Saturday, 30 May 2009

Asia Urged To Avoid Protectionism Amid Financial Crisis

Dow Jones Newswires

SIEM REAP, Cambodia (AFP)--Asian governments and international agencies met in Cambodia's tourist hub Friday to push for more trade in the face of the global financial crisis.

In statements from the meeting organized by the Asian Development Bank and the World Trade Organization, speakers said they were worried that countries will increasingly engage in protectionism.

"In order for Asia to significantly contribute to the world with its open regionalism and growth, each Asian country should refrain from taking protectionist measures," said ADB president Haruhiko Kuroda.

WTO director-general Pascal Lamy noted that world trade is expected to contract by 9% in 2009, which would be the first drop in more than 25 years, but said "trade is an essential ingredient to exit the crisis."

"We can generate the right peer pressure in order to try collectively to preempt this threat of a shift to world protectionism," Lamy told the meeting.

"One country's exports are another country's imports, and the other way around."

Lamy and Kuroda announced that Cambodia and Japan will prepare a report on an Aid for Trade initiative to speed up trade reforms in poor countries.

The meeting organizers said Asia's 22 poorest economies account for only 0.3% of world exports, a level that has barely increased over the past 25 years.

Hungary: State Secretary László Várkonyi signs Hungarian-Cambodian agreements in Phnom Penh

Ministry for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Hungary

On the sidelines of the 17th ASEAN-EU Ministerial Meeting in Phnom Penh on May 28, Mr Várkonyi and Mrs. Sun Saphoeun, Secretary of State of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Cambodia had bilateral talks.

After the meeting two Agreements were signed: one on the consolidation and settlement of Cambodia’s outstanding debt towards Hungary with Mr. Ouk Rabun, Secretary of State of the Ministry of Economy and Finance and the other on development co-operation with Mrs. Sun Saphoeun.

According to the first document half of the debt will be written off by Hungary whereas the other half will be paid back by Cambodia within two months after the signing of the Agreement.

In the context of the debt settlement, the Parties have come to the agreement that Hungary undertakes to finance a Cambodian development project in the amount of at least 40 million HUF which corresponds to the paid back amount.

In the course of their consultation State Secretary László Várkonyi and Mrs. Sun Saphoeun agreed that this project will be a reception centre for the victims of trafficking and other vulnerable groups. This project is actually an expansion of an already existing orphanage built with Hungarian help in the eighties.

Vietnamese brands regional giants in Cambodia

A trade fair organized by Vietnamese manufacturers to showcase their products in Cambodia

Thanh Nien

Friday, May 29, 2009

Several Vietnamese exports hold larger market shares in Cambodia than both Thai and Chinese products, said a local businessman familiar with the Cambodian economy.

Truong Cung Nghia, executive director of Truong Doan Company, said Cambodian customers preferred Vietnamese products to those from Thailand and China.

Processed seafood products from Vietnam held an 80 percent market share in Cambodia while agricultural products made up 67 percent of that market, said Nghia, whose company specializes in Cambodian market research.

Nghia added Vietnamese businesses supplied 68 percent of Cambodia’s steel demand.

Nguyen Xuan Truong, head of Binh Dien Fertilizer Company’s Marketing Department, said Cambodians used similar daily agricultural products.

Truong said his company’s brand was popular with Cambodian farmers in rural areas as the company advertized heavily in the countryside.

Sales in Cambodia reeled in higher revenues for the company than its domestic sales did, said Truong.

However, it was still risky to trade with partners in Cambodia as they paid in cash and rarely used banks, said Nghia.

Truong said about 120 Vietnamese businesses and investors were operating in Cambodian markets, contributing to the US$1.7 billion bilateral trade with Vietnam last year. He said the figure would grow to $2 billion this year.

Reported by Minh Quang

Malaria proves resistant in Cambodia

United Press International

May 29, 2009

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia, May 29 (UPI) -- Malaria's resistance to treatment in western Cambodia could foretell a global health crisis, a British researcher said.

Malaria in western Cambodia is proving resistant to the artemesinin family of drugs, until now the world's most effective drugs for treating the illness, said Nick Day, director of the Mahidol-Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit.

In recent trials, it took up to five days to clear patients' blood of malaria parasites when the drugs previously worked in two or three days, Day said.

While Cambodia long has been a laboratory for malaria research, about half the world's population would be at risk if the resistance to artemesinin drugs grow, Day said. Malaria kills about 1 million people a year now.

In 2006, the World Health Organization warned of a possibility the malaria parasite could become resistant to artemesinin drugs, the BBC reported Friday.

Former Khmer Rouge Leaders Do Not Cooperate with the Co-Investigating Judges – Friday, 29.5.2009

Posted on 30 May 2009
The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 614

“The co-investigating judges of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal told journalists that four former Khmer Rouge high ranking leaders do not cooperate with the investigations.

“This statement was made by the Cambodian co-investigating judge You Bunleng in a press conference at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal on Thursday, organized by the Administration Office.

“Mr. You Bunleng told reporters, ‘Since we monitor them in detention and their defense lawyers ask questions so that they can explain some things raised by the co-investigating judges, they reject to answer by using the right to refuse to give evidence – that means there are no answers.’

However, Mr. You Bunleng did not mention the names of the four accused, but he just said he is talking about ‘the second case’ and the people can know that the second case relates to the four former Khmer Rouge leaders Khiev Samphan, Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary, and Ieng Thirith, who are now in pre-trial detention at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal.

“The co-investigating judge You Bunleng added that because the right to refuse to give evidence is an absolute right of the accused, the co-investigating judges office must use additional investigating techniques.

“Mr. You Bunleng continued to say, ‘The fact that the accused do not talk can slow the investigations, because the lawyers ask us to consider many questions when we deal with each case.’

“Regarding the timing of the investigation, Mr. You Bunleng said that it is not yet clear. By 20 May 2009, the co-investigating judges’ office has interviewed 453 witnesses, including more than 10 foreign experts.

“But in the second case, there are 61 people standing as civil plaintiffs. He went on to say that the investigations being conducted are joint investigations for all of the accused, while the 453 witnesses relate to different accused persons.

“During the questioning on Wednesday, the prosecutors of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal tried to describe former S-21 prison chief Kaing Kek Eav, alias Duch, as a person who made important and active decisions to thoroughly purge the Khmer Rouge air force in 1977 from unreliable members.

“Nevertheless, the accused, known as Duch, claimed that he only strictly followed orders from superiors for the S-21 prison, to kill hundreds of staff from the Central Committee of the Unit 502 which was located at the former Pochentong Airport – now the Phnom Penh International Airport.

“The execution lists of the S-21 Prison show that at least 299 people from the Unit 502 had been sent to the S-21 Prison and were then executed.

“According to nine letters written in 1977 by the former secretary-general of the Unit 502, Mr. Sou Met, to Duch, 50 people were mentioned. A senior assistant of the prosecutors, Mr. Alex Baid, asked Duch, ‘Did Mr. Sou Met order interrogations to gain information from some specific people detained?’

“Duch told the court that he had no direct relations with Mr. Sou Met and said that the letters of Mr. Sou Met were really written following the orders from anonymous superiors.

“Duch said, ‘Everything was sent through Son Sen or Nuon Chea in the following time. That was just Son Sen’s and Nuon Chea’s method to hide their names. Those letters were sent as if they came from Mr. Sou Met for me.’

“He added, ‘I had no direct relations with Mr. Sou Met, neither though phone nor through direct contact with him.’

“Because he was accused, according to his position from which he purged the Unit 502, Mr. Sou Met was considered by the deceased lawyer Brian Tittemore and by the Khmer Rouge historian Stephen Heder, who were former investigators of the investigating judges of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal in 2004, as one among seven persons ‘to be prosecuted.’ Being contacted repeatedly by phone on Wednesday, Mr. Sou Met rejected to talk to journalists.

“However, under questioning of the plaintiffs’ defense lawyer, Ms. Elizabeth Rabesandratana, Duch admitted that the information he offered to his superiors badly affected the victims.

“Duch said, ‘My reports did influence decisions of the superiors. However, when I met with the superiors, I was only responding to their questions.’”

Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.3, #413, 29.5.2009
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Friday, 29 May 2009

Assembly Passes Disability Legislation

By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
29 May 2009

The National Assembly unanimously passed legislation on Friday to protect and promote the rights of the disabled, even though the opposition boycotted the session.

Cambodia has a high rate of disability, an estimated 4.5 percent of a population of more than 14 million.

Ruling party parliamentarian Chheang Vun told VOA Khmer the new law would help “resolve social problems.”

“This law sets up all conditions to help persons with disabilities receive various social services and rights,” Chheang Vun said. “This law provides much interest for the disabled, and this law is implemented in conformity with international standards.”

Heng Chantha, whose legs were disabled by polio and who is a rights protection officer for the Cambodian Disabled People organization, welcomed the law.

“This law serves the interests of persons with disabilities, particularly to receive equal rights before the law, non-discrimination, participation of rights in society, the protection and promotion of rights, proper living standards and proper health and education,” she said.

The law passed with 75 votes, after 19 Sam Rainsy Party and three Human Rights Party parliamentarians walked out of the session.

SRP parliamentarian Mu Sochua told reporters Friday the opposition had walked out on procedural complaints, not because its lawmakers disagreed with the law.

Opposition proposals to strengthen the law were not distributed in the full session of the National Assembly, she said.

“Our proposal would have strengthened the law and was aimed at providing special quotas, food, understanding and legal ownership of lands and rights to proper housing,” she said.

Government Plans Public Investment Budget

By Heng Reaksmey, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
29 May 2009

The government hopes to spend nearly $3 billion over the next three years on public investment projects, but opposition lawmakers worry the funds could find their way into the pockets of corrupt officials.

The budget, which was approved by the Council of Ministers Friday, will fund 536 projects mostly aimed at public investment.

The Council of Ministers approved $2.83 billion for three years, marking 303 projects as top priorities.

"The Ministry of Economy and Finance will play a crucial role in controlling this budget," Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said.

Opposition officials warn that public investment schemes could be open to graft.

"I am not opposed public investment with proper expenditure," said Yim Sovann, a lawmaker for the Sam Rainsy Party. "What I'm concerned about is that government officials will commit corruption through these projects."

A senior economist for the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace, who asked not to be named, said the budget would not be enough to build up the country's infrastructure, following decades of war, but it could help the country's impoverished.

Opposition Editor Summoned to City Court

By Kong Sothanarith, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
29 May 2009

Phnom Penh Municipal Court called an opposition journalist in for questioning Friday over articles he published on corruption and the cabinet minister.

Hang Chakra, director of the Khmer Mchas Srok newspaper, ran two stories alleging that Council Minister Sok An was involved in corruption.

One article praised Prime Minister Hun Sen for “destroying” corrupt officials surrounding Sok An.

Sok An is a deputy prime minister and one of the most powerful officials in government. He oversees matters concerning the Khmer Rouge tribunal and oil exploration, among others.

Rights workers and monitors maintain that Cambodia’s media environment, while technically free, remains fettered by political influence.

Last year, the editor of opposition newspaper Moneaksekar Khmer, Dam Sith, was jailed in a suit brought by Foreign Minister Hor Namhong.

Later, a journalist for Moneaksekar Khmer, Khim Sambor, was murdered. No one has been arrested for the killing.

Dr. Etcheson: the creativity and zeal of Pol Pot's cadres contributed to the scope of the disaster

Kambol (Phnom Penh, Cambodia). 28/05/2009: Alain Werner, civil party lawyer, on day 23 of Duch's trial at the ECCC©John Vink/ Magnum


By Stéphanie Gée

Following a pertinent review of torture and the practice of confessions, among others, with expert Craig Etcheson, the hearing of May 28th gave rise to an intense exchange between the international lawyer of Duch and the U.S. expert. During the whole afternoon, François Roux put forth his arguments with method, sketching the main characteristics of the Khmer Rouge regime and making sure to request Craig Etcheson's agreement on each new point raised: Democratic Kampuchea was a “regime of terror” that relied on the obligation of secrecy, an extremely centralised power, the systematic indoctrination of party members, a vertical communication system, a policy of spying and denunciation, a police State that practised mass purges... The lawyer thus pulled the expert towards his conclusions...

The practice of torture, an “oral tradition” that was encouraged
Returning to the meaning to give to the Khmer word “smashing”, which often featured in the Khmer Rouge terminology, expert Craig Etcheson, following the accused, recognised that it meant more than killing and was often translated by “crushing.” He explained this was in line with a long process aimed not only to smash physically but also psychologically. He said that the practice in S-21 was ideally adapted to the dehumanisation of the individual psyche. Alain Werner, co-lawyer for civil party group 1, then asked him if a torture policy was clearly formulated. “I have never seen an order or directive of the Central Committee that explicitly ordered torture,” the American replied, stressing, on the basis of various statements, that the Khmer Rouge explicitly leaders wanted great sufferings to be inflicted upon their enemies.

“Who designed these torture techniques?”, the lawyer asked him. “That is something we wondered about for a long time. Most of the time, they were developed through practice and were inherited from those used by the Vietnamese communists. It was like some kind of oral tradition.” For the expert, Duch was the main trainer in those techniques. “In security centres at the zone, sector and district levels, the range of torture practices seemed to be limited to beating, whipping, suffocation by plastic bag and electrocution. In S-21, there were supplementary techniques, like burning, ripping off fingernails, […], pouring salt on open wounds, using poisonous insects, various forms of water torture and hanging by the hands tied in the back until the shoulders dislocated, etc.”

On the use of the contents of confessions
President Nil Nonn then intervened to remind all parties that “all statements made as a result of torture cannot be invoked as evidence, except against a person accused of torture as evidence that the statement was made.” Judge Cartwright specified that this was not a formal decision and added that while such a confession was in itself an admissible fact, its contents could not be accepted as a proper statement. The international co-Prosecutor remarked that the issue of the use of the confessions was currently before the co-Investigating Judges in case file 2. The issue is a crucial stake for the future of the debates.

The practice of confessions pushed to the extreme at S-21
In response to a series of pertinent questions from Alain Werner, Dr. Etcheson explained that another specificity of S-21 was that interrogation procedures were more vigorous and elaborate than in other places, due to the very nature of the individuals interrogated, that is for most of them, experienced revolutionaries who could talk about more topics of interest. In this death antechamber, some confessions were extracted over several months and could eventually total more than a thousand pages, which was not comparable to what was done in the other security centres, he added.

Annotations, Duch's trademark
Annotations by Khmer Rouge cadres on confessions were also more dense in S-21. The expert recognised that Duch was the author of a great number of them, but he could not recall the existence of notes attributed to Nath, his predecessor at the head of S-21. The practice did not seem to result from an order, but from Duch's initiative. Craig Etcheson recalled that the accused had been a school teacher and hence used to writing notes on the papers of his pupils, and he may have kept this habit in his new functions as interrogator.

The expert clarified that a whole variety of annotations existed. Some seemed to have the same function as a routing sheet, that is it included information on the addressee of the confessions, others looked like memoranda for the accused (like “already read”, “to finish”). Some had instructions for the interrogators, for instance to order them to look for a specific type of information or to resort to torture. Some were more analytical, summarising and analysing the confessions, others dealt with larger aspects related to an ongoing investigation carried out in S-21 and going beyond the scope of the confession, and others still were similar to notes written by superiors such as Son Sen or Nuon Chea, etc.

Adaptable confessions
In front of the Trial Chamber on Monday May 18th, the accused said himself that people intervened on the confessions, by writing on them to modify the admissions. The Standing Committee had decided not to take any measures against Ta Mok or Son Sen, although they were implicated in confessions, Duch had said as an example, to illustrate the way confessions were fabricated from beginning to end. Alain Werner reminded that when one wanted someone to be arrested, one arranged to adjust the confessions to this effect. “I think that beyond the statement made by the accused, it is something that occurred in some cases,” Craig Etcheson admitted. “[...] It is difficult to prove who made these corrections, but the regime's high-ranking leaders, that is Son Sen, Nuon Chea, and maybe even Pol Pot, could have been responsible for such interventions.”

A paranoia sustained by the hunt for enemies
Although purges became widespread within the Revolutionary Army of Kampuchea (RAK), the expert deemed that it was the contents of the confessions extracted in S-21 that convinced the superiors there was a conspiracy against them by several military officers. After reminding him of his comments on the previous day – that purges within the Ministry of Economy could be explained by the paranoia of the Central Committee and a system of systematic detection of enemies devised by the accused –, Alain Werner asked the expert whether that system could have fed and reinforced the Standing Committee's paranoia. Craig Etcheson answered that it was a good example of a feedback loop system, in which the system fuelled itself and generated this kind of phenomenon with an increasingly greater energy.

Duch spared by the purges
Alain Werner continued his examination. Noting that most, if not all, of the directors of security centres in Democratic Kampuchea were victims of purges, as were an important proportion of the staff in S-21, he wondered that Duch did not experience the same fate. “In my opinion, the accused himself was not purged because his superiors considered him effective and loyal,” the expert commented.

How to measure the most important security centre
It was then the turn of the defence to interrogate the expert witness. Duch's Cambodian lawyer was first and asked which was the most important security centre in Democratic Kampuchea in terms of size. “If one measures size in terms of the number of staff employed at a security office, I think, unquestionably, S-21 was the largest,” Craig Etcheson replied. “If, on the other hand, one measures the size of a security office by the total number of victims who were persecuted and/or murdered there, then it is more difficult to compare because very few security offices have surviving records in such detail as S-21.” That was not the answer the lawyer expected, who argued that if S-21 had an important staff, it was because it encompassed three sites, which involved a whole circuit of supply. For him, the most important centre is the one where the greatest number of people lost their lives.

The Angkar explained by Craig Etcheson
Kar Savuth moved on and invited the expert to define what Angkar was. “The Communist Party of Kampuchea [CPK] adopted the use of the term 'Angkar', which is Khmer for 'organisation' from a similar usage by the Vietnamese Communist Party. At different times, to different people within the CPK, this term seems to have been understood in different ways. For some, it referred to the entire organisation of the CPK, for others, it could be used to refer to any individual member of the CPK [...] or to the top leadership of the CPK […]. In other usages, Angkar appears to refer only to Pol Pot or sometimes to Pol Pot and Nuon Chea.”

A regime of terror
His international colleague took over. Before starting his questions, François Roux asked Craig Etcheson for a moral commitment: “In light of the information you have as a researcher on the one hand, and of your current functions with the office of the co-Prosecutors on the other hand, do you think you are able to reply to my questions with absolute freedom and independence, even if the answers you were to provide were contrary to the strategy of the office of the co-Prosecutors?” “Yes, I believe so,” the expert answered.

Invited to define what a regime of terror is, the expert complied: “I would define a terror regime as a government or similar organisation that employs methods of arbitrary violence to coerce the compliance of its own members or populations that it wishes to control.” “So, I can say that this is a definition that matches well the regime of Democratic Kampuchea?,” François Roux retorted. “Is that a question?” “Yes, it was,” the lawyer confirmed. “It is my personal view that the leadership of Democratic Kampuchea explicitly employed terror as a means of control,” the expert admitted.

In this game that the lawyer pulled him into, Craig Etcheson limited himself to answering the questions strictly, without ever straying... and remained unruffled.

Duch had a unique perspective on Democratic Kampuchea
A little later, François Roux: “And was everything that was implemented compartmentalised, with secrecy and vertically, so that the party centre was the only organ that knew what was happening in the country?” Craig Etcheson: “As a general rule, yes, although there may have been exceptions to that general rule. One exception that came immediately to mind is the accused person. Formally, he was not a member of the party centre. However, he had the opportunity to interrogate persons from all units of organisation, at all echelons, from all across the country. And in the course of that work, he gained a unique perspective on what was happening within Democratic Kampuchea.”

Duch, a stranger to the elaboration of CPK policy?
The lawyer also returned to comments made by the expert on the previous day: “You also said [...]: the fact that communication between heads of divisions and S-21 had to go through a vertical structure, as described by the accused, that pattern completely complies – these are your words – with the way I understood the CPK's strict monopoly within the party, the organisation and the military institution. [...] I am not mistaken, am I?” “Yes, that is correct,” the expert answered.

Kambol (Phnom Penh, Cambodia). 28/05/2009: Technician repairing the sound system in the press room on day 23 of Duch's trial at the ECCC
©John Vink/ Magnum

Then, the French lawyer returned the focus on his client who, placed in this black picture, was unable to act upon a system that was beyond his control, he argued. Challenging it would have been sanctioned with certain death, he said. “After this overview, here is my question: would you concur with me to say, I suppose, that all the policy we have been talking about for the last hour, was established by the CPK leaders, very early, you said even before March 30th 1976 [date of important decisions taken by the Standing Committee], without Duch playing any part in the determination of this policy?” Craig Etcheson cannot agree: “I am not certain that this can be said. There are periods of time between the beginning of the regime, on April 17th 1975, and the order to establish S-21, on August 15th 1975, when I cannot clearly account for the whereabouts and activities of the accused person. So, I do not know which functions he may have been performing at that time.” François Roux persevered: “Was the accused ever a member of the CPK Standing Committee?” “I do not believe so,” the expert answered. The lawyer jumped at this point: “I believe I read in your report that the Standing Committee was the one making decisions on policies.” “Indeed, it is,” the American answered.

Roux tirelessly sought to get the expert to come round to his arguments: “Would you concur with me that this entire policy, as you describe it, fell outside of Duch's competence?” “I do not agree,” the expert said forcefully. And so on...

An impossible ranking of security centres, according to the expert
The French lawyer reminded that the Documentation Centre of Cambodia (DC-Cam) – an NGO which creation Craig Etcheson participated to – established lists of the nearly 200 security centres scattered around the country during Democratic Kampuchea and identified to this day, in which the centres are ranked by the number of victims. He then asked the expert “to tell the Chamber which rank S-21 occupied in these gruesome records” provided he was aware of the document. Craig Etcheson refused to venture down that path, explaining that, when it began this work, DC-Cam had no experience and was unable to find a precedent from other countries for such a task. He also added that as a result, he considered that some of the data must be regarded as “unreliable.” Reaction from Roux: “Thank you for the reservations you have expressed regarding the documents of DC-Cam. […] But you have not answered my question...”

The international co-prosecutor protested: “It is an attempt to add to the case file a document that is not there!” “Absolutely not,” the defence lawyer responded, “I am interrogating an expert under oath. He is aware of it or he is not.” Craig Etcheson's answer: “I am not.”

Duch's capacity of innovation and zeal
Things being clarified, Duch's lawyer said he wanted to “attack head-on” some fundamental questions. Returning to a comment made by the expert during the previous day's hearing on Duch's role and “methodology” in the purges, François Roux asked the expert “how the methodology used by Duch differed from the line imposed by the CPK and how it pertained to his own personal initiatives.” The expert: “[...] My understanding […] is that the accused person was very much an innovator, a creator, a developer and an institutionaliser of the methods of making very detailed confessions that are extracted over long periods of time. So that in some cases, it seems as if the victim is forced to name every person he or she has ever met and could remember their name. And then, those lists are used to go out and round up new batches of traitors to whom this same process is applied. And you see a very nearly exponential growth in the number of accused traitors and then the number of victims of purges. In part, it is the zeal with which the accused person pursued this project that caused this methodology to result in such a large number of victims. [...] On the one hand, the policies of the Standing Committee certainly played a role in the unfolding of this tragedy, while at the same time, the creativity, inventiveness and zeal of the cadres who were tasked with implementing those policies also contributed substantially to the magnitude of the disaster.” “Did they have the choice?”, François Roux asked. “As I suggested, one always has choices in life.” Do you agree with me that today, he [Duch] is still alive?”, Roux continued. “Yes, he is.”

S-21, “under the absolute authority of the superiors”, according to the defence
The co-Prosecutor reacted abruptly, considering that the defence's question implied that there were only two choices for a CPK cadre, “death or duty”, while there may have been other options like “fleeing”. François Roux rebuffed him: “Dear co-Prosecutor, it is not the time for your closing speech.” Then, the lawyer explained he had winced at the words “capacity of innovation” used by the expert. “I do not have the impression that from the top to the bottom of the hierarchy, any cadre could take the liberty to innovate, unless they had been asked to do so very strongly by their superiors.” And he added that, for his part, “the best term applicable to S-21 was that it was under the absolute authority of the superiors.”

The place of S-21 in the government
On Roux's request, Craig Etcheson reviewed a chart of the government of Democratic Kampuchea featuring S-21, to include in it bodies subordinate to the high command, military units, independent regiments and two offices of the high command. Earlier, the expert had explained he considered S-21 not as a combat unit but as an intelligence operation, and felt it was appropriate to include it in the chart of the government rather than in the chart of the combat units of the RAK. The corrected chart was presented at the end of the hearing. “The defence bore in mind your declarations, Mr. Echeson, indicating that all the division secretaries were superiors of Duch. Yet, here, I see them at the bottom of the chart. This bothers me. I would have also liked to see the high command of the Revolutionary Army of Kampuchea. [...] I do not understand. You have just told me that your report, at the time you wrote it, was a general report that did not focus specifically on S-21. Yet, you place it in this chart at a place that is not its one, and you have left out of the chart a number of people we would have liked to see at their right place.” And after a silence. “I forgot to tell you one thing: I do not like and I have never liked scapegoats.”

The hearing was adjourned and will only resume on June 8th. Duch will then be interrogated on the facts related to the implementation of the CPK policy at S-21, in the absence of François Roux. The French lawyer announced during the hearing that he would not be back until June 11th, as he would be held back by his new functions at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.

Rice bank helps poor families

May 29 2009

KANDAL, Cambodia : Caritas Cambodia is seeing positive results four years after establishing its rice bank program to help poor rural families.

In Lavear Am and Kandal Stueng districts in Kandal province, for instance, the program has significantly benefited impoverished households, says Chhay Meng, Caritas Cambodia's program manager in this province.

The program here is just one of the many rice bank schemes that Caritas is involved in across the country. Caritas is the Catholic Church's social service agency.

"Confronted by immense poverty and suffering, our most fundamental response has been supporting marginalized communities by sharing resources, supplying seeds for farmers, increasing their output and supplies, and helping to reduce their dependence on high interest loans," he said.

Meng said that Caritas has managed to help six communes and 13 villages in the province, directly benefiting up to 250 of the poorest families.

The good thing about the program, he said, is that although Caritas is the principle sponsor, it is the local people who are mainly responsible for the day-to-day running of the rice bank.

Farmers contribute 20 kilograms of rice to the bank on joining the scheme.

Participants wishing to borrow rice to feed their families will have to pay 20 percent interest on what they borrow. However, the interest rate goes up to 50 percent on rice seed for planting, which they pay back at harvest time. If they default on a repayment, then it can affect their ability to borrow in the future.

The scheme also allows farmers to save rice, said Meng.

Rice bank officials are elected by rice bank members in the villages and staff from Caritas Cambodia. There are three main officials per district: director, deputy-director, and cashier.

According to Yem Nuon, 54, cashier in Kandal's Stueng district, Caritas Cambodia in 2005 provided 250 kilograms of rice to poor families in her district. Since then the rice bank has grown significantly so that there is now a reserve of about three tons.

"I'm very thankful to Caritas Cambodia for assisting the poor families in our village," she said "If our crops fail, we can borrow seed from the bank. If we borrow from other sources, we have to pay double the interest (almost 100 percent)," she said.

Hem Pring, 60, director of the rice bank in the same village, said her village has 26 families already registered as members of the program and 56 other people are about to join. "The members are living better lives now," she added.

Couretsy : UCAN

Power group sells more to Cambodia


HA NOI — Viet Nam will sell more than 1 billion kWh of electricity per year to Cambodia, according to the Electricity of Viet Nam Group.

The latest electricity purchase amends a contract between the EVN and Cambodian utility Electricite Du Cambodge first signed in July 2000.

The amended agreement also calls for Viet Nam to build a transformer in Chau Doc in An Giang Province and more than 26km of line to deliver power from there to the Cambodian border. Cambodia, meanwhile, will lay more than 50km of line from the border to a 220kV transformer in Takeo Province, and another 46km to a 220kV transformer in the capital city of Phnom Penh.

Slow construction progress on the Cambodian side has delayed the completion of the project from 2003 to 2009, according to the group.

Suu Kyi tops ministers' talks

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
ASEAN and EU delegates, including Myanmar's Deputy Foreign Minister Maung Myint (third from left), at the end of their meeting Thursday.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by George Mcleod
Friday, 29 May 2009

Junta rejects outside pressure during ASEAN-EU meeting.

DEFYING a rising tide of criticism, Myanmar's deputy foreign minister on Thursday firmly rejected international calls to secure the release of pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, an issue that dominated the agenda of the 17th ASEAN-EU Ministerial Meeting.

"We are a sovereign country, and we reject interference," Myanmar's Deputy Foreign Minister Maung Myint told the Post at the meeting at the Chaktomuk Conference Hall.

"We don't accept pressure and interference from abroad," he said in a separate statement to the conference that was mistakenly broadcast to reporters.

His comments came as Asian and European foreign ministers urged Myanmar to free all political prisoners.

Delegates said the issue loomed over the two days of wide-ranging talks.

"We are still deeply concerned about Mrs Suu Kyi's detention," said Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kohout, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency.

"She should be released immediately, and the Burmese government must enter dialogue with all political parties," he added, using the military-ruled country's former name.

The meetings concluded with a joint ASEAN-EU statement calling on Myanmar to grant early release to all political prisoners and lift restrictions on political parties.

Suu Kyi could face up to five years in prison if convicted of violating the conditions of her house arrest after American John Yettaw swam to her lakeside home earlier this month.

Delegates at the closed-door meetings said discussions focused on the controversy surrounding Suu Kyi's detention and the country's poor human rights record.

A senior European delegate who asked not to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue called for an end to military rule in Myanmar.

"We think [Suu Kyi] should be freed and that elections should be held, and whoever wins should govern.... The Burma issue is really dominating the discussions," the delegate told the Post.

At the close of the talks, a declaration was made on the accession of the EU and EC to the ASEAN Treaty of Amity and Cooperation, but two high-level delegates said Myanmar rejected some aspects of the declaration that came out of the summit.

"Burma has been a very contentious issue at the talks, and the Burmese were not happy that they were being put on the spot.... They demanded that their objections be noted in the final declaration," said a senior ASEAN diplomat, asking not to be named.

A senior EU diplomat who also requested anonymity confirmed that "the Burmese delegates did not agree to some parts of the declaration".

But at the signing ceremony that closed the summit, Jan Kohout, foreign minister of the Czech Republic and the deputy director general for external relations of the European Union, downplayed any disagreements.

"[The agreement] paves the way for mutual cooperation between ASEAN and the EU."

He added: "[The Burmese] had some issues with the selection of the UN envoy, and those were noted, but the parties reached a consensus," he told the Post, in response to a question about the allegation of Burmese objections to the declaration.

ASEAN Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan was upbeat about the talks. "[Suu Kyi's detention] is a serious issue of discussion, but it's not a serious barrier," he told the Post.

But some delegates said Aung San Suu Kyi was crucial to the wider issue of a free and democratic Myanmar.

"I find it borderline amusing when I hear speeches that Suu Kyi has violated her house arrest.... I want to see a Burma that is free," Finland's Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb told reporters.

Michael Zimer-Johns, Denmark's state secretary for foreign policy said: "In the world today, issues such as [the Suu Kyi detention] cannot be treated as an internal issue," he told reporters at the summit.

"The release of Suu Kyi and a political process is key."

Witness takes stand
In Yangon Thursday, Judges finished questioning legal expert Kyi Win, the only witness for the defence, said Nyan Win, National League for Democracy spokesman and member of Aung San Suu Kyi's legal team, adding that it was not yet clear when a verdict would be reached.

The court had barred three out of four defence witnesses, including the detained deputy chairman of the NLD, Tin Oo, and Myanmar's former longest-serving prisoner, Win Tin, who was freed in September, he said.

Outside the court, security officials arrested a lone protester, a man in his 50s who held a banner that said in Burmese and English, "Saving Suu is saving Burma".

Both sides are set to give their closing statements to the trial on Monday, Nyan Win said.

ASEAN last week issued a rare condemnation of Myanmar, warning that the regime's "honour and credibility" were at stake, in response to Western pressure to take action against its most troublesome member.

Singapore's government said, however, that expelling Myanmar from the 10-member bloc was not the way to bring about reform.

"The question of expulsion or suspension, which [is] often raised by external observers of ASEAN, is not as straightforward as it seems," said Zainul Abidin Rasheed, senior minister of state at the Foreign Ministry, today at the city-state's parliament.

"We have always believed in ASEAN that we have more influence over Myanmar, however limited, through engagement rather than isolating it."


Fresh street sweeps mar summit opening

A homeless woman sits on a bench on Sihanouk Boulevard in Phnom Penh. Rights groups say the municipality has cracked down on street people ahead of this week's ASEAN-EU meeting.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Mom Kunthear and Sebastian strangio
Friday, 29 May 2009

RIGHTS groups say at least 25 street people were rounded up by police in Daun Penh district on Monday and Tuesday nights ahead of the Wednesday opening of the 17th ASEAN-EU Ministerial Meeting in Phnom Penh.

Jason Barber, a monitoring consultant at local rights group Licadho, said 10 people Monday night and an additional 15 on Tuesday were unlawfully detained by security officials from the Daun Penh district office, handed to the Municipal Department of Social Affairs and trucked to Prey Speu, a government "rehabilitation" centre in Choam Chao district.

Barber added that the detained included an HIV-positive woman who had her antiretroviral drugs confiscated by district authorities.

"It could have been a death sentence for this woman if we didn't get [ARVs] to her in time," he said.

"This is just an indication of how the authorities are playing with these people's lives."

‘Cleanup' policy
The most recent wave of roundups followed a similar sweep last week, when 30 beggars, suspected drug users, sex workers and homeless people were detained in Daun Penh and turned over to Social Affairs officials.

Barber said the unlawful detention of street people has been the policy of the government for "close to two decades".

Prey Speu is one of several government centres that have been widely criticised by rights groups, who say that inmates have been beaten and starved.

In its 2009 global human rights report released Thursday, Amnesty International writes that in 2008, the centres saw "at least three" detainees beaten to death and the gang rape of women by centre guards.

...the authorities are playing with these people's lives.

"We think that this centre, in particular, needs to be closed down. As long as it's open, it will continue to do nothing more than function as a detention centre," said Barber.

But Soun Chhoeung, deputy director of the city's Social Affairs Department, denied the sweeps were timed to coincide with the ASEAN-EU meeting, saying authorities intended to beautify the city and provide care and education for street people.

"The authorities in Phnom Penh city have to clear [these people] in order to make our city more attractive, and we don't want them to sleep on the street because it can make them sick," he said.

"We are worried about their health and future."

Daun Penh Deputy Governor Sok Penh Vuth added "it is bad for our city when foreign tourists see there are many street children and when beggars come to them to ask for money. They make our city dishonourable."

Sebastien Marot, executive director of Friends International, said municipal clean-up efforts happened roughly every three months, but that the onset of big events - such as the ASEAN-EU meeting - appeared to accelerate the sweeps.

He added that Friends worked to help the victims of such cleanups by providing them with temporary accommodation and getting them out of the city's rehabilitation centres.

"We try to offer the municipality a different way of doing these things," he said, adding that 60 street children were now in a "holiday camp" run by Friends in Kampong Speu province, and that 20 families were staying at the group's two drop-in centres in the city.

"We're trying to get people out of those centres," he added.

Government rejects charges of political manipulation at ECCC

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Georgia Wilkins
Friday, 29 May 2009

Denies claims of political interference following report by court watchdog that accuses officials of manipulating investigations at the tribunal.

A SENIOR government official has rejected allegations that the government is preventing judges at Cambodia's war crimes court from interviewing witnesses who are currently serving as members of the government.

"We aren't interfering in anything," Council of Ministers spokesperson Phay Siphan said Thursday.

"It's up to the prosecutors who they want to speak to."

He added: "The government has no power or responsibility in this issue."

Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith said Thursday that deciding who to call as a witness was an issue for court officials, not the government, but refused to comment further.

The most recent allegation of political interference was made by the Open Society Justice Initiative, a US-based international watchdog that said in a report Wednesday that there were "ominous signs of political manipulation" at the UN-backed court.

"Recent public warnings by senior officials against additional indictments have added to fears of political meddling," a press statement said.

"It appears that the government of Cambodia is attempting to block the investigating judges from interviewing certain insider witnesses who hold current positions of power," it added.

In April, Prime Minister Hun Sen said that he would "prefer to see this court fail than for war to come back to Cambodia".

"That is my absolute position ... just focus on these few people," Hun Sen said.

"If they try another 20 people and war erupts, who will take responsibility? ... I would pray for this court to run out of money and for the foreign judges and prosecutors to walk out. That would allow for Cambodia to finish the trial by itself," he added.

Citing the comments and others made by senior officials, OSJI said the government was blatantly interfering in prosecutorial decisions.

"The Cambodian government risks undermining the Khmer Rouge tribunal," said James Goldston, executive director of OSJI, in the press statement.

"Political direction about whom to prosecute and whom not to prosecute directly flouts the court's promise of independence," the report further stated.

However, Phay Siphan claimed that the prime minister's comments were "unofficial" and that if the monitoring group wanted to know what the official line of the government was on the issue, it should request it in writing.

Donors must also act
Clint Williamson, the US ambassador-at-large for war crimes, said during a visit last week that officials must address the issue of graft at the court but did not express concern over political interference.

The OSJI report also criticised donor countries' unwillingness to demand proper oversight mechanisms. "Donors are in a position to insist that adequate protections against improper practices are put in place to protect the integrity of their contributions," it said.

S-21 called worst prison

Photo by: AFP/ECCC pool
Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, during his trial at Cambodia's war crimes tribunal in this file photo.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Cheang Sokha
Friday, 29 May 2009

Expert tells court 'techniques' more brutal than other centres.

AMERICAN specialist Craig Etcheson sought to dispute defence arguments that Duch was a scapegoat for the wrongs of the Khmer Rouge regime, telling the UN-backed war crimes court Thursday that the torture techniques used at S-21 were more horrendous than those at other security offices throughout the country.

Speaking at the trial of former S-21 chief Kaing Guek Eav, Etcheson, who is currently an investigator with the co-prosecutors, said that at zone-level security offices and the security offices situated in the regime's lower echelons, the main torture techniques were "whipping, suffocation with a plastic bag and electrocution".

However at S-21, methods such as "burning, removing fingernails and toenails, putting salt or saltwater on wounds, tormenting people with poisonous insects", were used.

"There was a difference in the torture practices at S-21 and the torture practices at other security offices," Craig Etcheson told the chamber.

Etcheson, who is the author of The Rise and Demise of Democratic Kampuchea, was called on to provide expert testimony on the implementation of regime policy at S-21 prison.

Answering questions put by civil party lawyer Alain Werner about the policy of "smashing" cadres, Etcheson emphasised that the policy meant more than just a bullet to the head.

"Smash means something more than killing," Etcheson explained. "It was to smash into little pieces."

He said that starvation could also be considered a form of smashing.

"Starvation of prisoners in the security offices appeared to be a very widespread policy throughout Democratic Kampuchea."

Cambodian defence lawyer Kar Savuth disputed claims made by Etcheson that the S-21 prison was the regime's largest torture facility.

NEC confirms CPP council landslide

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Meas Sokchea
Friday, 29 May 2009

THE Kingdom's ruling Cambodian People's Party cleaned up in May's council elections, winning more seats than anticipated across the country, the National Election Committee announced Thursday.

The NEC's results showed that in the elections for district-level councils, the CPP won 2,249 seats, and at provincial-level councils, 302 seats.

The opposition Sam Rainsy Party won 518 district seats and just 61 seats at the provincial level. The elections were indirect, meaning only elected commune officials could vote.

Meanwhile, the beleaguered Norodom Ranariddh Party won only 39 district and five provincial seats, while the Royalist party Funcinpec earned 55 district and six provincial seats.

"We are not surprised by this result because this voting system makes it easy for the ruling party to buy [SRP commune councilors'] votes," SRP spokesman and lawmaker Yim Sovann said, adding that despite their dissatisfaction, the SRP would accept the result of the poll.

CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap denied the CPP had employed vote-buying to win. The NEC secretary general, Tep Nytha, also said a purported recording of a CPP councilor offering a bribe to an SRP councilor would not stand up in court.

"This result is not a surprise," said Hang Puthea, executive director of local election monitoring organisation the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia.

"We could have known the result beforehand, as the NEC is not neutral," he added.

Lake residents detail abuses

Photo by: May Titthara
Boeung Kak residents describe the damage done to their houses by the filling in of the lake.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by May Titthara
Friday, 29 May 2009

Boeung Kak holdouts say they are facing threats, lost property.

FLOODING, fractured walls, lost livestock and ruined businesses were some of the complaints voiced Thursday as Boeung Kak lake residents met with journalists in what they said was a bid to shed light on the abuses they've suffered at the hands of developer Shukaku Inc, which is filling in the lake to make way for a large construction project.

Residents said they hoped that by publicising their grievances, they could pressure City Hall to void its lease agreement with Shukaku, which gives the company a 99-year hold over the area.

The agreement, residents said, has resulted in their illegal eviction. "There are now five houses that have collapsed since the company began filling in the lake, and at only one of those houses has the [compensation] problem been settled," said Be Pharom, a resident representative.

Lakeside resident Pol Theary, whose wooden house now has a 12-metre-long split at the back, said: "My house was nearly destroyed when the company began filling in the lake, and it has caused my family significant difficulty."

"Now, it is easy for my nephew or son to fall into the lake where they could drown, and the company doesn't want to settle the problem with my family," he added.

Officials from Shukaku, whose director is CPP Senator Lau Meng Khin, could not be reached Thursday.

Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Mann Chhoeun declined to comment.

While many have left their homes, opting for a pay-out, others say officials are not offering enough money or, in some cases, failing to provide any compensation.

Keo Malaiy, a 25-year-old widow with two children, said that when her house was partially destroyed as the lake was filled in, the Phnom Penh Municipality banned her from rebuilding - offering her just US$200 in compensation.

"They told me I was poor so I didn't need to rebuild my house," she told the press conference. "When my house was broken, I went to live with my friends, and when I asked for compensation, they did not give me any because they said my house was worthless."

Other residents reported that the developer had been threatening them with the destruction of their property to get them to leave their houses.

"[On Wednesday] they came and threatened to cut my mango tree down," said Mom Hor. "They did not care about the flooding in my house; they cared about my mango tree.

"Since the company filled the lake, I haven't had a place to feed my ducks. Now I haven't got a business to support my living," she added.

People from the lakeside sent complaints to four ministries last week asking them to revoke the lease agreement with Shukaku, but a lawyer for the residents, Choung Chou Ngy, said that he doubted the government would respond.

"If it is a case that will get them a profit, they will respond quickly. But if there's no profit for them, they will find ways to evade or delay the case," he said. "They do not use the word ‘eviction' but Shukaku Inc's actions are exactly that, they destroyed houses and ruined people's businesses, so they will face penalties for these crimes," he added.

3 dengue deaths so far this year: govt

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sam Rith
Friday, 29 May 2009

GOVERNMENT health officials say they are alarmed by a rise of dengue fever across Cambodia, saying that figures for the first 19 weeks of 2009 show a 50 percent increase compared with the same period last year.

Ngan Chantha, head of the National Anti-Dengue Program and deputy director of the National Centre for Parasitology, Entomology and Malaria Control, said an early wet season had prompted a rash of dengue infections, with 1,419 cases recorded so far this year.

"We are still alarmed about an outbreak of dengue fever," he said. "The number of infections has increased because [it has been raining] continuously."

In addition to the unusually wet weather, he said the spike in dengue infections this year was a result of poor hygiene in affected areas. Ngan Chantha said Phnom Penh, Kampong Cham and Kandal were the regions hit hardest by the disease.

But he said that although there was a rise in reported dengue infections, more effective treatment meant the first 19 weeks of the year had seen just three deaths, down from nine in the same period in 2008. "We have enough health supplies to treat dengue patients quickly," he said.

So far this year, he added, the Ministry of Health had already distributed 120 tonnes of Abate - a chemical used to kill mosquito larvae - and that, beginning next month, it was aiming to distribute an additional 100 tonnes of Abate, serum and medicines to target areas throughout the country.

Govt seeks sustainable feed for snakefish to end ban

Snakefish - the import and breeding of which is illegal - on sale in a Phnom Penh market.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Khuon Leakhana
Friday, 29 May 2009

Fisheries agency says it will lift 5-year-old prohibition on farming the carnivore when alternative food source found.

THE Fisheries Administration said this week it is searching for sustainable food sources for the highly carnivorous snakefish, which would allow Cambodian farmers to once again raise the popular protein source - the farming of which has been prohibited since 2004 out of concerns for its impact on fish stocks.

"The prohibition on raising snakefish will not be in effect forever," Sam Nuov, deputy director of the Fisheries Administration, told the Post Tuesday.

The administration, however, denied local media reports that said the government was on the verge of an agreement that would allow companies to import snakefish from Vietnam.

"We do not have [sustainable] food [stocks] for this kind of fish yet, and we cannot lose small species as prey for snakefish," Sam Nuov said.
Despite being illegal, both raising and importing snakefish is common, Sam Nuov said.

"Currently, we have many fishery lots around the Tonle Sap, especially in Battambang province, which are major sources of snakefish," he said, adding that the Fisheries Administration had increased their response to illegal snakefish breeders but have not been able to prevent fish smuggling.

Raids are risky
Chin Da, head of the Aquatic Intensification Office at the Fisheries Administration, said that raids of illegal fisheries can lead to snakefish being released into the wild.

"When farmers are found to raise this kind of fish, they are fined ... then the fish are confiscated and set free into the rivers," where they pose a threat to Cambodia's aquatic diversity and could lead to a decline in Cambodia's fish stock, he said.

"If snakefish are raised in the Tonle Sap river, other fish of smaller species will be lost," said Yang Saing Koma, president of the Cambodian Centre for Study and Development in Agriculture, or CEDAC.

The Fisheries Administration said it was working hard to improve Cambodia's fish stocks and "had plans to offset the problem of snakefish including protecting natural breeding species in the Tonle Sap River", Sam Nuov said.

Villagers complain to Pailin governor over new water-pipe costs

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Mom Kunthear
Friday, 29 May 2009

Pailin villagers say they are being unfairly treated by new water company, which is demanding they pay for the costs of installing new pipes.

MORE than 300 households across four villages in Pailin province have signed a second complaint to the governor against a provincial water company, which they say is forcing them to pay for new water pipes - which they say they do not need or want.

"We sent a complaint to [rights group] Adhoc on May 22.... I don't know when the governor will start to solve this for us," said Soun Bunleap, a representative of the province's Wat village, adding that Adhoc had forwarded the complaint to the governor's office on behalf of the villagers.
He said the company was requiring the four villages to pay US$50 for new pipes, and after sending a complaint to the governor in March, the issue has remained unresolved.

"We are simply asking that they not charge us money for [new pipes] because we have already paid money [for pipes] to the old company. If they keep changing companies, we will be forced to pay for [the same thing] all the time," Soun Bunleap said.

Company ‘not making profit'
Yong Savan, general manager of the company in question, the Thomas Co, denied claims the charges for new pipes were excessive.

"The company [installed] new pipes and we're not making a profit [on it]," he said. "Not all villagers in the province have agreed with the cost. About 60 percent of them agreed and we [installed their pipes] already. Only around 40 percent don't agree.... We aren't forcing them," he said.

Eang Vuth, Pailin deputy governor, said Wednesday that he was arranging a meeting with the owner of the water company to solve the problem.

Opposition publisher charged over stories

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sam Rith
Friday, 29 May 2009

THE publisher of a daily Khmer-language opposition newspaper said Thursday he has been summoned to appear in Phnom Penh Municipal Court on June 3 to answer to charges of publishing false information.

Hang Chakra, the publisher of the pro-Sam Rainsy Party newspaper Khmer M'chas Srok, said he received the court summons Tuesday.

He said he does not know which articles prompted the charges but expected they were related to a series of articles that he said uncovered corruption on the part of officials working under Deputy Prime Minister Sok An.

Government lawyer Suong Chanthan said he filed the complaint on May 11 but declined to detail the charges beyond saying that he filed them "on behalf of government lawyers".

Publisher to stand by stories
Hang Chakra said his lawyer and he have agreed to appear for the hearing on June 3 at 8:30am.

He said he would stand by his articles, adding that the outcome of the case would depend largely on the level of independence exhibited by the court.

"I am concerned because, as we already know, [the] court is controlled by the powerful people. So it might not be on the side of journalists," he said.

Ride 'em


The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sovann Philong
Friday, 29 May 2009

A rider steers his steed to victory during the annual Nek Ta Pring Ek competition held in Kandal province's Ponhea Leu district. The competition is part of a ceremony meant to bring good luck to participating villagers. As part of the celebration, racers attempt to ride their cart horses, many of which have rarely been mounted and are reluctant to cooperate.

Iodised salt push for public health

A worker sifts salt at a salt plant on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.

Relief from Nuclear fallout

During the Cold War people took iodine pills at times when there was a threat of a nuclear attack. Why? Because an exploding nuclear bomb forms radioactive iodine. Those who eat, drink or inhale this isotope can develop thyroid damage or cancer. By taking an iodine pill, potential victims saturate the thyroid gland with iodine thus preventing it from absorbing the radioactive iodine.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Mom Kunthear
Friday, 29 May 2009

Cambodia’s health ministry is advertising the benefits of iodised salt in a campaign aimed at overcoming diseases and slow development from a shortage of the essential micronutrient

Iodine deficiency disorders can seriously damage your health. In addition to stunting growth and causing deafness, dumbness and goitre, iodine deficiency can significantly lower the average national IQ in areas where it is widespread.

In April, the Ministry of Health revived a campaign raising awareness of the importance of a sufficient iodised salt intake, especially among children and pregnant women.

The campaign includes educational television and radio broadcasts, as well as school visits by specially trained health instructors, according to Dr Ou Kevanna, manager of the National Nutrition Council, which was established in 1998 by the health ministry.

"Many Cambodian people believe that their children are not brave or clever because of race or other problems, but they actually lack iodine in their bodies," he said.

"Children who lack iodine cannot learn or remember as well as those with sufficient levels. They are also more inactive."

Short supply
Iodine is a micronutrient naturally present in the food supplies of many regions. However, in countries like Cambodia, where natural levels of iodine in the soil are low, and it is therefore not absorbed easily by vegetables, iodine added to salt provides the small but essential amount needed by humans.

Public health experts say putting iodine in salt may be the simplest and most cost-effective health measure in the world. Salt is an effective vehicle for distributing iodine to the public because it does not spoil and is generally consumed by the population in fairly predictable amounts.

Table salt can be mixed with a minute amount of potassium iodide, sodium iodide or iodate. According to the New York Times, two ounces of potassium iodate, costing about $1.15, are needed to iodise a tonne of salt.

Deficiency of this vital iodine trace element causes sufferers to feel tired, depressed, cold, weak, and they may eventually develop thyroid gland problems, specifically endemic goitre, the most visible symptom of which is an often gross swelling of the neck. On a medical mission in 2001, Canadian endocrinologist Keith McDonald was "impressed" by the high frequency of enlarged thyroids he found, particularly among women.

Children who lack iodine cannot learn or remember as well as those with sufficient levels.

A lack of iodine can also cause serious developmental delays. In 2007 the World Health Organisation identified iodine deficiency as "the single greatest preventable cause of mental retardation" worldwide.

Cambodia has historically been highly susceptible to various micronutrient deficiencies, and a nationwide survey conducted in 1997 revealed a total goitre rate (TGR) of 12 percent among schoolchildren of 8-12 years of age - rising to as high as 45 percent in some areas.

According to UNICEF Cambodia, "any country with a TGR of 10 percent or more is likely to suffer a population-wide lowering of intellectual capacity from 10 to 15 IQ points," thereby shaving incalculable potential off a nation's development.

To address the problem, in 1997 a National Subcommittee for the Control of Iodine Deficiency Disorders in Cambodia was established within the National Nutrition Council. The country began salt iodisation in 1998, and domestic production of iodised salt began exceeding annual national requirements by 2004. A nation-wide school-based survey in 2008 revealed that 62 percent of households use adequately iodised salt.

This is encouraging. However, UNICEF Cambodia highlighted unresolved issues related to low use of iodised salt in salt-producing provinces including Kampot and Kep, and provinces bordering Vietnam, such as Svay Rieng. "The quality of iodised salt remained relatively low and quality control systems on production levels need improvement," a UNICEF report said.

Reaching out
Doctor Ou Kevanna said it was important people received a daily intake of at least 20 to 50 micrograms of iodine to prevent health problems. The recently revived public awareness campaign reached Neang Sopanhna, 32, a housewife who said: "I use iodised salt every day, but I didn't realise its importance until I watched the Ministry of Health's television broadcast."

Her 12-year-old son, Chiv Sokhour, however, said he didn't believe eating iodised salt made him smarter or a better student.
"I will be a good student because I try to study hard and I listen to my teacher's explanations," he said.

Pen Saroeun, director of the School Health Department at the Ministry of Education Youth and Sport, said that the ministry was cooperating with the National Subcommittee for the Control of Iodine Deficiency Disorders and the Ministry of Rural Development to train instructors in four provinces - Prey Veng, Svay Reang, Kamport and Kep province - to spread knowledge about the importance of iodised salt.

Skin safety is made in the shade

Photo by: MARK ROY
Relaxing on a sun lounge in Sihanoukville is a pleasant way to wile away the hours, but the effects of the sun on unprotected skin include wrinkles, age spots, loss of elasticity and cancers.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Nora Lindstrom
Friday, 29 May 2009

The burnt, pink skin of foreigners is often a source of hilarity among Cambodians – but if precautions are not taken, the long-term effects of sun damage are anything but amusing

Avoid, avoid, avoid, avoid is the best advice when it comes to preventing sun damage to the skin.
Unless you live above the polar circle during the winter months, it is a near impossible dogma to follow.

In a tropical climate where the sun is constant and intense, precautions are essential. Through repeated and excessive exposure to the sun you can seriously damage your skin and even develop cancer.

Dr Christoph Bendick, Senior Lecturer for Dermatology and Sexually Transmitted Diseases at the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Health Sciences in Phnom Penh says the sun can be quite harmful, particularly to those from other countries living in tropical climates.

"Many of us have skin types which are not adjusted to the amount of sunlight we are getting here," Bendick says. "It's not without reason that Cambodians who are born here usually have darker skin.

"The darker the skin is the more protected it is against the harmful effects of sunlight. The whiter it is, the more it is prone to damage."

Fair-skinned Caucasians are prime targets for sun damage, while the skin cancer rate among those with darker skin is significantly lower.

The science
The sun emits three kinds of ultraviolet radiation: UVA, UVB and UVC.
Of these, the effects of UVC are negligible, while UVA is most harmful for the ageing of the skin, and UVB is what mainly causes DNA damage which in turn can cause skin cancer.

The sun can also temporarily weaken the immune system and give rise to viruses such as herpes of the mouth. Furthermore, existing skin diseases can be aggravated through sun exposure.

The skin doesn't forget any damage we have inflicted upon it.

It's not all bad news though, as sunlight can have a positive effect on mood and promotes important vitamin D production.

Nevertheless, skin aging - complete with wrinkles, age spots and loss of elasticity - is undesirable, and the risk of skin cancer should be enough for everyone to slap on some sunscreen and keep in the shade.

Alas, many don't. Bendick says that during his 15 years in Cambodia, he has seen skin cancers "very frequently" mainly among the expat population, many of whom don't take the necessary precautions.

Skin cancer also comes in three main types: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma.

Of these, melanoma is the least frequent, but also the most dangerous. Left untreated, it leads inevitably to death.

"What we know today is that it is particularly the sunburns in childhood which make us more susceptible to the development of malignant melanoma," Bendick says.

"The other skin cancers are more produced through the cumulative effect of lifelong daily sun exposure."

He is quick to remind parents of their responsibility to keep their children protected from the sun.

"The skin doesn't forget any damage we have inflicted upon it, so every sunburn is stored in the cumulative memory of the skin," he says.

Be safe
Though it is difficult for a layman to diagnose skin cancer, certain observable changes in the skin may mean a visit to a qualified dermatologist is in order. "You should consult a dermatologist whenever you have a new lesion that you cannot easily attribute to an insect bite, scratch or pimple," Bendick says, "especially if this lesion doesn't heal after a suitable time."

In addition, should you notice a new (or existing) mole that is particularly black, bleeding, itchy, irregular or growing, it is recommended you have it checked with a professional.

Prevention, however, is key.

"The wheel can't be turned backwards so it's best to avoid damage from the very beginning," Bendick says. He cites shade, sunscreen and protective clothing as suitable precautions against harmful sunlight.

Many people complain wearing sun screen is uncomfortable and cosmetically undesirable.

However, a cursory glance through the better pharmacies in Phnom Penh reveals a wide variety of lotions, gels and sprays to suit every need and wallet. Though quality brands may provide enhanced protection, any sunscreen with both UVA and UVB protection is better than nothing.

It is advisable to avoid oily lotions, as these can clog the pores in your skin and stop sweat evaporating.

"I know that in our culture, it is preferential to be tanned," Bendick says, while noting many Cambodians aspire to the exact opposite.

Yet while a bit of colour may have a positive effect on one's self-esteem, red peeling skin after a week's holiday on Sihanoukville's beaches is surely redundant.

Follow these easy steps
There is no need to go to extreme measures to avoid direct sunlight. Small measures and a bit of forethought is all it takes to keep on the safe side of pink skin.

Bendick highlights the following:

- Avoid the sun, especially during the most intense hours of 10am-2pm
- Don't expose yourself unnecessarily - seek shade
- Cover up with clothes and hats
- Wear sunscreen every day, whether it is cloudy or sunny
- Choose a high SPF factor and sun-screen that protects you against both UVA and UVB light
- Apply sun screen 30 minutes or more before exposure, and reapply after swimming or sweating.

we asked some westerners 'Do you take precautions against the sun?'

Laura Mitchell
Almost 1 year in Cambodia

“I think I’ve used sunscreen maybe twice in the last month. My excuse is my olive complexion. But I know I should because I worry about aging. When I first came to Cambodia, I did use sunscreen, but you sweat so much it’s useless. I do, however, seek shade when I’m out and I don’t go sun tanning.”

Bruno Maltoni
5 years in Cambodia

“No, I don’t. I don’t use sunscreen – I’m Italian so we’re used to the sun. I don’t go tanning though. I don’t worry about skin cancer or any other harmful effects of the sun.”

Jean-Luc Marliere
2 weeks in Cambodia

“I was born in Rwanda and lived there for 8 years and got too much sun then, so I have to be careful now. Usually, I use sunscreen on my face, arms and legs when I’m in a hot climate. I also seek shade and wear a hat when I work in the sun. I go to the dermatologist for check-ups regularly.”

Cambodian holidaymakers stay abreast of trends in makeovers

This 26-year-old Khmer women recently had her breasts augmented at the hands of Dr Reid Sheftall. PHOTO SUPPLIED

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Zoe Holman
Friday, 29 May 2009

Its reputation for dodgy doctors may still be intact, but Cambodia is re-creating itself as the perfect destination for those looking for a new face, fuller breasts or a flatter stomach

World-CLASS health care is not usually one of Cambodia's international selling points, but in recent years, a number of medical centres in Phnom Penh have seen an influx of affluent patients from around the country and globe.

However, rather than life-threatening illnesses, it is hairlines, waistlines and panty-lines that foreigners, expats and middle-class Khmers are so eager to ameliorate.

Dr Reid Sheftall, a registered general and plastic surgeon from the American Medical Centre (AMC), has been at the receiving end of a cosmetic surgery boom that has seen unprecedented numbers demanding his services.

"Between 2008 and 2009 I think business has increased about 10 times," said the American professional, who began practising as a general and cosmetic surgeon in Phnom Penh nine years ago after extended periods volunteering and working in the region.

"I would go home for a few months and come back again and there would be 20 people on my waiting list, so I decided just to move over here," he said.

With its burgeoning middle-class and relatively underdeveloped health care system, Cambodia has been fertile ground for internationally trained professionals.

Dr Theung Chanseiha, a surgeon at the Cambodia-Russia Friendship Hospital and a manager at the Sok Hok clinic, trained in cosmetic surgery in France and Italy and has also witnessed this local development.

"Now plastic surgery is really popular in Cambodia, even with good-looking people," he says. "Sometimes people might just be unhappy with their nose, and now they can operate to make it smaller and prettier."

Dr Reid Sheftall in his surgery. IMAGE SUPPLIED

Happier at home
With no certified cosmetic-surgery training available in either Cambodia or neighbouring Vietnam, wealthier Khmers would previously have travelled to Singapore or Thailand to receive treatment of an international standard.

However, Sheftall explains, "there are no Western surgeons practising in Thailand, and people have come to regard American medical treatment as the elite".

Sheftall estimates that around 75 percent of his patients are middle-class Khmers, most of them women seeking breast augmentation, tummy-tucks or rhinoplasty.

"It can be a scary thing to have done, but I think people feel safer with Western doctors," he said. "Patients would tell their friends what they had done, and the Cambodian girls started pouring in."

However, it is not only among women that the trend is catching on, and Sheftall suggests that his male clientele base has grown to around 10 percent of patients in the past six months.

"There's been a real shift with more men wanting liposuction and treatment for baldness," he said. "Guys are more vain than you think."

And with cosmetic treatment in Cambodia a fraction of the cost of Western surgery, the image-conscious from around the world are being drawn to the country in a new wave of medical tourism.

People can fly over from the States, have surgery with the same Western standard of care and a two-week holiday here, and still save about $5,000.

A tummy tuck can be purchased from the AMC for around $4,000 and a "boob-job" for around $2,500, compared to in excess of $10,000 in the US. "People can fly over from the States, have surgery with the same Western standard of care and a two-week holiday here, and still save about $5,000," Sheftall said.

Kimberley, a 49-year-old Khmer-American who asked for her surname to not be publicised, underwent tummy-tuck surgery with the American surgeon last week. She is among those now able to afford the luxury of a holiday-cum-makeover.

"I couldn't afford surgery in San Francisco, and I have my own business so it's hard to take time off," she explained. "But I could come here to visit relatives and have time to recover from the operation."

She said she would be quick to recommend that others in the US follow her lead. "Dr Reid explained everything he was doing, so I was clear about the procedure and the care has been really good," she said.

Dangers lurk
However, as more local clinics cotton on to the cosmetic surgery demand and begin advertising bargain procedures for as little as $200 from murky premises, the new-found status of the local cosmetic surgery scene is coming under threat.

With no government regulation of services in Cambodia, and some outlets claiming their doctors are taught in countries like Vietnam, which also has no certified training institutions, many of these practices are cause for serious concern.

"Plastic surgery is very new to Cambodia, and there are few skills among surgeons here," Theung Chanseiha said. "Cosmetic surgery can have a serious impact on patients if the doctors don't have proper skills."

Although plastic surgeons in Cambodia are required to register with the country's Ministry of Health, Sann Sary, head of the ministry's department of hospitals, told a Thai newspaper last month that many operated in illegal premises.

Despite this recent allegation, Sann Sary was this week unwilling to discuss the problem. However, doctors such as Sheftall have witnessed first-hand the not-so-pretty face of Cambodian plastic surgery.

"You would be horrified by some of the things women who come to see me have had done to them," he said. "Often clinics use suction cups to supposedly augment the breasts and make them fuller, but it only tears the ligaments away from the body, causing serious damage."

Sheftall sees these painful outcomes as a symptom of a cultural pre-occupation with Western archetypes. "Every culture has own norms of beauty, but because Cambodians see a lot of Western girls in the media, they develop an idea of that kind of beauty and start wanting big breasts and a high nose," he said. "Personally, I really want Khmers to appreciate the beauty from their own culture."

Unlike many other local practitioners, Sheftall, who also runs a charity to treat acid-burn victims, does not advertise his cosmetic services and frequently turns women away if he considers a procedure inappropriate.

"I'm not into the whole Pamela Anderson thing at all, especially on naturally petite Khmer girls," he said. "Often I just tell women not to even think about surgery, that they're pretty the way they are. I'm not here to make money; if I wanted to, I would be in Florida."