Thursday, 2 July 2009

Cambodia discharges six A/H1N1 flu patients after treatment

www.chinaview.cn
2009-07-02

PHNOM PENH, July 2 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia's six people confirmed with A/H1N1 virus in late June have been allowed to go home after receiving treatment, a health official said on Thursday.

"All the six people have good health, and we allow them to go home," said Ly Sovan, deputy director for anti-communicable department of the Health Ministry.

"Our control system is still continuing their work and we are tracking the travelers through airports and border gates regularly," he said, adding that "we still use health declaration forms for all travelers and need their addresses for contacts if we have urgent cases."

Cambodia found six A /H1N1 flu cases including four teens from the United States, one Khmer and a man from Philippines.

Editor: Wang Guanqun

Wages – Working for a living

Would jumping on the wage ladder help?

A living wage remains an elusive dream for millions of workers on production lines around the world. But is it one brands can turn into reality?

A living wage remains an elusive dream for millions of workers on production lines around the world. But is it one brands can turn into reality?

How much money does someone need to survive in Cambodia? A little over $2 a day, according to the government, which has set Cambodia’s minimum wage at $67 a month.

Cambodian textile workers, who make many of the clothes on sale in the US and Europe, say this wage is derisory. In a report released at a living wage conference in May, a confederation of four national unions asked garment factories and clothing brands to pay workers a “living wage” – a minimum of $93 a month, or $3 a day. Cambodia is a major sourcing destination for western brands, but H&M and Puma were the only big names present at the conference out of seven top brands invited.

The Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia promptly rejected the report, saying higher pay would threaten factories’ profitability. But the case is far from over. A union representative, who wished to remain anonymous, told Ethical Corporation that the group would use the $93-a-month benchmark in all upcoming collective bargaining negotiations. A new round of labour conflict seems likely.

Brands must be hoping Cambodia does not go the same way as another major garment exporter, Bangladesh. In 2007, a wave of riots swept the country as textile factory workers protested against a legal minimum wage that had remained unchanged for 12 years. Workers argued that they could not earn enough to support themselves or their families.

Fifteen years of corporate responsibility initiatives in global supply chains has made a significant improvement in working conditions in factories that make goods for multinational companies. But the lot of workers has barely improved according to living wage campaigners. Even after working long hours – at times up to 16 hours a day without a weekly day off – their wage is not enough for a decent living.

A living wage is one that is adequate for someone to support themselves and their family. Few, including global brands, disagree that workers should earn enough for a decent living. But no one can agree on whose responsibility it is to provide this wage – and how much it should be.

Brands, trade unions and NGOs differ in their definitions of how a living wage should be measured, what the size is of an average family, and what exactly constitutes a decent living. Dozens of definitions, approaches and methodologies have emerged over the decade. But none is broadly accepted.

As a result, brands’ supplier codes of conduct tend to stipulate that suppliers should pay workers the legal minimum wage, but not a living wage. The minimum wage is set by national governments and, as the Cambodian unions will testify, is often far below what would be a living wage.

UNOG: UN Expert Concerned at Restrictions on Freedom of Lawyers to Represent their Clients in Cambodia


The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Leandro Despouy, today expressed his concern at recent attempts to restrict the freedom of lawyers to represent their clients effectively in Cambodia.

“To be able to represent their clients effectively, lawyers should not be subject to threats or intimidation, nor should they be targeted for prosecution or disciplinary action merely for having acted in the interests of their clients”, Mr. Despouy said. “Lawyers play an important role as defenders of human rights and must be free to represent their clients as they see fit in accordance with professional standards and the rule of law.”

Having paid close attention to the situation in the country throughout his mandate, the Special Rapporteur is concerned that recent moves against lawyers in Cambodia seem to indicate a worrying new trend, which could have a chilling effect on the legal profession. “I encourage and support the Bar Council and its President in their efforts to strengthen the legal profession in Cambodia and to defend lawyers against attempts to undermine their independence”, he added.

Last week, a lawyer, acting for an opposition member of the National Assembly who alleged that she had been defamed by the Prime Minister, was himself charged with criminal defamation and is now threatened with expulsion from the Cambodian Bar Association. In January 2009, defence lawyers acting for defendants at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia were threatened with possible legal action by Cambodian judges for having called for allegations of corruption at the Chambers to be properly investigated by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court. Earlier, in June 2007, lawyers acting for indigenous communities in Ratanakiri Province in a land dispute with a business woman who is closely connected to the Government were threatened both with criminal charges and disciplinary action before the Bar Council for having allegedly “incited” the communities to file a law suit to reclaim their land.

The Special Rapporteur reminded the Royal Government of Cambodia of its obligations under international law as set out in the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers which specifically state that “lawyers should not be identified with their clients or their clients’ causes as a result of discharging their functions”. They go on to provide that “Governments shall ensure that lawyers ... are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference [and] shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economic or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics”. Furthermore, lawyers should enjoy civil and penal immunity for relevant statements made in good faith in written or oral pleadings or in their professional appearances before a court, tribunal or other legal or administrative authority.

The Special Rapporteur also called for the Bar Council of the Kingdom of Cambodia to be allowed to exercise without external pressure its responsibilities under the Law on the Bar to protect the independence and autonomy of the legal profession in Cambodia.

Vietnam, Cambodia strengthen judicial cooperation


07/02/2009

A delegation from the People’s Supreme Procuracy led by its deputy director Nguyen Thi Thuy Khiem began a working visit to Cambodia on July 1.

Later the same day, the delegation held talks with delegates from Cambodia’s Supreme Court led by its general prosecutor Chea Leang.

Ms Chea Leang highlighted the visit, stating that it is a turning point in boosting cooperative relations between the judiciary agencies and prosecutors of both countries.

Ms Khiem briefed Ms Chea Leang on the recent activities carried out by Vietnam’s people’s procuracy and its judicial sector. She asked Cambodia to step up cooperation in training judiciary officers and emphasized that there is an urgent need for better cooperation amongsst provinces in border areas to prevent trans-national crime.

Ms Khiem also extended an invitation to Cambodia’s Supreme Court to attend the upcoming China-ASEAN Prosecutors General Conference which will be held in Vietnam in November.

For her part, Ms Chea Leang spoke highly of Vietnam’s proposals, and expressed her wish that both countries will hold more seminars and training courses for judiciary officers and increase exchanges.

During the five-day trip, the Vietnamese delegation will pay a courtesy visit to Cambodia’s Ministry of Justice, Prime Minister Hun Sen and other senior officials from Cambodia’s Supreme Court.

Development plan for Cambodia border provinces approved

PM Nguyen Tan Dung

SAIGON

Thursday ,Jul 02,2009

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has recently approved building plans for provinces that border Cambodia. The plans aim to develop the area into a nationally important economic region by 2020, and the world by 2030.

The area bordering Cambodia includes ten provinces. Among them, Kon Tum , Gia Lai, Dac Lac and Dac Nong are located in the Central Highlands, the others are to be found in the southeastern region, consisting of Binh Phuoc, Tay Ninh, Long An, Dong Thap, An Giang and Kien Giang.

It is estimated that by the end of 2020, the total population of the region will reach 16.51 million, of which, between ten to 11 million will be of employable age.

According to the plans, by the end of 2020, the region will be built into a key economic center of the whole country, serving as a springboard for the development of agriculture, forestry and hydroelectricity

It will not only become an important gateway for road, river and air traffic in the west and southwest region of Vietnam, but also a major economic hub, where goods, commodities, services and tourism will be traded among Mekong Delta countries and the East Sea region.

By 2030, the region will be developed into a key national and international marine economic center.

Its important position will have a special influence on regions in the Central Highlands, especially those located in the central and south Vietnam and those lying along the coastline of Thailand gulf.

The region will also see the largest nature reserves, as well as the largest center that preserves national cultural values of the whole country and serves as one of the key tourism centers in the ASEAN region.

Subject to the plans, the region will be built in two separate sub-regions.

One is in the west eastern Vietnamese –Cambodian border and the other in the Central Highlands with big urban centers in Buon Me Thuot, Pleiku and Long Xuyen cities.

The plan also specifies the building and development of necessary infrastructure in the sub-regions and provides for investment incentives.

By H. Le – Translated by Phuong Lan

Cambodian Defense Ministry appoints spokesman

www.chinaview.cn
2009-07-02

PHNOM PENH, July 2 (Xinhua) -- Cambodian Defense Ministry has appointed a spokesman for facilitating work in providing the military information to foreign and local media, local media reported on Thursday.

General Tea Bah, deputy prime minister and national defense minister, appointed Chhom Socheat, a three-star General and under-secretary of state for Defense Ministry as spokesman for the ministry, the Khmer Language newspaper Rasmei Kampuchea quoted the statement from Defense Ministry as saying.

"In the past, events especially the information about military actions such as the actions at areas near Preah Vihear temple were classified as a sensational information and have not been provided clearly and accurately," Chhom Socheat said.

"And from now on, we will provide information from ministry and welcome questions from foreign and local media," Chhom said.

Editor: Wang Guanqun

Khmer Rouge child prisoner describes losing his mother (Roundup)

Asia-Pacific News
Jul 2, 2009

Phnom Penh - A former child prisoner at a notorious Khmer Rouge torture facility wept Thursday as he described to Cambodia's UN-backed war crimes tribunal the last time he saw his mother before she was murdered by the Maoist regime.

Norng Chan Phal, 39, who is one of just a handful of survivors from the S-21 prison in Phnom Penh, told the court he was separated from his mother shortly after they arrived with his brother at the school-turned-torture facility in 1978.

'Then one day when we were in the yard, I could see her on the second floor holding on to the bars and looking,' he said. 'She did not say a single word to us.'

His testimony came in the trial of former S-21 torture facility chief Kaing Guek Eav, known by his revolutionary alias Duch, who faces charges of crimes against humanity, premeditated murder and breeches of the Geneva Conventions.

At least 15,000 men, women and children were imprisoned and tortured at S-21 before being sent to be murdered at the Choeng Ek 'killing field' on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.

Duch is one of five former Khmer Rouge leaders facing trial for their roles in the deaths of up to 2 million people through execution, starvation or overwork during the group's 1975-1979 rule.

He has admitted guilt and apologized for his crimes, but his defence lawyers have sought to prove he was merely acting on the orders of his superiors.

Norng Chan Phal said he was imprisoned with his mother and brother after Khmer Rouge soldiers arrested his father and took him from their village.

He said he did not know what happened to his father after they were taken to the prison but he never saw him again.

But documents shown in court Thursday revealed his father was also detained at S-21.

'We slept on the floor in the workshop and were forced to eat gruel,' he said of his few months of imprisonment at S-21. 'I knew that if I had stayed there long, I would have become sick and died.'

The father of two wept as he recalled seeing guards pushing and beating his mother, saying he was 'terrified of them.'

Presiding Judge Nil Nonn interrupted the testimony and told the witness to compose himself.

'This is your opportunity to tell your story, so please use the time you have to do this,' he said.

Norng Chan Phal described the chaotic scene at the prison on the day the Vietnamese invaded in January 1979 and guards fled, leaving tortured bodies strapped to beds and no food for the surviving prisoners.

'I tried to find my mother, and I looked for her on the second floor where I saw her, but I could not find her anywhere,' he said.

But in a statement to the court, Duch argued there was insufficient evidence to prove the witness and his mother were ever detained at S-21.

He said there were no photographs or other documents proving Norng Chan Phal's mother had ever been arrested or interrogated at the facility.

'If we can find the S-21 biography of his mother then I would accept his full testimony and I would acknowledge any document proving his mother was there,' he said. 'But probably his mother suffered at a different security centre.'

He said former chief ideologue Nuon Chea, who is also facing trial, had ordered that 'no one be spared' at the centre during the Khmer Rouge's final days and that only four adult prisoners had survived.

Three other S-21 survivors have appeared before the tribunal this week, and judges have allowed them to directly question their former jailer.

Bou Meng, a 68-year-old artist who survived S-21 after being ordered to paint portraits of Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot, on Wednesday begged Duch to tell him were his wife had been murdered so he could 'collect her ashes and pray for her soul.'

Duch replied that he did not know where she was murdered, but it was probably at the Choeng Ek killing field.

The trial began in February, and if convicted, Duch faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Street Side Vendors Paying Money – Wednesday, 1.7.2009

Posted on 2 July 2009
The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 619
http://cambodiamirror.wordpress.com/

“Phnom Penh: Nan, a tall guy wearing civilian dress, about 50 years old, walked into a small shop selling coffee and kuyteav [noodle soup], along the Preah Sihanouk Boulevard, shook hands with the shop owner and then walked out immediately without eating anything. Actually, that is the activity of a policeman, and it is said that he comes to collect money from that shop regularly.

“Just with a brief look, no one can notice that this is police activity to collect money. One may think that this is a greeting between friends who have just met each other, but after that man had left, the waiters said that he always comes to this shop, early every month.

“The coffee and kuyteav shop owner refused to provide any information about paying money to that official, but the waiters said that their boss regularly pays money to that man.

“One waiter said, ‘I don’t know how much my boss pays him, but I saw he held money in his palm before he shook hands with him.’

“Besides collecting of money from vendors doing legal business with name of the business properly displayed on a name plate, also some street vendors in Phnom Penh said that they regularly pay money in order to ensure that their business operations go smoothly.

“A 35 year-old man who is a motor bike mechanic, offering his services along a street in Phnom said – without giving his name – that he has to pay money to the authorities regularly, even though he earns only little, from Riel 20,000 [approx. US$5] to Riel 25,000 [approx. US$6] per day.

“He added that besides paying US$45 for rent to the house owner, he also has to pay US$10 to US$15 to the local authorities so that he is permitted to run his business there.

“He added that he does not know from which unit the man who comes to collect the money is, but they just told him that he has to pay, otherwise he will not be allowed to set up his business there.

“He went on to say, ‘They just told that their superiors order them to collect the money, otherwise their superiors will not allow me to run my business.’

“Though this 35-year-old man does not know who they are, he always pays them at the end of every month. He is afraid that they otherwise might confiscate motorbike spare parts and other materials used in his business.

“He said, ‘I pay the commune US$5 and the district US$5 and sometimes US$5 more to environment and sanitation officials.’

“Besides the motorbike mechanic, also a woman selling and has a service providing several mobile phones for people to call at the Olympic Stadium, spoke also about people coming to collect money.

“She said, ‘Every day, I have to pay Riel 1,000 [approx. US$0.20] for tax and sanitation and I have to pay Riel 20,000 to the police per month. This does not include the Riel 40,000 [approx. US$10] for the rent of the place.’

“In addition to the above quoted sources, people who run small businesses along the streets in the city always complain in similar ways. They do not know who those people are who come to collect money from them, and by whom they are ordered to do this. They pay money in exchange for allowing them to run their businesses to feed their children and wives as they are afraid that they confiscate and destroy their business belongings.

“A high ranking official of the Phnom Penh Municipality refused to comment on the above problem, saying that he knows nothing about it, and he suggested to seek information from the local authorities, and especially from the vendors who had claimed that the authorities are behind this going to collect money.

“The vice governor of the Phnom Penh Municipality, Mr. Chreang Sophan, said by telephone in the evening of 25 June 2009, ‘Sorry! The municipality does not know anything about this case, and it relates to the problems of those who give local orders. You should ask the local officials!’

“Related to the complaints of these street vendors, the president of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights said that business operations on the streets are illegal and do affect municipal order, as the streets belong to all citizens, but the authorities should make it easy for them to earn their living.

“He added, ‘Many countries, also including developed countries, still leave the possibility for the poor to do such business – but what is different is that these countries created proper laws for them.’

“He went on to say that if the authorities can create a proper law and order framework for them, they will probably follow it.’

“He said, ‘If such regulations were created properly, these people are not violators of the order, but they might become more active to make the city lively.’

“A person who has been abroad and asked not to be named, said that not one of the many countries visited, totally prohibits small businesses along the streets. What is important is to properly organize the vendors. For instance, in Thailand, just along the Sukhumwit road, there are many things on display for sale along several kilometers, in some places there is almost no path left to walk. But there a small economy and tourism are very lively. Thus, the authorities should think of this problem, but not say that they know nothing.”

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.17, #4934, 1.6.2009
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Khmer Rouge child survivor testifies

http://www.channelnewsasia.com

Asia Pacific News
02 July 2009

PHNOM PENH: A former child survivor of the Khmer Rouge regime's main torture centre wept Thursday as he told Cambodia's war crimes court of his harrowing separation from his mother as they arrived at the jail.

Norng Chan Phal, 39, was testifying at the trial of jail chief Duch, who is accused of overseeing the torture and execution of around 15,000 people who passed through Tuol Sleng prison during the 1975-79 regime.

"When my jeep took us to that location, I and my brother were happy because we could ride on a jeep. But then we were threatened and my mother was forced to get off the jeep and she was not very well," he told the court.

"They (Khmer Rouge cadres) shouted and threatened her and I was also terrified," Norng Chan Phal said, adding he and his younger brother were separated from his mother a night after arriving at Tuol Sleng.

Norng Chan Pal was just eight or nine years old when Vietnamese-backed forces invaded Phnom Penh in January 1979 to topple the communist Khmer Rouge, finding him with his younger brother and three other children at the prison.

The 66-year-old Duch begged forgiveness from the victims near the start of his trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity after accepting responsibility for his role in governing the jail.

But he has consistently rejected claims by prosecutors that he was a central figure in the hierarchy of the Khmer Rouge and says he never personally executed anyone.

Led by Pol Pot, who died in 1998, the Khmer Rouge emptied Cambodia's cities in a bid to forge a communist utopia. Up to two million people died of starvation, overwork, torture and execution during the 1975-79 regime.

Four other former Khmer Rouge leaders are currently in detention and are expected to face trial next year.

Khmer Rouge child survivor weeps for mother

A journalist takes a picture of a live feed of Norng Chan Phal speaking during the trial of former Khmer Rouge chief torturer Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, in the outskirts of Phnom Penh July 2, 2009. Norng Chan Phal is a child survivor of the notorious S-21 prison.
REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea


A video grab shows Norng Chan Phal, a former child survivor of the infamous Tuol Sleng Khmer Rouge prison, weeping as he told Cambodia's war crimes court of his harrowing separation from his mother at the jail.
(AFP/Tang Chhin Sothy)

by Suy Se

PHNOM PENH (AFP) – A former child survivor of the Khmer Rouge regime's main torture centre sobbed Thursday as he told Cambodia's war crimes court of his harrowing separation from his mother at the jail.

Norng Chan Phal, who was around nine years old at the time, also described seeing bodies when Tuol Sleng prison was finally liberated after invading Vietnamese-backed forces toppled the 1975-1979 movement.

He was testifying at the trial of jail chief Duch, who is accused of overseeing the torture and execution of around 15,000 people who passed through Tuol Sleng.

"I could see my mother on the second floor with her hands on the bars of the window looking at me and she did not say even a single word to us," Norng Chan Phal said of the last time he saw her.

Norng Chan Phal, now 39, said they had been promised they were going to meet his Khmer Rouge cadre father in the capital Phnom Penh, but they were locked in a room on their first night at Tuol Sleng and would never see him.

"When my jeep took us to that location, I and my brother were happy because we could ride on a jeep. But then we were threatened and my mother was forced to get off the jeep and she was not very well," he told the court.

"They (Khmer Rouge cadres) shouted and threatened her and I was also terrified," Norng Chan Phal said.

He and his younger brother were then separated from his mother the next day, he said.

In 1979 Vietnamese-backed troops found the two brothers hiding along with three other children at the prison, a former high school.

He said the youngsters at Tuol Sleng were placed under the care of an old woman at a workshop and usually given two meals per day, but they never bathed and were not permitted to wander.

In April 1979, when the Khmer Rouge regime collapsed, the back entrance of the prison was flung wide open and "there seemed to be a rush" of people leaving Tuol Sleng, he said.

He remembered that the old woman insisted he leave through the back gate, but he hid near a pile of clothes instead.

"I was behind the building. I was looking and waiting to see my mother," he said. "I saw an opened door and climbed upstairs to the second floor to look through the opened door, but I could not find my mother."

Norng Chan Phal said he then ran to the adjacent building and stumbled on a gruesome scene.

"I saw people lying inside the room and maybe they already died, although they were not swollen. I could see them lying on the beds and there was blood and I was scared," he told the court.

The 66-year-old Duch begged forgiveness from the victims near the start of his trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity after accepting responsibility for his role in governing the jail.

But Duch, whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav, has consistently rejected claims by prosecutors that he was a central figure in the hierarchy of the Khmer Rouge and says he never personally executed anyone.

Led by Pol Pot, who died in 1998, the Khmer Rouge emptied Cambodia's cities in a bid to forge a communist utopia. Up to two million people died of starvation, overwork, torture and execution during the 1975-79 regime.

Four other former Khmer Rouge leaders are currently in detention and are expected to face trial next year.

Restriction Of Lawyers’ Freedom In Cambodia

Scoop New Zealand
http://www.scoop.co.nz

Thursday, 2 July 2009
Press Release: United Nations

UN Rights Expert Concerned At Restriction Of Lawyers’ Freedom In Cambodia

A United Nations independent human rights expert today voiced concern at attempts to curtail lawyers’ freedom to effectively represent their clients in Cambodia, with criminal charges being leveled recently against attorneys in the South-East Asian nation.

“To be able to represent their clients effectively, lawyers should not be subject to threats or intimidation, nor should they be targeted for prosecution or disciplinary action merely for having acted in the interests of their clients,” said Leandro Despouy, the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers.

“Lawyers play an important role as defenders of human rights and must be free to represent their clients as they see fit in accordance with professional standards and the rule of law.”

Last week, he said, a lawyer, working for an opposition member of the National Assembly who alleged that she has been defamed by the country’s Prime Minister, was himself charged with criminal defamation and could be expelled from the Cambodian Bar Association.

This January, he added, defense lawyers representing defendants at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) – the UN-backed tribunal trying Khmer Rouge leaders accused of mass killings and other crimes three decades ago – were threatened with legal action by Cambodian judges for having called for corruption allegations at the tribunal to be properly investigated.

Further, Mr. Despouy noted, in June 2007, attorneys representing indigenous communities in Ratanakiri Province, involved in a land dispute with a businesswoman with ties to the Government, were threatened with criminal charges and disciplinary action for having allegedly “incited” communities to file a suit to reclaim their land.

The expert cautioned that these recent moves against lawyers seem to indicate a worrying new trend which could have a chilling effect on the legal profession, expressing his support and encouragement for the Bar Council and its President “in their efforts to strengthen the legal profession in Cambodia and to defend lawyers against attempts to undermine their independence.”

In a press release, Mr. Despouy, who reports to the Geneva-based Human Rights Council in an independent and unpaid capacity, underscored that Cambodia’s obligations under international law, as laid out in the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, say that “lawyers should not be identified with their clients or their clients’ causes as a result of discharging their functions.”

Cambodia donates $1.2 mln to World Food Program to reduce hunger

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

July 01, 2009

Cambodian government on Wednesday donated 1.2 million U.S. dollars to World Food Program to help reduce the hunger and malnutrition in this country, according to WFP statement.

The statement released Wednesday said the donated fund will help provide food assistance to over 800,000 poor rural Cambodian people affected by food insecurity brought on by last year's high food prices and this year's global economic crisis.

"WFP is very grateful for this generous contribution," said Jean-Pierre de Margerie, WFP Cambodia's representative.

According to the statement, it's the third donation from Cambodian government to WFP since 2007, but did not elaborate the total amount contributed.

Yim Chhay Ly, deputy prime minister and chairman of Council for Agriculture and Rural Development said Cambodia remains fully committed to support such objectives.

WFP is supporting Cambodia's government in its efforts to improve the food security of Cambodia through all its activities, assists nearly one million of the poorest and most food insecure people in the country.

WFP also, in addition to school feeding, implements operations in support of mother and child health, support TB and HIV patients, and project that support the creation of agricultural assets.

Source: Xinhua

Khmer Rouge prison a 'hell on earth'


Thursday, July 2, 2009

PHNOM PENH – One of the few survivors of the Khmer Rouge’s notorious Tuol Sleng prison gave chilling testimony of “hell on earth” when he faced his former torturer at a UN-backed war crimes tribunal yesterday.

Like another survivor who testified at the joint United Nations-Cambodian tribunal, Bou Meng said he was alive only because he was an artist and Duch, the torturer, liked his drawings of Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot.

Meng was accused of spying for the US in 1977 and was taken with his wife to the S-21 interrogation centre, once a school and now a museum to the horror of the Khmer Rouge regime. He was one of only seven to survive the prison, where more than 14,000 men, women and children died during Pol Pot’s 1975-1979 reign of terror.

“I saw about 20 men with long hair, looking very sick and emaciated. The cell was like hell on earth,” Meng told the court. The prisoners were kept in chains with empty bullet boxes and plastic bottles to use as toilets.

“I saw a lizard and hoped it would drop on me so I could catch it and eat it,” Meng said. “They kept whipping me and asked me when I joined the CIA.”

For the first time in three decades, Meng had the chance to question Duch, the first of five Pol Pot cadres indicted by the tribunal. He never saw his wife again after they entered S-21 and he asked his torturer what had happened to her.

“I expect she was killed by my subordinates,” Duch replied.

Duch, whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav, faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, torture and homicide. He has admitted his part in the deaths but maintains he was only following orders.

Another S-21 survivor, Chum Mey (79) told the judges his toenails were torn off and that he, too, was held in a dark cell, his legs shackled. He received hardly any food and expected to die at any moment. “I will never forget my suffering at S-21, as long as I live, he said, his voice breaking, tears rolling down his face. He too was accused of being a spy for the US Central Intelligence Agency.

“Who is the CIA? What did the Khmer Rouge mean by CIA,” he shouted at his torturer.

Duch responded calmly: “Whoever opposed the regime, thats what the Khmer Rouge meant.” Also indicted are Khmer Rouge second-in-command Nuon Chea, former president Khieu Samphan, and ex-foreign minister Ieng Sary and his wife. – (Reuters)

Bou Meng, long-term detainee in S-21, stirs trouble in Duch

Kambol (Phnom Penh, Cambodia). 03/03/2009: Bou Meng, S-21 survivor, during a preliminary hearing on Khieu Samphan at the ECCC
©John Vink/ Magnum

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

By Stéphanie Gée
02-07-2009

Bou Meng, third S-21 survivor to testify, is 68 years old and already looks like a damaged old man. “I look older than I am,” he conceded. Failing hearing and memory, sight troubles, a toothless shy smile, a back that still bears the marks of repeated torture sessions… Those were as many indelible scars the slightly limping frail man listed before the court on Wednesday July 1st. The long-term effects of his detention in the centre directed by Duch. More than a year and a half, the longest among the remaining survivors still alive. Bou Meng, who joined Duch’s trial as a civil party, was touching during his testimony, so much that he seemed to manage to distress the accused, who usually appears so comfortable in the courtroom and so baffling by his apparent insensitivity. Since survivors started testifying at the beginning of the week, the trial has been watched by a packed room, thanks essentially to the tribunal who organises bus trips for people living in the vicinity.

Making the voice of the victims heard better
In reaction to the previous day hearing, Silke Studzinsky, co-lawyer for civil party group 2, suggested to the judges that “the necessary time be given to the witness so he may compose himself and continue his testimony serenely.” She added that in such cases, the time should be deducted from the time allocated to the interrogating party. Alain Werner, for civil party group 1, supported her request. The president promised to show some flexibility on that matter. However, he added it would “not be appropriate to request a half-day adjournment to allow a witness to recover his calm because that would impact on the schedule of proceedings.”

Arrested although he served the Angkar
President Nil Nonn started Bou Meng’s interrogation. He lost his wife under the Khmer Rouge regime and did not know what happened to her, the witness explained. Responding to Norodom Sihanouk’s radio call to arms, made after he was overthrown by Lon Nol in 1970, Bou Meng complied and joined the liberation forces. After the “victory” of April 17th 1975, the Angkar assigned the artist to the technical school of Russey Keo, in Phnom Penh. A year later, at his great surprise, he was transferred to a labour re-education cooperative – “it was actually forced labour” – in Kandal province. He was not sure of the dates anymore and apologised. “Because of the severe torture I suffered, my memory is no longer very accurate…” In the cooperative, the witness explained, “I was used physically as working force for the Angkar. I was pushed to my physical limits.”

He was later assigned to planting vegetables. “We used human fertilisers. What we called ‘fertiliser no. 1.’” One day, maybe in May or June 1977, he could not remember anymore, he and his wife were ordered to go and teach drawing at the Fine Arts. The vehicle that took them away did not go to the school, but to the S-21 prison. From that moment on, he was separated from his wife, who he never saw again. “I was told they were going to ‘peel my skin.’ I didn’t understand what they meant. […] I wondered what my fault was. I tried my best to serve the Angkar.” Among the torturers who tormented him, he mentioned the case of Mam Nay. “He hit me and asked me to count the blows [he gave me with a stick]. When I counted ten, he exclaimed: ‘No. There was only one!’” The chief interrogator – the very one Duch claimed did not enjoy torturing – kept going at his task. Bou Meng recounted he was then bathing in his own blood, wracked in agonising pain.

The ECCC will give justice
He stopped, a few tears ran down his face, and he bravely resumed. “I then thought of my mother who have given birth to me. I told myself that if I was able to survive all of this, I would tell my story. And at last, I am here, before Your Honours, before the ECCC [Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia] and they will give justice. I am very glad about it, even if we cannot reach 100% justice…” The sobs came back. The president invited him to pull himself together in order to continue his testimony. “As you have said yourself, it has been years you have waited for the opportunity offered to you today to tell what you have experienced, to the Chamber and the public. […] If you are overwhelmed by your emotions, the Chamber will likely not have another opportunity to hear you…”

Like hell
In the mornings and the afternoons, for long weeks, Bou Meng was interrogated and tortured. No reason was given when he and his wife were arrested. “When I asked them what our fault was, they answered: ‘You are despicable. You don’t have the right to ask that kind of question. Like a pineapple, the Angkar has eyes everywhere. You were arrested because we know you have committed offences.’ […] Until now, I still do not know what fault we may have committed.” He was yet another one who had been accused of being a CIA agent.

Nil Nonn did not deem “precise” enough the description of the situation made by the survivor. “Were you still blindfolded when you were photographed [on your arrival at S-21]?” “As for the handcuffs, were they also taken off for the picture?”, etc. His detention conditions were reviewed next. Bou Meng described how they were showered with a hose in the collective cells, once a week or less, when the detainees had to get rid of their shorts and stand naked in front of laughing guards. “It was like hell. The guards made fun of us. They sometimes said we looked very small but our penises were not so small…”

“Could you show us the scars on your back?”
Bou Meng then described the position in which the interrogators forced him to hit him better: ankles shackled to a bar and face against the floor. “It is hard for me to visualise it,” the president commented. The witness repeated his explanation and illustrated his words with gestures. Later, he revealed that salted water was poured on his scarred back. “I’ll let you imagine how painful it was…” The president seemed to gloat: “Could you show us the scars on your back?” Silke Studzinsky intervened to recall it was time for the break, already past, although the president rarely forgets to announce it on time. After the break, Nil Nonn declared that the witness’ back would not be examined but that if parties wished so, they could be shown photos.

Kambol (Phnom Penh, Cambodia). 29/06/2009: Painting by Vann Nath, painter and S-21 survivor, shown on the screens at the ECCC during his testimony. “This scene depicts what Bou Meng told me: the interrogators took turns to hit him on the back. I made this painting for him,” Vann Nath commented
©Stéphanie Gée


Saved by painting
Late 1977, painters were needed in S-21 and Bou Meng manifested himself immediately. “I survived because I managed to paint faithful portraits of Pol Pot.” With Duch sometimes next to him to examine his work and request some corrections when needed. However, he first had to sign false confessions written for him. The witness showed a photograph of the “seven survivors” of S-21, taken at the fall of the regime for the United Nations, on which he appeared next to, among others, Vann Nath and Chum Mey, who were interrogated on the previous days. Silke Studzinsky requested if the photograph could be shown on the screen. But Nil Nonn defended his almighty president’s prerogatives and retorted: “It is not time yet for your intervention. For the moment, I am the one asking the questions.”

A fight on Duch’s request
During the day, Bou Meng recounted, Duch would come and sit at the workshop and watch them paint, whether it was portraits of Pol Pot or a Ho Chi Minh head on a dog’s body. “What was his behaviour like from what you were able to see?”, the judge asked him. “He did not beat me. But one day, I don’t know what I did wrong, he asked me to fight with Im Chan. We were given a piece of plastic pipe and we had to fight using it. He stayed there, sitting down and watching us fight. After a moment, he ordered us to stop.” No, the witness was never hit by the accused, nor did he see him torture prisoners, except for the order to fight with Im Chan. One could guess the efforts Bou Meng had to muster to convey this painful past as faithfully as possible. Frowning, lowering his head, sometimes placing a hand on his brow.

A witness unable to mourn his wife
The judge then interrogated him about his wife. “Do you think she was killed in S-21?” The question reminded Bou Meng of the one he wanted to ask the accused. “I would like to know if he asked his subordinates to eliminate my wife in S-21 or in Choeung Ek so that I can collect what remains of her and ensure her soul rests in peace.” That was a leitmotiv in his declaration. “Do you wish the question to be communicated to the accused?”, Nil Nonn asked. […] “Have you brought the picture of your wife?” The picture was the portrait made of her when she arrived at S-21, on which she was identified by a number. That was the only photograph of his wife that Bou Meng now had in his possession. The picture was shown on the screen.

The interrogation continued. Although the civil party did not witness acts of torture committed on other detainees, he heard “the screams and the calls for help.” He also caught the sight, like Vann Nath, of the emaciated prisoner who was “carried away like a pig” on a wooden rod, still alive. When he painted, he also saw female prisoners pass by, flanked by female guards who would kick them to make them walk faster.

A black outfit but not a black heart
After the lunch break, the president left the floor to other judges. To judge Cartwright, Bou Meng confirmed he had identified, among the other detainees, foreigners, Vietnamese and Westerners. To judge Lavergne, he described the work he did for the propaganda of the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK) after joining the armed struggle in 1971. He made “portraits of Marx and Lenin, that were roneotyped and distributed to units so they knew communist country leaders,” the witness reported. He was disappointed when the Khmer Rouge ordered the evacuation of Phnom Penh in 1975. “I regret that the leaders committed those inhuman acts which I cannot understand. I served them physically, but not in my heart. Even if I wore a black shirt, my heart was not black. I did what I was told to do in the limits of my skills.” His trust in the CPK crumbled on the day he was taken away from the technical school and sent to re-education. With no reason.

Human fertilisers
Judge Lavergne then attempted to discuss the episode, told on Monday [June 29th] by Vann Nath, when after disappearing for two weeks from the workshop, he returned in a poor state and was forced to apologise. The old man, tired, did not seem to understand the judge’s request or maybe he had forgotten about it. “Please forgive me. Maybe I don’t have all my memory.” Then, returning to his words on “human” fertilisers, Bou Meng explained he had heard it from the accused himself. “He said that if I could not make a portrait that looked faithfully like Pol Pot’s photograph, my body would be used as fertiliser…”

On the co-Prosecutors’ side, Robert Petit reappeared but did not ask any questions. His Cambodian colleague asked the witness if the food rations received in S-21 were sufficient or who poured salted water on his wounds. In his answers, Bou Meng described the accused as “very clever, very smart” and “educated.”

Happy to release himself of a weight
Next were the civil party lawyers. The witness’ Cambodian lawyer, Kong Pisey, started. He asked him to detail the electroshock sessions. Bou Meng explained the clips were attached to his shorts. The voltage was high and he therefore lost consciousness. Pertinent question of the lawyer: “How long did you remain unconscious?” Bou Meng smiled: “You know, when you are unconscious, it’s like when you sleep. You don’t know how long you remain unconscious.” He disclosed he was on medication to get rid of his insomnias and confessed he had not managed to eat anything today because he felt “too emotional about testifying.”

Asked by Martine Jacquin, for civil party group 3, “how [he] felt today about being a survivor,” Bou Meng answered he was “happy to relieve [himself] of this weight.” “I have made all my statements before this Chamber now and I want justice to be given to the 1.8 million people who lost their lives. […] Unfortunately, I could not save my wife’s life. […] I really want to ask this question to the accused: where was my wife killed?”

Duch touched by Bou Meng
The president invited Duch to answer. “Mr. Meng, I was very moved, especially in your case. We lived together, you were in good health and I was shocked to see you again on January 28th 2008, before the co-Investigating Judges. I would like to answer your question, but that goes beyond my capacity. My actions were committed by my subordinates. However, I suppose your wife could have been killed in the village of Choeung Ek. […] I send my respects to the soul of your wife.” Listening to him, the witness burst into tears and hid his face behind his hands, while Duch, whose statement bore hints of sincerity, broke down as well. The president: “I invite you to recover from your emotions and compose yourself. I am talking to the accused.”

The accused pulled himself together and repeated for the victims, as he explained to Chum Mey on the previous day, that “all opponents were pointed out as agents, expansionists, of the CIA, KGB, etc.” Again, Duch recognised his responsibility in the crimes committed “under the law” and said he wished to be judged by the ECCC and refused that his subordinates “also be prosecuted.”

A counter-examination by the defence
Floor to the defence. Kar Savuth launched into what seemed a counter-examination of the witness, which prompted the latter to say: “I am talking here in front of everybody. I do not want to exaggerate anything or may I be crushed by a bus. I am saying the truth here.” Bou Meng became exhausted. When he said he did not believe Duch’s subordinates could have tortured anyone without being ordered to do so, the president called him to order. “You are a survivor and your emotions come through your testimony. […] A witness is not supposed to make assumptions.” Bou Meng did not stumble before the lawyer’s attempts to highlight contradictions in his testimony. All throughout the day, Duch listened to him earnestly.

For the second consecutive day, the president forgot to thank the witness for his testimony at the end of the day.

Expatriates in Cambodia open two floating community houses


07/02/2009

The Association of Overseas Vietnamese in Cambodia has inaugurated two floating community houses as gifts from the Ho Chi Minh City Association in Support of Poor Patients.

These houses were built for Vietnamese fishermen in two communes in Kal Dieng district, Pursat province, to hold meetings, cultural activities, wedding parties or memorial ceremonies.

The house for Vietnamese fishermen in Koh Keo commune is worth US$10,000, covering over 60 sq. m. while the other for those in Koh K’Ek commune was built at a cost of US$8,000.

This is the second time Kal Dieng district has received floating houses from their homeland. The two previous houses are used as Vietnamese language classrooms, one of which was a gift from the late Prime Minister, Vo Van Kiet.

Nguyen Thi Lien, Deputy President of the Kien Giang provincial Association in Support of Poor Patients, promised to raise more funds back home to help upgrade the two old floating houses.

Khmer PM urges Thai troop withdrawal

By Supalak Ganjanakhundee
The Nation

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has urged Thailand to withdraw its 30 troops stationed around Preah Vihear Temple, to defuse the stand-off at the border.

Hun Sen said he told Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaug-suban during his visit to Phnom Penh last week that the Thai side must not fly military aircraft over Cambodian territory.

He told Suthep that Cambodian forces had recently been equipped with modern ground-to-air missiles, China's official Xinhua News Agency reported.

Second Army Area commander Lt-General Wiboonsak Neeparn said he contacted his Cambodian counterpart, Lt-General Chea Mon, to consult with him about troop redeployment.

"If we don't talk to each other, there could be a misunderstanding, due to misinformation," he said.

Thailand has no intention of using force to solve the dispute, he said.

Tensions along the border near Preah Vihear have intensified since Thailand maintained its objection to the temple's World Heritage status at the 33rd session of the World Heritage Committee in Spain last month.

The Thai complaint, however, made no difference to the World Heritage Committee, which had decided to list the Khmer sanctuary as a World Heritage Site a year ago.

Its decision issued at its meeting in Spain simply requested that Cambodia submit details of its plan for safeguarding and developing the site by next February 1.

Cambodia was due to submit the details this past February, but Phnom Penh made its first report to the committee in April with some information missing, such as a map delineating the buffer zone around the temple.

However, Natural Resource and Environment Minister Suwit Khunkitti, who attended the meeting in Spain, told local media the committee decided to delay its decision to list Preah Vihear until next February after his heavy lobbying.

Pongpol Adireksarn, former chairman of Thailand's National World Heritage Committee, accused Suwit of twisting the Spanish meeting's decision.

The committee has agreed to extend the time frame for the site-management plan because Cambodia has not yet submitted sufficient documentation, not because of any objections from Thailand, he said.

Khmer Rouge child prisoner describes last time he saw his mother

Earth Times
http://www.earthtimes.org

Posted : Thu, 02 Jul 2009
Author : DPA

Phnom Penh - A former child prisoner at a notorious Khmer Rouge torture facility wept Thursday as he described to Cambodia's UN-backed war crimes tribunal the last time he saw his mother before she was murdered by the Maoist regime. Norng Chan Phal, 39, who is one of just a handful of survivors from the S-21 prison in Phnom Penh, told the court he was separated from his mother shortly after they arrived with his brother at the school-turned-torture facility in 1978.

"Then one day when we were in the yard, I could see her on the second floor holding on to the bars and looking," he said. "She did not say a single word to us."

His testimony came in the trial of former S-21 torture facility chief Kaing Guek Eav, known by his revolutionary alias Duch, who faces charges of crimes against humanity, premeditated murder and breeches of the Geneva Conventions.

At least 15,000 men, women and children were imprisoned and tortured at S-21 before being sent to be murdered at the Choeng Ek "killing field" on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.

Duch is one of five former Khmer Rouge leaders facing trial for their roles in the deaths of up to 2 million people through execution, starvation or overwork during the group's 1975-1979 rule.

He has admitted guilt and apologized for his crimes, but his defence lawyers have sought to prove he was merely acting on the orders of his superiors.

Norng Chan Phal, said he was imprisoned with his mother and brother after Khmer Rouge soldiers arrested his father and took him from their village.

He said he did not know what happened to his father after they were taken to the prison but he never saw him again.

"We slept on the floor in the workshop and were forced to eat gruel," he said of his few months of imprisonment at S-21. "I knew that if I had stayed there long, I would have become sick and died."

The father of two wept as he recalled seeing guards pushing and beating his mother, saying he was "terrified of them."

Presiding Judge Nil Nonn interrupted the testimony and told the witness to compose himself.

"This is your opportunity to tell your story, so please use the time you have to do this," he said.

Norng Chan Phal described the chaotic scene at the prison on the day the Vietnamese invaded in January 1979 and guards fled, leaving tortured bodies strapped to beds and no food for the surviving prisoners.

"I tried to find my mother, and I looked for her on the second floor where I saw her, but I could not find her anywhere," he said.

Duch sat impassively through the testimony, occasionally taking notes.

Three other S-21 survivors have appeared before the tribunal this week, and judges have allowed them to directly question their former jailer.

Bou Meng, a 68-year-old artist who survived S-21 after being ordered to paint portraits of Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot, on Wednesday begged Duch to tell him were his wife had been murdered so he could "collect her ashes and pray for her soul."

Duch replied that he did not know where she was murdered, but it was probably at the Choeng Ek killing field.

Cambodia and Laos Telecommunications Report Q1 2009 - Companies and Markets New Analysis

© companiesandmarkets.com
02.07.2009

This is BMI’s first report on the increasingly important telecommunications markets of Cambodia and Laos. This is important not only because of their fast-growth markets but both countries are also becoming important destinations for a number of telecoms operators from fellow emerging markets.

Luxembourg-based Millicom International has had an interest in both markets for some time. In Cambodia, the operator is

the market leader in the mobile sector via its unit CamGSM, with an overwhelming 62.9% stake in the sector. The operator has a slightly weaker presence in the Laos market, but offers services of fixed-line (third-ranked with a 2.7% share), internet and mobile (No3 with a 12.1% stake).

Thailand-based Shinawatra operates CamShin, Cambodia’s second-ranked position with a market share of 18%. Another Thai-based company, Shenington has a strong presence in Laos. It not only has around 63.4% of the mobile sector, providing it with a dominant position, but it also dominates the fixed-line market with over 80% of the sector, a position it has enjoyed for some time. Telekom Malaysia, meanwhile retains a third-ranked operating presence via TMIC in the Cambodian mobile market, with a 14.2% share.

During 2009, we also expect greater presence from neighbouring Vietnam. Viettel, the country’s Ministry of Defence-run telecoms unit, received permission to offer mobile services in both the Cambodian and Laos markets. In the Cambodian market, the operator is expected to be joined by Taiwanese incumbent operator Chunghwa Telecom, while, in the Laos market, Viettel has already established operations and expects to attain around 1.5mn subscribers by YE10. Viettel’s Laos operation, Star Telecom Company (STC) is a joint venture with Laos Asia Telecommunications, which already has a 3.2% share of the Laos mobile market.

The Cambodian market has also attracted the attention of Russian companies. Cambodian operator Sotelco was acquired by Russian operator VimpelCom in July 2008 from Altimo at a cost of US$28mn for a 90% stake. VimpelCom has pledged around US$200mn to be spent in its Cambodian network in the first three to four years following its commercial launch. By December 2008, Sotelco had signed a contract with China’s Huawei Technologies to build a national GSM network over a five-year period.

High costs of internet connection mean that internet take-up is very low in both Cambodia and Laos. At the end of 2007, broadband penetration was under 0.1%. BMI fully expects this to grow to 0.2% in Cambodia and Laos by the end of the decade, driven by greater competition in the marketplace, reduced tariffs and cost of PCs and laptops.

Author:
Mike King

Vietnamese top the list of visitors to Cambodia


07/02/2009

Vietnam had the largest number of visitors to Cambodia in the first 5 months of 2009 with a total of 122,000 arrivals, taking up 12.8 percent of the country’s total tourists, according to the Cambodian Ministry of Tourism’s report.

The number of tourists coming to Cambodia from other countries also increased, 69,000 from the US (up 1.4 percent), 50,000 from the UK (up 15.8 percent) and 47,000 from France (up 5.5 percent).

Tourists coming from Laos to Cambodia rose to 41,000, up 149 percent compared to the same period last year. The sharp increase was due to Cambodia’s simplifying customs procedures and improving road links between the two countries.

However, the number of tourists coming from China, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Thailand and Australia to Cambodia in recent years has not seen any significant increase.

By the end of May, Cambodia had attracted 950,000 visitors, down 2.3 percent against the same period last year.
Student with new bike
http://www.etravelblackboardasia.co
Thursday, 2 July 2009

MasterCard in conjunction with Hotel de la Paix, Cambodia are now giving travellers even more options to give back to the community through the Purchase with Purpose platform.

Purchase with Purpose is MasterCard’s overarching social responsibility program in the Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa region, with a key focus on women and children.? Under the Purchase with Purpose program certain purchases from MasterCard members then result in charitable initiatives from the company.

Under the scheme, one initiative made in conjunction with Hotel de la Paix which took place between the 1st of October and 31st of December 2008, saw every room paid for with a MasterCard card eventuate in a bicycle donated from MasterCard to the hotel’s pushbike for kids travelling to school initiative.

More recently, MasterCard sponsored ten women for the ten-month Hotel de la Paix Sewing Training Centre Program, which will see them garner skills in sewing, English, as well as basic education to set up their own business.

“Cambodia is one of the poorest countries in the world with more than 30 percent of the population still living in extreme poverty. In addition, women are disadvantaged as they do not enjoy equal access to education and paid employment,” remarks Georgette Tan, MasterCard VP Communications Asia/Pacific, Middle East & Africa.

“We commend the efforts of Hotel de la Paix in helping these women and are glad to be contributing to this initiative.

“This initiative is part of our broader commitment to women?s advancement and we look forward to seeing these women stand on their own feet to support themselves and their families,” she adds.

Other MasterCard Purchase with Purpose include MasterCard–Great Singapore Sale Shop for a Cause night, which saw 20 people given SGD2,000 pre-paid cards to spend on items for their chosen charities, as well as the Live Green, Shop Green movement in China which targets women and calls on them to reduce their consumption of plastic bags.

Dance Production Performed in Washington

Agangamasor and Preah Noreay

By Nuch Sarita, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
01 July 2009

The dance performance “Agangamasor,” a new show by the Cambodian Buddhist Society, played in Washington last week, adding a new dimension to a classic story.

The dance tells of a royal guard in Preah Eysor’s palace, Agangamasor, who becomes frustrated with the torments of visiting devadas and eventually turns on his royal patron.

Agangamasor uses a magical diamond finger given to him by Preah Eysor to banish the devadas to the end of the universe, and the king fears his royal guard is plotting to overthrow him. He flees, and the God of Justice, Preah Noreay, decides Agangamasor and his evil soul must be vanquished.

Preah Noreay transforms himself into a beautiful celestial dancer, a woman named Tepapsar, luring Agangamasor to fall in love with her. She tricks him out of the diamond finger, without which Agangamasor is no match for the god.

Before he is destroyed, however, Agangamasor wishes to be reborn with great power—with 100 heads and 1,000 arms—a wish Preah Noreay grants him. Preah Noreay brags that he himself will be reborn as a human with one head and two arms, able to destroy his foe.

It comes to pass, and Agangamasor reincarnates as the all-powerful demon Ravana, ruler of the Kingdom of Lanka. Preah Noreay comes back as Rama, and their battles continue in the Ramayana.

Behind the story is Mani Meas Masady, the show’s artistic director and dancer, choreographer and teacher. She was one of the first students to be educated at the Royal University of Fine Arts in Phnom Penh after its peacetime reopening. After graduating, she taught as a dance professor at the school and later moved to Maryland.

Preah Noreay

In the performance, Mani Meas Masady dances as Preah Noreay—known as Vishnu in Hindu mythology.

“My dedication and expertise keep Cambodian classical dance alive,” the choreographer told VOA Khmer in an interview. “Under my leadership, the group has performed in many places in the US, including the Kennedy Center, the Library of Congress, Smithsonian, State Department, and George Washington University, and at UNHCR’s World Refugee Day, hosted by UN Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie.”

Helen Jessup, president of Friends of Khmer Culture, said after the show she was excited that the group was preserving a great Southeast Asian tradition, while simultaneously creating something new.

“I saw dances in Washington at the annual celebration around the New Year several years ago but have never seen this professional troop,” she said. “They are very impressive. It is very exciting to see this happening here, because it means that the link between Cambodians who immigrated to the US and Cambodians who are in Cambodia will strengthen because there will be the continuity and the spreading of the wonderful culture of Cambodia.”

Suwanna Gauntlett, country director of the Cambodia Wildlife Alliance, who has seen many performances in Cambodia over the past 10 years, called “Agangamasor” “by far the most beautiful, very fresh, very delightful performance that I have ever seen.”

For Judy Kusek, an official at the World Bank in Washington, this was her first performance of Cambodian dance.

“I really enjoyed it, and you really don’t get to see this very often in Washington,” she said. “It is a real special treat for me.”

Cynthia Way, an American who adopted a baby girl from Cambodia eight years ago, said she wanted her daughter, Lina, to grow up knowing her culture.

“She has been dancing for 3 years now, and as a result we’ve been becoming increasingly more involved in the Cambodian community,” Way said.

Mani Meas Masady said that teaching Cambodian classical dance to a new generation allowed her to connect with younger Cambodian-Americans and “to show the world the richness of the Cambodian culture of the 12th Century, which was a big asset to mankind.”

Photographer Hei Han Khiang, ‘Right Place, Right Time’

By VOA Khmer, Sothearith Im
01 July 2009

After Hei Han Khiang survived a forced labor camp for children under the Khmer Rouge, he wanted little more than to live a life of peace. But innate talent and dogged pursuit enabled him to become an accomplished photographer.

Now living in the New York, Hei Han Khiang was born in 1968 to a family of six near Phnom Penh’s Damkor Market. His father was a teacher and noodle shop owner.

The Khmer Rouge pushed the family to Battambang province as the regime enacted Year Zero, and Hei Han Khiang lost an older brother and older sister. After the regime’s overthrow, the family sought refuge in the US, by way of Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore and Indonesia. Finally, in 1981, they arrived in New York.

“When I first came here I had no clue what the city was going to be like,” Hei Han Khiang told VOA Khmer in a phone interview. “I came here with a pair of sandles, and it was cold, but I was so amazed to see the streets, big buildings, and we lived near the bridge here. It was just amazing, George Washington Bridge, how long it is. And there was just so much to buy, so much selling in the stores, so many kinds of food here, different kinds of people. You know, when we first came here, we ate a lot of meat.”

When he first arrived in the United States, he had few ambitions, having survived his ordeal in Cambodia.

“It was still fresh in my memory, war, evacuation, and escaping from one place to another in refugee camps,” Hei Han Khiang said. “We didn’t have much of anything, so we didn’t really see very far. I think maybe it was just culturally shocking to me to see, you know, a new world.”

As time passed, his interests grew: he wanted to be a teacher, or doctor; his parents wanted him to go into business. In the end, he realized his interest was in the arts. He began snapping pictures of his family, who had never had photographs before. His love of the art form grew from there.

He began taking classes at the Cooper Union School, on Saturdays.

Marina Gutierrez, director of Cooper Union’s Saturday Arts Program, said still remembers him.

“Khiang mentioned us as helping open his eyes to art, but he also helped us open our eyes to a larger world,” Gutierrez said. “When he was a student with us, I can’t say he showed much promise in drawing or painting, but he has an incredible spirit, and I think that’s something that you cannot teach somebody. That’s what really makes the artist.”

Hei Han Khiang’s art, temperament and spirit are interchangeable, she said, contributing to a successful career.

“When he was my student I thought that he was a wonderful person,” Gutierrez said. “I didn’t have any idea that he would become a wonderful photographer and artist, because the work he did was OK. It was not notable. As a teacher, you can never imagine a limit on somebody. Only they can define their own limit.”

Hei Han Khiang went to State University of New York, in Buffalo, in 1988. He was sent by the university to study Chinese language, culture, history, political science and paintings in Beijing, from September 1988 through June 1989. Just then, the Tiananmen Square demonstrations broke out.

Hei Han Khiang photographed the unrest, proving his mettle as a photographer.

Dee Wedemeyer, a former employer, recalled Hei Han Khiang as a courageous, dedicated, and talented photographer.

“He makes sacrifices to make this trip abroad to take photographs, and he is a documentarian,” Wedemeyer said. “He documents anything that other people have not found. You know, walking the Ho Chi Minh Trail is not something that everyone has done.”

Thirty of his Tiananmen photographs were displayed at Christonpher Henry Gallery, New York, from May 29 through June 28, to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the crackdown.

The gallery’s owner, Christopher Henry, told VOA Khmer he selected the photographs from thousands of applicants.

Henry said sometimes photojournalists can be too good at taking pictures: their images can look unreal. Hei Han Khiang’s photos were honest and real, and the exhibition was a success.

The images were visually striking and iconic, he said, and, coming from a student, came from a different perspective.

“It really has a much more honest impression,” Henry said. “Any images therefore were much more [like] somebody just happened to be at the right place at the right time, rather than somebody that was sent there to chronicle or document an event.”

Thais Maintain Stance Over ‘Heritage’ Temple

By Kong Sothanarith, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
01 July 2009

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva reiterated his opposition to the listing of Preah Vihear temple as a Unesco World Heritage site Tuesday, despite a rejection of the UN agency that the temple be jointly managed.

Abhisit rankled Phnom Penh last month when he suggested that Thailand and Cambodian both maintain the 11th-Century temple, which has become the center of a longstanding military face-off along contested border areas nearby.

Abhisit told Thai media on Tuesday he stood by his position and would not remove the heavily armed troops that have been entrenched along the northern border since July 2008.

Thailand “needs to reserve the right to maintain its opposition to the temple listing,” Abhisit was quoted as saying. He also said the Preah Vihear issue would not affect relations between the two nations in other areas of cooperation.

Abhisit’s remarks follow the rejection of his proposal to Unesco last week and talks between the two governments to diffuse increased tensions and even more military build-ups along the border.

Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said Tuesday Abhisit’s remarks were a pretext meant to appease the Thai populace.

Thailand has undergone serious political shake-ups in the past year, with protesters forcing the ouster of one administration and replacing it with Abhisit’s.

“His statement is only to deceive the citizens of Thailand, and legally it has no meaning,” Khieu Kanharith said.

Children Easily Infected With Dengue In Cambodia

July 01, 2009

PHNOM PENH, July 1 (Bernama) -- Cambodia's dengue fever is a serious problem for children, as the Health Ministry has treated over 3,333 children infected with it, the Vietnam news agency (VNA) cited Director of Anti-Dengue Fever Department Ngan Chantha said Wednesday.

While, ten children died due to hemorrhagic fever this year.

"It increased sharply compared with the total cases last year, when there were only 1811 child cases and 23 children died last year," he said, adding that we have to enhance education and public campaign on the dengue to raise awareness among our people in rural and urban areas.

The local community has to be careful with children because the rainy season is starting now.

It will be easy for the mosquitoes to lay eggs in the water jar. The tiger mosquito is a gent from water-born virus beating the children that caused to have dengue fever. They have to clean areas surrounding their houses, and children should sleep in net, he said.

Duong Socheat, director of the National Malaria Center, which deals with dengue, was quoted by the Phnom Penh Post as saying that the worst weeks for dengue fever are in August, and that families need to learn about the disease and make sure that young children with dengue are treated by doctors.

UN rights expert concerned at restriction of lawyers’ freedom in Cambodia

UN News Centre
http://www.un.org

1 July 2009 – A United Nations independent human rights expert today voiced concern at attempts to curtail lawyers’ freedom to effectively represent their clients in Cambodia, with criminal charges being leveled recently against attorneys in the South-East Asian nation.
“To be able to represent their clients effectively, lawyers should not be subject to threats or intimidation, nor should they be targeted for prosecution or disciplinary action merely for having acted in the interests of their clients,” said Leandro Despouy, the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers.

“Lawyers play an important role as defenders of human rights and must be free to represent their clients as they see fit in accordance with professional standards and the rule of law.”

Last week, he said, a lawyer, working for an opposition member of the National Assembly who alleged that she has been defamed by the country’s Prime Minister, was himself charged with criminal defamation and could be expelled from the Cambodian Bar Association.

This January, he added, defense lawyers representing defendants at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) – the UN-backed tribunal trying Khmer Rouge leaders accused of mass killings and other crimes three decades ago – were threatened with legal action by Cambodian judges for having called for corruption allegations at the tribunal to be properly investigated.

Further, Mr. Despouy noted, in June 2007, attorneys representing indigenous communities in Ratanakiri Province, involved in a land dispute with a businesswoman with ties to the Government, were threatened with criminal charges and disciplinary action for having allegedly “incited” communities to file a suit to reclaim their land.

The expert cautioned that these recent moves against lawyers seem to indicate a worrying new trend which could have a chilling effect on the legal profession, expressing his support and encouragement for the Bar Council and its President “in their efforts to strengthen the legal profession in Cambodia and to defend lawyers against attempts to undermine their independence.”

In a press release, Mr. Despouy, who reports to the Geneva-based Human Rights Council in an independent and unpaid capacity, underscored that Cambodia’s obligations under international law, as laid out in the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, say that “lawyers should not be identified with their clients or their clients’ causes as a result of discharging their functions.”

Khmer Rouge survivor's paintings saved his life

http://www.maximumedge.com

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia - A survivor of the Khmer Rouge's main prison said Wednesday that his ability to paint larger-than-life images of the regime's late leader, Pol Pot, and portraits of other communist icons helped save his life.

Bou Meng is one of only three living survivors of S-21 prison - all of them apparently spared because of skills deemed useful to the "killing fields" regime of the 1970s.

The artist was put to work painting portraits that glorified Mao Zedong of China and North Korea's Kim Il Sung and another that mocked Ho Chi Minh, the father of Vietnam's communist revolution.

"I was ordered to paint a picture of Ho Chi Minh's head on the body of a dog," 68-year-old Bou Meng told a U.N.-backed tribunal. Cambodia's archenemy was neighboring Vietnam, which eventually invaded to oust the Khmer Rouge in 1979.

Bou Meng was the third and final S-21 survivor to testify at the U.N.-backed trial of Kaing Guek Eav - better known as Duch - who headed the Khmer Rouge's notorious facility in Phnom Penh between 1975-1979. An estimated 1.7 million Cambodians died from forced labor, starvation, medical neglect and executions under the regime.

Duch is accused of overseeing the torture of some 16,000 prisoners before they were executed. Seven people are believed to have walked out of S-21 alive, only three of whom are alive today.

Bou Meng, like the other two survivors, said torturers beat him relentlessly to force a confession that he was a CIA spy.

"I didn't even know what the CIA was," he said. "I kept repeating my answer and they kept beating me."

The beatings stopped when his jailers found out he had a skill that could serve them.

"I survived because I could paint exact portraits of Pol Pot," he said. His first job was to copy Pol Pot's image from a photograph and make a towering painting that was 10 feet high and 5 feet wide (3 meters high and 1.5 meters wide). It took three months to complete.

Duch then ordered him to make three more paintings of Pol Pot and the other communist leaders.

Duch would sometimes oversee his work and smile at him when he did a good job or give him cigarettes, Bou Meng said.

Survivor Chum Mey, 79, testified Tuesday that he endured beatings, electric shocks and had his toenails pulled out but was spared execution because he knew how to fix cars, tractors, sewing machines and typewriters.

The only other living survivor, 63-year-old Vann Nath, testified Monday that he too escaped execution because he was an artist and painted portraits of Pol Pot.

Duch, (pronounced Doik), is charged with crimes against humanity, war crimes and murder. He has previously testified that being sent to S-21 was tantamount to a death sentence and that he was only following orders to save his own life.

Duch is the first senior Khmer Rouge figure to face trial and the only one to acknowledge responsibility for his actions. Senior leaders Khieu Samphan, Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary and Ieng Sary's wife, Ieng Thirith, are all detained and likely to face trial in the next year or two.

Preah Vihear listing a fact, accept it, says Pongpol

By: Bangkok Post.com
Published: 1/07/2009

The listing of Preah Vihear temple as a world heritage site was an accomplished fact and the government should explain this clearly to the people to prevent any more confusion, Pongpol Adireksarn, former chairman of the Thai World Heritage Committee, said on Wednesday.

Mr Pongpol said he questioned National Resources and Environment Minister Suwit Khunkitti's claim that the World Heritage Committee (WHC) had accepted for consideration Thailand's opposition to Cambodia's unilateral listing of Preah Vihear and listed the Hindu temple for reconsideration at its annual meeting in Brazil next year.

Mr Suwit has just returned from observing the WHC meeting in Seville, Spain.

Mr Pongpol said Preah Vihear temple had already been inscripted as a world heritage site, according to an announcement of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) on its website.

Mr Suwit's claim that Unesco would reconsider the decision was not credible, he said.

Any postponement of the Thai claim for dual listing rights was intended to give Cambodia until February next year to submit its plan for safeguarding and developing the Preah Vihear temple, he said.

The WHC initially obligated Cambodia to submit its plan by February this year, following the temple's heritage inscription last July.

However, Phnom Penh has not been able to submit many details of the plan, including a map of buffer zones around the site, owing to its boundary conflict with Thailand, said Mr Pongpol.

Mr Pongpol called for the government to explain this matter clearly to the people to prevent any confusion.

He pointed out that the WHC agreed to list Khao Yai, Thap Lan, Pang Sida and Ta Phraya national parks and Dong Yai Wildlife Reserve as world heritage sites on the condition that Thailand drew up a plan to connect the forests of Khao Yai and Thap Lan national parks and set up a single organisation to administer them.

Four years on, Thailand had still not met that condition.

However, the area had already been recognised as a world heritage site.

Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya insisted on Wednesday that the bilateral relations between Thailand and Cambodia were still cordial and both governments were continually working together to solve the border dispute.

"It is the responsibility of the army of each country to withdraw their troops along the border area, but I believe neither country wants an armed conflict," the minister said.

Community Video Statements: Our Concerns About The Lower Sesan 2 Dam

Part 1


Part2


Par3


cambocommunityfilms
Five villages from northeastern Cambodia participated to create videos to express their concerns about the proposed Lower Sesan 2 dam project. Each village chose filmmakers that received basic training on operating a video camera and using a microphone. These five videos were then edited together to make a composite "statement film" to represent a spectrum of feelings about the proposed dam. The five participating villages represent two different provinces (Stung Treng and Ratanakiri), and three different ethnic groups (Lao along with the Pnong and Brao indigenous peoples).

Read the report "Best Practices in Compensation and Resettlement for Large Dams: The Case of the planned Lower Sesan 2 Hydropower Project in Northeastern Cambodia" to learn more about the proposed project and its impacts
(http://www.ngoforum.org.kh/eng/envp/env pdoc/Hydro_BestPractices LowerSesan2reportEN.pdf).

Pictures of the day

Bou Meng, a 68-year-old artist who survived the Khmer Rouge torture centre S-21, speaks at the U.N. funded tribunal July 1, 2009. One of the few survivors of the Khmer Rouge's notorious Tuol Sleng prison gave chilling testimony of "hell on earth" when he faced his former torturer at a U.N.-backed war crimes tribunal on Wednesday. Like another survivor who testified at the joint United Nations-Cambodian tribunal, Bou Meng said he was alive only because he was an artist and Duch, the torturer, liked his drawings of Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot. REUTERS/ECCC/Handout (CAMBODIA POLITICS CRIME LAW)

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen gestures during a speech at Kamport province, 146 km (91 miles) west of Phnom Penh July 1, 2009.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA POLITICS)

Children look at a vendor riding a 50 year-old male elephant named Cham Reoun at market in Kamport province 146km (93 miles) west of Phnom Penh July 1, 2009. The vendor is traveling across Cambodia selling traditional medicine in rural areas.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA SOCIETY HEALTH)

A farmer works at a rice paddy in Kamport province 146km (93 miles) west of Phnom Penh July 1, 2009 .REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA AGRICULTURE ANIMALS)

What's so funny in Cambodia?

What's so funny? On Jan. 7, 1999, Cambodia's ruling party President Chea Sim and Prime Minister Hun Sen share a laugh. (Darren Whiteside/Reuters)
http://www.globalpost.com
By Claire Duffett — Special to GlobalPost
Published: July 1, 2009

Comedians attack NGO workers as gold chain-wearing, Mercedes-Benz-driving swindlers. Funny, maybe. But is it true?

PHNOM PENH — Television is ubiquitous in Cambodia. Grainy screens flicker inside even the smallest street-side restaurants. On them, saccharine music videos or slapstick comedies mesmerize diners and servers alike. And recently, two popular comedies suddenly became overtly political when they began ridiculing non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

The shows aired on Bayon TV and CTN — both owned by members of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party — and depicted NGO employees as gold-chain-wearing, Mercedes-Benz-driving swindlers. In one episode, a foreign NGO donor visits Cambodia and shuns his responsibilities in favor of lounging in fancy villas and visiting prostitutes. In another sketch, NGOs pay poor villagers to put their thumbprints on a petition condemning government corruption.

The comedies were a tit-for-tat reaction to the Clean Hands Concert held May 30 at Phnom Penh’s Olympic Stadium. The event celebrated the collection of 1 million thumbprints of Cambodians who support the passage of an anti-corruption law. More than 50,000 people attended, making it the largest anti-corruption rally in the world, according to sponsors USAID and Pact Cambodia. During the opening speech, U.S. Ambassador Carol Rodley said Cambodia loses $500 million to corruption annually. The Cambodian government condemned her remark, calling it "politically motivated and unsubstantiated.”

The concert also featured a medley of pop singers and comedians. In one sketch, the same actors who later performed in CTN’s parodies depicted a commune chief selling a government job to the highest bidder.

Khieu Sansana, who MC’d the concert and hosts two entertainment shows on CTN, said she was shocked when her colleagues turned around and criticized NGOs the following week. “I thought everything was fine. Then, later on, there was a team that came along and did this critical thing,” Khieu Sansana said. While she volunteered for the concert, she said her comedian colleagues were paid for their participation. “When I saw their show, I almost cried.”

The comedians who appeared in both the concert and the TV satires declined to be interviewed for this article, and it remains unclear whether or not they were instructed to perform the comedy sketches. The leader of the CTN troupe, Chuong Chy, told local media that he wrote the script.

One comedian from Bayon TV, who did not participate in the concert, said he performed in his station’s sketches because he was offended by the concert’s message.

“The government is the parent — we don’t know if it’s right or wrong,” comedian Thou Chamrong told GlobalPost. “If someone curses your mother, you will be angry.”

The concert’s violation of Cambodian decorum prompted the backlash, agreed Chhith Sam Ath, executive director of the NGO Forum of Cambodia. Cambodian etiquette shuns confrontation and causing embarrassment is considered bad form.

“You cannot use the same approach you use in the U.S. There’s a different context and different cultures,” Chhith Sam Ath explained. “Here, talking and dialogue is more effective than public displays.”

According to Yong Kim Eng, the director of an NGO that helped conduct the thumbprint campaign, the government's ire is specifically focused on ambassador Rodley. He believes the TV satires reflect the personal opinions of the performers and said that government officials support the Clean Hands Campaign, which started in 2005 and includes an array of initiatives in addition to the petition and the concert.

“I support the organization, not the concert,” said Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Minister. “This government is not under anyone’s pressure … We will reform quietly, slowly.”

A draft of an anti-corruption law was first circulated in 1994. In 2004, the government promised to pass it by the end of 2005. Currently, council ministers are reviewing the bill, Phay Siphan said. Few NGOs understand the challenges of such sweeping legislation in Cambodia’s “culture of corruption,” he added. According to a 2008 Transparency International Index, Cambodia is the 14th most corrupt country in the world, out of 180. It is one of eight countries most affected by petty bribes, according to the same organization.

To implement an anti-corruption law, the government must first amend its criminal code to include an entirely new legal system related to corruption, Phay Siphan said. The National Assembly is currently reviewing the amended code. Once it is passed, the anti-corruption bill can begin to move, although Phay Siphan wouldn't say when.

Phay Siphan argued that NGO pressure only slows progress and that their presence in Cambodia is generally harmful. There are more than 2,000 NGOs in Cambodia and the government does not regulate them — donors are responsible for oversight. For the past several years, Prime Minister Hun Sen, prone to bluster, has threatened to create a law regulating NGOs. Phay says no such bill yet exists, but if one is written, it would be limited to combating terrorist cells masked as NGOs. The NGO community, however, is wary that such a law would target government watchdogs.

“The recent experiences of many other countries which — like Cambodia — lack independent judiciaries and other institutions, have shown that NGO laws are regularly used to stifle criticism of the government by civil society,” said a June 2009 paper by Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights.

NGOs first flourished in Cambodia when the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) took control of the country from 1992 to 1994 to implement a peace agreement, ending more than a decade of post-Khmer Rouge civil war. UNTAC cost $1.5 billion, making it the most expensive peacekeeping mission in United Nations history. Aid organizations received funding to support the mission and the flow of foreign money combined with a lack of oversight created the “NGO heaven” that exists in Cambodia today, said Pierre Yves Clais, a hotel owner and expatriate who came to Cambodia in the mid-1980s as a peacekeeper with the French military.

“[NGOs] can stop bad things from happening once in a while … but as far as real development, it is zero,” said Clais, who believes NGOs are inefficient and have outlived their usefulness. The government, and its media holdings, encourages this sentiment.

“Viewers just watch it and laugh,” comedian Thou Chamrong said of the parodies. “But politicians and those who know about politics watch it and sing.”