Saturday, 18 September 2010

Trade Union Explains Suspension Of Strike

Interview Hang Chakra


Interview Hang Chakra - Reporters Sans Frontières

HCM City Expo 2010 to be held in Cambodia

via CAAI

09/18/2010

The 2010 Vietnam-Cambodia trade fair (Ho Chi Minh City Expo 2010) will take place in Battambang province, Cambodia, from October 20-24, with 150 Vietnamese business exhibitors.

On display in 250 stands will be farm produce, consumer goods, processed food, footwear, cosmetics, interior decoration, textile and garments, and electronic appliances, said Tu Minh Thien, Director of the HCM City Investment and Trade Promotion Centre (ITPC) on September 17.

Apart from the display section there will be an area introducing the city’s economic, political and socio-cultural achievements as well as highlighting the friendship and solidarity between Vietnam and Cambodia.

During the fair, seminars will be held to connect Vietnamese and Cambodian businesses, promoting trade and investment as well as introducing Vietnamese goods to Cambodia’s northwestern region.

Cambodia jails monk for filming naked women

via CAAI

AFP, Sep 18, 2010

PHNOM PENH: A Cambodian Buddhist monk has been jailed after secretly filming hundreds of women as they bathed naked with holy water at a temple, a judge said Saturday.

Net Khai, 37, was sentenced to one year in prison for producing and distributing pornography after allegations emerged that he taped more than 600 women pouring sacred water over themselves in a pagoda bathroom.

Judge Kim Dany said the former monk was handed the prison term on Friday, over charges relating to a 23-year-old victim who approached police and said that people had been sharing video clips of the women on their mobile phones.

Another three women have since come forward to the court to file complaints.

The judge said the court also fined Net Khai two million riel (500 dollars) and ordered him to pay compensation of 10,000 dollars to the victim.

"He still faces similar charges brought against him from three other women," she said.

Net Khai was arrested in June at his pagoda in the Cambodian capital and was subsequently stripped of his religious status.

Buddhist monks are revered in Cambodia, where Buddhists make up more than 90 percent of the population.

There are more than 55,000 monks across the country, which has 4,300 temple complexes.

Proposed Dam a Mystery, Concern to Kratie Locals

Sophat Soeung, VOA Khmer

Kratie Province, Cambodia
Friday, 17 September 2010
 
via CAAI
 
Photo: Soeung Sophat, VOA Khmer
A fishing boat floats on the Mekong river at Sambor in Cambodia's Kratie Provice, a site chosen for a proposed 18-kilometer hydro-dam.

“We heard rumors that if it is built, it will be massive, and 56 meters tall. So we know that if the project goes ahead, we'll have to relocate. And we locals became worried because we don't know when they'll come, and no one can give us an answer.”

Later this month, a major report assessing the pros and cons of 11 proposed mainstream hydro-dams in the lower Mekong region will be publicized by the Mekong River Commission. The report will include information about two hydro-dams across the Mekong River in Kratie and Stung Treng provinces.

Although no decision has been made by the Cambodian government on the proposals, local people know little about the plans and are concerned their voices will be left out.

Sours Ve, a 38-year-old farmer and guest house operator in Sambor district, is among them. On a recent morning, she said goodbye to a group of tourists from the US, who had staid with her under a home stay system. The community-based tourism project has boosted her annual income, but she says she's worried she'll lose her home if a dam is built across the river here.

In 2007, a Chinese survey team arrived at her house and placed a concrete marker on her property. Were the megadam to go forward, it will fall directly across her property, creating behind it a 86-kilometer-long reservoir.

“I asked them what they were surveying, and they told me that they were going to build a hydrodam, and they put in this post on my land,” she said, standing over the marker behind her wooden stilt house after the tourists had gone.

“We learned that this was a study by a hydrodam construction company, but whether they will build the dam or not, we don't know,” she said. “And our people started to worry, not knowing when the dam will be built.”

Government officials say it is premature for anyone to worry about a dam here. They say the 18-kilometer dam that has been proposed for Sambor is only one of several options they will discuss in coming meetings.

The proposed dam, currently being studied by China Southern Power Grid, is one of 11 dams being considered by lower Mekong countries Cambodia, Laos and Thailand. Experts say these dams can be more problematic than their upper Mekong cousins, because down here, the land is flat, which require giant dams and reservoirs.

Critics say the dams will do more than put people like Sours Ve off their land. They can also be damaging to fisheries and the river's ecology. In Sambor district, there is little information, but plenty of concern.

“We heard rumors that if it is built, it will be massive, and 56 meters tall,” said Sours Ve, who recently traveled to Phnom Penh to learn more about the project and to Ratanakkiri province to see the effects of a Vietnamese dam on the Sesan river.

She is among the most informed people in her community.

“We know that if the project goes ahead, we'll have to relocate,” she said. “And we locals became worried because we don't know when they'll come, and no one can give us an answer.”

Ith Praing, a secretary of state for the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy, said concerns like these are so far unfounded. Sambor's potential for a dam has been studied since at least 1964, he said, so this is only the latest study.

“And up until now we haven’t made any decision on the proposal, pending [a more comprehensive] study, to decide whether there is really hydropower potential and what the [negative] impacts are,” he said.

Kratie Governor Kham Khoeun told VOA Khmer he was aware of the study, but not the extent of it. He agreed that concerns right now are premature because studies on ongoing.

At the Sambor district fish market, which according to maps would sit just below the proposed megadam, little is known about the study.

A 33-year-old fish monger who gave her name as Adik said she'd never heard of it. Nearby, 54-year-old vendor Nhoung Sokkhim said she'd seen the Chinese during the field study in 2007, but knew little more.

“I saw the Chinese come with their machines, but I haven't seen any construction,” she said. “I only saw them bringing metallic devices further up near the pagoda. There was no explanation of what is going on. No one knows, not even the local authorities.”

Indeed, Sambor District Chief Heng Sotha told VOA Khmer all he knew about the proposal came from local people.

“I am unaware of the details of the plan,” he said. “There are no official documents informing me about this.”

Ith Praing said there was no need to worry that people's input would not be part of the decision. The government plans to take the proposal's negative impacts very seriously, he said, adding that local authorities have in the past been invited to Phnom Penh to discuss the dam.

As proposed, according to a draft report of the Mekong River Commission, the Sambor hydrodam would flood 620 square kilometers, including 3,369 hectares of agricultural land and be operational by 2020.

For Sours Ve, the trade-off won't be worth it.

“These days, we no longer want electricity if it means having to relocate,” she said. “It's possible for us to move, but what about the bones of our ancestors? They'll be flooded, and nothing will remain.”

Social Enterprise Helps Cambodian Teens Kick Drug Addiction

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Posted On: September 17

A social enterprise in Cambodia is promoting fair trade practices while helping recovering drug addicts overcome their afflictions. Justees, a portmanteau of "just" and "tees", is providing young men with jobs printing t-shirts that display positive messages. The organization also gives its staff the flexibility to continue their schooling. Justees emphasizes the value of hard work and is committed to operating as a self-funding project; it encourages its staff to take ownership in the success or failure of the project. The shirts are sold in Cambodia and in other countries worldwide.

Cambodia, a country where 36 per cent of a population of 14.2 million live below the poverty line, is a high-volume trafficking point for narcotics, especially heroin and methamphetamine. Drug addiction in Cambodia is compounded by the growing risk of HIV infection. In Phnom Penh, 35.1 percent of injecting drug users were found to be HIV positive in 2007, according to statistics from the National Authority for Combating Drugs.

Cambodia has just begun to acknowledge the seriousness of its drug problem. On Wednesday, the country opened its first methadone treatment centers in Phnom Penh in an effort to help heroine users. This approach starkly contrasts with anti-drug strategies pursued in the past. Reports of electric shocks, beatings, rapes, forced labor and forced donations of blood have been reported in Cambodia's drug detention centers.

Justees is doing its part to help fight Cambodia's drug problem. According to the website, "Justees began out of a fusion of compassion for young men suffering from the crippling effects of growing up in poverty, a concern for justice, and an interest in creative expression, in particular through screen-printing." The project is still small, employing seven ex-drug users between the ages of 15 and 17. These teens are paid fair wages and work with a Cambodian project assistant who serves as a mentor.

The t-shirts feature socially progressive messages in English. Slogans such as "Earth provides enough to satisfy everyone's need but not everyone's greed!" and "Moaning doesn't help - you do!" adorn the front the t-shirts. Justees are also available for contract screen-printing for clubs, churches, sports teams, NGOs or other groups. Justees also encourages those interested to contact them to learn how to get involved. You can even submit t-shirt designs.

Forum "From Victims to Witness'' Offers Opportunity to Cambodian-Americans in Lowell, MAWitness

CWS: 'Clean Water Scarce in Rural Cambodia'


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From "Lesley Crosson"
Date Fri, 17 Sep 2010

Church World Service
475 Riverside Drive
New York, NY 10115
(212) 870-2676

Water as human right hasn’t reached rural Cambodia, CWS tells Geneva consultation

GENEVA, Switzerland –Sept. 17, 2010 -- Cambodia has made strides over the past two decades in providing clean water and sanitation to its urban areas. But those gains have yet to reach the majority of rural Cambodians, according to Cambodian humanitarian agency water program specialist Mao Sophal.

Sophal, senior staff member for Church World Service Cambodia, spoke on the issue of affordability of clean water and sanitation for Cambodia’s poorest, during a consultation earlier this week in Geneva between international civil society representatives and Catarina de Albuquerque, United Nations independent expert on issues of access to safe drinking water and sanitation as a human right.

Sophal and Agneta Dau Valler, Country Representative for CWS Vietnam and Cambodia, attended the consultation after last week’s World Water Week summit in Sweden, where this year’s Stockholm Industry Water Award was given to the Phnom Penh Water Supply authority for its achievement in providing water to nearly 90% of the city’s population.

“We applaud Cambodia’s advances in making clean water accessible to so many more people in Phnom Penh,” said Dau Valler. “However, the situation is still completely different in the countryside.”

In rural Cambodia -- where 80 percent of the country’s population resides -- UNICEF estimates that only 16 percent of people have access to adequate sanitation and 65 percent to safe water.

The overall lack of clean water and sanitation is costing Cambodia around half a billion dollars every year in poor health and loss of tourism.

But for clean water and sanitation to become a reality for all in Cambodia and the rest of the world’s poorest countries, water and sanitation infrastructure and management also have to be accessible and affordable to all, says CWS’s Sophal.

“There also has to be equal focus on civil society’s advocacy at government and world body levels and cooperative engagement with local and regional authorities,” she said.

Sophal was one of 19 civil society panelists from developing countries and from the U.S. selected from some 50 applicants to present at the Geneva consultation, based on their responses to de Albuquerque’s questionnaire on good practices in water, sanitation and human rights programs.

In her presentation, Sophal said that CWS has focused its sustainable development work in rural Cambodia in great part to align with the country’s stated rural water and sanitation strategy—that, by 2025, every person in rural communities will have “sustained access to safe
water supply and sanitation services” and will be living in “a hygienic environment.”

Specifically, CWS aims to help the “poorest of the poor” in rural Cambodia.

To realize that goal, CWS had to develop a valid, consistent and inclusive method of “ranking wealth” among residents, so communities can identify who will receive clean water and sanitation facilities and training in the villages CWS serves in Svay Rieng, Kompong Thom and remote Preah Vihear Provinces.

Mao said the agency’s team follows the humanitarian “do no harm” approach, with a participatory appraisal process in each village that engages district and provincial authorities, village chiefs, commune development leaders and water user groups to establish their own criteria to identify residents as “poorest of the poor,” “poor” or “better-off poor.”

In one village, “better-off poor” families may be identified as having a wooden house with a zinc roof, a certain number of draft and livestock animals, a small amount of land, agricultural income sources, and just enough food to make it through the year, and “poorest of the poor” families as having no draft or livestock animals beyond a few poultry, no land, no income source beyond their own labor, living in a tiny cabin, and insufficient food seven to ten months of the year.

Families selected for assistance receive priority facilities such as upgraded wells, latrines, or bio-sand water filters for safe drinking water.

To promote ownership, CWS said the Cambodian beneficiaries contribute labor and resources as possible and appropriate to their situations. The program also provides water and sanitation resources for health centers, commune offices and primary schools.

Sophal said the CWS approach requires a lot of NGO staff time and energy, but the benefits have been significant. Communities served now experience less water-borne disease, rarely have diarrhea, and households, schools and community centers have improved sanitation and hygiene. With community guidance, households are assisted in growing and maintaining productive home gardens for better food supply and income-generation.

She said the process promotes the human right to water and sanitation among community members and authorities, promotes community solidarity, accountability and honesty, and empowers women in decision-making.

On July 28, the UN General Assembly approved an historic non-binding resolution recognizing "the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right.” On Monday, de Albuquerque told the Geneva civil society gathering that her mandate from the UN is to clarify the content of human rights obligations related to access to safe drinking water and sanitation and to make recommendations that could help reach Millennium Development Goals, particularly the goal relating to safe water and sanitation.

The UN water expert has held related consultations with governments, private sector leaders and other stakeholders.

Worldwide, an estimated 884 million people lack access to safe drinking water, more than 2.6 billion people do not have access to basic sanitation, and some 1.5 million children under the age of five die each year from water- and sanitation-related diseases.

Media Contacts
Lesley Crosson, (212) 870-2676, media@churchworldservice.org
Jan Dragin - 24/7 - (781) 925-1526, jdragin@gis.net

Tribunal Indicts Four in Cambodian Genocide

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By Douglas Gillison / Phnom Penh
Friday, Sep. 17, 2010

Former Khmer Rouge deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs Ieng Sary stands in the courtroom during a public hearing at the Extraodinary Chambers in the Court of Cambodia on April 30, 2010.
TANG CHHIN SOTHY / AFP / Getty Images

Thirty-one years after the darkest era in Cambodian history, the surviving leaders of the communist Khmer Rouge movement were indicted on Thursday for the deaths of nearly two million people. In an order signed at midnight, judges at a tribunal specially convened to investigate and try the crimes of the Democratic Kampuchea government, which ruled Cambodia from 1975 to 1979, ordered that four aging suspects stand trial for what the court deemed was "an attack on the entire population of Cambodia.

The indictments bring charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and, under Cambodian law, murder, torture and religious persecution. Investigators estimate that as many as 800,000 deaths across Cambodia were violent — just under a third of the regime's alleged victims but roughly as many people as were killed during the entire Rwandan genocide in 1994. The majority of those killed by the regime succumbed to starvation, disease and overwork as the government set out to transform Cambodian society and destroy its supposed oppressor classes.

"Some commentators have said, and I believe they were correct, that this matter is the most complex since the Nuremberg tribunal," Judge Marcel Lemonde of France, who also announced his resignation after a tumultuous four years, told reporters gathered at the U.N.-backed court on Thursday. A trial is expected in the first half of next year.

The four accused are former revolutionaries who seized power in 1975 at the end of a civil war with a U.S. client regime. Foremost among them is Nuon Chea, 84, known as Brother Number Two, the communist party's deputy secretary and a member of the inner circle who created the Khmer Rouge's policies of execution. He is joined by the former Foreign Minister Ieng Sary, 84, a public champion of the Khmer Rouge campaign to root out supposed political enemies, and his wife, Ieng Thirith, 78, a former Minister of Social Action. The regime's head of state, Khieu Samphan, 79, who chaired the party's central committee as it planned the deadliest of its purges of government officials, is also to stand trial.

The court's two co-investigating judges dropped the charges against Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, who was sentenced to 35 years in July for the murders of an estimated 14,000 people in his role as commander of the Khmer Rouge secret police. Judges said that in the investigation concluded Thursday they had uncovered no new evidence concerning Duch.

The investigation came to an end in raucous fashion. In addressing the media, Judge Lemonde and his Cambodian counterpart Judge You Bunleng congratulated each other for what they considered personal and professional triumphs. But in the course of three years of inquiry, the two publicly disagreed more than once over politically charged matters, provoking outrage among international judges and the defense, which repeatedly sought the investigating judges' disqualification and removal. In a minority opinion last week, two pretrial judges wrote that the investigating judges had "repeatedly refused to take action on defense claims of government interference in the investigation and that fair trials may now be less likely as a result.

Though three Cambodian judges disagreed with that opinion, essentially taking a pro-government position and meaning that the court's Pre-Trial Chamber could not rule, Judges Catherine Marchi-Uhel of France and Rowan Downing of Australia found in their impassioned opinion that there was "reason to believe the Cambodian government had illegally acted to deny the court necessary witness testimony." Government officials last year, including Prime Minister Hun Sen, publicly instructed six senior members of the ruling party not to testify during the investigation.

Lemonde was also publicly attacked last year by some of his own investigators, one of whom swore in an affidavit that the judge had given instructions to favor the prosecution, charges that the judge has denied in court papers. "It was not always easy. It was even sometimes particularly trying on a personal level, I would say," Lemonde told reporters. "But we have done it and it's obviously today a great satisfaction."

Defense lawyers yesterday said they expected to appeal and reiterated their lack of confidence in the investigation, which Michael Karnavas, an American lawyer who is defending Ieng Sary, the former minister of foreign affairs, has called "a disappointment from the very beginning.

Michiel Pestman, a Dutch lawyer defending Nuon Chea, said the Khmer Rouge had largely been convicted already in the court of public opinion. "I am certainly not defending monsters; I am defending people," he said by telephone after the indictments were announced. "We are used to fighting public perception. That is why it's so important that we have an impartial and fair trial."

In appealing for funding, administrators at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, as the tribunal is officially known, which is facing weak financial support and a $10 million budget shortfall this year, have described the trials likely to begin next year as the most complex ever prosecuted. Hopes of bringing significant numbers of those responsible to justice were always slim: of seven members of the communist party's standing committee in 1975, five were killed by the regime itself during broad purges of suspected enemies in 1978.

In the intervening years, the architects and soldiers of the regime have escaped justice in succession by dying: Pol Pot, the secretive Khmer Rouge prime minister known as Brother Number One, died in 1998 in a remote Khmer Rouge redoubt near the Thai border. A year earlier, he had ordered the assassination of his former Defense Minister, Son Sen, along with his family. Pol Pot's wife, Khieu Ponnary, died in 2003. Ke Pauk, secretary of the Central Zone died in 2002. The feared Southwest Zone secretary Ta Mok died of complications from tuberculosis while in a military prison in 2006 and the former commerce minister Van Rith, suspected of sending staff members to their deaths at the hands of the secret police, died quietly in the countryside outside Phnom Penh in 2008.

Van Rith had been the subject of preliminary inquiries by U.N. prosecutors as part of a separate case that is opposed by the Cambodian government, which maintains that no more than five suspects will be tried. With Thursday's indictments, the court has reached that maximum. Van Rith died as Cambodian prosecutors objected to U.N. prosecutors' plans to open a new case in which he would have been included.

For Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, a local organization that supplied much of the court's documentary record, the case for which investigation concluded this week is the most important the court will ever conduct, regardless pf what becomes of the additional cases opened by U.N. prosecutors. "The question is, �Why did Cambodians kill Cambodians?' That is the most important question that has been put forward and only Case 002 can do that," Youk says, using the case number for Thursday's indictment. It "would lead us to what is next," he says. "It will trickle down how far you can go."

Following Tribunal Indictments, Appeals All Around

Kong Sothanarith, VOA Khmer | Phnom Penh
Friday, 17 September 2010

via CAAI

Photo: ASSOCIATED PRESS
Former Khmer Rouge leaders Khieu Samphan, left, and Nuon Chea, right.

“We are appealing the rejection order, and we are busy at the moment, because we have only 10 days.”

Defense attorneys on Friday were preparing appeals for their defendants at the Khmer Rouge tribunal, which on Thursday officially indicted four senior regime leaders for atrocity crimes. At the same time, lawyers for civil parties began looking for ways to have more victims included in a trial.

Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan, Ieng Sary and Ieng Thirith will be tried together next year for war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide against Cham Muslims and the Vietnamese and other crimes.

However, Ang Udom, a lawyer for former foreign minister Ieng Sary, said his defense team will appeal the official closing order, issued by investigating judges Thursday, on grounds of jurisdiction and misconduct.

Nuon Chea defense attorney Andrew Innuzi said his team was considering an appeal, but had not decided on which grounds.

Defense teams and prosecutors both have 30 days to appeal the closing order, which came after three years of investigation. International prosecutor Andrew Cayley said his office was “considering the documents” and whether to appeal.

In more announcements Thursday, investigating judges said they were considering only 2,123 applications from more than 4,000 purported victims seeking to become civil parties in the upcoming trial, a decision that civic groups said was too small.

“We are appealing the rejection order, and we are busy at the moment, because we have only 10 days,” said Silke Stuzensky, a lawyer for the German Development Agency, which is helping victims in the tribunal process.

The rejection of nearly half the applicants constituted a deprivation of victims rights to participate, she said. Civic groups have pushed for the greatest inclusion of victims possible.

“We believe that the number of dismissed applicants is significant and worrisome,” said Hang Chhay, executive director of the Khmer Institute for Democracy, another group helping victims.

Lawyers will have to travel to the provinces this weekend and explain to people why they were not admissible as civil parties, or they will have to find further information from rejected parties to submit to the court, he said.

“Even if we are not satisfied, we can't stop the train from moving forward,” said Bou Meng, a survivor of Tuol Sleng prison and active participant at the tribunal.

While some were worried not enough victims were included, Chhang Youk, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, said the 2,123 could be too much.

“It's a big number,” he said. The tribunal's victims unit is the “weakest” of the court's offices, he said, and with so many civil parties the process for victims could be diminished.

Out But Not Down, Cambodian Candidate Vows to Press On

Men Kimseng, VOA Khmer | Washington, D.C
Friday, 17 September 2010

via CAAI

Photo: VOA, Khmer
Meas Sam, a Cambodian-American making a run for the US House of Representatives.

“I'll continue involvement in politics because I want to represent our community, especially the Cambodians. I want progress and unity within the Cambodian community. I want them to exercise their rights, which start with going to vote, because there are a lot of us in the US, but most don't vote. That's why we don't get what we want. We don't benefit much.”

Meas Sam, a Cambodian-American making a run for the US House of Representatives, saw his campaign come to an end in Tuesday's primary election, but he says that won't stop his engagement in politics.

A former refugee who was entering politics for the first time, Meas Sam lost to Jon Golnik for the Republican nomination in Massachusetts' fifth district.

“I'll continue involvement in politics because I want to represent our community, especially the Cambodians,” he told VOA Khmer after the defeat. “I want progress and unity within the Cambodian community. I want them to exercise their rights, which start with going to vote, because there are a lot of us in the US, but most don't vote. That's why we don't get what we want. We don't benefit much.”

Sam Meas received substantive support in his congressional bid, placing second, above two other candidates from his Republican party. He won in four out of 29 towns, including Lowell, where a sizable population of Cambodians lives.

He'd campaigned on a platform of job creation for Cambodian-Americans and putting a halt to the deportation of Cambodians under a US immigration law, earning 7,588 votes—26 percent—to Golnik's 11,377.

“This time he was not successful, but he is still young and active,” said Khut Khaoly, a Lowell resident who voted for Sam Meas. “If he continues patiently, the next time he will received more votes and win the election.”

Sam Meas said his next move will be to help encourage Cambodians to run for town councils and school committees.

“Sam has set a good example for our people in America,” said Yap Kimtung, president of the group Cambodian Americans for Human Rights and Democracy. “If there is a candidate, we the Cambodians should contribute our funds so that they can win the election.”

Golnik will battle Democratic incumbent Niki Tsongas in November's mid-term election.

Garment Strike in Phnom Penh Reaches Critical Mass: Will Adidas, Gap, and Puma Pay Workers A Living Wage?

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Friday 17 September 2010
by: Anne Elizabeth Moore, t r u t h o u t | Report

On Monday, following a wave of strikes across Asia, around 60,000 textile workers in Phnom Penh walked off factory lines, protesting pay that stands at around half the living wage. By Wednesday, according to Kong Athit, Secretary General of the Cambodian Labour Confederation, the number of strikers had swelled to over three times that. By some estimates, around two thirds of the 297,000 garment workers and 48,000 athletic-shoe makers refused to work in protest of low wages. (The Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC), the organization that sets the minimum wage, has also seen an increase in protesters, but suggests a smaller number.) As protests hit a flashpoint Thursday, unions and government quickly agreed to renegotiate wages. A meeting will take place September 27.

(Photo: Bart Geesink / Flickr)

As many as 210,000 young women walked off their jobs this week, according to union sources. The strike followed a string of protests and walkouts this summer, many of which ended in violence. In July, the four-year-old minimum wage of $55 was raised to $61, following the release of a report that a living wage for garment factory workers in Phnom Penh hovered around $91 per month. This pay hike, which will not go into effect until October, will then freeze wages until 2014. Between 3,000 and 4,500 workers protested what they considered a paltry raise at a July 25 demonstration at the National Assembly.
Two days later, a strike at PCCS Garments, a Malaysian-owned manufacturer of goods for Adidas, Gap, and Puma, ended when police used electric shock batons to beat the young women laborers. (Over 90 percent of the sector’s employees are female, and the majority of the goods produced are exported to the US. The bulk of the remainder go to German companies.) Police attempted to force 3,000 workers back into the factory with assault weapons and tear gas. Workers retaliated with plastic chairs and water bottles. Nine were injured.

Those on strike this week say $61 per month is insufficient compensation, and it’s easy to see why: Workers often share small rooms - occasionally in factory-owned housing - paying between $15 and $25 per month in rent. (Cambodia uses the US dollar nationally, instead of its own currency, the Riel.) Utilities can add another $10 per month, and food costs run about a dollar a day. This alone totals $55 to $65 per month. Yet workers are sent to the city to support farm families back in the provinces, so also send around $50 remittance back home every month. The UN estimated last year that the wages of factory workers keep about 1.6 million of the nation’s 14 million people afloat.

Despite the pay rate, the International Labor Organization’s Better Factories Cambodia program found in 2008 that only 97 percent of the inspected textile factories comply with minimum pay standards for regular workers. In recent days, however, more and more workers have lost permanent positions and work casually. Better Factories Cambodia found that factories meet pay standards for these workers only 70 percent of the time.

Chea Mony, the head of the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia (and brother of slain union leader Chea Vichea initially agreed with the new monthly wage increase, parroting the GMAC’s concerns that international investors might no longer support the industry if further wage increases were sought, and the industry itself could dry up. Still, workers were agitated. Other union representatives criticized Mony, who wavered between support for the wage increase and support for the strikers. Several strikes were called over July and August, and then called off again.

Cambodia’s labor history is nearly as difficult as its revolutionary past. To take advantage of a mid-1990s quota system that offered developing nations a fair shot at exporting clothing to the US market, Cambodia began importing fabric and rubber - both necessities for making lucrative sportswear. These quotas ended in 2004.

It was a hard year for the industry. Beloved labor leader Chea Vichea had been murdered after winning the last major pay raise on behalf of textile workers. (Two more labor leaders have been murdered since.) Garment work slowed gradually until 2008. Then US orders dropped off drastically. Some factories closed up shop then, others laid off workers. Many of those that remained open doubled workloads but not pay, changed contracts to make it easier to fire employees or simply stopped meeting workers' demands for rights.

For those who continue to work, conditions at the factories have worsened. Overtime is often mandatory, with only 8 percent of companies adhering to laws limiting compulsory overtime. Work days frequently stretch to ten hours, and workers labor seven days per week. Sick leave is paid out 66 percent of the time, and half of the companies inspected by Better Factories Cambodia failed to meet basic health and safety requirements.

Still, the factories present one of the only employment options in the developing nation - and even at far below living wage, it's an option that averages slightly better than Cambodia’s gross national income per capita, estimated by the World Bank last year to be $650, or about $54 a month.

Yet GMAC secretary general Ken Loo claims the low minimum wage isn’t the average wage of Cambodian garment workers. "I don’t understand why they are so bent up on this minimum wage issue," he told reporters. "Most of the workers, with the exception of very, very few, those that maybe just joined the industry - most of the workers are not drawing minimum."

Workers, in fact - benefiting from bonuses for attendance, performance, seniority, and overtime pay - can pull in around $94 per month. (Studies estimate the average earnings to be closer to $71 per month.) But these benefits, too, have disappeared in the recent economy. Relying on them to meet basic living wage standards not only raises serious human and labor rights concerns, but also strikes labor leaders as short sighted.

The garment industry remains Cambodia’s third-largest economic sector. Garment workers’ strikes across Asia - in China, Vietnam, Myanmar and Bangladesh - have become common in recent months, as word spreads through the region of battles fought and won. But Cambodia has seen double-digit inflation in recent years, and continues to struggle with basic necessities such as electricity costs and the paucity of local resources for the industry that employs mostly women and supports around 7 percent of the nation.

The success of the garment work strike in Cambodia signals a tipping point for the global textile industry - and means the world’s biggest clothing brands can’t get away with paying half a living wage to workers any longer.

President Patil mesmerized by Angkor Wat, advocates cultural exchange

via CAAI

Siem Reap (Cambodia), Sep 17 (ANI): President Pratibha Devisingh Patil expressed wonder and amazement at the beauty of the 12th-century Angkor Wat temples, said to be Cambodia's grandest legacy.

The temples were constructed by Cambodia's once mighty Khmer Empire, and have a great influence of Hinduism on its architecture.


Angkor is one of the most important archaeological sites in South-East Asia and contains the magnificent remains of different capitals of the Khmer Empire, from the ninth to the 15th century.

"Angkor Wat temple is considered one of the biggest in the world. It was built in 12th century having historical and mythological importance. The temple architecture has been greatly influenced by architecture," President Patil told ANI.

"Ramayana, Mahabharata and Samudramanthan scenes are depicted on the walls of the temple. It is really surprising to see that how so large stones were beautifully carved and put together in ancient times. Today also, the carvings seem to be depicting real life pictures," she said.

"The carvings give a message of peace to the world and shows that Indian culture at that time had influence not only on Cambodia, but on Laos and Vietnam also. Everywhere I see that these places have a strong relationship with India and people here believe in Hindu gods and goddesses," she added. resident Patil also advocated more cultural exchanges between the two countries and asked the younger generation and students of India and Cambodia to visit each other to see their age-old cultural and historical ties.ngkor Wat is a Hindu temple complex made in early 12th century by King Suryavarman II. It was first dedicated to the Hindu god Lord Vishnu, and then to Buddhism.

The modern name Angkor Wat means "City Temple".

The exterior lower level of Angkor Wat displays the most extraordinary bas-reliefs, depicting the stories and characters from the Hindu mythological epics Ramayana and Mahabharata and the historical wars of Suryavarman II.as reliefs include the battle of Kurukshetra on the west wall, the historical march of the army of Suryavarman II against Cham, followed by scenes from heaven and hell on the south wall, and the "classic churning of the Ocean Milk" (Samudra Manthan) on the east wall.

The temple interior has hundreds of five carvings of Apsaras. The central tower of the temple has four images of Buddha, each facing a different cardinal points, highlighting the fact that though Angkor Wat was constructed as a Hindu temple, it has served as a Buddhist temple since Buddhism became Cambodia's dominant religion in the 14th century.

The entire temple complex includes temple of Angkor Wat and, at Angkor Thom, the Bayon Temple with its countless sculptural decorations. UNESCO has set up a wide-ranging programme to safeguard this symbolic site and its surroundings.

India has been involved in the conservation and restoration efforts of Angkor Wat from 1986 to 1993 and is currently working for Ta Prohm Temple, where work is likely to be completed by 2011. By Praful Kumar Singh (ANI)

The photo that launched a big reputation


From humble beginnings, Red Piano has become an institution.

via CAAI

Friday, 17 September 2010 15:00 Peter Olszewski

One of Siem Reap’s most famous and longest running venues, the Red Piano, is celebrating its 10th anniversary this month, and owner Geert Caboor points to the framed photo that helped propel his business to stellar heights.

It’s a nondescript happy-snap sort of photo, but it’s a picture that’s worth a million bucks.

It shows the then 34-year-old Caboor together with an actress in his bar in Siem Reap in 2001. She was working on a movie that was about to bring her broad appeal and international fame and, as an offshoot, help put Siem Reap more firmly on the world tourist map.

Greet Caboor, his staff and the famous red piano. Peter Olszewski

The actress was, of course, Angelina Jolie, and the photo was taken early in 2001 during the filming of the movie Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.

It’s a photo that brought Geert Caboor a lot of luck, and a lot of trade, and today he still can’t quite believe the largesse that fell his way only a few months after he opened his bar in a quiet, rat-infested dirt-track backstreet.

That street itself became famous when it was later renamed Pub Street, and the history of Geert Caboor, Angeline Jolie, the Red Piano, Pub Street and Siem Reap is intertwined.

It all began in the late 1990s when Caboor, a former Belgian factory hand, came to Cambodia looking for his big chance.

In Belgium, Caboor also worked in his spare time as a waiter and DJ, and graduated to co-owning a bar with a friend – the original Red Piano, so called simply because it housed a red piano.

He then sold the bar and decided to travel the globe, winding up 12 years ago in Phnom Penh.

“I became interested in Cambodia because of the potential it had for the tourist market,” he says. “I was not interested in Tenerife or Thailand which is already full of thousands of German restaurants, Belgian restaurants and beer gardens. I thought Cambodia was the place to come to, and I liked it right from the beginning.”

Caboor worked in restaurants in Phnom Penh for about 18 months, checking out the lay of the land. He then embarked on a two-week study trip to Siem Reap and figured that was the place to set up shop.

“As soon as I came here I said to myself, ‘This is it.’ Siem Reap was even more chaotic back then, but the tourists were starting to come. The people were nice, and you could just start doing anything you wanted here at that time. You could start up a bar with a small amount of money, which many people did.”

He found a restaurant and guesthouse that had been opened by a Cambodian who had run out of money, and after a lot of deliberation, he took it over despite it being a gamble.

“The guy who opened the restaurant failed because there was nobody here. He was too early, I guess. There was no guarantee that tourists would come here, because the tourism business at that time was on the river, near the Old Market.”

When Caboor opened the Red Piano, there was only one other nearby bar. But in a relatively short period of time the little strip took off to become Pub Street, as it’s known today, the hub of Siem Reap’s tourism.

So what made Pub Street happen?

“I think it’s fair to say that Red Piano was one of three places that helped create Pub Street,” said Caboor. “Angkor Wat bar was here first, and there was a small restaurant on the corner, but that had no impact on the tourists.

“Then we came as the Red Piano, and then the Soup Dragon came. That was already a popular place in another location, but they moved to the other corner of Pub Street.

“Those were the three popular places that started to bring people to this area. People were coming for a drink here, a meal there. Then a fourth business came, then the fifth one. And then suddenly away it went, the river died out, and we were it.”

But what really helped Red Piano to become “it”, with a subsequent flow on to other Pub Street joints, was the arrival in November 2000 of the Tomb Raider film crew.

“The guys from the movie, the technicians, started coming here regularly. It was God’s gift, as we say. And I decided that OK, for them I would make a cocktail, the Tomb Raider cocktail.”

Today it’s a big seller, a drawcard for the Red Piano, and figures prominently in the anniversary celebrations. Caboor is quick to add: “By the way, it’s a very good cocktail as well. It’s very refreshing, and for a hot country it’s perfect. It’s made of lime and tonic and Cointreau.”

The cocktail helped cement the venue as a home away from home for the film crew and, according to Caboor: “The guys then said, OK, we’ll bring Angelina Jolie in, so she came. A few of the expats and I were also extras in the movie, and we’d see her then as well.

“Film crews always have a party on the last day of shooting, and the Tomb Raider crew had the party here. “That was a wild night. And for a small restaurant like us that had just opened, we immediately had our biggest night ever. The producer came in and said, ‘Here, have $500 and tell me when the drinks are finished.’

“There we were, in a backpacker place where all the customers would scratch for a dollar. All the kitchen staff had to help out just to get us through that evening – it was our first big evening ever.

“Angelina Jolie came as well, tried the cocktail and of course she liked it, and that’s when we got the picture.” And the rest, as they say, is history.

EU to provide Cambodia 40 mln USD for improving education

via CAAI

September 17, 2010

The European Union (EU) said Friday that it will provide 31 million euro (about 40 million U.S. dollars) for improving education sector in Cambodia.

The announcement was made at the forum on the safety use of land in primary schools in Phnom Penh.

Attending the forum included Im Sithy, minister of Education, Youth and Sports and Rafael Dochao Moreno, charge d'affaires ad interim of the Delegation of the European Union to Cambodia.

The 31 million euro assistance for improving education in Cambodia is expected to be implemented from 2011 through 2013.

Since 2006, the EU has provided assistance for the same project amounting to 26 million euro (about 34 million U.S. dollars).

Following the signing of the Paris Peace Accords in October 1991, the European Union entered into a two-way dialogue with Cambodia on co-operation, which has since assisted the country in its efforts to tackle the challenges of emerging from years of war: rebuilding infrastructure and communications, increasing agricultural production to normal levels, relocating displaced persons, and clearing millions of land mines.

Between 1992 and 1999, some 262 million euro in assistance was provided to Cambodia from the budget of the EU via the European Commission.

Source: Xinhua

Squatters Live In Old Building Concern Of Eviction

Khmer Rouge Court Starts Case File 002

Labour trainees free to leave


Photo by: Sovan Philong
Prospective domestic workers at a training facility operated by VC Manpower Company, a labour recruitment firm, in early August.

via CAAI

Friday, 17 September 2010 15:00 Mom Kunthear

FOUR women who signed up to train with the labour-recruitment firm VC Manpower Company were released on Wednesday after they decided that they no longer wanted to pursue domestic worker positions in Malaysia, the Community Legal Education Centre said yesterday.

Huy Pichsovann, labour programme officer for CLEC, said the four women began the training session four months ago, but that he didn’t know when they decided not to complete it.

At first, he said, VC Manpower demanded that it be repaid US$700 loans given to each of the women, money they were expected to pay back after landing jobs abroad. But after officials from the Interior and Labour ministries intervened on Wednesday night, the women were allowed to return to their homes in Phnom Penh and in Kandal province, he said.

Huy Pichsovann said CLEC had received 11 complaints so far this year against VC Manpower. Earlier this month, Sen Ly, the company’s director, was arrested and charged after trainees said the company had held them against their will.

An Interior Ministry official who participated in the Wednesday talks, and who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to talk to the media, said yesterday that more talks would be held today to determine whether the women would be required to pay back their loans.

CAMBODIA: Government opens first methadone clinic

via CAAI

17/09/2010

Photo: Brendan Brady/IRIN
Cambodia came under fire earlier this year over its drug treatment services

BANGKOK, 17 September 2010 (IRIN) - Cambodia is piloting its first methadone clinic for heroin addicts, a move welcomed by NGOs after the government was heavily criticized for its boot-camp style drug-rehab facilities.

Methadone is a heroin substitute used to assuage withdrawal symptoms and for decades has been the treatment method preferred by health practitioners in developed countries, even though it comes with its own addiction problems.

Introduced by the World Health Organization (WHO) and administered by the Ministry of Health, the year-long pilot programme officially launched this week in the capital, Phnom Penh.

"We don't have a strong history of [professional] drug treatment in Cambodia," Chhit Sophal, head of the Ministry of Health's Centre for Mental Health and Drug dependence and in charge of the programme, told IRIN. "This centre can be a model and other centres here can learn from it."

Some 60 patients are already enrolled and Chhit wants the figure to top 100 within a year.

By deterring heroin users from injecting, methadone clears the body of harmful toxins and also prevents the spread of HIV/AIDS and hepatitis from needle-sharing within this high-risk group, said Chhit.

Almost a quarter of Cambodia's estimated 3,000 injecting drug users are HIV-positive, according to the government. This rate is much higher than the national average of less than 1 percent, according to UN statistics.

Graham Shaw, a drug dependence specialist with WHO in Phnom Penh, said the new treatment could turn around the lives of heroin addicts.

"Rather than having your whole life focused on finding money to buy more heroin, you can focus on repairing relationships with family, finding jobs, and using income for things other than drugs," he said.

Shaw said the benefits of clinical treatment would unravel, though, unless other organizations stepped in to help patients find employment and avoid drug-using communities.

Progress and lingering concerns

According to a Human Rights Watch report released in January, drug users were involuntarily interned at government centres where they faced beatings and forced labour, while being deprived of effective treatment for their addiction.

The WHO reported in a publication last year that only one in 405 people in Cambodia entered a drug treatment centre voluntarily.

The methadone programme is a strong step in the right direction, said Shaw. "One of the reasons this clinic is so critical is that it's the first attempt by the government to use a voluntary [rehab] service," he said.

David Harding works with the NGOs Friends International and Mith Samlanh, which refer heroin users to the methadone clinic on a voluntary basis.

He said this more sophisticated therapy was a sign of progress but that the overall picture of the government's rehabilitation protocol remained "mixed", citing the opening of a new state provincial rehab centre that he said used "boot camp" methods.

The government's intentions aside, the country's bigger drug problem, methamphetamine use, remains far more difficult to treat clinically.

The WHO estimates there are some 40,000 methamphetamine users in Cambodia. The international medical community has yet to find a strong antidote to methamphetamine dependence, though.

"That's the Holy Grail, to find the methadone equivalent [for methamphetamine addiction]," said Shaw.

ASI makes swift progress at Ta Prohm temple


via CAAI

Parvathi Menon
Friday, Sep 17, 2010

It has made temple complex accessible and safe for tourists

The Ta Prohm temple in Cambodia.

Angkor (Cambodia): The Archaeological Survey of India's Rs. 17-crore project on conservation of the Ta Prohm complex, third most visited site after Angkor Wat and the Bayon temple in the Angkor region, has made brisk and visible progress since the work began in 2006. This has set to rest fears and some criticism in international quarters about the ASI's technical capabilities and aesthetic vision.

On her visit to Cambodia, President Pratibha Patil repeatedly highlighted India's mission to restore Ta Prohm. Although no fresh funds were committed for the project, the speed with which the ASI restored some of the architectural elements of the original temple and its environs, making the complex both accessible and safe for tourists, had elicited praise from APSARA (Authority for the Protection and Management of the Angkor Region), government body in overall charge of this famous World Heritage Site.

For tourists to Angkor, the attraction of Ta Prohm, a monastic complex built in the early 12th century by Jayavarman VII, most famous of the Khmer rulers in honour of his mother, lies in the mysterious way nature has encroached upon the temple. The trunks and roots of gigantic trees twist around and through the temple's walls, pillars and floors.

Over time, the action of nature prised the structure apart, reducing much of it to mounds of huge sandstone blocks that obstructed passages and halls.

The ASI has been given permission by the International Coordinating Committee, a body representing more than 30 countries and international funding agencies that oversees restoration on the historical sites in Ankor, to work in five specific areas of the temple.

Akin to assembling the pieces of a jigsaw, the ASI has reconstructed parts of the temple from the stonework strewn around. It has created a wooden walkway through the complex for tourists, and done a careful job of creating steel and wood supports in areas that threatened to collapse. While the visitor may find the sight of steel girders an intrusion upon the ethereal aura of the ancient temple, without these props the structure would eventually collapse.

“The challenge of Ta Prohm is to conserve a structure that reflects a unique combination of nature and heritage. The Cambodian government is appreciative at the speed at which we are working,” said ASI unit Devinder Singh Sood.

The work of the ASI at Ta Prohm will continue till 2013-14.

Facing Double Discrimination: Cambodian Lesbians Are Breaking the Silence

via CAAI

September 17, 2010



by Meghan Lewis
-Cambodia-
 
 
Pride Poster designed by Amy Sanford for RoCK.

“Feelings, oh feelings, please accept this. I have not wronged - even in law. We wish to have a place in this world and to love one another freely.” -Noy Sitha, 58, Women’s Network for Unity

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people exist in all countries yet in many places they remain largely invisible and subject to discrimination and human rights violations. In more than 80 countries homosexuality is punishable by law and in several of those countries the punishment for same-sex love may be death. Even in “progressive” countries like England or the United States, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people are still fighting for equal rights including the right to employment, to marry, and to have a family.

Since I came to Cambodia in 2008, I have been part of the formation of a small group of local and international LGBT volunteers who organized Cambodia Pride 2009 and 2010 – two week-long Pride events in Cambodia emphasizing love, diversity, and acceptance. These events included workshops on Lesbian sexual health and family acceptance as well as a community day, an art exhibition, and a film festival. The group, Rainbow Community Kampuchea, is still young but very active. Furthermore, my work at the Khmer HIV/AIDS Alliance is an advocacy role focusing on raising awareness about gender and sexuality in the response to HIV and AIDS in Cambodia. Through this work, I am friends with many Cambodian LGBT and we are working closely together to change the way LGBT are viewed in society. In Cambodia, lesbians are subject to double discrimination – they fight first for their rights as women and then for their rights as lesbians.

As a result of Pride, a local human rights NGO recently initiated a three-year project focusing specifically on LGBT rights. The LGBT community is strengthening organically and for the first time in Cambodia it is inclusive of lesbians, who until now have remained largely invisible. Lesbians are breaking free of the shackles of shame that have kept them silent for so long and are speaking out against the misconception that only heterosexual relationships are valid or natural.

As part of the HIV response, Cambodia, like many developing countries, in recent years started providing services for men who have sex with men (MSM). Although this helps raise visibility of non-heterosexual people and provides much needed health education, this focuses attention entirely on men and thus lesbians remain invisible. In addition, MSM refers to a behavior rather than an identity, so the term can be problematic as it does not address other aspects of sexuality such as love, communities, and feelings.

Gender and Sexuality Art Exhibition, New Art Gallery, Phnom Penh. Photograph by Nick Sells

The lack of visibility for Cambodian lesbians often leaves them feeling isolated not only from heterosexual society, but from the more visible gay and MSM communities as well. An LGBT workshop facilitated in March by Rainbow Community Kampuchea, sought to redress this issue and invited lesbians to anonymously submit questions to a female health advisor about sexual health.
Their questions included, Can lesbians get STDs and how? If we have a lot of sex does it affect our health or not? How can we protect ourselves from diseases? And, If MSM are at high risk from HIV, does that mean lesbians are too?

The basic nature of these questions indicates an overwhelming lack of information and advice about lesbian sexual health. There is confusion as lesbians are often forced to look at information tailored for heterosexual couples and MSM and then draw conclusions about their own health.

Cambodian society places a high value on family. Because of this, most gay men, lesbians, and transgender people feel pressured to marry a partner of the opposite sex. Society deems it acceptable for men to keep their autonomy and independence after marriage; they can go out at night, drink, stay out with their friends, and even have other sexual partners.

In this way, many gay men who are married to women are able to have relationships with men outside the marriage. For women however, this is not the case. Women are expected to bear children, carry out housekeeping duties and often have less freedom to go out alone and meet friends.

When lesbians do make the brave decision to come out publicly, they face discrimination from friends and family. Lesbians who are more masculine in appearance often have difficulties finding and keeping employment and housing.

Noy Sitha, 58, is an outreach volunteer for Women’s Network for Unity, a collective of sex workers, lesbians, and garment workers in Phnom Penh. Sitha shares with me how she was discriminated against at her workplace, “I worked at the Department of Classical Arts and they would only let me speak on the radio. One of the reasons they did not let me perform visually is because of my masculine appearance. I did not wear skirts.”

Pheang Sanh, 57, identifies as a lesbian, but like many Cambodian lesbians believes she is both male and female. “In my previous life, I was a girl and I died at age seven. My previous parents did not love me as a daughter, so when I died, they wrapped me with a red mat and left me on the base of Rang (name of tree), located in a stream. My spirit cried silently and wished that if I could be born again, I would be a boy whom my parents love,” she says.

Pheang Sanh and Noy Sitha with a colleague from Women’s Network for Unity. Photograph courtesy of Khmer HIV/AIDS NGO Alliance, Cambodia

The main religion in Cambodia is Theravada Buddhism, and the teachings influence a wide range of beliefs in Cambodia. It is not unusual for queer sexual identities to be explained through past lives lived as the opposite gender, as illustrated in Sanh’s beliefs. It has also been said by some who are critical of homosexuality that it is karmic retribution for an individual’s past life. There are conflicting opinions within Khmer Buddhism as to the morality of homosexuality. While some texts condemn homosexuality as immoral, there are others that say it does not conflict with Buddhist ideology. During a recent workshop for LGBT people and their families, a highly regarded monk explained that Buddhist teaching simply asks that people live good lives, regardless of who they loved.
Although as a teenager, Sanh wore men’s clothes and had a girlfriend, her parents arranged for her to marry a marine officer in 1969. She was deeply unhappy about it, but she had to honour her parent’s wishes.

Sanh and her husband had a daughter before he was killed during the Pol Pot regime, “I was happy because I finally had my freedom, yet I pitied him. He used to be a monk, he was kind and he knew about my true identity.”

Sanh has lived her whole life experiencing discrimination from her family and her community. Speaking about one relationship with a woman she said, “We were so afraid, we contemplated committing suicide.” Now she is trying to promote acceptance of lesbians in Cambodia so that the next generation does not have to suffer as she did.

Women like Sanh and Sitha are taking action to change the way that Cambodian society views lesbians. “I have educated fellow lesbians to be aware of their rights. I persuade them to be brave and to take control of their lives,” says Sitha. “We ourselves must be conscious of who we are. We must make society recognize us as human beings even though we are lesbians. Our hearts are created by blood and flesh as all others are. We do not destroy our country and do harm. We only want to live our lives with our families. Why does society discriminate against us?”

It will take a long time for Sanh and Sitha to reach their goal of a society that does not discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, but small changes are already visible and they remain hopeful that more change is on the way.

Srun Srorn, who has organized several Pride events in the Kingdom, says, “Pride is all about love, and demonstrating that we are the same as everyone else and have the right to have everything that straight people have. Sometimes gays and lesbians are seen as almost sub-human by many people in our society but we want to tell those people that we are human beings- and we love who we are.”

About the Author:
Meghan Lewis is the Policy, Advocacy and Communications Officer for the Khmer HIV/ AIDS NGO Alliance and works to reduce discrimination against marginalized groups in the response to HIV and AIDS. She has been a key actor in the formation of Cambodia’s first LGBT group, Rainbow Community Kampuchea (RoCK). Throughout her personal, academic and professional life, her primary passion has been to reduce the inequalities that exist in so many areas of society and work towards a future where opportunities are accessible to all people regardless of ethnicity, economics, gender or sexuality.

China, Cambodia Agree to Further Military Ties

via CAAI

2010-09-17
Xinhua
Web Editor: Zhang Jin

The Chinese armed forces were willing to further boost friendly and cooperative relations with their Cambodian counterparts, said a senior Chinese military official Friday.

Chinese State Councilor and Defense Minister Liang Guanglie made the remark in a meeting with visiting Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Tea Banh in Beijing.

Liang hailed the good relations between China and Cambodia, with close high-level contact and expanding areas of cooperation.

Recent years had witnessed the smooth development of China-Cambodia military ties, with frequent visits on various levels and exchanges in military training, education and logistics, said Liang.

China would like to work with Cambodia to continuously deepen the friendship and cooperation between the two nations and two armed forces, Liang added.

Tea Banh said Cambodia appreciated China's support and help with Cambodia's development and national defense building and was ready to enhance cooperation with China.

Cambodia would continue to firmly adhere to the one-China policy, Tea Banh said.

He also expressed the hope to further promote military cooperation and exchanges between Cambodia and China.

Indictment in CambodiaWhen does a massacre become a genocide?

via CAAI

Sep 17th 2010
by B.B. PHNOM PENH

CAMBODIA’s United Nations-backed war-crimes court formally indicted four former Khmer Rouge leaders on September 16th. Their trial, set to begin next year, will be the second of its kind. In July Comrade Duch, the commandant of an infamous prison, was handed a 35-year sentence for war crimes and crimes against humanity, reduced to 19 years against time served and a period of illegal detention. Next in the dock are the Khmers Rouges’ chief ideologue, Nuon Chea, their former head of state, Khieu Samphan, and Ieng Sary and his wife, Ieng Thirith, both ministers in their government. The four stand charged, like Duch, with war crimes and crimes against humanity—and also with genocide. The court’s new charge should prove most contentious yet.

The term genocide has been used freely by Cambodians and foreign observers alike in reference to the atrocities committed during the Khmers Rouges’ ultra-Maoist revolution. In the mid- to late 1970s it cost the lives of nearly one in four Cambodians; all told, at least 1.7m people died. But the tribunal, started in 2007, only introduced this monumental charge at the end of last year. Investigating judges and prosecutors proposed adding it on the basis of their research into the defendants’ alleged role in the slaughter of Cambodia’s ethnic Vietnamese and Cham Muslims.

In 1999, UN experts concluded that there was strong evidence pointing to genocide by the Khmer Rouge. Ben Kiernan, a scholar of the Khmer Rouge and founder of Yale University’s Cambodian Genocide Project, for one, is adamant that the mass killing in Cambodia constitutes a genocide. In his research Mr Kiernan cites the disproportionate death toll inflicted on those two non-Khmer ethnic groups. The regime officially called for the elimination of both minorities.

Many advocates contend that the symbolic weight carried by the charge of genocide will prove to the Cambodian public that the Western-backed tribunal—known officially as the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia—acknowledges the gravity of their country’s loss. Theary Seng, a survivor who works as a rights advocate in Phnom Penh, believes there is a strong legal basis for prosecuting the regime’s leaders for genocide. Moreover, she says, it can be an effective means of bringing "gravitas to the tribunal”.

“Genocide” is increasingly being used as a generic label for all the world’s most serious mass crimes. “As a result, the absence of the term ‘genocide’ can be interpreted by survivors as meaning they didn’t suffer as much as others”—ie those who have been deemed survivors of genocide—says John Ciorciari, a lawyer and assistant professor at University of Michigan’s School of Public Policy. He has been tracking the tribunal’s genesis and operations for 11 years in his capacity as a legal adviser to the Documentation Centre of Cambodia, which conducts research for the court.

Despite its growing popularity, the concept of genocide maintains a narrow legal definition which hinges on specific intent. This makes it especially hard to prove. Few dispute that the Khmer Rouge led a campaign to annihilate groups of people whom were considered to be incompatible with its revolutionary aims. The question is whether these groups were targeted first and foremost because of their ethnic or religious type, or rather because they represented perceived political and economic enemies. Somewhat perversely, victims belonging to the latter lot fall outside the crime’s definition.

Not everyone involved with the trial is eager to see the charge introduced. Some have argued that introducing genocide will further entangle a process already beset by delays and confusion. The “Extraordinary Chambers” have already suffered extraordinarily complex internal disputes and accusations of various improprieties, political interference and even outright corruption. One sharply pointed criticism sees the charge of genocide as a cynical move foisted on the proceedings by foreign jurists who want to enhance the profile of the court’s work and their role in it—thereby distracting attention from the Western powers’ history of wrongdoing in Cambodia. “This tribunal has from the beginning been muddled by political objectives,” says Philip Short, who wrote a biography of the late Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge’s paramount leader.

Many scholars of the Vietnam war blame the American bombing of eastern Cambodia for having driven much of the peasantry into the hands of the Khmer Rouge. America’s role in Cambodia became even grimmer during the 1980s, after the Khmer Rouge were driven from power by a Vietnamese invasion force. In a terrible exercise of cold-war realpolitik, American agents supported the Khmer Rouge in exile as a means of resisting the regime installed by Vietnam.

Or, perhaps, the court is simply following through on its mandate. “The purpose of the tribunal is to adjudicate the most serious crimes,” as Mr Ciorciari says. “To the extent that genocide is distinct from war crimes and crimes against humanity, it’s productive to consider this specific charge.” There is, after all, evidence to support it.

(Photo credit: ECCC)