Wednesday, 16 December 2009

A Criminal Police Official Did Car Racing Contrary to His Role, and a Car Mechanic Criticized Him and Was Assaulted for It Seriously – Tuesday, 15.12.2009

http://cambodiamirror.wordpress.com/

Posted on 16 December 2009
The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 643

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

“Phnom Penh: A deputy director of the lower criminal police office of the Phnom Penh Police was accused by citizens of using violence, and using a pistol to threaten and shoot at a car mechanic, at the Heng Heng car garage, located at House 12, Street 39, Srah Chak commune, Daun Penh district, Phnom Penh, at 7:35 p.m. on 13 December 2009.

“The victim, who was tortured, is Khat Dara – called Chhoam, male, 25. He stays at House 28, Street 216, in Khmuonh commune, Sen Sok district. He is a car mechanic of the Heng Heng car garage.

“Witnesses at the site said that relatives of the owner of the Heng Heng car garage, and mechanics were having dinner. Suddenly, two cars, one a dark green Corolla and the other one a golden ‘Shark’ Camry [popular name as the front part looks like a shark's head], came racing each other; the drivers seemed heavily drunk. Some said that they raced in the center of Phnom Penh as if it were in a Hong Kong action movie. While the two cars went across the Heng Heng car garage compound, a mechanic, Khat Dara (who later became victimized) shouted to warn children not to cross the road, being afraid an accident might happen. The driver of the Corolla seemed to hear it and stepped on the brake, but was hit by the Shark Camry following from behind, that hit the back of the Corolla, damaging its bumper and number plate. Then the owner of the Corolla stepped out: he is known as the deputy director of the lower criminal police office of the Phnom Penh Police, his nick name is Tivea 06 ['Anniversary 06'] while the owner of the Shark Camry is a military police official.

“After he came out of his car, strongly smelling of wine, the police officer Tivea 06 shouted, ‘Who shouted at me?’ and the mechanic, Khat Dara, called Chhoam, walked towards this police official to tell him that he had no intention to shout at him, but he just warned the children not to cross the road. In response, Mr. Tivea 06 pulled his two inch pistol, to hit the victim on the head many times, then he kicked the victim very hard, which he should not do, as he is a police official who has to enforce the law. Next, Mr. Tivea 06 and his partner, known as a military police official, dragged the victim into the Chen Dom Dek Pagoda, where he continued to hit him all over, and even tried to shot at him twice, but it was fortunate that the gun did not work.

“A Witness added that as Mr. Tivea 06 got angry because his gun did not work, he then called his fellow police through a walkie-talkie, to come with three motorbikes to the site to handcuff and to take the victim to the lower criminal police office of the Phnom Penh Police.

“A Phnom Penh police official said that when the victim arrived at that station, Mr. Tivea 06 remained angry, and used an electric wire to shock the victim, so that he fainted. After that, probably because the cruel torture was heard by a brigadier of the Phnom Penh Police, Mr. Tivea ordered his fellow police to use a towel to wipe the blood from the victim’s face, and to change his clothes, and to send him by car to the Calmette Hospital.

“Citizens who witnessed the event condemned Mr. Tivea 06, now the deputy director of the Phnom Penh lower criminal police office, saying that he should not be a police official who has to enforce the law. If he is good at assaulting innocent citizen like this, he should go to Preah Vihear, because the government is seeking strong persons to protect the border from many enemies! The family of the victim, of Khat Dara, will lodge a complaint at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court to find justice. Citizens at the site of the event shouted loudly that the deputy director of the Phnom Penh lower criminal police office, Mr. Tivea 06, should be a model for citizens in obeying and implementing the law, but he is a cruel person, who actively broke the law, and he should not be allowed to keep on working, as he is such bad model.

“Koh Santepheap tried to ask for clarification from Major Neang Sokna, called Tivea 06, in the evening of 13 December 2009, but could not reach him.”

Koh Santepheap, Vol.42, #6831, 15.12.2009
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Thai foreign minister blames Thaksin for Thai-Cambodian spy row


(Posted by CAAI News Media)

BANGKOK, Dec. 16 (AP) - (Kyodo)—Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya, in a statement released Wednesday, blamed deposed Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra for the current spy row between Thailand and Cambodia.

Kasit denied the charge that the Thai government assigned Thai diplomat Kamrob Palawatwichai, who was expelled from Cambodia last month, to get information on Thaksin's arrival in Cambodia on Nov. 10 from a Thai engineer working at the airport in Phnom Penh.

"I, again, insist that I have never assigned Kamrob to act as spy or do anything improper for diplomatic career...this problem comes from Thaksin, who is wanted by the Thai judicial system. Thaksin visits Cambodia; we have to bring him back to the system," Kasit said in the statement.

The Thai foreign minister also charged the latest Thai-Cambodian row also came because the Cambodian government "interfered" and "looks down" on the Thai judicial system even after Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen attended the latest ASEAN summit in Thailand in October.

Siwarak Chutipong, an engineer at Thai-owned Cambodia Air Traffic Services Co. which supervises air services in Cambodia, was arrested for spying on Nov. 11, a day after Thaksin arrived in Cambodia.

Thaksin had been appointed an economic advisor to Hun Sen and his government on Oct. 27 and was arriving in Phnom Penh to give a lecture.

Siwarak was sentenced to seven years in jail on Dec. 8 for spying, a charge that stemmed from his passing Thaksin's flight information to Kamrob.

Kamrob was expelled as persona non grata shortly afterward.

In his Statement, Kasit claimed Siwarak and Kamrob were "political victims."

Thai government spokesman Panitan Wattanayakorn said Tuesday that Thailand would normalize diplomatic relationship with Cambodia under three conditions -- that Cambodia stop interfering in Thai internal politics, reviews the criticism of the Thai judicial system and rescinds the appointment of Thaksin as economic advisor.

Cambodia's relations with the Thai government, already tense due to a border dispute that flared up last year, further deteriorated early last month with the appointment of Thaksin as personal advisor to Hun Sen as well as economic advisor to the government.

Thailand subsequently recalled its ambassador from Phnom Penh in protest and has since been reviewing bilateral agreements and commitments signed between the two countries.

Thaksin, who Hun Sen regards as a good friend, was deposed in 2006 in a bloodless coup while he was out of the country.

He fled Thailand in August last year shortly before a court sentenced him to two years in jail for breaking a conflict of interest law while he was in power.

Cambodia has rejected extraditing Thaksin to Thailand because it says Thaksin's conviction was politically motivated.

The extradition treaty between the two countries excludes sending those convicted or sought for political crimes back to their country of origin.

UN-backed court issues K.Rouge genocide charges


The skulls of victims are piled up on display at the Choeung Ek memorial stupa close to Phnom Penh. Cambodia's UN-backed warcrimes court has for the first time issued genocide charges against two leaders of the brutal Khmer Rouge regime, a tribunal spokesman said Wednesday. (AFP/File/Nicolas Asfouri)


(Posted by CAAI News Media)

PHNOM PENH (AFP) – Cambodia's UN-backed war crimes court has for the first time issued genocide charges against two leaders of the brutal Khmer Rouge regime, a tribunal spokesman said Wednesday.

Former Khmer Rouge number two Nuon Chea and foreign minister Ieng Sary were both charged over the hardline communist regime's slaughter of Vietnamese people and ethnic Cham muslims during the 1970s, spokesman Lars Olsen told AFP.

"This week both Nuon Chea and Ieng Sary have been brought before the investigating judges and informed they are being charged with genocide against the Cham muslims and the Vietnamese," Olsen said.

"This is the first time that anyone has been charged with genocide" at the UN-backed tribunal, he added.

The court announced last month it was investigating incursions into Vietnam as well as executions of Cambodia's Cham minority committed by the 1975-1979 regime.

Final arguments were heard last month in the trial of prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, known by the alias Duch, who was charged with war crimes, crimes against humanity, torture and premeditated murder in the court's first trial.

Both Nuon Chea and Ieng Sary have already been charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity.

They are in detention at the court, awaiting trial in the tribunal's second case along with Ieng Sary's wife, former social affairs minister Ieng Thirith and former head of state Khieu Samphan.

Led by Pol Pot, who died in 1998, the Khmer Rouge emptied Cambodia's cities in a bid to forge a communist utopia, wiping out up to two million people through starvation, overwork, torture and execution.

There are now nearly 240,000 Cham Muslims in Cambodia, mainly in the central provinces, forming 1.6 percent of the population in the predominantly Buddhist country, according to a recent survey by the US-based Pew Research Centre.

Ministry says envoy followed protocol



Puea Thai Party pushes for Kasit's resignation

Published: 16/12/2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

The Foreign Ministry says it will soon clarify the actions of the Thai diplomat at the centre of the Cambodia "spying" controversy.

Thai "spy" Sivarak Chutipong criticised Kamrob Palawatwichai, first secretary to the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh, for landing him in a Cambodian jail for a month.

Sivarak was freed on Monday after receiving a royal pardon in Phnom Penh.

Mr Kamrob was expelled from Cambodia for phoning Sivarak and asking for ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra's Nov 11 flight details.

The Foreign Ministry has since vigorously defended the embassy's first secretary. The ministry has repeatedly said Mr Kamrob did nothing wrong and worked within diplomatic norms.

But Sivarak and his mother, Simarak na Nakhon Phanom, have demanded further explanation.

More detail on why Mr Kamrob was asked to have Sivarak obtain Thaksin's flight schedule will be provided in a press release to be issued on behalf of Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya, who is in China, a ministry source said.

"It is the duty of all Thai diplomats based abroad to thoroughly check any information they receive on the arrival plans of a fugitive as they need to coordinate with the prosecutors for his extradition," the source said.

Prosecutors must be assured of a fugitive's whereabouts before an extradition request can be made, the source said.

The Puea Thai Party has used the Sivarak case to ramp up its pressure on the government.

The party has urged the ministry to set up a panel to investigate Mr Kasit and Mr Kamrob.

The Puea Thai-controlled House Committee on Foreign Affairs said it would summon the two for questioning.

But Chavanond Intarakomalyasut, secretary to the foreign minister, said there was no need for a fact-finding panel.

"We should stop the bickering and offer moral support to all of them [Sivarak, his mother and Mr Kamrob]," he said.

He said the ministry would send Isorn Pokmontri, an ambassador attached to the ministry, to answer the committee's questions in place of Mr Kasit and Mr Kamrob.

Puea Thai spokesman Prompong Nopparit said Mr Kasit would be targeted in a censure debate next month when he would be pressured to resign.

Kamrob lies low over 'spy' saga



Published: 16/12/2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

The first secretary to the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh, Kamrob Palawatwichai, is caught between a rock and a hard place over the Cambodian "spy" saga.

Some people are calling for his head while his colleagues are pressuring the government to support him.

Mr Kamrob's position has become even more tenuous since the release on Monday of Sivarak Chutipong, the Thai engineer who was arrested by the Cambodian government on a spying charge on Nov 12 and pardoned on Friday. But both the Foreign Ministry and Mr Kamrob have good reasons to keep their heads down.

Related News Story: Foreign ministry defends Kamrob, will soon "clarify" his role

Sivarak's mother, Simarak na Nakhon Phanom, has demanded Mr Kamrob publicly take responsibility for the arrest and conviction of her son.

The Cambodia Air Traffic Services engineer, on his return to Thailand on Monday, also demanded the diplomat tell the truth about why he wanted to know whether former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra's jet had landed on Cambodian soil last month.

Since being expelled from Phnom Penh as persona non grata on Nov 12, Mr Kamrob and the ministry have kept silent to try to distance junior staff from being dragged further into the political quagmire by the opposition Puea Thai Party. "The whole incident is giving him nightmares," a ministry official said of Mr Kamrob.

The first secretary asked Sivarak for information regarding Thaksin's arrival in Phnom Penh on Nov 10 where he was to give a lecture as the newly appointed economic adviser to the Cambodian government. As an escapee from Thai justice after being sentenced to two years in jail over the Ratchadaphisek land purchase scandal, Thaksin is a target for the Thai government which wants him to serve out his sentence.

"If a fugitive is in any country, it is the responsibility of the diplomats based in that country to check arrival information in order to coordinate extradition with prosecutors," said ministry deputy spokesman Thani Thongpakdi.

Many officials at the ministry are worried that if Mr Kamrob were to say this publicly, it would give Puea Thai a chance to further politicise the issue in order to attack Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya, who has been hunting Thaksin since he came to office one year ago. Prior to that, he was a strong critic of Thaksin at People's Alliance for Democracy rallies.

Mr Kamrob, who was assigned by the ministry to look after Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Thailand in October, is not the only one feeling the pressure from Sivarak's family. Mr Kasit is in a similar position with ministry officials who want him to come out to say something to protect Mr Kamrob.

Thai Foreign Minister stands by his man over arrest of engineer



http://enews.mcot.net/

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

BANGKOK, Dec 16 (TNA) – Thailand’s Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya issued a statement Wednesday on the arrest of a Thai engineer by the Cambodian authorities, saying that Thai diplomat Kamrob Palawatwichai is not required to explain himself as he did his duty.

Mr Kasit said he was glad that Siwarak Chutipong has been freed and arrived safely in Bangkok. The ministry of foreign affairs had offered help to him and his family, according to the statement.

The chairmen of the National Human Rights Committee and the Lawyers Council of Thailand and representatives from Human Rights Watch were invited to discuss the issue but the ministry must respect the decision of the family to seek assistance from the opposition Puea Thai party.

Mr Kasit confirmed that the ministry has never claimed that Mr Siwarak and his family set up the whole situation but it views that he is a Thai national, having trouble overseas.

Speaking about a claim by some groups that Mr Kamrob, the former first secretary of Thailand's embassy in Phnom Penh was ordered to collect intelligence information from Mr Siwarak, Mr Kasit insisted that the ministry has never directed such an order to Kamrob as charged.

However, ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, convicted of misusing his authority, travelled to Cambodia as a fugitive wanted by the Thai authorities. Touching on calls for Mr Kamrob to clarify the issue, he said it is not the practice of a government official who does his duty.

Mr Siwarak is the Cambodia Air Traffic Services (CATS) employee who was arrested by Cambodian police on November 12 on charges of espionage--passing to Mr Kamrop information on the flight details of Mr Thaksin during his first visit to Cambodia after being appointed economic adviser to the Cambodian government.

A Cambodian Court sentenced Mr Siwarak to seven years jail and fined him Bt100,000 (US$3,000) but he was released following the Cambodian king's royal pardon. Before his release, Mrs Simarak and the fugitive Thai premier visited Mr Siwarak at Preysar Prison Sunday evening.

On Monday morning Mr Siwarak, his mother, and Puea Thai MPs met with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen who gave him the official letter of royal pardon before leaving to Thailand in the afternoon. (TNA)

Cambodia must not return Uighurs to China: Amnesty

Wed, Dec 16, 2009
AFP

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

PHNOM PENH - Amnesty International urged Cambodia Wednesday not to deport 22 Uighurs who are seeking UN refugee status in Phnom Penh, saying they risked torture at home in China.

The right group's appeal came after China warned Tuesday that UN refugee programmes "should not be a haven for criminals" and said the 22 Uighurs, including three children, were involved in crimes.

"Amnesty International understands that the Chinese government has formally requested the Cambodian authorities to send these asylum seekers back to China," Sam Zarifi, the group's Asia-Pacific director, wrote in an open letter to Cambodian Interior Minister Sar Kheng.

"We urge you not to return the 22 Uighur asylum seekers and to ensure that they have access to a fair asylum process," he said.

"Amnesty International believes that these Uighurs would be particularly vulnerable to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment."

Cambodia's government says it is cooperating with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to interview the Uighurs to see if they can be granted asylum.

The group arrived at the UNHCR office after fleeing deadly unrest in northwest China's Xinjiang region in July, and their presence in Phnom Penh was first made public two weeks ago.

The July clashes between Xinjiang's Muslim Uighur community and China's majority Han ethnic group left 197 people dead and more than 1,600 injured, according to an official toll.

ASEAN hopes dispute between Thailand, Cambodia not jeopardizes its solidarity


2009-12-16

(Posted by CAAI news Media)

JAKARTA, Dec. 16 (Xinhua) -- The Association of the Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) said on Wednesday that it hopes border dispute between Thailand and Cambodia would not jeopardize its solidarity.

"The dispute is one thing but the most important thing is that the incident would not pose risk to the ASEAN's solidarity," Tommy Koh, Chairperson on the High-Level Task Force on the Drafting of the ASEAN Charter, told the press after the second ASEAN Secretariat Policy Forum at its secretariat here.

He said that member countries have offered solutions but both countries rejected them so far.

"We try to calm the situation down all the time," said Koh.

ASEAN's Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan said diplomacy is still going on to find a solution.

Koh said delegations are doing their job for the maximum restraint.

The two ASEAN members met with diplomatic problem after Cambodia appointed ousted former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra as an economic advisor to Cambodia's government and Prime Minister Hun Sen on Nov. 4.

After the appointment, the Thai government recalled its ambassador to Cambodia and the Cambodian government, in response, announced a recall of its ambassador to Thailand.

Editor: Wang Guanqun

Thaksin barrier to renewed relations



Published: 16/12/2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Relations between Thailand and Cambodia will never improve as long as ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra remains its economic adviser, Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said on Tuesday.

Asked what the government is doing to put pressure on Phnom Penh, Mr Suthep said the problem has to be solved at the root.

Mr Suthep refused to comment on whether Thaksin and the Puea Thai Party were behind Sivarak Chutipong's plan to sue the Foreign Ministry over his arrest and conviction and eventual pardon for spying in Cambodia..

He said he does not want to see conflict between the government and the people.

Mr Sivarak has blamed Kamrob Palawatwichai, the first secretary of the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh, forhistroubles. He sad Mr Kamrob phoned him to ask about flight information on a VIP plane that landed in Cambodia's capital. He claims he found out later the plane had carried Thaksin to Cambodia.

Cambodia's stock market is no quick fix



By Bruce Gale, Senior Writer
The Straits Times
Publication Date: 16-12-2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Weak oversight and neglect of real economy are potential dangers

IS CAMBODIA in danger of developing a taste for quick fixes? A statement issued by the nation's Finance Ministry earlier this month called the establishment of a stock exchange 'an important and historic event' that will create new jobs, revitalise the local economy and transform Phnom Penh into 'a world-class city'.

Until recently, 'offshore oil' was what officials touted as the country's way out of dire poverty. But since it is still not clear when the oil will be commercially viable, the government has begun looking elsewhere.

After numerous delays, Cambodia's stock market is now set for launch around November next year. This is the date when the exchange's building is expected to be completed in Camko City, a major new development just north of central Phnom Penh.

Official concern about the need to boost the economy is understandable. The International Monetary Fund expects the economy to contract by 2.75 per cent this year. By comparison, the economy expanded by 10.25 per cent in 2007 and about 6.5 per cent last year.

Despite the rapid growth of recent years, about 40 per cent of Cambodians still live below the poverty line. The country remains heavily reliant on international aid.

The planned stock exchange, however, will not be for the faint-hearted. Despite all the talk about the importance of regulation, the new bourse is widely expected to reflect Cambodia's penchant for weak oversight. As a Cambodian opposition leader, Mr Sam Rainsy, put it: 'Many potential stock holders will be cheated by stock manipulation.'

Cambodia is regularly listed by Transparency International as one of the most corrupt countries in the world.

Cambodia's Finance Ministry has asked state companies such as Telecom Cambodia, port operator Sihanoukville Autonomous Port and the Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority to list shares. Other companies that are expected to list within a year of the exchange opening for operations include petroleum company Sokimex and the country's largest bank, Acleda Bank Plc. The government is also considering a range of tax incentives to encourage companies to go public.

According to the Korea Exchange, which is providing technical advice on the establishment of the new Cambodian bourse, each company will probably issue about US$10 million (S$14 million) worth of shares initially.

One of the main justifications for the establishment of the exchange is the need to mobilise funds from outside the banking system. Cambodia is a largely cash-only economy. This is because citizens distrust the banks and prefer to hoard their money at home.

With limited deposits, banks are unable to lend large amounts for long periods. Companies that wish to borrow funds for expansion also face high interest rates. The hope is that the proposed stock market will provide such companies with an alternative means of raising capital.

In addition, by forcing companies which want to list on the exchange to publish audited accounts, it is argued that the bourse could go a long way towards forcing greater transparency on the local corporate scene.

Supporters have also cited the stock market as a possible source of additional foreign investment. Despite the progressive easing of official restrictions, Cambodia lags far behind neighbouring Vietnam in terms of its ability to attract foreign investors.

But creating a stock market is unlikely to be an economic quick fix. Indeed, the reality is likely to be far more prosaic than that suggested by the official hyperbole surrounding the establishment of a stock market.

Given Cambodia's reputation for shady dealings, foreign investors are likely to remain wary for some time. Junk-level credit ratings also suggest the country is a risky bet.

It will also be a while before the bourse is able to deliver on its promise to provide a much-needed alternative source of funds. After all, the move will mainly benefit the nation's larger companies, most of whom have much less problem obtaining capital than small and medium-sized enterprises.

One worrying possibility is that the nation's political and economic elite will become so distracted by the opportunities the new institution may provide for quick profits that they neglect the needs of the real economy.

If the new institution is well run, however, there are some grounds for optimism over the medium and long term. Vietnam's bourse, which was set up in July 2000, languished for several years before taking off in 2007. Cambodia's exchange may follow a similar course.

Cambodia has much potential. For some years now, it has no longer been necessary for economic policy to take a back seat to security issues. As a result, the private sector has begun to flourish.

The garment industry in particular survived the end of the Multi-Fibre Agreement, and employs large numbers of rural-urban migrants. Prior to the recent global slowdown, Western investors were also beginning to show greater interest in the country.

It is matters such as these - together with the official attitude towards the promotion of good governance - that will ultimately determine whether the revitalisation the country's economic managers crave will actually come to pass.

Co-founder of Long Beach arts group gets Knight fellowship



Sophiline Shapiro, right, helps dancer Pum Molyta with her hand movements during practice at the Khmer Arts Academy in 2008 in Takmao, Cambodia. (Jeff Gritchen/Press-Telegram)

By Greg Mellen, Staff Writer
12/15/2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

LONG BEACH - Sophiline Shapiro is not unaccustomed to being a trailblazer.

A survivor of the Cambodian genocide, she was one of the first choreographers to help bring Cambodian Classical dance back from near extinction during the cultural cleansing of the Khmer Rouge.

She was one of the first Cambodians to set up a classical dancing school and academy in the United States, beginning in a small studio in her living room.

And on Tuesday, she became one of the first two artists named as USA Knight Fellows.

Shapiro will receive an unrestricted $50,000 grant from United States Artists, as part of a $1 million grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Shapiro will also receive a $5,000 grant for workshops, talks and other events.

The other winner is Philadelphia ceramicist Kukulin Velarde.

Shapiro was the co-founder in 2002 of the Khmer Arts Academy in Long Beach, which offers dance and other Cambodian cultural and arts training to local youths.

The academy also plays host to a Salon Series of monthly performances and discussions of Southeast Asian Arts.

Coincidentally, the series will conclude its first season Saturday with a performance of a Shapiro dance titled "Seasons of Migration." That performance will be staged at the Khmer Arts Academy Studio, 1364 Obispo Ave. at 7 p.m.

Shapiro also operates the Khmer Arts Theater in Cambodia 15 kilometers south of Phnom Penh where she now spends most of her time. There at the Center for Culture and Vipassana, she directs and choreographs a professional troupe of dancers who are graduates of the Royal University.
Shapiro has gained international acclaim for her work and her troupe has toured extensively from Europe to the United States.

Earlier this year, Shapiro was named a 2009 National Heritage Fellow and was given a $25,000 award for artistic excellence and support and contributions to folk and ethnic arts.

Wishing to become an American


Portrait of Chantan In, middle, with her three children, Brian, 16, left rear; Nancy,18, right; and Azzantee, 8, in their San Jose home November 24, 2009. The single mother originally came to the U.S. with her family from Cambodia as a refugee, sponsored by a Christian church. Though she is a legal permanent resident she's not eligible for the federal loan and grant programs that she needs in order to afford to go back to school. But the fees associated with the citizenship process are out of reach for her. There are hundreds of thousands of legal permanent residents in Santa Clara County who are in limbo like Chantan. Her wish is to get assistance with the hundreds of dollars in citizenship application fees and other add-ons. Starting a local fund to help local people like Chantan would be a start. (Pauline Lubens/San Jose Mercury News) ( Pauline Lubens)


By Mike Swift
mswift@mercurynews.com
12/15/2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Chantan In was delivered into genocide, her mother giving birth inside one of dictator Pol Pot's political "re-education" prisons amid a communist system that wiped out more than 1 million lives in Cambodia during the 1970s.

Somehow, In and her family survived the camps and the killing, arriving in Oklahoma as church-sponsored refugees a decade later, and ultimately moving to California's Central Valley. Now 34, the San Jose single mother of three dreams of taking one last step to distance herself from that terrifying past — by becoming a U.S. citizen.

In is a legal permanent resident, but says, "I feel that something is missing." That "something," she says, is the feeling of belonging and security that would come with officially becoming an American.

"I just want to complete what I feel. I'm here; I'm a resident; everything is legal. People tell me, you've got all this paperwork, why are you so much in a rush (to become a citizen)? But me having my kids born here and being citizens and everything, I feel that if I'm a citizen, I feel that I'm in place, and I feel that maybe I could express myself a little bit more about being here and not be so afraid of doing things."

Among the things she hopes to accomplish as a citizen: Get her GED and go on to college.

The $675 citizenship application fee is really the only obstacle, says the cosmetology student, who over the years has worked in fast-food restaurants, as a receptionist, as a data-entry clerk and as an accounting assistant.

It's a common story in Santa Clara County, says Laura Diaz, the family support program manager at Sacred Heart Community Service. The San Jose agency hopes Wish Book donors will help establish a local fund that would help pay the naturalization fees for immigrants such as In.

"They just don't have the $675," Diaz says of many local immigrants. "It's, 'Do I pay rent? Do I put food on the table, or do I pay for this?' "

U.S. Census data says that in 2008, there were more than 150,000 immigrants in Santa Clara County who are likely to be eligible for citizenship because they have been living in the U.S. legally for at least five years, but who haven't become citizens yet. About 60,000 Santa Clara County residents are immigrants who entered the U.S. before 1990, but who have not yet become citizens.

The government greatly increased the naturalization fees two years ago, to a total of $675 for a naturalization application and to take and record applicants' fingerprints. Couple that with the recession's impact on paychecks, and Diaz says many people have been forced to forgo the citizenship process as a result.

"The fees have not gone down, but everything else has gone up. You know, people are losing their jobs. (Becoming a citizen) is a priority in theory, but then when you get down to your actual day-to-day living, well, you have kids at home and you need diapers, and it's, 'I think I can wait to become a citizen until next year.' "

Sacred Heart says contributions from Wish Book readers would be earmarked exclusively for citizenship fees for qualifying applicants, and each donation of $50 will build the fund. Sacred Heart also would like to be able to help build personal relationships between donors and beneficiaries — a kind of sponsorship program for aspiring citizens.

In lives with her three children in a yellow stucco house nestled in a cul-de-sac in San Jose. Brian, 16, a hip-hop dancer, towers over his mom as well has his two sisters, Nancy, a diminutive 18-year-old, and 8-year-old Azzantee. Hanging on the walls of the home are crafts that hint at In's Cambodian roots.

In never finished high school. But she dreams of someday getting a four-year university degree, once she gets her GED.

But her lack of citizenship could hold her back there as well. Because federal student loans require many recipients to be a citizen, high citizenship fees are another potential roadblock for immigrants like In. And even though her English is good, she believes she has a long way to go.

"At 34 years old, I feel like time is running out," In says of her desire to further her education. "It's a challenge to me now, because I have trouble reading and writing and speaking."

Thailand Re-affirms to Receive Cambodian Students


Wednesday, 16 December 2009 09:47 DAP-NEWS

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Phnom Penh, December 16 (DAP) – Cambodia to send 106 scholarship students to study in Thailand under the sponsorship of Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn’s Project, said the Cambodian education ministry on Wednesday.

The students will be dispatched to keep up study in Thailand for the academic year 2010 within the context of the Royal Scholarship, which was awarded by Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, said the release.

“Cambodia will soon send 106 students to Thailand under Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn’s sponsorship,” said the release seen by DAP.

It said the ministry said that Cambodian and Thailand’s officials met on December 15, in which Thai side agreed to support the continued sustainability and development of the high school in Kampong Thom province.

Both sides discussed in great details of referring to the implementation of the Project Agreement 2002- 2005 related to the project on the continued sustainability and development of the Kampong Chheuteal High School in Sambor district, Kampong Thom province.

“The Thai side has clearly re-affirmed that The Project Agreement, which is financed by Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn’s Project, is to be signed for an extension until 2013,” it said.

Thaksin vows to Build Model Farms


Wednesday, 16 December 2009 02:16 DAP-NEWS

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Fugitive former Thai PM Thaksin Sinawatra on Tuesday vowed to build two model farms in Cambodia for local farmers to emulate, according to a Tuesday press release from the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF).

Thaksin’s promise came after an address on how to develop Cambodia’s economy after the global economic crisis.

However, no formal confirmation of the amount of money earmarked for the project, but one MEF official said that the issue will be discussed next month.

“To develop agriculture is very important … and is crucial because Cambodia has much potential,” the press release added.

The meeting apparently focused on meeting domestic demand and exporting to other countries, the press release confirmed.

The Thai billionaire telecoms mogul talked about how to develop the impoverished nation’s economy during the worldwide financial crisis and discussed agricultural reform.

Thaksin is living abroad, mostly in Dubai, to avoid a two-year jail term for corruption handed down by a Thai court in September 2008.

The visit to Cambodia by Thaksin, who was ousted in a 2006 coup, has further raised diplomatic tensions with Thailand, which flared last month when Phnom Penh refused to extradite him during his first visit as economic adviser.

The release of Sivarak Chothipong has also strained diplomatic ties between Bangkok and Phnom Penh. Thaksin visited Siwarak briefly in prison Sunday.

Thaksin won two elections in Thailand and remains an influential political figure at home, stirring up mass protests by his “Red Shirt” supporters against the current Thai government.

Gov´t rejects opposition’s Sirvarak allegations


Wednesday, 16 December 2009 02:14 DAP-NEWS

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

A Cambodian Government spokesman on Tuesday rejected an opposition claim that the Sivarak Chutipong case is political ruse by Prime Minister Hun Sen.

The rejection comes after Sam Rainsy alleged that the Sivarak case was staged.

“Sam Rainsy never led the nation, that is why he said like this,” Khieu Kahnarith told DAP News Cambodia on Tuesday.

“Thai citizens will know and understand Cambodia’s dignity,” he added.

The official lamented that Bangkok government had not responded to Sivarak’s concerns.

Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thau- gsuban said on Tuesday that he would make no further comment on the case involving Sivarak Chutipong, the Thai engineer convicted of spying in Cambodia who returned to Thailand on Monday after being granted a royal pardon by King Norodom Sihamoni, accor- ding to the Bangkok Post on Tuesday.

He earlier said the incident was a conspiracy by the Puea Thai party and ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra to discredit the government and boost the popularity of the convicted former prime minister, who arrived in Cambodia on Sunday to arrange for Sivarak’s release.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday morning gave a pardon letter to Siwarak Chutipong, a Thai man convicted spying on Thailand’s fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, in front of his mother, Simark Na Nakhom Panom, and some Phue Thai members at Hun Sen´s house.

Teenage Beauty Seriously Injured in Acid Attack


Wednesday, 16 December 2009 02:10 DAP-NEWS

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Hang Sreyleak, 19, was doused in acid by two unidentified suspects as she sat with her mother in a hairdresser in the Daun Penh district of Phnom Penh, local police said on Tuesday. The girl was winner of the popular TV9 Freshy Girl beauty and talent competition.

Police said that suspects riding an Air Blade moped enter the hairdressers in Sreh Chak commune at 10:10 am and threw acid on the girl and her mother.

Hang Sreyleak was seriously injured, a witness said. Her mother, Som Sineth, 51, was just splashed a little. The police chief told DAP News Cambodia that she won the contest last week.
Other acid attacks have involved a love triangle or revenge.

Daun Penh police vowed to investigate the case as an attempted murder.

Annual ASEAN Economic Association conference in Cambodia


Wednesday, 16 December 2009 02:10 DAP-NEWS

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Cambodia on Tuesday held the 34th annual conference of the federation of the ASEAN Economic Association (FAEA) focusing on impact of the global economic downturn on the ASEAN countries and mitigating the impact on the poor.

“The global economic slowdown rea- lly affected our economy and the govern- ment has set the top priority as recovering the economy of the country,” Kong Vibol, secretary of state for the Ministry of Economy and Finance, said in his opening remarks. “The government has taken actions subsequently in this bad time to help the most vulnerable people.”

Lim Sovannara, economic official for UNDP Cambodia, said that “We have concern on HIV/AIDS infection because more women are now in entertainment industry after they lost jobs in the garment sector,”, adding that there is a strong indication of rising poverty and a likely decline in children’s nutrition, as well as increased crime from the impact of the crisis. The driving economic forces of the country are agriculture, garments, construction, and tourism, but the last three have been hit by the crisis, Kong Vibol said, adding that most Cambodian garments are exported to the EU and US, markets that are now showing lower demand. “But we have potential for agricultural sector,” he said.

“Our economic growth will recover when the global economic recovery and anyway we have set up policy to attract investors here. We also have social responsibility from the impact through creating social safety network and the government also is continuing to walk with existing factors to reduce poverty in the country.”

He added that Cambodia should see economic growth of 2 percent this year.

Larry Strange, executive director of the Cambodian Development and Research Institute (CDRI), said that the forum will help strengthen integration cooperation of ASEAN in forwarding the ASEAN Economic community by 2015. ASEAN “needs to join in hands from macro economic and private sector policy to deal with this hard time,” he said.

The event is supported by the Cam-bodian Economic Association, UNDP, CDRI and the Economic Institute of Cambodia (EIC). Next year, Indonesia will become host country for this economic forum.

Economy to Grow 3-4 Percent in 2010: Gov’t


Wednesday, 16 December 2009 02:09 DAP-NEWS

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Cambodia’s economy will increase about 3-4 percent in 2010, a senior financial officer said on Tuesday.

Secretary of State of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Kong Vibol said in a press conference at the Phnom Penh Hotel that “the agricultural sector rose 4.3 percent, the industrial sector rose 8.6 percent, and food and beverages increased about 13.1 percent.”

Larry Strange, director of the Cam-bodian Development Research Institute (CDRI), said that “the agricultural sector is a solid base to boost Cambodian economy.” But Cambodia depend on funds from donors to improve, he added.

“In future, Cambodia will improve business, infrastructure, tourism,” Larry said.

Kong Vibol said the downturn of 2009 has driven exports down.

“The Cambodian government strategy is to reduce the poverty and aim to stay in positive growth while the global economic crisis is still on.”

“Cambodia has two ways to solve its problems; create new jobs and revenue for Cambodian poor families.”

National Economist for the UNDP Lim Sovannara said that tourism, construction, marketing fix assets and garments have taken a hit, with exports down 23 percent in the first 8 months.

Mondial Trade Fair Held


Wednesday, 16 December 2009 02:06 DAP-NEWS

(Posted by CAAI news Media)

Eight countries joined the fourth annual trade fair in the Mondial Business Center in Phnom Penh.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for the Finance and Economic Keat Chhon said that “This is the fourth year of celebrating this good forum to boost all international investment in Cambodia.”

Japan, S. Korea, N. Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and China attended the forum.

Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh said that 230 stalls and 126 companies joined the four day event.

The 18 categories of products included agricultural products, industrial and agricultural machines, silk products, souvenirs, office equipment, food products, daily goods, decorating tools, textiles, jewelry, drugs, cosmetic, plastics, electronics and construction tools.

Tiger Head trial ends; verdict coming



Photo by: PHAR LINA
Bomb trial
Som Ek, head of the Khmer National Union Front and the alleged mastermind behind a series of foiled bomb attacks across the capital since 2007, appears outside Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday where he protested his innocence as the final arguments were heard.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 16 December 2009 15:04 Chrann Chamroeun

HEARINGS in the trial of five men accused of organising a series of failed bombings concluded on Tuesday in Phnom Penh Municipal Court, with prosecutors maintaining that the group intended to topple the government.

The men are accused of planting explosives outside the Defence Ministry and state television station TV3 in January this year, as well as the Vietnamese Friendship Monument in 2007. Charges relate to delivering, placing, discharging or detonating an explosive or lethal device in a public place, and recruiting and training terrorists for the Khmer National Unity Front [KNUF], also known as the Tiger Head Movement.

“Police have suspected [Tiger Head Movement leader] Som Ek since 2007, who was then known as Chea To, when he masterminded a bomb attack at the Cambodian-Vietnamese Friendship monument,” said prosecutor Hing Bunchea. “Som Ek’s activities show he intended to topple the government by setting up an illegal political party and armed forces.”

Som Ek told the court that police detained him for six weeks without a lawyer and forced him to confess to the charges. He admitted to having formed the KNUF, but said it “mainly aimed to register a formal party in the Ministry of the Interior, which required at least 5,000 people, which is not a felony. I ask the court for justice for myself and the other four men here and for all charges to be dropped.”

The remaining men – Loeuk Bunhean, Pov Vannara, Phy Savoeung and Chea Kimyan – also denied involvement.

Loeuk Bunhean wept as he asked the court to release him to his family. “I request that the court drop the charges levelled against me for involvement in [Som Ek’s] activities, which are not true. If there was evidence that I was involved with his crazy group, then please give me a life sentence,” he said.

The verdict is scheduled for December 30. If convicted, the men will face between 20 and 30 years in prison.

New drug to be tried on addicts



(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 16 December 2009 15:04 Irwin Loy and Chhay Channyda

AUTHORITIES have begun testing a controversial drug detoxification medication on street heroin users in Phnom Penh, sparking condemnation from a local rights group and concern from UN and US embassy officials.

Human rights groups are alarmed at how subjects were chosen for the trial, accusing authorities of arbitrarily arresting drug users from the street and forcing them to undergo treatment with an unproven medication.

“It’s a grave abuse of these people,” said Mathieu Pellerin, a consultant with local rights group Licadho. “They are using these arbitrary arrests to get these drug users off the street. Added to that, they are forcing people to take medicine without proper consent.”

Government officials insist the drug users went willingly and consented to undergo the trials, which involve the use of a Vietnamese-manufactured medication called Bong Sen.

Pellerin, however, disputed the suggestions, saying the roundup follows an established pattern of street sweeps and arrests of drug users, sex workers and other marginalised people.

“To say that these people were willing to go is absurd,” he said. “We’ve had so many reports of these street sweeps when these people are often violently taken out of the street into the centre. It’s not enough for them to say that there is a piece of paper they sign when they are at the centre. It’s quite easy to make people sign anything under duress.”

Trial was ‘voluntary’
Authorities, however, insist the drug users are willing participants in the trial, which began Sunday.

“We did not arrest them,” said Moek Dara, secretary general of the National Authority for Combating Drugs (NACD), which is administering the trial. “These people volunteered to go to the centre. We want to detoxify them and get them to stop using drugs.”

But the nature of the trial has caused concern among some international officials.

The 17 drug users were sent to Orkas Knhom, or My Chance, a drug treatment centre on the outskirts of the city run by Phnom Penh’s Department of Social Affairs.

“We are aware of the issue and have concerns regarding informed consent,” said US embassy spokesman John Johnson in a statement. “An embassy official has visited the centre and expressed our concerns to the Royal government.”

Officials with the World Health Organisation (WHO) took issue with use of the drug the test subjects will be given. Bong Sen’s manufacturers say the orally administered medication will block cravings and assist users in quitting drugs as part of a seven-day treatment, but the drug hasn’t been registered for use in Cambodia and little is known about its efficacy or side effects.

The WHO’s acting head in Cambodia, Michel Thieren, said it appears the drug hasn’t undergone a standard inspection process from Cambodia’s medical ethical review committee.

“They review all those protocols and give clearance for a clinical trial to start and make sure anyone involved is providing informed consent. Those are the rules that need to be in place for initiating any new trial on any new drug,” Thieren said.

“Here it looks like that critical step has not been rigorously applied. It is important to reaffirm the importance of implementing this in all cases.”

News of the trial comes after authorities approached two local organisations that work with drug users last week, in search of heroin users for the treatment.

Friends International and Korsang, who were approached, both declined to participate.

Vietnamese support
The trial also appears to be the product of drug policy ties between the Cambodian and Vietnamese governments.

In September, Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Truong Vinh Trong pledged support for Cambodia’s drug-abuse prevention efforts during a four-day visit, according to a Vietnamese embassy statement.

“Vietnam is prepared to meet any requests by Cambodia to help it prevent and combat drugs, including sending Vietnamese experts to Cambodia to build detoxification centres … and providing medical equipment and Vietnamese-produced medicine to help drug addicts kick ... their habits,” the statement read.

Directors of Fataco Ban Tre, the Ho Chi Minh City-based firm that manufactures the drug, accompanied Vietnamese delegates on the September trip and delivered 100 doses of Bong Sen to the Cambodian government, according to a statement on the company’s Web site. Company officials could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

The NACD’s Moek Dara said Cambodian officials requested the drugs.

“The Vietnamese government has successfully implemented the programme of using Bong Sen on thousands of people in Vietnam,” Moek Dara said. “The NACD asked Vietnam to provide us medication.”

In the meantime, Moek Dara said the scope of the current trial could expand.

“These 17 people are the first group that we will test,” he said. “If the trial is successful, we will compile a document about the treatment and share the treatment with other drug users.”

Teen starlet victim of acid attack in capital



(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 16 December 2009 15:04 Chhay Channyda, Tep Nimol and Zela Chin

TWO assailants on a motorcycle doused a 16-year-old talent-show winner with half a litre of acid on Tuesday morning – the second such incident in Phnom Penh in less than a week – leading to a fresh call to regulate the its sale in Cambodia.

Hang Srey Leak, 16, was at a hairdresser’s salon on Street 84 in Daun Penh district when two people pulled up on a motorcycle and poured acid over her body, district police said.

She is being treated at Calmette Hospital for burns on her face, back and leg, police said, although her condition is not thought to be serious.

Ziad Samman, of the Cambodian Acid Survivors Charity, said 10 acid attacks had been reported to the organisation so far this year. He called on the government to prevent further attacks by introducing strict guidelines for the sale of acid.

“One possible way to prevent attacks is to stop them before they start,” he said. “One of the reasons that help contribute to acid attacks is because it’s so readily accessible. One of the things worth looking into is a regulation of acid, so it would make people selling acid more accountable.”

But Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, said the authorities found it “too difficult” to control the use of acid in the Kingdom. “It is impossible to ask sellers to tell their customers to get a prescription to buy acid,” he said. “What we must do is arrest the perpetrators.”

Pin Kong, deputy police chief of Srah Chak commune, said investigating officers believed they had identified the suspects in Tuesday’s attack, although no arrests had yet been made.

“The perpetrators are relatives of the victim,” he said. “They helped the victim become a star, and they are seeking revenge because she does not do as she’s told.”

Hang Srey Leak was crowned one of the winners of TV9’s weekly talent show High Star in November 2008.

Chev Virak, a TV9 producer and director of the High Star production company, said the teenager – whom he described as a “good performer” – had received several threats in the past.

Tougher punishment
The attack on Hang Srey Leak comes just days after masked motorcyclists threw acid at two teenage sisters who were on their way to meet their mother at a market in Phnom Penh.

Kim Sodine, 18, and her 17-year-old sister Kim Sonita – both hairdressers – suffered severe burns in the assault last Thursday and are being treated in Vietnam.

Police have yet to arrest anyone in connection with the attack and are struggling to establish a motive.

Last week’s incident prompted human rights groups to demand tougher punishment for the perpetrators of acid attacks. Speaking at the time, Ou Virak, executive director of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, said: “Lack of outrage from government officials and no condemnation from the public is a concern and unacceptable. We’re desensitised to this violence, and it needs to change. The government needs to put more effort into prosecution when lives are damaged.” Acid attacks, while decreasing in recent years, are still a common form of revenge in Cambodia, often committed by jilted lovers.

Uighurs 'criminals': Beijing



Photo by: JUDE MAK
Motorists drive past a government billboard in Kashgar, located in China’s northwest Xinjiang province. The region’s ethnic Uighur population says it has been subject to government persecution.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 16 December 2009 15:04 Sebastian Strangio

AGROUP of ethnic Uighurs who arrived in Cambodia earlier this month seeking political asylum are suspected criminals, a Chinese government spokesman said on Tuesday, warning that the UN’s refugee-protection mechanism should not be used to “shelter” those accused of crimes.

Twenty-two Muslim Uighurs, from China’s restive northwest Xinjiang province arrived in Cambodia at various points last month in a bid to apply for political asylum through the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

“These people ... are involved in crimes, and relevant Chinese authorities are verifying and investigating the situation,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said in a news briefing on Tuesday, ahead of a visit next week by Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping.

“I would like to stress that the international refugee-protection system should not be a haven for criminals to evade legal sanctions,” she added.

Uighur rights groups say the asylum seekers fear retaliation from Chinese authorities after witnessing clashes between Chinese security forces and Uighur demonstrators in Urumqi, Xinjiang’s capital, on July 5.

China has handed down at least 17 death sentences for actions during the July rioting, which Beijing claims left nearly 200 dead and 1,600 injured.

Ilshat Hassan, director of interior affairs for the World Uighur Congress, described the Chinese comments as “ridiculous”, and said none of the 22 Uighurs in Cambodia – including a 2-year-old and a 6-month-old baby – had been involved in any activities that are crimes under international law.

“According to [Chinese] law, any Uighur dissident is a criminal,” he said.

Hassan expressed fears that Chinese pressure could force the Cambodian government to deport the Uighurs, but said the country, which suffered “inhuman treatment” at the hands of the Chinese-backed Khmer Rouge regime, should adhere to its international refugee obligations.

“I hope the Cambodian government shows to the world that they are a responsible government and they abide by international law and respect human rights,” he said.

Kitty McKinsey, UNHCR’s spokesman in Bangkok, would not comment directly on the Chinese remarks. She said the 1951 Refugee Convention – to which Cambodia and China are both signatories – contains “clear definitions” of who is eligible for refugee status, but that governments and UN agencies sometimes fail to agree on the specifics.

“UNHCR’s mission is to provide protection for refugees all over the world who can’t get adequate protection from their own governments, and it sometimes happens that UNHCR and government disagree on who is eligible,” she said.

Despite China’s comments, government officials said no decision will be made on the case until the status of the Uighurs is determined through interviews being carried out with UNHCR.

“The Cambodian government has not made any decision yet. We are waiting until interviews are done to find the real status of these people,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said.

WITH ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY AFP

Khmer Krom fear reprisal from Vietnam



(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 16 December 2009 15:04 Vong Sokheng and Sebastian Strangio

KHMER Krom asylum seekers who were deported by Thai authorities earlier this month say they will face arrest and likely reprisal if they are forcibly returned to Vietnam.

The 24 Khmer Krom, as members of Vietnam’s Khmer minority are known, were deported to Cambodia on December 5 and are being sheltered by NGOs in Banteay Meanchey province’s Poipet town.

“I have submitted an application for residency, but there is still no answer from the local authorities,” said 49-year-old asylum seeker Thach Soong.

Originally from Vietnam’s Soc Trang province, Thach Soong said Vietnamese authorities first suspected him after he took part in protests for freedom of religion and land rights during the 1980s. He fled Vietnam in 2003 following threats of arrest, but said he faced a hostile reception from Cambodian authorities, who detained him for 64 days.

After his asylum application was rejected by UNHCR in Bangkok in 2006, Thach Soong said he lived in Thailand illegally before his arrest and deportation this month. “I am afraid now that I will end up in jail if the authorities deport me back to Vietnam,” he said.

Choa Sokha, 34, said he fled from Vietnam’s An Giang province to Cambodia in 2007 after he was arrested and tortured by police for leading protests for freedom of religion and expression.

“I was guilty in Vietnam, and I am afraid of deportation to Vietnam,” he added.

The recent Khmer Krom arrivals follow the similar deportation of 54 Khmer Krom by Thai police in June.

Ang Chanrith, executive director of the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Human Rights Organisation, said the 54 were subsequently smuggled back into Thailand to make another bid for asylum. He said “more than 10” of the current deportees were also deported in June.

Kitty McKinsey, UNHCR spokeswoman in Bangkok, said the deportees were all at various stages of their asylum applications at the time of their deportation. She said the UNHCR regarded their deportation as a “serious matter” and had taken up the issue with the government in Bangkok.

“Our position is that no asylum seekers should be deported from Thailand unless their appeals have been processed and it has been properly established that they do not require international protection,” she said, adding that there are “orderly procedures” for returning unsuccessful applicants to their countries of origin.

Try Narin, the governor of Poipet town, said he had not received any information about the Khmer Krom group. “We have nowhere to resettle them, and they will return to where they came from,” he said.

Police chief accuses SRP of assault



Photo by: Zela Chin
Police officers and local residents face off during an SRP visit to the border with Vietnam on Monday.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
When the authorities exaggerate ... how can people have confidence in them?"
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 16 December 2009 15:03 Meas Sokchea

SVAY Rieng provincial police Chief Prach Rim says 15 police officers were injured by Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarians who scuffled with them in an attempt to investigate the Cambodian-Vietnamese border on Monday.

Around 40 provincial police were dispatched to an area near the border in Svay Rieng’s Chantrea district where the SRP delegation and local residents planned to visit the site of an October demonstration by opposition president Sam Rainsy to protest alleged Vietnamese incursion into Cambodian territory.

“They pushed and hit police officers. Some were injured in the head, some on the cheek, some on the hands and legs,” Prach Rim said. “My police did not hit back – they just held on.”

Prach Rim added that he regretted the fact that his officers could not hold back the SRP delegation because of the pushing and shoving.

The SRP rejected the allegations of violence in a press release issued on Tuesday.

“This news is not true – it is twisted, without basis, in order to defame the SRP, which has always struggled for freedom, justice and democracy in Cambodia,” the statement read, adding that it was the police who had armed themselves in an effort to prevent the delegation from visiting the border.

The SRP called the police chief’s accusations an attempt to hide the fact that the border markers have been placed in locations that deny Cambodian residents their ancestral land, and asked the government to review the demarcation process with Vietnam.

On Monday afternoon, Chantrea district residents and about 20 SRP parliamentarians engaged in a minor scuffle with provincial police as the officers attempted to block the delegation from accessing the site where Sam Rainsy joined local villagers in uprooting six wooden border posts in October.

The SRP leader says he is facing charges of incitement and destruction of property in connection with the incident, though Svay Rieng court officials on Tuesday declined to comment on the case.

Nget Nara, Svay Rieng provincial coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, was part of the group that travelled to the border Monday. He dismissed the allegations of violence as politically motivated.

“The parliamentarians’ group did not hit or injure police. This is an unreasonable statement – the parliamentarians and people just wanted to see the border demarcation,” Nget Nara said. “The police had shields and bats to block them.”

SRP Secretary General Ke Sovannroth said that the provincial police chief’s accusations called into question the government’s credibility.

“When the authorities exaggerate like this, how can people have confidence in them?” she said.