Wednesday, 17 June 2009

UN envoy welcomed, warned


Photo by: TRACEY SHELTON
Hun Sen speaks at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday.


Written by Cheang Sokha and Georgia Wilkins
Wednesday, 17 June 2009

PRIME Minister Hun Sen, who famously soured relations with the former UN envoy for human rights, Yash Ghai, has welcomed his successor on his first visit to the country while at the same time warning him against being "ignorant" and biased.

"We will listen to his ideas, and we hope he will listen to our ideas," Hun Sen said Tuesday at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

"But I think he would not be ignorant and follow an ignorant person from his team previously.... Working with this rapporteur will not be difficult, but it will be difficult to work with people in [the local UN rights office] if they still have an ignorant stance towards the government."

Surya Subedi, the new envoy, began his first visit to the Kingdom on Monday and met with Foreign Minister Hor Namhong on Tuesday.

Though Tuesday's meeting was labelled a "protocol" meet-and-greet by UN officials, ministry spokespeople said afterwards that the government had appealed Subedi to be "just" when assessing rights in the country.

"What the government is wanting is justice, reality and transparency,"Ouch Borith, secretary of state at the Foreign Ministry, told reporters after the meeting.

"Hor Namhong told Mr Subedi that he should meet with and collect information from all government officials, not just listen to or get reports from NGOs, civil society groups or the opposition. [He] has to get reports from all sides," he added.

Ouch Borith also said the government had made a request to Subedi to check any report before it is sent to the UN.

"[We] want to check the report for balance," he said.

Subedi's predecessor Yash Ghai resigned from the post after receiving multiple personal attacks from Hun Sen and other top government officials.

UN human rights representative Christophe Peschoux would not comment on the meeting except to say that it did not deal with "substantial" issues and was rather a greeting.

The new envoy is to meet with the prime minister on Thursday morning and has also confirmed a meeting with the head of the government's human rights committee, Om Yentieng, later that day.

Critics slam PM lawsuit


Photo by: HENG CHIVOAN
Civil society group members sign a letter Monday to National Assembly President Heng Samrin against lifting Mu Sochua’s immunity.

Written by Meas Sokchea
Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Human Rights Watch, local unions and civil society groups condemn the govt's move to strip Mu Sochua's immunity.

THE attempt to lift opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua's parliamentary immunity to allow Prime Minister Hun Sen's lawsuit against her to proceed met with a chorus of local and international criticism Tuesday, prompting the government to claim there was nothing illegal about the move.

"Mu Sochua is not Aung San Suu Kyi in Myanmar," Cheam Yeap, a senior lawmaker for the ruling Cambodian People's Party and a member of National Assembly's Permanent Committee, told the Post on Tuesday.

"We are not doing anything illegal. You must understand this [prodedure] is not new. We have done it since Sam Rainsy was a minister of finance [and] we lifted Prince Norodom Ranariddh's parliamentary immunity," he said.

But on Tuesday, the Cambodian Confederation of Unions issued a statement saying its members, numbering some 85,000 workers, were deeply concerned over the attempt to strip the Kampot lawmaker of her immunity.

The attempt has no legal grounds, and the government should concern itself with easing the plight of the Kingdom's workers in difficult economic times, not personally motivated lawsuits, the statement said.

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Hun Sen has a long history of trying to muzzle Cambodia's political opposition.
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It added that the union would organise mass protests if the National Assembly proceeded.

Criticism from overseas
"Hun Sen has a long history of trying to muzzle Cambodia's political opposition and undermine the independence of the legal profession," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, in a statement released by the New York-based watchdog late Monday.

"This most recent case should be ringing alarm bells among Cambodia's donors, particularly those who fund judicial and legal reform".

"These lawsuits are a clear attempt to intimidate the opposition and prevent members of parliament from exercising free expression," Adams said.

A decision on whether Mu Sochua will lose her immunity is expected Friday when the National Assembly votes on the issue.

Also Tuesday, around 40 civil society groups gathered at the offices of the NGO Gender and Development for Cambodia to seek intervention on the immunity issue.

"We do not side with the opposition party, but we don't want to see freedom of expression silenced," said Thida Khus, director of the Cambodian NGO Silaka.

"We do not want to see the laws being enforced unequally. One side [Mu Sochua] was dismissed, and one side [Hun Sen] was allowed to go ahead. This makes justice seem unbalanced."

But Cheam Yeap said the civil society concern came too late, as the National Assembly's Permanent Committee was already considering the matter.

Islamic terror threat still distant: report


Written by SEBASTIAN STRANGIO AND CHEANG SOKHA
Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Effective anti-terror efforts, peaceful Cham minority cited as key factors, but some challenges remain.

DESPITE having many of the attributes associated with terror-friendly states, Cambodia remains relatively safe from Islamist terror groups, said a report released this month by the RAND Corp, a US-based global policy institute.

"The Evolving Terrorist Threat to Southeast Asia: A Net Assessment", which includes an appendix assessing Cambodia's potential as an "operational and logistical hub" for regional terror networks, found the country had successfully managed to defuse the threat posed by Islamic radicalism.

"Superficially, Cambodia has many of the attributes of a terrorist-friendly nation, including relatively lax border control, endemic corruption, entrenched criminal activity, a small and marginalised Muslim population, and an essentially unregulated banking and finance sector," the report stated.

"In reality, however, the international terrorist threat in [and to] the country is minimal and is likely to remain so."

The report found that effective counterterrorism efforts, official surveillance and a largely acquiescent Cham Muslim population had contributed to the peaceful climate.

Challenges remain
Observers have long expressed concerns relating to attempts by religious extremists from other parts of the Muslim world to infiltrate and "re-Islamise" ethnic Cham communities.

The RAND report noted that in 2003, Hambali, one of the architects of the 2002 Bali bombings, spent several months at a Boeung Kak lake guesthouse, while radicals from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Malaysia have also been suspected of using Cambodia as a base.

The report also warned that in the absence of strong anti-terror laws and an effective financial control mechanism, the country remains a "potential springboard" for religious fanatics.

But government officials said they were confident of controlling any attempt by regional terror networks to use Cambodia as a conduit for illicit funds or inflammatory ideas.

"We established a law on money laundering last year because we were concerned about such things happening," said National Police spokesman Kirt Chantharith.

"We have [also] cracked down on JI [Jemaah Islamiah] groups who have been involved in attempted bomb plots."

Ahmad Yahya, a Cham adviser to the government, said that despite continuing concerns about foreign radicals, the RAND report was right in saying that the Cham community had not proven susceptible to malign foreign influences.

"Our people are not involved with terrorism and we believe that we should live peacefully," he said. A government education programme - conducted through public meetings and radio broadcasts with US government support - had also helped immunise the community against radicalism, he added.

US Embassy spokesman John Johnson said the embassy "fully agreed" with RAND's assessment, adding that the Cambodian government had done a "commendable job" of establishing a good working relationship with Cham community leaders.

"This relationship and the government's efforts have significantly decreased the opportunity for local or foreign actors to foment anti-Cambodian or anti-American sentiment," he said.

Time limits on questioning unfair, Duch defence argue


Photo by: GEORGIA WILKINS
Judge Silvia Cartwright at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal this month.


Written by Robbie Corey-Boulet
Wednesday, 17 June 2009

As the trial process drags on, judges have suggested limiting the amount of time allotted for examination of witnesses.

THE international co-lawyer for Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, on Tuesday objected to a plan to limit questioning on the operations of Tuol Sleng and the Choeung Ek killing fields, saying it was unfair to the defence team.

Presiding Judge Nil Nonn said Tuesday that prosecutors and civil parties would be allowed to question Duch about the torture facility and killing fields for three hours each, while the defence team would be given a total of four hours.

Francois Roux, Duch's co-lawyer, said he did not understand why the co-prosecutors and civil parties would be given a combined six hours to question Duch while the defence would receive only four hours.

"The defence should at the very least have ... the same speaking time as all its opponents together," he said. "Even when you are accused and charged with the worst crimes, you are entitled to a fair defence, and a fair defence at the very least requires a fair and balanced allocation of time."

He said the defence team could raise the issue of this "imbalance" in "the framework of an appeal".

Deputy co-prosecutor William Smith argued that the prosecution's role - to prove charges against Duch "beyond a reasonable doubt" - was different from that of the civil parties, saying it would be inaccurate to describe the civil parties and the prosecution as "one super-prosecution office".

Time crunch
The announcement came one day after Judge Silvia Cartwright outlined a plan to limit the amount of time allotted for the questioning of witnesses in an effort to complete the trial "as soon as possible while maintaining the fairness of the proceedings".

She noted that parties' estimates as to when the trial could be completed, offered during a Thursday trial management meeting, ranged from August to December of this year.

Though she noted that the Trial Chamber would "assess the time it thinks appropriate for the hearing of each witness on a case-by-case basis", she said prosecutors would "generally" be given 30 minutes for questioning, while civil parties and the defence team would be given 40 minutes each.

Legal communications officer Lars Olsen said Tuesday that the attempt to impose time limits on the questioning of Duch and of witnesses marked a change on the part of the Trial Chamber.

"Earlier they would not do this," he said, adding, "They have allocated more time to Duch because obviously he is the key."

Speaking of time limitations generally, civil party lawyer Alain Werner said, "I think it's going to depend on the implementation and how flexible they're going to be. We said we were not opposed to a limitation of time if it was done in a fair or equal manner."

Medical experiments, torture at S-21 detailed


Written by Robbie Corey-Boulet
Wednesday, 17 June 2009

TORTURE at Tuol Sleng prison largely took the form of beatings and electrocution, but also included medical experiments and a failed attempt at waterboarding, prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, told Cambodia's war crimes court Tuesday.

"First, live prisoners were used for surgical study and training; second, blood drawing was also done," Duch said in his first public admission of the practice.

He also detailed how interrogators fell into three groups: the "cold" group, which did not apply torture; the "hot" group, which "would beat the prisoners immediately if the confessions were not extracted as they wanted"; and the "chewing" group, which subjected prisoners to long-term torture.

Duch spoke calmly for much of the day's questioning, though he became visibly upset when discussing detainees whom he had previously known.

These included former Northern Zone Secretary Koy Thuon, alias Khuon, and Phung Ton, an international law professor who died at Tuol Sleng and whose wife and daughter were in the public gallery.

Duch described devising torture methods in conjunction with superiors, recalling how they "agreed that beating would be the general method for torturing", as well as how they tried to employ a version of waterboarding in which water was poured down a detainee's nose, a method he said had been used by security forces working under then-prince Norodom Sihanouk and Lon Nol.

Duch said this technique was only attempted once and abandoned when the water "could not get through [the victim's] nostrils".

He said he did not believe the information contained in the confessions, saying, "Pol Pot at one point did not even believe that the confessions were of true information." Duch acknowledged performing a handful of interrogations, though he dismissed reports cited by Nil Nonn that he personally kicked and beat prisoners.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY AFP

Residents call for layman's releas


Written by Chrann Chamroeun
Wednesday, 17 June 2009

RESIDENTS of a pagoda in Kandal province travelled to Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday to demand the release of the pagoda's well-known committee director who has been arrested on suspicion of rape.

Ros Sarin, 56, also a layman at Ponhea Leu district's Wat Sovan Thormareach, was arrested Sunday by military police after they received complaints that he assaulted women who came to him for holy water, magic potions and advice about love.

He was formally charged on Tuesday along with his assistant, Hang Samoeun, with two counts of rape and debauchery, Sok Roeun, the court's deputy prosecutor said.

"These allegations [of sexual assault] are made up," said monk Sok Thearin, who has been living at the pagoda for nearly 10 years.

"As I know him, he is a holy man and has a good reputation for improving the pagoda, which receives lots donations from overseas," he added.

Military Police Chief Sao Sokha told the Post Tuesday that the men were arrested after authorities received a warrant from the court to interrogate them. He added that pornographic videos and energy drinks were seized from Ros Sarin's home.

"If the two men are found guilty of their charges, it would severely impact the Buddhist religion," he said.

City Hall OKs eviction of Borei Keila residents


Written by MAY TITTHARA AND CHRISTOPHER SHAY
Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Members of HIV community, govt dispute terms under which families will relocate.

CITY Hall officially signed off Tuesday on the eviction of the Borei Keila HIV community, said one resident who was present when Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Mann Chhoeun approved the order, adding that the more than 30 affected families would likely be removed Thursday.

"Mann Chhoeun has approved this already," said community leader Sao Vanna.

The order, which must be finalised by Governor Kep Chuktema, comes amid accusations by Borei Keila residents that they were tricked by authorities into agreeing to the move with promises that they would be given larger homes at the Tuol Sambo site, more than 20 kilometres from their current homes near Olympic Stadium.

"We know that the authorities are cheating us, because they told us if we agree to put our thumbprint we will move to a home without dividers to make two houses into one house," said resident Chheang Toma following a meeting at the Prampi Makara district offices during which they demanded larger abodes.

The city is currently providing sheet-metal houses measuring only 3.5 metres by 4.8 metres and will provide each family with US$250 once they get on the truck to Tuol Sambo. Officials confirmed Tuesday that only four families would receive extra space.

"Without two houses being made into one, I cannot move," said another resident, Suon Davy. "We face discrimination already, because many people in that community know that we have AIDS."

Government officials have denied that any housing promises were made. They also disputed resident's claims that City Hall was forcing them to move too quickly.

"The residents are forcing us to move them soon. We told them, ‘Please wait, it won't be so long,' because we want to get support from other NGOs for them," Mann Choeun said.

Kathleen O'Keefe, a consultant who has been following the community since 2006, said unless a last-minute plan resolution is reached,
Cambodia's reputation as a model for HIV/AIDS prevention would be seriously damaged.

"Cambodia will become one of the few countries in the world where people with HIV/AIDS have, at the initiative of the government, been deliberately segregated from other members of society," she said.

Tack Fat workers continue week-old protest over pay


Photo by: TRACEY SHELTON
Workers from the Tack Fat garment factory on strike last week outside the factory gates.

Written by Khouth Sophak Chakrya
Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Company owners maintain that workers have not been laid off from their jobs as they are transferred to another factory.

MORE than 2,000 workers from the Tack Fat Garment Factory who say they are being laid off from their current jobs and moved to another facility continued striking Tuesday for severance pay, as factory officials insisted the employees were not being transferred to a new work site.

"The workers have decided not to do as the factory has requested and want to force the factory owner to pay severance pay," said Nou Muyni, a Tack Fat worker representing the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Unions.

She said that by switching factories the company had effectively laid the workers off, and that they were entitled to severance pay if they had worked at the factory for more than eight years.

"According to the Labour Law, the factory owner should pay severance pay to the workers if they want to move workers to a factory with a different name," she said.

Song Sim, the deputy chief of the National Industrial Federation Trade Union of Cambodia, said that the strike started June 9 after Tack Fat attempted to transfer workers to the Super Tex Garment Factory without giving the workers additional compensation.

"We need the factory owner to pay a cost-of-living allowance, bonuses and severance pay if they want to move us to another factory," he said.

Men Sitha, the administrative manager at the Tack Fat garment factory, said, however, that the factory was not transferring the workers to another factory.

"We need to fix the roof of their building because we are concerned about our garments being destroyed by rain and the workers being electrocuted," she said.

"So we need to move the workers to another building in this factory ... not move them to work in another factory," Men Sitha added.

Men Sitha said Tack Fat, one of the sector's largest employers, was only trying to supply jobs to their workers in tough economic times.

The strike, however, was putting those jobs at risk, she said.

"During the temporary closure of the factory from April to June 1, the workers complained to us that they need the work to increase their income," Men Sitha said.

"But now the buyers have ordered about a million garments from our factory and the workers strike against us," she added.

"They will lose their jobs and benefits if they do not stop striking."

Workshop, regional coalition put Mekong dams on agenda


RIVER PROJECTS

Two hydropower dams are slated for construction on the Cambodian stretches of the Mekong River: the Sambor dam, in Kratie province; and the Stung Treng dam, further north in Stung Treng province. They are just two of 11 dams planned for the lower Mekong.


Written by Sebastian Strangio and Khouth Sophak Chakrya
Wednesday, 17 June 2009

The Don Sahong dam, which will sit on the Mekong close to the Laos border, is just one of 11 planned for the lower reaches of the river.

ENVIRONMENTAL scientists say a hydropower development planned by the Lao government on the Mekong River will have far-reaching downstream effects, including disruption to fisheries and endangered aquatic wildlife inside Cambodia.

The concerns came as civil society groups, environmental scientists and government officials gathered for a workshop Tuesday at Phnom Penh's National Institute of Education to discuss the likely impacts of the 240- to 360-megawatt Don Sahong dam, slated for construction just inside the Lao border.

"The Don Sahong dam threatens the rich local subsistence and commercial fisheries in Laos and could also impact fisheries in Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam, with repercussions for food security and the region's economy," said Yumiko Kura, regional programme manager of the World Fish Centre, during the workshop.

Touch Seang Tana, a Cambodian specialist on dolphins and chairman of the Commission for Mekong River Dolphin Conservation and Ecotourism Development, said that the blocking of fish migration routes will lead to a sharp reduction in fish catches in Stung Treng and Kratie provinces.

"Dams create hydropower energy that will increase the [country's] economic potential, but they could also destroy environmental resources," he said.

The daylong workshop, organised by the Rivers Coalition in Cambodia and the government's Fisheries Administration, was to "share information and increase awareness" about the dam and its likely effects, according to a statement released Monday.

Power Surge: The Impacts of Rapid Dam Development in Laos, a report released by US-based advocacy group International Rivers in September, claims that the projects earmarked for the deep valleys of southern Laos will have far-reaching effects across the border in Cambodia.

If approved, the report argues, Don Sahong would set "a dangerous precedent" for seven other projects under consideration on the Lao stretches of the Mekong.

Anti-dam coalition
The workshop came ahead of the launch of Save the Mekong, a regional coalition that aims to halt the 11 dam projects currently planned on the river in Cambodia, Laos and Thailand. Eight more dams are planned for the upper reaches of the river inside China.

As part of its launch in Bangkok Thursday, the coalition will present Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva with a petition signed by 15,000 people protesting the unrestrained development of the river.

Ouk Vibol, head of the Fisheries Conservation Unit at the Fisheries Administration, told the Post that it had established a technical working group to formulate a 10-year conservation plan, which would take into account the projected effects of hydropower dams.

"We are trying to include [dam] projects into our 10-year study," he said, but could not say whether the study would lead to changes to planned hydropower developments.

Accounting standards key to exchange success: minister


Photo by: Sovann Philong
Accounting firms like PricewaterhouseCoopers could find themselves in hot demand as domestic firms clean up their books in readiness for a listing on Cambodia's first stock exchange.


Written by NGUON SOVAN AND MARIKA HILL
Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Keat Chhon says stock market on track for 2009 launch, but exact date hinges on readiness of major firms to conform to international bookkeeping guidelines

Finance Minister Keat Chhon urged private and state-owned companies to improve their accounting standards to improve public confidence in the country's firms ahead of the launch of Cambodia's first stock exchange.

Rigorous financial reporting standards would be a key requirement for those hoping to list on the exchange, which is scheduled to open later this year, he told attendees at an accounting standards workshop Tuesday in Phnom Penh.

"To borrow money from commercial banks, the company must have collateral," he said. "But for the stock market, there is no collateral in exchange for [capital] but only reputation and confidence [earned] through the accurate practice of accounting standards."

Keat Chhon said the stock market is still set to launch by the end of the year as planned, but that the launch date depends on the readiness of the state-run companies currently preparing to list.

"We have not set the date to launch Cambodia's stock market, but before the start we have to require companies to strictly comply with standard accounting practices," he said.

"If it is impossible for the government to do, the government won't do."

He declined to name the companies that are being readied for a listing, but the Post understands they are Electricite du Cambodge, the Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority and Sihanoukville Autonomous Port.

Transparency for cash
Ming Bankosal, director general of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Cambodia (SECC), said it was critical for companies that wanted to raise money on the exchange to introduce best practices into their financial reporting.

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If it is impossible for the government to do, the government won't do.
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"Financial reports following accepted accounting standards are the most valuable tool for securities investors, [be they] retail investors or institutional investors," he said.

"In every decision to invest in a company, investors have to analyse the financial statements of the company."

Kuy Lim, a senior manager at accounting firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers (Cambodia) Ltd, said companies wishing to list on the Cambodian Stock Exchange needed to start identify gaps in their accounting practices and training key personnel now. The emphasis of training should be on moving beyond simple record-keeping into the analysis of financial records.

However, finding talent will be a critical challenge for companies because of the limited number of skilled and experienced accountants in the country and the lack of a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) programme, he said, and English skills are also critical.

Around 120 private and state-owned companies participated in the workshop, which included presentations by financial experts and the Ministry of Economy and Finance, as well as case studies of companies listing under other countries' stock exchanges.

PPWSA also presented its financial accounts, which were fully computerised and audited by PriceWaterhouseCoopers in what was a clear sign the company is indeed likely to be a founding member of the bourse.

ACLEDA Bank President In Channy said Tuesday that his organisation has already met the requirements of a listing on the proposed exchange, including good governance, internal and external audits, and international ratings, but that the bank had not made a commitment either way. "We will wait and see first," he said. "It depends on the practical situation."

He added that the bank had no need to raise financing through a public listing, as it had sufficient capital and liquidity. It also had seven key patrons who could provide a capital injection if required, he said. "However, when we need more capital, we will list."

Wong Chong Kim, deputy CEO of OSK Investment Bank Malaysia, the investment arm of OSK Group, which also owns OSK Bank, told a seminar in Phnom Penh last week that it intended to invest in companies listed on the exchange. "I wish to ... reiterate that the OSK Group is indeed eager to participate in the financial and capital market of Cambodia," he said.

Diplomacy, ASEAN and the KR past


Photo by: TRACEY SHELTON
Minister of Foreign Affairs Hor Namhong in his office in Phnom Penh.


Balancing a career in diplomacy

When it comes to diplomacy, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Hor Namhong has been Prime Minister Hun Sen's most trusted confidant for many years. He may be 74 now, and he may yearn to take a break, but Hun Sen wants him to stay put. It's hard not to understand why, given the way Hor Namhong has guided Cambodia through the minefields of foreign relations and border disputes. But do not expect to catch Hor Namhong embracing the wine-sipping social whirl aspect of diplomacy. This career veteran is something of a loner and enjoys nothing more than a solitary round of golf, breathing fresh air as his mind sails free from affairs of state.

Written by Roger Mitton
Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Foreign Minister Hor Namhong speaks his mind to the Post's Roger Mitton.

After 10 years in ASEAN, what has Cambodia got out of it?
For geopolitical and economic reasons, we could not afford to stay out. We are not a big country, but when we joined ASEAN, we became a member of an important association that is recognised by the international community. As a result, we have been approached by many countries about international issues, and it has enhanced our ties with big powers like the United States, Russia, China, Japan, Korea and the European Union.

Is Cambodia a democracy?
It is, but remember, democracy is an issue of mindset. And changing the mindset of people can be difficult. So ... we need to go step by step. It takes time to establish a fully democratic system. But our leaders have the political will and the desire to move ahead and democratise the country.

Could Cambodia's democratisation be an example to Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam?
We are democratic, but I don't like to presume to be an example. Of course, for the credibility of ASEAN, we do wish that all our fellow members would follow the path of democracy. ... With Myanmar there are some problems with our dialogue partners from Europe and other countries. But Myanmar has set a road map to democracy, and we hope they will continue to follow that road and hold an election next year - and that it will be more credible.

Are you friends with your Myanmar counterparts?
[Laughs, pauses.] Colleagues. We are fellow ASEAN members. For myself, I think democratisation is in the interest of Myanmar itself - and in the interest of the Myanmar people and of ASEAN as a whole. As for Aung San Suu Kyi, she has been put on trial, as you know. We still hope that no more action will be taken against her. My feeling is that she may have been unaware of the arrival of the American at her house.

Relations with your ASEAN neighbours have been tense.
We've had border problems with Laos, Vietnam and Thailand.... With Thailand, we have problems, which, on the one hand, are easier than those of Laos or Vietnam, but on the other hand, more difficult. They are easier because we signed a 1904 convention and a 1907 treaty with Siam, as Thailand was then called, agreeing to set up a commission to map the border. Thailand has always recognised this agreement, so we must use it to demarcate the border. But the process is more complicated because of the political situation in Thailand. Under their new Constitution, any agreement with a foreign country involving the border must be approved by parliament. And their parliament has not approved what we have agreed. So we are hostage to the internal situation there.

How do you feel about the Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya scorning Cambodia and Prime Minister Hun Sen?
That was in the past. He said it when he appeared at a yellow-shirt rally in Bangkok last year. But when he joined the government this year, he used other language towards Cambodia. So we understand. We have to look to the future. Dwelling on the past is outdated.... No matter what you may read in the press, we sincerely want peaceful relations with all our neighbours.

You don't like the media?
[Laughs] I like the media, but I would like journalists to write correctly and objectively. The recent Economist Intelligence Unit survey, for instance, was absurd. Comparing Cambodia to Afghanistan, it's ridiculous. But those things reinforce wrong impressions. And we blame some of the media, who always say everything is bad in Cambodia. They only remember the Khmer Rouge days, but they don't realise that today we are moving ahead and building a strong nation. We are a member of ASEAN and other international organisations. I meet many foreigners who congratulate Cambodia for making so much progress. When they come here, they see it is not bad at all.... I'm not saying everything is perfect in Cambodia, not at all. But we need objectivity.

Were you a member of the Khmer Rouge?
Ah! [laughs]. You know, I won a court case in Paris in 1991 when I was accused of being a Khmer Rouge. Recently, also in France, I won another trial against Sam Rainsy, who said the same thing. Let me tell you the story. After the coup d'etat in March 1970 led by General Lon Nol, a body called the United Front of Cambodia was set up against the military regime. I was a diplomat in Paris at the time and I joined the United Front.... When the Khmer Rouge took over in April 1975, they sent a telegram saying that all members of the United Front must to come back to Cambodia for a re-education of 10 days. I flew back from Cuba, where I was then the ambassador. As soon as I put my foot on land at Pochentong Airport, I realised that life as I knew it was over. I was a prisoner of the Khmer Rouge.

What did they do with you?
They put me in a re-education camp at Boeung Trabek, not far from here.... B-32, where I was, [was] for former diplomats and high-ranking civil servants. We were considered the most reactionary and dangerous. There was a chief Khmer Rouge and three young cadres controlling us. They made a report on us every day, and they set up a prisoner committee to organise us to collect vegetables and so on. They gave us some rice and we had to organise to survive. The first two heads of this committee [Chau Seng and Van Pinay] were killed by the Khmer Rouge. I was the third.

Why did they make you head of this committee?
They chose people who worked the most. I worked hard because, like other diplomat prisoners, I hoped to be selected to work in the foreign ministry. Earlier, we had heard that the Khmer Rouge had taken some people from other camps to work in the ministry, and we hoped we might be chosen to do that if we worked hard. But later, we learned that these people had been taken away to the killing fields.

Were any of your family also detained by the Khmer Rouge?
I lost five brothers and sisters, including their spouses and children. I lost more than 20, perhaps 20 relatives. My two sisters [Hor Kim Aun and Hor Kim San], who came back from France in 1976, were put in the next camp to me, separated only by a wall. But I was never told they were there, so close, with their husbands and children. They were all murdered by the Khmer Rouge. I only learned about this later when I met friends from the next camp who told me, ‘Your sisters and their families were with us; they were all killed'.

Yet you survived?
I would not have survived if there had been no January 7, 1979, [when Vietnamese forces occupied Phnom Penh]. I would also have been killed by the Khmer Rouge. I know that because they told me they had already prepared a dossier about me in Tuol Sleng. Later, my wife and I always wondered: What dossier? I mean, we worked hard every day in the camp. What could they have on me? I only learned the answer after 1979, when my two boys went to work at Tuol Sleng [where they had to] classify papers ... and they discovered there was a dossier about me saying that I was a CIA agent. And if it had not been for 1979, my family and I would all have been killed by the Khmer Rouge. I am very happy now that we are holding this tribunal [ECCC] to bring these people to justice. It is for the history of Cambodia.

So your life was saved by the Vietnamese?
Not only myself. The whole nation was saved. During the three years, eight months and 20 days the Khmer Rouge were in power, they killed more than a million people. But what country in the world raised a finger to combat them? You know, I never understand why some people question Vietnam's action. The question they should ask is: Without Vietnam's intervention and help, what would have happened to us? What other country, which other leaders came to save us from the terror of the Khmer Rouge? No one. No one. Silence. Complete silence from the rest of the world.

Why are your three sons all working for your ministry?
Let me tell you why. In 1979, when we wanted to redevelop the country, there was nothing. No administration, no ministries, no water, no electricity, no markets, no money, no education, nothing. Under those circumstances, when I came back here, I needed any Cambodians who had some notion of other countries and who knew foreign languages. That is the reality of what it was like then. My sons had studied in France before the Khmer Rouge took over, so they had to come and work here. It is not nepotism.

Were you made foreign minister because of your friendship with Hun Sen?
I have been a career diplomat all my life. I have worked with Hun Sen for almost 30 years. I can tell you he is a very intelligent, open-minded man who listens to the views of all the people. And he does not get upset if you disagree with him. Many times he says this and I say that. It is normal. He is a man who wants to work for the country and always thinks about the fate of the people.

You have a reputation for being prickly and unsociable. You play golf by yourself.
[Laughs] Let me tell you why I do that. When you play golf with others, it becomes a competition. People even wager money on who will win. So you are not relaxed. When I play, I play alone. I walk at my own pace. I breathe the air. And I am not forced to play well, but just as I can. I have no fear of losing. So I am completely relaxed.

You are 74; when are you going to retire?
I've already said it is time for me to go. But Prime Minister Hun Sen said the people have voted for me and that he needs me for the time being. So I have to stay until I am allowed to retire.

Exports to US slump by 23.6pc


Written by Steve Finch
Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Garment woes behind fall in April exports to key market

CAMBODIAN exports to the United States continued to plummet in April, recording a 23.6 percent annualised drop to US$135.75 million, according to US trade figures reported late Monday, mostly caused by another huge decline in garment exports to the Kingdom's largest overseas market.

The decline was worse than in March, when total exports to the US dropped 22.2 percent, a suggestion that the worst may not be over, even if April's figures were not as severe as the 27 percent decrease posted in February.

But a 20.53 percent fall in total exports to the US in the first four months of the year to $646.8 million was not as steep as the declines experienced by other top exporters to the world's largest economy.

Japan saw its exports to the US plummet 43 percent, Malaysia was down 38 percent, and neighbouring Thailand saw a decline of 26 percent, according to figures released on the US International Trade Commission Web site.

Vietnam was the only country among the top 30 exporters to the US to report an increase up to April this year, recording a 3 percent rise compared with the same period last year.

The figures showed that the recent drop in US demand for garments - which account for 98 percent of the Kingdom's exports - was the major factor contributing to Cambodia's loss in export earnings.

The sector saw revenue from US sales fall from $801.3 million in the first four months of last year to $631 million up to April 2009. This 21.23 percent drop slightly outstripped the fall in total exports, suggesting that garments are suffering more than other Cambodian exports to the US, which are miniscule - just $15.8 million in the first four months of this year. The Kingdom sells more than half of its total export products to the US.

Overall, Cambodia's exports to the US fell back to levels roughly equal to 2006 up to April, suggesting that forecasts on Cambodia's export industry for 2009 are largely accurate.

"Merchandise exports will fall in 2009, mainly owing to the poor outlook for overseas sales of garments, which account for over 70 percent of total export revenue," the London-based Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) projected this month, citing low US demand.

On Friday, USAID sponsored a garment forum that noted a lack of competitiveness in the sector caused by infrastructure constraints - namely export clearance times and electricity costs in the Kingdom.

"In addition to the slump in US and global demand for garment imports, there are a number of structural challenges to ... sustained competitiveness," US Embassy spokesman John Johnson said Tuesday, also citing low productivity and bureaucracy as constraints.

Unless addressed, analysts warn that, even following a global recovery, Cambodia will see prolonged decline in its main export sector.

"Even after US growth recovers, Cambodia's garment manufacturers will continue to lose market share to more efficient producers, particularly in Vietnam," the EIU said.

Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia Secretary General Roger Tan suggested Tuesday that "it [exports to the US] will probably be down, too, in May and June".

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY NGUON SOVAN

Course to help water, ice SMEs on quality


Written by May Kunmakara
Wednesday, 17 June 2009

THE Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy will this month host a daylong course for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) producing drinking water and ice in Phnom Penh and Kandal province, to increase production quality and bring local producers up to international standards.

Meng Saktheara, director general of industry at the ministry, said the course will be held on June 29, adding that many of Cambodia's roughly 300 drinking water and ice companies face a lack of knowledge about health regulations, causing many to offer poor-quality goods that are potentially harmful.

"It is our first step. We will offer assistance to those industries ... including both regulation and technical assistance, to help them improve their ability to produce high-quality products in compliance with international standards," he said, adding that the 80 Cambodian companies producing fish sauce and soy sauce will be offered a similar course in the future.

Fish catches declining but income 'high': govt


Written by Chun Sophal
Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Conference hears that despite lower catches, revenues remain adequate as costs increase

DESPITE declining fish catches, fishermen's incomes on the Tonle Sap Lake remain relatively high, according to recent research conducted by the Fisheries Administration's Institute for Research and Development of River Fisheries.

During a workshop Tuesday held in Phnom Penh, which focused on a hydroelectricity development 2 kilometres across the border in Laos on the Mekong River and its effects on Cambodia's river ecosystems, Hab Navy, the director of the institute, said fishermen along the Tonle Sap Lake in Battambang, Pursat, Kampong Chhnang, Siem Reap and Kampong Thom provinces drag in an average of US$470 per year from fishing.

About 12 percent of fisherman on Southeast Asia's biggest lake earn as much as $2,000 annually, added Hab Navy.

"We agree that fishing conditions have changed and that the amount of fish has also decreased, but fishermen still maintain high incomes," she told the meeting.

According to reports from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, 365,000 tonnes of freshwater fish were caught throughout the country in 2008, 60 percent from the Tonle Sap Lake.

But Long Socheat, sub-chief of a fishing community in Koh Prekraingtil village in Pursat's Kandieng district, said that fishermen in his community can earn around $500 per year from fishing, but he added that the regular expense of purchasing new fishing equipment had pushed many fishermen into debt.

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The amount of fish has also decreased, but fishermen still maintain high incomes.
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He claimed 95 percent of the fishermen who live in the floating villages are facing debt problems because their income from fishing is lower than the rising expense of fishing equipment.

Rising fishing costs
"We agree that they can earn what the institute reports, but the income cannot support their living because fishing equipment is very expensive, and they have to fish more often," he said.

Por Try, secretary of state at Ministry of Agriculture, said Tuesday that the Tonle Sap Lake's fisheries are of great importance in ensuring Cambodia's food security and that in order to sustain long-term sustainability, fishermen have to fish in appropriate ways using lawful equipment.

"It is necessary to conserve fish species for the sake of sustainable fishing because the loss of fisheries will have bad effects not only fishermen living around the Tonle Sap, but also on millions of people throughout the country," he said.

Inside Business: Nut entrepreneur cracks domestic market


Photo by: SOUEN SAY
Shoppers examine Tang Sok Hak Enterprises’ products for sale at Phnom Penh’s night market.

Written by Soeun Say
Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Inside Business

-----------------------------------------------
By Soeun say

FOR Lor Sun Thoeun, cashew nuts run in the family. Since learning from his father-in-law how to process the raw cashew fruit into dried nuts, Lor Sun Thoeun, director of Tang Sok Hak Enterprises, has found success as a self-made businessman on the back of the humble nut.

"While an undergraduate at university, I dreamt of becoming a producer in a small business, to produce something made in Cambodia," he said. "Now my dream has come true; my business is successful."

But success has come with years of hard work for Lor Sun Thoeun, who started his cashew-nut processing business in Phnom Penh's Stung Meanchey district in 1995, with an initial investment of US$20,000. At that time, he said, the business employed just five staff, who collected raw cashew nuts from Kampong Cham and Kampong Thom, then removed their skins and dried them.

Lor Sun Thoeun says that his factory, which now employs 25 staff, can produce between 400 and 500 packages of premium cashews per day, which are sold to clients in Phnom Penh, Kampong Chhnang, Battambang, Siem Reap, Pursat, Sihanoukville, Kratie, Kampot and Kampong Cham provinces.

"My product is sold at [Phnom Penh's] Night Market, shops, karaoke clubs and markets in Phnom Penh," he said.

Although there is not enough overseas demand for Tang Sok Hak to export its produce abroad, Lor Sun Thoeun said he hopes to gain a strong position in the local market and aims to branch out into export operations in the next five years. "I wish to export to others country in the next five years after I improve my product," he said.

Each month, Lor Sun Thoeun says he orders a shipment of raw cashews from Kampong Cham and Kampong Thom province for processing. The best quality nuts, he says, are to be found in Kampong Thom province, but he said that while packaging cashews was an easy business, producing a high-quality nut that can be preserved for a long time is very difficult.

"Right now, we still lack the technical know-how about how to preserve cashew nuts for a long time," he said, adding that he was continuously researching new techniques to help increase the shelf life of his cashews. The shelf price of cashews produced by Tang Sok Hak Enterprises varies from between $10 and $13.50 per kilogram.

But like many local businesses, Lor Sun Thoeun says he has taken hits because of the global economic downturn, with business falling by 50 percent since the crisis hit in late 2008. "Late last year, my business ran well: I earned about $800 per day. But now I'm earning only about $400," he said.

Overall demand falling
Lor Sun Thoeun said Tang Sok Hak Enterprises had also experienced a drop in demand for its beef jerky production, which, despite being a more dependable end product, had still been undermined by the crisis. He added that the factory could produce between 50,000 and 100,000 packs of dried beef per day, but that production - like cashew production - had fallen. "I used to be able to earn $2,000 per month [from dried beef], but now it has been fallen by around half," he said.

To help local producers and alleviate the effects of the economic crisis, he called on the Cambodian government to provide cheaper electricity and petrol and help local SMEs bring their products into competition on the international market.

Cambodian ephemera offer insight into colonial dogma


A postcard from Joel Montague’s collection shows visitors inspecting a French reproduction of Angkor Wat in Marseille in 1922. According to Montague, Angkor Wat became a symbol of all of Indochina, and in 1922 France held a colonial exhibition designed to show the French populace the far reaches of their empire. Montague says the popularity of Angkor Wat among the French at that time was in part because they took credit for its rediscovery.

A postcard from Joel Montague’s collection, dated 1908, claims to show the six favourite women of King Sisowath. The photograph treats them as “quasi-royalty”, Montague said. Unlike many photos of women in the countryside, these women are carefully posed, suggesting their importance. The mixture of Western and Khmer dress and their short haircuts – the cutting-edge style from Thailand – speak to the international influence on the Cambodian royal court.

Written by Christopher Shay
Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Comprehensive collection of French colonial-era postcards of Cambodia represents a resounding defence of imperialist convictions in picture form

JOEL Montague hands over a 104-year-old picture postcard of a watercolour of a Cambodian man in a French army uniform.

"It's a little window on the world that people have ignored," he said.

Montague, a 77-year-old French public health worker, says he has collected between 1,600 and 1,700 postcards of Cambodia from the colonial era, all of them windows into the French colonial mindset.

In the postcard, the Cambodian soldier's uniform is clean but ill-fitting; he's standing straight, but his left arm is slightly crooked; he looks serious but not intimidating. The man's facial structure is slightly exaggerated, accentuating his non-European physiognomy.

The text at the bottom of the postcard identifies the man as a Cambodian sharpshooter.

"The picture postcards always emphasise the difference between the rational, austere and civilised world of the French and the exotic charm of the [local] people," Montague said. "They provided some justification for what the French considered [their] civilising achievements."

Montague says that like most postcards of the era, the image differs from the realities of the day.

An early 20th-century Cambodian sharpshooter would not be wearing an immaculate straw hat, and he probably would not be wearing any sandals, either.

But from the French colonial world view, the hat, shoes and uniform highlight the generosity of the French who are bringing "civilisation" to Cambodia.

"And the fact that the French could co-opt local people shows that they agree with the objectives of the French," Montague added.

In the early 20th century, the popularity of postcards reached its zenith.
In 1907 alone, eight billion picture postcards were sent worldwide, according to Montague.

Montague says the reason he can collect so many postcards of Cambodia so cheaply is that the supply - even after more than 100 years - is so large.

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These postcards ... show the transformation of Cambodia during the protectorate.
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For just a few pennies, a Western traveller 100 years ago could buy a souvenir of a visit and send it relatively quickly across the globe, making postcards during this era a major source of images of faraway places.
A postcard from Joel Montague's collection shows a head monk standing amongst Buddhist paraphernalia. Montague says the postcard is probably from around 1907.

Range of motivations
Montague says that the sending of postcards from the colonies back to France had the effect of convincing the French public about the value of the colonies, and that it was not all economic.

"After all, the French were not making any money in Cambodia," he said.

Montague says that by looking at picture postcards you can begin to answer the question: "What motivated the French?"

According to Montague, colonial-era postcards are conscious or unconscious pieces of imperialist propaganda that justify the "civilising mission".

Quoting a modern historian, Montague says: "The postcard was a resounding defence of the colonial spirit in picture form. It is the comic strip of colonial morality."

Montague says that though the postcards represent a skewed and one-sided view of history, this is part of what makes them so interesting.

His postcards document the history of French projections onto Cambodia and reveal French colonial understandings of the Kingdom, which varied from other parts of their Empire.

For instance, unlike in French colonial Africa, postcards of partly nude tribal figures are rare, indicating to Montague that rural Cambodian women did not become erotic, exotic figures in France in the same way North African women did.

"The poses of Khmer women were classic, occasionally graceful and as harmonious as might be achieved given the huge cross-cultural gap between the subjects and the photographers," he said.

Beyond allowing people to further their understanding of the colonial gaze, because the French took postcard photos of anything they considered an accomplishment, the postcards documented parts of Cambodia that no longer exist, Montague said.

"Picture postcards provided the colonial powers ... with its ‘objective' visual record of achievement," he said.

While many postcards show physical testaments to the colonial civilising mission like hospitals, post offices or even Phnom Penh's philharmonic building, others show nuns ministering to the sick and orphans in the course of bringing Christianity to those seen as misguided.

"These postcards - even though they present an image of how [the French] consciously or unconsciously wanted to see Cambodia - show the transformation of Cambodia during the protectorate," he said.

Montague took the audience on a tour of early 20th century Phnom Penh using his postcards at a lecture at Phnom Penh's Meta House last Sunday.

The collector hopes that through his postcards he can get people to focus on more than 90 years of French rule, an era he says is too often ignored by historians.

"The postcards provide a view - a distorted one - but a view of what happened during this hugely important time," he said.

Khmer Rouge 'torture centres' in Cambodia - 17 Jun 09



AlJazeeraEnglish

Kaing Kuek Eav, better known as Duch, who ran the Khmer Rouge's S-21 torture centre has admitted at the UN backed genocide trial in Cambodia that most of the confessions obtained from prisoners were not true, but they were executed anyway.

But S-21 was only one of dozens of similar prisons around the country.

Al Jazeera's Stephanie Scawen reports.

Economy Worsens Trafficking

Kay Chernush for the U.S. State Department
Children of Burmese migrants working in Thailand's commercial fisheries industry.

Radio Free Asia
http://www.rfa.org

2009-06-16

Hard times are abetting the massive global slave trade, according to a new U.S. report on human trafficking.

WASHINGTON—People in danger of falling prey to human traffickers are even more vulnerable as a result of the global economic downturn, according to a new State Department report that downgraded Cambodia and Malaysia for failing to do enough to fight the multi-billion dollar global trade in humans.

"Economic pressure, especially in the global economic crisis, makes more people susceptible to the false promises of traffickers," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in releasing the 2009 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report here.

"Trafficking has a broad global impact as well. It weakens legitimate economies, fuels violence, threatens public health and safety, shatters families, and shreds the social fabric that is necessary for progress," Clinton told a news conference.

The TIP report, which details government efforts to fight human trafficking, called both Malaysia and Cambodia “destination and…source and transit [countries] for women and children trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation and forced labor.”

Under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, governments with a Tier 3 rating, the lowest that can be assigned by the report, can be subject to sanctions including the suspension of U.S. aid.

In April, Malaysia’s prime minister said his government would investigate a blistering report by a U.S. Senate panel that said thousands of Burmese migrants have been handed over to human traffickers and sent to work in the Thai sex industry.

The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, after a year-long review, said illegal Burmese migrants had been deported from Malaysia, handed to human traffickers, and forced to work in brothels, fishing boats, and restaurants in Thailand if they didn’t have enough money to buy their own release.

U.S. Ambassador-at-Large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons Luis C. de Baca said Malaysia's poor treatment of refugees is an issue that the U.S. State Department has been following for years.

During a briefing he called attention to authorities' use of a volunteer security force, the People's Volunteer Corps (RELA), to stage raids on suspected illegal immigrants. The group is given wide-ranging powers by immigration officers, including the right to bear arms, but provided with little professional training.

Rights groups say children, pregnant women, and United Nations-screened refugees awaiting resettlement, have all been detained in such raids.

"The presence of a 500,000-person-strong militia that has basically deputized, and in the past has actually gotten 'head money' for the aliens that they catch, is something that seems to have contributed to a zone of impunity around that refugee population," de Baca said.

"We’d certainly like to see more movement as far as [the Malaysian government's] investigation of the official complicity that’s been reported," he said.

Burma this year remained on Tier 3, where it has been ranked since the report was first compiled in 2001.

While Burma has made progress in curbing the international trafficking of women and children into the sex trade, the military regime hasn't stopped forced labor and the unlawful military conscription of children, the report said.

Cambodia meanwhile also dropped to Tier 3, based on what the report described as a lack of government progress in prosecuting human traffickers and protecting trafficking victims.

China remained a Tier 2 country in the report, which cited forced prison labor, abduction of children for forced begging and thievery, and involuntary servitude of children, migrant workers, and abductees.

"Some experts and NGOs suggested trafficking in persons has been fueled by economic disparity and the effects of population planning policies, and that a shortage of marriageable women fuels the demand for abducted women, especially in rural areas,” the report said.

It said girls from the largely Muslim Uyghur ethnic group in China’s northwestern Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region have been forced to work in factories in eastern China on false pretenses and without regular wages.

Global economy

De Baca said economic factors were likely to have a ripple effect throughout the trafficking industry.

"Our report staff, as they surveyed the field, have seen how vulnerable populations are becoming even more susceptible to exploitation as a result of the financial crisis," de Baca said in an interview.

As western Europe’s construction industry contracts, workers returning from eastern Europe are displacing Asian workers who had taken up the slack.

"It will be very interesting to see what happens in the coming year to those Asian workers, whether they will be exploited in eastern Europe or return home to countries even worse off now than when they left," he said.

De Baca welcomed the work of international organizations and NGOs in combating human trafficking but called on governments in the region to do more instead of simply relying on foreign assistance.

"At the end of the day, it’s the governments’ responsibility to engage. Governments with crushing problems of poverty, if they have political will, can own the issue and respond to the issue of trafficking," de Baca said.

He cited impoverished Moldova as an example, noting that it had taken steps to aid victims of trafficking.

"If Moldova can do it, then we would hope similar countries in Asia would be able to find the political will rather than simply being dependent on the international community," de Baca said.

"It doesn’t create a sustainable anti-trafficking movement to outsource [this]…We don’t want years, we want decades, and the only way to do that is to get the government involved."

Little change in North Korea, Laos, Vietnam

The report kept North Korea at the lowest ranking, citing estimates that 80 percent of the tens of thousands of North Korean refugees in China are trafficking victims.

Pyongyang also uses forced labor and recruits citizens to work abroad for North Korean entities, often withholding their wages until they return home.

Most commonly, women and girls from one of North Korea’s poorest border areas cross into China and are then sold and re-sold as “brides.”

North Korea’s government does not acknowledge the existence of human trafficking either within its own borders or transnationally and actively punishes trafficking victims for acts they commit as a direct result of being trafficked, the report said.

The TIP report kept Laos at Tier 2, citing "significant" efforts by the government to fully comply with minimum standards to eliminate trafficking.

Laos stepped up efforts to investigate trafficking offenses and to prosecute and punish traffickers, it said.

But a severe lack of resources, poor training of officials, and ongoing corruption still impede the government’s ability to combat trafficking.

Vietnam also remained at Tier 2, prosecuting sex-trafficking offenders and making efforts to protect victims. But the report cited few gains in prosecuting labor-traffickers and protecting victims.

The United Nations defines human trafficking as the recruitment, transfer, or harboring of people by means of coercion for the purpose of exploitation.

The United Nations has said human trafficking remains the second largest illegal trade next to drugs, with traffickers earning an estimated U.S. $10 billion annually. It also estimated that 2.5 million trafficked people worldwide come from the Asia-Pacific region.

Written for the Web in English by Joshua Lipes. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.

Adventure travel teaches an important human attribute, patience

Ted Nelson
Chicago Adventure Travel Examiner
http://www.examiner.com

Adventure travel teaches a very valuable human lesson. It teaches us patience. You cannot enjoy adventure travel without having patience and if you are short on this important attribute then you will improve yourself if you continue to travel.

I would define travel as seeking amazing experiences through enduring a series of minor and sometimes major inconveniences. Some people cannot handle the inconveniences and therefore decide to stay at home or seek the easier travel destinations. There is nothing wrong with this as travel is not for everyone. However, I do feel people are missing out because with time and effort incredible life changing experiences are out there.

I can think of two experiences that changed my life that both took incredible patience and endurance in order to attain. One was a canoeing trip in Quetico Provincial Park in Ontario just north of the Boundary Waters Wilderness in Minnesota. The other was a bus trip from Bangkok to Siem Riep, Cambodia in order to tour temples of Angkor.

In the middle of Quetico Provincial Park is the majestic Lake Kawnippi. Since the park does not allow either motorboats or plane access the only way to access this incredible lake is through a canoe. It takes three grueling days in order to make it to the far northern tip of Lake Kawnippi. If accessing through Cache Bay there are several waterfalls and rapids that need to be portaged. Portaging is the act of taking everything out of your canoe and carrying it on a trail to either the next lake or around the obstacle. Then someone needs to carry the canoe on the trail. Each portage takes two trips to complete and to get to Kawnippi there are nine portages and one is almost a half mile long.

When we finally reached our destination it was like reaching Valhalla. We were greeted by a Bald Eagle flying over us as we reached our camp spot. Finally reaching one of the most beautiful destinations in the world we camped there for four days and fished nonstop. The fishing was amazing and we lived off of fresh walleye and smallmouth bass, which was a most welcome supplement to freeze dried food and granola bars.

On a trip through Southeast Asia a couple of years ago, I booked a bus trip from Bangkok, Thailand to Siem Reap, Cambodia despite warnings regarding the hardship of the trip from other travelers. The trip from Bangkok to the border was a breeze in a huge air-conditioned bus. I thought the warnings from other travelers were way overblown until I hit the border and reached hell on earth. We all had to stand in near 100 degree heat for three hours waiting to get through customs.

After getting through customs, we were packed into a tiny bus with all of our gear uncomfortably smashed against us for one of the most maddening experiences I have ever lived through. The trip was only around 100 miles yet it took six hours as the road conditions were horrendous. In fact, calling it a road is being generous. The windows were open since there were like eighteen of us packed like cattle in the small bus with no air-conditioning. The roads were dirt and since the windows were open the dirt just kept billowing in making us all miserable. I was just about to scream in absolute frustration when suddenly we hit a paved road and gained speed and finally reached our destination.

The next three days were spent touring the amazing temples of Angkor. It was well worth the struggle to get there although I never will do that again. Seeing the sun rise over the main temple is something that will be etched in my mind until the day I die.

When adventure traveling, nothing ever goes as planned and for some people they cannot take it. For those that can, great experiences are just around the corner. Some adventurers are naturally patient, but it is a trait that can be worked on and improved upon. Adventure travel is a great way to build this important characteristic.

UBC professor a success story in fight against human trafficking

UBC Law Professor Benjamin Perrin on Tuesday in Vancouver.Photograph by: Ian Lindsay, Vancouver Sun

By Richard Dalton
Vancouver Sun
June 16, 2009

VANCOUVER -- When University of B.C. law professor Benjamin Perrin volunteered in Cambodia 10 years ago to fight sex trafficking in the country known for sexual exploitation of minors, he often saw young men, some with maple-leaf flags on their backpacks, openly bragging about going to brothels.

While such exploitation might be open in Cambodia, it’s more hidden in Canada, Perrin said.

But a U.S. State Department report released Tuesday shows the problem persists in Canada.

At the same time, for his help in fighting human trafficking, Perrin was named by the state department one of nine “heroes in the fight against modern-day slavery.”

Perrin, the first Canadian to win the award, is one of the important success stories in the fight against human trafficking, said Kathleen Hill, deputy consul general for the U.S.

Perrin has testified before Parliament about human trafficking and in 2000 founded The Future Group, an organization that helps combat human trafficking and the child sex trade.

The state department said Perrin’s report on human trafficking in 2006 pushed Canada to issue temporary residence permits and medical assistance to victims of trafficking.

The anti-trafficking activist also helped negotiate agreements at a conference of 150 countries, which agreed to appoint a lead agency to combat human trafficking. Interpol, the international police organization, agreed to help countries notify each other when people convicted of human trafficking are travelling.

Perrin also wrote, Journey of Injustice: Canada’s Underground World of Human Trafficking,” which will be published by Penguin Canada in October 2010.

The annual U.S. report on human trafficking in 175 countries says Canadians travel abroad to sexually exploit minors and foreigners come to Canada for sex with minors. The report cites Vancouver, saying traffickers often bring Asian victims to the city and other parts of Western Canada.

Canada also has become a destination for U.S. residents seeking sex with minors, the report says. But raising the age of consent to 16 from 14 has helped cut back on some of the exploitation, Perrin said.

The report notes that Canada secured its first convictions for human trafficking last year and urges Canada to strengthen the investigation and prosecution of human traffickers.

Perrin has long agreed Canada needs to step up prosecutions.

“There’s really no evidence that Canada is pulling its weight in the prosecution of child sex offenders,” he said in an interview following a news conference Tuesday.

Perrin said traffickers have plans — even manuals — to help them recruit victims. But Canada still has no overall plan to combat sex trafficking.

“You can’t fight a plan with no plan,” he said.

rdalton@vancouversun.com

Obama's edict: Cambodia is no longer Communist


by Nomoreimperialism

Tue Jun 16, 2009

I don't know who prevailed upon the President of the USA to hand down an edict declaring Laos and Cambodia red-free, but nevertheless, here it is. On 12 June 2009, President Obama issued Presidential Determinations to the effect that both Laos and Cambodia were no longer deemed to be communist.

Nomoreimperialism's diary :: ::

...Under Section 2(b)(2) of the Export-Import Bank Act of 1945, as amended

Pursuant to the authority vested in me by section 2(b)(C) of the Export-Import Bank Act of 1945, as amended (12 U.S.C. 635(b)(2)(C)), I hereby determine that The Lao People's Democratic Republic has ceased to be a Marxist-Leninist country within the definition of such term in section 2(b)(2)(B)(i) of that Act.

Under Section 2(b)(2) of the Export-Import Bank Act of 1945, as amended

Pursuant to the authority vested in me by section 2(b)(C) of the Export-Import Bank Act of 1945, as amended (12 U.S.C. 635(b)(2)(C)), I hereby determine that the Kingdom of Cambodia has ceased to be a Marxist-Leninist country within the definition of such term in section 2(b)(2)(B)(i) of that Act.

The Export-Import Bank is a government agency that is charged with financing and promoting exports of U.S. goods and services, often regulated by Congress to promote certain right-wing political agendas. According to the CRS:

In 1968, through P.L. 90-267, Congress established Subsection 2 of 12 USC Sec. 635(b), which expressly restricted the Bank from providing its services to any Communist country and designated 30 countries as Communist countries. Congress amended this restriction in 1986 through P.L. 99-472 to specify that the Bank could not provide insurance, guarantees, or credit to purchase or lease any product by a Communist country, including any agency, or national of the country, unless the President determined that such a transaction was in the U.S. national interest. In 1992, Congress amended this section through P.L. 102-429, which removed the designation "Communist country" by replacing it with "Marxist-Leninist" country and reduced to nine18 the number of countries that are Marxist-Leninist.19 The President can waive this prohibition if he determines that a country is no longer a Marxist-Leninist country, or that doing so is in the national interest. The President is required to make such a determination for each transaction over $50 million and he is required to notify Congress.

Imperialism is sometimes seen as an economic system in which the imperial metropole radiates spokes of control outward to the periphery through financing and militarism. Ex-Im serves the function of leveraging credit to increase economic dependence on the US imperial metropole. American corporations with willing collaborators at the other end of the pipeline have a great advantage over local businesses.

The official organ of the Cambodian regime said Cambodia welcomes US lifting of loan ban. The Phnom Penh Post (15 June 2009) barely mentioned this cosmic shift in ecomomic status, although it did note that Cambodian People's Party lawmaker Cheam Yeap said that he had urged US officials to take steps to bolster bilateral trade when his delegation was in Washington recently. Yanks have no idea of the power that the US can exercise.

Why didn't Bush II issue this edict first? Maybe the "terrist" segue was too tenuous for Bush II to stimulate an interest.

KRouge jail chief tells of experiments, blood draining

Former Khmer Rouge prison chief known as Duch in Phnom Penh

PHNOM PENH (AFP) — The former Khmer Rouge prison chief told Cambodia's UN-backed war crimes court Monday that some inmates had blood completely drained from their bodies or were used for medical experiments.

Kaing Guek Eav, better known by his nom de guerre Duch, was answering judges' questions about conditions at Tuol Sleng prison, where he supervised the torture and extermination of up to 15,000 people.

"First, live prisoners were used for surgical study and training, second blood drawing was also done," Duch told the court.

The testimony represented a new admission of guilt for Duch, who previously stated he knew nothing of prisoners being drained of blood.

In the morning of one of the most dramatic days so far in his crimes against humanity trial, Duch at one point became visibly distraught while talking about which prisoners were tortured and judges gave him some time to compose himself.

Duch also also told the court that Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot knew prisoners' confessions, usually extracted through torture, were false.

"Pol Pot, at one point, did not even believe the confessions were of true information," Duch said.

Duch added he also did not believe most confessions and told the court how he was summoned by his superior, defence minister Son Sen, and asked why his staff had not found any information about the CIA's agenda.

"It was required for us to seek out CIA agents... As a result, there were many CIA agents in the confessions," Duch said.

"All the prisoners, from what I could conclude... who claimed they were CIA agents, no they were not," he said, adding that he ran into further problems with his superiors when one man confessed to being a Soviet agent.

Thereafter, he said, his staff also obtained confessions from many prisoners saying they were working for the KGB, the Soviet Union's spy agency.

However, Duch also sought to demonstrate he showed compassion for some of the doomed inmates at Tuol Sleng.

He told the court he had not approved torture through electrocution of genitals and became "very angry" when he learned a male interrogator had sexual abused a female inmate.

He also said he disobeyed an order by "Brother Number Two" Nuon Chea to poison several inmates, filling capsules with headache medicine instead.

"If they died then they would have died under my own act, giving them the poison. That's why I tried not to be involved in the killing of those people directly," Duch said.

Earlier in his trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity, Duch accepted responsibility for his role in the 1975 to 1979 communist regime and begged forgiveness from its victims.

He has, however, consistently denied prosecutors' claims that he played a central role in the Khmer Rouge's iron-fisted rule and maintains he tortured only two people himself and never personally executed anyone.

The 66-year-old former maths teacher was arrested by Cambodian authorities in 1999 and judges on Monday ruled he was "entitled to a remedy" because it was "unlawful" he had spent so long in detention before the case came to court.

The ruling appeared to be a small victory for Duch, whose lawyers in April argued he had been held illegally and urged the judges to compensate by subtracting time from his final sentence and softening their eventual verdict.

Pol Pot died in 1998, and many believe the tribunal is the last chance to find justice for victims of the regime, which killed up to two million people.

The court was formed in 2006 after nearly a decade of wrangling between the United Nations and the Cambodian government, and is expected next year to begin the trial of four other senior Khmer Rouge leaders also in detention.