Thursday, 7 February 2008

Forced Evictions Affecting Mainly Vulnerable Civilians in Cambodia Charges Amnesty International in New Report

"I lost my house, rice and belongings like clothes and utensils. All houses were burned down and destroyed by the excavator and the bulldozer. They kept (the) good-condition corrugated steel and planks of wood for themselves. They even took water jars and looted our chickens and ducks. They never came to evict us like this before."

-- A villager in Sihanoukville, who lost her home on April 20, 2007

WASHINGTON, Feb. 11 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Amnesty International charged today that forced evictions are one of the most widespread human rights violations in Cambodia and that at least 150,000 Cambodians in rural and urban areas live at risk of being forcibly evicted due to land disputes, land seizures and new development projects.

In the new report, Rights Razed -- Forced evictions in Cambodia, Amnesty International accuses Cambodian authorities of contradicting their rhetoric of policies to help its disadvantaged citizens by these forced evictions. The Cambodian government is not only failing to protect - in law and practice - the population against forced evictions, but is actively involved in these unlawful acts.
"As long as these forced evictions continue, regardless of Cambodian authorities' implicit support or explicit participation, the government's highly trumpeted poverty-reduction agenda rings hollow," said Larry Cox, Amnesty International USA executive director. "Instead of protecting and supporting its vulnerable citizens, the Cambodian government is actually unraveling recent progress against poverty. It is empowering the country's economic and political powers rather than those in need."

The report shows that Cambodian government authorities have opted to evict citizens without exploring other alternatives. Affected groups received little or no information on planned evictions and did not have access to adequate alternative housing. In addition, these residents do not have any recourse to recoup their losses. Most evictions are occurring because of the increased economic opportunities for new development.

"In one day, more than 100 families became homeless as law enforcement agents and the military cleared their village," said Laola Hironaka, Amnesty International USA's Cambodia country specialist. "Many residents not only lost their house, but the land they use to grow food for themselves."

Amnesty International urges the Cambodian government to:

-- End all forced evictions;

-- Introduce a moratorium for all mass evictions until legislation and policy is enacted requiring any further evictions to be conducted in full compliance with international human rights laws and standards;

-- Ensure that those victimized by forced evictions have access to, at the very least, adequate shelter, clean water, sanitation, health services and education, including through the provision of humanitarian assistance where necessary;

-- And abide by its obligations under international human rights law to give those affected by eviction an opportunity for genuine participation and consultation.

"The merciless impoverishment of Cambodians needs to stop now. The Cambodian government owes at least this much to its people," said Cox.


A forced eviction is 'the permanent or temporary removal against the will of individuals, families and/or communities from the homes and/or land which they occupy, without the provision of, and access to, appropriate forms of legal or other protection,' according to the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Forced evictions have been recognized by the U.N. Commission on Human Rights as a gross violation, and are also -- as in the cases presented here -- associated with other human rights abuses.

As a party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), and other international human rights treaties that prohibit forced eviction and related human rights violations, Cambodia has an obligation to stop forced evictions and to protect the population from forced evictions.

For more information or a copy of the full report, Rights Razed -- Forced evictions in Cambodia, please contact Sharon Singh at

Government Assails Global Witness ‘Plot’

By Brian Calvert,
VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
06 February 2008

Audio in Khmer - Listen (MP3)

The Cambodian government accused resources monitor Global Witness of plotting to discredit the government Monday, following reports the US is considering a ban on corrupt officials.

In a release issued Monday, the Cambodian Embassy in London said the UK-based organization deliberately sought “to discredit and plot against the government.”

The statement follows a potnetial US visa ban on corrupt officials in foreign countries who benefit from the exploitation of natural resources.

US Congress has recommended the State Department specifically consider a 2007 Global Witness report linking more than a dozen top officials and businessmen to Prime Minister Hun Sen and his family.

The Cambodian Embassy Monday called for international regulations and guidelines for Global Witness, calling its leadership “uneducated.”

Cambodia has seen “remarkable progress,” the embassy said, citing a number of high-level visits from US and European officials.

Global Witness Director Simon Taylor told VOA Khmer Wednesday the embassy statement “indicates how far Cambodia needs to come to understand what this issue is about.”

“Annually they promise, annually they fail to deliver, and annually the donors fail to respond to the problem adequately,” he said.

In the past decade, corrupt Cambodian elites “have presided over the destruction of the forestry estate,” Taylor said.

Meanwhile, Cambodians “absolutely desperate to get it right” are “thwarted by the people around them.”

With offshore oil exploration on the horizon, “crunch time is coming” to address corruption, he said.

Far From Home, a Cambodian on Ice

By Nuch Sarita,
VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
06 February 2008

Audio in Khmer - Listen (MP3)

For Michael Chau, last month’s figure skating medal was nothing new, but it was was something special.

The 17-year-old skater won a silver medal with his partner, Tracy Tanovich, 11, in the Pairs Juniors Nationals, in St. Paul, Minnesota.

He earned the medal just 15 minutes from where his family lives, a family he has been away from for five years, training.

The son of Cambodian refugees from Battambang who moved to Minnesota 27 years ago, Chau has been ice skating since he was 7.

“By the time Michael was 12, my wife and I recognized Michael’s talent and allowed him to go to Florida to train as a single skater,” his father, Thyna Chau, said in a recent interview.

The training led to partner skating with Tanovich, national competitions and a bronze in the 2006 national championships.

The two won the Novice Pairs competition at the US Figure Skating Championships in 2007.

“It was very difficult being away from my family at such a young age, but I’m independent,” Chau told VOA Khmer in a recent interview. “I really enjoyed being on my own and getting to be my own person. And Tracy and I have great support at the rink.”

The training has led to a close relationship with his partner, he said, one that he hopes will lead them to the Olympics in 2014.

Chau is now back in Florida, training.

Court Calls for Briefs in Ieng Sary Hearing

By Chun Sakada,
VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
06 February 2008

Audio in Khmer - Listen (MP3)

The Khmer Rouge tribunal made a public appeal Wednesday for voluntary briefs ahead of a hearing to determine whether jailed leader Ieng Sary should be held ahead of his atrocity crimes trial.

The call for “friend of the court” documentation from those outside the litigation follows Ieng Sary’s hospitalization Monday.

His lawyers said poor conditions in tribunal detention led to a urinary tract infection and have renewed calls for him to be held under house arrest ahead of his trial.

Legal expert Hisham Mousar, who monitors the tribunal for the rights group Adhoc, said the group will not file a new brief unless Ieng Sary’s appeal for release differs greatly from that of Kaing Khek Iev, alias Duch, who was denied pre-trial release at a hearing in November.

“Ieng Sary’s case could be a new reason for us to respond,” he said.

“With regard to whether to continue detaining the accused, I will not oppose if there is a good reason,” he said.

Tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath said Ieng Sary remained hospitalized Wednesday but did not elaborate on his condition.

The deadline for filing a “friend of the court” brief is Feb. 19.

Tribunal Money Management Unsettled

By Sok Khemara,
VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
06 February 2008

Audio in Khmer - Listen (MP3)

UNDP officials said Wednesday they have not yet received a request to manage the next influx of tribunal money.

“No one has contacted UNDP for helping, whether to control money if there is additional funds,” said UNDP spokesman Kim Sen. “But if a government or donor contacts UNDP to help control it, the UNDP will consider such a proposal.”

A UNDP last year found serious flaws in hiring practices and transparency within the tribunal’s administrative unit, following accusations by tribunal monitors that judges paid large kickbacks to high-ranking officials for seats in the courts.

Experts estimate the tribunal needs at least $45 million to continue. In the initial phase of funding, the UNDP was in charge of spending money for international judges and other administrative functions.

Nuon Chea Lawyer Sworn in After Gaffe

By Heng Reaksmey
VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
06 February 2008

Audio in Khmer - Listen (MP3)

Victor Koppe, lawyer to jailed Khmer Rouge ideologue Nuon Chea, was sworn in for the Cambodian bar Wednesday morning, following a procedural glitch at a tribunal hearing Monday.

Koppe had filed at least one motion on Nuon Chea’s behalf without technically being eligible under tribunal rules.

Now a member of the bar, he can legally represent Nuon Chea, whose hearing over pre-trial detention was postponed Monday.

“From now on, he has full rights as a lawyer,” Cambodian Bar Association President Ky Tech said.

No new date has been set for the next hearing, which will be only the second of the tribunal.
“It will not take long, as the Pre-Trial Chamber wants to get it done quickly,” tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath said. “There are three more appeals against temporary detentions.”

Noun Chea: The second public appearance at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia

Noun Chea, a former Khmer Rouge leader and right hand man to Pol Pot, looks on during a hearing Thursday, Feb. 7, 2008, at the U.N.-back genocide tribunal in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. A former Khmer Rouge leader detained by Cambodia's U.N.-backed genocide tribunal Thursday pressed for an appeal for his release on bail, this time with the help of a foreign lawyer who was earlier barred from representing him.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith, Pool)

Cambodian police officers watch a line of people as they wait outside the court room during a hearing Thursday, Feb. 7, 2008, at the U.N.-back genocide tribunal in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. A former Khmer Rouge leader detained by Cambodia's U.N.-backed genocide tribunal Thursday pressed for an appeal for his release on bail, this time with the help of a foreign lawyer who was earlier barred from representing him.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Cambodians wait to attend the UN-backed genocide tribunal of Nuon Chea, Pol Pot's right hand man from the Khmer Rouge, during his second public appearance at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) in Phnom Penh February 7, 2008. Nuon Chea appeared before Cambodia's "Killing Fields" tribunal on Thursday to request bail, arguing he was not a flight risk and would not try to influence potential witnesses.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)
A Cambodian man, center, shows his ID card before he gets into the court room during a hearing Thursday, Feb. 7, 2008, at the U.N.-back genocide tribunal in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. A former Khmer Rouge leader detained by Cambodia's U.N.-backed genocide tribunal Thursday pressed for an appeal for his release on bail, this time with the help of a foreign lawyer who was earlier barred from representing him.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)
Cambodian Muslims wait to attend the UN-backed genocide tribunal of Nuon Chea, Pol Pot's right hand man from the Khmer Rouge,during his second public appearance at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) in Phnom Penh February 7, 2008. Nuon Chea appeared before Cambodia's "Killing Fields" tribunal on Thursday to request bail, arguing he was not a flight risk and would not try to influence potential witnesses.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)
Cambodian people wait outside the court room during a hearing Thursday, Feb. 7, 2008, at the U.N.-back genocide tribunal in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. A former Khmer Rouge leader detained by Cambodia's U.N.-backed genocide tribunal Thursday pressed for an appeal for his release on bail, this time with the help of a foreign lawyer who was earlier barred from representing him.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Chum Mey, center, one of the few survivors who was imprisoned at Tuol Sleng prison by the Khmer Rouge talks outside the court room during a hearing Thursday, Feb. 7, 2008, at the U.N.-back genocide tribunal in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. A former Khmer Rouge leader detained by Cambodia's U.N.-backed genocide tribunal Thursday pressed for an appeal for his release on bail, this time with the help of a foreign lawyer who was earlier barred from representing him.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Noun Chea, a former Khmer Rouge leader and right hand man to Pol Pot, looks on during a hearing Thursday, Feb. 7, 2008, at the U.N.-back genocide tribunal in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. A former Khmer Rouge leader detained by Cambodia's U.N.-backed genocide tribunal Thursday pressed for an appeal for his release on bail, this time with the help of a foreign lawyer who was earlier barred from representing him.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith, Pool)

Nuon Chea, Pol Pot's right hand man from the Khmer Rouge, sits in the dock during his second public appearance at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) in Phnom Penh February 7, 2008. Nuon Chea appeared before Cambodia's "Killing Fields" tribunal to request bail, arguing he was not a flight risk and would not try to influence potential witnesses.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea (C) appealed Thursday against his detention by Cambodia's genocide tribunal, arguing in his first public court appearance that he should be freed as he awaits trial(AFP/File/Tang Chhin Sothy)

Nuon Chea, Pol Pot's right hand man from the Khmer Rouge, sits in the dock during his second public appearance at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) in Phnom Penh February 7, 2008. Nuon Chea appeared before Cambodia's "Killing Fields" tribunal to request bail, arguing he was not a flight risk and would not try to influence potential witnesses.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Defamation decriminalised, but attacks on journalists increase in 2007, says CAPJ free expression report

CAPSULE REPORT: Defamation decriminalised, but attacks on journalists increase in 2007, says CAPJ free expression report

Country/Topic: Cambodia
Date: 06 February 2008
Source: Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA)
Type(s) of violation(s):
Urgency: Bulletin

(SEAPA/IFEX) - The following is a SEAPA press release:

CAPJ presents 2007 free expression report to information minister, journalists.

On 30 January 2008, the Cambodian Association for the Protection of Journalists (CAPJ) held a meeting with Information Minister Khieu Kanharith and journalists to present its report on the state of press freedom in the country in 2007.

While welcoming the government's decision to decriminalise defamation on 13 August 2007, CAPJ noted a sharp increase in attacks on journalists, compared with 2006 figures. There were 15 incidents of journalists being threatened, nine lawsuits filed against them, three warnings issued to them and eight arrests of journalists.

A full report of the situation can be found in SEAPA's annual review, prepared with input from CAPJ and released on 27 December 2007:

Free but fearful in Cambodia

Cambodia appears to have in place all the laws ensuring media freedom, but the reality is a different matter altogether. The constitutional provision for press freedom is ironically often invoked to restrict this very right, for it says, rather broadly, that the exercise of this right must not infringe upon the rights of others, "affect good traditions of society" and violate public law and order and national security. The interpretation of these restrictions should conform to the standards in the ratified International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, but that has not been the case. Multiple revisions have incorporated into the 1995 Press Law unwarranted restrictions and self-contradictory stipulations, such as binding journalists to criminal law though acknowledging that "no persons shall be arrested or subject to criminal charges as a result of the expression of opinion". Another restrictive constitutional provision that has been repeatedly invoked is Article 7, which states: "The King shall be inviolable". It was used to justify the confiscation of "Free Press Magazine" over an article that questioned former King Norodom Sihanouk's immunity from the Khmer Rouge Tribunal.

Despite the seemingly positive act to decriminalise defamation on 13 August - rendering moot the threat against Thach Ket, chief editor of "Sralanh Khmer", and former king Norodom Sihanouk's lawsuit against the same newspaper for alleging Queen Monineath was Vietnamese - there is still another favourite weapon of the authorities: the law on disinformation, which punishes transgressors with imprisonment from six months to three years or a fine of one million to ten million riels (approx. US$253 to US$2,530), or both. And even in civil defamation cases, journalists still face the threat of jail if they fail to pay the same steep fines.

Climate of fear

Much of the government's workings remain shrouded in secrecy, with the access to information law ignored or not enforced by government officials. Journalists operate in a climate of fear made real by the past occurrences of colleagues being attacked and killed. While none was killed for their work this year, a sense of danger persists under the authoritarian leadership of Hun Sen, the prime minister since 1985. Chim Chenda of "Kampuchea Thmei" was threatened with a gun by General Pol Sinuon for addressing the officer by his name, while Chandy of "Reaksmei Kampuchea" received an anonymous death-threat letter after he wrote a story implicating the Commune Chief of Tek Kraham in land grabbing. Phon Phat of "Chbas Ka" found his house razed twice over his reports on illegal logging. Those threatened for their work would lie low or flee the country until the situation quietens down. A Radio Free Asia reporter bearing the penname "Keo Nimol" had to leave the country briefly after the prime minister lashed out at him, calling him insolent and rude. His colleague, Lem Pich Pisey, was forced to flee after receiving an anonymous death threat.

The Information Ministry regularly issues and enforces bans on newspapers for reporting on sensitive issues like corruption, land grabbing and criticisms of public officials. The biggest casualty was the major French newspaper, "Cambodge Soir", which was closed down after 12 years in operation for defying the ban on an environmental report which alleged official corruption. Soon after, the "Sralanh Khmer" newspaper was warned to stop further reports about the same issue. The "Khmer Amatak" newspaper was suspended a month for incurring the wrath of Deputy Prime Minister Nhiek Bun Chhay.

Government propaganda dominates the national broadcaster, allowing no room for opposition views. Even in the press and radio - where there is plurality as ownership is open to political parties, businesses and non-governmental organisations - the authorities can limit ownership on a whim, as seen in its rejection of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights' application to run a community radio station.

The Internet is a new medium that is as yet unrestricted, but it is accessible only to the minority middle class in the big cities - an estimated 44,000 users out of a total population of close to 14 million. A burgeoning community of bloggers continues to show and test the viability of the medium and, consequently, the authorities' patience.

Ethics problem

A lack of ethics in an underpaid profession has also exposed journalists to physical harm, especially those in the poverty-ridden countryside where there is severe lack of basic infrastructure. Most provincial journalists earn a monthly salary of about US$40 and would demand payment in return for their articles or other bribes. On 13 January, editors of the "Sangket Ka", "Samaki" and "Sangkum Cheat" newspapers were arrested and charged for blackmailing actress Vang Srey No. On 15 February, a "Polrath Khmer" reporter was attacked by a mob for alleged extortion. On 27 March, the publisher of "Vichea Khmer" newspaper was arrested for attempted murder. Most such cases are resolved behind closed doors or through "under-the-table" negotiations, entrenching the culture of bad journalism rather than breaking the cycle.

To address concerns about ethics and protect freedom of the press in general, a Press Council composed of 13 journalist associations was created on 20 July, with CAPJ President Um Sarin elected to head the organisation.

This report was prepared with input from Sam Rithy Duong Hak, Vice-President of CAPJ, a SEAPA partner based in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

The Mirror : Announcement


We are very happy to announce two new features:

1) A Khmer version of The Mirror, called Kanhchok Sangkum, available at:

This was formerly provided in print to individual subscribers and to Cambodian decision makers and provincial institutions. We had to discontinue due to financial problems, and now we are thrilled that we can make it available again, on the Internet. It will be updated daily, and over time the entire archive of back issues since 1997 will uploaded. We will greatly appreciate anything you can do to inform all your Khmer-reading friends and colleagues about the Kanhchok Sangkum!

2) A “Make a Donation” button, which is on the right side of this page. All donations will be used to produce and to distribute The Mirror and the Kanhchok Sangkum. (Starting soon, we will share information about our costs and the donations received.) Clicking the button allows you to donate any amount safely through PayPal, by credit card, or by bank transfer.

If you have any questions or comments about either of these features, or anything else, please write to me at: or

Norbert Klein, Editor

Please Read Nuon Chea’s Answers to the Co-Judges of the Extraordinary Court

7 February 2008

The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 546

“Phnom Penh: Nuon Chea, 82 years old, former leader No. 2 in the Democratic Kampuchea Regime, answered the questions of the co-judges of the Extraordinary Chamber very bravely without being horrified.

“When the hearing was postponed due to the absence of his co-attorney, Mr. Nuon Chea blamed the co-judges of the Extraordinary Court, saying ‘if you knew that my lawyer is absent, why is this hearing still going on. I already said that I need three co-lawyers, if one of them is absent, it is impossible to have a hearing. But if the hearing is still forcefully conducted by violating my right to have my co-attorneys present, the court is not maintaining justice in line with international standards.’

“Nuon Chea has been charged by the Extraordinary Court with crimes against humanity (killing, torturing, detaining, abusing people, committing genocide, evacuating and forcefully exiling people, putting people in slavelike conditions, and other inhuman acts).

“In the closed room where the co-judges questioned Nuon Chea, he eloquently answered the co-judges’ questions and denied all charges of crimes against humanity against him. Nuon Chea rejected the accusations against him by saying, ‘If I had committed what I have been charged, I would be very ashamed about what I have committed.’ Nuon Chea said, ‘I never had communication with the grassroots, so I have no idea what had happened.’ Nuon Chea continued that the real power in the Democratic Kampuchea regime was in the hands of the Military Committee, but he was not in that committee. Nuon Chea added, ‘I was a member on the receiving side of legislative power; I never made any law to kill my own nation. About 40 of my family members were also killed in the events during that era. I would like to deny all these statements being made again and again about 1.7 million victims having been killed during the Democratic Kampuchea regime, but no one ever talks about the killings committed by other people before 1975 or after 1979.’ Nuon Chea answered the co-judges’ questions, saying that the status of provisional detention was not adequate, ‘because since I led the integration [of one Khmer Rouge faction] into the Cambodian government, I had stayed freely, and no problem has happened. I have not any intention to destroy evidence or to put pressure on anybody, because I have never had any violent behavior; moreover I used to be monk. On the other hand, I have never been threatened by anybody. Quite to the contrary, I got many signs of love from the people in the area where I lived. Besides that, I had stayed along the Thai border for many years, so I had a lot of opportunities to easily escape if I had wanted to do that.’

“Nuon Chea explained to the judges, ‘I would like to clarify for all Cambodian people and for all people around the world who is the real enemy of Cambodia, by stating that patriots persons are not cowards, and I do not accept to have the country’s honor downgraded.’ The above is Nuon Chea’s answer to the co-judges of the Extraordinary Court.

“The above answers seem to claim that Nuon Chea knew nothing about the death of millions of Cambodian people during the Democratic Kampuchea regime, when he was in power. But even though Nuon Chea denied these events, the co-judges already charged him for crimes against humanity and serious violations of the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, to be punished, based on articles 5, 6, new 29, and new 39 of the Law on the Establishment of the Extraordinary Court, dated 27 October 2007.

“Nuon Chea was born on 7 January 1926 in Wat Kor village and Wat Kor commune, Sangke, Battambang. Nuon Chea can speak five languages: French, English, Chinese, Thai, and Vietnamese. Nuon Chea father’s name is Lao Liv (deceased), his mother’s name is Dos Panh (deceased), his wife’s name is Ly Kimseng (alive), Nuon Chea has three children who are staying in Phsar Prum village, Khan Pailin, Pailin.”

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.7, #1564, 6-11.2.2008

Cambodia’s Lawless Leaders and Landless Poor
Written by Will Baxter
Wednesday, 06 February 2008

Phnom Penh, Cambodia—Driven by bald-faced corruption at the highest levels in the Cambodian government, the poor and disenfranchised of the country are systematically being stripped of their land under the guise of development schemes, economic land concessions, and through the exploitation of a continually failing legal system.

While land rights are perhaps the most important issue facing the people of Cambodia today, the subject has received very little international attention. But for this country of 14 million, where widespread corruption and cronyism are seemingly devoid of pretense, the lack of an effective international monitoring system has allowed government ministers and the upper class to essentially rob the country blind of its land and natural resources.

The most notable figure facing corruption allegations is Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, singled out in a July 2007 report by watchdog Global Witness for his links to various illegal logging and development projects.

According to the report, the most powerful logging syndicate in Cambodia, the Seng Keang Company, is run by relatives and close friends of Hun Sen, his wife Bun Rany, and other senior government officials. The Seng Keang Company, notably, has been accused of massive illegal logging in the Prey Long forest generating millions of dollars annually. Rather than take stock of this information, the government banned the Global Witness report shortly after its release.

International donors like the World Bank, responsible for more than $600 million in annual aid to Cambodia, also share a margin of blame for the country’s failure to clean up corruption.

Year after year the Cambodian government pledges to reform, but in the absence of sustained pressure from donors, it consistently shrugs off the responsibility of enacting any legitimate change. In this opportunistic environment it has become commonplace for senior government officials to grant illegal contracts to private corporations owned by friends and relatives under the pretense of development.

The latest community to come under threat in Phnom Penh is Dey Krahorm. Situated on approximately 4 hectares of land in the heart of the city, Dey Krahorm has an estimated value of $44 to $58 million.

In 2005, 7NG company, which has ties to Canadia Bank, obtained an illegal agreement to develop Dey Krahorm. Since that time, 7NG has moved forward with a policy of trying to force out residents through means of intimidation, coercion, deceit and physical violence resulting in the destruction of housing and property.

In recent years the Cambodian government has forcibly evicted a number of communities in Phnom Penh, claiming the land is owned by private companies or needed for development projects. Many of the residents in these communities have lived in their homes for well over a decade. According to Cambodia’s Land Law, if a person has lived on land peacefully for more than 5 years, prior to 1997, they have a legal right to that land.

After being evicted, displaced families are dumped at a relocation sites long distances outside of Phnom Penh in areas that lack running water, sanitation facilities, houses, electricity and schools.
Oung Chou, 25, is one of the residents still holding out at Dey Krahorm. "7NG wants our land but they don’t want to give enough money to the people who live here. They want to take the land for free," Chou says. "We cannot buy a new flat with the money they want to give."

While land is valued at $1,000-$2,000 per square meter in Phnom Penh, companies like 7NG generally offer only $500 to $6,000 for an entire plot.

If Chou, who earns roughly $30 per month, was forced to move outside the city she would have no opportunity for work. "Here we can do everything: work, help our family, have a small shop. It’s easy to get a job in the city," she says "If we have to go out of the city, it is very difficult. There are no jobs, no schools, no homes."

David Pred, Country Director for Bridges Across Borders, an NGO that provides legal assistance to victims of land disputes and forced evictions in Cambodia, echoed Chou’s concerns. "None of these people want to live 20km outside the city. Their livelihoods are here," explained Pred. "The government is systematically removing the poor from Phnom Penh. But the poor are so important to this city’s economy. The government doesn’t realize that."

"There is also a major problem with community activists who try to help their communities to advocate for their land rights being unjustifiably arrested, prosecuted and imprisoned. Usually, the clear intention is to remove the leaders of the community so that the community is weakened and more likely to give up their land without any struggle," explains Naly Pilorge, Director of the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO), an NGO that works to promote respect for civil and human rights in Cambodia.

Unfortunately, people like Chou don’t have the freedom to openly protest without the threat of repercussions. "Authorities are very reluctant to permit victims of land grabbing to publicly gather to demand that their land rights be respected, and to seek help from government, parliament or judicial bodies," said Pilorge. "Cambodia's courts are notoriously corrupt and cannot be relied upon to protect the rights of poor people from abuses committed by rich or influential people."

Though Dey Krahorm is just one of many communities under threat, the circumstances surrounding 7NG’s illegal acquisition of Dey Krahorm are highly indicative of the overall lack of land rights in Cambodia.

Pred has also worked extensively on the high profile Mittapheap eviction case in Sihanoukville where, on April 20, 2007 military and police violently evicted residents, beating them with clubs and leaving several unconscious. In the end, 106 homes were razed to the ground, thirteen villagers were arrested, and the remaining residents were relocated to a vacant site with absolutely no infrastructure in place.

"This forced eviction took place without any semblance of legal authority and represents a gross and criminal violation of human rights," said Pred. "[The relocation site] is a glorified rice paddy. A human dumping ground is what it really is," he added.

"Cambodia is a nation of squatters," explains David Pred. "But the biggest squatters are the elite, the military generals, the people who’ve grabbed thousands of hectares of land and sold it off in bits and pieces."

By January 2007, more than 943,000 hectares of land in 15 rural provinces in Cambodia had been granted to private companies as economic land concessions. This constitutes approximately 5.2% of the total land area in Cambodia, or 14.5% of the country’s arable land. Thirty-six of these 59 concessions were granted in favor of foreign business interests or prominent political and business figures.

According to Cambodia’s Land Law economic land concessions cannot exceed 10,000 hectares.

Nine concessions, however, exceed this limit, the most notable of which are those granted to Pheapimex Co Ltd (315,025 hectares), Green Sea Industry Co Ltd (100,852 hectares), and Green Rich Co Ltd (60,200 hectares). In several cases, senators have acquired interests in two or more concessions under different company names which together exceed the 10,000 hectare limit.

"The law should be followed," said Pilorge. "If concessions of more than the allowed maximum are given, then clearly this makes a mockery of the law."

But in Cambodia, where corrupt politicians hold the keys to the courtrooms, the voices of the poor are seldom heard. And as government, corporate, and foreign interests line up behind illegal logging and development projects, the possibility that justice will prevail grows increasingly dim.

Film addresses Cambodian genocide
Thursday, February 7, 2008

Born in a Thai refugee camp but raised in Dallas, Socheata Poeuv had scant knowledge of the circumstances that ushered her family to the United States, until undertaking an odyssey of her own.

When the filmmaker turned 25, her parents dropped a bombshell: She and her two sisters actually were cousins and her brother, only her half brother. Each member of the family was a survivor of the Khmer Rouge genocide in Cambodia, smuggled to Thailand by Poeuv's father before the family immigrated to the West. But the revelation raised more questions than it answered. Traveling with her brother and parents back to Cambodia, Poeuv established a link with her past and discovered the horrific scope of the Killing Fields.

This was the genesis of her award-winning documentary "New Year Baby." The 2007-08 Southern Circuit Tour of Independent Filmmakers, hosted locally by the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art, continues Friday with an 8 p.m. screening of Poeuv's film in Room 309 of the Simons Center for the Arts at the College of Charleston.

"New Year Baby" is a personal documentary/travel diary reveals how Poeuv's family survived the Cambodian genocide. The film received Amnesty International's Movies That Matter Award at its 2006 premiere and earned Best Documentary honors at both the AFI Dallas International Film Festival and the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival.

The 2007-08 Southern Circuit Tour of Independent Filmmakers is a program of the Southern Arts Federation. All events are free and open to the public. For information, call 953-7891 or go online at The Tour is a program of the nonprofit Southern Arts Federation (

WIMN’s Voices: A Group Blog on Women, Media, AND…

Getting Girls Voices Out in Cambodia

Posted by Anne Elizabeth Moore
February 6th, 2008

Friends and reporters in the US asked frequently why I would pick up and go to Cambodia after the long-running magazine I co-published and edited for three years in Chicago folded last summer. My book on the problems plaguing independent media in North America was just released, too—Unmarketable—and I cut touring with it short to, well, move into a college dormitory with 32 women almost half my age. I admit, it probably seemed rash.

But the issues troubling independent Cambodian media production and that made in the US are not as different as they might seem. Despite claims of freedom of speech in both countries, societal pressures, hidden economic dealings, and lack of access to educational resources combine to silence voices and keep many stories unheard.
So when I was offered a Leadership Residency at the Harpswell Foundation Dormitory in Phnom Penh, an NGO whose mission is to raise the next generation of national women leaders, I agreed, proposing a project to plant in these future leaders the same desire to create and disseminate my own media that lead me to start self-publishing my writing when I was around their age.

Of course, the differences between me in my 1980’s American youth and the 17-22 year- old women in 2008 Phnom Penh are vast; the women here are, for one, significantly smarter than I was. They’re studying law, medicine, accounting, and IT; I went to art school. But art school’s never been an option for Meng Hun, despite several early awards for drawing. Her time with pencil and paper was labeled wasteful, and she’s lost many of her early skills. Panha, on the other hand, never spent much time drawing—like some of the country’s own history, it’s not taught in schools—but trying to draw made her giggle, and she liked it immediately. After spending some time reading through comics (I brought a supply of handmade books with me from the States, as well as samples of their legitimately published brethren), and upon drawing a reference guide to the Khmer New Year, Panha started calling herself a cartoonist.

Some students have taken their self-publishing projects as opportunities to show off the country they love to the rest of the world, creating small recipe booklets, instructions for coining, agricultural pointers, and illustrated views of Cambodian student life for foreigners—mostly from the United States—aware of my work here and eager to read about their lives from their points of view.

As excited as they’ve been to create the small books, however, it’s been difficult to convince them of the potential of the form. That is, until Meng-Hun and Samouy complained a few nights ago that between the older generation’s disinterest in talking about the Pol Pot period, and the difficulty of learning about it in schools, several of their fellow students seemed not to know their own history—even what their own parents went through. What if you had a way of writing it down so other people could read about it, I asked. And Meng-Hun got to work on a book about her village’s story right away. It will have many pictures.

Another major difference between when I started self-publishing and the girls in Cambodia doing it now is that by the 1980’s, women in the US had gained seats in political office, the Equal Rights Amendment was in force, and there was a working, and widespread, independent media system that not only kept a close eye on larger issues of social justice issues, but also created a welcoming workspace for me for the next 22 years.

The Harpswell girls don’t have all that. But they’ve begun to create it.

–A version of this piece was recently published in Phnom Penh’s FCC newsletter, The Wire, and you can read it here. You are also welcome to view photographs (and images from the girls’ zines!) here, or read my extensive blog from the project. An exhibition of the completed work is currently being planned, hopefully to travel eventually from Chicago back to Phnom Penh.
Oh! And I’m back in the States for more book tours. Come see me on the West Coast dates & locations here

QSR sees double-digit sales growth this year

Tan Sri Muhammad Ali Hashim giving ang pows to old folk at the launch


PETALING JAYA: Pizza Hut operator QSR Brands Bhd expects double-digit growth in sales for its financial year ending Dec 31, 2008, backed by new products and more branches opening nationwide.

Chairman Tan Sri Muhammad Ali Hashim said the forecast was also based on the sales growth that the group achieved in its previous financial year.

“In our previous financial year, our sales grew by 12% and we expect double-digit growth this year,” Ali said after the launch of Pizza Hut’s Nationwide Charity Delivery event yesterday.

“In fact, we expect to do better than last year,” he added.

In terms of expansion, Ali said the group was on track to open at least 18 Pizza Hut outlets a year.

“That was our target last year and we opened more than 18 outlets. We plan to open 18 more nationwide this year,” he said.

“Demand has been overwhelming and we have to live up to our customers’ expectations by setting up more outlets.”

According to him, each outlet costs between RM17mil and RM18mil to set up. QSR has 210 Pizza Hut outlets in Malaysia and Singapore.

Ali said the group was always striving to launch new products.

“We are always looking to come up with something new and we plan to launch eight new products this year (for Pizza Hut),” he said. The group spends on average RM2.5mil to promote its new line of products.

On the foreign front, Ali said associate company KFC Holdings (M) Bhd plans to open its first KFC outlet in Phnom Penh, Cambodia soon after Chinese New Year.

“We are also planning to open a second outlet there (in Phnom Penh) and perhaps two near Angkor Wat,” he added.

The Pizza Hut Nationwide Charity Delivery is QSR’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative whereby it delivered over 1,700 pizzas to more than 100 orphanages and charitable homes nationwide.

The delivery was done over two days, with the objective of reaching the destinations by the eve of Chinese New Year.

Ali said the group spent an average of RM5mil a year on CSR activities

Cambodian Comics Online

Cambodian Comics Online

“Take a touch of Bollywood, the inspirational lyrics of Sin Si Simut, and the classic themes of Khmer novels; mix according to taste, and you’ve got Cambodia’s first English language graphic novel - Flower of Battambang. Drama, romance and adventure, Cambodian style! Join us this week for the premiere episode!”


Book collection benefits Vineyard School in Cambodia

Photo courtesy of Todd Alexander
Dressed in their school uniforms, students gather outside the five-room Vineyard School in the Siem Reap Region of Cambodia. Photos courtesy of Todd Alexander. Click photo for larger version.
By Janet Hefler - February 7, 2008

When Oak Bluffs harbormaster Todd Alexander visits the Vineyard School in Cambodia at the end of February, he is hoping to bring a little bit of the Island with him, in the form of books and monetary donations from the community.

About 600 students attend the Vineyard School in a five-room schoolhouse in the Siem Reap Region of Cambodia. Mr. Alexander said he would appreciate donations of fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade level books for the children, who are learning English at school. Collection boxes are set up at the Oak Bluffs School, West Tisbury School, the Martha's Vineyard Public Charter School, ArtCliff Diner, and Mocha Mott's in Vineyard Haven and Oak Bluffs.

Mr. Alexander plans to pack the donated books into some suitcases and pay to check as extra luggage on his flight, which he learned would cost much less than shipping them. He also would appreciate monetary donations, which he will use to purchase school supplies and books written in the Khmer language when he gets to Cambodia, where he can buy more for his money.

"I bought pens, rulers, erasers, and small notebooks for every single kid in the school when I was there in 2005, for more than 500 kids, and it was about $350," Mr. Alexander said. "Some people ask, so what's a couple thousand dollars going to do? And I say, are you kidding me? Twenty dollars will probably buy 30 books over there."

Checks should be made out to Todd Alexander and mailed to him at P.O. Box 2225, Oak Bluffs, MA 02557. The deadline for books and monetary donations is February 21.

This will be Mr. Alexander's first visit back to the school since it opened in 2005, built with funds raised by him and his wife, Kara Gelinas. Their involvement in such an ambitious and generous project started with an act of kindness towards a teenage Cambodian girl in need of an education.
In 2003 Mr. Alexander and his wife took a trip to Southeast Asia, visiting Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia. Outside Angkor Wat, a Buddhist temple in Cambodia, they met Roma, a 14-year-old girl selling postcards and books while her mother sold water and sodas.

"What struck us about her is an unexplained thing," Mr. Alexander said. "I think it was one of our first experiences facing the reality of such poverty. She was the sweetest thing in the whole world."

The couple asked her why she wasn't in school. "I have to work - if I don't work, we don't eat," Roma told them. She had dropped out of school after second grade to start earning money for her family.

At that time Roma lived in a bamboo lean-to in the woods with three younger siblings. Two older siblings lived elsewhere. "We said, what do you mean, you can't go to school? How much does it cost?" Mr. Alexander recalled. "It was $80 a semester - it ended up being $10 a week.

Determined to break the cycle of poverty for at least one young girl, Mr. Alexander said, "The next day we went back and found her, and offered to send her to school."

On the couple's return home, a teacher at Oak Bluffs School, where Ms. Gelinas worked as a student teacher, mentioned she had heard about a non-profit organization called American Assistance for Cambodia (AAfC) and its Rural Schools Project.

Since 1999, AAfC, founded by American journalist Bernie Krisher, the former head of Newsweek and Fortune magazines' Tokyo bureaus, has built over 400 schools in rural Cambodia with matching funds from the World Bank and Asian Development Bank, according to the organization's web site. Many of them are equipped with computers and have Internet access.

The schools include three to six classrooms, with desks and chairs, and are built on land donated by a village or added to an existing school site. Once a school is built, it is given to the village. All of the schools are recognized by the Cambodian government as state schools and are staffed by official state teachers who follow the Ministry of Education curriculum, the AAfC web site explains.

Mr. Alexander said when he found out it would cost $13,000 to construct a rural school in Cambodia, he told his wife he could raise that much. "So we did - I asked a bunch of people I know for donations, and we had a benefit concert at the Atlantic Connection, and six months later, it was done," he said.

When Mr. Alexander attended the Vineyard School's opening, he said he was overwhelmed at the sight of 1,000 parents and students lining the street and the sound of monks chanting as he walked in a procession towards the schoolhouse to take part in a ceremony attended by the provincial governor. "There were so many kids that enrolled, they do two sessions of school a day," Mr. Alexander said.

Each AAfC school is named after the donor or given a name selected by the donor. Mr. Alexander said he and his wife wanted to name the school the Vineyard School, not the Oak Bluffs School, because people all over the Island had donated money, as well as visitors to Oak Bluffs harbor.

"Calling it the Vineyard School gives everyone a connection," he said. To show his appreciation to those who donated, he had their names inscribed on a laminated plaque, which hangs in the school. Mr. Alexander said he plans to do something similar for donors who contribute this time around.

After schools are constructed, sponsors such as Mr. Alexander are encouraged to contribute towards other improvements, such as Internet access, solar panels to power a donated computer, or funds to pay a school nurse. He said he hopes to be able to add some "extras" at the Vineyard School, starting with hooking the school up to the Internet during his upcoming visit, if possible. Eventually, he would like to buy some inexpensive computers that students could share and use at school.

Another "extra" that donors can fund is a vegetable garden, Mr. Alexander said. "I'd love to get a garden there, because a lot of those kids don't eat very well."

Last summer children at the Sense of Wonder Creations summer day camp in Vineyard Haven painted a 4- x 8-foot canvas mural to send to the Vineyard School, which is due to arrive any day now. Since the school's walls are bare, Mr. Alexander said he would also like to buy some additional posters and artwork.

In the meantime, he and his wife keep in touch with Roma, who is almost 19. "She has an e-mail address, so we talk every week," Mr. Alexander said. Although Roma visited the Island a few summers ago, he said it has become more difficult since then to arrange for another visit.

Roma still lives in the area near the Buddhist temple, where there are jobs available in the hotels and restaurants that cater to the tourist traffic. "She has a job as a hostess at one of the restaurants, so the family is not as bad off as they were - they're eating now," Mr. Alexander said.

Although a friend is going with him to Cambodia, Mr. Alexander is disappointed his wife won't be able to go, as well. Ms. Gelinas is a grade 5/6 student teacher at the Martha's Vineyard Public Charter School. They planned his trip for her February school vacation so she would be home to care for their two-and-a-half-year-old son Sebastian.

"Maybe in two more years, we'll all go," Mr. Alexander said. "The school will keep itself going no matter what I do, but just because it's so much fun, every once in awhile or every few years, I'm going to do whatever I can do to give extra."

Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea not likely to be released on bail
Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Anne Heindel [legal advisor, Documentation Center of Cambodia]: "The provisional release hearing of “Brother Number Two,” Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea, was cut short on Monday in response to a request by his Cambodian attorney. Son Arun argued that the proceedings must be adjourned due to the unavailability of his foreign co-counsel. Nuon’s Dutch attorney Victor Koppe was unable to appear at the proceedings after the Cambodian Bar Association refused to admit him on Friday, arguing that he had violated the Bar’s rules by signing a motion requesting the disqualification of one of the Pre-Trial Chamber (PTC) judges before being admitted to practice. The defense strategy appears to have worked. On Tuesday the Bar swore in Koppe, and Nuon’s hearing will resume on Thursday morning.

This is the second time that Nuon, charged by the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia with crimes against humanity and war crimes, has requested the Court to address the scope of the right to counsel. In September, the Co-Investigating Judges (CIJs) held Nuon’s initial appearance without any counsel present. Nuon’s counsel later requested that the written records of those proceeding be annulled to remedy violations of his right to counsel and other fair trial rights. Last month the CIJs ruled that Nuon had clearly and deliberately waived his right to counsel, and refused to seize the PTC on this matter.

With these trial rights questions decided for the moment, Thursday’s hearing is likely to be short. Nuon’s attorneys are arguing that the conditions for his provisional detention have not been met. However, this argument is not likely to persuade the PTC. In November, the PTC reviewed the CIJs thinly reasoned decision in the case of Tuol Sleng prison chief Kang Guek Eak (alias Duch) and found that the legal requirements had been met for his continued detention. The prosecution’s arguments for detention were similar, and indeed stronger, in Duch’s case. Duch’s pretrial rights were likely violated by the almost nine years he was detained by a Cambodian military court, he has previously confessed his responsibility for torture and murder of detainees, and he is likely cooperating with Court. Nuon was second only to Pol Pot and has never accepted responsibility for the crimes of the Democratic Kampuchea regime. Despite Nuon’s 81 years, the PTC will undoubtedly agree with the CIJs that he is a flight risk and might interfere with victims and witnesses, and that his release could imperil public order as well as Nuon’s personal safety."

Pol Pot's number two requests bail

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - Pol Pot's right-hand man, Nuon Chea, appeared before Cambodia's "Killing Fields" tribunal on Wednesday to request bail, arguing he was not a flight risk and would not try to influence potential witnesses.

The octogenarian former Khmer Rouge guerrilla, charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity, also said fears for his safety were overblown as he had been living for years in "peace and harmony" at his home in the jungle along the Thai border.

"I have no desire to leave my beloved country," he told a courtroom packed with reporters. "No one is worried about my security."

A previous bail hearing was adjourned on Monday because Nuon Chea's Dutch defense lawyer, Michiel Pestman, did not turn up. Pestman was not at Thursday's hearing but sent a Dutch representative, allowing proceedings to continue.

An estimated 1.7 million people were executed or died of torture, disease or starvation under Pol Pot's 1975-79 reign of terror as his dream of creating an agrarian peasant utopia descended into the nightmare of the "Killing Fields."

Nuon Chea is accused of playing a central role in the atrocities and has been implicated directly in the mass slaughter of regime opponents by Duch, head of Phnom Penh's S-21, or Tuol Sleng, interrogation and torture centre.

Duch, who is also accused of atrocities, is expected to be a key witness at the $56 million United Nations-backed tribunal.

The court is not expected to announce its decision for several days, but it is extremely unlikely that Nuon Chea will be released.

(Reporting by Ek Madra; Writing by Ed Cropley; Editing by Michael Battye and Sanjeev Miglani)

Former Khmer Rouge leader back in courtroom for bail hearing

The Associated Press
February 7, 2008

PHNOM PENH: A former Khmer Rouge leader detained by Cambodia's U.N.-backed genocide tribunal pressed Thursday for his release on bail, this time with the help of a foreign lawyer who was earlier barred from representing him.

Nuon Chea, the Khmer Rouge's former ideologist who appeared at Thursday's hearing, has been held since Sept. 19 on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his involvement in the group's brutal 1975-79 rule, which caused the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million people.

He is one of five former Khmer Rouge leaders detained by the tribunal, which is expected to begin holding trials trial later this year. He is the second former Khmer Rouge leader to appear before the judges.

On Monday, the tribunal's pretrial chamber adjourned his bail hearing after Nuon Chea, demanding an "international standard" of justice, objected to having only a Cambodian lawyer represent him in the proceedings.

He demanded that he also have a foreign lawyer — who at the time was not yet formally sworn in — to help argue his appeal for bail, as is his right under the tribunal's rule The tribunal decided to proceed with the hearing after the lawyer, Victor Koppe of the Netherlands, was sworn in Wednesday by Cambodia's bar association. The bar had refused to induct Koppe last week after he violated its rules by acting as a defense lawyer before taking an oath.

Koppe said Wednesday he will make "a presentation" during Nuon Chea's Thursday hearing.
In their detention order last year, the tribunal's investigating judges charged the 81-year-old Nuon Chea with involvement in crimes including "murder, torture, imprisonment, persecution, extermination, deportation, forcible transfer, enslavement and other inhumane acts."

They said detention is necessary to prevent Nuon Chea from pressuring witnesses, destroying evidence and escaping, as well as for his own safety, which could be at risk if he was released.
Nuon Chea has denied any guilt, saying he is not a "cruel" man and calling himself "a patriot and not a coward" trying to run away. He has also argued that the judges did not have sufficient grounds to detain him.

In December, the pretrial chamber judges ruled against a similar appeal for release by Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, who headed the Khmer Rouge's notorious S-21 prison and torture center.

Jailed KRouge leader fights detention

Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea (C) appealed Thursday against his detention by Cambodia's genocide tribunal, arguing in his first public court appearance that he should be freed as he awaits trial(AFP/File/Tang Chhin Sothy)

PHNOM PENH (AFP) - Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea appealed Thursday against his detention by Cambodia's genocide tribunal, arguing in his first public court appearance that he should be freed as he awaits trial.

Nuon Chea, the most senior of the five Khmer Rouge cadre facing trial, told the court that he posed no threat to the public and that he would not try to flee Cambodia.

"I wish to say that I am willing to testify before this court. I would never wish to leave my beloved country. I would never exert any pressure on witnesses. No one is worried about my security," he told the court.

Courtroom guards had to help the 81-year-old stand as he rose to speak, although he appeared generally healthy with close-cropped white hair and wearing a newly pressed long-sleeved shirt.
His appearance marks only the second public hearing since the UN-backed tribunal was convened 18 months ago.

Nuon Chea was the closest deputy of Khmer Rouge supreme leader Pol Pot, and was alleged the architect of the regime's devastating execution policies during its 1975-1979 rule. He is charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Up to two million people died of starvation and overwork, or were executed by the Khmer Rouge, which dismantled modern Cambodian society in its effort to forge a radical agrarian utopia.

Cities were emptied, their populations exiled to vast collective farms, while schools were closed, religion banned and the educated classes targeted for extermination.

Cambodia's genocide tribunal was convened in 2006 after nearly a decade of fractious talks between the government and United Nations over how to prosecute those behind one of the 20th century's worst atrocities.

But it has been badly hampered by delays amid infighting among foreign and Cambodian judges, as well as attempts by the Cambodian Bar Association to assert its authority over foreign defence lawyers.

Spotlight: An Asian Festival of Inclusive Arts in Cambodia

From Epic Arts


The purpose of this festival is to celebrate the abilities of all people with a spotlight on those members of the community who, labelled as disabled, are often considered less capable than others. The Nippon Foundation conceived the idea of an inclusive arts event by producing International Disability Concert - A Musical Show in 2006. SPOTLIGHT is the next stage of development of this project.

Through our work at Epic Arts we have seen the very tangible benefits that artistic practice and creative activities can provide, including improved self-confidence, sensory skills and alternative means of expression. Through a variety of forms of expression we will explore ways of communicating these benefits in a welcoming and stimulating environment for people who are not always viewed as full participants in society. In this way we aim to present powerful role models for the disabled community.

We hope that during the 8-day Festival we can also focus attention upon the experience of living with a disability and the rights of those members of society who do. By presenting their creative abilities in a public forum, we hope to raise the profile of people with disabilities and to reduce the existing barriers of communication, interaction and trust between disabled and non-disabled people. We also hope that the festival will engage the public in understanding how the disabled community can play a positive role in Cambodian society and culture.

In terms of events, we have chosen to focus on the creative talents of performing artists, visual artists and musicians. Over the course of one week, artists from Cambodia and the region will gather together to perform, collaborate, exhibit and present their work to the wider Cambodian community. Confirmed local artists include Kim Sathia (dance), Kung Nai (music), Phare Ponleuu Selpak (circus), BHOR and Amrita Performing Arts (theatre). The international program includes Together Higher (Vietnamese/dance), the Koshu Rao Taiko drummers (Japan/music), HITOMI (Japan/puppetry) and Chng Soek Tin (Singapore/visual arts). Additional events include an opening parade with over 300 participants and 5 decorated floats traveling through the streets of Phnom Penh (pending approval).

In addition, a dedicated workshop program and collaborations with local and visiting artists from abroad will take place before and during the Festival. This will not only provide the local participants (disabled and able-bodied) with the opportunity to explore different types of creative expression for people with different abilities, it will also allow local artists exposure to new and different forms, techniques, materials and approaches to artistic expression.
By involving the international community in the program, it is our aim to build opportunities and networks for artists with disabilities within the region and to also build capacity through workshops, collaborations and shared experiences for festival participants, local artists and members of the disabled community.

Festival events will take place in partnership with local disability and art organisations and venues include Chaktomuk Theatre, Chenla Theatre, Sovanna Phum (tbc) Metahaus, Centre Culturel Francais, Bophana Audiovisual Centre and Gasolina, as well as selected outdoor public spaces.Why focus on disability?

One in 250 people in Cambodia have a disability. This is one of the highest ratios found anywhere in the world and is due to years of conflict, poor health services, road and work accidents and the ongoing incidence of landmines that still injure up to 30 people per month. Thus, whilst the existence of disability is becoming commonly accepted in Cambodia, as a person with a disability it is still difficult to integrate into society as limited infrastructure exists; buildings and transport are inaccessible and work is hard to find. Culturally, disability can be seen as the result of an individual's bad 'karma' and this together with a general lack of education/understanding regarding disabilities increases the existence of discrimination towards the disabled community.

By presenting a multi-arts festival of this scale we aim to not only raise awareness of the abilities of people with disabilities, but also we hope that by presenting interesting, dynamic and engaging work to an interested public we will open up discussions surrounding issues of acceptance of disability in the wider community. This is important for members of both the disabled and able bodied communities.

It is also our hope to build the foundations of a regional network and develop relationships with similar organizations supporting disability arts programs within the region. In presenting this work in a festival environment, we hope to create a festival model that in the future could become a signature disability arts event within the region.

Cambodia: Rat Cuisine Price Rise

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Happy Year of the Rat. Prices on damn near everything has been going up in Cambodia, from real estate in Sihanoukville to condo rentals in Phnom Penh, but nothing symbolizes rampant inflation like the soaring prices of furry rodents from roadside vendors. But then the delicacy also seems to be in high demand in Vietnam (Dinh Bang) and Thailand (Suphanburi) as noted in the posts below.

The rocketing price of more conventional meats due to bird flu quarantines and world oil prices has doubled the market price of rat meat in Cambodia, local media reported Tuesday.

Rat meat has become so valuable that rice farmers "in their hundreds" had set up sideline businesses catching rats and making them table-ready, reported the Khmer-language daily Kampuchea Thmey.

Whereas a kilo of the best quality rat meat went for around 50 cents two years ago, it now fetches up to 1.50 dollars, the paper reported.

Restrictions on imports of pigs and poultry in an attempt to limit the spread of avian influenza, or bird flu, combined with high petrol prices have pushed up the prices of more usual staples.

Cambodians in certain provinces have long caught rats as a protein source when rodent numbers reach a peak during the rice harvest and enjoy the meat roasted or dried as a snack while drinking.

Mayor visits Vietnam, Cambodia

By Judy Triplett

Bay City Tribune
February 6, 2008

Ho Chi Minh City, Saigon, Hanoi, Vietnam and Cambodia are names that to most Americans bring back memories of war.

But to Richard Knapik, City mayor, the names brought memories of a beautiful, interesting and mysterious country that he wanted to revisit — this time as a tourist.

For him, it was a dream vacation — a wondrous return by a soldier who, 40 years earlier, was “another person in another time.”

Richard and his wife, Nancy, had planned to make the trek to Cambodia and Vietnam six years ago, but the outbreak of the SARS virus shut down the trip.

So when they had the opportunity to join a tour of about 23 people on a trip to Indochina earlier this year, they jumped at the chance.

A 16-hour flight took them from Los Angeles to Taipai, Taiwan, and then a short flight to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where their adventure began.

Their first stop was Siam Reap to see the ancient temple ruins, including the famous Angor Wat temple.

The Angkor complex was built around 600 A.D. during the Khmer Empire, which was Hindu.The temple complex is huge — at least one of the temples was an hour away from the others.

The Knapik’s spent three days touring the pyramids.“To me, they were very well preserved,” said Nancy.

“There were definite similarities between them and the pyramids in Mexico…the pyramids had steep steps, like the ones in Mexico.”Some of the figures carved in the Angor Wat temple “looked Egyptian,” Nancy said.

Buddhism was introduced in Cambodia during the 1100s, and the temples show Buddhist influences, Richard said.

Much of the complex, which is surrounded by jungle, has been restored and is in good condition.

The Knapik’s next stop was Saigon, also known as Ho Chi Minh City, in the southern part of Vietnam.

“Our guide told us that you can call it Saigon. The Northerners call it Ho Chi Minh City, and the Southerners call it Saigon,” Nancy said.

The French combined Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam into French Indochina when it colonized the region in 1863.During the French occupation, the Vietnamese built a system of tunnels to “hide their possessions from the French,” Nancy said.

Those tunnels, known as the Kucci Tunnels, were where Richard was stationed when he served in 1969 as an infantryman during the Vietnam War.

His brother mailed him via Federal Express a T-shirt to wear when he visited the tunnels that read “I’m just a tourist this time,” Richard said.

“They’ve restored all the tunnels where you could crawl through and see how they lived during the war,” Richard said. The tunnels were “pretty amazing.

”During the tour, Richard learned that their tour guide’s father had been a member of the Viet Cong.“

He said, ‘Were you a soldier?’ and I said, ‘yes.’ He said ‘Oh, my father was a member of the Communist party.’ And I said, ‘What are you trying to tell me? You mean he was a member of the Viet Cong?“He said, ‘I guess so.’ And I said, ‘So I was out looking for your dad?’ And he said, ‘And he was out looking for you.’”“His father made it through the war, and I made it through the war. So Buddha smiled on both of us. It’s pretty amazing,” he said.

Vietnam shows little evidence of the war now, Richard said. The economy is booming.

Australians, Japanese and Chinese are investing in the country. Ho Chi Minh City was crowded and bustling with people.

“Fifty percent of the population in Vietnam is now under 35 years old. So most of the population has no concept of the war. Everyone has moved on,” Knapik said.

Next, the group traveled to Da Nang on the China Sea, where the Knapik’s saw more evidence of foreign investment.

As they drove to a coastal town, they saw beautiful beaches along the coast, Nancy said.

Huge signs lined the road announcing real estate ventures, heralding a coming change that foreign investors will transform the coast with solid resorts in “the next five years.”

Their tour eventually took them to Hanoi, a beautiful tree-lined city with old French-style buildings in the northern part of Vietnam.

Both Nancy and Richard agreed that Hanoi was their favorite city to visit.

“It’s very beautiful,” Nancy said. “There are lakes in the city with things built around them. Hanoi has more of a European influence.”

They stayed in a “fabulous hotel,” Richard said. The hotel overlooked a pastoral scene of a village that seemed frozen in time.

We could see into their houses with their ducks and their geese and their chickens and their pigs and their dogs…they are still tilling the fields with a water buffalo and planting rice by hand,” Richard said.

“They were out there jamming a big stalk of rice in the ground.

It’s pretty amazing.”Hanoi will celebrate its 1,000-year anniversary as a city in 2010.

One thing that struck Nancy about Hanoi was the lack of American influence, such as McDonalds or Wal-Mart.“It was nice,” she said.

Their final excursion was an overnight cruise of the Ha Long Bay in a boat that “was out of an Agatha Christi novel,” Nancy said.

They floated in the midst of the mysterious foggy bay that is famous for huge limestone “karsts,” or huge rocks that jut from the perfectly smooth water.

The water was “calm and beautiful green,” Richard said. “It was like being in the middle of a Zen painting…It was really incredible…It was wonderful.”

Inspired by a culture's tragic past

From Wednesday's Globe and Mail
February 6, 2008

Pol Pot's murderous Khmer Rouge regime may have lasted just four years, but an estimated two million Cambodians perished from 1975 to 1979. The victims included 90 per cent of the country's artists, who died either by execution or through starvation or forced labour. The point of departure for Toronto choreographer Peter Chin's new work The Transmission of the Invisible is both the painful loss and the remarkable reconstruction of Cambodia's cultural history.

Says Chin: "Cambodia has always been an alluring enigma to me. I had an intuition that I could make a strong artistic connection there, even though I had no specific project in mind. The traditions and customs were foreign, and I didn't understand the language, but I knew I could bypass all that and allow something important to filter through. It was the country's beautiful and fractured culture that insinuated itself into me."

In 1990, a Canada Council study grant took Chin, Jamaican-born and of Chinese, African and Irish heritage, to Indonesia. His resulting love affair with Southeast Asia has since led to more than 10 multidisciplinary and multicultural dance works, and he now spends at least four months of each year in the region Asia teaching, performing and creating.

Chin's first visit to Cambodia was a 2003 residency at Phnom Penh's Royal University of Fine Arts, where he studied Khmer dance and music, and Angkor architecture. It was there that what he calls "the palpable and ineffable" quality of Cambodian culture seeped into his creative imagination.

The title of his new work, The Transmission of the Invisible, refers to those artistic experiences beyond words that we somehow share, and how culture is transmitted and transmuted through invisible communication.

"My focus in this piece," he says, "is the strength of the human spirit and how it can transcend a tragic past to rebuild for the future. What is happening now in Cambodia is vivid, dramatic and emotional, and overshadows dwelling on what was lost. In the dance, the dark side is the archeology, and the present is the light."

Three years in the making, Chin's multimedia extravaganza is being performed by Tribal Cracking Wind, three Canadian dancers (Heidi Strauss, Andrea Nann and Louis Laberge-Côté) who travelled to Cambodia with Chin to rehearse in 2006 and two Cambodian dancers added there (Phon Sopheap and Yim Savann) against the backdrop of Cylla von Tiedemann's video projections and the music/sound design co-composed by Chin and Garnet Willis.

Chin was extremely moved by Indian writer Amitav Ghosh's essay describing the stunning impact of arts performances in 1980 in Phnom Penh, the first following the fall of Pol Pot's regime. As Chin describes it, the entire audience burst into cathartic tears because they felt their ancient heritage had been returned to them.

"When the artists disappeared under the Khmer Rouge, the repertory vanished with them," Chin explains. "To reconstruct the dances and the music ... the dean of fine arts at the Royal University had to scour the country to find the few artists who were still in hiding. The dean is a key figure in the rebuilding and he survived the Khmer Rouge by pretending to be mentally challenged."

Another seminal event for Chin was watching a dance class by a teacher who had hidden her artistic roots by working as a labourer. "There was an urgency in her gestures, as if she were literally pushing the essence of Khmer culture into her students' bodies." Chin was also intrigued to find out that in Cambodia, students pray to ancestral teachers, and there are stories of students being taken over by the dead, who then teach the ancient arts traditions through them.
An important community partner was a psychologist whose family escaped the Khmer Rouge by fleeing to Holland and who is now back in Cambodia working with traumatized children. Chin's creative process for the piece developed through discussions with her, and particularly memorable, says videographer von Tiedemann, are the children themselves.

Before going to Cambodia, Chin had his Canadian dancers write down their expectations of what they might find there. One of their first cultural experiences was literally dancing in the streets of Phnom Penh before surprised onlookers, which von Tiedemann captured on her camera. Chin also had the dancers keep journals, and used these impressions of the country as well in the evolution of the work.

The two Cambodian dancers, Phon and Yim, both come from families, one military, the other artistic, that had to hide their true backgrounds during the Khmer Rouge years. Trained in the traditional Khmer arts, they were suggested to Chin because they had taken Western dance workshops as well. In Canada for the world premiere of the work, they have now had their first toboggan ride and a walk in the winter woods.

Says Phon: "I hope the piece shows the sadness of a country that was destroyed, but also the pride we feel in our arts."

In their contributions of video and sound, Von Tiedemann and Willis describe the full-sensory assault that is Cambodia. Says Willis: "Peter warned me that there was never any silence, and in truth, you were always hearing something. It was sound that was infusive, you couldn't take anything for granted. You could literally feel the excitement and energy of a country springing into the future."

The two recorded in the cities and the jungles, and it is these impressions, manipulated in the editing room, that create the environment for the dance. Says von Tiedemann: "The tapestry is a mixture of mood, people and documentary. But in this beauty, there is also a spice, a sharpness, a rawness, because it is a culture of extremes, of meditation and vibrancy, of chaos and harmony."

For Chin, there was a poignant lesson from creating The Transmission of the Invisible. "In North America, we are always having to make a case for the arts as being integral to life. When that festival happened in 1980, the Cambodian people knew that their spirit was in those dances. No one in Cambodia has to advocate for the importance of the arts."

The world premiere of The Transmission of the Invisible opens tonight and runs through Saturday at Harbourfront's Enwave Theatre in Toronto

Cambodian police attempt to stop journalists from photographing dispute over land

6 February 2008
Source: Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA)

Two journalists who were reporting a land dispute in a village were harassed by police for taking pictures of the incident, according to the Cambodian Association for the Protection of Journalists (CAPJ), a SEAPA partner based in the capital Phnom Penh.

On 30 January 2008, journalists Chum Sophal and Kong Sopheak, from the local newspapers "Khmer Mchas Srok" and "Solanh Khmer", respectively, went to Au Andong village in Prek Pra commune, Meanchey district, to cover the confrontation between two major companies, Phanimex and Sok Kong Import Export Co Ltd, and the villagers.

As Sopheak was photographing the police in the act of removing the poles that demarcated the land in dispute, the police got angry and shouted at them, ordering for the photos to be deleted. They did not press the matter when Sopheak refused to hand over his camera, according to CAPJ, who said that most of them were drunk.

Land disputes and forced evictions are an ongoing problem in Cambodia. As they are often accompanied by violence, authorities would try to prevent media and human rights workers from monitoring or reporting on evictions as they happen.