cambodian banks are embracing technology to entice more customers.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"IT is an essential investment that we can't leave behind," he said.
One area where money will be spent is in expanding the country's ATM network. ACLEDA, ANZ Royal and Canadia are all looking to add to their networks - adding as many as another 60 machines countrywide by the end of this year.

Sao Volak, chief executive of Campura Systems Corp, which does systems integration, said that impressive gains in banking technology have been made in the past few years as the number of ATMs increased and credit-card usage rose.

"Cambodian banks are embracing technology to entice more customers, and they view technology investment such as core banking, ATMs, electronic payment systems, mobile banking, network connectivity and credit card facilities as strategic assets to drive business rather than just to provide a link for customer services," Sao Volak told the Post by email.

"When financial markets recover, technology use will expand with it," he said.

Terry Mach, IT manager of ACLEDA Bank, said only a minority of businesses in the country were using technology that meets international standards. Banks are among the most important consumers of high-end technology here and are willing to spend more on IT development.

"Banks normally spend US$300,000 to $400,000 updating software because new versions are always available every year," he said. "But we don't generally catch up with all versions."

Core banking software was shown in a 2008 international study by Temenos Research to be the main component of banking IT expenditure - more than 80 percent of banks surveyed said their top priority for spending was their core banking system.

Chum Sirath at Net I Solutions said he expected that the proposed stock exchange would increase the country's technology development as local financial institutions raced to upgrade to international standards.

"Local banks need to continue investing in technology and position themselves for an economic recovery," he said.

Filmmaker aims to show the KR tragedy from all angles

PHOTO SUPPLIED
Bruno Carette films former KR head of state Khieu Samphan in Pailin province during the funeral of Khieu Ponnary, Pol Pot’s wife, in 2003.


The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Seng Sovan
Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Bruno Carette's new film, Khmers rouges amers, is the result of 16 years of investigation and interviews with Khmer Rouge leaders and gives an alternative understanding of a brutal history.

French screenwriter and producer of numerous films about Cambodia, Bruno Carette, has recently joined forces with Cambodian Sien Meta to produce a new documentary based upon testimonials acquired from former Khmer Rouge cadres. The film is the result of 16 years of investigation and contains several short extracts from interviews with Brother No 2 Nuon Chea and the former president of Democratic Kampuchea, Khieu Samphan. The French version of Khmers rouges amers (Bitter Khmer Rouge) will be shown at the Bophana Audiovisual Centre on Saturday. Neth Pheaktra talks to Carette about the film.

Why the film Khmers Rouges Amers?

For us, the tragedy for which the KR was responsible is very difficult to understand if not placed in its historical context. After Chroniques rouge-amer [Carette's first film about the KR period commissioned by France 5 Television network] we decided to produce Khmers rouges amers, a film that takes another angle on this turbulent period - the point of view of the KR.

I have been researching KR history since 1993. I have met with victims of the regime, and I also tried to interview those who have been responsible for this tragedy.

How long did it take to produce this film, and how difficult was it to collect all the information and documents?

It was a huge task. I have been trying to interview KR leaders since 1993, when I worked for TV France 3 on the results of the Untac mission. In 2003 Khieu Samphan, former KR head of state, launched his book and finally agreed to meet me. I also had the opportunity to meet Nuon Chea, former KR National Assembly president, while working on the Barbet Schroeder film Terror's Advocate, 2006.

I spent seven years producing this film. We collected 250 hours of interviews. The editing process took over a year, and we issued two versions of the film - one in French and the other in English.

We realise that [now] this film has to be updated a bit because we finished the editing just before Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary, Ieng Thirith and Khieu Samphan had been arrested. As Duch's hearing is held, we will also have to work on it more.

Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea agreed to speak to you. Was it easy to speak with these former KR leaders?

We interviewed Khieu Samphan twice, around six hours each time.

If we study KR history, I don't think we can talk of the KR as a whole. According to my investigations, the KR united and stayed with Norodom Sihanouk to fight against the Lon Nol regime in the period between 1970-75. But since 1975, it appears that the KR started to separate. I don't believe that Khieu Samphan's plan was the same as Pol Pot's or Nuon Chea's, and we established a kind of confidence with him to explore historical context on the KR point of view.

We have also talked to Nuon Chea but for other reasons. Unlike Khieu Samphan, Nuon Chea was a permanent member of Central Committee of the Kampuchea Communist Party (KCP). Nuon Chea told us that after Pol Pot, "it was him, who knew [what happened]".

Archives as well as other testimonies have also been important in our quest for understanding.

How can we talk about the Cambodian drama without mentioning the decisive role of Prince Norodom Sihanouk? Norodom Sihanouk's role is crucial in this Cambodian tragedy. The participation of others (whether they chose to be KR or not) is also important to us. We've tried to achieve a balance on those different points of view as well as to explore the historical context from a KR perspective.

But we felt frustrated that some former KR leaders refused to be interviewed - Thiounn Mumm, for instance, the first Cambodian poly-technician who came back from Paris to serve the KR regime. I sought permission many times from him for an interview. He finally agreed, but on the condition that I would read five books before we meet. The books essentially related to nationalism, however when I finished reading the books, he kept postponing the interview. I regret that Thiounn Mumm did not dare to talk as I'm sure he knows a lot, perhaps too much. At the same time, I'm also very disappointed that Ieng Sary and his wife Ieng Thirith declined to be interviewed.

In your film, you presented the view of many former KR including the high leaders of DK. Is it your intention to defend the KR in the film?

Not at all. In 2000, we produced a kind of "academic" film, Chroniques rouge-amer (Red Bitter Chronicles) about the victims of the KR.

Then, it became apparent that revisiting Cambodia's past through the eyes of the KR could bring new elements for a better understanding of history. But we investigated as journalists - not as prosecutors, lawyers or judges. We tried to work objectively. ... Actually, after receiving the agreement from the KR to talk, we couldn't do anything other than listen to them and be honest. I'm not saying that I believe everything that they have said, but I tried to do my job as a journalist. Our film is neither an accusation nor a defense.

As well, this film is not an opportunity to criticise the ECCC, but we've tried to understand the events differently and consider the whole history, not just the period between 1975 and 1979. Of course, we don't know yet how the trial will be handled. While I would rather not insist on this point, what is taking place sounds like a political trial.

Who honestly can pretend to talk about the KR without considering the whole historical context, and not refer to the US, China, Vietnam or Thailand, even France's responsibilities? And what about the role of the UN? Did they not agree that the Cambodian seat be retained in New York by the Khmer Rouge until 1991? At least, it seems to me that Cambodian people need to resolve their historic issues themselves. I'm not very sure that they are all very satisfied with this mixed tribunal, and I have also observed that not so many of them are even aware of the existence of the Extraordinary Chambers.

When we started editing this film, we had the feeling that the hearing might be limited only to the former director of S-21. To be honest, I am still very sceptical about the tribunal. I hope that the UN will not behave like they did in 1993. At this time, Untac had the mission to restore peace in Cambodia. Half of the job had been done with successful elections and the return of King Sihanouk to the throne. But what about the Khmer Rouge and other factions, which were supposed to be disarmed by Untac ?

In Cambodia, everyone knows who defeated the KR and restored peace. That's not only the UN. Cambodians don't need artificial justice. They need to understand their past and honour their victims.

Do you think your film will be screened on foreign television on the occasion of Duch's hearing?

Cambodia is far away. It's a small country, and this story took place 30 years ago. Maybe when the trial starts things will be different? I hope so....

For now, we are very happy that our film has been selected [to be screened] at FIGRA (International Festival of Grands Reportages d'Actualites) and that it will be shown in Cambodia at Bophana Centre on February 21, 2009.

Why do you make films about the KR?

When the tragedy took place in Cambodia, more specifically, when the world discovered what happened here, I was 20 years old. At this time, I worked in a company with a Cambodian girl whose entire family disappeared during DK times. She tried to find some relatives in the refugee camps or elsewhere.... Since then, I never stopped thinking about Cambodian history and raising questions about this human drama.

To me, the questions raised by the KR tragedy, even if it happened 30 years ago, are still a part of contemporary reality. Cambodia was like one big concentration camp, but until 1979 almost nobody cared or wanted to see what was happening there....

Today, "International Justice" wants to sentence the KR. Of course, they have done wrong, they have murdered their own people, destroyed their homeland. And impunity for such acts is an insult to the victims. But just take a glance at the world today! What is happening in Darfur, Gaza and Burma? Who intervenes? What will Iraq look like when the US retreats? What is the difference between what is happening in the world today and what happened in Vietnam and Cambodia in 1975?

In Brief: EZECOM announces prize winners

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Hor Hab
Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Ezecom, an internet service provider, announced Saturday the winners of a new competition it launched this year asking participants to write about the value of the internet in Cambodian society. Ezecom CEO Paul Blanche-Horgan said five winners had been selected with the first prize – a laptop, mobile phone and an Ezecom lifestyle internet connection package – going to Veasna Hoy. “I am really interested in internet development in Cambodia, I read a lot of academic papers about the internet ... and studied how it has developed,” she said. HOR HAB

Pao Puot loses on points

Photo by: VIRGINIE NOEL
Nuon Soriya (right) unleashes a flurry of punches against his tiring opponent Pao Puot in the fifth round of their fight at TV5 stadium Sunday.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by ROBERT STARKWEATHER
Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Kickboxing veteran Nuon Soriya showed his superiority in the sport, beating younger Battambang southpaw Pao Puot Sunday at Phnom Penh’s TV5 stadium

Nuon Soriya weathered an early onslaught and dominated the later rounds with better hands and defense to beat Pao Puot on points Sunday at TV5.

Pao Puot had not seen the inside of a ring since early 2008 and knew the absence would likely hinder him.
"I have not fought in nearly a year," he said before the fight. "It's hard to say how things will go. I don't know."

Undeterred, the 23-year-old from Battambang's Ponleou Samaki boxing club, climbed into the ring hoping for an upset, knowing that one good elbow was all he needed.

Despite the layoff, Pao Puot looked sharp in the early rounds and displayed the same strength and flair that marked his earlier career. Only his stamina was missing.

At his best in the second round, he stalked Nuon Soriya around the ring, moving forward with combinations, landing hard kicks and looking for the one good knockout strike from his elbow.

In the opening minute, the two stood at center ring and traded shots. Pao Puot got the better of the exchange, ending the flurry with a leg sweep that sent Nuon Soriya crashing to the canvas.

Seconds later, Nuon Soriya blocked a spinning back elbow from Pao Puot, who followed with a flying knee and ended the round with two unanswered left-right-kick combinations to the 29-year-old former champion.

Sensing a weakened fighter, the crowd screamed for more, and for a brief moment the possibility of upset hung in the smoky arena air. But one strong round was all the Battambang southpaw could muster.

The third round opened with Nuon Soriya standing his ground at center ring and countering straight lefts with hard kicks to the body. He landed a flying knee of his own, doubled up his kicks and banged away at the body of a tiring Pao Puot.

In the fourth, Nuon Soriya connected with a straight right hand that snapped Pao Puot's head back so far he was staring into the arena lights. A round later, Nuon Soriya had total control of a clearly exhausted opponent. He scored with tripled jabs, faked, and landed punches at will.

The crowd not so much cheered as chuckled.
"I've fought him two or three times before," said Nuon Soriya of the Ministry of Interior Boxing Club. "He's never beaten me."

Sunday would be no different.

As with previous fights, Pao Puot vowed to return.

"You'll see me again," promised Pao Puot. "I'll be back.

Cambodia genocide trial begins !

Former Khmer Rouge prison commander, 66-year-old Duch, whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav, sits in the Extraordinary Chamber in the Courts of Cambodia in Phnom Penh for the opening of the Khmer rouge trial.(AFP/Pool/Adrees Latif)

Cambodian Buddhist monks wait in line to attend the trial of chief Khmer Rouge torturer Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, on the outskirts of Phnom Penh February 17, 2009. Duch faced trial for crimes against humanity on Tuesday, the first by a senior Pol Pot cadre three decades since the end of a regime blamed for 1.7 million deaths.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

People wait in line to attend the trial of chief Khmer Rouge torturer Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, on the outskirts of Phnom Penh February 17, 2009. Duch faced trial for crimes against humanity on Tuesday, the first by a senior Pol Pot cadre three decades since the end of a regime blamed for 1.7 million deaths.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Kaing Guek Eav (L), also known as Duch, sits in court moments before the start of his trial on the outskirts of Phnom Penh February 17, 2009. Duch, the ex-commandant of the notorious S-21 prison and chief Khmer Rouge torturer, faced trial for crimes against humanity on Tuesday, the first by a senior Pol Pot cadre three decades since the end of a regime blamed for 1.7 million deaths.REUTERS/Adrees Latif (CAMBODIA)

A security official stands behind Kaing Guek Eav (L), also known as Duch, as he awaits the start of his trial on the outskirts of Phnom Penh February 17, 2009. Duch, the ex-commandant of the notorious S-21 prison and chief Khmer Rouge torturer, faced trial for crimes against humanity on Tuesday, the first by a senior Pol Pot cadre three decades since the end of a regime blamed for 1.7 million deaths.REUTERS/Adrees Latif (CAMBODIA)

Security officials and defence attorney Francois Roux (2nd R) stand next to Kaing Guek Eav (3rd R), also known as Duch, as he awaits the start of his trial on the outskirts of Phnom Penh February 17, 2009. Duch, the ex-commandant of the notorious S-21 prison and chief Khmer Rouge torturer, faced trial for crimes against humanity on Tuesday, the first by a senior Pol Pot cadre three decades since the end of a regime blamed for 1.7 million deaths.REUTERS/Adrees Latif (CAMBODIA)

People take their seats before the trial of Kaing Guek Eav (3rd R), also known as Duch, on the outskirts of Phnom Penh February 17, 2009. Duch, the ex-commandant of the notorious S-21 prison and chief Khmer Rouge torturer, faced trial for crimes against humanity on Tuesday, the first by a senior Pol Pot cadre three decades since the end of a regime blamed for 1.7 million deaths.REUTERS/Adrees Latif (CAMBODIA)

The judges of the Extraordinary Chamber in the Courts of Cambodia arrive at the trial of former Khmer Rouge prison commander, Duch (C), whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav in Phnom Penh.(AFP/Pool/Adrees Latif)

Former Khmer Rouge prison commander, 66-year-old Duch (C), whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav, stands in the Extraordinary Chamber in the Courts of Cambodia in Phnom Penh.(AFP/Pool/Adrees Latif)

Cambodian monks walk by the detention center where former Khmer rouge leaders are detained (background) as they arrive at the Extraordinary Chamber in the Courts of Cambodia in Phnom Penh for the opening of the Khmer rouge trial.(AFP/Tang Chin Sothy)

TIMELINE-Cambodia's Khmer Rouge era

Tue Feb 17, 2009

(Reuters) - Chief Khmer Rouge torturer Kaing Guek Eav, better known as "Duch," went on trial for crimes against humanity on Tuesday, 30 years after the fall of Pol Pot's regime, blamed for the deaths of 1.7 million people in Cambodia.

A handful of ageing and infirm leaders from the movement are due to be tried at a joint Cambodian-United Nations tribunal set up to prosecute "senior leaders" and those "most responsible" for one of the worst periods of the 20th century.

Below is an overview of the rise and fall of the Khmer Rouge:

1953 - King Norodom Sihanouk proclaims independence from France, but soon abdicates to go into politics.

March 1969 - Secret U.S. bombing of Vietnamese communist bases in Cambodia begins.

March 18, 1970 - U.S.-backed premier Lon Nol ousts Sihanouk as prime minister while the latter is on an overseas trip.

April 17, 1975 - Khmer Rouge seize Phnom Penh and immediately start emptying cities and towns in a bid to create a totally agrarian society. An estimated 1.7 million people die during their nearly four years in power.

Dec 25, 1978 - Vietnam starts invasion of Cambodia after a series of increasingly daring cross-border Khmer Rouge raids.

Jan 7, 1979 - Vietnamese troops occupy Phnom Penh, driving Pol Pot to the Thai border. The occupation is to last 10 years.

May 1993 - U.N.-run election produces shaky coalition between Sihanouk's son, Prince Norodom Ranariddh, and Hun Sen, a former Khmer Rouge guerrilla installed as prime minister by Hanoi in the mid-1980s.

July 1997 - Pol Pot ousted as Khmer Rouge leader.

April 15, 1998 - Pol Pot dies in the jungle-clad mountain redoubt of Anlong Veng on Thai border.

Feb 9, 1999 - Last Khmer Rouge guerrillas surrender.

March 2003 - After years of negotiations, Cambodia and the U.N. agree on a draft agreement on the format for the "Killing Fields" tribunal. The draft agreement is sent to the U.N. General Assembly and the Cambodian National Assembly for approval before work can go ahead on establishing the court.

April 29, 2005 - The U.N. says legal requirements are met and sufficient funding is in place for the Khmer Rouge trials.

June 2007 - Cambodian and international judges agree on the rules of the tribunal, allowing it to proceed in earnest.

September 17, 2007 - "Brother Number Two" Nuon Chea, Pol Pot's top surviving cadre, is charged with crimes against humanity. Similar charges are filed in November against ex-Foreign Minister Ieng Sary, his wife, and former President Khieu Samphan.

December 2007 - Chief Khmer Rouge jailer Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, loses bail request. The court rejects bail requests from other former Khmer Rouge leaders in 2008.

Feb 17, 2009 - Duch is first of Pol Pot's cadres to face trial, charged with crimes against humanity for his role as chief of the S-21 torture centre where at least 14,000 people were killed.

Source: Reuters

(Compiled by Darren Schuettler )

Cambodian trade fairs to show off Vietnamese goods

VOV News
02/17/2009

The HCM City Investment and Trade Promotion Centre will join hands with Saigon Marketing newspaper and the Vietnam high-quality products club to organise trade fairs displaying Vietnamese products in Phnom Penh and Battambang, Cambodia.

The Phnom Penh fair is scheduled for April 1-5 and the Battambang fair for November 25-29.

Organisers are conducting market surveys in Phnom Penh, Siem Riep, Battambang and Thailand’s northeast region.VOVNews/VNS

Cambodian PM reiterates his plan to pass new NGO law

www.chinaview.cn
2009-02-17

PHNOM PENH, Feb. 17 (Xinhua) -- Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has reiterated his commitment to passing a law regulating NGOs(non-governmental organization), national media reported on Tuesday.

Cambodia has become "the heaven of NGOs" and the government will move forward with the law whether NGOs like it or not, English-Khmer language newspaper the Cambodia Daily quoted him as telling an economic conference in Siem Reap on Monday.

"NGOs want the government to be transparent, but is NGO itself transparent? Where do you get the funding? Where do you spend it?" he asked.

The new NGO law is currently debated and expected to be passed by the National Assembly soon. Local media said that it will have more registration and supervision requirements.

Cambodia has around 2,000 NGOs working in various fields to facilitate social works and country development.

Editor: Wang Hongjiang

PM: Crisis may hinder Cambodian stock market plan

www.chinaview.cn
2009-02-17

PHNOM PENH, Feb. 17 (Xinhua) -- The world financial crisis may delay the establishment of a Cambodian stock market despite a plan to have it up and running by this year end, national media Tuesday quoted Prime Minister Hun Sen as saying.

A delay would help Cambodia avoid the "anarchy" and tumbling stock prices like other stock markets around the world, Hun Sen said on Monday at an economic conference in Siem Reap province.

"If the world stock markets are still in anarchy, should we follow the plan in 2009 or not?" English-language daily newspaper the Cambodia Daily quoted the premier as saying.

"If the stock market is born to die, we should not establish it at this time," he added.

According to local reports, the Korea Exchange (KRX) planned to sign an official agreement with the Cambodian government on Thursday to help launch the kingdom's proposed stock exchange market in December.

KRX manager Inpyo Lee expected institutional investors and foreigners to be the main source of liquidity in the early stages of the market, and about 30 companies would be listed by the time the exchange was operating "normally."

Meanwhile, experts have expressed their doubt and lack of confidence, warning that the timing of the initiative could create problems as Cambodia faces reduced economic growth, increased unemployment and the threat of rising non-performing loans.

"I think that currently, the environment is not good enough to proceed with the stock market in Cambodia," Kang Chandararot, economist and president of the Cambodia Institute for Development Study, told the Phnom Penh Post, adding that Cambodia would risk losing investors' confidence, if it rushed prematurely into establishing an exchange.

Editor: Wang Hongjiang

Exchange of Thai and Cambodian citizens fails

Bangkok Post
By: SURACHAI PIRAGSA
Published: 17/02/2009

BURI RAM : Thai and Cambodian security officials have failed to make progress in talks to exchange each other's nationals arrested for illegal entry along the poorly-defined border.

Talks over an exchange began after security authorities from the two countries agreed to try to secure the release of their citizens, officials said yesterday.

On Saturday, a combined Cambodian team arrested Suk Yadee and Withoon Samran in the forest along the Thai-Cambodia border opposite Surin's Kap Choeng district.

The two Thai villagers were looking for wild products when they were arrested.

They were charged with illegal entry and carrying weapons into Cambodia. They have been reportedly sent for trial at a Siem Reap court.

On the same day , police in Buri Ram's Ban Kruat district arrested Choeng Sid, 31, and Jon Mon, 22, two Cambodians, near the Bantad mountain range in Ban Huay Suk in tambon Nong Mai Ngam in Ban Kruat district.

Police said they had seized an electric chainsaw as evidence.

The two were charged with cutting down protected trees and illegal entry into the country.The two Cambodians were sent for trial to the provincial court in Buri Ram's Nang Rong district.