Friday, 26 June 2009

The Phnom Penh Post News in Brief

In Brief: Australian Embassy to move

Written by SEBASTIAN STRANGIO
Friday, 26 June 2009

The Australian embassy has announced that it will move into its recently completed Bassac riverfront building Monday, and that plans are in the works for an opening ceremony. "We will be marking the opening of the new Chancery in due course," said Fiona Cochaud, the embassy's first secretary.


In Brief: March to mark day against drugs

Written by MOM KUNTHEAR
Friday, 26 June 2009

World Vision has organised a march against gambling, drug use and domestic violence to commemorate International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, which is observed today. The march will be held today in Phnom Penh's Dangkor district. San Sothearo, a peace education project manager at World Vision Cambodia, said the march was co-organised with a local youth group.

In Brief: FM to lead Asean-Gulf delegation

Written by SAM RITH
Friday, 26 June 2009

Foreign Affairs Minister Hor Namhong, who is also a dputy prime minister, is to lead a delegation to attend the first ASEAN-Gulf Cooperation Council ministerial meeting, scheduled to be held Monday and Tuesday in Manama, Bahrain. According to a press release issued Thursday by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Hor Namhong will use the meeting to sign a joint communique on the establishment of diplomatic relations between Cambodia and Bahrain.

Cambodian PM warns Thailand in border temple row

PHNOM PENH (AFP) — Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen warned Thailand Thursday it must respect his country's sovereignty ahead of talks over the two countries' disputed border near an ancient temple.

Thai deputy premier Suthep Thaugsuban is scheduled to meet with Hun Sen Saturday at his home near Cambodian capital Phnom Penh to discuss the troop standoff in the disputed border zone.

The Cambodian leader said in a speech that he would take a hard stance on the dispute, which has killed seven soldiers near the 11th century Preah Vihear temple since tensions flared last year.

"We will not accept an explanation from Suthep over the Preah Vihear issue. I will welcome only an explanation about withdrawal of Thai soldiers out of sovereign Cambodian territory," Hun Sen said.

"I have a full obligation to defend independent and sovereign territory," he added.

Relations between the neighbours worsened last week when Bangkok announced it would ask world heritage body UNESCO to reconsider its decision to list Preah Vihear in Cambodia, since the surrounding land is still in dispute.

This week, however, UNESCO refused to hear Thailand's complaint as its world heritage committee met in Seville, Spain, according to Cambodian government officials.

Cambodia and Thailand have been at loggerheads over the land around the Preah Vihear temple for decades, but tensions spilled over into violence last July when the temple was granted UN World Heritage status.

Although the World Court ruled in 1962 that it belonged to Cambodia, the most accessible entrance to the ancient Khmer temple with its crumbling stone staircases and elegant carvings is in northeastern Thailand.

Soldiers from Cambodia and Thailand continue to patrol the area, with the last gunbattle in the temple area in April leaving three people dead.

The border between the two countries has never been fully demarcated, in part because it is littered with landmines left over from decades of war in Cambodia.

Nixon Papers Show Democrats Endorsed Cambodia Invasion – Thursday, 25.6.2009

Posted on 25 June 2009
The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 618
http://cambodiamirror.wordpress.com/

Deum Ampil took the following report from the Washington Post of 24 June 2009

“Five days before U.S. and South Vietnamese troops made their surprise move into Cambodia on 29 April 1970, then-President Richard M. Nixon got the approval of the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee for that action, according to documents released yesterday by the Nixon library.

“The unexpected U.S. incursion into Cambodia came as a surprise to the American public, most members of Congress, and the new Cambodian government. What followed were a series of public demonstrations in Washington and later at Kent State University in Ohio, which, in turn, expanded the opposition to the war.

“In a 24 April 1970 telephone conversation with Senator John C. Stennis (Demorat-Mississipi), who was then chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Nixon said the administration was going to provide arms to the Cambodian government to prevent its overthrow by pro-communist elements, and continue secret B-52 bombing raids, ‘which only you and Senator Russell know about.’ Richard Russell (Democrat-Georgia) was the former committee chairman.

“‘We are not going to get involved in a war in Cambodia,’ Nixon reassured Stennis. ‘We are going to do what is necessary to help save our men in South Vietnam. They can’t have those sanctuaries there’ that North Vietnam maintained.

“Stennis replied, ‘I will be with you. . . . I commend you for what you are doing.’ Several days earlier, in a memo to then-National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger, CIA Director Richard Helms proposed a plan to covertly deliver thousands of AK-47s and other military equipment to the Cambodian government with help from Indonesia. Yesterday, about 30,000 pages of documents were opened to the public at the National Archives facility in College Park and the Nixon library in Yorba Linda, California, part of a staggered declassification of papers and tapes from the Nixon years.

“The memos and tapes shed light on fateful moments of Nixon’s second term, the Associated Press reported, among them a peace deal with North Vietnam, changes in domestic and foreign policy, and management of the Cold War. They also give insights into a well-known characteristic of Nixon and his aides – a hair-trigger sensitivity to political rivals and quick resort to machinations against them.

“A 1972 meeting between Nixon and his chief of staff produced an informal directive to ‘destroy’ Democratic vice presidential candidate Thomas Eagleton, according to scribbled notes among the documents released yesterday that referred to Eagleton as a ‘pip-squeak.’

“In a 1969 memo, Nixon’s staff assistant describes placing the movements of the Kennedys under observation in Massachusetts after Senator Edward M. Kennedy drove off a bridge in an accident that drowned his female companion. The materials show Nixon as sharp-witted, crude, manipulative and sometimes surprisingly liberal in comparison with mainstream Republicans today. In one letter, he solidly endorses the Equal Rights Amendment, saying that for 20 years ‘I have not altered my belief that equal rights for women warrant a constitutional guarantee.’ The amendment failed.

“The library posted online more than 150 hours of tape recordings. The tapes cover January and February 1973, spanning Nixon’s second inauguration, the peace deal with Hanoi, and the trial and conviction of burglars whose break-in at the Democratic headquarters at the Watergate complex precipitated the coverup that wrecked Nixon’s presidency. He resigned in August 1974 under threat of being forced out by Congress.”

Deum Ampil, Vol.3, #219, 25.6.2009
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Thursday, 25 June 2009

Thailand, Cambodia spar again over disputed border

AP - Friday, June 26

BANGKOK – The Thai army put its troops on alert at the disputed border with Cambodia and said Thursday it would deploy more soldiers there, the latest sign that tensions are rising over a 11th century Hindu temple.

Trouble began in July when the United Nations cultural agency, UNESCO, approved Cambodia's bid to have the ancient Preah Vihear temple named a World Heritage Site, leading some in Thailand to believe their claims to the surrounding land would be undermined.

Several gun battles have killed at least seven Thai and Cambodian soldiers, and both sides have refused to back away from their positions, each saying it has the rightful claim to the land.

Thailand last week asked UNESCO to reconsider its decision to formally list the temple as a world heritage site under the care of Cambodia. That move irritated Cambodia and the two sides have traded angry words ever since.

Lt. Gen. Neepal Viboonsak said Thai troops were put on alert and more would be sent to the area in response to Cambodia's increasing forces and weaponry there.

"We urged that the troops exercise restraint and patience. We will not shoot unless we are shot at first," said Neepal. "But we will have to appropriately increase the number of troops because (the Cambodians) have deployed a lot more troops and heavy artillery there."

He declined to comment on the number of forces on either side, or how many more Thai soldiers would be deployed.

Prime Minister Hun Sen denied that Cambodia had sent more soldiers to the border and warned an encroachment by Thai soldiers will not be welcome.

"If the Thais enter, let's fight," he told reporters. "If Thai forces do not withdraw from the area, I will not order Cambodian forces to pull back either."

Cambodia and Thailand share a 500-mile (800-kilometer) land border, much of which has never been clearly demarcated because the countries refer to different maps.

The World Court awarded the Preah Vihear temple to Cambodia in 1962, but sovereignty over the surrounding land has never been clearly resolved.

Thai Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban will visit Cambodia on Saturday to discuss the issue with Hun Sen.

New UN rights envoy to Cambodia pledges 'constructive' talks


AFP
June 26, 2009

PHNOM PENH (AFP) - The new UN special envoy for human rights to Cambodia on Thursday pledged a "constructive approach" as he replaced his predecessor, who resigned after a long war of words with the government.

Surya Subedi levelled no direct criticism of the Cambodian government's poor human rights record as he concluded his first trip to the country.

"I'm hoping to build on the work done by my predecessors," Subedi told reporters at a press conference, adding, "I have my own style, and that style will be a constructive one."

Prime Minister Hun Sen called the envoy's predecessor, Yash Ghai, rude, stupid and a "god without virtue". The Kenyan lawyer resigned in September after government officials refused to meet him.

Subedi told reporters he met Hun Sen, other government officials, opposition and civil society members during his 10-day visit to Cambodia.

On his meeting with Hun Sen, Subedi said: "What I can assure you is that there was a willingness to work with me in a constructive manner, and I was pleased with that."

The Nepalese law professor, who will issue a report on his trip to the UN's Human Rights Council, said the independence of Cambodia's judiciary and people being forcibly evicted from their homes were among his chief concerns.

Hun Sen Won’t Talk Temple With Thai Deputy

By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
25 June 2009

Prime Minister Hun Sen said Thursday the only words he would want to exchange with a visiting Thai official would be news that Thailand is withdrawing troops from positions along the border.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva rankled Phnom Penh earlier this week by suggesting Cambodia and Thailand share the Unesco World Heritage status of Preah Vihear temple, which is at the center of a military standoff along the northern border.

Thai officials hope to meet with Unesco authorities in Spain this week, where they could request Preah Vihear temple be placed under joint maintenance. Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban is then scheduled to make an unofficial visit to Cambodia on Saturday to meet with Hun Sen.

In a speech to graduates in Phnom Penh Thursday, Hun Sen he was prepared to welcome Suthep and the defense minister, Gen. Prawit Wongsuwan, but “not to raise the Preah Vihear temple, to explain to me.”

“I cannot accept any explanation…except if that explanation stresses that [Thailand] will pull Thai invasion forces out of Cambodia,” Hun Sen said.

Clashes on disputed territory near the temple have killed at least three Cambodian and three Thai soldiers in the past year.

“Cambodia does not use military force to solve bilateral problems,” Hun Sen said Thursday. “The military option is the last option in the implementation of the right to self-defense of territory.”

Demonstrations in Thailand in July 2008 coincided with Preah Vihear’s World Heritage listing, protests that deeply unsettled Thailand and led to the ouster of its democratically elected government.

Abhisit’s government should now take the same stance as the previous government, Hun Sen said.

Suthep unlikely to achieve border breakthrough with Hun Sen

By Supalak Ganjanakhundee
The Nation
Published on June 26, 2009

Cambodian PM 'won't listen' to talk of joint registration of site

Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban will likely face a tough stance from Cambodian Premier Hun Sen when they meet in Phnom Penh tomorrow to discuss the Preah Vihear Temple.

Suthep was assigned by Prime Minsiter Abhisit Vejjajiva, who is currently on an official visit to China, to discuss the sensitive issue with the Cambodian leader, who yesterday seemed to reject any comprehensive peace talks with Thailand.

Tensions have escalated at the Thai-Cambodian border, with Thailand's Second Army Area commander Lt General Wiboonsak Neeparn having rotated troops at Preah Vihear so that they are fresh and ready for a possible attack from Cambodia.

Cambodia has already boosted its presence in the border area.

Wiboonsak said his forces would exercise utmost restraint to prevent a military clash with Cambodia for the safety of Thai residents in the area.

Reflecting his tough position, Hun Sen was quoted by China's official Xinhua news agency as saying: "I will not listen to him [Suthep] about a clarification of jointly developing and jointly registering Preah Vihear Temple.

"But if he talks about the withdrawal of Thai troops from our soil, we can talk and welcome him."

"This is my message for him before he decides to visit Cambodia," Hun Sen said during a graduation ceremony at a university in Phnom Penh.

The controversial Hindu temple came under the spotlight again after the Thai Cabinet decided last week to maintain its objection to the site's World Heritage status, even though it was listed last July.

Bangkok's move has disappointed Phnom Penh, whose plan for safeguarding and developing the site has been delayed.

Cambodia also cannot convene a meeting of the International Coordination Committee scheduled since February, as Thailand has been reluctant to accept an invitation to sit on the panel.

Suthep is due to visit Phnom Penh tomorrow to explain the Thai position that it has no gripe with Cambodia, but has a problem with the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco).

Abhisit said on Wednesday that his government's move was aimed at preventing Unesco and other countries from getting involved in the areas claimed by both Thailand and Cambodia.

Natural Resource and Environment Minister Suwit Khunkitti attended the 33rd meeting of the World Heritage Committee in Spain this week to reaffirm the Thai stance, but Cambodian media reported that the committee had dismissed the Thai complaint.

Thailand also expressed its desire to participate in a joint nomination of Preah Vihear, but Hun Sen said the temple belongs to Cambodia, according to the 1962 verdict of the International Court of Justice.

Thailand is not a co-owner of that property, he said, asserting that the Preah Vihear Temple is now humanity's heritage.

The territorial dispute over Preah Vihear began when the World Heritage Committee decided last July to have the popular tourist attraction inscribed on its list of World Heritage sites, causing discontent among Thai nationalists and the then-opposition Democrat Party.

The dispute ignited two border skirmishes in October and April, which left at least four soldiers on both sides dead.

Cambodia wants all troops withdrawn from the overlapping areas.

The National Park of Phra Viharn, which is the gateway to Preah Vihear from the Thai side, has been closed for security reasons since the April clash.

A plan to reopen it next month has been suspended for an indefinite period, said Kasemsan Jinnawaso, director-general of the National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department.

Thailand, Cambodia spar again over disputed border


Associated Press
2009-06-25

The Thai army put its troops on alert at the disputed border with Cambodia and said Thursday it would deploy more soldiers there, the latest sign that tensions are rising over a 11th century Hindu temple.
Trouble began in July when the United Nations cultural agency, UNESCO, approved Cambodia's bid to have the ancient Preah Vihear temple named a World Heritage Site, leading some in Thailand to believe their claims to the surrounding land would be undermined.

Several gun battles have killed at least seven Thai and Cambodian soldiers, and both sides have refused to back away from their positions, each saying it has the rightful claim to the land.

Thailand last week asked UNESCO to reconsider its decision to formally list the temple as a world heritage site under the care of Cambodia. That move irritated Cambodia and the two sides have traded angry words ever since.

Lt. Gen. Neepal Viboonsak said Thai troops were put on alert and more would be sent to the area in response to Cambodia's increasing forces and weaponry there.

"We urged that the troops exercise restraint and patience. We will not shoot unless we are shot at first," said Neepal. "But we will have to appropriately increase the number of troops because (the Cambodians) have deployed a lot more troops and heavy artillery there."

He declined to comment on the number of forces on either side, or how many more Thai soldiers would be deployed.

Prime Minister Hun Sen denied that Cambodia had sent more soldiers to the border and warned an encroachment by Thai soldiers will not be welcome.

"If the Thais enter, let's fight," he told reporters. "If Thai forces do not withdraw from the area, I will not order Cambodian forces to pull back either."

Cambodia and Thailand share a 500-mile (800-kilometer) land border, much of which has never been clearly demarcated because the countries refer to different maps.

The World Court awarded the Preah Vihear temple to Cambodia in 1962, but sovereignty over the surrounding land has never been clearly resolved.

Thai Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban will visit Cambodia on Saturday to discuss the issue with Hun Sen.

Sabre rattling at Preah Vihear

By: BangkokPost.com
Published: 25/06/2009

Thai soldiers have been put on full alert along the disputed border with Cambodia and been warned that an armed clash is possible, Second Army Region commander Viboonsak Neepal said on Thursday.

Lt-Gen Viboonsak said the Cambodian army had begun deploying more troops and artillery, including 10 large cannons and six tanks, near Preah Vihear temple.

The new Cambodian troops were dressed in new uniforms and armed with new rifles. They had set up camp about two kilometres across the border from Chong Sa Ngam in Si Sa Ket.

Thai troops stationed along the border now had units on alert around the clock, he said.

"If there are bullets coming from the other side, the Thai army is ready to retaliate by any means necessary.

"I have ordered all troops to show patience but be alert, and reminded them not to underestimate the situation," he said.

Meanwhile, Cambodian villagers continued to buy goods at the Thai market as usual.

Defence Ministry spokesman Chittisak Charoensombat said both countries had dispatched their troops to the border, but they had no intention to clash.

He said each country only wanted to protect its own soveriegnty.

"The Thai army is capable and ready for battle, but we will not invade or be the first to start using force," Maj-Gen Chittisak said.

Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon will make an official visit to Cambodia on Saturday to discuss the border dispute, he said.

The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation chief Kasem Jinnawaso announced that the Khao Phra Viharn National Park in Si Sa Ket would remain closed. It was shut to the public on April 3.

Mr Kasem said the department had talked with the Si Sa Ket governor and the Second Army, and they all agreed it should stay closed because they could not guarrantee the safety of visitors to the park.

Suthep's visit to Cambodia not necessary: Hun Sen


By Deutsche Presse-Agentur
Phnom Penh

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said Thursday he would refuse to discuss a Thai plan for the neighboring countries to jointly administer an 11th-century Hindu ruined temple in a disputed border region during the Thai deputy prime minister's visit Saturday.

Thai Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said Tuesday he would visit Phnom Penh to explain the plan to Hun Sen amid reports both countries were amassing troops in the border region where two fatal clashes have erupted in the past year.

Two Cambodian soldiers were killed in clashes in July and another skirmish in April left two Thai soldiers dead and dozens injured on both sides.

The temple was granted to Cambodia in a 1962 International Court of Justice ruling, but Thailand claims the land around the site.

Unescoin July granted Preah Vihear World Heritage Site status, despite Thai objections.

Hun Sen said Thursday that Cambodia would hold a national celebration on July 7 to mark the one-year anniversary of the Unesco ruling.

"I will call on monks throughout the country to beat drums to celebrate this occasion," he said. "There will be a concert in Phnom Penh and similar celebrations in the provinces."

"It is not necessary for us to discuss this plan because this is a Thai suggestion and has nothing to do with Cambodia," he said in his speech at a university graduation ceremony in Phnom Penh.

"But if he wishes to discuss Thailand withdrawing its troops from our soil, then we will talk about that."

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said last week he would ask Unesco, to review its decision made last year to list the temple as World Heritage site.

Thailand planned to ask for the review when Unesco meet in this week, provoking condemnation from Hun Sen and Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong.

Khao Phra Wiharn Park closed to tourists indefinitely

http://www.nationmultimedia.com

The Khao Phra Wiharn Park in Si Sa Ket has been closed to tourists indefinitely following the border tension between Thailand and Cambodia, the director-general of the National Park, Animal and Forest Conservation Department said Thursday.

Kasemsan Jinnawaso, said the park, which is located next to the entrance to the Preah Vihear Hindu temple, will be closed to tourists until the situation improved.

Both Thai and Cambodian troops have been beefed up along the border after Thailand decided to register its opposition to the listing of the Hindu temple as a world heritage site.

The Nation

Reality off the rails in Phnom Penh

Asia Times Online
http://atimes.com

By Sam Campbell

PHNOM PENH - Science fiction author Philip K Dick once explained reality as "that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away". As sensible as this may sound, it is a definition unlikely to take hold in Cambodia, where recent events have shown the government's tendency to obstinately dismiss anything but the most convenient information.

The denials have come from the highest ranks of government to the lowest rungs of social entertainment and conscripted the judicial system to fend off criticism. Experts and economists say the government backlash risks driving away the vital foreign investment and international aid the country now desperately needs to keep the economy afloat.

The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have both predicted a 0.5% contraction in Cambodia's 2009 gross domestic product (GDP), while the independent Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) estimated an even sharper 3% drop. The government sees things differently and announced last month a beaming 6% GDP growth projection, down only slightly from its 7% projection in April.

That optimistic spin, economists and experts say, is totally out of whack with Cambodia's on-the-ground economic realities, as well as regional and global trends. The crucial garment industry, usually the country's main export engine, saw exports plummet 25% year-on-year in the first quarter of 2009. The foreign revenue-generating tourism sector is equally troubled, with air arrivals in the first four months of 2009 down 16% over the same period last year.

The kingdom's rapid economic growth - GDP increases were measured in double digits for several years - seems to have made officials reluctant to concede that the downturn is having serious effects in Cambodia.

Indeed, Prime Minister Hun Sen's economic lieutenants have been slow to acknowledge the impact of the global crisis on Cambodia's until recently rising fortunes, opting instead to discredit or clamp down on critical news and assessments.

Minister of Economy and Finance Keat Chhon said in early June that a US$6.6 million training program and a $1 million micro-loans program would be adequate to mitigate the 60,000 garment factory workers who recently lost their jobs - a claim greeted with skepticism from economic analysts. Keat Chhon did not respond to an Asia Times Online request for an interview about the programs.

Hun Sen has responded to downcast projections with a characteristic sharp tongue. When the EIU this year rated Cambodia among global countries at high risk of political instability due to the economic crisis, the strongman leader questioned the report's "political orientation" and said the experts that compiled it wore "glasses with prescriptions too strong for their eyes".

In an April 6 speech, the premier went further, claiming that the report was "a political attempt to stop the flow of investments". Meanwhile, Cambodia's ambassador to the United Kingdom, Hor Nambora, dismissed the report as based on "sketchy and unconvincing" evidence. In a letter to the EIU, he called the report "perverse" and "insulting".

"Your scare-mongering allegations are highly dangerous, as they could be construed as actively inciting unrest," wrote Hor Nambora, son of Cambodia's veteran Foreign Minister Hor Namhong. "They also happen to be a gross distortion and misrepresentation of Cambodia's true position, and there can be no justification for these claims."

He also upbraided the EIU for having "arrogantly dismissed" Hun Sen's vow that Cambodia would maintain its economic growth this year: "You seem to have ignored this reassurance from the highest possible level, preferring to rely on your own evidence."

Comedic criticism
The government's protestations peaked in early June following a May 30 concert organized by rights organizations to bring attention to the thorny issue of corruption.

At the so-called "Clean Hands Concert", newly appointed United States ambassador Carol Rodley called corruption one of the main obstacles to socio-economic development in the country, claiming the scourge "costs Cambodia up to $500 million per year in terms of forgone state revenue that could otherwise be spent on public services in education and health care and jobs for Cambodian youth".

She claimed that the sum was "equivalent to the cost of constructing 20,000 six-room school buildings or the ability to pay every civil servant in Cambodia an additional US$260 per month". Her arithmetic, however, was not well received by the government.

"The Royal Government of Cambodia absolutely refutes the politically motivated and unsubstantiated allegation made by the United States diplomat in contradiction of the good relations between Cambodia and the United States Government," read a stern letter the Cambodian Foreign Ministry sent to the US Embassy.

Cambodia's UK ambassador Hor Nambora again entered the fray, saying Rodley seemed to have allied herself "with the discredited views of the international pressure group Global Witness which continually engages in virulent and malicious campaigns against the Royal Government of Cambodia". Global Witness has long been an irritating antagonist to Hun Sen's administration, once labeling its leaders as a "kleptocratic elite".

Pointing to a conspiracy to undermine the government is becoming a common theme when responding to critics of the government. The eventual aims of this unnamed group of conspirators - which encompasses such diverse organizations as environmental watchdogs like Global Witness, economic think-tanks such as the EIU and human-rights groups - is unclear.

One conspiracy theory was put forth publicly by Chy Koy, a performer with the popular Koy comedy troupe. Although Koy had performed at the Clean Hands anti-graft concert, he appeared on June 6 on a Cambodian People's Party-owned television station to ridicule anti-corruption NGOs (non-governmental organizations) as money hungry fabricators of non-existent corruption.

"Some NGOs accuse the government of being corrupt without thinking about its achievements," he explained to the local press after the parody. "You can say that the government is corrupt if nothing had developed in our country, but the government is working and everything is developing." Although Cambodia is officially one of the world's least-developed countries, the comedian claimed: "Now we have everything. Some families have two SUVs, some have three."

The Koy performance was followed - again on CPP-controlled TV - on June 13 by the Krem comedy troupe, which portrayed NGOs and journalists as conspiring to stage fake forced evictions - another bete noir of the Cambodian government. The well-documented and sometimes violent evictions of impoverished communities, according to Krem's sketch, are merely an invented tool to enable greedy foreigners to indulge their appetites for luxury hotels and local women.

With official denials and social satire fending off criticism on one front, another battle was playing out in a very different sphere: home decoration.

In what many viewed as one of the most peculiar assaults on free speech so far this year, Soung Sophorn, a 22-year-old law student, was fined $1,250 after being convicted of defamation. Oddly, the medium for the defamation was graffiti, and the slogans "Against dictatorial policy", "People suffer because the government bows down to the company", and "Stop Evictions" in English, had been sprayed on June 1 on the side of Soung Sophorn's own home.

Phnom Penh Municipal Police Chief Touch Naruth told local media that Soung Sophorn, a member of the opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) and a vocal critic of evictions, was convicted because, "He can insult any individual or company but not the government." Prior to the three-day arrest and conviction process, Soung Sophorn had been summoned to the headquarters of local developer Shukaku Inc, the company responsible for the looming eviction of Soung Sophorn's community, for his opinionated house painting.

Private developer Shukaku's 99-year, $79 million lease to develop 133 hectares of state land where 4,000 mainly poor families live, including the area adjacent to the Boeung Kak backpacker ghetto, has provoked a steady stream of censure from foreign diplomats and rights organizations. According to local reports, the company and its owner, CPP Senator Lao Meng Kim, have steadfastly refused to engage with civil society or the media.

Disorienting defamation
Meanwhile, an ongoing dispute between opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) parliamentarian Mu Sochua and Hun Sen typifies a flurry of tit-for-tat lawsuits that also represents a clear threat to democratic debate. For years, the CPP has used out-dated defamation laws to muzzle critics, among then union leaders, journalists and opposition leaders.

According a lawsuit filed by Mu Sochua on April 27, the premier allegedly made defamatory comments in an April 4 speech; the only compensation sought was an apology. The lawsuit claims that Hun Sen defamed Mu Sochua by referring to a female parliamentarian from Kampot province who embraced a general and then later complained that the buttons of her shirt had come undone. Mu Sochua, the only female MP from Kampot province, had complained of voter irregularities and physical intimidation from CPP officials during the run-up to the 2008 national assembly elections .

Mu Sochua's case was dismissed on June 10, but the premier struck back with a counter defamation case against Mu Sochua that is ongoing. Kong Sam Onn, the lawyer representing Mu Sochua, is also being sued for having held a press conference where he had allegedly defamed the prime minister by claiming that the prime minister had defamed his client. The Cambodian Bar Association has begun an investigation into this alleged ethical misconduct of speaking publicly about a case.

The National Assembly voted on June 22 to lift Mu Sochua's parliamentary immunity, leaving her open to criminal prosecution. Hun Sen noted on June 17 that the two-thirds parliamentary majority required to strip immunity would also be needed to reinstate it. He also used the opportunity to threaten further lawsuits against interfering NGOs.

Even nationalists cannot safely criticize, as Moeung Sonn, a local tour operator and president of the Khmer Civilization Foundation, found out. Moeung Sonn was slapped with a $2,400 lawsuit by the government after he claimed at a press conference that the installation of new lights at Angkor Wat might have damaged the legendary temple. Moeung Sonn, a vocal supporter of the government on cultural and territorial issues, and a significant donor to Cambodian soldiers stationed around disputed zones near Preah Vihear, has fled to France to avoid arrest.

While later information suggests that the light installation has done no damage to the ancient structure, draconian reactions to well-meaning comments suggest that dissenting voices will no longer be allowed.

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy, SRP parliamentarian Ho Vann (also stripped of his parliamentary immunity) and Hang Chakra, editor-in-chief of Khmer Machas Srok newspaper, are also facing defamation suits.

Cambodia doth protest too much
The increasing trend toward intolerance has not gone unnoticed. A June 15 statement from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Cambodia cautioned, "Pursuing the current complaints may reverse the course of the still fragile democratic development process in Cambodia."

"This recent surge in the use of criminal defamation and disinformation lawsuits filed mostly against politicians, journalists and other persons expressing their views in a peaceful manner on matters of public interest threatens to inhibit what should be a free debate and exchange of ideas and views on these matters," the UNOHCHR wrote.

The group also warned that stifling freedom of expression through such means "is a serious threat to democratic development which may undermine the efforts of the past 16 years to rebuild a tolerant and pluralistic environment in Cambodia". The same day, US rights advocacy Human Rights Watch appealed for the CPP to halt "threats, harassment and spurious legal action against members of parliament and lawyers defending free expression".

The crackdown on political opposition is all the more perplexing, given that the CPP, with 90 of 123 seats, is in firm control of the National Assembly. A showing of 58% in the generally free and fair 2008 parliamentary elections, the biggest margin ever for a National Assembly election, shows widespread support for the CPP.

Some analysts believe that by persecuting a mostly fractured and generally powerless opposition, the government risks making martyrs of otherwise unremarkable politicians. Perhaps more significantly, Hun Sen risks further alienating the Western donor nations and the foreign business community that in recent years have contributed largely to Cambodia’s economic progress.

The US, a major donor and significant provider of aid and technical assistance, not to mention one of the kingdom's biggest export markets, has been critical of the recent turn of events.

"It appears that the courts are being used to silence critics of the government," US Embassy spokesman John Johnson told Asia Times Online. "Free speech and freedom of the press are fundamental rights in democracies throughout the world, and public figures and politicians should be prepared to receive both praise and criticism from the people they govern as part of the democratic process."

It's a democratic reality Hun Sen's government seems reluctant to face.

Sam Campbell is a reporter and editor based in Cambodia.

Cambodian PM refuses to talk with Thai DPM on Preah Vihear temple

People's Daily Online
http://english.people.com.cn

June 25, 2009

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Thursday that he had no plans to talk about the issue of the listing of Cambodia's Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage Site with visiting Thailand's deputy prime minister.

"I will not listen to him on the case of clarification of jointly development and jointly registering of Preah Vihear temple, but if he talks about withdrawal of Thai troops from our soil, we can talk and welcome him," Hun Sen said at a graduation ceremony of a University in Phnom Penh.

The premier announced that Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva "is sending Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Taugsuban to meet me on Saturday in unofficial visit to clarify about the stance of Thailand on 11 century Preah Vihear temple."

"This is my message for him before he decides to visit Cambodia," Hun Sen said, adding that Preah Vihear temple belongs to Cambodia according to verdict of Hague Court (international court) in 1962. Thailand is not co-ownership of that property.

He also stressed that Preah Vihear temple is humanitarian heritage now. "We need the situation at areas near Preah Vihear temple return to prior to July 15, 2008."

Thai Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban told Thai media on Tuesday that he will visit Cambodia Saturday on a mission to clarify Thailand's objection to the listing of Cambodia's Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage Site.

Thai deputy premier will be accompanied by Defense Minister Prawit Wongsuwan and other members of the Thai government.

The temple was listed in July 2008 as the World Heritage site, promoting an escalation of tensions between Cambodia and Thailand and a troop buildup along the border. Thailand has long sought the joint listing of the site.

According to Thai media report, Prime Minister Abhisit would request that UNESCO's World Heritage Committee review last year's decision to register Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage Site when the body convenes its annual meeting at the meeting in Spain, and he would request that the temple be registered jointly as a World Heritage Site by Thailand and Cambodia.

Local newspaper on Thursday quoted Cambodian officials as saying that UNESCO has refused to hear a complaint by Thailand over Preah Vihear temple's listing as a World Heritage Site at the annual meeting of its World Heritage Committee in Seville, Spain.

Source: Xinhua

Cambodian Mobile Operator Deploys Comverse ONE

Comverse Global Services acted as the main service delivery partner for the project.

Thursday, June 25, 2009: Sotelco, a new Cambodian mobile operator, has deployed the Comverse ONE Billing and Active Customer Management solution from Comverse to support pre-paid and post-paid subscribers and roll out bundled multi-play service offerings. Comverse Global Services helped deploy the Comverse ONE solution at Sotelco, acting as the main service delivery partner for the project.

Sotelco, whose majority owner is VimpelCom Group, also will implement Comverse's voice and messaging services from the Comverse HUB, including SMS, MMS, ringback tones, call completion services and management of mobile data services.

"The commercial start under the Beeline brand in Cambodia is an important stage in the international development of VimpelCom following our success in Russia and CIS," said Vladimir Riabokon, executive vice president, VimpelCom. "Following the successful deployment of Comverse ONE at Sotelco, we strongly consider the opportunity to work with Comverse to expand this platform to additional affiliates and markets in the region."

Comverse ONE Billing and Active Customer Management is a comprehensive business support system (BSS) solution that saves operators time and money because convergent billing, order management and customer management are built around the same data model, thereby removing integration points and speeding deployment times. This approach allows operators to support new business models and is scalable to meet evolving business needs and phased transformation goals.

"Comverse ONE is ideally suited for all types of carriers," said Urban Gillstrom, group president, global sales, Comverse. "While it's a perfect enabler for greenfield operators, its advanced architecture supports the business and technical requirements of tier I operators, such as VimpelCom."

Cambodia orphans grab the reins of life

Walking tall: 15-year old orphan Aurm Aun leads a riding lesson at the Cambodia Country Club

Horse riding is giving HIV-positive orphans in Cambodia hope for a better future.

By Clive Graham Ranger
25 Jun 2009

The car park at the Cambodian Country Club on the outskirts of Phnom Penh was an upmarket showroom of top-of-the-range Mercedes, Hummers and Cadillac SUVs. The tuk-tuk parked alongside them seemed out of place. The capital's high-rollers and diplomats had turned out to watch their children compete for a place in the Cambodian national team at an forthcoming gymkhana in neighbouring Thailand.

Among the youngsters in jodhpurs, polished leather riding boots and tailored jackets was another contrast: two teenage Cambodian girls in torn jeans, outsize cut-down Wellington boots and battered riding hats. They had arrived in the tuk-tuk.

Rapturous applause greeted the first group's efforts as fences were cleared; disappointed "oohs" and "aahs" followed refusals and crashing fences. Then the first of the two 15 year-olds, Kim Srey Neang, her face taut with concentration, entered the arena, followed later by her friend Aurm Aun.

Both girls had hesitant but clear rounds and the few remaining spectators looked on in mild disapproval as Aun and Neang hugged and kissed, laughed and bounced up and down with joy.

"They have cleared more than these hurdles," said Dr Kaing Sophal, the director of Anakut Laor, the girls' HIV/Aids orphanage in Stung Meanchey.

It is estimated that 335,000 Cambodians below the age of 15 have lost one or both parents, mostly to HIV/Aids. In 2007 it was estimated that 20,000 women aged over had the disease, as did 4,400 children.

It was in recognition of these bleak statistics that Jean-Yves Dufour, a former director of Pharmaciens sans Frontières in Phnom Penh, founded Anakut Laor in the spring of 2005 to house, educate and care for five abandoned girls from remote rural areas. Their crime? They were born HIV positive, had no close relatives and were social outcasts.

But Dufour knew that a daily cocktail of medication and retroviral drugs would keep the full impact of the disease at bay and ensure it did not become the death sentence of Aids. In less than four years and in a country where disease, poverty and malnutrition are an everyday reality, it's hard to look on the cheery faces of the Anakut Laor girls and believe you are in the right country… or that they are in their right minds. Even more remarkable is the ready and open-hearted welcome they have given the nine girls rescued by Sophal and Dufour over the years and the fact that those girls, not the original five, live on the same property in a house built last year to accommodate them.

Despite their vulnerability and dependency on a cocktail of controlling drugs – readily available in Phnom Penh and not the outlying provinces – the girls seize every advantage from every day. They used to have nothing to live for, now their life expectancy is much the same as other girls their age. Their smiles are the outward sign of a secret, inner confidence that they will now see, savour and enjoy another day.

Aun and Neang attend Maddox Chivan school where they study English, IT and sports and are regarded as hard workers, quick learners and doing well academically. All work and no play, though, can make for a dull life so when, two years ago, the French embassy offered free riding lessons at the CCC's equestrian centre, Sophal was quick to accept the opportunity on behalf of the girls.

The scheme was the brainchild of Soraya Ourrais, French-born director at the centre, who wanted to introduce disadvantaged Cambodian children to horse riding. It has been a stunning success, as the two Anakut Laor girls' high percentages in their practical and written exams to date have proven. The centre's instructors were also struck by their perseverance and enthusiasm.

"They are tough as nails," said Ray Fisher, an Irish instructor at the centre. "For kids with no background or experience of horses, never mind riding one over jumps, they are fearless. They fall off and there's no crying or tantrums, just a bruised ego and a need to get back in the saddle and try again." Ourrais is rightly proud of the way in which her idea has flourished and in turn produced young riders on the cusp of winning rosettes for their country. She has in her sights the prestige of fielding a Cambodian equestrian team in the 2010 Youth Olympics in Singapore. If that dream becomes reality it will more than repay her belief in the future success of the centre which, she points out, is the only one in Cambodia.

For Neang and Aun the search for their birth certificates has started, because those vital pieces of paper will ensure they get passports to pursue their dreams in another country. Mention it to them and the giggling starts all over again; another adventure beckons.

Whether they go to Bangkok or not pales into insignificance against their achievements, which transcend the restrictions of a disease that only a few years ago condemned them to a life without hope.

Malaria Cases Reported In Cambodian Public Facilities Drop More Than 50%

25 Jun 2009

There was more than a 50 percent drop in the total number of malaria cases reported by public facilities in Cambodia between 2003 and 2008, according to the National Centre for Parasitology, Entomology and Malaria Control's annual report, which was released on Tuesday, the Phnom Penh Post reports. Officials are attributing the decrease to village-based treatment and education programs.

Malaria cases reported at public hospitals decreased from 132,571 cases in 2003 to 58,887 cases in 2008, according to the report. There were 209 malaria-related deaths last year, down slightly from 241 deaths in 2007. Statistics from 2008 showed that villages with malaria workers - which tend to be in remote areas where malaria is endemic - saw a "sharp decline" in the number of confirmed malaria deaths, the newspaper reports. "In 2004, there were 33 confirmed deaths in villages with malaria workers, but by last year, there were only five, despite the fact that the number of cases tested more than tripled," writes the Phnom Penh Post. These village-based programs have expanded in 2009 due to funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, according to the newspaper.

Michael O'Leary, the WHO's country representative, said, "I am really interested in this achievement… which is a really big accomplishment in fighting malaria." In addition, the report showed the number of people who knew about malaria prevention and transmission increased from 42 percent in 2004 to 72 percent in 2007. However, "behaviour does not seem to be keeping pace with knowledge," according to the report, which said the number of people seeking the correct treatment within 48 hours of showing symptoms increased only slightly (Leakhana/Shay, Phnom Penh Post, 6/24).

This information was reprinted from globalhealth.kff.org with kind permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Global Health Policy Report, search the archives and sign up for email delivery at globalhealth.kff.org.

© Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation

Thailand, Cambodia deploy more troops at historic temple

MCOT English News
http://enews.mcot.net/

NAKHON RATCHASIMA, June 25 (TNA) - Troop reinforcements from both Thailand and Cambodia have been deployed around Preah Vihear temple, following Thailand's opposition to the World Heritage Committee and United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) granted-listing of the historic temple as a World Heritage sie, a senior Thai army officer said Thursday.

Second Region army commander Lt. Gen. Wiboonsak Neeparn said the overall situation at the temple on the Thai-Cambodian border remains calm.

However, he said both Thai and Cambodian troops had been deployed at Preah Vihear and that he had ordered Thai soldiers taking up positions in the area to be on alert and to exercise patience.

UNESCO granted Cambodia’s application for Preah Vihear temple to be designated a World Heritage Site in July 2008. Thailand opposes listing the temple on the basis that it might go against the registration process and was in breach of the principles of world heritage stipulated by the UNESCO.

Meanwhile, Kasemsan Chinnawaso, director-general of the National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department, said the Thai national park near Preah Vihear temple had been closed indefinitely due to concerns over tourist safety of tourists in the face of tensions in the area.

Mr. Kasemsan said he was requested by the governor of Si Sa Ket province to open the park to welcome tourists visiting it during Buddhist Lent on July 8, but he had opted to keep it closed for safety reasons.

He said the national park would reopen when the situation at the border returns to normal. (TNA)

Cambodia signs 8.5 mln T forest carbon deal

Thu Jun 25, 2009

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Cambodia has signed agreements for a project that aims to protect 60,000 hectares of forest and reward local communities from the sale of carbon credits over several decades, the developers said in a statement.

The project in northwestern Oddar Meanchey province is expected to yield 8.5 million carbon offsets over 30 years and is the first avoided deforestation project in Cambodia for registration under the respected Voluntary Carbon Standard.

U.S.-based Terra Global Capital said in the statement it had finalised an agreement with the Cambodian Forestry Administration on marketing the carbon credits.

The group has also developed a method to measure and monitor the carbon locked away by the protected forest, which is in an area where the rate of deforestation was 3 percent a year between 2002-2006, the statement said.

It said nine local forestry groups comprising more than 50 villages agreed to protect the forest in return for carbon credit revenue aimed at developing alternative livelihoods.

"The success of the Oddar Meanchey project opens the door to long-term financing for Cambodia's national community forestry programme, which could eventually encompass and protect over 2 million hectares of forest," said Mark Poffenberger, head of Community Forestry International, who initiated the project.

The Cambodian project is one of a growing number under a U.N.-backed scheme called reduced emissions from deforestation and degradation, or REDD, that aims to reward developing nations for preserving forests in return for tradeable carbon offsets.

REDD is likely to be included in a broader U.N. climate pact to be negotiated in December and could usher in a multi-billion dollar trading scheme in forest credits that rich nations could buy to help meet emissions reduction targets.

Khmer Rouge judge sees failures

6/25/09
Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh - The international prosecutor at the Khmer Rouge tribunal has warned that the process is failing to make a connection with the Cambodian people.

Robert Petit said he was also concerned about political interference at the special courts.

The Canadian official has just announced his resignation after three years of leading the prosecution of former Khmer Rouge leaders.

He said his resignation was not connected to problems at the tribunal.

But at a news conference to announce his impending departure he outlined his concerns about several key areas at the special courts.

Mr Petit said the tribunal had failed to explain itself to its most important audience - the Cambodian people.

The first trial of a former Khmer Rouge leader started three months ago.

But Mr Petit said that a lack of funding for outreach work had limited its impact on the public.

The prosecutor said he was also worried about the role of the Cambodian government.

Confused exploration of the re-education camp of Prey Sar, attached to S-21

Kambol (Phnom Penh, Cambodia). 24/06/2009: International co-Prosecutor Robert Petit explained in a press conference the reasons for his resignation and the challenges awaiting the tribunal (see textbox)
©Vandy Rattana


Ka-set
http://cambodia.ka-set.info

By Stéphanie Gée
25-06-2009

Wednesday June 24th, debates focused on the creation and functioning of the re-education camp of Prey Sar, also referred to as “S-24”, placed under the authority of S-21 similarly to the execution site of Choeung Ek and also located on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. During the hearing, the judges repeatedly went back over Duch’s answers, which were at times rather confused and often contradictory, to try and sketch a picture of what was a re-education camp only in name.

“If documents prove it, then I will not deny it”
S-24 was established shortly after the “victory” of April 17th 1975, notably in the perimeter of the Prey Sar prison – where Duch was detained under the Sangkum Reastr Niyum regime of Norodom Sihanouk – which was not used to this effect under the Khmer Rouge. Why? “Because there was no water,” Duch indicated. The main function of the camp – placed under the direction of comrade Huy, who was accountable to the director of S-21, meaning Nath, then Duch – was to reform and re-educate combatants. The accused recognised those who entered S-24 lost all their rights and later evoked the image of a “prison without walls.”

“No one from the provinces came to Prey Sar. Those sent to Prey Sar essentially came from the central army, I believe.” Yet, president Nil Nonn observed, “documents found proved that S-21 staff members and their relatives were sent to S-24…” “If documents prove it, then I will not deny it. Maybe. I do not remember…”, Duch said without dithering.

“So, are you backtracking here from what you said?”
The "components" of S-24, as Duch called them, were assigned to work to produce rice, grow vegetables, build dykes, dig canals, etc, the accused listed, in order to provide food to S-21 and Angkar. If one day of rest was scheduled every ten days, “later, everybody, including the cadres such as myself, had to work everyday.” Duch did not believe interrogations and torture sessions were carried out in S-24 because he simply had not authorised it. The judge then confronted him to testimonies reporting the practice of electroshocks, as a witness claimed he saw his colleagues return from Prey Sar “with their head shaved and their skin inflamed by the electric shocks” received. “Yet, you had not contested this fact in an agreement with the co-Prosecutors, which is repeated in the Closing Order. So, are you backtracking here from what you said?”

The contradiction did not disturb Duch. “There may have been interrogations but that was not something I decided. Maybe it was an initiative from Huy […]. As for the electroshocks, I do not believe they were used because there were few generators in S-24. In any case, no interrogation report from S-24 was ever sent to me…” Confusion then ensued, and continued all throughout the hearing without reaching any clear conclusions, regarding the number of individuals who were in S-24. Duch seemed to refer to a total of just over a hundred people. Nil Nonn corrected him. The uncontested facts, he said, included the acknowledgment by the accused that at least 571 people – S-24 staff members and detainees – ended up in S-24, on the basis of lists that were recovered. “I do not contest this figure then,” Duch conceded. “There is what I remember and there is this figure, which I recognise.”

Judge Cartwright attempted to find out more. According to available documents, 590 people were transferred from S-24 to S-21, including 47 staff members. But Duch admitted that others were sent directly from Prey Sar to the execution site of Choeung Ek. How many? “I cannot make an assessment,” the accused apologised. “I cannot get a clear idea of the number of people detained in S-24,” Sylvia Cartwright insisted. “Can you help me?” In the end, the only indication Duch was able to provide was statistics from March 1977 stating there were then 1,300 people kept in Prey Sar.

Later, the accused stressed that nothing was stipulated in the party line regarding people’s rehabilitation. He added: “In practice, towards the end of the existence of S-24, re-education meant smashing. Re-education was only a façade.”

The terminology of re-education
Judge Thou Mony took over. He asked Duch to clarify the terms “re-education” and “softening.” “The goal of ‘re-education’ was to reconstruct oneself, to build a new self. […] As for ‘softening’, it consisted in forming oneself through work or discipline. ‘Forming oneself’ meant working hard and respecting discipline. The people sent to S-24 were already half considered as enemies.” They were classified into three categories, according to the gravity of the offence they were accused of having committed. The tasks they were assigned did not vary from one group to another, the accused explained. “The only difference was in the rights recognised to those concerned and the freedoms granted to them.” Those belonging to the third category were the most exposed. Should they commit the slightest fault, they were “taken away.” Duch then denied the claim that foreigners were sent to Prey Sar. However, children did end up in the camp. When a woman was sent there, her children followed her.

Detention in Prey Sar: a respite before the smashing
In the afternoon, judge Lavergne led the interrogation. “What were the reasons that motivated the decision to send someone to re-education? In your opinion, it concerned people for whom it wasn’t clear whether they were friends or enemies and whom the party wanted to make sure they would not be harmful to the party by subjecting them to forced labour. […] If a person was suspect, it could be decided to re-educate him or her. Have I understood correctly?” “Yes, I believe you have,” Duch agreed. “And when a person was arrested to be sent to Prey Sar, the decision to smash him or her was already half-taken. Is that correct?” “Yes, it reflects what I said.” “Apart from the 30 individuals released on the site to provide support to Prey Sar, no other person detained in Prey Sar could be released in principle. Is that right?” “Yes, that is what I said this morning.”

The French judge continued. “You said that it was impossible for Prey Sar detainees to see any improvement in their situation and move from group 3, the most potentially harmful, to groups 2 and 1, those with lighter sentences.” “Indeed, that is what I said.” “Practically speaking, who had the power to decide to smash the Prey Sar detainees, either by sending them to Choeung Ek or Tuol Sleng? Did you refer to your superiors? […]” “I can repeat what I already said. All the combatants belonging to S-21, whether they worked in Phnom Penh or in Prey Sar, could not be arrested without the superior echelon having already made that decision for clear reasons, in other words, because they were factors affecting or destroying the forces, not because of any inefficiency in their work. For people detained in Prey Sar, the decision to kill them belonged to the S-21 Committee, but I delegated that responsibility to my deputy secretary. […] This is not to deny the fact I committed crimes, but to say that I wasn’t the one to take the concrete decisions. But I did apply the principles of the superior echelon…”

What was the basis for the decision to smash?, the judge asked. Duch then explained he was consulted in the case there was a need to extract prior confessions from these people. What about 160 children of Prey Sar sent directly to Choeung Ek? “I was not consulted because there was no reason to get confessions from these children,” Duch replied on the same tone.

Enslavement and persecutions
“The words ‘re-education’ and ‘components’ have been used a lot in the debates until now. In the Closing Order, a cruder terminology is used. It refers to “enslavement.” In your opinion, was Prey Sar a place where people were reduced to slavery?” Judge Lavergne cited an extract from the Order: “Certain detainees at S21 and Prey Sâr were forced to work. Strict control and constructive ownership was exercised over all aspects of their lives by: limiting their movement and physical environment; taking measures to prevent and deter their escape; and subjecting them to cruel treatment and abuse. As a result of these acts, detainees were stripped of their free will.” “Your Honour,” Duch replied, “the international law language used to describe Prey Sar is accurate. It matches this description.”

“For you as well, Prey Sar was a place of persecution which contributed to an extermination policy,” the judge continued. “You said that the goal sooner or later was to exterminate the people detained in Prey Sar.” “Yes, that also reflects the crimes committed in Prey Sar.”

The hearing was adjourned, nearly two hours earlier than usual. In the morning, the co-Prosecutors, as well as the international co-lawyer for civil party group 1, had requested to be allowed to ask their questions to the accused on this issue only on the next day, as they were not ready…

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Robert Petit explains his resignation
The international co-Prosecutor gave a press conference on Wednesday June 24th at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), as he deemed insufficient the statement he had made public on the previous day to announce his resignation which will be effective from September 1st. He stressed the decision was entirely related to personal family matters and totally unrelated to his professional responsibilities at the. He also insisted the decision would have little impact on the tribunal’s work. “[H]owever much it pains my ego to say so: I don’t believe it will have any” because, he explained, his office worked as a team. He clarified he took his decision after careful consideration, “after months of reflection and discussions with the United Nations, which is currently in the process of finding a replacement.”

Robert Petit said he was aware that his answer “may not satisfy some,” and that he also realised that “some people for whatever purposes will still try to construe some extraneous aspect to this decision.” “[There has been] some speculation that this might impact on the ongoing disagreement with my national colleague. However, again, those fears are unfounded.” And when the Pre-Trial Chamber (PTC), which must rule on the dispute on whether to open new investigations, renders its decision, “I or my successor, as the case may be, will take the appropriate action from then on. […] It is entirely in the hands of the PTC. And as far as I know, they’re not going anywhere.”

Asked on the upcoming challenges for the ECCC, the Prosecutor stressed “there are also problems that are external to the court, but nonetheless fundamental, and that must be solved appropriately.” “Obviously, allegations like the ones of graft in the administration must be addressed. On a larger issue, I find it very disturbing that elected officials or anyone else but the judicial officers can think they can legitimately tell any tribunal what it should or should not do. Of course, this goes beyond the appearance of legitimacy of the proceedings and it must be resolved. Finally, when the court reaches its end, it must be able to explain the Cambodian people why it did what it did and why this should represent justice.”

Cambodian PM warns Thailand in border temple row

Asia One
Thu, Jun 25, 2009
AFP

PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA - Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen warned Thailand Thursday it must respect his country's sovereignty ahead of talks over the two countries' disputed border near an ancient temple.

Thai deputy premier Suthep Thaugsuban is scheduled to meet with Hun Sen Saturday at his home near Cambodian capital Phnom Penh to discuss the troop standoff in the disputed border zone.

The Cambodian leader said in a speech that he would take a hard stance on the dispute, which has killed seven soldiers near the 11th century Preah Vihear temple since tensions flared last year.

"We will not accept an explanation from Suthep over the Preah Vihear issue. I will welcome only an explanation about withdrawal of Thai soldiers out of sovereign Cambodian territory," Hun Sen said.

"I have a full obligation to defend independent and sovereign territory," he added.

Relations between the neighbours worsened last week when Bangkok announced it would ask world heritage body UNESCO to reconsider its decision to list Preah Vihear in Cambodia, since the surrounding land is still in dispute.

This week, however, UNESCO refused to hear Thailand's complaint as its world heritage committee met in Seville, Spain, according to Cambodian government officials.

Cambodia and Thailand have been at loggerheads over the land around the

Preah Vihear temple for decades, but tensions spilled over into violence last July when the temple was granted UN World Heritage status.

Although the World Court ruled in 1962 that it belonged to Cambodia, the most accessible entrance to the ancient Khmer temple with its crumbling stone staircases and elegant carvings is in northeastern Thailand.

Soldiers from Cambodia and Thailand continue to patrol the area, with the last gunbattle in the temple area in April leaving three people dead.

The border between the two countries has never been fully demarcated, in part because it is littered with landmines left over from decades of war in Cambodia.

Cambodian leader announces 3 more swine flu cases

Nima Asgari, public health specialist for World Health Organization (WHO) to Cambodia, ponders during a press conference in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, June 25, 2009. Cambodia has announced three new cases of swine flu found in visiting American students, raising the country's total to four cases. Health Minister Mam Bun Heng told reporters Thursday, June 25, 2009, that all four were part of a student group that arrived from Texas on June 19. They ranged in age from 16 to 20. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Taiwan News
http://www.etaiwannews.com

Associated Press
2009-06-25

Three American students visiting Cambodia have been diagnosed with swine flu, raising the country's tally of infections to four, health officials said Thursday.

Meanwhile, seven navy cadets in Thailand have tested positive for swine flu and 200 more have developed flu symptoms, an official said Thursday as the country reported 69 new cases, bringing the national total to 1,054.

Cambodian Health Minister Mam Bun Heng told reporters all four cases were students who arrived from Texas on June 19. They ranged in age from 16 to 20.

The World Health Organization said in a statement that the four Americans were recovering well without any complications.

On Wednesday, authorities announced the country's first swine flu case in a 16-year-old girl _ part of the student group _ who developed flu symptoms a day after arriving. She sought medical care Monday.

The WHO said the latest three cases developed symptoms Monday and Tuesday and were kept in isolation while samples were tested.

Ly Sovann, a health ministry official, said all four were quarantined and receiving treatment at a Phnom Penh hospital.

In Thailand, Navy Commander Admiral Kamthorn Pumhiran said the cadets who tested positive for the virus were at Sattahib Naval Base, about 80 miles (130 kilometers) south of Bangkok.

He said the other cadets with symptoms have been isolated in separate quarters at the base. They are all in stable condition and are being tested for the virus.

In other developments in the region:

_ New Zealand, the first country in the region to record the disease, confirmed it now has 417 cases.

_ The Philippines raised its toll of sickened to 727. All cases are mild and include three foreigners.

_ Hong Kong confirmed 62 new cases, raising its total to 506. The territory has said it will end the school year early to slow the transmission of the virus.

First swine flu case confirmed


Photo by: TRACEY SHELTON
A Phnom Penh pharmacist displays an assortment of flu medicine at her shop on Wednesday.


Written by Christopher shay And Cheang Sokha
Thursday, 25 June 2009

THE Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation confirmed Cambodia's first case of swine flu Wednesday after an American teen on a school trip to the Kingdom tested positive for the influenza A(H1N1) virus.

The 16-year-old , who arrived in Phnom Penh on Friday, is currently being held in isolation at Calmette Hospital, said Nima Asgari, the WHO's public health specialist in communicable disease surveillance and response.

According to a joint press release from the Health Ministry and the WHO, she "is recovering well without any complications".

After falling ill on Saturday, she went to a private health clinic, where based on her travel history and symptoms, she was held in isolation until tests confirmed she had swine flu, at which point she was moved to Calmette, Minister of Health Man Bunheng said.

Though Calmette Hospital is currently the main isolation centre, Asgari said other hospitals also had isolation facilities, which could be used if it becomes necessary.

The school group that the teenager arrived with is under voluntary observation.

Asgari said there is no information suggesting that any members of the group are suffering from flu-like symptoms, but that "If you have close contact, you might well get it".

In an April 30 press conference, the ministry reported that Cambodia had only stockpiled 157,500 Tamiflu pills.

But Asgari said that Cambodians should not be overly worried about H1N1 and that verybody in Cambodia should simply observe basic sanitation like washing hands with soap and coughing into elbows.

"The concern is, if it evolves and becomes very virulent, but this hasn't happened yet," Asgari said. "We need to be vigilant but not panic."

The latest WHO statistics show that the virus has infected more than 52,000 people in 90 countries, resulting in 231 deaths.

Thai claim on temple dismissed

Written by SEBASTIAN STRANGIO AND THET SAMBATH
Thursday, 25 June 2009

Cambodian officials say UNESCO rejected Preah Vihear complaint.

UNESCO has refused to hear a complaint by Thailand over Preah Vihear temple's listing as a World Heritage site at the annual meeting of its World Heritage Committee in Seville, Spain, Cambodian officials said Wednesday.

Last week, Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva announced that Thailand would use the 33rd session of the committee to contest its July 2008 inscription of the temple.

"The Thais tried to put Preah Vihear on the agenda, but the World Heritage Committee won't consider [it]. They are moving ahead with the main agenda," Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said Wednesday.

Local civil society groups applauded the committee's move.

"It is good news that UNESCO has rejected the Thai government's request. UNESCO doesn't dare to violate Cambodian sovereignty by following the Thai PM's request because Cambodia is backed by the 1962 [World Court] decision," said Union leader Rong Chhun, a vocal critic of Thai moves over the temple.

Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, said that any other ruling would have undermined the committee's own decision to inscribe Preah Vihear last year.

He added that Bangkok, pressured by domestic opinion, had actually created more problems for itself by forcing the issue. "I think the fact they [objected] unsuccessfully just undermines the credibility of their own position," he said.

But following the decision, border troops say they remain on alert for any Thai incursions.

"We welcome the news that UNESCO has refused Thailand's request for a discussion about Preah Vihear temple," said Brigade 8 commander Yim Phim. "If [the Thais] ... do not try any more moves into Cambodian territory, there will be no clashes."

Leadership woes dismissed


Photo by: AFP
International Co-Prosecutor Robert Petit at an ECCC press conference Wednesday.

Written by Robbie Corey-Boulet and Georgia Wilkins
Thursday, 25 June 2009

ECCC Co-Prosecutor Robert Petit brushes off concerns by civil society groups that his absence will negatively affect the court.

THE international co-prosecutor at the Khmer Rouge tribunal said Wednesday that his forthcoming departure would not detract from the work of the prosecutors' office, dismissing as unfounded concerns raised by civil society groups that the office would suffer from an "absence of leadership".

Robert Petit announced Tuesday that he would leave the tribunal in September for personal reasons.

He said Wednesday that the office would have no trouble operating without him, noting that "a team of people working together" had been involved in gathering evidence and making legal and strategic decisions.

He said Deputy Co-Prosecutor William Smith was "now leading the case and will do so until further notice".

"Now, did that change of personnel modify one iota of the evidence in the case file? Did it have any influence in how well we're assisting the Trial Chamber? Of course not," he said.

Petit, who has worked at courts in Africa and Asia dating back to 1996, said personnel changes were "not foreign to international tribunals", adding that only the departure of a sitting judge could negatively affect an ongoing trial.

"The only thing that matters is that there is someone in each position who is lawfully empowered to make decisions and does just that," he said.

Long Panhavuth, a court monitor for the Cambodia Justice Initiative, described this remark as disingenuous.

"To me this is not true," he said in an interview. "We've had years of investigations before the trial, and now we have come to the trial stage where the prosecutor plays a very, very important role."

Concern over leadership
The Cambodia Justice Initiative was one of six groups to sign a joint statement issued Wednesday that expressed concern over Petit's departure, asserting it could create "an absence of leadership in the prosecutor's office" that could detract from its work.

The statement also raised the concern that Petit's departure would leave unresolved the ongoing dispute between Petit and the Cambodian co-prosecutor, Chea Leang, over whether to try more suspects.

Petit filed a Statement of Disagreement in December 2008 saying that he and Chea Leang were at odds over whether to pursue more suspects, and Chea Leang later said doing so could threaten national stability.

Petit said it was not a factor in his decision to leave the tribunal, and that his departure would not affect any eventual resolution. "It's entirely in the hands of the Pre-Trial Chamber," Petit said.

Judges were expected to announce a decision on the issue in a June 5 hearing, however, they cancelled the hearing and a written decision is believed to be forthcoming.

He declined to elaborate on his reasons for leaving the court, saying, "I don't believe it's proper to air out one's personal life in the media, and I don't intend to do so".

UN court spokesman Lars Olsen said Monday that he expected a successor to be selected before Petit leaves on September 1.

Most Prey Sar victims smashed

Written by Robbie Corey-Boulet
Thursday, 25 June 2009

Re-education was not the point: Duch.

TO DESCRIBE the Prey Sar prison farm as a Khmer Rouge re-education centre would be misleading, as most detainees sent there during the regime had no hope of being released, Tuol Sleng prison chief Kaing Guek Eav told Cambodia's war crimes court Wednesday.

"In practice, re-education aimed towards the final stage, which was to smash," said Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, who was in charge of Prey Sar, or S-24, during his tenure as head of Tuol Sleng.

The detainee population consisted of Khmer Rouge cadre from in and around Phnom Penh who had committed minor offences that were not seen as grounds for immediate execution, Duch said.

He said only 30 detainees were ever released, as nearly all were sent either to Tuol Sleng or the Choeung Ek killing fields.

Detainees worked for at least eight hours each day, mostly producing rice. Presiding Judge Nil Nonn cited evidence that detainees were subjected to interrogation, beatings and electrocution, though Duch said any torture at the facility was done "without my authorisation", perhaps at the behest of Nun Huy, who ran it.

Duch said he visited the facility only four times and routinely cited surviving documents rather than firsthand observations when describing its operations. He said he could not estimate how many detainees passed through the facility.

Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Centre of Cambodia, said Wednesday that there were "not proper documents to identify the number of detainees at S-24".

Dolphin report 'unscientific': govt



Written by SAM RITH AND MARIKA HILL
Thursday, 25 June 2009

Commission chairman says WWF's report is ‘all a lie', requiring explanation and correction.

AGOVERNMENT official has dismissed as "all a lie" a report from the international conservation group WWF that claims the Irrawaddy dolphins in the Mekong are on the verge of extinction, in part due to industrial pollutants.

Touch Seang Tana, the chairman of the Commission to Conserve Mekong River Dolphins and Develop Eco-Tourism, said the report was unscientific, and demanded an explanation of the methodology behind WWF's findings, which made international headlines.

Touch Seang Tana said the dolphins on which the WWF carried out autopsies had died in fishing nets and were not killed by toxins.

"The [WWF] should have talked to me. We support working together to alleviate those problems, but they just released [the report] to the world and have destroyed our reputation," he said. "If the dolphins disappear [from Cambodia], it will be recorded in history that Touch Seang Tana destroyed the dolphins."

He said the greatest risk to the survival of the species was overfishing.

The WWF report was written by veterinarian Dr Verne Dove, whom the Post was unable to reach. It warned that toxic contaminants in the Mekong, inbreeding and disease were forcing the dolphin to the brink of extinction. The report stated many dolphins that had died in recent years had neck lesions similar to gangrene, which the group linked to the presence of immuno-toxins such as mercury.

The Irrawaddy dolphins, which inhabit a 190-kilometre stretch of the Mekong in the northeast of the Kingdom, have been listed as critically endangered by WWF since 2004. The group estimates that between 64 and 76 dolphins remain alive.

Nicole Frisina, communications officer for the WWF Greater Mekong Programme, said the group was happy to discuss the findings with Touch Seang Tana and other government agencies.

"Conservation action is urgently needed to prevent this unique population from becoming extinct," she said. "With more deaths than births in a year, the population is in serious decline."

Touch Seang Tana said his research team had found that the dolphin population is in fact on the rise, and estimates the current population at 160 individuals. And he said his organisation had found no evidence of chemical pollutants such as DDT, PCBs and mercury in the area.

He said that had the report been written in Thailand, the government there would have expelled WWF in 48 hours, but that Phnom Penh would be lenient, requiring only that the WWF explain and correct itself.

Ben But, a dolphin tour operator in Kratie, said local conservation work and bans on net fishing were helping to conserve the dolphin. He said he feels the population is growing. "Previously the people didn't know about saving the dolphins, but organisations have come to improve matters."

Police in Cambodia still torture inmates, rights group reports

Written by CHRISTOPHER SHAY AND KHOUTH SOPHAK CHAKRYA
Thursday, 25 June 2009

The Asian Human Rights Commission urges greater transparency and legal protection for prisoners held in police detention facilities.

DESPITE improvements in the treatment of prisoners, torture is still being used to extract confessions at police detention centres, where there is little oversight from outside groups, according to a statement released by the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) on Wednesday that urged the Prosecutor General's Office to do more to protect detainees from abuse.

"Torture exists in Cambodia in one form or another," said Lao Mong Hay, the senior researcher for Southeast Asia at the AHRC, adding that it typically takes the form of "beatings and kickings".

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Some police have committed crimes and ... torture suspects to get a confession.
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Friday is International Day Against Torture, and the AHRC acknowledged that Cambodia had made strides over the years, pointing to efforts by the Prosecutor General's Office to inspect police stations across the country. But the Hong Kong-based human rights group pushed the government to do more to protect detained suspects from police abuse.

"The government has committed itself to [ending torture], but when translated into action, it takes time," he said. "The police officers are not well-trained in finding evidence, and they are not well-paid."

Kirt Chantharith, a police spokesman, said that some police have mistreated detainees in the past, but that it was against the law, and new mechanisms to protect detainees were unnecessary.

"Some police have committed crimes and they tried to torture suspects to get a confession," he said. "The prosecutor will investigate the case. If they find torture ... the police will be punished."

AHRC recommended that the Prosecutor General of the Court of Appeal create a torture complaint unit, which would have the power to order a prosecutor to conduct an investigation. It also urged all prosecutors to examine suspects brought before them to determine if they have been tortured.

But Lao Mong Hay said even with these changes, "the prosecutors cannot do it alone", adding that prosecutors often "don't want to antagonise police ... [because] their work depends on working with them".

Organisations blocked out
Unlike prisons, outside organisations have little access to police detention facilities, according to AHRC, and suspects can be interrogated for up to 24 hours without any legal counsel.

Lao Mong Hay blamed the Criminal Code of Conduct, which he said was based on colonial-era criminal procedures.

"We need to change the Crimininal Code of Conduct to ensure that accused persons have access to legal counsel straight after their arrests," he said. Officials with the Prosecutor General's Office were unavailable for comment on Wednesday.

Mormon awarded senior post

Written by SEBASTIAN STRANGIO
Thursday, 25 June 2009

A PRACTICING Mormon has been appointed as a personal adviser to National Assembly President Heng Samrin, the first member of the church to be awarded such a senior government position.

Church officials lauded the appointment of Chhay Suy Leang, who works for the Cambodian branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints - better known as the Church of Mormon.

"We are very pleased. Suy Leang is a man of great character, and he is well-respected among the members of our church," said Robert Winegar, the church's Cambodian mission president.

"It is a great opportunity for him to be chosen as an adviser to Heng Samrin ... and serve in that position as a member of the Christian faith. I think that's a very good sign that the government is open-minded and very supportive of all religions."

Chhay Suy Leang, an engineering graduate who performed Mormon missionary work in the US state of Idaho from 1997 to 1999, said Wednesday that his role, which lasts until 2013, will involve giving advice on education, health and public works.

"It depends on what the Cabinet wants me to do. I will give them advice on whatever they ask me - on public health improvement, schools and infrastructure," he said.

Winegar added that Chhay Suy Leang had established close links with government officials through his work in the church's Temporal Office, which administers Mormon property and other non-religious affairs.

Since being established in Cambodia in 1994, the Mormons have grown to become the second-largest Christian denomination in the country after the Catholic Church.