Thursday, 16 July 2009

Cambodia: 700 police and military mobilised to forcibly evict families this Friday

Amnesty international, UK
http://www.amnesty.org.uk/

Posted: 16 July 2009

The Cambodian government should act immediately To stop the forced eviction, scheduled for this Friday (17 July), of some 60 low-income families living in the area of Phnom Penh known as Group 78, Amnesty International said today. Some 700 police and military police have been mobilised to forcibly evict the families, according to fresh reports.

The Municipality of Phnom Penh issued a 'final eviction notification' to Group 78 in April 2009, in breach of the 2001 Land Law. The Appeal Court on 13 July ruled that the eviction notification was legal.

The Phnom Penh authorities have given different reasons for the eviction of the families, ranging from beautification of the city to claims that the community are illegal squatters. In the 'final eviction notification' the Municipality states that the community is living on land belonging to a private company and on a public road. Group 78 maintains that under the Land Law they are the rightful owners of the land.

The Group 78 families started moving into the area on the riverfront in 1983. Since then the value of the land has increased enormously. The families have applied for formal land titles several times, but the authorities have rejected their applications, despite the families having official documentation proving strong ownership claims.

The families have not accepted the compensation packages that the Phnom Penh Municipality has offered because they deem it unfair and inadequate.Last week, officials from the Phnom Penh Municipality met with some Group 78 residents, in an attempt to coerce them into accepting compensation. The residents were not allowed to speak at the meeting. A community representative described the meetings as very intimidating, with officials, including Phnom Penh's deputy governor, warning that police and military police would demolish their community if they did not accept the compensation on offer.

The Municipality has offered house owners four options: US$8,000; US$5,000 plus a small plot of land; US$1,500 plus a small plot of land and a small house at Trapeang Anchanh resettlement site; or an apartment at a different resettlement site that they have never seen. Trapeang Anchanh is some 20 km from where they now live and work, and basic services such as water, electricity, sanitation and sewerage are inadequate. The cost of transport to and from the site for work far exceeds their daily earnings.

At no point in the three-year-long land dispute have the Cambodian authorities held genuine consultations with Group 78. Nor have they explored any feasible alternatives to the proposed eviction, including proposals about onsite development submitted by Group 78 residents themselves.

Background
In January 2009, about 400 poor urban families were forcibly evicted from Dey Kraham, which is near Group 78. Their homes were destroyed by an estimated 250 members of the security forces, together with demolition workers. Many people lost their possessions. The vast majority were initially made homeless, and had no option but to move to a site far from Phnom Penh, without basic services and with shelters still under construction. On several occasions officials from the Phnom Penh Municipality have warned the Group 78 families that if they do not accept one of the compensation packages, they will see a resolution similar to that of Dey Kraham.

Forced evictions are carried out without adequate notice and consultation with those affected, without legal safeguards and without assurances of adequate alternative accommodation. Under international law, including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural rights (ICESCR), Cambodia is prohibited from carrying out forced evictions, and must protect people from forced evictions.

In May 2009 during its scrutiny of Cambodia's compliance with the ICESCR, the UN Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights expressed concern over the number of forced evictions in Cambodia. In its concluding observations, the Committee noted 'with serious concern' the imminent eviction of Group 78 as one example, and recommended that Cambodia introduces a moratorium on all evictions until a 'proper legal framework is in place and the process of land titling is completed, in order to ensure the protection of human rights of all Cambodians'.

Cambodia jails Japanese man for six years over child porn


Thu, Jul 16, 2009
AFP

PHNOM PENH - A Cambodian court on Thursday sentenced a Japanese man to six years in prison for taking nude photographs of boys in the kingdom's popular seaside town of Sihanoukville, court officials said.

A prosecutor told AFP that the town's court found Shunichi Nakagawa, 33, guilty of taking pornographic pictures of seven boys aged under 14.

"The court today sentenced the man to six years in jail on the charge of producing child pornographic pictures," prosecutor Bou Bunhang said by telephone.

Police arrested Nakagawa in August last year for allegedly paying the seven boys less than eight dollars each to pose nude while he snapped photos.

Cambodia has struggled to shed its reputation as a haven for paedophiles, putting dozens of foreigners in jail for child sex crimes or deporting them to face trial in their home countries since 2003.

Too Late for Revenge

The New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com

By MARSHALL KIM
Published: July 15, 2009

I WAS 15 in 1975, when Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge overtook Cambodia, enslaving my people and turning our farmland into what the world now calls the Killing Fields. During the next four years I lost my mother and father, my brothers, aunts, uncles and friends to the cruel oppression that claimed 1.7 million lives.

As a boy I prayed every day for someone to stop the slavery and the killings. No one did. I saw soldiers force people to dig the holes in which they would be buried alive. We ate mice, rats, lizards. My 8-year-old niece starved before my eyes. I cried until I had no tears.

I survived by cutting our Khmer Rouge leader’s hair and making bamboo baskets, which my elders used to carry away the dirt we were ordered to dig from canals. In 1979, alone and desperate, I escaped to a Thai refugee camp. Sponsors helped me gain passage to New York City in 1982. I spoke no English, had no money and lived tormented by images of cruelty and death.

Today, I own a hair salon in Manhattan and live with my wife and two children in Scarsdale. We have enough to eat, to call a doctor or buy medicine when sick, and money left over for charity. I wonder why I am so blessed.

Now I read about the United Nations trial of Kaing Guek Eav, known as Comrade Duch, the Khmer Rouge commander of the Tuol Sleng prison. I read the testimony of victims and witnesses, like me, of torture and murder.

And I find myself asking, what sort of justice is possible now? After ignoring our suffering when action might have saved our country, what does the United Nations expect to do for Cambodia now? Placing elderly Khmer Rouge leaders on trial will not bring back those who lost their lives in the Killing Fields, or bring peace to the survivors. It will only stir more anger and misery and hate. Pol Pot, the chief criminal, is long dead. So are many of the others who killed and tortured at his command.

For Cambodians, this should be a time of cooperation, peace and prosperity. Around 70 percent of Cambodia’s population is under 30 years old. They didn’t experience the Killing Fields, and they face enough challenges in their daily struggle to make ends meet. We who were lucky enough to survive once looked forward to trials, but it has been 30 years — too much time has gone by for us to want to waste our energy seeking revenge.

I don’t mean to say we should forget. We can’t. Let the horrors be documented in books and films and let the truth be recorded for the entire world to learn. But by pursuing this trial instead of working to improve the lives of young Cambodians, the United Nations demonstrates it still has not learned the lesson of the Killing Fields: Act before it’s too late.

Marshall Kim, the owner of a hair salon, is the founder of the Cambodian-American Foundation for Education, a charitable organization.

The Policy to Sell Fishing Lots to Commercial Fishing Companies Makes 40% of the People Living around the Tonle Sap Lake Live in Poverty – Wednesday,

Posted on 16 July 2009
The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 621
http://cambodiamirror.wordpress.com/

“According to studies and findings of international aid agencies and the Asian Development Bank about the condition of Khmer people, it is noticed that the Tonle Sap Lake, one of the world’s big lakes rich in fish yield, which feeds about 2 million Khmer people in the surrounding provinces, now cannot sustain the living conditions of the people and protect them from poverty.

“The Asian Development Bank noticed that up to 40% of the Khmer people living in the provinces around the Tonle Sap Lake live in poverty. This information is based on different observers, on civil society organizations, and especially on Khmer citizens who live there, depending on this Cambodian fresh water lake. This situation results mainly from selling fishing lots – areas formerly in their natural status – by the Cambodia government to private commercial interests for money.

“Therefore, the Asian Development Bank provided US$3.5 million to assist Khmer poor people in seven provinces around the Tonle Sap Lake a few months ago.

“A food crisis happened in 2008, especially after Prime Minister Hun boasted that there were was a surplus of more than 2 million tonnes of paddy rice, and then the border was opened for Yuon [Vietnamese] and Siamese [Thai] merchants to come to buy paddy rice from Khmer farmers, causing the food prices to rise, which developed into a crisis which caused more than 10 million Khmer people to get poorer.

“This is what was noticed in a statement of the World Bank, as this major donor decided to grant more than US$13 million to create small scale agricultural units for farmers, and social protection support for poor people in Cambodia.

“The economic crisis in Cambodia is derived from the global economic crisis, even though Cambodian leaders, including the Prime Minister and the Minister of Economy and Finance, had announced that this crisis does not pose a severe problem for Cambodia. However, a high ranking official of the government now recognizes the economic downturn in Cambodia.

“The secretary general of the Ministry of Economy and Finance, Mr. Hang Chuon Narong, said recently that the economic growth of Cambodia for 2009 has declined to 2%, lower than the assessment by the Asian Development Bank, which had estimated that the economic growth of this year is more than 2%.

“The World Bank said that this economic crisis makes more than 200,000 people lose their jobs, and about 78 factories will close down.

“The secretary general of the Ministry of Economy and Finance, Mr. Hang Chuon Narong, recognized that the current global economic crisis can pull down people who stay a little bit above the poverty line again to be down below it.

“This statement is not different from what a parliamentarian, the president of the Sam Rainsy Party, and a well-known economic expert of international class, Mr. Sam Rainsy, had said. Mr. Sam Rainsy said that the Cambodian economic crisis results from the inability of Prime Minister Hun Sen and from corruption of the government.

Mr. Sam Rainsy said that Khmer people become poorer and poorer, and the number of the poor is increasing; this is also recognized by the World Bank and international development aid agencies.

“The president of the opposition party explained that the major reason making most Khmer people to remain poor, and leading to an increasing number of poor people, is the wrong economic policy of the government. He said those in power in the country sell national resources, such as forests and natural fishing lots, which used to be basis for a good living of the people, to merchants. As a result, the basis to support the livelihood of people is lost.

“Those who know the facts about people who fall into poverty, because of the global financial crisis and the failed economic policy of the government, through their own observation, are the Khmer people themselves. They encounter difficulties, after the government sells the natural lake, which is full of fish, and provides grazing areas around to feed the cattle of the farmers, to ecoonomic interests, like they sell also the forest to private companies. Therefore, the livelihood of the people goes down, just as Mr. Sam Rainsy has said.”

Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.3, #446, 15.7.2009
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Orchard a 'killing field'

Him Huy (left) was giving evidence at the trial of his former prison chief Duch, who has admitted responsibility for overseeing the torture and execution of around 15,000people held at Tuol Sleng prison. --PHOTO: AFP

The Straits Times

July 16, 2009

PHNOM PENH - A MAN who worked as a guard at the main Khmer Rouge torture centre described to Cambodia's UN-backed war crimes trial on Thursday how prisoners were executed at a 'killing field'.

Him Huy, 54, was giving evidence at the trial of his former prison chief Duch, who has admitted responsibility for overseeing the torture and execution of around 15,000 people held at Tuol Sleng prison, also known as S-21, during the late 1970s.

'All prisoners who were detained at S-21 would never be released. They only waited for interrogation and execution,' Him Huy told the court.

The witness said prisoners were informed they were going 'to a new home' and then trucked - sometimes in loads of up to 100 people - to Choeung Ek killing field, a former orchard on the outskirts of capital Phnom Penh.

'My force would guard those prisoners and the executioners would get ready at the pit. Guards would post at the gates and each prisoner would be walked to the pit to be killed,' Him Huy said.

'When they were killed, first they were asked to sit at the edge of the pit, then they would be struck, then their throats would be slashed, then (guards) would take off their clothes and their handcuffs,' he added.

Him Huy told the court that although he never saw Duch abuse a prisoner, the prison chief witnessed killings. 'I saw him (Duch) twice at Choeung Ek. He stayed there until all detainees were executed and then he would leave,' Him Huy said.

The 66-year-old Duch, whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav, has accepted responsibility for his role governing the jail and begged forgiveness near the start of his trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

But he has consistently rejected claims by prosecutors that he held a central leadership role in the Khmer Rouge, and maintains he never personally killed 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 1975-1979 regime. -- AFP

Former Khmer Rouge guard tells of 'killing field'

The Sunday Times
http://www.news.com.au

From correspondents in Phnom Penh
July 16, 2009

A MAN who worked as a guard at the main Khmer Rouge torture centre described to Cambodia's UN-backed war crimes trial how prisoners were executed at a "killing field".

Him Huy, 54, was giving evidence at the trial of his former prison chief Duch, who has admitted responsibility for overseeing the torture and execution of around 15,000 people held at Tuol Sleng prison, also known as S-21, during the late 1970s.

"All prisoners who were detained at S-21 would never be released. They only waited for interrogation and execution," Him Huy told the court.

The witness said prisoners were informed they were going "to a new home" and then trucked - sometimes in loads of up to 100 people - to Choeung Ek killing field, a former orchard on the outskirts of capital Phnom Penh.

"My force would guard those prisoners and the executioners would get ready at the pit. Guards would post at the gates and each prisoner would be walked to the pit to be killed," Him Huy said.

"When they were killed, first they were asked to sit at the edge of the pit, then they would be struck, then their throats would be slashed, then (guards) would take off their clothes and their handcuffs," he added.

Him Huy told the court that although he never saw Duch abuse a prisoner, the prison chief witnessed killings.

"I saw him (Duch) twice at Choeung Ek. He stayed there until all detainees were executed and then he would leave," Him Huy said.

The 66-year-old Duch, whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav, has accepted responsibility for his role governing the jail and begged forgiveness near the start of his trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

But he has consistently rejected claims by prosecutors that he held a central leadership role in the Khmer Rouge, and maintains he never personally killed 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 1975-1979 regime.

Khmer Rouge victims tricked on way to execution

By SOPHENG CHEANG, Associated Press Writer

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia – A senior security guard at the most notorious Khmer Rouge prison told a genocide tribunal Thursday that prisoners were told they were being freed as they were led to Cambodia's killing fields.

Instead, one by one, they were bludgeoned with oxcart axles and their throats slashed, he testified.

Former guard Him Huy testified at the trial of Kaing Guek Eav — better known as Duch — who headed the S-21 prison in Phnom Penh. Up to 16,000 people were tortured under Duch's command and later taken away to be killed during the Khmer Rouge's 1975-1979 rule. Only a handful survived.

Him Huy, 54, told the U.N.-backed court that he was assigned to protect executioners while they killed up to 100 prisoners per day.

"The prisoners were told that they were being transferred to live in new homes and were never told that they would be executed," he said.

He said the killings were conducted at night with the detainees shackled and blindfolded as they were taken to the execution grounds at Choeung Ek, nine miles (15 kilometers ) from S-21 prison.

After arrival, the prisoners were forced to sit in rooms and then taken one by one to the pits.

"The executioners were instructed to kill the prisoners by asking them to kneel down near the pits. Then they used oxcart axles to strike the back of their necks and later they used knives to slash their throats," he said.

Him Huy said another of his duties was to round up victims from the provinces for detention at S-21.

Duch (pronounced DOIK), 66, is the first senior Khmer Rouge figure to face trial and the only one to acknowledge responsibility for his actions. He is charged with crimes against humanity and is the first of five defendants scheduled for long-delayed trials by the tribunal.

Senior leaders Khieu Samphan, Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary and Ieng Sary's wife, Ieng Thirith, are detained and are likely to face trial in the next year or two.

Him Huy said he joined the Khmer Rouge movement in 1973. He was assigned to S-21 a year after the movement's victory in 1975.

He is the second senior S-21 staff member to testify against his former boss, Duch. On Wednesday a senior interrogator, Mam Nai, said he feared that the regime would one day even turn on him and order his execution. He denied using torture to extract confessions from the prisoners.

Mam Nai broke down in tears when recalling the deaths of family members and some, including one of his former teachers, who perished at S-21. He said his brothers, first wife and children were killed by the Khmer Rouge.

During the court session, Tan Chhiv Hot, 53, who claimed that her mother was a cousin of the deceased Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot, said her brother-in-law and niece died under his reign of terror.

"I hope that the court will find justice for my relatives who died," she said, breaking down in tears.

War of words for Cambodia, Thailand

Asia Times Online
http://www.atimes.com

Southeast Asia
Jul 17, 2009

By Stephen Kurczy

PHNOM PENH - The military standoff between Thailand and Cambodia over the 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple complex has emerged as a new regional security hotspot, one that has claimed at least nine lives, stifled bilateral commercial relations and consumed precious financial resources.

The row is expected to feature at next week's Association of Southeast Asian Nations Regional Forum (ARF) meeting in Phuket, Thailand, where US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be among those in attendance. With both governments playing the nationalism card to domestic constituencies, security analysts say there is no end in sight to the conflict, which in recent weeks has returned to the boil.

Tensions mounted last month when Thailand challenged the United Nations decision in 2008 to designate the temple as a world heritage site under the sole jurisdiction of Cambodia, motivating both sides to bolster their troop levels in the contested border area. Cambodia, meanwhile, has rejected Thailand's claim to 1.8 square miles (4.6 square kilometers) around the temple, which is more readily accessible from Thailand. The two countries share an 800-kilometer border.

Last week, Phnom Penh used the one-year anniversary of the temple's world heritage site registration as an occasion to stir anti-Thai sentiment. Celebrating what they referred to as a "victory" over Thailand, Cambodian authorities released pigeons from the cliff-top temple and monks at 4,000 pagodas nationwide simultaneously and symbolically banged drums.

In the capital, Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, Hun Sen's right-hand-man, accused Thailand of "trying to invade and take Cambodian land". Major General Srey Dek, the top commander at the temple, told the crowd: "On behalf of the soldiers, I want to send a strong commitment to fight any obstacle in order to protect my nation."

The nationalistic postures are crimping commercial ties with one of Cambodia's top trade and investment partners. "If the tension continues," said 20-year-old economics student Ath Dalen as he observed the celebrations, "it means Thai businessmen won’t invest in Cambodia."

The temple standoff is hurting both countries' teetering economies, already hit by the global economic downturn. This is particularly so in their shared border areas. Visitors to Cambodia's Preah Vihear province, whose primary tourist attraction is the temple, fell 50% in the first half of 2009, according to official statistics.

From Cambodia's perch, the military spat has made Thailand a less reliable business partner, prompting Cambodia to prioritize trade and investment ties with neighboring Vietnam. That's put negotiations towards a joint exploitation agreement for oil and gas deposits in the overlapping claims area in the Gulf of Thailand on the backburner.

Talks towards a joint agreement had been restarted after the anti-Thai riots of 2003, when a Cambodian mob burned the Thai embassy and ransacked Thai businesses in Phnom Penh. "The standoff can be costly, not only financially but also in terms of wasted labor, attention of our leaders, the time," said Cambodian Economic Association President Chan Sophal. "The worry is that if it cannot be contained, managed at some level, then it could significantly affect the economy."

He says that Cambodian farmers along the Thai border have long anticipated a bilateral agreement that would allow them to export goods more cheaply from Thai shipping ports. "The agreement has stagnated because of the border conflict," Chan said. He claims local farmers now must pay three times as much to ship their goods from the Cambodian port of Sihanoukville.

Heated nationalism
The conflict is deeply entwined in domestic politics on both sides. Thailand controlled Preah Vihear for much of the 20th century, but relinquished control after the International Court of Justice ruled in 1962 that the contested temple is within Cambodian territory. It became a Khmer Rouge jungle base in the 1970s, and their rusted canons still sit beside the temple's 800-meter-long causeway.

Leading up to the UN's July 7, 2008, recognition of Preah Vihear as one of the world's important historical relics, nationalistic and anti-government Thai protestors amassed at the temple to protest the Foreign Ministry's acknowledgement of the UN's designation. Tensions eventually spread to two additional disputed temples along the border. Thai and Cambodian troops clashed in October, leaving one Thai and three Cambodians dead.

The two sides exchanged automatic weapon fire and rockets again in April, killing three Thai and two Cambodian soldiers. As the first anniversary of the temple's heritage recognition approached earlier this month, Thai and Cambodian troops, previously playing together friendly games of cards, were again tensely poised just 50 meters apart. Thailand's commander for the area was quoted saying that his troops were ready "to promptly retaliate" if attacked.

The escalating spat has raised hard new questions about ASEAN's ability to manage regional conflicts. The organization does not demand a resolution to the problem because non-intervention is the "ASEAN way", according to security analyst Andrew Tan, an associate professor at the University of New South Wales in Sydney. He says the border issue at Preah Vihear "is another manifestation of the reality that underlies the outward expression of regional comity expressed through various ASEAN declarations".

Comity has so far been in short supply. Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya in March referred to Hun Sen as a "gangster" in the local media. Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's rhetoric has vacillated between conciliatory and confrontational. His request that the UN's world heritage committee consider jointly registering the temple angered Phnom Penh.

Domestic politics have contributed to the conflict. Hun Sen's perceived close friendship with deposed Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who from exile has in recent months stirred anti-government street chaos in Bangkok, has greatly strained bilateral relations. There have been unconfirmed reports that Thaksin and his allies have met in Cambodia to discuss strategies.

Both anti-Thaksin yellow-shirt protestors and pro-Thaksin red-shirt protestors have rallied at the temple in the past year. "Nationalist elements in Thailand could choose to blow this up to distract attention from domestic political and economic issues," said Tan.

Meanwhile, bluster from Phnom Penh has also fueled mistrust. In October, Hun Sen vowed to turn the temple area into a "death zone" unless the Thai army pulled back. He recently boasted that Cambodian forces at the temple are equipped with modern ground-to-air missiles and vowed to shoot down any Thai fighter jets that breached Cambodian air space.

He also reportedly told Thai Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban and Defense Minister Prawit Wongsuwon during their June visit to Phnom Penh that they would need to mobilize between 30,000 and 50,000 soldiers to match 10,000 Cambodian troops.

Such tough talk is clearly aimed at domestic audiences. "The Preah Vihear issue provides a very convenient excuse to divert the international attention from negative phenomena in [Cambodia], like reluctance to solve the problem of Khmer Rouge legacy and reproaches against rampant corruption," said an ambassador based in Bangkok. "It is a classic example of seeking a culprit away from one's own house."

For Thailand, too, "the border problem provides an excellent excuse to divert the public opinion from political woes," said the ambassador. While fighting would hurt Thailand's international image, it would divert Thai attention away from economic woes, political gridlock, and the pro-Thaksin street rallies that continue to vex Abhisit's government. "Diplomats here are afraid things may spin out of control, as escalation of hostilities seems quite presumable," the ambassador said.

Thai Deputy Prime Minister Suthep's July 4 visit to Cambodia, combined with a series of military meetings and a photogenic lunch date at the temple on July 5, demonstrated the desire of both countries to maintain peace at the temple, said Koy Kuong, Cambodia's Foreign Affairs Ministry undersecretary of state.

High-level Thai and Cambodian military officials met on July 9 and "promised that we won't fight again and that we will find a peaceful solution", according to Cambodian Defense Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Chhum Socheat. He added that the two sides agreed to talk again in Bangkok during a meeting of the General Border Committee from July 21-23.

Teruo Jinnai, head of Unesco's Phnom Penh office, regards the recent meetings as a "positive development" towards resolving the standoff. "I hope this new trend will continue," he said.

Yet despite those diplomatic overtures, Thailand has according to Cambodian sources in recent weeks built concrete-enforced trenches and doubled its troop level to 4,000. On July 10, according to Thai sources, Cambodia deployed six tanks to the area, adding to its already 9,000-strong soldier presence. And while Thai and Cambodian troops are for now back to picnicking and playing games together, more conflict is likely in the cards.

Stephen Kurczy is an Asia Times Online contributor based in Cambodia. He may be reached at kurczy@gmail.com.

Thai PM Abhisit twists history with Web site

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 16 July 2009
Sam Sok

Dear Editor,

While browsing through the front page of The Phnom Penh Post online news, an article titled "Thai Web site reignites spat over territory" caught my attention. According to the report, the Thai Web site contains a video claiming part of Cambodia as lost Thai territory. Interestingly, it appears that the Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has shamelessly launched that Web site for political reasons.

It is not new to many Cambodian people that Thailand has been spending a huge amount of time and money in the school system twisting the facts of history in Southeast Asia. Many Cambodian people at home and abroad know that Thai schools have been teaching the students hatred towards the Cambodian people.

Veasna Kuch, a Cambodian immigrant who resides in St Petersburg, Florida, said that he had a dispute with a professor over a Thai history book when he was at the border fighting the Vietnamese invasion during the 1980s. "The professor who taught history at the time was required by the Thai authorities to use a Thai history book from Chulalongkorn University, and the information was not correct", he said. "I know Khmer history, so the Thais were not able to cheat me," he added.

Although, as many of us know, some Thai historians do not agree with Thai history books, the latest political endeavour of the Oxford-educated Abhisit has taken that faulty information to the next level by launching his new Web site. For a short period as the Thai premier, Abhisit has brought more tension, not less. When he made a one-day visit to Cambodia in June 2009, I was hoping that he could strengthen the relationship with Cambodia. But after he returned home, the relationship soon deteriorated when he asked the world heritage body UNESCO to reconsider its decision to formally list the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple in Cambodia.

It seemed that Abhisit had good intentions during the UNESCO meeting in Seville, Spain, also in June 2009. But obviously, while Abhisit's right hand was patting Prime Minister Hun Sen on the back, his left hand was carrying a dagger. He apparently tried to gain supporters in order to distract attention away from his failure by bending the real history.

A politician such as Abhisit who openly manipulates history for his own political purposes goes beyond typical dirty politics. Why would you reinvent history? Let history speak for itself.

Sam Sok
Florida


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Send letters to: newsroom@phnompenhpost.com or PO Box 146, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The Post reserves the right to edit letters to a shorter length.

The views expressed above are solely the author's and do not reflect any positions taken by The Phnom Penh Post.

Cambodia, China complete phase 1 of GMS Information Highway Project

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

July 16, 2009

A signing ceremony for the completion of Phase 1 of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) Information Highway Project in Cambodia was held here on Wednesday by China's Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd. ("Huawei") in collaboration with Telecom Cambodia.

Both parties provided a brief overview and arrangement of the work of Phase I of the GMS Information Highway Project - a project funded by the government of China - and voiced their support for the promotion and development of Phase 2 of the Project.

The event was graced by the presence of the Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy and Finance Keat Chhon, Minister of Posts and Telecommunication So Khun, diplomats from Chinese Embassy and representatives of other technical experts.

"The project will help strengthening and foster the relationships between our people and nations in the GMS region, as well as to promote stronger Cambodia's and regional economies," said Keat Chhon, adding that "in particular, this project would play an important role in strengthening the relationship between China and Cambodia in developing tele-communication sector."

The GMS Information Highway Project Phase l - started from Dec.2007 and completed in June 25, 2009 - involved the task of laying an optical fiber cable over a total distance of 649.9 km and equipment upgrades for the 11 stations as well as the construction of 15 new stations along the route within the Kingdom of Cambodia.

The completion of the GMS Information Highway Project Phase l has brought about, within the Kingdom of Cambodia, the coverage of an optical transmission system in the Mekong Basin with a high capacity backbone in addition to interconnection with Thailand, Laos and Vietnam, promoting to a great extent the construction level of basic communication networks of Cambodia, building a solid foundation for further development in the Cambodian communications industry.

In the mean time, interaction between all countries of the Greater Mekong Subregion has been strengthened, making it a crucial contribution to the joint development of all nations in the subregion.

"I strongly believe that the development of telecommunication sector, GMS-IS, in Cambodia will strengthen the long-lasting cooperation between Cambodia and China as well as the cooperation in the Greater Mekong Subregion for sustainable economic growth and prosperity of all countries in the region," Keat Chhon said.

Source:Xinhua

Mam Nay, Duch’s former deputy: amnesia and serious accommodation with truth

Tuol Sleng / S-21 (Phnom Penh, Cambodia). A “simple interrogator,” Mam Nay allegedly saw or heard nothing of the crimes committed in S-21 against prisoners he found “neither too thin or too fat”… Words that stirred heated reactions in the audience
©John Vink/ Magnum (file picture)

By Stéphanie Gée
15-07-2009

Mam Nay, former head of the interrogation unit at S-21 – the equivalent in this structure of the political commissioner dear to communist regimes –, returned before the Chamber on Tuesday July 14th, duly assisted by a lawyer this time, as recommended by the defence on the previous day. All throughout the day, the witness in Duch’s trial was assailed with questions by the judges – for good reason, as his answers were quite often terse, alternating between “I don’t know” and “I don’t remember,” when he was not ostensibly lying. His testimony prompted much outcry and out loud comments in the public gallery, as the audience was exasperated by such bad faith. The ten seats reserved for civil parties in the courtroom were all occupied for once.

Where should the witness’ lawyer be placed?
The tribunal managed to find a lawyer for Mam Nay but, at the start of the hearing, the defence expressed “the strongest reservations” regarding the place he was given: on the same bench as Duch’s defence counsels. “This leads to granting, by anticipation, the request of the Prosecutor to consider Mr. Mam Nay as an accused today. […] It seems to me that is not correct,” François Roux, Duch’s international co-lawyer, argued. The international co-Prosecutor, who said the situation did not offend him, added he regretted that the defence worried, on the previous day, about “whether the witness was fully aware of his rights.” William Smith stressed that the remark should not have been made in front of the witness, but before his testimony and in camera.

President Nil Nonn announced that the Chamber would not change the seat it assigned the lawyer called to assist Mam Nay, which “does not mean in any way that the witness is guilty.” He took the opportunity to recall the parties that “the trial management came under the sole authority of the Chamber.”

At M-13, Mam Nay planted potatoes…
The teacher with a toneless voice, who was detained under Norodom Sihanouk’s regime on the grounds he had associated himself with the revolution, joined as a student the Khmer Rouge movement and was then an ardent admirer of communism, he admitted. Mam Nay joined in 1973 the M-13 security centre, directed by Duch in Omleang, before following him to S-21. “At the beginning [at M-13], I wasn’t assigned any special task. I only had to plant potatoes. Occasionally, I was ordered to go to Sector 31 to make contact with its chief in order to request supplies. […] At night, [Duch] would have me sit down and observe the way he interrogated detainees. One day, he asked me to proceed to the interrogation of less important people,” the witness recounted for the president. Then, at S-21, his task was to “interrogate the detainees with lesser importance,” he explained with no more details.

The practice of torture: a mystery
Judge Thou Mony took over from Nil Nonn. “Can you tell us how the interrogations were carried out at the Omleang security office [M-13]?” “The interrogations essentially aimed to obtain biographies and know the activities of the detainees before their arrest,” Mam Nay said in a consummate art of bare replies. “What were the techniques used during interrogations, in particular when the detainee would not answer?” “Obtaining the biography was not a very important task. We asked people to simply tell us about their past activities […]. If they refused to answer, we could push them to describe them in detail.” The interrogation summaries were then sent to Duch. “Did the other interrogators practice torture?”, the judge asked. “I do not believe I know that.” “Was torture used in Omleang against detainees?” “From what I saw, it is possible torture was used or not used.” “Once the interrogation was over, was the detainee released or executed?” “I am not sure what happened. After the interrogation, the detainee was brought back to his cell…”

“I have no idea”
“Can you describe us the structure of S-21?” The former head of the interrogation unit at the detention centre again had a failing memory. “I do not have a very precise knowledge of the units in S-21, because I did not have an important position. […] I do not know the organisational details.” “Can you describe the S-21 compound and the area it encompassed?” “I don’t know it clearly.” A little later, he declared: “I interrogated [the detainees] on my own and I did not know who the other interrogators were.” “Do you remember where the people who were arrested and detained in S-21 came from?”, the judge persevered. Answer: “I don’t know.” “Who did you interrogate?” “It is difficult for me to tell you. Mostly, I interrogated soldiers or lower cadres in the hierarchy.” And other types of prisoners? “I have no idea.” “Were there Westerners in S-21?” “I have no idea, because I did not have the right to move freely or to mind the business of others.” What about Vietnamese prisoners? “Yes, there were Vietnamese prisoners. I can say so because Duch had instructed me to interrogate some of them.”

Mam Nay: “an ordinary cadre in charge of interrogations”
Judge Thou Mony returned to the interrogations: “What did you do if a detainee refused to confess?” Mam Nay explained he used diplomacy and, otherwise, he decided to send the prisoner back to his cell “to give him time to think” for a couple of days. Did he receive instructions from Duch – after sending him the interrogation report – about what should be done with the prisoners? “I do not remember.” And no, there were no meetings to discuss interrogation techniques or any supervision, in his case. As for the confessions extracted, he acknowledged that “their quality of truth was minimal.”

“Did you know where the detainees were imprisoned in S-21?”, the judge asked him. “I know nothing about this question either.” Following the line he gave himself, Mam Nay claimed he was “an ordinary cadre in charge of interrogations,” which he conducted “in a house outside of the high school compound.” He assured he had entered the S-21 compound only once. He allegedly “rarely met the other staff members.”

Detainees “neither too thin or too fat”
“Did the prisoners brought to you bear marks indicating they were previously tortured?”, Thou Mony persistently continued. “No, I did not see marks.” “Did the prisoners in S-21 receive sufficient food?” “I have no idea about this.” “Did you find those who were brought to you for interrogation in good health, thin or pale…?” Mam Nay’s reply caused some teeth gnashing in the audience: “From what I could observe, the prisoners were neither thin or pale. They appeared in a normal physical state. They were neither too thin or too fat.”

An interrogation room with no instruments of torture
“In your interrogation room, were there instruments of torture prominently displayed that could have had an intimidating effect on the state of mind of the detainee to be interrogated?” “In my room, there was no torture tool placed obviously on the table or on the walls.” “I interrogated the prisoners without resorting to torture. It is my understanding that the use of torture would result in false confessions,” he added shortly afterwards, on an innocent tone. But it is possible that torture was used in S-21 because, he suddenly justified, still with the same calm, “it was practiced by the former regime’s police.” Did you have the opportunity to interrogate female detainees?” “I do not remember it.”

One should take care of their silk-cotton tree
Mam Nay preferred not to ask questions. He also recalled a “very strict rule” that prevailed in S-21: “we could not circulate freely and we had to stay where we were posted. Just like under the former regime, when one should just ‘take care of their silk-cotton tree,’ as the saying went, and therefore be deaf and blind, except in relation to what one had to do. And if I have survived until today, it is because I followed that principle. If I had gotten involved in other people’s business, I would probably have been arrested and I would have disappeared.”

Hilarity and irritation in the audience
“Did you know what [the re-education camp of] Prey Sar was used for?” “As far as I know, Prey Sar was used to keep people who grew rice.” As for the Choeung Ek execution site, the witness claimed he “never knew” where it was located.

Leaning forward and hands crossed, Mam Nay appeared to be at ease. In the room, villagers played to anticipate his responses to the questions of the judges: “I don’t know.” A woman burst: “Send him back home if he doesn’t know anything.” Another decreed: “Mam Nay invented a new interrogation method with no torture.” Here, it was heard: “There were so many dead and he didn’t see anything,” and there: “he’s lying.” There was laughter, protest, irritation.

A “very intelligent” witness
In light of the witness’ studies and career, from school teacher to principal, judge Cartwright concluded: “One can say you are someone who is extremely educated and very intelligent.” “I do not boast about it, but what you say is not quite wrong.” Did Duch give instructions to interrogators on how to carry out interrogations? “I do not believe I know the answer to that.”

Back to the topic of the Vietnamese prisoners he had to interrogate. Mam Nay confessed to the New Zealand judge that those had been arrested “on the battlefield” and were therefore considered as war prisoners, whose confessions were recorded and broadcast on the radio. Indeed, Pol Pot’s regime was eager to carry out its propaganda outside of the country to denounce an aggression by the neighbouring country.

No idea about the fate reserved to the detainees
Silvia Cartwright as well returned to the fate awaiting prisoners once their confessions were extracted. As Mam Nay persisted in saying they were brought back to their cell, she asked him: “We know that the policy at S-21 was the one described by the accused, that is any person detained was presumed guilty and hence, any person detained at S-21 had to be executed one day. Is that correct?” “I have no idea.” She then raised the issue of the armed conflict between Cambodia and Vietnam. “When did it start?” “I do not remember the precise date […]. The conflict had started a very long time ago already, before the liberation [of April 17th 1975] because the Vietcong soldiers had been driven out of the country and the Vietnamese had attacked our frontiers.” Then, he corrected himself when the judge asked him to confirm his statement: in the end, the border conflict started “after” the liberation.

“Do you have memory problems?”
It was judge Lavergne’s turn to try and make the witness talk. When Mam Nay was incarcerated under Norodom Sihanouk’s regime, he ended up in the same cell as Duch. “What did you two talk about? Did you have political discussions?”, he asked. “During my detention, we never talked about politics, but about our need to eat to be able to survive.” When Mam Nay later joined the Communist Party of Kampuchea and was led to write his biography, did he mention his release from jail thanks to an intervention by Lon Nol, following a request from his family? “I do not remember that. I am not sure I mentioned it.”

On the next “I don’t remember well” uttered by the witness, Jean-Marc Lavergne retorted: “Do you have memory problems?” Mam Nay then justified most naturally memory troubles that arose after an accident in his youth. “Sometimes, I don’t even remember the name of my children…” “Did other people in M-13 use the same alias [Chan] as you?” “There was no one else.” He had hardly answered before his newly-appointed lawyer, Kong Sam Eoun, intervened: “I think my client did not hear the question clearly.” Judge Lavergne to Mam Nay: “Do you have hearing problems?” “Yes, it is a little difficult for me to hear,” the witness recognised. “Do you hear me well today?” Yes, the witness understood the question but took the chance to change his answer to the question he was asked into: “I wouldn’t be able to say.”

Mam Nay and the potato
“Aside from growing potatoes, did Duch give you any special responsibilities, especially when he had to go out of the M-13 centre?” No, the witness claimed. The judge tried again: “Maybe the accused can remind us of this, but during this testimony, he said that when he had to go out of M-13, he entrusted the direction of the centre either to Pon or to Mam Nay. Back then, did you have sight problems, Mr. Mam Nay?”

Judge Lavergne shook him up, put him in his place. The tone was sharp, one would almost believe Mam Nay was the accused. A good feeling. The roles were inverted. The witness was seen as what he was: a joker with very bad taste who was not fooling anyone.

“Did the detention conditions of the prisoners, who were placed in pits, seem to you normal, satisfying, compatible with human dignity?” “From what I could see, they were shackled, shirtless and were only wearing their shorts.” Mam Nay then assured he did not work as a guard at M-13. On this point again, the judge contrasted his statement with that of the accused, “who had indicated it was one of your functions.” Jean-Marc Lavergne then read an extract of the testimony of a witness, who was detained in M-13 and claimed he saw at M-13 “Chan” shoot in the head two men, who were tied to a post among others. Shortly before, that scene had not evoked anything to the witness, after it was told to him without citing his name.

Kambol (Phnom Penh, Cambodia). 14/07/2009: Kong Sam Eoun, lawyer for Mam Nay, during the latter’s testimony
©Stéphanie Gée


In light of the differences that emerged between the statements already made by Duch and Mam Nay’s testimony, in particular regarding the detention conditions which the former described as “cruel,” the judge wondered: “Mr. Mam Nay, you have lived with the accused, haven’t you?” Still unruffled, the witness argued: “First, I deny: I never shot anyone. Secondly, the prisoners’ detention was a necessary measure while the country was attacked by the US imperialists through Lon Nol’s regime. Living conditions both for prisoners and for ordinary people were dreadful. […] At the time, a small bit of potato was all I ate to last the whole day. Even if we weren’t detainees, we had more or less the same food rations as the prisoners.” “Speaking of food,” the judge followed, “could you remind us who was in charge of the food for the staff, whether at M-13 or S-21?” It was… Mam Nay’s wife.

Dead pigs
When the French judge brought up the episode of particularly violent floods at M-13, Mam Nay said he remembered. “Only 100 meters from the prison, the water was already at the level of my waist. […] Many people went for shelter on the roofs. Even pigs died in this flood. I do not know if people also died during the flooding.” The last sentence came with echoes of a statement by Nuon Chea, made when he surrendered late 1998: “Naturally, we are sorry, not only for the loss of people’s lives but also for those of animals.”

Pause on documents
Presenting himself as a disciplined subordinate who did what he was told to, Mam Nay was faced with documents from the Khmer Rouge period he allegedly authored. The witness did not have “clear memories” looking at them. “In your memory, if it can freshen up a little, is the name indicated at the bottom of this document yours?”, the judge asked, slightly irritated. Mam Nay noted the document was entirely typed and not handwritten, so he was unable to say anything about its authenticity… The judge insisted: “You were the only one able to issue such a document at S-21, weren’t you?” Shortly afterwards, Mam Nay replied, with a tad of insolence: “I am doing my best to try and refresh my memory, but nothing is coming back to me.” His lawyer took the floor. He noted his client could not see the whole document and it was difficult for him to grasp its content. He also expressed concern over the large “scope of questions” the judges asked the witness. The president found the first observation “justified” but for the second one, he recalled that the Chamber followed the procedure and asked “all the questions it deems useful.”

Right to silence… and duty to tell the truth
François Roux then decided to intervene as well, for a “clarification.” “Article 28 of the Internal Rules must be recalled, that is, a witness may object to self-incrimination […] and is entitled to remain silent on questions that may result in self-incrimination.” It was not the role of the defence to make such a reminder, even more so since the president had already duly informed the witness of his rights. Also, following a similar intervention by the defence on the previous day, the Chamber offered legal aid to Mam Nay, who was now assisted by a lawyer by his side. Alain Werner, co-lawyer for civil party group 1, joined the debate, with pertinence, by then requesting that the witness also be reminded his obligations under articles 35 and 36 of the Internal Rules, regarding “false testimony under solemn declaration” among others. The witness had the right to remain silent, indeed, but he also had the duty to “say the truth.”

Duch rushed to rescue Mam Nay
No sooner had judge Lavergne resumed the floor and asked another question than Duch intervened, while the president allowed it. The accused then launched into obscure explanations that completely lost the judge, who kept being interrupted. The accused was then asked to repeat himself. He tried to demonstrate that the documents shown on the screen bore Mam Nay’s name, unbeknownst to him. He just remembered it. And said he understood the witness’ surprise at discovering these documents. The two former comrades stuck together. Duch struggled to convince. The judge made him repeat his explanations, to no avail. They remained as entangled as ever…

Detainees who arrived at interrogation in good health
Finally, the judge was able to return to his question: “In your opinion, when you worked at S-21, […] were all the detainees in good health?” “When I was sent prisoners, they were healthy.” During his hearing, Mam Nay had explained to the court representatives that the revolution’s failure was to be attributed to the Cambodian people’s internal conflicts and the Vietnamese invasion. Did he have regrets? “That our country was invaded first by the United States, then by the Vietnamese.” Judge Lavergne: “I do not have any further questions to the accused, I mean, the witness.” One minute later, the international co-Prosecutor made the same slip…

Mam Nay, a revolutionary from the outset who left the Khmer Rouge movement only when it crumbled, was not going to belie the portrait of the gentle interrogator which the accused had started to sketch about him since a few weeks ago. However, he could have remained silent, a right he was previously informed about by the president. But he preferred to lie by omission or without scruples. His denial was such that it became contemptuous towards the countless victims. Will the lies in his testimony serve his companion Duch, who has been claiming since the start of the trial that he recognised his crimes and wanted to cooperate with the court? One doubts it.

Mam Nay’s testimony will continue on the next day [Wednesday July 15th].

(translated from French by Ji-Sook Lee)

Brothels spring up at border

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Women sit outside a brothel in Sa Em village, Choam Ksan district, Preah Vihear province. Though recent border tension has reportedly dealt blows to commerce and tourism in Preah Vihear, it has proved a boon to another industry: sex work. Local officials say four brothels have cropped up in the past year to meet demand from Cambodian soldiers stationed along the border.


The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 16 July 2009
Thet Sambath and Tracey Shelton

Officials say conflict during the past year has been a boon to the sex industry.

PREAH VIHEAR PROVINCE

THOUGH border tension in the past year has reportedly dealt blows to local commerce and tourism, it has proved a boon to another industry: sex work.

In Choam Ksan district's Sa Em village, located about 20 kilometres from Preah Vihear temple, at least four brothels have cropped up in the past year, with more than 30 prostitutes serving a client base dominated by soldiers.

"They settled here after more soldiers started to be based here," Prak Phy, the Sa Em village chief, said Tuesday. "Our village never had brothels and prostitutes before the tension at the temple."

Kao Long, a Choam Ksan district official and former district governor, said most of the girls were from the capital and from Banteay Meanchey, Battambang, Koh Kong and Siem Reap provinces. He said there were also some Vietnamese girls working in the brothels.

Prak Phy said officials had at first tried to cooperate with local police to "crack down" on the girls when they first started arriving last July, though he said elimination of the brothels had proved "impossible".

He said he finally grew to accept that the brothels were necessary, as "many soldiers need their enjoyment when they are relaxing".

Kao Long said Tuesday that he did not expect law enforcement officials to conduct any brothel raids, despite the fact that prostitution is illegal.

He said it was important for officials "to educate the girls how to use condoms to prevent the spread of diseases". Beyond that, however, he said they were unlikely to get involved.

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If there are more girls, please send them here so we can avoid … disputes.
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Naly Pilorge, director of the rights group Licadho, said she had not heard of the Sa Em brothels, but she noted that brothels near the border were "difficult to regulate" because few NGOs have a presence there.

She added, "There is an increased risk to women and to minors - if there are any - due to the lack of an NGO presence."

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
A sex worker runs through the rain to see a client in Sa Em village, Preah Vihear province.


Benign presence
Prak Phy said he had no problems with the village's newest occupants. In fact, he said, he hoped more would relocate there.

"Sometimes, there are disputes among soldiers because there are fewer girls and more men, so the men need to wait for a long time when the girls are busy serving their clients," he said. "If there are more girls, please send them here so we can avoid having these disputes."

He added that the prostitutes could also "reduce expenses" for the soldiers, who would not need to travel so often to see their wives.

"These girls here help make the environment good and help relieve soldiers because most of them are far away from their wives for many months," Prak Phy said.

Doung Phat, who heads a health centre in Sa Em, said Tuesday that some NGO workers had visited the prostitutes at brothels and urged them to use condoms.

Prak Phy said he believed the girls were charging between US$20 and $50 per night.

"Their services cost a lot because there are more men than women and everything is expensive here," he said.

A Sa Em sex worker who only gave her given name, Nary, said she made more money near the border because there were more clients to serve, not because prices were higher.

She said she charged around $25 per night.

"It is not expensive here because I am in a dangerous place, near a battlefield," she said.

City's poor unable to hold land

Photo by: HENG CHIVOAN
Group 78 residents protest at Canadia Bank’s head office Wednesday as part of a last-ditch effort to avoid eviction.


The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 16 July 2009
SEBASTIAN STRANGIO AND MAY TITTHARA

Activists say govt's titling scheme ignores its most vulnerable citizens.

THE impending eviction of the city's Group 78 community is the latest example of the failure of a World Bank-funded land-titling programme intended to improve tenure security for the urban poor, housing rights activists say.

Since 2002, the World Bank has funded a large part of the government's $38.4 million Land Management and Administration Project (LMAP), which was designed to establish an "efficient and transparent land administration system" in Cambodia by 2007, according to an early project appraisal.

The project, which also receives funding from the German, Finnish and Canadian governments, was recently extended through the end of this year.

But rights groups say that for besieged urban communities such as Group 78, which faces eviction from its Bassac riverfront site Friday, LMAP's efforts have so far done little good.

"The ineffectiveness of LMAP in securing [the] land rights of the urban poor is laid bare in the case of Group 78," said Natalie Bugalski, a legal officer at the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions.

"Households had clear evidence of possession rights but were denied access to the titling programme," she said, adding that the dispute had yet to be resolved "in accordance with the law".

Man Vuthy, a legal coordinator at the Community Legal Education Centre (CLEC), which represents Group 78, said that if the World Bank does not take action after the eviction of Group 78 residents, LMAP will have "failed".

He said that World Bank officials had met several times with CLEC lawyers to discuss land issues, but that they had neglected poor urban communities involved in land disputes in an effort to maintain a stable relationship with the government.

"We know the World Bank works peacefully with the authorities, but this is the last chance for the community," he said.

"The mechanisms don't work well, and it is only the World Bank that can help them."

On Tuesday, the Court of Appeal upheld a Friday eviction deadline for Group 78 after lawyers attempted to halt an April 20 eviction notice.

The government says residents are illegally squatting on land belonging to the state and to Sour Srun Enterprises, a local developer.

But Group 78 claims ownership of its Tonle Bassac commune site under Article 30 of the Kingdom's 2001 Land Law, which allows individuals to claim title over land if they have been in peaceful possession of it for five years prior to 2001. Many residents claim they have lived at the site since the mid-1980s.

Some say the strength of the community's claim only underlines the failures of the LMAP program.

In a March 4 letter from the CLEC to World Bank Country Director Annette Dixon, a copy of which has been obtained by the Post, lawyers noted that Group 78 had received several "illegal" eviction notices and its applications for land title were rejected by city authorities.

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The group 78 case is ... an important test case for the implementation of the lmap and the rule of law...
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"The Group 78 case is therefore an important test case for the implementation of the LMAP and the rule of law in Cambodia," the letter stated.

On April 30, Dixon wrote to Minister of Economy and Finance Keat Chhon to inform him that evictions could "damage the reputation of the Government as it moves to undertake important reforms in the land sector".

Dixon added: "We would suggest that a temporary moratorium on evictions be declared until such a legal and policy framework is in place, which would send a positive signal."

The LMAP project's appraisal document sets out contingencies to be followed regarding land dispute cases.

The document states the project "includes support for strengthening mechanisms of dispute resolution". It adds that the project would be "scaled back if [government] commitment to a fair process of dispute resolution is inadequate".

Housing rights activists say there has been a marked lack of progress on the ground.

David Pred, director of Bridges Across Borders Southeast Asia (BAB), said that while LMAP set out to "improve tenure security" for urban and rural land-holders and "reduce land conflict and land-grabbing", the opposite trend was evident.

"We have witnessed a significant increase in land disputes, land-grabbing and forced evictions over the past seven years," he said.

He added: "We have observed that the communities in Phnom Penh who are most vulnerable to displacement, like the residents of Group 78 ... have been denied access to the land titling and dispute resolution systems established by LMAP."

Mark Grimsditch, a BAB legal adviser, said that just 38,502 out of a projected 198,000 titles had been distributed by LMAP in Phnom Penh since 2002.

He said a number of eligible cases - including communities facing eviction at Boeung Kak lake - had been adjudicated but fell "at the final hurdle" after being arbitrarily denied their title certificates.

Though she described supervision by LMAP's donors as "inadequate", Bugalski said most of the blame fell on local authorities.

"The primary responsibility to ensure tenure security and protect against forced evictions lies with the Cambodian government," she said.

Criticisms of LMAP came as Group 78 representatives met with World Bank officials Wednesday in a last-ditch attempt to delay their scheduled eviction by city authorities.

Earlier, they protested outside Canadia Bank, which they claimed is in charge of a plan to build a bridge over the Tonle Bassac. The bridge project prompted the city to claim portions of the community's land, where it plans to build a road.

But Rath Kumnith, a legal adviser to Canadia Bank, said the bank was only providing a loan to the project and was not directly involved in it.

The World Bank was contacted for comment Thursday but had not responded as of press time.

KCF head to apologise for comments

SUED Recent victims

- Mu Sochua, SRP lawmaker: sued after filing her own defamation lawsuit against PM Hun Sen, due in court July 24
- Hang Chakra, editor: sued for articles published in opposition-aligned newspaper Khmer Machas Srok, jailed for one year on June 26
- Moeung Sonn, KCF chairman: sued for criticising proposed Angkor Wat lighting scheme, jailed for two years July 14
- Sam Rainsy, SRP president: sued for alleging PP Governor Kep Chuktema's involvement in vote-buying, court date not yet scheduled
- Ho Vann, SRP lawmaker: accused of defaming 22 senior army officials' educational credentials, due in court July 17
- Neou Vannarin, Cambodia Daily reporter: accused of defamation following an article on senior army officials' degrees, due in court July 17
- Dam Sith, editor: sued for running critical articles in Moneaksekar Khmer, forcing paper's closure on July 10
- Kong Sam Onn, SRP lawyer: sued after representing Mu Sochua in her lawsuit against PM Hun Sen, resigned and defected to CPP July 7

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 16 July 2009
CHRANN CHAMROEUN and SEBASTIAN STRANGIO

THE chairman of the Khmer Civilisation Foundation said he would apologise to Prime Minister Hun Sen and other senior government officials for his criticisms of a light-installation project at Angkor Wat, after Phnom Penh Municipal Court slapped him with a two-year jail term for disinformation Tuesday.

Moeung Sonn, who is currently in France, told the Post Wednesday that he was writing to Hun Sen, King Norodom Sihamoni and Deputy Prime Minister Sok An to apologise for comments made during a May 26 press conference, when he suggested that the heat from the lights could damage the 11th-century temple.

"My comments over the lighting installation at Angkor Wat temple were just a concern, and I had no intention of damaging the government's reputation or objecting to the Apsara Authority's development [of the site]," he said.

"I spoke out just to preserve and protect the World Heritage temple."

The Apsara Authority, headed by Sok An, administers the Angkor temple complex and planned the light installation as a way of encouraging nighttime visitation of the site.

Rights groups have slammed Tuesday's ruling, which included 15 million riels (US$3,615) in fines and compensation, describing it as a further blow to freedom of expression in the country.

"That the head of an organisation whose mandate is the promotion and protection of Khmer Culture cannot raise concerns in relation to the most emblematic symbol of Cambodian culture is more proof of the steady decline in freedom of expression in Cambodia in recent weeks," Naly Pilorge, director of the rights group Licadho, said in a statement Wednesday.

In the past month, former Sam Rainsy Party lawyer Kong Sam Onn and Dam Sith, publisher of the opposition-aligned Moneaksekar Khmer newspaper, both wrote personal apologies to the prime minister after being sued for defamation by government officials. Both saw the charges against them dropped.

In a statement released Tuesday, Human Rights Watch slammed what it called the government's "most serious crackdown in recent years", citing nine defamation and disinformation lawsuits filed against government critics, including critical politicians and media outlets.

"Once again, Hun Sen is showing his true stripes by harassing and threatening to imprison peaceful critics of his increasingly authoritarian government," Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in the statement.

Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, said he was not surprised by Moeung Sonn's intention to apologise for his comments, saying he was following a well-trodden path.

"I think he's being intimidated and forced to take the same route as Kong Sam Onn, Dam Sith and many other people before him," he said.

National symbol
Following Tuesday's court hearing, government lawyer Pal Chan Dara also outlined defamation suits filed against two pro-government newspapers, Kampuchea Thmey and Rasmey Kampuchea, for printing criticisms related to the Angkor Wat lighting scheme.

"No matter whether the paper is aligned to the government or the opposition, we will sue them in court for incorrect stories because our country is a state governed by the law," he said.

Ou Virak said the action against the pro-government newspapers made sense in light of comments from Sok An, who told the National Assembly in May that Angkor Wat was one of two issues - the other being the border - that were especially "sensitive" for the government.

But Moeun Chhean Nariddh, director of the Cambodia Institute of Media Studies, said the lawsuits were unlikely to involve the publishers and editors of the two newspapers.

"I don't think they'll sue the publishers, who are well-connected to the government," he said. "I think that they will target the reporters themselves."

Phay Siphan, Council of Ministers spokesman, said Tuesday the lawsuits had been withdrawn, since the publishers of Kampuchea Thmey and Rasmey Kampuchea had written letters of apology and promised to "train their reporters to print professional stories".

Revoke Hun Sen's visa: GW

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 16 July 2009
GEORGIA WILKINS

Global witness urges Britain not to let PM in.

Global Witness urged the British government Wednesday to revoke Prime Minister Hun Sen's visa ahead of a planned visit to the country to see his son graduate.

Hun Sen, who has been on an official visit to France where he met French President Nicolas Sarkozy, also planned to travel to Bristol, where his son resides and studies.

But the international watchdog claimed letting Hun Sen in the country would "signify a failure by the Labour government to live up to its commitments to fight corruption and promote development".

"Hun Sen's regime has presided over a process of grand corruption which has seriously undermined poverty alleviation in Cambodia, but Europe and the UK continue to welcome him and his entourage," Global Witness campaigner Eleanor Nichol said in a press statement released Wednesday.

"Meanwhile, gaps in Cambodia's state services are covered by the UK taxpayer through overseas aid."

Europeans react to Hun Sen
Hun Sen's France trip was also condemned by French-Cambodian group Khmer M'Chas Srok, which appealed to President Sarkozy to "remind" his guest of Cambodia's duty to respect its engagements and obligations towards "France and the international community".

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan called the move "uncivilised" and "undemocratic".

"It's an open society.... They should encourage [Hun Sen] to address corruption, not exclude him," he said.

Anti-Thai protests blocked

Photo by: TRACEY SHELTON
Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan (left) and union leader Rong Chhun (right) speak at separate press events Wednesday.

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 16 July 2009
Meas Sokchea

City Hall halts demonstration marking one-year anniversary of Thai troops' border incursion near Preah Vihear temple.

MUNICIPAL authorities prevented about 150 members of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions (CCU) from holding a demonstration in front of the old National Assembly building on Wednesday to mark the one-year anniversary of Thai troops crossing the border near Preah Vihear temple, CCU members said.

Instead, CCU leaders held a press conference at their office, during which they aired their grievances about the Thai government's handling of the Preah Vihear issue as well as the Cambodian government's decision to halt their demonstration plans.

"We express today as a day against Siam's invasion of our Cambodia," CCU President Rong Chhun said during the press conference, adding that the group's attempt to mark the anniversary would have been a show of nationalism that would have encouraged the Thai government to acknowledge the 1962 World Court ruling that stated that Preah Vihear temple belonged to Cambodia.

Chea Mony, president of the Free Trade Union, said his entire group became frustrated when it was barred from demonstrating in front of the old National Assembly building.

"This is not an issue that belongs to an individual. This is a national issue," he said.

City Hall on Wednesday sent a letter, signed by Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema, to the CCU informing it that its plans to stage a public protest against Thailand's military actions along the border near Preah Vihear temple had not been approved.

The letter did not offer any explanation as to why the protest would not be permitted.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said Thursday that the government did not want the demonstrators to wreak havoc on traffic in the capital, adding that the intention was not for the government to prevent members of the CCU from expressing their opinions.

"I just don't want them protesting in roads because it is not civilised," he said.

At a separate press conference Wednesday, Phay Siphan said that Cambodia had enough troops to defend itself should Thailand decide to enter Cambodian territory, though he said the military's policy was to avoid using force unless it was deemed absolutely necessary.

Phay Siphan said the international community supported Cambodia in the Preah Vihear dispute, which has erupted in violence several times since UNESCO approved Cambodia's application to list the temple as a World Heritage site last July.

He said some of Thailand's actions with regard to the temple were attempts to stoke nationalist fervor within Thailand.

"If Thailand continues to use the issue ... for political reasons ... then it will lose support from the international community," he said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY VONG SOKHENG

Families suffering with mentally disabled kids

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 16 July 2009
Christopher Shay And Khuon Leakhana

But experts say they believe there is consensus that more action should be taken with this group.

FAMILIES dealing with intellectually disabled children often face rampant discrimination and crushing emotional burdens, according to Cambodia's first report on the subject, released on Wednesday.

Despite the challenges, government officials and NGOs say Cambodia is moving towards better and more inclusive treatment of what one expert described as Cambodia's most vulnerable population.

In a country where an estimated 36 percent of people live on less than US$0.63 a day, a child with an intellectual disability can cut family income in half because at least one family member may have to stay home with the child, according to the report, titled "Toward a Cooperative Approach: A Study on the Situation of Children with Intellectual Disabilities".

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Parents who have [a child with an intellectual disability] tend to be hopeless.
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"Parents who have this kind of child tend to be hopeless," Kong Vichetra, executive director of the Komar Pikar Foundation, a foundation for children with intellectual disabilities, said in an interview. "They have to look after the disabled children who cannot be left alone."

Kong Vichetra said he believed people with intellectual disabilities to be "the most vulnerable in Cambodia".

Because programmes that target children with intellectual disabilities require highly individualised care and are unable to reach large populations, donors have largely overlooked these children.

That trend has pushed "individuals with intellectual disabilities to the margins of NGO activity in Cambodia", the report claims.

Cristina Togni, who has worked with mentally disabled Cambodians for a decade, said she has seen some improvement, but that overall awareness remains low.

Compared to 10 years ago, when the concept of an intellectual disability was largely unknown, people can now recognise when a family member is affected by an intellectual disability, she said.

But Plong Chhaya, a child protection officer at UNICEF, said many Cambodians still believe people acquire an intellectual disability because "they did something bad in a past life".

According to the report, the next few years will be critical in the effort to improve the plight of people with intellectual disabilities.

As today's children with disabilities grow up and their parents die, they will require substantial care, putting a heavy financial strain on NGOs and the government, the report states.

But with last week's signing of the national disability law by King Sihahomi, many experts said they believed Cambodia was headed in the right direction.

"The law could pave the way to improving the participation of persons with intellectual disabilities in exercising their rights," Plong Chhaya said.

Jennifer Carter, author of the report and a researcher at the Swiss NGO Hagar, told the Post that the ratification of the disability law - along with the participation of three separate ministries at the workshop - showed that there was a general consensus that action was needed.

"We're all on the same team," she said.

Duch begs deputy to tell the truth

Photo by: AFP
Tuol Sleng prison chief Kaing Guek Eav testifies at the Khmer Rouge tribunal earlier this week.


The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 16 July 2009
Cheang Sokha

In his last day of testimony, former S-21 deputy Mam Nai denies playing down his role at Tuol Sleng.

FORMER Tuol Sleng prison chief Kaing Guek Eav begged his former deputy to tell the truth to judges at Cambodia's war crimes court Wednesday, after the deputy denied that he had downplayed his role at the torture facility earlier in the week.

Mam Nai, 76, admitted to the court that he felt regret for "some" innocent people who died at Tuol Sleng, but he said there were fewer innocent people than guilty people among the victims.

"I feel regretful for those small groups of good people who died. But I have never felt regret for those less-good people who died at S-21," Mam Nai said.

"I have been very remorseful because even my brothers, relatives, my wife and children died or suffered from the regime. I think it was a chaotic situation."

The former deputy, brought in as a key witness in his former boss's trial, wept from the dock as Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, demanded that he be honest about what happened at the prison.

"Now we are before history. You cannot use the basket to cover the dead elephant," Duch told Mam Nai.

"I think since I am ready to accept or be accountable for the crimes I have committed, I would want you to do the same. Please don't be afraid to die; just tell the truth."

Prosecutors confronted the witness on Wednesday with his own prison logbook, which contained numerous references to torture. But Mam Nai denied any knowledge that inmates were abused.

"Personally, I was never instructed on how torture was used," said Mam Nai. "And I have no idea what other kinds of practices were applied."

When prosecutor William Smith asked whether he was seeking to block from his mind the "horrible criminality" of his past actions, Mam Nai answered: "I have never had such [an] idea. I am testifying based on the activities I have done."

Former S-21 guard Him Huy was also brought in to testify Wednesday, but the court adjourned to allow him to consult with his lawyer over the issue of self-incrimination.

Court invites Pol Pot's brother
Around 100 villagers from Stung Sen district in Kampong Thom province, where Pol Pot was born, have been invited to attend the court on Thursday, including Pol Pot's brother, Salot Nhep, court spokesperson Reach Sambath said Wednesday.

"We have found Pol Pot's brother, Salot Nhep, 84, living there, and we want to invite him to attend the hearing," Reach Sambath said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY AFP

Voluntary sex work on the rise: UN report

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 16 July 2009
Katrin Redfern

THE FINANCIAL crisis has prompted more women to enter the sex trade voluntarily in response to unemployment, declining wages or rising debts, according to a survey released Monday by the UN Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking (UNIAP).

The survey, which yielded "indications of an increase in women and girls entering the entertainment sector during the timeframe of the financial crisis", drew from interviews with 357 Phnom Penh sex workers working in brothels, massage parlours and karaoke bars.

The majority of women surveyed said they were not tricked or deceived into joining the sex trade but rather had done so to support their families.

"It was nice to see that the numbers being deceived since the financial crisis is actually quite small, about 3 percent overall," said Lisa Rende Taylor, chief technical specialist at UNIAP. "We found they're going into these jobs on their own or through the assistance of a family member or friend."

New daycare centre opens for Prey Sar prison children

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
The daughter of a Prey Sar inmate inspects clothes being mended by prisoners there. A new daycare centre opened at the prison this month for the children who live there.

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 16 July 2009
Mom kunthear

Centre to provide food and education for nine of 18 children, all under 6 years old, growing up behind bars with their mothers.

PREY Sar prison opened a daycare centre this month for children whose mothers are detained there, the prison's chief told the Post on Monday.

Chat Sineang said there are 18 children currently incarcerated with their mothers at the prison, nine of whom will be cared for at the new centre.

"They are sent to the daycare centre in the morning and sent back to the prison in the evening," he said.

"Our caregivers take care of their health, give them food and provide education," he said.

Most of the children, all under 6 years old, have no choice but to stay at the prison because they have no other relatives willing to take them in.

"I am happy that all of those children now have a good place to stay, enough food to eat and education just like other children," Chat Sineang said. "We are waiting to get more funding from other organisations for the centre."

There are currently at least 50 children aged 6 and under living in prison with their mothers in Cambodia, according to the rights group Licadho, which tracks prison populations in 18 of the Kingdom's 26 prisons.

Before the construction of the daycare centre, children at Prey Sar would spend the entire day with their mothers.

Chat Sineang said some mothers were afraid to leave their children at the daycare centre because they feared they could become victims of human trafficking.

Chheav Hourlay, a prison researcher for Licadho, said this made it important for the daycare centre - where children can get experience interacting with other children and adults - to be close to the prison itself.

"We did not want to build a daycare centre far from the prison because then we would separate children from their mothers," Chheav Hourlay said.

Groups such as Licadho have attempted to reach out to the children at Prey Sar - most recently by bringing them gifts and hiring comedians to perform for them on International Children's Day in May.

But no comprehensive support system has yet been established for children who leave Cambodia's prisons, which they are required to do when they turn 6.

Authors of report on dolphins will not face charges, official says

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 16 July 2009
SAM RITH

Chief of Cambodia's Commision to Conserve Mekong River Dolphins had earlier said group could be charged for report that was 'all lies'.

A GOVERNMENT official said Wednesday he had decided to forgive the conservation group WWF for publishing what he has described as a false report on the Mekong River Irrawaddy dolphin population, backing off earlier threats to pursue false-information charges but adding that future reports would require advanced discussion before publication.

Touch Seang Tana, chairman of Cambodia's Commission to Conserve Mekong River Dolphins and Develop Eco-Tourism, said Wednesday that he reached his decision after consulting with Nao Thouk, director of the Fisheries Administration at the Ministry of Agriculture.

The report, released last month, said that environmental contaminants in the Mekong River had contributed to the deaths of 88 Irrawaddy dolphins since 2003, some 60 percent of which had been calves under two weeks old that succumbed to a bacterial disease.

Touch Seang Tana immediately lashed out at the report, calling it "all lies" and suggesting that WWF was reluctant to discuss its findings with officials.

He said Wednesday that documents sent last week to his office by WWF did not sufficiently explain the findings in the report, which he said his office had "rejected".

Nevertheless, he said he would not go forward with false-information charges, nor would he make any attempt to prevent WWF from continuing its work in Cambodia.

"I will make an effort to coordinate to have WWF to continue working in Cambodia," he said. "But in the future we will not allow them to publicise reports without prior discussion with us."

WWF voices relief
WWF Country Director Teak Seng said Wednesday that the government's decision was a good one, adding that it could ultimately help efforts to conserve the dolphins.

"This is a positive response," he said. "It is a good sign in working together to conserve dolphins."

Building on the shoulders of a giant

Photo by: Courtesy of the national archives of Cambodia
The Vann Molyvann-designed VIP Pavilion, since demolished, at Siem Reap's old domestic airport. Few examples of the influential Cambodian architect’s work remain in Siem Reap.

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 16 July 2009
Peter Olszewski

New hotel claims to be design of Vann Molyvann, but details of the project remain obscure.

THE building under construction on Siem Reap's hectic hotel row is seemingly insignificant; just the featureless concrete shell and bristling bamboo scaffolding of yet another hotel in the making. But a sign outside the construction of what will become the Sokhalay Angkor Hotel, owned by Youvak Peanich Co Ltd, has created a buzz in architectural circles because listed as architect is none other than the iconic Vann Molyvann, recognised as Cambodia's most remarkable modern architect and engineer of an enlightened national social development policy that was planned for the Kingdom during the 1955-1970 Sangkum Reastr Niyum or "Golden Age" regime under guidance of Norodom Sihanouk.

This, of course, all fell apart when General Lon Nol staged a brutal coup d'etat, and Vann Molyvann rapidly exited the country, returning only in 1991.

Molyvann turns 83 in November and it was widely assumed that he'd packed up his Alvin architect's scale and his pencils and given the game away, but lo and behold, here on Siem Reap's infamous hotel row, unheralded, unfolds the latest creation of the master.

Or so it would seem. Except that nobody is officially talking about the project. Emails to Vann Molyvann about the project remain unanswered, phone calls to the number listed for the owner elicit only abuse from the unidentified man who answers the phone, and enquiries at the site elicit only abuse from a worker who petulantly points out that the project is undermanned and delayed due to lack of capital.

Photo by: Peter Olszewski
Darryl Collins, co-author with Helen Grant Ross of Building Cambodia.

One of Cambodia's leading architectural experts, Siem Reap-based Darryl Collins, co-author with Helen Grant Ross of the 2006-published book Building Cambodia: 'New Khmer Architecture' 1953-1970, is obviously intrigued but lacks details about the putative Molyvann project.

"I did a double take when I saw the name Vann Molyvann on the sign," Collins told the Post. "It did surprise me because I had no idea that he was working on a new project on Airport Road. But the building has never really jumped ahead, and I know nothing of the project."

Diminished legacy
The desultory air of neglect that envelops the building is redolent of the almost-tragic legacy that Vann Molyvann has in Siem Reap, where nothing remains of his work apart from scant-recorded memory and a virtually unknown private residence tucked away in a little-visited rutted riverside road on the edge of town, close to a rubbish recycling plant.

The modest concrete and brick residence consists of two parts, sits on one piece of land, and is reminiscent of the 1960s contribution to Khmer architecture that that is Moylvann's mark.

Part of the residence is tenanted by a wealthy businessman. The other part, used as a sort of weekender by the Molyvanns in the family's better times, now sits largely vacant behind a screen of trees, hidden from prying eyes in a quest for privacy.

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I DID A DOUBLE TAKE WHEN I SAW THE NAME VANN MOLYVANN ON THE SIGN.
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This home is believed to have been built relatively recently, around the turn of this century before Molyvann was ousted in 2001 from the Apsara Authority, which he helped found in 1995, when he was appointed president and executive director.

Photo by: Peter Olszewski
A secluded retreat in Siem Reap, one of the few remaining examples of Vann Molyvann’s work in Cambodia’s second city.


Other buildings that bore Molyvann's mark in Siem Reap have been rendered to dust and ruins.

Darryl Collins agrees that Molyvann's Siem Reap legacy is sparse. He said, "Compared with the number of buildings in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap didn't fare as well. But this may be explained because many of Vann Molyvann's commissioned buildings in Phnom Penh were for state functions, and so they were big and they were commissioned obviously by Norodom Sihanouk in the main.

"But there was no doubt there was another part of Vann Molyvann, and that was to extend development right through Cambodia. There were a smaller number of projects in Siem Reap maybe related to the fact that it was a tourist venue."

'Mutilated' masterpiece
Vann Molyvann's most significant Siem Reap structure came to a sorry end: initially "mutilated" as Collins puts it, then destroyed "about a year or two ago".

This was the VIP Pavilion, built at the former Siem Reap domestic airport in 1963 to receive the stream of international heads of state and luminaries such as Jackie Onassis, who visited Angkor Wat in the 1960s.

It was a beautiful and striking building, said to have been inspired by the work of Frank Lloyd Wright, with a jutting V-shape inspired by the notion of flight, and a soaring, almost spiritual entrance that was glass-encased from floor to roof.

According to Collins, "It was there until fairly recently and only demolished maybe one or two years ago. It no longer looked like it originally did. I guess you could say it had been mutilated. The glass frontage was destroyed and virtually cemented up. The building lost all semblance of its original appearance."

It's interesting that Vann Molyvann is now named as architect of the under-construction Sokhalay Angkor Hotel because another hotel that bore his name as architectural adviser, but was designed by French architect Claud Bach, ended up as one of the great disasters of Siem Reap's recent tourism history.

This was the Angkor Hotel, partially financed by Air France. Construction started in 1968, but it wasn't completed until 1973, when the Kingdom was in chaos.

The Angkor Hotel was also mired in controversy because of its location, just to the left of the steps leading to the front of Angkor Wat, near where vendors stalls now stand. This was considered by many detractors as being inappropriate.

And although the hotel was completed, not one tourist set foot in the place because it was never opened to the public.

"It stood there completely devoid of tourists because when it was finished Lon Nol was in charge of the country and Siem Reap was a no-go zone," Darryl Collins said, "Severe fighting was taking place in Siem Reap, and Claude Bach's assistant had to be evacuated from the site. After suffering damage, what was left of the hotel was dismantled by local people seeking building materials for their own houses. A few traces of the foundation are still visible."

Possibly one of the great tragedies in Siem Reap's recent history is that Molyvann found himself out of favour with the powers that be at the turn of the century and was never able to achieve the master plan he'd envisaged for the city.

He was originally commissioned to create a town plan for Siem Reap during his time in charge of the Apsara Authority, but he was fired in 2001 when he refused to bow to the pressure of developers and a government eager for hotels and became involved in a dispute over building codes for Siem Reap.

Photo by: Peter Olszewski
A sign advertises the 'forthcoming' Sokhalay Angkor Hotel in Siem Reap, which claims to be designed by Vann Molyvann.

Molyvann's master plan
In late 2007, journalist Ron Gluckman interviewed Vann Molyvann, who told him that Siem Reap could have resembled Kyoto or Nara, well-preserved ancient cities in Japan.

In a subsequent article in the March 2008 edition of Urban Land Institute magazine, Gluckman wrote, "Vann shows off his old master plan, brilliant in simplicity and logic. The central core of the town would remain much as in the Angkor era. Development would take place in a nearby area, separated neatly from the old city by a moat."

Another ill-fated project was Vann Molyvann's proposal for a museum in Siem Reap for which he drew up plans about eight or nine years ago.

That museum was never constructed, and instead the much-criticised so-called Angkor National Museum with its odd birthday-cake-decoration-style architecture was foisted on the city.

But Vann Molyvann's biggest contribution to Siem Reap was not a structure as such, although it was closely related to the country's most famous structure, Angkor Wat. And, oddly enough, a contemporary commercial adaptation of his original lighting venture for the temple is now also mired in controversy.

During 1958 to 1966, Vann Molyvann designed and was responsible for organising light and sound and dance performances for state visitors to the temple.

These were lavish, heady affairs hosted by the then-head of state of Cambodia, Prince Norodum Sihanouk, attended by some of the great international leaders of the time such as Indonesia's President Sukarno, and National Geographic featured a photo of an illuminated Angkor Wat during this period.

That photo, plus a handful of architectural drawings are the only permanent legacy of Vann Molyvann's public contribution to Siem Reap. His private contribution, his modest home, does still stand, but is certainly not on the tourist map, and it seems unlikely that the Sokhalay Angkor Hotel, when and if construction is finished, will ever be regarded as a Vann Molyvann tour de force.