Thursday, 17 January 2008

Y Chhean, Ieng Vuth Evaded the Forum

Y Chhean (Photo: Rasmei Kampuchea)

The Co-Investigating Judges representing the Khmer Rouge tribunal have traveled to Pailin in order to explain the former officials and people of the Khmer Rouge in this former Khmer Rouge stronghold to understand the former Khmer Rouge trial and to calm their fears.

The Khmer Rouge tribunal's representatives, visiting the former Khmer Rouge soldiers and people, included co-Investigating Judges You Bunleng and Marcel Lemonde.

Yesterday (on Tuesday) in Pailin's Municipal Hall, there was a meeting with more than 100 former Khmer Rouge officials. However, Y Chhean, Pailin governor, and his deputy Ieng Vuth shirked from attending the forum. Ieng Vuth is an important "character" in the forum since his parents are being detained at the Khmer Rouge tribunal. But, he did not appear in meeting in which he could ask the tribunal's representatives whatever he wanted to.

According to legal observers, before and after the arrest of Ieng Sary and Ieng Thirith, who are Ieng Vuth's parents, Ieng Vuth dared to talk to foreign and local journalists. In contrast, now as the representatives of the Khmer Rouge tribunal visited Pailin to hold the public forum, Ieng Vuth evaded it.

Another Pailin's deputy governor Koeut Sothea, who is also a former Khmer Rouge official, was seen in the forum yesterday, which was attended only by former Khmer Rouge officials, whilst Y Chhean and Ieng Vuth disappeared. In the forum held in Pailin's Municipal Hall, journalists were only allowed to take pictures, but could not listen to the question and answer session. However, the journalists and observers will be permitted to listen freely in the forum on Wednesday.

According to Khmer Rouge tribunal officials, the today’s forum (on Wednesday) which will be held in Koang Kang Pagoda, is expected approximately 200 participants, including former Khmer Rouge officials soldiers and people to attend.

According to the former Khmer Rouge officials who attended the yesterday’s forum in Pailin's Municipal Hall, although it was an open forum, Cambodian and international co-Investigating Judges who are the representatives from the Khmer Rouge tribunal could not answer their questions.

"They come to Pailin to hold the public forum on the Khmer Rouge trial, but when former Khmer Rouge officials asked them, they could not answer," said the former Khmer Rouge officials, adding that they asked questions relating to the rumour of the further arrest of the former Khmer Rouge officials. "It is said that only former top Khmer Rouge leaders will be tried, but we want to know which is the highest or the lowest level of the Khmer Rouge officials that will be tried," they said.

At present, top leaders such as Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan, Ieng Sary and his wife Ieng Thirith have been arrested. Duch was not a top leader of the Khmer Rouge, but was the former chief of Tuol Sleng prison, involving deeply with the regime.

Former Khmer Rouge officials said that at the present time some former Khmer Rouge leaders in the Central Committee of the Communist party were still at large and that there was a rumour circulating around that about 10 more Khmer Rouge leaders would be arrested. That is why some former Khmer Rouge officials wanted to know how high rank a Khmer Rouge official is considered a “top leader” and how low rank they are, in order to avoid confusion.

However, You Bunleng and Marcel Lemonde told the former Khmer Rouge officials that the decision [to consider someone as a top Khmer Rouge leader] did not depend on them but on the investigation and voices of the Trial Chamber’s co-Judges with at least 4 out of 5 as well as voices of Supreme Court Chamber’s co-Judges with at least 6 out of 9. Therefore, if the investigation could place burdens on any former Khmer Rouge leader, the Co-Judges are the ones who decide whether the arrest of that former Khmer Rouge leader is possible. If they could find the [supporting] voices as mentioned above, the arrest would be made immediately.

According to a source close to the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, some former Khmer Rouge military commanders might also be arrested. And this is the reason why the rumour of the arrest of around 10 more former Khmer Rouge commanders and officials caused unrest. The representatives of the Khmer Rouge tribunal, visiting the former Khmer Rouge base, are going to hold another public forum on Wednesday in which journalists and observers will be allowed to listen until the end.

Unofficial Translation-Extracted from Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol. 15, #3365, Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Soccer goods finally reach Cambodian orphans

Radio Australia

A shipment of donated soccer goods from a New York school has reached a group of Cambodian orphans after being held up for 16 months by allegedly corrupt port officials.

The delivery brings to an end a frustrating 18 months for the students of Public School 261, who gathered the used goods and shipped them off in August 2006.

The equipment arrived in Phnom Penh just two months later - but the mission stalled when Cambodian port officials demanded "fees" from $650 to $1,560 to release the goods to the Palm Tree Institute orphanage.

Members of the group, Brooklyn Bridge to Cambodia, wrote to Cambodian and U.S. government officials and enlisted the help of Senators Chuck Schumer and Hillary Clinton, who pressured government officials in both countries to intervene.

Woman charged over internet scam

January 17, 2008

POLICE have issued a warning against online scams after charging a 54-year-old Brisbane woman with receiving and forwarding stolen property.

Detective Superintendent Brian Hay, from the Queensland Police Service Computer Crimes Investigation Unit, said the woman allegedly asked to have stolen goods delivered to her home at Sunnybank, in Brisbane's south, before forwarding them to Cambodia.

The woman was believed to have become involved in an internet relationship with a man in Cambodia whom she met on a dating website.

Det Supt Hay said overseas-based criminals could spend months engaging people online to cultivate their trust before asking them to send money or goods.

People who receive stolen or illegally obtained property and send it overseas would be prosecuted and internet users should be alert to possible scammers, he said.

"Requests to send money or property overseas should be treated with extreme caution,'' Det Supt Hay said.

"If you suspect you or someone you know may be undertaking similar acts, seek independent advice and contact the fraud and corporate crime group.''

The woman has been charged with two counts of receiving stolen property and is due to appear in the Brisbane Magistrates Court on February 12.

US actress Farrow could face arrest in Cambodia

Thu, 17 Jan 2008
Author : DPA

Phnom Penh - American movie star Mia Farrow and her supporters could face arrest if they proceed with a banned anti-China protest at a former Khmer Rouge torture centre, local media Thursday reported a senior official as saying. Khmer-language daily Rasmei Kampuchea quoted Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak as saying that anyone who defied the law "must face the court," no matter who they are.

General Sopheak was not available for further comment Thursday.

The plan by Farrow's Dream for Darfur organization to light an Olympic-style torch at the Toul Sleng genocide museum to raise awareness of China's role in Sudan and the war in Darfur ahead of the August Olympics in Beijing has enraged Cambodian officials.

On Wednesday, government spokesman Khieu Kanharith accused Farrow, 62, and her supporters of reducing Toul Sleng, where up to 16,000 people were brutally tortured or perished, to a promotional fundraising vehicle for their own political ends.

Up to 2 million people died under the 1975-79 Khmer Rouge regime.

Dream for Darfur organizers have disagreed with the official line, calling the ban a "misunderstanding" on the government's part and have said the rally will go ahead.

Radio Australia : Wednesday 16/01/2008

Wednesday 16/01/2008

National Assembly Adopts Amendment of Constitution to Facilitate Preparation of Provincial and District Elections

Posted on 17 January 2008.
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 543

“Phnom Penh: On 15 January, the National Assembly discussed and adopted draft amendments for the new Articles 145 and 146 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia with 88 of 107 votes, in order to open the way for the arrangement of a law on the organization of elections of the district, provincial, and town councils.

“Deputy Prime Minister Mr. Sar Kheng, the Minister of Interior, read the purpose of the proposed draft amendments of the new Articles 145 and 146 of the Constitution. He said that, based on the strategy of decentralization and deconcentration reforms, and the National Development Strategic Plan 2006-2010, the Royal Government of Cambodia has been organizing the management for the administration of low level national structures in order to guarantee the democratic development at those levels. He continued that to achieve those goals, the Royal Government of Cambodia has been organizing a draft law for this, as stated in the new Article 146 of the Constitution.

“The draft law impacts the regulations of the new Article 145 so that it is necessary to have an appropriate amendment reflecting the progress in politics, social administration, and national economy, both at present and in the future.

“The new Article 145 is amended to say: ‘The land of the Kingdom of Cambodia is divided into the capital city, provinces, towns, districts, communes, and subdistricts.’

“The new Article 146 is amended to say ‘The Capital city, provinces, towns, districts, communes, and subdistricts must be managed according to the conditions stated in the law on the arrangement of organizations.’

“The Royal Government hopes that the amendment will facilitate the arrangement of the administrative reforms of the capital city, provinces, towns, districts, communes, and subdistricts, according to the decentralization policy, in order to promote the democratic development at national administration low levels, in order to promote the provision of services and development effectively and regularly.

“Mr. Sam Rainsy, the president of the opposition party, showed support for the draft amendments of the constitution for the new Articles 145 and 145 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia. However, he wanted a wider discussion about this issue.

“Samdech Akak Moha Senapadei Dekchor Hun Sen said as Prime Minister, concerning the amendment of the Constitution on national low-level institutions, that what is proposed here to be amended refers just to the wording to be appropriate to the situation of the progress in the country. As for the content of the law to be made for the arrangement of the management of administrative systems at the national low levels, this will be discussed in detail when that law reaches the National Assembly next time.

“Samdech Dekchor said that this can be considered to be an important stage of structural reform, as it transfers higher power to the localities – what is intended with decentralization and deconcentration. Samdech continued that through that we hope democracy will increase through elections anyway, elections on the levels of the councils of provinces, towns, and districts all show the progress of democracy, decentralization, and deconcentration.

“As for the Norodom Ranariddh Party, it definitely opposed the amendment of the Constitution on the new Articles 145 and 146, in order to adopt a law on the organization of elections of the councils of districts and provinces, but not in general, providing such rights limited only to the commune and subdistrict councils to vote.

“In a statement on 15 January, the Norodom Ranariddh Party said that they find that the commune and subdistrict council members to elect the councils of districts and the councils of provinces and towns is not fair at all, and it is not appropriate as administrative policy. They would like to ask that, if the commune and subdistrict council members elect the councils of districts and the councils of provinces and towns, how will the leadership ranks of the local administration be implemented? Because normally provincial and town administrations govern district administration, and the district administration governs commune and subdistrict administration?

“The Norodom Ranariddh Party supports the elections of the councils of districts and the councils of provinces and towns, but the elections must be conducted as general elections with the participation of citizens in general. They would like to ask the Imperial Government of Japan and other development partners that provided technical assistance preparing the law on elections of the councils of districts and the councils of provinces and towns through a seminar in Sihanoukville in December 2007, that they consider the impact of the implementation of democracy in the Kingdom of Cambodia, because these elections are not to be general elections, but they provide only limited rights to the commune and subdistrict council members to elect the councils of districts and the councils of provinces and towns, which is violating democratic rules. Such elections are considered to be a democracy where one level is only benefiting from another level in the line.”

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.16, #4490, 16.1.2008

Cambodia tribunal seeks witnesses

The Khmer Rouge tribunal is expected to begin proceedings later this year [AFP]


team of judges has headed into Cambodia's former Khmer Rouge heartland in an effort to find witnesses to testify in the forthcoming trials of members of the former regime.

The judges and tribunal officials have been holding meetings in the western town of Pailin, hoping to enlist participation from former low-ranking Khmer Rouge members still living in the area.

The town, close to the Thai border, was home to four of the five former Khmer Rouge leaders currently awaiting trial.

But finding witnesses to take part in the United Nations-backed trials has not been easy, with many former Khmer Rouge members worried they may also be punished.

People's help needed

The tribunal has been delayed for many years and is jointly overseen by Cambodian and international judges.

But officials say without the help of the people, it will struggle to fulfil its mandate.

"We were trying to explain to these people that the court can proceed fairly as long as it has the support of the Cambodian people," Marcel Lemonde, a French co-investigating judge told one of the meetings in Pailin.

"If the Cambodian people do not understand that this trial is in their interests, this court will not be able to proceed fairly."

Up to two million people died during the Khmer Rouge's four years in power between 1975 and 1979.

Pol Pot, the group's former "Brother Number One" died in 1998, but five senior figures of his regime are being held awaiting trial, including his deputy, Nuon Chea, or "Brother Number Two".

Few Cambodian families were untouched by the slaughter, but in Pailin - home to many former Khmer Rouge foot soldiers – the tribunal has been met with scepticism.

Late last year the tribunal held its first hearing in an appeal by the former commander of the Khmer Rouge's S-21 detention and interrogation centre against his continued detention.

Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, claimed that his human rights had been violated by being held for more than eight years in jail without trial.

But the tribunal rejected his appeal, saying he might try to flee the country or threaten potential witnesses if he were released on bail.

Aside from Duch and Nuon Chea the other former Khmer Rouge officials awaiting trial include the regime's former foreign minister, Ieng Sary, his wife and former social affairs minister, Ieng Thirith, and the former president of the Khmer Rouge, Khieu Samphan.

The first formal trials are expected to begin later this year.

Golf industry grows in Cambodia

The number of golf courses in Cambodia went from two to four in 2007 and should double again to eight by 2010 with four more courses in various stages of planning, English-Khmer language newspaper the Cambodian Daily said on Thursday.

The two to open most recently in Siem Reap province are the country's only PGA-rated courses, and they are playing off each other to bolster the kingdom's golf industry, said the paper.

"We are a growing destination, and golf is the fastest growing sport in all of Asia," said Maximilian Kaendler, clubhouse manager at the Phokeethra Country Club in Siem Reap.

About 500 golfers visited the club each month since it opened in April and it hosted the country's first major international golfing event in November.

Meanwhile for the Angkor Golf Resort which opened in November in the province, 1,000 visitors were received in its first month.

"The more we see businesspeople come, the more we see golfers come as well," Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh told the newspaper.

However, said the paper, the Cambodia's golf industry still faces hurdles, as current customers are usually local businessmen and government officials, and few travelers wander onto the courses while visiting the region.

Cham Prasidh said that a demand for golf will arise as long as foreign entrepreneurs continue to invest in Cambodia.

"It is a sport where you develop friendship very fast, which is good for business as well," he said.

(Xinhua News Agency January 17, 2008)

Cambodia bars actress from holding Darfur ceremony: official

PHNOM PENH (AFP) — Actress Mia Farrow has been barred from holding a ceremony at a notorious Khmer Rouge prison as part of a campaign to pressure China to end abuses in Darfur, a Cambodian official said Wednesday.

The American actress has started an Olympic-style torch relay through countries that have suffered genocide to draw attention to China's close ties with Sudan, as Beijing prepares to host the Games in August.

The campaign aims to push Beijing to pressure Sudan into ending the violence in Darfur, where the United Nations estimates that at least 200,000 people have died in five years of war, famine and disease.

Her group, Dream for Darfur, had planned to hold a ceremony Sunday outside the Khmer Rouge's former prison, Tuol Sleng, which is now a genocide museum.

But interior ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said the event would not be allowed.
"The Olympic Games are not a political issue. Therefore, we won't allow any rally to light a torch," he told AFP.

"We will not support the activity. We will not allow them to politicise the Olympic Games," he said, warning the group could face prosecution if they try to go ahead.

Farrow's group said the ceremony aimed to call attention to the constructive role that China could play in the Darfur crisis.

"The symbolic Olympic torch relay is urging the Chinese government, as both Olympic host and Sudan's strongest political and economic partner, to use its special influence with the Sudanese government," the group said in a statement.

A Chinese diplomat in Phnom Penh issued a statement opposing efforts "to link the Darfur issue with the Beijing Olympic Games, as these two matters are irrelevant."

He said that Farrow's group "claims that they just want to boost international concern about the Darfur issue, but from what they have done, they have a very obvious political purpose as they linked the Darfur issue with (the) Beijing Olympic Games."

In the run-up to the Olympics, China -- which is by far the largest foreign investor in Sudan and absorbs almost two-thirds of its oil output -- has been under mounting pressure to use its clout on Khartoum.

Cambodia would be the sixth stop for the group's relay, which began in Chad near the Sudanese border and continued to Rwanda, Armenia, Germany and Bosnia.

Boy Finds Life-Long Friend: a Snake

A 14.85 meter-long (49 feet) reticulated python in Central Java, Indonesia. (AP Photo)

By VOA Khmer Washington
16 January 2008

To watch the video in Khmer, click here

A seven-year old boy in Kandal province of Cambodia has a rather unusual best friend. Kuon Samnang has been spending time with his 4.8 metre long pet reptile since he was born. They are the same age and have hardly been separated in their whole lives.

Koun Samol, father: "My boy and the snake have been living very happiliy since he was born seven years ago". "They are the same age".

Samnang spends his days playing with Chomran, hugging the snake and trying to teach it tricks.
Koun Samol, father: "The snake eats ten kilos of duck and chicken in one week".

Unlike most snakes in the area, Chomran does not eat rats or frogs, as its diet is similar to that of Samnang. The whole Koun clans believe the snake has brought them good luck and they treat it like a member of the family.

Information for this report was provided by AP.

16 January 2008: Sam Rainsy gave his support to factory work

16 January 2008: Sam Rainsy gave his support to factory workers on strike at Cambodia Apparel Industry Ltd, Kampong Speu province (50 km Southwest of Phnom Penh)

Japan offers aid, [gentle] rights reminder to Mekong nations

Japanese Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura(3rdR) delivers a statement after the Mekong-Japan Foreign Ministers meeting in Tokyo as Mekong River nations' foreign ministers (L-R) U Nyan Win of Myanmar, Nitya Pibulsonggram of Thailand, Pham Gia Khiem of Vietnam, Hor Namhong of Cambodia and Thongloun Sisoulit of Laos listen. Japan offered fresh aid to Mekong River nations while issuing a gentle reminder on human rights.(AFP/Toshifumi Kitamura)

by Kyoko Hasegawa

TOKYO (AFP) - Japan on Wednesday offered fresh aid to Mekong River nations while issuing a gentle reminder on human rights as it sought to counter China's growing influence in the region.

The foreign minister of Myanmar, which faced heavy international criticism for its crackdown on pro-democracy protests last year, joined his counterparts from Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam for their first joint talks with Japan.

"Japan has been attaching great importance to the Mekong region, and will make further efforts to realise latent growth potential in the region," Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda told the foreign ministers in a meeting.

"At the same time, we would like to encourage each country to use its wisdom in terms of human rights and democratisation," Fukuda said, to which Nyan Win, the foreign minister of Myanmar, nodded, taking notes.

The ministers signed a series of deals late Wednesday, including one worth 20 million dollars aimed at encouraging investment and developing infrastructure in the poorest parts of the region.

The aid deals include funding for infrastructure such as highways stretching across the region, officials said. Japan also signed a deal with Laos to encourage investment in the country.

Tokyo, which has had uneasy ties with China and South Korea dating back to Japan's past invasions, has long treated Southeast Asia as a key region of influence by lavishing development aid and trade deals.

But more recently "the presence of China -- and also South Korea -- in this region is very big," said a Japanese official who handles Southeast Asian matters.

"China has borders with all these countries except for Cambodia, and excluding Thailand, the trade volumes with China are bigger than the trade volumes with Japan for these countries," he said on condition of anonymity.

Complicating the meeting is the issue of Myanmar, which counts on China as its main ally.
Japan has refused Western calls to end aid to military-ruled Myanmar, and this week pledged 1.79 million dollars to improve public health there.

In October, Japan cancelled nearly five million dollars in aid in protest at the military's bloody crackdown on rallies, in which a Japanese journalist was killed.

Scot Marciel, the US deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asia, called Tuesday on a visit to Tokyo for all nations, including Japan and China, to send a united message to Myanmar's junta leaders that they are heading in the "wrong direction."

Human Rights Watch also wrote to Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura urging Japan to address human rights concerns in Southeast Asian countries, saying Tokyo's concerns should extend beyond Myanmar.

"Governments chronically restrict freedom of expression, widely discriminate against ethnic minorities, pillage natural resources at the expense of local populations and provide impunity for those responsible for abuses," said Brad Adams, executive director of the rights group's Asia division.

"Given your government's relationship with each of the Mekong countries, and as a leading democratic power, we believe Japan can and should bring about significant improvements by speaking out clearly and publicly on human rights abuses," Adams said.

Sacravatoons : Cambodia Inc.

Courtesy of Sacravatoon :

Sacravatoons: The Top Khmer Rouge

Courtesy of Sacravatoon :

Japanese aid snub to Burma

Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam get assistance

Published on January 17, 2008

Sanction-hit Burma got nothing yesterday as Japan pledged approximately US$20 million (Bt662 million) for development projects in the Mekong basin.

Burmese Foreign Minister Nyan Win together with his counterparts from the Mekong region - Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam - were in Tokyo for the first Mekong-Japan foreign ministers' meeting.

Japanese Foreign Minister Masahiko Koumura signed a memorandum of understanding with his Laotian counterpart, Thongloun Sisoulith, Cambodia's Hor Namhong and Vietnam's Pham Gia Khiem. It provides financial assistance through the Japan-Asean Integration Fund to those countries.

Japan cancelled nearly $5 million in development assistance to junta-ruled Burma in October last year in response to the military crackdown on street protests in late September. At least 31 were killed, including Japanese news photographer Kenji Nagai.

Some 40 Burmese activists in Japan staged a protest yesterday in front of the meeting venue, and the hotel where Nyan Win is staying.

They are demanding an end to international assistance for the military-ruled country.
They displayed portraits of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and posters reading "stop killing in Burma".

The $20-million fund will be spent improving transport and freight along the East-West Economic Corridor, the link from Thailand, via Laos, to Vietnam as well as the Cambodia-Laos-Vietnam Development Triangle.

Japan and the three countries decided on a list of projects, which included a feasibility study of road improvements in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.

Thailand is not a recipient, but joined the meeting as a partner with Japan.

Koumura praised Thailand's role in the Mekong-basin development.

The region's countries appreciate Japan and Thailand's continued support for the development of the region, he said.

Thai Foreign Minister Nitya Pibulsonggram said Thailand had contributed some $55 million to neighbours in the region between 1995 and 2006, plus some $200 million for 16 infrastructure projects.

Nitya linked Thailand's brainchild project the Ayeyawady-Chao Phya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (ACMECS) with Japan's role in developing the region. ACMECS consists of Burma, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam. That was the reason Burma's minister was in Tokyo.

In ACMECS, Thailand is ready to play a role with Japan in undertaking study of development of Laos's Savanakhet Airport, he said.

"Thailand looks forward to working with Japan and cooperation with Mekong countries to identify other projects and areas where trilateral cooperation can be applied," Nitya said.

Supalak G Khundee
The Nation

Judges Call on Rebels for Evidence, ‘Justice’

By Mean Veasna,
VOA Khmer Original report from Pailin
16 January 2008

Listen Mean Veasna reports in Khmer

Khmer Rouge tribunal judges ended three days of talks in the former rebel stronghold of Pailin Wednesday, calling on past cadre for further evidence against their old leaders.

The judges held meetings with local officials and former rebels to explain the scope of the tribunal, which is to try senior leaders of the regime only. Court officials issued a handbook to residents to help them understand the tribunal process.

Investigating judge You Bunleng addressed a gathering of Pailin residents, many of them former Khmer Rouge rebels, imploring those who “love justice” to cooperate with the courts and provide evidence for the trials of former leaders.

“The court’s verdict won’t be impartial unless there is participation and help from those who knew or saw anything happen during that period of time,” he said.

Not all in attendance were satisfied with the official explanations of the courts.

“The answer was too brief to clear up what I was wondering,” said Lach Lina, a former Khmer Rouge supporter. “Their answers were in fact just to one question.”

The former leaders so far charged by the tribunal “are respectable aunts and uncles,” he said.
Arrested and charged with atrocity crimes are prison chief Duch, ideologue Nuon Chea, former president Khieu Samphan, former foreign minister Ieng Sary and former social affairs minister Ieng Thirith.

Another former Khmer Rouge soldier, Ouch Sam An, said he expected justice from the courts.
“I want to suggest that in order for the court to succeed, they have to find out who were the masterminds of the killing,” he said.

Government to Ban Darfur Torch Relay

By Sok Khemara,
VOA Khmer Original report from Washington
16 January 2008

Listen Sok Khemara reports in Khmer

Government officials said Wednesday they would ban a US-based advocacy group from holding a ceremonial torch relay to raise awareness of rights abuses in Sudan’s Darfur region.

The group, Dream for Darfur, has held similar relays in other countries and is urging the Chinese government—host of the 2008 summer Olympics and friend of the Sudanese government—to stop the abuses in Darfur.

Cambodia enjoys a close relationship with China.

Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said Wednesday the government would not allow the Olympics to be politicized.

If rights groups want to help Cambodian athletes go to the Olympics, he said, “we wish to very much welcome that.”

Seng Theary, executive director of the Center for Social Development, which was helping organize the relay, declined to comment on the ban.

Vann Nath, a survivor of the Tuol Sleng torture center under the Khmer Rouge, who was supposed to take part in the relay, said he hoped to use the event as a way to raise awareness of the suffering that takes place under genocidal regimes.

The US supports events that memorialize those killed during the Khmer Rouge regime and focuses attention on genocide, US Embassy spokesman Jeff Daigle said.

US State Dep’t Official in Cambodia for Talks

By Chun Sakada,
VOA Khmer Original report from Phnom Penh
16 January 2008

Listen Chun Sakada reports in Khmer

US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific Affairs Scot Marciel was in Cambodia Wednesday, part of an official tour through the region, the State Department said.

Marciel, who is visiting Cambodia for the first time, opened three days of talks Wednesday with his Foreign Affairs Ministry counterpart, Ouch Borith, to discuss bilateral assistance, counterterrorism and economic issues, officials said.

“We are going to ask for cooperation on not only bilateral issues, but also human rights issues with the government, to ensure that there is no severe human rights abuse on the poor and the powerless,” said Thun Saray, head of the rights group Adhoc. “Freedom of expression in public has gone from bad to worse, especially in 2007.”

Seng Theary, executive director of the Center for Social Development, called the visit “significant” and reflected US interest in Cambodia.

“The US is the world’s superpower, so its voice is so influential,” she said.

Opposition Leader Brings Provincial Strikers to Capital

By Heng Reaksmey,
VOA Khmer Original report from Phnom Penh
16 January 2008

Listen Heng Reaksmey reports in Khmer

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy led a 300-strong protest of Cambodia Apparel factory workers from Kompong Speu province to Phnom Penh’s National Assembly building Wednesday in an effort to have several fired labor leaders reinstated at the factory.

Workers have been on strike since Jan. 2 to demand deposits and restitution for three Cambodian labor leaders allegedly fired without reason.

The strikers clashed with police in Kampong Speu Tuesday, leading to the injury of policemen and workers.

“There must be pressure to warn the company violating workers rights to stop its illegal acts and let the workers illegally laid of resume their work,” Sam Rainsy said. “They have to stop making laborers work night and day, provide them with their wages regularly, stop deducting workers’ wages.”

Kong Don, a government official at the Kampong Speu provincial Office of Labor who is mediating the dispute, said workers were continuing their strike to “show off.”

Cambodia Apparel had agreed to pay a 5 percent salary increase, he added.

Hardcore Travel Destination, Cool Photography location!

By Steve Finn
January 16, 2008

Cambodia is an assault on the senses. Anywhere in the country beyond the cosseted, tourist rich environs of Siam Reap, the visitor finds facts which stagger them from every direction.

Between 1965 and 1973 the US dropped almost a third more ordnance (2.8 million tonnes) on Cambodia, a country the size of Oklahoma, than the allies dropped in the whole of WW2 (2million tonnes) including the atomic bombs which struck Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Cambodia is thought to be the most heavily bombed country in history.

The Khmer Rouge slaughtered in the region of quarter of the population, although historians are still arguing over the exact numbers. Lower estimates put the number just under a million, with the more extreme scholars suggesting that some three million people perished. The population of Cambodia, as of 1975, was in the region of 7.5 million people.

Even today, Cambodia is a country very much in transition. More than a third of Cambodian people survive on less than 50 cents a day, 24% of Cambodians will not live beyond the age of 40. More than 90%, some estimates are as high as 96%, of roads in the country are un-sealed dirt tracks. Cambodia, it is fair to say, is a hardcore travel destination. But the picture is changing.

The Cambodian economy is growing at over 6% per annum, largely as a result of a successful textile industry and a rapidly expanding tourist trade. Visitor numbers went through the one million mark in 2005 and look set to continue rising. Whilst it clearly has some way to go, the politically stable and accessible Cambodia we find today has far more to offer than the temples of Angkor Wat.

Phnom Penh, although a city still in recovery, is surely worth the effort of a visit. Of course, the genocide museum at Tuol Sleng and the killing fields of Choueng Ek will dominate most agendas, but there are unexpected treasures in Pnom Penh as well.

The colonial influence is obvious, Cambodia was a French colony until 1953 and there are some fine art-deco buildings around the city. True, the city itself has an unusual civic approach to maintenance and repair; rubbish is gathered in heaps and collected when they can get round to it.

Many Phnom Penh roads have returned to their ‘natural’ state and the traffic is wildly chaotic. The people are friendly though and the city has a positive, upbeat, atmosphere.

The discerning visitor will look beyond such trivia, and hopefully both ways before crossing the roads, to find some truly excellent restaurants along the riverfront. The FCC (Foreign Correspondents Club) is a treasure, an excellent menu, good local beer and the best spot in town for people watching.

It’s said that the correspondents themselves, foreign journalists, fled so unceremoniously when the Khmer Rouge marched into Phnom Penh that there was beer on the bar and cigars smouldering in the ashtrays of the FCC club. There were also several abandoned cameras; what price those rolls of film now?

The Russian Market, a battered example of colonial architecture, sits smugly at the heart of a traffic storm promising the brave a typically Asian retail therapy session; cheap clothes, dodgy watches and an authentically Khmer food experience.

Very few will want to get to Cambodia and miss the temples of Angkor Wat and, fortunately, the road between Phnom Penh and Siam Reap is a sealed example and in good shape. Buses are regular, comfortable, take around five hours and cost a bargain $10.

It is possible to take a ferry along the Mekong and across Tonle Sap Lake in some eight hours. This may seem a bit more rock’n’roll but the reality is that the boats are not air conditioned, often overcrowded and blistering hot if you choose to sit outside. They also cost a relatively expensive $25 for the ride.

Siam Reap could hardly be more different to Phnom Penh. It’s small, fairly quiet, funky and safe. Whilst it would be wrong to suggest that Phnom Penh is dangerous, it can have an edgy feel in the darker parts of town after sundown. Siam Reap feels more like a holiday camp with a temple attached. Everyone is there for the same reason; Angkor.

There is accommodation to suit every budget in Siam Reap, from $5 hostels to the considerably more costly Le Meridien Angkor which tops out at $410 for a suite. There are plenty of comfortable, well situated hotels in the $25 range.

Transport around town, in both Pnom Penh and Siam Reap, can be had for $10-15 a day for a ‘moto-dop’ (a sort of motorbike and trailer) or tuk-tuk ; $25 for an air-con car. It’s simple to arrange yourself with a driver or hotel reception staff are generally very helpful and will organise it for you.

Angkor Wat itself is the biggest religious monument in the world. It is possibly the busiest as well, expect a crowd. Those with limited time will need to decide just which parts of the complex they want to see.

The main temple at Angkor is the obvious place to start, if only for the iconic picture of the temple across the lake. Be aware that if you save the main temple until later in the day in order to get better light for your pictures that they close the site down before dusk.

If you want moody, dramatically lit images of Angkor Wat they will have to be sunrise ones, not sunset. The sun does rise behind the temple, but if you make the effort to be there at 4am don’t expect to have the place to yourself.

Ta Phrom will also be on everyone’s list and is easily the most striking ruin. Ta Phrom is the complex which featured in the Tombraider film and has been left to be re-claimed by the jungle. A mile or so away, the Bayonne is probably the best example of bas relief carvings.

It’s often said that it’s not possible to see Angkor in a day. That is undoubtedly true, but some 1 million people a year seem to be giving it their best shot and the numbers are expected to breach 3 million by 2010.

No part of Angkor Wat is roped off. At the moment, there is nothing to stop people clambering over these exquisite, important, ancient ruins which have sat serenely in the jungle since they were abandoned half a millennium ago. The temples are suffering now and the time is rapidly approaching when they will, like so many heritage sites, have to be viewed from a distance.

There is no doubt that Cambodia remains an adventurous tourist destination. The infrastructure outside of the major cities is not restored. The ironic answer of ‘Bangkok’, to the question ‘where is the nearest hospital’ should not be too readily dismissed. It is accessible though, Cambodia, and those who make the effort to go there will not be disappointed.

This is a country which, having suffered almost three decades of brutal civil war, is slowly hauling itself back into normality and they need some help now, not in the form of aid but in tourist dollars spent in the bars, shops and hotels.

If all you have the time or inclination to do is spend a few days poking around Angkor taking pictures, and a few nights enjoying the jaunty, sanitised nightlife of Bar Street then you should go. It’s not Cambodia, Siam Reap is more like Cambodia’s theme park, but it’s worth the visit all the same. Even if only to see Angkor Wat up close and personal, before they put it behind ropes and in the glass cases of an air conditioned museum.

Most youngsters identify themselves as ASEAN citizens

January 16, 2008

Some 75 percent of students and young people in the Southeast Asia identified themselves as citizens of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the latest survey shows Wednesday.

The survey, released by the ASEAN secretariat in Jakarta, found nearly 99 percent of students and young people felt ASEAN membership was beneficial to their nations while some 70 percent felt it was beneficial to them personally, local newspaper The Jakarta Post quoted the result Wednesday.

The survey included 2,170 students from 10 universities across the ASEAN's members last year. It found students from Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam were most likely to identify themselves with the ASEAN, with 96 percent, 93 percent and 92 percent respectively.

Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam are the newest members of ASEAN, having joined the 10-nation grouping in the 1990s.

They are often referred to as the newest four, or CMLV, and their development lacks behind the other six member countries.

Students in Singapore had the weakest affinity toward the grouping, with some 49 percent saying they were citizens of the grouping.

About 73 percent of Indonesian respondents felt they were ASEAN citizens, the survey found.

Some 60 percent of ASEAN students said they were familiar with the grouping. Vietnam and Laos topped the list of the student familiarity index, with more than 88 percent and 84 percent respectively.

Myanmar came in at the bottom of this index, with 9.6 percent of its students saying they were familiar with ASEAN.

About 68 percent of Indonesian students felt they were familiar with the grouping. In terms of willingness to know more about other ASEAN countries, some 92 percent of students said they were interested in learning more about their neighboring countries.

Again, students from Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam showed the highest interest in knowing more about neighboring ASEAN countries.

ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan welcomed the findings and said the results would be useful in portraying levels of awareness and sense of belonging.

Source: Xinhua

Cambodia accuses actress Mia Farrow of hijacking its tragic past

Jan 16, 2008

Phnom Penh - Cambodian officials Wednesday accused a group spearheaded by American movie star Mia Farrow of hijacking the country's tragic past for politics and barred it from taking a symbolic Olympic torch through a genocide museum.

The actress was planning to light an Olympic torch at the Toul Sleng Genocide Museum in the capital where up to 16,000 people were tortured or killed by the Khmer Rouge in order to draw attention to the war in Sudan and China's close ties to that government.

China, one of Cambodia's closest allies, is preparing to host the Olympics in August. It has been accused of failing to use its economic clout in Sudan to end violence in the Darfur region, where the United Nations estimates that at least 200,000 people have died so far in a protracted war.

The Olympic torch-style relay Dream for Darfur has so far visited five countries where genocides took place, including Germany.

'Toul Sleng is a place to come quietly with incense to respect our dead, not for torches and politics,' Toul Sleng director Chey Sopheara said by telephone.

'Please don't plus our victims to other issues. To do what the foreigners want would disturb our dead. How can they compare Toul Sleng with a sporting event?'

Farrow's organization has partnered with German-funded local non-government organization Center for Social Development. Its American-Khmer director Theary Seng has denied the guesture is political, but Cambodian officials disagree.

'It's naive to say this action avoids politics. We cannot allow it. We would not allow them to make these sorts of displays about any embassy here,' government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said.

'If they wanted to make a protest against the American bombing of Cambodia, we would not allow that too,' he said in reference to Richard Nixon's secret bombing of Cambodia from 1970 which many people blame for giving the Khmer Rouge the impetus to come to power.

Kanharith described Farrow, 62, and her local counterparts as 'a group of foreigners lacking insight who do this for money' and warned against cheapening the memory of Cambodia's victims.

Up to 2 million Cambodians died under the Khmer Rouge regime.

Cambodia's NA approves constitution amendment


Phnom Penh (VNA) - The Cambodian National Assembly has amended two articles of the country’s Constitution to specify division pattern of administrative areas to facilitate better political participation of the civilians.

The amendment, passed by a 80-107 vote on January 15, will help improve and increase democracy, Cambodian Prime Minister told reporters after the vote.

However, the FUNCINPEC and the Sam Rainsy Party did not support the amendment, saying it would only benefit the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP).

The Cambodian territory is divided as capital city, special city, province, district and commune.

Cambodia: Call for justice for victims of land grabbing
Ch. Narendra

On 13 January 2008 at around 11:30 pm a lawmaker named Chin Kim Sreng, 70, from the ruling party, was brutally beaten on the head in front of his house in Boeung Kang Kang commune, Chamcar Mon district, Phnom Penh. Chin was knocked unconscious in the attack which caused open wounds to his head. He was rushed to the hospital for treatment.

Chin’s attacker was a man named Ros Sovann, 28, a security guard from a private security firm who is living with his mother in Russey Sros village, Niroth commune, Meanchey district, Phnom Penh. That night he was on duty to guard a French-owned restaurant located in the rented part of Chin’s house.

He beat Chin with a steel pipe when Chin returned home and was about to open the front gate of his own house. Ros then got into Chin’s luxury car and rammed it into the house gate. Chin’s wife who was in the house cried out for help, and Ros was immediately apprehended and handed over to the police.

In his statement to the police, Ros said his attack on Chin was his revenge against the powerful officials who had grabbed his land in Russey Sros village and deprived him of the only means that would have allowed his mother to pay for his wedding. He said he had had no personal grudges against Chin.

However, since the loss of his land he harbored strong resentment for all powerful officials, so much so that, on becoming a security guard, he had requested his firm to assign him to guard their houses so that he could have opportunities to take revenge on them.

Ros’s mother named Noeu Yeap, 54, said that she used to have a 15m by 200m plot of land, but this land was now reduced to 15m by 40m. The rest had been grabbed from her when she had lent it to the village chief named Khlauk Dul for building the village office. Later on, this village chief sold her land without her knowledge. She filed a lawsuit in court against this sale in 1994, but so far no justice has been offered to her.

Noeu said that because of this unsettled land grabbing case, she had had no means to pay for the wedding of her son as he had requested. Ros had been badly affected by this event and her inability to pay for his wedding. It is reported that there are many land disputes in the area where the mother and son are living.

While in police custody, Chin made several suicide attempts, and the police have said experts may be needed to examine his mental health. Attacking a person is indeed a crime, and the attacker must be punished for it, subject of course to the state of his mental health.

However, Ros’s attack on lawmaker Chin Kim Sreng, brutal as it was, should not be treated as a crime like many others. It should be taken very seriously as it was a cry for justice for himself and for other victims of the injustices of land grabbing which the system of justice of the country is either unable, unwilling, or not allowed to correct and prevent. One can only imagine how strongly such injustices can have affected a young man like Ros, then a teenager.

In Cambodia there are many people, including youths like Ros who are victims of land grabbing, when this act has been going on for years and has forced and continues to force, at times brutally, many families out of their homes and lands without fair compensation. Many of those victims may have the same hatred for the country’s rulers and be as revengeful as him.

The Asian Human Rights Commission said that the time is now long overdue for the government to put a halt to land grabbing and for the institutions of the rule of law, especially the courts, to correct the injustices that land grabbing has created.

This must be done before the situation creates more people like Ros with hatred for their rulers in their hearts. In this incident Ros has beaten one person in vengeance. One can only guess what will happen in future if the government fails to stop the eviction and needless poverty of their people due to land grabbing.

Khmer Rouge trial officials end visit to former stronghold

Posted : Wed, 16 Jan 2008
Author : DPA

Phnom Penh - Court officials from Cambodia's special chambers to try a handful of former leaders ended a visit to the former Khmer Rouge stronghold of Pailin Wednesday, confident the visit was successful. The visit was aimed at explaining the court to former Khmer Rouge rank and file and allaying fears that it was a witch hunt which may spread to the lower levels of the now-defunct movement.

The prosecutors visited a pagoda and "met with the people," according to media spokesman Reach Sambath, attempting to spread the message to the predominantly former Khmer Rouge community that the court was open to them to approach and was intent on finding justice.

However, many of the region's former Khmer Rouge officials boycotted the two-day visit, with some even fleeing their former sanctuary on the north-western border with Thailand to travel nearly 500 kilometres to the capital to avoid the media frenzy which accompanied it.

The 56-million-dollar joint UN-Cambodia court has so far arrested five former leaders and charged them with crimes against humanity as well as war crimes in some cases.

Four of them were officially residents of Pailin until their arrest and remain popular in the community there after they helped broker a deal to defect to the government in 1996, ending the war but allowing former Khmer Rouge autonomy, and spent lavishly on items such as local Buddhist pagodas.

Up to 2 million Cambodians died under the 1975-79 Khmer Rouge regime.

Cambodia trade set to rise after talks


AN GIANG — Measures to boost trade and commodity exchanges through Viet Nam and Cambodia’s borders were highlighted during the two sides’ border trade conference, held in An Giang Province yesterday.

Representatives of the Viet Nam Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Ministry of Commerce of Cambodia, which co-organised the conference, signed a Memorandum of Understanding on speeding up border trade co-operation between the two sides.

To boost border trade co-operation, Viet Nam put forward a series of measures.

These measures included exchanging delegations at different levels, the organisation of an annual border trade conference in respective countries, the strengthening of technical infrastructure facilities in border areas and the simplification of trade procedures.

Conference participants discussed issues for efficient management and for the sustainable development of border trade on both sides, striving for an average increase of 27 per cent each year in Viet Nam-Cambodia import-export turnover.

They expected to increase bilateral import-export turnover to US$2.3 billion in 2010 and $6.5 billion in 2015.

Total import-export turnover between Viet Nam and Cambodia during 2001-07 was $3 billion, of which Viet Nam exports to Cambodia were worth $2.8 billion and imports were valued at $228 million.


Tourist Police arrest Cambodian Beggars and suspected drug dealer

Picturea by Pattaya City News
As part of their regular duties on Walking Street, the Tourist Police based on Walking Street are responsible for clearing the streets of beggars and other undesirables. In the early hours of Wednesday Morning, a group of Tourist Police Volunteers were on patrol on Pattaya Beach Road in front of the Royal Garden Plaza when they spotted a Thai man acting in a suspicious manner. He was approached and searched by a Tourist Police Officer who arrived moments later. He was found to be carrying 7 packets of the class 5 drug Marijuana and a quantity of Thai cash and US Currency. The Officers also detained a number of illegal Cambodian street beggars who will be deported at the earliest opportunity