Thursday, 15 July 2010

5 representatives of land protesters arrested (In Khmer Language)


RFAKhmerVideo | July 14, 2010
http://www.rfa.org/khmer

REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea : Cambodian opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua of the Sam Rainsy Party makes a sign of justice as she speaks during a news conference at the party headquarters

Cambodian opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua (R) of the Sam Rainsy Party is greeted by Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Teachers Independence Association, after a news conference at the party headquarters in Phnom Penh July 15, 2010. Mu Sochua told journalists that she will not pay the fine and compensation of about $4000, that has been ordered by the court, to Prime Minister Hun Sen after being convicted of defaming the premier. She said she is willing to serve time in prison, accusing the judiciary system of being not independent, but a political tool wielded by Hun Sen's ruling party. Her deadline to pay will end today, making the arrest likely to happen today or tomorrow. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Cambodian opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua (C) of the Sam Rainsy Party is greeted by her supporter after a news conference at the party headquarters in Phnom Penh July 15, 2010. Mu Sochua told journalists that she will not pay the fine and compensation of about $4000, that has been ordered by the court, to Prime Minister Hun Sen after being convicted of defaming the premier. She said she is willing to serve time in prison, accusing the judiciary system of being not independent, but a political tool wielded by Hun Sen's ruling party. Her deadline to pay will end today, making the arrest likely to happen today or tomorrow. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Cambodian opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua of the Sam Rainsy Party, speaks during a news conference at the party headquarters in Phnom Penh July 15, 2010. Mu Sochua told journalists that she will not pay the fine and compensation of about $4000, that has been ordered by the court, to Prime Minister Hun Sen after being convicted of defaming the premier. She said she is willing to serve time in prison, accusing the judiciary system of being not independent, but a political tool wielded by Hun Sen's ruling party. Her deadline to pay will end today, making the arrest likely to happen today or tomorrow. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Cambodian opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua of the Sam Rainsy Party, speaks during a news conference at the party headquarters in Phnom Penh July 15, 2010. Mu Sochua told journalists that she will not pay the fine and compensation of about $4000, that has been ordered by the court, to Prime Minister Hun Sen after being convicted of defaming the premier. She said she is willing to serve time in prison, accusing the judiciary system of being not independent, but a political tool wielded by Hun Sen's ruling party. Her deadline to pay will end today, making the arrest likely to happen today or tomorrow. The candles on the table are the symbol of the Sam Rainsy party. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Cambodian opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua of the Sam Rainsy Party makes a sign of justice as she speaks during a news conference at the party headquarters in Phnom Penh July 15, 2010. Mu Sochua told journalists that she will not pay the fine and compensation of about $4000, that has been ordered by the court, to Prime Minister Hun Sen after being convicted of defaming the premier. She said she is willing to serve time in prison, accusing the judiciary system of being not independent, but a political tool wielded by Hun Sen's ruling party. Her deadline to pay will end today, making the arrest likely to happen today or tomorrow. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea : Members of Cambodian Confederation of Unions take part in a rally in Phnom Penh

Members of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions, take part in a rally in Phnom Penh July 15, 2010. The rally was held to mark two years since Thai troops were deployed to disputed land surrounding the Preah Vihear temple, located along the Cambodia-Thailand border, on July 15, 2008. Cambodia was awarded ownership of the 11th century temple in a 1962 international court ruling. However, many Thais have never fully accepted the decision and the temple has been used by both countries to stoke nationalist fervour. Thailand last year withdrew its pledge of support for Cambodia to list Preah Vihear as a UNESCO World Heritage site, arguing that jurisdiction of land around the temple had never been settled. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Kang Soksan (L), a member of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions, speaks during a rally in Phnom Penh July 15, 2010. The rally was held to mark two yearssince Thai troops were deployed to disputed land surrounding the Preah Vihear temple, located along the Cambodia-Thailand border, on July 15, 2008. Cambodia was awarded ownership of the 11th century temple in a 1962 international court ruling. However, many Thais have never fully accepted the decision and the temple has been used by both countries to stoke nationalist fervour. Thailand last year withdrew its pledge of support for Cambodia to list Preah Vihear as a UNESCO World Heritage site, arguing that jurisdiction of land around the temple had never been settled. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Rong Chhun, rear center, president of the Cambodian Teachers Independence Association, gives a press conference on a street as he walks to a protest site to mark the two-year anniversary of Thai troops crossing into the border in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, July 15, 2010. Hundreds of riot police forces barred protesters from walking along the main streets in the capital as they demanded Thai troops to pull out from a disputed territory near an ancient Preah Vihear temple.  (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Rob Hamill, NZ, Wants to Confront Khymer Torturer, Duch

via Khmer NZ

By BMcPherson Phnom Penh : Cambodia | Jul 14, 2010


cubanexilequarter
S-21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine documentary allows the viewer to see how Khmer Rouge revolutionary policy was implemented on the ground in day by day accounts by the prison guards and surviving prisoners. The director, Rithy Panh, is a lifelong filmmaker and a survivor of the Khmer Rouge camps who lost his parents, sister, and many other relatives to the genocide.

Rob Hamill from New Zealand wants to confront the Kymer Rouge Torturer known as Duch. Kaing Guek Eav, aka Duch was the supervisor of the notorious S-21 prison where many suffered and died during the Khymer Rouge regime. Mr. Hamill lost his brother to the bloodletting in Cambodia in August 1978. He and Canadian, Stuart Glass were Khymer victims when their sailing vessel strayed into Cambodian territory.

"Mr Hamill will be at the United Nations-assisted Extraordinary Chamber of the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) at Phnom Penh for the July 26 sentencing of Kaing Guek Eav, known as "Duch", the former head of the S-21 or Tuol Sleng prison."New Zealand Herald.

Duch is believed responsible for the deaths of over 16 000 men, women and children during his tenure at the prison. While leader Pol Pot was in power, more than 2 million Cambodians perished. The country was changed from one of the most beautiful and prosperous to a devastated land where simply being able to read was a crime.

Cambodia became destabilized when the Vietnam War spilled across the borders and US forces dropped bombs on the country. The failed strategy to cut off supply lines to the Viet Cong was developed by Nobel Peace Prize Winner Henry Kissinger.

Thai-Cambodian border trade lull results amid worry over Cambodia’s Day of Anger

http://www.mcot.net/

via Khmer NZ

SI SA KET, July 15 – Thai-Cambodian border trade on Thursday slowed to a near halt at Si Sa Ket's Chong Sa-ngam border crossing amid fears of possible violence during the Cambodian observance of a Day of Anger on July 15.

Trade at the Chong Sa-ngam border crossing in Si Sa Ket's Phu Singha district has been relatively quiet since Monday.

Suwanna Wongrujiroj, a 25-year-old Thai who sells food, said that less than 50 Cambodians crossed the border here on Thursday -- business was sluggish.

The number of Cambodian traders crossing the border to buy goods in Thailand dropped compared to previous days thanks to worries over possible violence during Cambodia's Day of Anger, according to a Cambodian importer.

Another Cambodian trader said most Cambodians on either side of the border here feared trouble might occur during Cambodia's Day of Anger event so they opted crossing the border to do their business today.

However, the trader believed that the situation will return to normal after July 15.

Meanwhile, local police, security volunteers and military provided strict security along the Thai-Cambodian border to prevent any untoward incident.

Earlier, Mr Abhisit yesterday said the government was closely monitoring the situation, and there was no reason to be overly worried.

The government must deal carefully with border issues which are sensitive.

He emphasised the need for Thailand to continuously express its rights over the disputed areas at the same time both sides must avoid clashes between the troops of the two countries, he said. (MCOT online news)

Sacombank helps boost business operations in Cambodia

via Khmer NZ

07/15/2010

The Saigon Thuong Tin Commercial Bank (Sacombank) on July 15 launched a credit support package for business operations in Cambodia.

The aim is to accelerate trade between the two countries and help Vietnamese businesses to promote their products in the Cambodian market.

Those exporting products to Cambodia will enjoy a Vietnam dong loan rate of 12 percent per year while their partners in Cambodia will be offered a US dollar loan rate of 8 percent per year. Others importing products from Cambodia will have their transport costs reduced by 30 percent from now to the end of the year.

The programme will run until October 12, 2010.

Cambodia Begins Creating Legislation against Cyber Crimes – Wednesday, 14.7.2010

http://cambodiamirror.wordpress.com/

via Khmer NZ

Posted on 15 July 2010
The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 673

“Phnom Penh: Cambodia starts to create legislation against cyber crimes as legal mechanisms for the country to help to deal with cyber crimes and other negative impacts relating to technology, that are happening in Cambodia, in the region, and around the world.

“A workshop about the creation of legislation against cyber crimes was held in the morning of 13 July 2010 at the Council of Ministers, and government officials, officials of national and international organizations, and representatives of Internet Service Providers, of telecom companies, of technology companies, of publication institutions, and of other relevant fields participated in the workshop.

“The head of the working group for the creation of legislation against cyber crimes, Mr. Nhek Kosal Vithyea said, ‘The advancement of technology is a double-edged sword. It can make many things easier and provides abundant benefits for quick development. But it also creates opportunities for criminals to use it to commit various offenses. In the present era of information technology, criminals try to get access to information stored on computers. The quality of information stolen, or the size of destruction caused by this problem, depends on the speed of the networks and on the tools that criminals use, and such activities can be done easily without limits. It is known that the first computer virus was created by a student of computer science of Cornell University on 2 November 1988 [by now he is a professor at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology]. This virus was called ‘Morris Worm’ which affected more than 6,000 servers, wasting approximately US$98 million.

“He added that, in the Kingdom of Cambodia, information technology, such as telecoms, the Internet, electric banking systems, and electric commerce, has improved very quickly. Moreover, regarding national political and security affairs, technology plays a crucial role in maintaining security and stability in the country. He went on to say that taking the opportunity from the fast advancement of technology, terrorists might use Cambodian technology systems to attack the systems in other countries, or to distribute documents for terrorists, to create and recruit terrorist groups, and to communicate with other terrorism networks around the world. This shows that the Kingdom of Cambodia might encounter the above problems which are a big threat for politics, security, economy, society, and culture.

“It should be noted that, previously, there were some cases in Cambodia, like problems with a website of the Ministry of Interior in 2008, and with a website of the Council of Ministers in 2009, where data are kept on a server in the United States, into which bad computer programs had been embedded, infecting the computers of visitors to the website. The website of the Ministry of Environment, for which the data are kept on a server in Japan, was attacked by hackers changing the stored information. Internet Service Providers in Cambodia suffer from interference from abroad every day, often stopping their Operating System and creating a lot of trouble for users, including on the networks of the government etc.

“The head of Economic Crime Division of the Council of Europe, Mr. Alexander Seger, said that cyber crimes have strong negative impacts on all countries of our globe. Therefore, major international organizations, such as the United Nations, the International Telecommunication Union, the European Union, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nation [ASEAN] created protection and fighting back mechanisms, implementing different strategies, strengthening their capacities and technologies, establishing global cooperation, creating legal procedures, sharing information about technology, and establishing institutions to fight against cyber crimes.

“He added that in the Council of Europe, there is a pact on cyber crimes called the Budapest Convention on Cyber Crime (of 23.11.2001: ‘Treaty open for signature by the member States and the non-member States which have participated in its elaboration, and for accession by other non-member States’), which had been developed by the Council of Europe, signed by 47 countries, including some countries not in Europe, including Canada, Japan, South Africa, and the United States of America [but ratified and in force only in 18 countries]. He added that in the ASEAN region, some countries have already created laws against cyber crimes, but so far, Cambodia has not had a law and related procedures against it.

“The deputy head of the work team for the creation of a law against cyber crime, Mr. Nuon Sopharoth, said that Cambodia has already experienced many problems that allow cyber criminal activities to commit offenses using such technology. There are many cases where all must pay attention, to prevent cheating on the Internet to receive the inheritance from someone illegally, not to respond to electronic messages asking for passwords, or messages threatening someone, stealing of passwords, and the distribution of child pornography into computer systems, or the sending of spam mails.

“He added that the Royal Government pays much attention to different negative problems relating to technology that are happening in Cambodia, in the region, and around the world. In response, the Royal Government has created permanent measures, and this workshop showed the government’s efforts and the new achievements of the Royal Government to spread more understanding about the problem to the general public.”

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5249, 14.7.2010
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Two maids from Cambodia go missing

via Khmer NZ

Thursday July 15, 2010

A MAID agency is worried for the safety of two maids from Cambodia who have gone missing from their employer’s house in Taman Ghee Hiang in Penang since July 7.

Agensi Pekerjaan Bumiteras Sdn Bhd managing director Baby Goh said the maids had only been in the country for three weeks and both were working in the same house.

She said Sakon Vuth, 23, and Sinorn Chim, 32, were last seen by the employer at about 7am that day.

“When the employer came back from the market, both of them had gone missing but all their belongings are still at the employer’s place including their passports.

Baby Goh showing the pictures of the two maids from Cambodia that had gone missing since July 6. On the left is Sinorn Chim and on the right is Sakun Vuth.

“I am worried for their safety as they might have been taken away by a syndicate, and due to communication problems they might be in trouble,” she told a press conference organised by Penang Gerakan public complaint bureau chairman Dr Kiew Hen Chong in George Town yesterday.

Goh said she had made a police report on the matter.

She said Sakon was 150cm tall, while Sinorn was 152cm tall.

She claimed there were a few foreigners going on motorcycles and handing a piece of paper containing their contact numbers to maids telling them that they could offer better jobs.

She said such cases were rampant in Pulau Tikus, Minden Heights and Island Glades.

She said those with information can call her at 012-4878873 or 04-6264113.

Hillary Clinton to travel to Asia next week

via Khmer NZ

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Washington: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would travel to Asia next week, during which she is scheduled to attend the Kabul Conference in Afghanistan and meet foreign Ministers of ASEAN nations in Vietnam to strengthen US' relationship with South East Asia.

In Seoul, Hillary would be joined by Defence Secretary Robert Gates, where the two leaders would discuss the North Korean crisis with South Korean leadership. Hillary's week-long travel to Asia begins from July 19.

"In Seoul, Secretary (Hillary) Clinton and Secretary of Defence Gates will join their respective Republic of Korea counterparts, Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan and Minister of National Defence Kim Tae-young, for a 2+2 meeting to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Korean War.”

“Secretary Hillary and Secretary Gates will also meet with President Lee Myung-bak," State Department spokesman PJ Crowley, said.

"In Vietnam, (Hillary) Clinton will meet with senior Vietnamese leaders to discuss key bilateral and regional issues. She will also attend a luncheon highlighting the 15th anniversary of the US-Vietnam bilateral relationship," he said.

"Later in the day, the Secretary of State will participate in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Post Ministerial Conference and following that she will join the Foreign Ministers of Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam for their second meeting to discuss the Lower Mekong Initiative," Crowley said.

Hillary will also lead the US delegation to the 17th ASEAN Regional Forum Ministerial in Hanoi.

Coinciding with Hillary's trip to Asia, the State Department also announced that Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Bill Burns, would be travelling to Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia and Philippines from July 14 to 22.

Burns' visit to these Southeast Asian partners is an important element of the Administration's commitment to increase and deepen engagement with this dynamic region, Crowley said.

In Bangkok, Burns will meet with senior government officials, including Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya with whom he'll hold a Strategic Dialogue session to advance US-Thai co-operation on bilateral, regional, and global issues of mutual interest.

He will also deliver a speech at Chulalongkorn University on the US-Thai alliance and cooperation in the region, and later travel to Phnom Penh to participate in events to commemorate the 60th anniversary of US-Cambodia bilateral relations.

He will also meet with senior Cambodian officials to discuss US partnership with Cambodia and the region, including through the Lower Mekong Initiative.

In Jakarta (July 18-19), Burns will discuss America's continued work with Indonesia to build the Comprehensive Partnership and intensify its co-operation on regional security challenges.

On July 20 and 21, Burns will travel to Philippines to consult with senior officials in the new Aquino Administration and discuss ways to advance cooperation with this important ally.

Cambodia drafts law to combat acid attack scourge - Feature

via Khmer NZ

Posted : Thu, 15 Jul 2010
By : Robert Carmichael

Phnom Penh - Throwing acid is a cruelly effective way of dealing with rivals in love and even business in Cambodia. To date, it is a crime that has often gone unpunished.

That is set to change with the expected passage this year of a law to tackle the issue. But no matter how soon it arrives, it would come too late for hundreds, and possibly thousands, of people.

Among them is 34-year-old Sarun, a former security guard at a Phnom Penh hotel who this year was doused with acid, leaving terrible scars on his face, neck and right arm.

Since then, he has been living at the Cambodian Acid Survivors Charity, the country's only facility for acid victims, where along with a dozen other patients, he gets free medical treatment.

Ziad Samman, the charity's coordinator, said acid is widely used in Cambodia on rubber plantations as well as in small industries and even at home.

Acid is also cheap and easily available. And anecdotal evidence showed that many people do not regard throwing acid as a crime.

"And that's why changing perceptions is also very important, and that will take time," Samman said.

Sieng Lapresse is an undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Interior and is the person tasked with drafting the law to combat acid attacks.

Leafing through an Acid Survivors Charity report containing graphic images of injuries to men, women and even children, his disgust at the crime was clear.

"We cannot allow this kind of weapon to go around and keep destroying the lives of our people and especially society itself," he said.

Sieng Lapresse explained the law's wide remit, a key aspect of which is ensuring that those who sell acid are licensed and sell responsibly. Another is legislating stiff penalties for those who use acid to settle disputes.

"We are looking for at least 10 years - maybe [using] a couple of drops and it scratches a little bit - to life in prison," Sieng Lapresse said.

He said he believes the punishments in the legislation ought to have a deterrent effect and said the government is insistent that people stop throwing acid.

"[We are] dead serious," he said. "This cannot go on. We will not allow this horrible weapon to kill our society and our own people."

It is a sentiment clearly shared by those at the charity's compound outside Phnom Penh. Speaking on the veranda, his face and right arm terribly scarred, Sarun said the law could not come soon enough.

"The new law is very significant for Cambodian society because it targets those people who want to throw acid," said Sarun, who did not want his full name used and was reluctant to discuss the motive behind his attack.

"I really want the government to enforce this law strongly against people who throw acid because it causes so much suffering," he said.

The suffering of individual survivors like Sarun is immense, butthe true number of victims is unknown. The charity has recorded 16 victims of acid attacks this year but said it believes the true figure is far higher.

Ziad Samman said Sarun's case highlights a common misconception that most acid attack victims are women. In fact, around half of the 260 survivors the charity has dealt with over the years are men.

Another misconception is that acid attacks are the result of jealousies and affairs.

Samman said half are the result of disputes and a further quarter are simply accidents. Proper labelling of acid containers could easily cut the number of injured.

One aspect the law is unlikely to change is impunity enjoyed by the powerful. But it should raise awareness that throwing acid is an unacceptable way to deal with disputes even if it will have come too late for the men, women and children at the charity, or CASC.

Asked what his future holds, Sarun said it was too early to say. Right now, he needs more operations on top of the three he has already had.

"But if I get well, I would like CASC to find me a job," he said. "Until that happens, I don't think about it. I have to wait until I get better."

Cambodia's Bronze Mettle

Wall Street Journal

via Khmer NZ

By LEE LAWRENCE
Washington

The very name "Angkor" conjures images of towering stone spires, rocks morphing into giant undulating snakes, carved faces bulging from temple walls. But these palaces and temples housed bronzes—idols, ritual objects and decorative statues that took their place within the endless unfolding of stone reliefs and statuary.

National Museum of Cambodia, Phnom Penh
From the rich bronze-casting tradition of Cambodia's Khmer people.


In "Gods of Angkor: Bronzes from the National Museum of Cambodia," the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery of Art presents 24 such bronzes along with a dozen others that precede the Angkor period (ninth to mid-15th century). Together they establish that the Khmer people of Cambodia have a rich bronze-casting tradition that produced magnificent works.

As though proclaiming as much, the first piece we see is a 13-inch tall, 12th-century statue of a young woman sitting on her haunches, one knee raised, arms out to the side, crooked and pointing heavenward. There is something both celebratory and matter of fact about her, like a dancer striking a triumphant pose after a predictably great performance.

Scholars speculate that the figure once held aloft a brass disk polished to a mirror shine, and it is one of the show's few pieces that is not devotional. Two others flank the entrance—an urn and a bell, both some 20 inches high and covered in etched geometric designs. These are also the show's oldest pieces, attesting that Cambodia's fourth-century craftsmen participated in a broader production of bronzeware in Southeast Asia.

The story gains momentum in the second gallery with seventh-century sculptures in which Khmer artists incorporated stylistic elements from India and China. The fragment of a Buddha displays the elegant, relaxed pose and clinging robe Indian sculptors favored, while five smaller Buddhas adopt the Chinese proclivity for placing both hands in mudras (symbolic gestures).

These five bronzes also provide a glimpse into the institutional collaborations that made this exhibition possible. The figures, unearthed by chance in 2006 by a villager in Cambodia's Kampong Cham province, made their way to the conservation laboratory that the Sackler and Freer (its sister gallery) had just the year before established at the National Museum of Cambodia. The Getty Foundation, which will next host the show, provided most of the laboratory's funding. There conservators cleaned and stabilized the bronzes, whose green oxidation speaks of some 1,300 years underground.

But conservation is as much about reconstructing a work's past as it is about assuring its survival. Pointing to a small standing Buddha, Paul Jett, the head conservator and the show's co-curator, says that tests revealed it was not bronze but rather brass, "which is very unusual. The metal was probably imported, and my guess is that it came as another object that was melted down and recast. This is the earliest brass in Southeast Asia that I know of."

Similarly, X-rays of a charming Buddha with a flowing robe and large, splayed feet did not show the expected thin layer of metal with a ceramic core that is typical of a hollow cast. Instead, radiography revealed an elaborate iron armature embedded in solid metal. "It is made unlike anything I've ever seen," says Mr. Jett, who has worked with bronze sculpture for 30 years. "This is starting to build a body of technical knowledge on these pre-Angkorian pieces of which little is known," he adds.

More familiar to scholars are the bronzes of the 10th through 14th century that make up the rest of the show. As for nonscholars, a good way to appreciate the Khmers' distinctive style is by taking a detour into the museum's permanent collection. After you see the Freer's 11th-century Indian statue of the Hindu bull Nandi, the realism of the Khmer's depiction stands out—its legs are more proportional, its haunches heavier, its face more bovine. Similarly, the 12th-century crowned Buddha in the first gallery is at once stiffer and more realistic than the idealized 11th-century Buddha in the Sackler's adjoining South Asian gallery.

Overall, the casting of intricate ornamentation and dress is remarkable. A telling technical detail: In larger pieces, the core is held in place with pins, which leave holes that casters then have to fill. The chest of an 11th-century crowned Shiva thus bears penny-size marks, similar to old-fashioned vaccination scars. However, while the X-ray of a multiarmed 10th-century Buddha reveals similar pins, the casters did such a masterly job that the surface appears unblemished.

Angkor's mix of Hindu and Buddhist iconography is equally remarkable. Twelfth- and 13th-century Buddhas sit atop coiled cobras (one sporting the copper sheen of a previous restoration); a 13th-century Ganesha sits in full lotus, his navel shaped as an eye, Tantric symbols in his hands; and in a miniature shrine the Buddhist tantric deity Hevajra leaps middance encircled by female adepts.

As you walk around the shrine, peering between its tiny columns, the women appear to dance around their gilded god. And imagine now, as a visitor to Angkor, seeing the other bronzes—whether small or large idols, a lotus-shaped incense burner, a bell that once hung on an elephant, or the kneeling female figure—all glowing with golden warmth amid the stone walls of Angkor's temples and palaces. Mastery and magic.

Ms. Lawrence is a writer based in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Cambodia Fights to Contain Drug-Resistant Malaria

VOA
Kate Dawson | Pailin, Cambodia
14 July 2010

via khmer NZ

Cambodian man purchases malaria medicine at local pharmacy

The spread of drug-resistant malaria in Asia and Africa complicates the fight against the killer. In Cambodia, the government has tightened its grip on private drug stores, often the source of resistance-enhancing fake drugs and improper treatment. There is concern, though, that the effort may shut down the pharmacies upon which Cambodians most rely.

Mom Va, who lives in Pailin in western Cambodia, says her malaria symptoms appeared a week ago, and she still has not recovered. Va worries that she has a strain of malaria called falciparum, which has become resistant to some of the most effective treatments.

In Cambodia's war against malaria, village health volunteers are at the frontline. Trained volunteers, such as Mak Saeun, screen for Falciparum malaria and can treat other strains.
He says there used to be a lot of malaria in the region. But as the trees have been cut down on the hills, and people have begun to use insecticide-treated mosquito nets, the numbers are down. Between 2006 and 2008, Cambodia almost halved its malaria cases, to about 54,000.

Now the appearance of the drug-resistant Falciparum in Cambodia, however, raises concerns that it will spread across Southeast Asia. The World Health Organization gathered regional experts and health workers to find ways to ensure success in the fight against malaria.


Major Stuart Tyner is with a U.S. Army medical team studying malaria. He says the malaria parasite eventually adapts to a single medicine. So using two or more drugs can stem resistance.

"There's always a concern that when resistance to any kind of medicine develops … that it's going to spread," said Tyner. "So, the idea that by changing the drug, you will be able to kill parasites that are becoming resistant to the old drug with a new drug. Once you do that, you are back to a level playing field, where the old drug can still work."

Fake drugs and the unregulated use of single drug treatments help create resistance. Both are common in poor areas of the world, like Pailin. The Cambodian government has flooded the region with combination drugs, called ACTs, and is cracking down on unregistered drug stores.

But aid workers worry that many private drug stores and health care providers are left out.

Cris Jones is with Population Services International, which distributes anti-malaria kits and trains drug sellers on proper treatments. He says unregistered sellers must have access to ACTs.

"Seventy-five percent of Cambodians, when they go to seek access for treatment for malaria, they do so in the private sector," said Jones. "It is important that we support the private sector to make sure they've got high-quality government approved ACTs, that they are treating properly, that they are diagnosing properly."

Although the WHO and Cambodia's Center for Malaria Control say the effort to contain the resistant strain is paying off, they warn the fight is far from over.

The Phnom Penh Pst : News in Pics


Bridging the gap

Photo by: Pha Lina 

Thursday, 15 July 2010 15:00 May Titthara

Workers connect two pieces of the Prek Phnov bridge in Kandal province’s Ponhea Leu district yesterday. Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Nuon Sameth was to meet yesterday with Cambodian People’s Party Senator Ly Yong Phat, who financed the project, over the collection of toll fees.

Salt in the fields

Photo by: AFP

Thursday, 15 July 2010 15:04 AFP

Farmers prepare to plant coconut palms in a rice field inundated with saltwater in Vietnam’s southern province of Ben Tre. Climate change and upstream dams have diminished Mekong River water levels, threatening rich farmland around the delta.
Pest-free farming

Photo by: Heng Chivoan

Thursday, 15 July 2010 15:00 Khouth Sophakchakrya

A farmer sprays pesticides on crops in Russey Keo district’s Prek Leap commune. Around 100 officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries discussed 100 articles of a draft Law on Agriculture Materials and Pesticides during a workshop in Phnom Penh yesterday.

Over a fifth of migrants trafficked


via Khmer NZ

Thursday, 15 July 2010 15:03 Irwin Loy and May Titthara

NEARLY one-quarter of Cambodians deported from Thailand through the Poipet border crossing in Banteay Meanchey province are victims of trafficking, a new UN study indicates.

The study, by researchers with the United Nations Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking, underscores the struggles the Kingdom faces in quantifying the scope of a problem that places thousands of Cambodian migrants at risk each year.

Researchers interviewed 400 deportees returned through the Poipet border crossing last August. Twenty-three percent, almost a quarter of those interviewed, were judged to have been trafficked – meaning that they were recruited to work abroad, then coerced, abducted or deceived into situations to which they did not consent.

Most of the respondents reported experiencing problems: Half claimed to have been cheated by their employers, 12 percent said they were not allowed to leave their workplaces, and 30 percent said they were never paid any money for their labour.

Researchers found that roughly 40 percent of those interviewed reported no troubles during their time abroad.The as-yet-unpublished study suggests that many who have fallen prey to human traffickers are falling through the cracks.

All of those interviewed were identified as illegal migrants in Thailand and then deported. None had been recognised by officials as human-trafficking victims, said Lim Tith, the national project coordinator for UNIAP in Cambodia.

“These victims have received little assistance or attention from authorities in both countries,” he said. “Based on the law, they deserve assistance as victims of human trafficking.”

Another problem highlighted by the study is the fact that there were few supports in place for those who had been returned to Cambodia – leaving many vulnerable to future trafficking.

Bith Kimhong, the director of the Anti-Human Trafficking Department at the Ministry of Interior, said the UNIAP trafficking rate seemed too high. He said many of those interviewed may have been illegal migrants but not trafficking victims.

Nevertheless, he said, authorities are placing a renewed emphasis on trafficking.

“Recently, our border police educated people at the checkpoint about working outside the country,” he said. “And we are investigating to arrest brokers to punish them according to the law.”

Estimates used by UNIAP indicate there were 240,000 Cambodian migrants working in Thailand last year. According to the Ministry of Interior, roughly 89,000 were sent back through the Poipet border crossing alone.

Judicial practice under fire


via Khmer NZ

Thursday, 15 July 2010 15:03 Brooke Lewis and Meas Sokchea

NEARLY 90 percent of defendants in 199 trials monitored by a human rights group were placed in pretrial detention, and in at least 16 percent of hearings there was evidence that the judges’ decisions might have been open to influence from outside parties, according to a report released yesterday.

The report, the first biannual publication from the Trial Monitoring Project at the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, argues that pretrial detention is overused, and that judges might not act independently in many cases. It draws from observations of 199 trials at Phnom Penh
Municipal Court and Kandal Provincial Court between August and December of last year.

In 16 percent of those cases, lawyers were observed entering judges’ deliberation rooms immediately after hearings concluded, and immediately prior to the reading out of verdicts.

Mang Monika, a senior trial monitor at CCHR, said yesterday that this type of interaction was illegal.

“Only the judge is allowed to be in the deliberation room,” she said. “This law is to ensure that the judge decides cases independently.”

The report also found that judges answered mobile phones during 28 percent of trials for which this activity was monitored.

Though this practice is not illegal, Mang Monika said, it could undermine the public’s confidence that decisions are being rendered by judges alone.

“It is not prohibited, but if a judge answers the phone during the trial it shows that the judge does not respect the accused, and also shows that the judge might be influenced by another party on the phone,” she said.

Mang Monika said the high frequency of pretrial detention indicated that such orders were being issued reflexively, and without thought to other potential methods for ensuring that defendants appear in court when their hearings are held. “There are other ways of preventing the accused from escaping from trial,” she said, and noted that one alternative is to allow defendants to remain in their homes under judicial supervision.

But Phnom Penh Municipal Court President Chev Keng yesterday defended the use of pretrial detention, saying it was employed in the interest of public safety.

“Robbers, killers and drug traffickers – do we allow them to have freedom to continue their actions if we do not have pretrial detention?” he said.

Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana could not be reached for comment.

Textbook ban ignites debate


via Khmer NZ

Thursday, 15 July 2010 15:03 Kim Yuthana and Cameron Wells

OBSERVERS yesterday criticised Education Minister Im Sethy’s move to ban two study books he said featured unsuitable “political” content, describing it as evidence of the government’s unwillingness to permit discussion of sensitive topics.

Meanwhile, several vendors in Phnom Penh said police and officials had recently pulled the books from their shelves or purchased all the copies in stock, and that they had also warned against selling the volumes.

In a letter to Information Minister Khieu Kanharith dated July 5, Im Sethy requested that the two general knowledge textbooks, produced by Cambodian author Pen Puthsphea for exam preparation, be banned because of apparent criticisms of Prime Minister Hun Sen and the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.

He said the ministry had discovered “unsuitable” passages on pages 146 and 147 of one book and on pages 100 and 101 of the second.
According to photocopies of the offending paragraphs enclosed with the letter, the first textbook asks questions such as, “In the near future, will Cambodia be able to develop? Why?”, and “What do you think of the practice of human rights and freedom in Cambodian society?”

The book’s answer to the first question is: “The government which is currently led by Prime Minister Hun Sen will not be able to lead Cambodia towards progress in the near future because corruption occurs from the top level of the government down to the local level, and law enforcement and the practice of human rights are still below zero.”

Pen Puthsphea said Tuesday that he had intended to highlight “both pro and con ideas” rather than criticise the government.

Ly Neang, owner of a newsstand near the National Institute of Education, said local authorities last week purchased all the copies of the books in her stock, and warned her against selling any more volumes written by Pen Puthsphea. “The authorities told me that they will confiscate the books if I continue to sell them,” she said.

Im Sethy could not be reached for comment yesterday.

But Sam Rainsy Party spokesman Yim Sovann said yesterday that the banning of the books highlighted an authoritarian streak within the government.

“It is only two books, but it shows the government wants to limit the freedom of the Cambodian people to build democracy,” he said.

“It’s a totally communist country, a totally authoritarian country. Opinion is not tolerated in this society.”

Ouch Leng, a land programme officer for the rights group Adhoc, said students stood to learn a lot from such books.

“I think it is better that governments of all countries recognise their good and bad points that are collected and compiled by authors,” he said.

Moeun Chhean Nariddh, director of the Cambodian Institute for Media Studies, said the passages that make reference to corruption could prevent students from repeating “the same mistakes” in the future.

“The passages referring to corruption are a very important tool to learn, so that students can also contribute to fighting corruption,” he said.

“There are corruption cases involving teachers trying to demand money from students. The students need to learn about corruption. If teachers demand money from the students, how will the students know that this is corruption?”

But Hang Chhaya, executive director of the Khmer Institute for Democracy, questioned whether opinions about the government’s merits and deficiencies should be included in school materials.

“I’m not sure why [corruption] needs to be taught in this way,” he said.

“Students are much better learning about the history, and learning about corruption from that. If I was a student at that age, if someone has an opinion, it can take away from teacher’s teaching.”



Your say: Is the textbook ban right or wrong?
<>
Sovann Khema, 20
National University of Management
“The Information Ministry seizing the book makes me lack general knowledge that relates to Cambodian social issues. They have forbidden the students from knowing this vital information.”
Sal Som, 25
Royal University of Law and Economics
“People have the right to gain knowledge through books or media. The authors have the right to criticise all points about the reality of society, and literature is a mirror of society. If the state has done this, then it seems they have banned the right to know.”
Chheoun Lav, 22
Build Bright University
“In a democratic country, the right to get information is very important to every single person, because this information helps people understand what our society is.”

Expansion of labour firm OK’d after raid


viaKhmer NZ

Thursday, 15 July 2010 15:03 Mom Kunthear

A LABOUR-RECRUITMENT firm that was the target of a raid earlier this week has been given permission to expand in order to better accommodate its clients, officials said yesterday.

Police in Russey Keo district’s Chroy Changvar commune on Monday discovered 232 women and girls crammed into three villas belonging to the Champa Manpower Group.

On Tuesday, Deputy District Governor Ly Rosami called for an investigation of the firm, saying its clients – who had paid to participate in three months of training for jobs as domestic helpers in Malaysia – had been corralled into unsanitary rooms and denied freedom of movement.

A company representative said, however, that only a few women who had threatened to break their contracts had been prohibited from leaving.

Officials from City Hall, the Labour Ministry and the Interior Ministry’s Anti-Human Trafficking Bureau visited the villas yesterday and determined that the company’s facilities were far too small.

“We will give the company owner a chance to make the place bigger, and I will come back to check it again,” said Keo Thea, director of the municipal Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Bureau. “If he does what he’s promised and expands the house, we will not close the company.”

Keo Thea added that the company had a licence to send workers overseas. Workers who decide not to go abroad, he said, will be permitted to leave the villas once they reimburse the company for the expense of securing them visas for Malaysia and feeding them during the training.

Anti-graft body outlines plan


Photo by: Julie Leafe
Om Yentieng, chairman of the Anticorruption Unit, speaks during a press conference at which he described how the asset-declaration process would be carried out under the Anticorruption Law.

via Khmer NZ

Thursday, 15 July 2010 15:03 Brooke Lewis and Vong Sokheng

THE head of the Anticorruption Unit said yesterday that he had submitted a draft sub-decree to the Council of Ministers that calls for around 100,000 public officials to declare their assets.

Om Yentieng, who is also a senior adviser to Prime Minister Hun Sen and chairman of the government-run Cambodian Human Rights Committee, said at a press conference that he did not know when the sub-decree would be approved, but that he expects the declarations to be received by the beginning of November.

He also noted that, in accordance with the Anticorruption Law passed in March, high-ranking government officials would not be the only people required to declare their assets.

“The law clearly states [our role as] combating graft in all forms, all sectors, and at all levels of corruption,” he said, and added that lower-ranking officials and members of the private sector deemed by the ACU to be “vulnerable to corruption” could also be ordered to submit asset declarations.

“Private sector and foreigners will not escape the law,” he said.

All members of the ACU will be required to declare their assets, he added. “Everyone at the ACU, even the guard at the door, has to declare their assets,” he said. Om Yentieng said that the declarations would not be made public.

“The ACU has to keep the document: The declaration is not public, but the ACU can open it and look at it anytime.”

Asset declarations limited
Yim Sovann, lawmaker and spokesman for the Sam Rainsy Party, said yesterday that a lack of transparency on the part of the ACU would compromise the effectiveness of the asset-declaration process.

“They should declare publicly their assets,” he said. “If they declare in an envelope to the anticorruption body, nobody knows.”

He said this was particularly worrisome because the ACU was predominantly composed of members of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.

“From the beginning we were concerned about the content of the law, and we do not trust the composition of the anticorruption body because most of them come from the CPP, and we do not believe they can operate independently from the Council of Ministers,” he said.

Former Hong Kong anti-graft chief Tony Kwok, who last week led a three-day workshop to help the ACU develop a strategic plan, said the asset-declaration process was an important but limited measure in combating corruption.

“Although asset declaration is a good corruption-prevention measure, I think it is only a very small part of the overall anticorruption strategy,” he said.

One of its drawbacks, he said, is that corrupt officials are unlikely to declare assets that would implicate themselves.

Kwok said investigative methods would ultimately be the most effective tools in fighting corruption, and that the ACU last week decided to implement a “three-pronged” approach focusing on intervention, education and law enforcement.

“Under the section of enforcement, we agreed to set up a 24-hour complaints hotline in order to receive complaints from the public,” he said.

“On the corruption-intervention side, we agreed to launch a system where every ministry should have an anticorruption panel to clean their own houses, which will be monitored by the ACU.”

The education component, he said, would consist of public-awareness campaigns and “moral education” in schools.

Kwok said he was encouraged by Cambodia’s Anticorruption Law, as well as by the commitment ACU members had shown to combating
corruption.

“My own observation is that Cambodia is going to have a good start in fighting corruption,” he said.

“They have passed the law, they have a good chairman, [and] they have adopted a very comprehensive strategy.”

Mass Shooting: Families flee with gunman still at large


via Khmer NZ

Thursday, 15 July 2010 15:02 Thet Sambath

Mass Shooting

AT LEAST 15 families in a Kampong Cham province village that was the site of a shooting spree last week moved out of their homes temporarily as a large-scale manhunt again failed to net the only suspect, police said yesterday.

Last Thursday, 50-year-old Sles Yeb, a soldier with Royal Cambodian Armed Forces Battalion 203, allegedly opened fire on residents of Kroch Chhmar district, killing three people and injuring four.

Khieu Pov, police chief of Kampong Treas commune, where the shooting occurred, said yesterday that some families were too scared to stay in their own homes.

“It is disorder in the village because some villagers do not dare to stay at their houses,” Khieu Pov said. “I have advised them that he will not dare come here anymore because police are patrolling. If he comes back shooting, we will shoot back at him.”

Nhor Vann Trey, whose wife and three children were injured in the attack, said his nephew and mother-in-law were among those who had relocated. Meanwhile, Kroch Chhmar district police Chief Lay Nguon said various leads in the case had mostly been mere “rumours”.

Government repudiates UN criticism


via Khmer NZ

Thursday, 15 July 2010 15:02 Sebastian Strangio

THE Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday dismissed United Nations criticisms of legal proceedings against Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Mu Sochua, describing the case as an “internal affair” of Cambodia.

“The Cambodian government absolutely rejects the statements made by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said.

“This defamation case has been through the court procedures, so this is an internal affair of Cambodia.”

In a biweekly press briefing in Geneva on Tuesday, UN spokesman Rupert Colville said Mu Sochua’s case was an example of the courts being used as a “blunt instrument” to silence freedom of expression.

“The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay is seriously concerned about the conduct of recent defamation proceedings against a prominent opposition politician in Cambodia,” Colville said.

“We believe this highly politicised case appears to show an alarming erosion of both freedom of expression and the independence of the judiciary in Cambodia.”

In August last year, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court convicted Mu Sochua of defaming Prime Minister Hun Sen and ordered her to pay a total of 16.5 million riels (around US$3,928) in fines and compensation. The charges were upheld twice on appeal, and Mu Sochua could face jail if she refuses to pay the fines, which are due this month.

Koy Kuong said it was unclear whether Cambodian officials would take the issue up directly with the UN, following a recent series of spats with the global body.

Last week, the ministry warned Christophe Peschoux, head of the local office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, that he had overstepped the bounds of his mandate by criticising the country’s deportation of two Thais on June 5.

In March, Foreign Minister Hor Namhong threatened to expel UN Resident Coordinator Douglas Broderick after his office issued a statement concerning the government’s Anticorruption Law.

Tycoon requests bail for jailed wife


viaKhmer NZ

Thursday, 15 July 2010 15:02 Chrann Chamroeun

LAWYERS for the second wife of a prominent businessman who has been accused of attempted murder have requested that the Phnom Penh Municipal Court release her on bail.

The court last week charged Seng Chanda in connection with an alleged plot against Suv Chantha, the daughter of Seng Chanda’s husband, Okhna Khaou Chuly.

Suv Chantha is also the wife of Suv Chanthol, the former minister of public works and transport.

Defence lawyer Lim Vanna said the defence team wrote to the court on Monday, requesting “higher consideration” for his client’s temporary release on bail.

“My client repeatedly told me that she didn’t commit any crime like those the court prosecutor has charged her with, and she suffers from physical illnesses such as heart problems and blood pressure which have been treated in France,” Lim Vanna said.

He added that her husband, Khaou Chuly, had offered his personal assets as a guarantee that his wife does not pose a flight risk.

Lim Vanna said he was unsure whether the court would approve the bail request, but that a response must be given within five days of the date of the request.

Meanwhile, relatives of Seng Chanda continue to protest her innocence regarding the charge of attempted murder.

Huy Sok Leap, her 20-year-old daughter, described the case against her mother as “a complete slander and fabrication”, and Khaou Phallaboth, Khaou Chuly’s son, earlier this week expressed regrets that a “small internal dispute in the family” had been made public.

“I firmly believe that my father’s wife would not do such a foolish thing as to order the rape and murder of my older sister,” he said.

Investigating Judge Te Sam Ang said yesterday that he had received the request from Seng Chanda’s lawyer but had not had time to consider it.

Group 78 anniversary rally planned


Photo by: Jake SchonEker
Former Group 78 resident Sim Vireak, 37, stands with his son in front of his new home along a railway in Russey Keo district this week.

via Khmer NZ

Thursday, 15 July 2010 15:02 Jake Schoneker and Tang Khyhay

A YEAR ago this week, police and red-shirted demolition workers arrived at dawn on a Friday morning to clear out a tract of land in Tonle Bassac commune known as Group 78. Once a close-knit community of street vendors and civil servants that contained 146 families, the land is now empty, a fenced-in plot of grass and sand.

On Saturday, former Group 78 residents plan to reunite and demonstrate at their old home, a year to the day after the last families were forced to abandon the site and scatter to the outskirts of the city.

Most families were given US$8,000 in compensation, a sum that former residents said this week had not been enough for new homes in the capital.

“I can’t even buy part of a house with that,” said Sim Vireak, who moved with his wife and three children to a shack near an abandoned railway in Russey Keo district’s Tuol Sangke commune.

“If we had been offered proper compensation from the government, we would have been fine with leaving. But with $8,000, what can I buy?”

Lim Sambo, another former resident, said he been faced with no other choice but to take the compensation because authorities would have removed him and his family whether he had accepted or not.

“With only $8,000, I could only move somewhere very far away,” he said. “It’s very difficult to live there. At Group 78 we had water and electricity, and it was very close to the city. Now we use well water, and even though the government promised it to us, we still have no electricity.”

Rights workers said yesterday that most Group 78 residents now live in remote resettlement areas such as Dangkor district’s Trapaing Anchanh, some 25 kilometres from the city.

Janice Beanland, spokeswoman for Amnesty International Southeast Asia, said that their situations had likely deteriorated in the past year.

“It is often the case that families who have gone to a site such as [Trapaing Anchanh] find that they are not able to make a living because there are not the same opportunities for work, and it is too far and costly to travel daily into Phnom Penh,” she said.

“Generally families find themselves living in greater poverty, with worse access to drinking water, electricity and poor sanitation. As a consequence they can suffer from more health problems.”

Throughout the protracted dispute over the land, authorities emphasised to residents that it belonged to the state. Since the eviction, some of the land has been used to expand a road leading to the Tonle Sap river.

The rest, however, is reportedly being readied for private development, an issue that will be a central focus of this Saturday’s demonstration.

Mann Chhouen, the former Phnom Penh deputy governor who was in charge of the Group 78 evictions, said yesterday that he didn’t know what company would be given rights to develop the land, but that it was zoned to become either a business centre or an apartment complex.

He reiterated his previous argument that the families had no right to the land because it was state-owned.

“City Hall had to relocate them to the outskirts of the city because they were living in slums on state property,” he said.

But Man Vuthy, legal coordinator for the Community Legal Education Centre, which represents the families, said that because the Group 78 residents had lived on the land for over five years, they had legal rights to it.

“The evicted people have a legal claim to possession rights based on the 2001 Land Law. But when the Phnom Penh Municipality deals with them, they don’t care about the law – they only care about their own policy,” he said.

As the July 17 eviction was being carried out last year, six embassies and five international organisations, including the United Nations and the World Bank, released a joint statement calling for a moratorium on land evictions until a better mechanism for resolving land disputes was put in place.

In the absence of such a mechanism, land conflicts have continued, and Beanland said yesterday that several demonstrations had suggested mounting frustration on the part of affected families.

“There seem to be increasing numbers of communities who are bravely protesting and speaking out for justice, in the face of many obstacles,” she said.

“The recent attempt to deliver a petition to the prime minister, with 60,000 thumb-prints from communities in different provinces around Cambodia affected by land disputes and evictions, is one example. This reflects the enormous difficulties faced by thousands of ordinary Cambodians.”

Former Group 78 resident Kaeng Soroth said he is still trying to collect money promised to him last July. His family was one of four that refused to leave even as the government was dismantling the houses around them.

He said Mann Chhouen eventually offered the families $20,000 to vacate their homes, which they accepted. He still has not been paid.

Since last July, he has been forced to move in with his brother. Still unmarried at 36, he said it will be difficult for him to start a family without a house of his own.

“I’m worried about the future,” he said. “When you don’t have shelter, it makes it difficult to live.”

Prey Veng villagers skip court


via Khmer NZ

Thursday, 15 July 2010 15:02 Chhay Channyda

NINE villagers called to Prey Veng provincial court yesterday in connection with a land dispute opted not to appear for fear of being arrested, villagers said.

Community representative Heng Huot said yesterday that he was asked to represent the group after another villager was arrested last week.

“I represented them because they were afraid of the court arresting more villagers,” he said.

The villagers have accused Pea Raing district officials of illegally selling off four lakes in Peam Ampil village, Reap commune, to businessman Srun Sros for 19 million riels (around US$4,508) in 2000.

The lakes range in size from 2 to 7 hectares and were formerly used for fishing and agricultural activities.

On July 7, villager Sim Ang was arrested for destroying private property after answering a summons to appear at the court. Villagers say he merely went fishing in the disputed lakes.

Sieng Ly, one of the villagers who failed to attend yesterday, said the group feared arrest because of what happened last week.

He said that when Deputy Prime Minster Bin Chhin, who is also chairman of the National Authority for Land Dispute Resolution, visited the village in January to mark the anniversary of the overthrow of the Khmer Rouge regime, he announced that the lakes were “for the public”, and that “no individual can claim [them]”.

But after villagers went to fish in the lake on January 6, Srun Sros filed a complaint against them that has prompted the recent court action.

“We do not want to see more people arrested,” Sieng Ly said. “We are afraid of going to court.”

Suon Piset, a clerk at the provincial court, said Wednesday that Heng Huot could not act as a representative of the villagers because the case was a criminal one and because Heng Huot did not live in the village where the dispute is taking place.

He said a fresh summons would be issued to the nine villagers, but that he did not know when that would happen.

The deputy prime minister could not be reached for comment yesterday.