Friday, 24 December 2010
The Nation (Thailand)
Publication Date : 24-12-2010
Thailand and Cambodia can make progress on resolving territorial disputes if discussions are held in the right forum and in the right spirit
The Thai and Cambodian leadership wants us to believe that they have basically kissed and made up and decided to move toward stronger cooperation in all areas, including diplomacy, joint investments and border disputes. Judging from the kind of trash talk they have been directing at each other this past year, it's amazing how these grown-ups could so easily turn over a new leaf. Third-graders tend to hold longer grudges, but at least they are more honest about their feelings and intentions.
But there are other considerations here than personal or official viewpoints. As national leaders, they must take into consideration the national interest. Still, one can't help but notice the childish behaviour in all of this.
The 60th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the two countries was a good occasion for the issue of an important announcement, and it should be welcomed by anyone who considers themselves a friend of Thailand and Cambodia.
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has pardoned three Thai men serving jail terms in Cambodia for illegal entry. This is a gesture of goodwill and a gift to commemorate the 60th anniversary of our bilateral relations.
Hun Sen told a recent news conference that the relaxed atmosphere between the two countries came about after the resignation of his long-time friend, former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra as an economic adviser to his government.
But what Hun Sen probably wanted to say was that Thaksin has served his purpose, which was to slam the current Thai administration for its unwillingness to endorse Phnom Penh's effort to improve the heritage status of the 13th-century Hindu temple, Preah Vihear, which lies in a disputed area on the Thai-Cambodia border.
But this wasn't a one-way effort. Thaksin also needed Hun Sen, to remind Thailand of the kind of damage he is willing to inflict upon Thailand from abroad, even to the point of irking the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which prides itself on its policy of non-interference and mutual respect.
But with a new page turned, perhaps it's time for Thailand to rethink the entire approach toward the dispute over the ownership of Preah Vihear and the territory around it.
First of all, the disputes over the ownership of Preah Vihear Temple and the sovereignty of the adjacent area are two separate issues, and they should be treated as such.
One prevailing theory among ultra-nationalists in Thailand is that any move on the temple - including United Nations endorsement for Unesco World Heritage status - will strengthen Cambodia's hand over the disputed 4.6 square kilometres of land that straddles the border. Besides the disputed territory around the temple, Thai nationalists argue that Unesco status for the temple will also increase Phnom Penh's leverage over maritime disputes in the Gulf of Thailand and the islands that fall into overlapping territorial claims.
Perhaps it's time to come to terms with the past. While it is understandable that Thai policy-makers are concerned about a possible Cambodian hidden agenda, this shouldn't mean that they have the green light to sabotage every move that our neighbour makes. The Abhisit government should have accepted the invitation to sit on Unesco's International Coordinating Committee (ICC). If we are confident in our position over the disputed territory, then accepting the invitation should not be an issue. After all, Natural Resources and Environment Minister Suwit Khunkitti had accepted and signed the World Heritage Committee's Decision 34 COM 7B.66, which basically endorses Cambodia's position on the ICC.
In the final analysis, Thailand should not demand anything far beyond the protection of its right to the disputed area adjacent to the temple. We need to disconnect the discourse between the border dispute and the temple. The border dispute should be handled by a joint boundary committee. Unesco and the World Heritage Committee are not the places to discuss this matter. Once the land border dispute is settled, we can move on to the ocean, where a wealth of resources awaits the two countries if and when the overlapping claims are settled.
December, 24 2010
TAY NINH — Viet Nam and Cambodia have yet to fully tap their bilateral investment and trade potential due to poor infrastructure in border areas and lack of information on investment and trade opportunities, a provincial official said.
Though trade between the two countries is rising by more than 30 per cent annually, Cambodia remains a promising market for Vietnamese firms, Do Thanh Hoa, director of the southern Tay Ninh Province's Department of Industry and Trade, told a conference held on Wednesday.
Trade between the two countries is expected to reach US$1.7 billion this year. Vietnamese firms blamed the low exports on the shortage of commercial centres, warehouses, and showrooms in border areas.
Poor transportation and communications, unreliable payment systems, and insufficient information on investment and trade opportunities also made it difficult for them to export to the neighbouring country, they said.
Many Vietnamese companies have, however, invested in Cambodia in rubber plantations, information and communications, banking and supermarket. — VNS
By TAKAHIRO FUKADA
Friday, Dec. 24, 2010
Building lives: Kids stand in front of Damrei Krom Primary School, built by AMATAK in Banteaymeanchey Province, Cambodia, in this Aug. 26 photo. COURTESY OF AMATAK HOUSE OF CAMBODIA
Fumio Goto and Meas Bun Ra, a Cambodian refugee Goto looked after in Japan, are dedicated to building schools in Cambodia.
Since Goto founded Tokyo-based nonprofit AMATAK House of Cambodia in 2005, the NPO has taken over the task that the two initiated in the Southeast Asian nation.
AMATAK has so far built 15 elementary schools in Cambodia. The 16th, being built in Kor Svay, Banteaymeanchey Province, will fete its completion on Jan. 26.
"Because our NPO depends on membership fees, building one school per year is the best we can do," Goto said, noting that as the number of schools they build grows, their maintenance costs also balloon.
This year, AMATAK received ¥175,226 from The Japan Times Readers' Fund.
Other than building schools, AMATAK said it also provides poverty-stricken people in Cambodia with rice and other food. The organization also said it donates rice and sewing machines to impoverished families, families caring for sick loved ones and villages with AIDS patients. The readers' fund has been used for those activities as well as school construction, it said.
Each new school means 300 children can receive an education, Goto said.
He is proud that one of the children his organization helped later graduated from a junior college and became a junior high school teacher.
Donations can be sent to the following bank account: Shinbashi branch of Mizuho Bank, "futsu koza" 1393499 (the name of the account is: Japan Times Dokusha no Nanmin Enjo Kikin). Checks should be made out to The Japan Times Readers' Charity Fund, c/o The Japan Times head office (4-5-4 Shibaura, Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-8071). For more information, call (03) 3453-5312.
Purveyors of classic Khmer rock'n'roll, The Cambodian Space Project plan to take on the world
It's been eight years since I last made a trip to Cambodia and had the chance to stock upon some Khmer sounds. Last week I was in Phnom Penh for a few days, and I must say, the capital is buzzing; it's a veritable hive of activity and commerce.
The band’s first recording is a killer version of Pan Ron’s hit, I’m Unsatisfied.
I went for a walk down Sisowat Quay on the banks of the Mekong at dusk one evening, always a good time to take photographs, and I thought for a moment that I had been transported back to Harajuku in Tokyo on a Sunday, when all the wannabe bands and poseurs play and strut to groups of dancing fans. Down on Sisowat the scene was bustling with groups of dancers, some doing aerobics to dance grooves, while other more exclusive groups focused on the latest K-Pop moves. People of all ages joined in the public groups or chatted while they watched the K-poppers.
In that area there are music stores but they don't sell Khmer music, so on Saturday morning I headed for the so-called Russian market, where among the tourist stalls and DVD shops, you can find vendors who have a good selection of different kinds of Khmer music. I stocked up on some Sin Sisamouth collections (the top musical icon of popular music), along with a compilation featuring his duets with top female singers from the '60s and '70s, Ros Sereysothea and Pan Ron. I found a tasty phleng kar (wedding song) collection, as well as songs by Meng Pichanda, who sings a local moody style, not unlike Thai luk thung music, called ramkbach, and some interesting Khmer rap.
Later I found myself in the back of a cyclo with one of Pan Ron's biggest fans, Srey Thy, singer with the new band The Cambodian Space Project and the band's founder and leader, Australian guitarist Julien Poulson. Srey, upon finding out that my son's relatives are from Buri Ram in Thailand's lower Northeast, launched into several stirring renditions of kantrum hits, which Cambodians call "Khmer Surin" music.
We were on our way to a birthday party for the band's Breton accordionist, during which I met the revolving personnel of this unusual music collective. The band plays covers of Khmer rock'n'roll from the late '60s to early '70, when Phnom Penh was a regional entertainment centre, but with a multinational twist. Many of the great Khmer musicians of the period perished during the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime but interest was revived with the Cambodian Rocks compilations of the '90s, and then by the US-based Khmer/US band, Dengue Fever. Unlike Dengue, though, The Cambodian Space Project is actually based in Phnom Penh.
Street dancers show their moves at Phnom Penh’s Sisowat Quay. JOHN CLEWLEY
Julien said that he originally went to Cambodia to make some music documentaries but was so taken with the singing ability of Srey after he saw her sing in a karaoke bar, that he decided to set up a band. Cambodian, French-Cambodian and French members make up the rest of the band. Interest was generated immediately, not only among the expat population but also among local Cambodian music fans. In the just a year, the band has played over 200 gigs in Cambodia, as well gigs in France and Hong Kong. In the new year, the band will jet off for its first major tour that will encompass Australia, Europe and the US. Total world domination can't be far way.
The band's first recording has just been released, a 7" vinyl maxi-single that features, on the A-side, a killer version of Pan Ron's hit, I'm Unsatisfied. The B-side features a catchy song written by Srey called If You Go, I Come Too. Julien says that he noticed that Srey is a natural songwriter, so the band usually plays a mix of covers and self-penned songs. He says that the single is the first vinyl to be released in Cambodia since the early '70s.
Here's how he describes the global process: "The single was recorded in Cambodian at Cambodian Living Arts - a small studio which boasts a collection of mics donated by Peter Gabriel. It was mixed by Lindsay Gravina of Birdland Studios in Australia. The mixes were sent to London, then the masters sent via Rough Trade to the Czech Republic. We picked up our 'band copies' from a little record store in Bretagne, France called Rockin' Bones. A round-about kinda production but very rewarding to launch this vinyl in Cambodia... not too many turntables here but the vinyl's thick enough to mash chilli and chop vegetables in the village kitchen."
I've just heard an advance copy of the band's debut album, the title of which, in translation from the original Khmer goes something like The Moon's Apsara Rides The Cosmic Golden Swan-Goose. Groovy.
The album's standouts are a distinctive cover of Pan Ron's I'm Sixteen, which features some great blues harp and the two Srey penned songs, Kangaroo Boy (great for pogo-ing to and I predict will go down a storm in Australia) and Have Visa, No Rice. It's a fun album that is likely to raise the band's international profile.
The Cambodian Space Project is not the first band to rediscover and play '60s/'70s Khmer rock'n'roll but it is the first one based in Cambodia. If you liked all those great Cambodian Rock compilations and Dengue Fever, you'll certainly enjoy The Cambodian Space Project, several members of whom are stretching their wings to fly into Bangkok to play on Christmas Day.
The Cambodian Space Project play at the WTF Bar on Sukhumvit Soi 51 on Dec 25 at 9pm. For more information, call 02-662-6246.
Published on Fri Dec 24, 2010
A 76-YEAR-OLD grandma who trekked through Cambodia for charity said it was an ‘extraordinary, humbling experience’.
Shirley Butler, from Nethergreen, Eastwood, said her trip made her realise how lucky she was to live in England where everyday things were taken for granted.
She said: “I am very humble. I didn’t realise how well off we were in this country.
“The people are so happy out there and they have got nothing. But they’re so happy with their lot.
“If they wanted to eat that night they had to go out and catch a fish or a snake. It just brings it home to you. We’ve go these supermarkets on our doorsteps and we don’t think anything of it.”
Shirley, who has now been on ten treks for the charity SCOPE, said Cambodia was particularly interesting because she lived in a village for four days with the locals.
“You get a real feel for their lifestyle,” she said.
The intrepid hiker, who raised over £3,000, helped re-build stilt houses blown up by land mines and climbed Siem Reap during her stay.
Shirley keeps threatening to hang up her boots, but says since returning from Cambodia she is once again determined to plan another trip. She is now looking into a project to help build a house in Brazil in 2013.
“I’m just hoping I’ll be fit and strong enough to take part,” she said.
Shirley has raised over £25,000 for SCOPE over the last 11 years. Her adventures have included trekking through Africa, Vietnam and Venezuela and climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.
The causeway across the moat at Angkor Wat; photograph by Steve McCurry
More than thirty years after an estimated two million people died at the hands of Pol Pot’s regime of Democratic Kampuchea, trials of senior Khmer Rouge leaders and those most responsible for the deaths are at last taking place in Cambodia. On July 26, the first to be tried, Kaing Guek Eav, commonly known as Duch, was sentenced to thirty-five years in prison for war crimes and crimes against humanity—a sentence that he and the prosecution have since appealed. Duch directed Security Prison 21, also known as Tuol Sleng, where at least 14,000 prisoners, mostly Khmer Rouge cadres and officials, were tortured and killed.1
Even more important, the next trial, which will probably begin in 2011, involves the four most senior Khmer leaders still alive: Nuon Chea, known as Brother Number Two; Ieng Sary, who was foreign minister; his wife, Ieng Thirith, minister for social affairs; and Khieu Samphan, who was president of Democratic Kampuchea. Now in their late seventies and early eighties, all four were arrested in 2007 and on September 16 were formally charged with war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, and related crimes under Cambodian laws.
While the trials have refocused international attention on Cambodia’s dark past, little attention has been given to how the much-watched proceedings relate to the troubled politics of Cambodia today. Will they lead to a new era of justice and accountability for a beleaguered people or end in another betrayal?
Cambodia is ruled by longtime Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Cambodian People’s Party. They govern with absolute power and control all institutions that could challenge their authority. Opposition political parties exist, giving the illusion of multiparty democracy, but elections have not been fair and the opposition no longer poses any threat to Hun Sen. The monarchy has survived but has little influence. The freedoms of expression, association, and assembly are severely curtailed. Human rights organizations are intimidated, and a draft law aims to bring them under the regime’s authority. The judiciary is controlled by the executive, and the flawed laws that exist are selectively enforced. Hundreds of murders and violent attacks against politicians, journalists, labor leaders, and others critical of Hun Sen and his party remain unsolved.
The regime’s violence against political opponents has been flagrant. In March 1997 Hun Sen’s bodyguards were clearly implicated in a grenade attack on a peaceful rally in Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh, led by opposition leader Sam Rainsy.2 Sixteen people were killed and over 140 injured, including a US citizen. No serious inquiry was ever completed. Royalist opponents of Hun Sen were murdered when he deposed Prime Minister Norodom Ranariddh in a coup on July 5–6, 1997. More people were killed during the July 1998 elections, which Hun Sen won. In January 2004, the popular labor leader Chea Vichea, an outspoken critic of the government, was shot, one of several contract killings in Phnom Penh before and after the July 2003 elections, carried out in broad daylight by helmeted gunmen on motorbikes.
In October 2005, in an attempt to encourage prosecution of these murders and other serious crimes, Peter Leuprecht, at the time the United Nations secretary-general’s special representative for human rights in Cambodia, issued a report tracing a continuing and accepted practice of impunity since the start of the 1990s. However, open discussion of the report and its recommendations was not possible in Cambodia and it was ignored.
By confronting the crimes committed between 1975 and 1979, the Khmer Rouge trials offer hope of breaking the pattern of impunity that has characterized Cambodia’s recent history. But they could also allow Cambodia’s leaders to claim a commitment to justice and the rule of law while avoiding accountability for their own crimes and repressive practices.
Cambodia was once one of Asia’s greatest empires. The only existing account of life in what we now call Angkor was written by Zhou Daguan, a Chinese envoy, after he spent almost a year there at the end of the thirteenth century. What he saw and described was an extraordinary civilization still at its height, the outcome of five centuries of political and cultural continuity. His stories are taught in schools and scholars draw on them to gain a picture of life and society in Angkor.3
Angkor’s ancient glory is reassuring to a people whose history after gaining independence from France in 1953 has been so perilous. Drawn into the cold war and the war against Vietnam, they endured the Nixon administration’s covert and illegal bombing in the late 1960s in pursuit of the Vietcong; the overthrow of their head of state and former king, Prince Norodom Sihanouk, in 1970; and years of more bombing and civil war that culminated in the Khmer Rouge taking absolute control when it captured Phnom Penh in April 1975 and founded the state of Democratic Kampuchea. It ruled until it was ousted in January 1979 by Vietnamese troops who installed the People’s Republic of Kampuchea with Soviet backing.
Hun Sen, formerly a Khmer Rouge regimental commander who fled to Vietnam in 1978, emerged as a principal leader of the new government, serving first as foreign minister and then as prime minister. The Khmer Rouge, meanwhile, had retreated to camps on the Thai border, allied itself with other opposition forces, and continued to claim power. Since the US and other nations did not want to recognize a Cambodian government dominated by Vietnam, these disparate forces were supported and armed by China, the US, and Thailand, among others, and recognized by the United Nations as the legitimate government of Cambodia.
The end of the cold war, and exhaustion among Cambodians after so many years of war, made possible an internationally brokered peace agreement in 1991—the Agreements on a Comprehensive Political Settlement of the Cambodia Conflict4—and the deployment a year later of the United Nations Transitional Authority for Cambodia (UNTAC), the largest peacekeeping operation the UN had ever mounted. UNTAC was charged with overseeing an end to armed conflict, disarming the armies of the fighting factions, repatriating refugees, and creating a neutral political environment for fair elections, which it was to organize.
The royalist party won the May 1993 elections.5 When Hun Sen threatened armed secession, a power-sharing arrangement was brokered to meet his demands, resulting in an unwieldy coalition government that he came to dominate. Cambodia became the Royal Kingdom of Cambodia under a new constitution, and Norodom Sihanouk returned to the throne. UNTAC left in September 1993, its departure dictated by the UN Security Council, not by conditions in Cambodia where violence and fighting against the Khmer Rouge, which had boycotted the elections, continued. For the outside world, the main objective had been achieved, namely to enable the former cold war powers to disengage from a country in which they no longer had any interest.
The stage was set for a series of deceptions and disappointments. In 1993, the UN Commission on Human Rights asked the secretary-general to appoint an independent expert to serve as his special representative for human rights in Cambodia and to establish an office in the country. The UN office and the special representative were jointly charged with assistance to the government, monitoring the human rights situation, and reporting annually to the commission and UN General Assembly. This mandate, one of the strongest ever given to a UN human rights operation, deserved support, but many governments regarded it as too intrusive. Wary of setting precedents that might be followed elsewhere, they gave little help, making an already difficult task almost impossible.
For a decade and a half, four successive special representatives tried to get the Cambodian government to set up the laws, institutions, policies, and practices necessary to uphold and protect elementary rights. From the outset, Hun Sen, who was steadily consolidating his power over the country, swung between reluctant cooperation with the representatives and vindictive personal attacks on them.6 He spoke of Yash Ghai, the last representative—a distinguished academic and constitutional lawyer from Kenya—with utter contempt and refused to meet him. In his reports, Ghai regretted that deliberate and systemic violations of human rights had become central to the government’s hold on power. Hun Sen’s ruling party still dominated Cambodian politics; the constitution and legal and judicial system were regularly subverted; corruption was entrenched; and government impunity and threats against those who criticized the status quo continued.
Hun Sen demanded that Ghai be dismissed and that the position of special representative of the secretary-general be abolished. In the end he got his way. Yash Ghai resigned in frustration in September 2008, and the UN Human Rights Council, which had replaced the Commission on Human Rights in 2006, eliminated the position. The council established instead its own “special rapporteur,” thereby bringing this office under its direct control. The human rights office has also not been exempt from criticism, and Hun Sen has asked that it be closed down on several occasions, first in 1995 and most recently when Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon visited Cambodia in October.
Despite the country’s poor record on human rights, Hun Sen and his party boast that Cambodia has the most liberal and open economy in Southeast Asia. Economic growth has indeed been rapid since the mid-1990s, averaging 7 percent a year. But the new wealth is concentrated in Phnom Penh, a city with its back turned on rural Cambodia, where over 80 percent of Cambodia’s 14.6 million people live. One in three Cambodians lives below the poverty line. Many more live just slightly above it. Most subsist on farming tiny plots of land and by foraging.
About nine million hectares, half of Cambodia’s surface area, are estimated to be reasonably productive. Under the Khmer Rouge, all land was expropriated, entire populations uprooted, and land records destroyed. During the Vietnamese occupation that followed, land remained largely collectivized. The Land Law of 2001 could have helped to bring about equitable land distribution and security of tenure; instead, under a compliant judiciary, well-connected investors and companies have grabbed land at an alarming rate, rapidly destroying the livelihood of the rural poor. Those living on the land are simply told that it now belongs to someone else and they must go. The urban poor also suffer, notably in Phnom Penh where thousands have been evicted from their homes to desolate settlements outside the city.7
The Land Law allows the government to lease land to national and foreign companies for plantations and commercial agriculture for up to ninety-nine years under terms tantamount to ownership. Basic information about these “economic land concessions,” such as the identity of companies and shareholders, is hard to obtain. The largest lease was awarded in 2000 to Pheapimex Company Ltd., which is owned by close friends of Hun Sen. It spans two provinces and is over 300,000 hectares, far exceeding the 10,000-hectare ceiling stipulated in the Land Law.
The leaseholders of these concessions have seldom adhered to the conditions and safeguards stipulated in the law; nor have they contributed to state revenue, reduced poverty, or increased rural employment, which was the government’s rationale for granting them.8 Most often the concessions have been held for speculative purposes or have provided a cover for cutting down forests, which are protected under other laws. Since 1994, the government has also handed over vast tracts of land to the military as “military development zones,” ostensibly to provide land and jobs to demobilized soldiers. It refuses to say how much land it has allocated or where these zones are.
1. Duch will serve nineteen years of this sentence. He benefits from deduction of the eleven years he has served since his arrest in May 1999, and a five-year reduction to compensate for the time he spent in military detention without trial before his transfer to the court in July 2007. His trial divulged little information that was not already known about his responsibility for the systematic torture and killing of thousands. Now being held in the special prison complex built for the trial, he has appealed his sentence and is seeking acquittal, while the prosecution is asking for life imprisonment. A detailed account of Duch can be found in Richard Bernstein's " At Last, Justice for Monsters ," The New York Review , April 9, 2009, and in Stéphanie Giry's " Cambodia's Perfect War Criminal ," NYR Blog, October 25, 2010. ↩
2. In January 2010, Sam Rainsy was sentenced quite unjustly to two years' imprisonment in absentia, which Cambodia's Appeal Court upheld in October—for damage to property and incitement to racial discrimination in connection with the demarcation of Cambodia's border with Vietnam, a highly volatile issue. In September he was sentenced, again in absentia, to ten years' imprisonment on related charges of disinformation and falsifying public documents. ↩
3. The first rendition into English from the original Chinese of Zhou Daguan's A Record of Cambodia: The Land and its People was published in 2007 by Silkworm Books. Peter Harris, the translator, provides a fascinating introduction setting Zhou in his time and place, along with meticulous notes, maps, and photographs to explain the text. ↩
4. The peace agreements were signed in Paris on October 23, 1991, following the withdrawal of Vietnamese troops in 1989. They laid down a blueprint for a liberal democratic political regime. They were signed by Cambodia and eighteen other nations, including Australia, Canada, China, France, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, the USSR, the UK, the US, and Vietnam. Cambodia was represented by a twelve-person Supreme National Council, chaired by Sihanouk, with members from the State of Cambodia (the renamed People's Republic of Kampuchea); the Party of Democratic Kampuchea (the Khmer Rouge); the Khmer People's National Liberation Front, which became the Buddhist Liberal Democratic Party; and the royalist party, Funcinpec, established by Sihanouk in 1981. Funcinpec is the French acronym for Front Uni National pour un Cambodge Indépendant, Neutre, Pacifique, et Coopératif, or the National United Front for an Independent, Neutral, Peaceful, and Cooperative Cambodia. ↩
5. Four and a quarter million Cambodians voted in the election, representing 90 percent of the registered electorate. Funcinpec received 45 percent of the vote, the Cambodian People's Party 38 percent, and the Buddhist Liberal Democratic Party 4 percent, with the rest shared between seventeen other political parties. William Shawcross's " A New Cambodia " provides a firsthand account of the election and its immediate aftermath: see The New York Review , August 12, 1993. ↩
6. The special representatives were Michael Kirby, Thomas Hammarberg, Peter Leuprecht, and Yash Ghai. They served without remuneration, discharging their mandate through regular missions to Cambodia. Their reports can be found on the website of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Cambodia: cambodia.ohchr.org. ↩
7. Reports recording the impact of these policies on Cambodia's poorest people include "Rights Razed: Forced Evictions in Cambodia," Amnesty International, February 2008; "Untitled: Tenure Insecurity and Inequality in the Cambodian Land Sector," issued in October 2009 by Bridges Across Borders Southeast Asia, the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions, and the Jesuit Refugee Services; and "Losing Ground: Forced Evictions and Intimidation in Cambodia," September 2009, the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee, a coalition of national nongovernmental organizations. ↩
8. Reports with these findings include "Land Concessions for Economic Purposes in Cambodia: A Human Rights Perspective," Special Representative of the Secretary-General for human rights in Cambodia, November 2004. This report was updated in June 2007 with much the same overall findings. ↩
Tang Chhin Sothy/AFP/Getty Images
Cambodian children holding portraits of Hun Sen and his wife, Bun Rany, at a protest in front of the prime minister’s residence, Phnom Penh, September 2010
The World Bank has advised the government to support small farms and smallholder agriculture, which, it argues, would be as or more economically beneficial than Cambodia’s leasing policy.9 But the government has ignored this advice, and still more concessions are in the offing. Concessions for gem and mineral exploration, hydroelectricity dams, special economic zones, and tourism development have raised similar concerns.
For over a decade, the UK-based organization Global Witness has courageously exposed widespread illegal logging, asset stripping, and corruption involving highly placed government and military officials. Its reports have been confiscated, its staff threatened, its recommendations dismissed; and it can no longer operate in Cambodia. Its report “Cambodia’s Family Trees,” issued in June 2007, provides shocking evidence that the country is run by an elite that generates much of its wealth from the seizure of public assets. It shows how a relatively small group of Cambodian tycoons with political, business, or family ties to senior government officials have benefited from the allocation of forest concessions.10 “Country for Sale,” issued in February 2009, finds the same patterns of corruption and patronage in the management of Cambodia’s oil, gas, and minerals. It deplores the rapid parceling up and selling off of the country’s land and resources, with millions of dollars in company payments to secure contracts unaccounted for.11 “Shifting Sand,” issued in May 2010, records the wholesale removal of Cambodia’s sand to Singapore where it is used to extend the island’s landmass.12
These policies have wrought havoc on Cambodia’s environment and driven vast numbers of poor people out of the city and off the land, their meager livelihoods destroyed. With nowhere to go, they become a source of cheap labor for plantations and factories in special economic zones. When members of desperate communities protest, their villages come under ever stricter control and their leaders are arrested on charges such as incitement or damage to property.
oughly half of Cambodia’s national budget is provided by foreign governments and development agencies. Known collectively as “the donors,” they form a large and diverse presence in Phnom Penh. Yash Ghai repeatedly underlined their moral and legal responsibility toward Cambodia, urging them to be far more active in demanding progress on human rights and democratic and accountable institutions. While several voice the need for “good governance,” “participation,” “transparency,” “accountability,” and “the rule of law,” these concepts lack the clarity of human rights standards defined in law, and Cambodia’s leaders have become masters at interpreting them narrowly.
Hun Sen has routinely criticized and threatened organizations advocating for human rights, accusing them of pursuing a politically partisan agenda and inciting the people to unrest. Donor nations ranging from Japan to France have typically advised human rights groups to engage in a more “constructive” dialogue with the government. Many are inclined to view human rights as far too ambitious a concern for a country like Cambodia, and are more at ease with the UN’s 2000 Millennium Development Goals than with human rights treaties that are legally binding.
In any case, the donors have competing interests. China, which stands apart, is the largest contributor and does much to keep the ruling party in power.13 Japan is next, vying with China for influence. It is also largely supportive of the regime, and takes a lead role in UN deliberations on the Khmer Rouge trials and human rights. France, the former colonial power, is pragmatic and influential in the European Commission, a significant contributor. In 2008, the US resumed direct government aid, cut off after the 1997 coup. It has funded civil society organizations like the Community Legal Education Center and has sought to improve the functioning of political parties and the electoral system, but lately has given increasing priority to counterterrorism measures and military training and cooperation.14
The UN Development Program and other UN agencies, which together contribute a considerable amount, are supposed to give human rights central attention in their programs; but they have been hesitant to take on human rights violations. The Asian Development Bank and the World Bank have generally steered clear of human rights altogether.15
While donor nations have called for measures to strengthen the rule of law—primarily to improve the environment for foreign investment and private business development—the results have been disappointing. The judiciary remains the creature of the executive, and an anticorruption law, under discussion since 1994 and then rushed through parliament in March 2010, is extremely weak. Meanwhile the discovery of potentially significant deposits of oil and natural gas has made concerns about corruption ever more pressing.
For all but a few Cambodians, the supposed “beneficiaries” of overseas development aid, the donor world is remote and hard to comprehend, and such organizations as Human Rights Watch and Global Witness urge donors to be far more exacting about the way their funds are used. Despite these concerns, in June, donor nations including Japan, the US, and members of the EU pledged a record $1.1 billion with few questions asked.
The Khmer Rouge trials capture what little attention the outside world has to give Cambodia. The country’s citizens remain bewildered about the killings, deaths, and enormity of suffering under Democratic Kampuchea, and the forthcoming trial of the four senior Khmer Rouge leaders may provide some of the answers and understanding they are looking for. But it is far from clear that the proceedings will have a useful effect on Cambodia’s current predicament.
The prosecution, with the title Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), was formally set up by the UN and the Hun Sen government in 2006 to prosecute
senior leaders of Democratic Kampuchea and those who were most responsible for the crimes and serious violations of Cambodian penal law, international humanitarian law and custom, and international conventions recognized by Cambodia, that were committed during the period from 17 April 1975 to 6 January 1979.
The ECCC is a hybrid court, with Cambodian judges and staff in the majority, assisted by international judges and staff recruited through the UN. Its complex structure was initially established in a 2003 agreement, the result of years of wearisome negotiation between the representative of then UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Hun Sen’s government.
Many more hurdles had to be overcome, including the court’s location. The government persuaded the UN to agree to a location not in central Phnom Penh but instead at the site of the new Military High Command Headquarters, some ten miles from the city center, arguing that it would have advantages for security and would reduce costs. Meanwhile, Kofi Annan’s recommendation that the trials be funded through the UN’s regular budget and not exposed to the vagaries of voluntary contributions was disregarded, leaving the court in continuing financial difficulties, dogged by corruption, and open to meddling from donors and the government alike. The court’s budget was increased in 2008 from the original $56.3 million to $135.4 million to allow the trials to continue until the end of 2010. Many more millions will be needed to keep them going after that date.
The court continues to be mired in political interference and delay, and Hun Sen has made clear his opposition to extending prosecutions beyond the present five defendants.16 The judges and staff assigned by the UN to assist the court face familiar dilemmas, among them how to avoid lending legitimacy to a process in which Cambodia’s judiciary is not independent and the country’s leaders have set out to limit and control the trials.
The ECCC agreement allows the UN to withdraw should the government cause the court to function in a manner that does not conform to UN standards. But most certainly the UN, not the government, would be blamed. One of Hun Sen’s main claims is that the UN has a history of betraying Cambodia. Why, he asks, did it do nothing during Pol Pot’s regime? Why did it give the Khmer Rouge a seat in the General Assembly in the 1980s, when his own government in Cambodia went unrecognized? If the UN withdraws from the trials, or additional funds are not forthcoming, he will ask why the international community is abandoning Cambodia and failing to confront one of the most horrendous atrocities of the twentieth century, when a quarter of the country’s population died, even though the ECCC is set to accomplish little that the ordinary Cambodian courts could not accomplish themselves.
If the trials are to serve justice, one outcome must be the transformation of the “ordinary” system of justice in Cambodia today and an end to impunity for government and military officials and their friends once and for all. The trials must also establish as complete a record as possible of the crimes committed under the Khmer Rouge, and open the way to dispassionate examination of what happened before and after. Cambodia’s recent history continues to be intensely contested, and the questions it raises cannot continue to be buried if Cambodians are to build a decent future for their nation.
For most foreigners, Cambodia seems to be a relatively stable country, hospitable to outside investment and welcoming for expatriates and visitors touring Angkor’s temples and the killing fields. Hun Sen, now one of the world’s longest-serving prime ministers, maintains good relations with China, Japan, the US, Australia, and France. Unlike the Burmese generals, he has managed to manufacture an outwardly acceptable face, and has used international assistance to gain legitimacy at home and abroad.
Taking credit for ridding Cambodia of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, Hun Sen cooperates with the trials as long as they don’t diminish his power. He talks of sustainable development and reducing poverty while he and his party have exploited the country’s resources and pocketed the payoffs. He tolerates the UN human rights presence, provided it limits itself to overcoming the legacy of Cambodia’s tragic Khmer Rouge past. He uses Pol Pot’s record as the yardstick to measure progress, thereby making failure impossible. The trials reinforce this message. No outside governments care to ask too many questions. Their economic and security interests are more important, as Hun Sen knows, and human rights are treated as dispensable.
Some believe that sooner or later Cambodians will rebel, but it seems more likely that their discontent will instead be channeled into extreme forms of nationalism, as under the Khmer Rouge. Cambodia has been divided and preyed upon for much of its modern history. Many Cambodians fear Vietnam and Thailand as predatory neighbors, and passions against both countries can become quickly inflamed.17
In the 1991 peace agreements, the “international community” assumed special responsibilities to the people of Cambodia that have yet to be properly honored. Cambodia today is a corrupt and cruel semidictatorship that should be getting much more scrutiny from the rest of the world. The Cambodian people deserve better. Thirty years after the appalling transgressions of the Khmer Rouge, much of the country still lives in fear.
9. Cambodia: Halving Poverty by 2015? Poverty Assessment 2006," report of the World Bank, February 2006. ↩
10. "Cambodia's Family Trees: Illegal Logging and the Stripping of Public Assets by Cambodia's Elite," Global Witness, June 2007. The report includes a detailed case study of illegal logging in Prey Long Forest, the largest lowland evergreen forest in mainland Southeast Asia, which has allegedly involved Hun Sen, his minister of agriculture, the director of forest administration and families and friends. ↩
11. "Country for Sale: How Cambodia's Elite Has Captured the Country's Extractive Industries," Global Witness, February 2009. In a statement of March 5, 2010, Global Witness urged donors to condemn a new policy announced by Hun Sen in late February whereby private businesses will support particular military units through voluntary donations. Its concern was that this policy officially sanctions and legitimizes a practice of companies hiring soldiers to protect their business interests. Cambodian businessmen Ly Yong Phat and Mong Reththy, who figure prominently in "Country for Sale," were among those named as sponsors. ↩
12. "Shifting Sand: How Singapore's Demand for Cambodian Sand Threatens Ecosystems and Undermines Good Governance," Global Witness, May 2010. ↩
13. China has only recently begun to put figures to the development assistance it provides. Its pervasive economic presence in Cambodia is described in François Hauter's " Chinese Shadows ," The New York Review , October 11, 2007. ↩
14. According to Human Rights Watch, the US has provided more than $4.5 million worth of military equipment and training to Cambodia since 2006, some of which has gone to military units and officials with records of serious human rights violations. In a statement of July 8, 2010, the organization called for a halt to US military aid pending thorough vetting of Cambodia's armed forces to screen out individuals and units with records of human rights violations. Its call was prompted by Angkor Sentinel, a regional military exercise held in Cambodia in July as part of the US Defense and State Departments' 2010 Global Peace Operations Initiative to train peacekeepers, and the selection of the ACO Tank Unit, which has been involved in illegal land seizures, to host part of the exercise. ↩
15. Other donor nations include Australia, Canada, Sweden, Germany, the UK, and Denmark, and aid agencies such as AUSAID, USAID, JICA, and Sida. ↩
16. Hun Sen reiterated this position during his meeting with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on October 27, 2010. See also "Political Interference at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia," Open Society Justice Initiative, July 2010, and "Salvaging Judicial Independence: The Need for a Principled Completion Plan for the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia," Open Society Justice Initiative, November 2010. ↩
17. Anti-Thai riots were set off in the lead up to the July 2003 elections by ill-founded rumors that a Thai actress popular in Cambodia had said that Angkor Wat belonged to Thailand and that Cambodians were dogs. Anger against Thailand erupted again just before the July 2008 elections over Preah Vihear, a disputed eleventh-century Angkor temple on the Thai-Cambodian border, a source of continuing tension. ↩
DPM Tea Banh Returns Home
Phnom Penh, December 24, 2010 AKP -- Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of National Defense Gen. Tea Banh returned home on Thursday after paying a four-day official visit to Laos at the invitation of his Lao counterpart, H.E. Douangchai Phichit.
During his stay in Lao capital city Vientiane, the Cambodian deputy prime minister was received by Vice-President of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, H.E. Bounnhang Vorachith who praised and highly valued the visit to Laos of Gen. Tea Banh and his delegation as a big contribution to further strengthening the friendly relation and co-operation between Laos and Cambodia, especially between the two countries’ defense ministries, according to Lao News Agency KPL.
Gen. Tea Banh also held a bilateral talk with his Lao counterpart H.E. Douangchai Phichit. The talk particularly focused on increasing the traditional cooperation of the two neighboring countries.
The Cambodian deputy prime minister also briefed H.E. Douangchai Phichit on the country’s general situation, especially the active participation of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces in maintaining security, safety and social order for the Cambodian people, in the UN peacekeeping mission in Sudan, Chad, Central Africa and Lebanon. --AKP
By SOKMOM Nimul
Cambodia, Laos Ink Cultural Cooperation Agreement
Phnom Penh, December 24, 2010 AKP -- Cambodia and Laos intend to organize a number of cultural exchange activities and events over the next three years to boost bilateral cooperation in the sector.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on cultural cooperation was signed in Vientiane on Dec. 21 by Cambodian Minister of Culture and Fine Arts Him Chhem and Lao Minister of Information and Culture Mounkeo Oraboun, Lao News Agency KPL reported.
The MOU outlines plans to organize cultural events, including film festivals and a cultural week, on occasions of national significance for each country, as well as exchange visits by delegations of the two neighbors.
Other events to be organized include photo and painting exhibitions and book fairs.
Under the MOU, each year groups of three to five government officials from each nation’s culture sector will visit the other country for a week.
During a bilateral meeting between cultural officials led by the two ministers on Dec. 16, the two sides expressed their willingness to strengthen relations between their countries and between the four newest ASEAN members - Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam - through cultural activities and events.
“The nations shall invite art groups and delegations from other countries to participate in international and domestic festivals and conferences on culture and art to be held in their territories,” the MOU states.
According to the MOU, the two sides also agreed to facilitate technical cooperation including exchange of experience and information, training for officials working in the field of culture and arts, and actively endeavoring to realize exchange and cooperation, including exchange of scientific and technological information, and delegations in the field of cultural heritage preservation.
The MOU also covers cooperation between museums and libraries in the two countries, with an aim of stimulating exchange of information and officials.
The two ministries also agreed to boost intellectual property rights protection in accordance with the laws and regulations of their respective countries and international obligations. --AKP
Photo by: WESLEY MONTS
Friday, 24 December 2010 15:00 WESLEY MONTS
Bo Mean, 22, helps build a set in Phnom Penh for the movie Billion Stars Hotel, which is to be filmed in the Kingdom. The movie will be produced by Cambodian companies Express Film, Kids Express and 391 Films along with United States production company Critical Density Media. It is about a New York fashion photographer’s seven-day journey in Cambodia and will be presented at international film festivals.
Friday, 24 December 2010 15:02 Chrann Chamroeun
PHNOM Penh Municipal Court yesterday heard a case against an ex-police officer and his alleged accomplice charged with traffick-ing drugs.
Sam Chansa, a 38-year-old former police official, was arrested in April by undercover agents posing as drug dealers, said Sok Mut, chief of the Anti-Drug Unit at the Interior Ministry’s Anti-Drug Trafficking Department.
“One of our policemen pretended to be a drug buyer, meeting the suspect at a coffee shop,” he said.
“After having seen the money being used to trap him, Sam Chansa called his wife to hand over 225 grams of ‘ice’ drugs [methamphetamine] to a second policeman who pretended to be a drug broker.”
Sok Mut said Sam Chansa’s wife had fled the scene and evaded arrest, allegedly taking the drugs with her.
Huot Seng, 35, was arrested later the same month on suspicion of supplying drugs to Sam Chansa.
Both men pled innocent during yesterday’s hearing, retracting previous confessions that they claimed were coerced during their interrogations by police.
In an initial statement made to police and read by a clerk in court yesterday, Sam Chansa is quoted as saying: “I got involved in the drug business for the first time when I got to know Huot Seng who asked me to sell ‘ice’ drugs for him, worth more than US$40,000. He promised me a commission of $500 for successfully selling the drugs.”
Yesterday, however, he denied any involvement in trafficking, noting that there was a lack of evidence to prove otherwise because police had not confiscated any drugs during his arrest.
“I was not involved with drugs and the police only confiscated my motorbike and 150,000 riel,” he said.
Hout Seng also denied all charges yesterday. “I was not a drug smuggler and I also didn’t give drugs to Chansa to sell for me,” he said.
The pair’s defence lawyer, Nach Try, yesterday called for the case against his clients to be dropped, citing insufficient evidence and accusing police of failing to follow proper procedure.
“I request that they set my clients free as police officials violated the criminal code in their procedure and lack any evidence against my clients,” he said.
Presiding Judge Kor Vandy said a verdict will be announced January 14.
Friday, 24 December 2010 15:02 Vong Sokheng
PRIME Minister Hun Sen will convene a meeting of the Council of Ministers today to vote on the passage of three new subdecrees, granting the Kingdom’s Anticorruption Unit a full scope of powers to combat graft.
The drafts for the three new subdecrees provide regulations on the ACU’s management and performance, its financial organisation and the unit’s logo and seal, according to a statement issued by the Council of Ministers yesterday.
Keo Remy, spokesman of the ACU, said yesterday that he welcomed the subdecrees, which will strengthen the ACU by giving it further legitimacy. “The new subdecrees will be important to help create ample mechanisms for fighting corruption,” he said.
Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said yesterday that he was “not sure” whether the new regulations would be passed. ”It depends on our discussion and if the drafts will have a big impact on other laws,” he said.
The ACU is tasked with conducting a census of more than 100,000 government officials who will be forced to declare their assets by the end of February. Keo Remy declined to comment on the census, which begins on January.
Vendors sell food at PC Market in Meanchey district in Phnom Penh yesterday. Photo by: Sovan Philong
Friday, 24 December 2010 15:01 Mom Kunthear
REPRESENTATIVES of more than 300 vendors protesting outside PC Market in Meanchey district said yesterday that they would petition the chief of Boeung Tompun commune to intervene after the market operator proposed raising stall rental fees.
One representative said stall holders had begun protesting after hearing about a proposed rental increase on Wednesday.
“They increased the new cost from US$130 to $160 for the big shops that are three metres by six metres, and increased from $85 to $110 for the small shops,” said the representative, who spoke on condition of anonymity claiming that vendors had been warned against speaking to the media.
She said the increases were unaffordable and that vendors would take the protest to district and municipal officials if the commune chief did not intervene on their behalf.
“At the end of the protest, we will all come for help from Prime Minister Hun Sen, who is [the] only person that we consider as our parent,” she said. “I do believe that Prime Minister Hun Sen will not let us die and will help us.”
Another representative, who also asked not to be named citing fears for her safety, said the proposed rental increases were the latest in a series of annual price hikes.
“We don’t have the ability to pay the renting costs that the market owner always raises,” she said.
Heng Vuthy, manager of PC Market, said yesterday that vendors who weren’t happy with the rent increase were free to leave.
“We don’t force them to rent, they can stay if they want and they can leave if they don’t want to rent,” he said.
Commune Chief Sous Sarin could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Friday, 24 December 2010 15:00 Sen David
Student, 18, arrested after mass swordfight
An 18-year-old high school student was arrested after a clash involving about 20 youths armed with swords and stones in Kampong Speu province’s Kampong Speu town on Tuesday. Police said all of the “gangsters” involved in the fight, which took place in the middle of a street in the town, were high school students who fled the scene when police arrived. All but one evaded arrest, police said. KOH SANTEPHEAP
Blades confiscated in Kampong Chhnang
A total of 22 swords and 15 knives have been confiscated from “gangsters” in Kampong Chhnang province’s Kampong Chhnang town so far this year, provincial police have announced. Officials said the weapons were generally used during disputes between rival gangs. Some weapons will be destroyed and others will be sent to provincial authorities, police said. KAMPUCHEA THMEY
One dead after fight over missing mobile
A 16-year-old has been arrested on suspicion of killing his friend during a dispute over a mobile phone in Battambang province’s Ratanak Mondul district on Monday. The two youths allegedly got into a fight after the suspect accused his friend of stealing a phone from him. KAMPUCHEA THMEY
Four face court for necklace snatching
Four students were arrested in Phnom Penh’s Daun Penh district on Tuesday, accused of snatching a necklace from the neck of a woman on a motorbike. Police said the suspects had admitted to stealing the necklace but said they could not return it because they had already sold it. The suspects will be sent to the court for punishment, police said. KOH SANTEPHEAP
Teenager accused of raping 6-year-old girl
A 15-year-old boy has been sent to court accused of raping a 6-year-old girl in Battambang province’s Samlot district on Tuesday. Police said the case was “unbelievable” because the suspect was so young. The suspect, a neighbour of the victim, allegedly gave the girl sweets before raping her when she was left home alone. RASMEY KAMPUCHEA
Motorcyclist dies after hitting parked lorry
A 22-year-old man died after crashing his motorbike into a parked lorry in Kampong Chhnang province’s Kampong Chhnang town on Tuesday. Police said the victim had just found out that he had passed a test that would allow him to move to South Korea for work, and had been travelling to his parents house to tell them the good news when he ran off the road and into the stationary vehicle. KAMPUCHEA THMEY
Friday, 24 December 2010 15:01 Buth Reaksmey Kongkea
TWO men who were arrested after trespassing on a Kampong Cham rubber plantation were freed after paying local police a US$300 bribe, according to a local rights activist.
Seng Uorn, a 42-year-old farmer, said he and his friend Minh Tum, 31, entered the Long Sreng Rubber Plantation in Stung Trang district’s O’Mlou commune on Tuesday to collect rubber sap, when they were surprised by security guards.
“The guards chased us with the company car and tried to hit us. We tried to get away but my motorbike was hit and I was detained. Minh Tum was shot and seriously injured while he was trying to get away from there,” he said. Seng Uorn added that the guards then tied him to a rubber tree and beat him.
Phuong Sophea, Adhoc’s investigating officer in Kampong Cham, said Minh Tum was seriously injured in the shooting. The pair, who were subsequently arrested, thumbprinted agreements saying they would not sue the guards for their actions. Phuong Sophea added that Seng Uorn also paid Stung Trang district police $300 in exchange for their release.
“I am not a thief,” Seng Uorn said. “I think the company security guards’ actions were very cruel and inhumane.”
Sam Chanthan, chief of the O’Mlou commune police post, said the company security guard who shot Minh Tum has returned to work.
“The company security guard who shot Minh Tum resumed his work ... after the victims agreed not to sue him,” he said. “The police will not take any legal action against him.”
Friday, 24 December 2010 15:01 Meas Sokchea
A DELEGATION of the Cambodian Watchdog Council plans to visit the Vietnamese border in Prey Veng province in early January, after receiving complaints that land has been ceded to Vietnam in joint demarcation efforts.
CWC President Rong Chhun said yesterday that he will lead a delegation to visit border posts 130 and 131 in Komchay Mear district’s Krabao commune in the first week of January. He said the organisation has received complaints that the posts have been placed up to 600 metres inside Cambodia’s legal territory.
Rong Chhun said that Cambodian land had traditionally stretched to the east of Meanchey Stream in Krabao, but that border post 131 had been planted to the west.
“We want to go and see with our own eyes, avoiding the government, which has always said that [land] has not been lost,” Rong Chhun said.
“After our visit, we will prepare a report to deliver to the government. Even if government does not care about this we will still do it so that the public can know the reality.”
Komchay Mear district governor Prak Savan dismissed the claim yesterday, saying that the CWC would see the true situation for themselves when they visit the border.
“Please come see with your own eyes. Do not believe a person who is not truthful. If you seek the truth, come directly, I will bring you to see the spot where the post is planted,” Prak Savan said.
The announcement of the visit follows controversies over the demarcation process in border areas in Svay Rieng and Kampong Cham, where opposition figures and civil society groups have claimed the loss of land to Vietnam.
Earlier this month, Vietnamese soldiers allegedly blocked a delegation of parliamentarians from the opposition Sam Rainsy Party from approaching border post 103 in Kampong Cham’s Memot district.
The party’s self-exiled president, Sam Rainsy, has been sentenced to 12 years jail on a series of charges related to his campaign to expose a similar pattern of alleged border incursions in Svay Rieng.
When contacted yesterday, Var Kimhong, senior minister in charge of border affairs, said that unlike the SRP’s visit to Kampong Cham last week, it would be legal for the CWC to visit the border posts in Prey Veng, since the border in the area has already been demarcated.
But Var Kimhong said it was unnecessary for the CWC to report to the government on the issue, since the relevant authorities were already in charge of the demarcation process.
“The border committee is representative of the government. If [Rong Chhun] does not agree it is his business, but he does not need to report anything more,” he said.
Friday, 24 December 2010 15:01 Cheang Sokha
CAMBODIA has again urged Thailand’s parliament to approve the minutes of recent Joint Border Committee meetings, so the two countries can recommence work on demarcation and de-mining along their sensitive shared border.
The request was made yesterday during a meeting between Nguon Nhel, first deputy president of the National Assembly, and a visiting Thai parliamentary friendship delegation led by Jittipot Viriyaroj.
On November 2, the Thai parliament was set to ratify the minutes of several JBC meetings from 2008 and 2009, but instead set up a committee comprising 30 parliamentarians to consider the issue, prolonging the ratification for another three months. Border demarcation cannot move ahead until the JBC minutes are approved.
During a visit to Phnom Penh earlier this week, Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya told his Cambodian counterpart, Hor Namhong, that the Thai parliament is examining whether the minutes are in line with Thailand’s Constitution.
The situation along the Thai-Cambodian border has been sensitive since the listing of Preah Vihear temple as a UNESCO World Heritage site in July 2008. The delegation returns to Thailand tomorrow.
NGO draft law meeting
Friday, 24 December 2010 15:00 Phak Seangly
REPRESENTATIVES of civil society groups gathered yesterday to discuss a draft NGO law ahead of a January 10 workshop at which the Ministry of Interior will accept recommendations from stakeholders the draft’s finalisation. Soeung Saroeun, senior operations and finance manager at the Cooperation Committee for Cambodia – an NGO umbrella group which hosted yesterday’s meeting – said a similar gathering was scheduled for today. The latest draft of the NGO law, made public on Thursday last week, has drawn concern from critics, who fear the legislation could restrict the activities of groups in the Kingdom’s vast civil society sector.
Laos to release 6 men
Friday, 24 December 2010 15:00 Vong Sokheng
SIX Cambodian men detained after illegally crossing the border into Laos are expected to be releases by Laotian police today, officials in Stung Treng province said yesterday. Si Suong, governor of Stung Treng province’s Siem Pang district, said the six men were all farmers who had unwittingly crossed the border while foraging for food in the forest.
Friday, 24 December 2010 15:01 Catherine James
CANADIAN junior miner Shamika Resources has entered an agreement to acquire a land concession for gold and ruby exploration in Cambodia.
The area covered in its license, according to the miner which operates internationally under the name Shamika2Gold, is about 158 square miles (409 square kilometres) in Samlot district, Battambang province.
“This is a very important acquisition for Shamika and confirms the
company’s strategy to acquire and develop international gold assets ready or close to production,” Robert Vivian, president and chief executive officer, said in a statement released yesterday.
Shamika said international natural resources exploration company Terra Energy & Resource Technologies has conducted a survey of the land, concluding in its report that the concession holds potential resources of 1.5 million ounces of gold and 9,000 kilogrammes of rubies.
The agreement, still to be executed, will see Shamika acquire an 85 percent interest in the concession from a Mauritius holding company, which was not named in the release. The company also announced this week a separate agreement to acquire a 100 percent interest of 23 gold exploration licenses in Quebec, Canada, covering 13 square kilometres.
To date, the company’s interests are solely in the Democratic Republic of Congo where its mining is “focused on [the minerals] tantalum, niobium, tungsten and tin”, according to its website.
Terra Energy previously announced in August a “substantial ruby and gold geological discovery in Cambodia” within a 100-kilometre-sqaure concession. It was not immediately clear if the two projects were the same.
Shamika and Terra Energy were not able to be contacted yesterday for comment.
Montreal-based Shamika owns 51 percent of over-the-counter traded company Aultra Gold. Aultra’s share price slid 1.43 percent to US$0.69 on the day of the announcement.
A tuk tuk driver waits outside Phnom Penh’s central post office yesterday. The service is set to be run by a new state-owned firm from next month. Photo by: Wesley Monts
Friday, 24 December 2010 15:01 Chun Sophal
CAMBODIA’S postal system is set to become a public enterprise on New Year’s Day, with assets and investment worth up to US$17 million.
Minister of Posts and Telecommunication So Khun said yesterday that the government would invest $3.7 million of cash capital to the new agency, in addition to the transfer of $13.3 million worth of assets – such as the land and buildings associated with the services’ 88 existing branches.
According to So Khun, whose ministry currently runs the service, the government currently garners more than $5 million a year through mailing and shipping packed goods.
He declined to speculate on the earning potential of the new state-run enterprise, which has been previously tipped by officials as being set to list on Cambodia’s new stock exchange, due to launch next year.
“We cannot estimate how much this new agency will earn, we have to wait and see its initial three-month transactions,” he said.
Currently, the postal service employs around 700 staff.
Under the new scheme, the Minister said that number could be cut to 432 – with the remaining employees retained by the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications (MPTC).
But despite the pull back in staffing, commentators said that the newly structured service could improve quality.
Chan Sophal, president of Cambodia Economic Association, said that, in general, such institutions had increased flexibility.
They also had potential to generate more income, because such companies could increase salaries to motivate employees.
“I think this trend is really good because it is easy to generate more income and serve public interest,” said Chan Sophal.
When the scheme first came to light in July, government representatives said the move would improve the service’s financial responsibility and transparency, while allowing increased autonomy within the telecommunications and information technology sector – also regulated by MPTC.
The new board of the new organisation, according to previous reports, is set to be composed of representatives from MPTC, the Ministry of Finance, the Council of Ministers, a government-appointed CEO, and a staff representative.
The new CEO is believed to be the director of postal services in Banteay Meanchey province.
Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan could not be reached for comment.
The government has said that at least three state-run enterprises are set to list on Cambodia’s first bourse.
Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority, and Telecom Cambodia have been named as two of the companies concerned. Last month, officials said the third company was subject to a further announcement, despite initial reports it would be Sihanoukville Autonomous Port.