Friday, 21 March 2008

Hun Sen: The Monarchy Belongs to the People

Is this Hun Sen’s populist appeal by using the monarchy to gain votes?

19th March 2008
By San Suwit
Radio Free Asia
Translated from Khmer by Khmerization
Posted at :

In a speech inaugurating the Prek Chrey Bridge in Cheung Ek commune, Dangkor district in Phnom Penh on 18th March, Prime Minister Hun Sen (pictured) has reminded about a coup d’etat that toppled the then Prince Sihanouk 38 years ago and at the same time reiterated his support for the monarchy. Mr. Hun Sen has also stressed that he was the one who invited Prince Sihanouk to return back to Cambodia a second time and he was the one who renovated the Royal Palace for the former king (Sihanouk).

Mr Hun Sen declared that the monarchy belongs to the people and it is not a property of anyone. The prime minister also declared that the former king and queen will return to Cambodia from Beijing in April.

Mr. Hun Sen said: “The monarchy is not the property of any princes, it is not a property of any group of princes. The monarchy belongs to the people of the whole country. I have been a prime minister and have continued to support the monarchy for a long time. I have regularly had an audience with the king to present the government reports to him, except in March, but I will have an audience with him in April. And for the King Father and the Queen mother, I will not declare yet, but I just want to tell you that they will be coming home to celebrate the Khmer New Year with all of their countrymen in Cambodia. So, now I am very happy.

Tay Ninh donates computers to Cambodian school

The southern province of Tay Ninh has given 12 computers to Hun Sen Svay Rumbia school in bordering Cambodia’s Svay Rieng province.

A ceremony to present the gifts was held in the Cambodian province on March 18.

According to Hun Sen Svay Rumbia school principal, the computers will help increase IT skills for students as well as facilitate teaching.

A leading official of Svay Rieng province thanked Tay Ninh for their support and for working to their agreement to increase education ties between the two provinces.

DEVELOPMENT-CAMBODIA: Bowing to Regional Hydropower Demands
Friday, March 21, 2008

By Andrew Nette - Newsmekong

PHNOM PENH, Mar 21 (IPS) - For the Cambodian government, hydropower development represents great economic opportunities. But for non-government organisations (NGOs), and the communities they serve, dams pose severe social and environmental impacts.

Like neighbouring Laos in the 1990s, donors, electricity-hungry nations such as Thailand and Vietnam and business interests, particularly from China, are keen to make Cambodia a major generator of hydropower.

Plans for developing Cambodia’s hydropower potential remained on hold due to political instability and the economic crisis that struck the region in the latter part of the last decade. But with the rapid economic growth of countries in the region -- including Cambodia whose GDP growth in 2006 exceeded 10 percent -- hydropower is back on the agenda.

As he told a donors’ meeting last year, Cambodia’s Foreign Minister Nor Namhong said that his government wanted Cambodia to be the "battery of South-east Asia".

A 2003 plan developed by the Ministry of Mines, Minerals and Energy with the support of the Mekong River Commission estimated that Cambodia has the potential to generate 10,000 megawatts of energy for internal use and export. Almost 50 percent of this would come from projects along the mainstream Mekong River running through Cambodia.

"We are not against development or hydropower," said Ngy San, deputy executive director of the NGO Forum, the umbrella body representing Cambodia’s NGOs. "What we want to do is to ensure poverty reduction and sustainable development, which is also the government’s plan."

Cambodian and international NGOs are warning that large-scale hydropower development could create serious problems, impacting on some of the country’s most pristine ecosystems and reducing water flow and fisheries with major consequences for the livelihoods of thousands of people. "

We are also working to ensure that Cambodian decision-makers will learn the lesson of other countries in relation to hydropower, and not repeat those mistakes," said San.

What is different in Cambodia in 2008 is the role of China.

Political and economic ties between China and Cambodia have grown enormously over the last decade. China is the nation’s single largest investor, and Chinese state companies, often financed by state-owned financial institutions such as the Chinese Export-Import Bank, are the main players in hydropower dams.

Phnom Penh has identified approximately 14 priority projects of which six are currently under development, all by Chinese companies.

For instance, China’s Sinohydro is building a 145-metre dam on the Kamchay River in Kampot province. This is China’s biggest investment in the country. Another Yunnan-based company is working on the Steung Atai dam.

There is no disagreement that Cambodia needs to generate more power. Currently, only 20 percent of the population has access to cheap, reliable sources of electricity, mainly in urban areas. Demand for electricity is estimated to be growing at 20 percent a year.

"It is simple, development needs electricity," said Touch Seang Tana, an advisor to Cambodia’s Council of Ministers and fisheries expert. "Power is currently very expensive in Cambodia, particularly in regional areas that are the most disadvantaged. The government wants to provide services to the rural communities but this is difficult to do without electricity."

"The actual number of people impacted negatively (by dams) is small and overall the entire benefit to the nation is significant," he said. The government has to balance all these factors."

"The demand exists, that is true," agreed San. "The rush to develop our hydropower potential needs very careful study. However, it must include consultation with impacted communities, and comply with all relevant national and international laws."

"There are some in the government that share our concerns, but they find it difficult to act because they are not the real decision makers," he added.

As is the case with much government policymaking in Cambodia, exactly what the real decision-making process is in relation to hydropower is a major issue for NGOs, who say the process completely lacks transparency.

"The biggest barrier is actually getting to talk with the Cambodian government about what is going on," said San. "They just treat as us opponents, as people who complain and create problems."

While a plethora of departments and regulatory bodies participate in the process, observers say the agenda appears to be largely set by the Ministry of Industry Mines and Energy, with the direct support of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Donors continue to play an important supporting role, particularly the Asian Development Bank (AsDB) through its Mekong Power Grid Plan. This envisages an interconnected power grid across the region, a plan it has been pushing since the early nineties.

The Manila-based AsDB initially envisages that Cambodia will be a net electricity importer, but will become an exporter once the country’s full hydropower potential is realised.

The lack of transparency is accentuated in relation to China. "There is almost no information in the public domain on the financing arrangements for Cambodia’s hydropower projects," states a report released in January by the U.S.-based International Rivers Network (IRN) and the NGO Forum.

"The lack of information from the Chinese dam builders is very disturbing, they do not consult or share information," said Seng Bunra, country director for Conservation International in Cambodia.

His organisation works in the Cardamom Mountains Protected Forest Area in the south-west of the country. It is one of the largest continuous sections of rainforest left in South-east Asia and home to a number of globally endangered species, including some of the last remaining populations of Asian elephants and Siamese crocodiles.

There are plans to build a number of dams in the protected area, all by Chinese companies.

According to critics, the presence of so many potential hydropower projects in protected forest areas illustrates the fact that the laws to safeguard the environment are insufficient to protect affected communities. The situation is particularly serious, notes the report by the NGO Forum and IRN, given that "compared against the already less than admirable environmental and social standards of Western bilateral donors and export credit agencies ... Chinese institutions are noticeably weaker".

Cambodian and international NGOs are also worried about the impact on fish stocks, water quality and flow, and the relocation of thousands of villagers.

As evidence, they point to the 750 Mw Yali Falls dams on the Se San tributary of the Mekong in Vietnam, which began operating in 2001. Local people claim the dam has been responsible for sudden flooding, causing the deaths of residents in Cambodia and the collapse of fish stocks in the northern Cambodian provinces of Stung Treng and Ratanakiri.

Although Tana conceded that Se San is now a "dead river in terms of fisheries," he adds that the dam is in "Vietnam’s territory, so what can we do?"

"The surrounding countries are all doing this and we are getting the impacts," he continued. "Why should we keep our environment pristine, when our neighbours are doing projects that impact us?"

Tana also makes a distinction between development on the tributaries of the Mekong, the impacts of which he believes can be mitigated, and dam-building on the mainstream of the sort widely seen in China and soon to take place in southern Laos, which is far more serious.

One of the projects being examined in Cambodia is the Sambor dam on the mainstream Mekong in central Kratie province. A number of options are being studied, including one that would only block between one-quarter to one fifth of the river and have, according to Tana, only "minimal" impact.

San concedes there are mixed views about dam building among the potential communities that are going to be affected by these.

He insists, however, that even one of the core arguments in support of hydropower, that it will generate income from the sale of power, is unproven.

"Is there a real need for electricity in Thailand? Yes. But has the economics been thought through, have any preliminary contracts for power export from Cambodia to Thailand actually been signed? No. We want to see a good economic analysis, including a full cost-benefit analysis before projects go ahead," San added.

Recovering from Domestic Abuse

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Vietnam, Cambodia, Bangladesh support China's actions to stabilize Tibet

BEIJING, March 20 (Xinhua) -- Senior government officials of Vietnam, Cambodia and Bangladesh have expressed their countries' support for Chinese government's measures to stabilize the situation in Tibet.

"Vietnam fully supports the measures taken by China to stabilize the situation in Tibet," said Vietnamese Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Vu Dung in a meeting with Chinese ambassador to Vietnam, Hu Qianwen, on Thursday, adding that the Tibet issue is purely China's internal affairs.

The Chinese government has made great efforts for the economic developments and social progress of Tibet, and yielded tremendous achievements, said the official.

Meeting on Wednesday with Duan Jinzhu, charge d'affaires of the Chinese embassy in Cambodia, Long Visalo, secretary of state for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Cambodia, said the incident in Lhasa, the capital city of China's Tibet autonomous region, was elaborately plotted and organized by a small group of people with ulterior motives.

Some distorted news coverages by Western media were aimed at disturbing the then ongoing sessions of the Chinese National People's Congress and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference and the election of new Chinese leaders, as well as undermining the upcoming Beijing Olympic Games, said Long Visalo.

"The Lhasa riot is absolutely not so-called 'peaceful demonstration,' but a serious riot incident," he added.

A spokesman of the Bangladeshi Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement on Thursday, expressing Bangladesh's solidarity with China on the Tibet issue.

"All matters pertaining to Tibet are internal affairs of China," the statement said.

Bangladesh wishes the Beijing Olympic Games great success and would not like to see the games be politicized by any organizations, he added.

Editor: Liu Dan

Cambodian first ever agriculture, business censuses to begin next year
Thursday, March 20, 2008

PHNOM PENH, Mar 21, 2008 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- Cambodia will hold its first ever agriculture census in 2009, and a business establishment census in 2011, local media reported Friday, citing officials from the Planning Ministry's National Institute of Statistics (NIS).

The agriculture census, which will be held in the second half of 2009, will gather agriculture-related data from 2008, Seng Soeun, deputy director-general of NIS, was quoted by the Mekong Times newspaper as saying.

"The agriculture census is different to the recent population census because it will focus on such areas as agricultural land, crop fields, livestock and various type of forest land," Seng Soeun said.
"It will cost around 3 million U.S. dollars, of which 10 percent has been pledge by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), with the World Bank and Australia also making pledges," he added.

The first ever business census will be conducted in the first half of 2011, gathering data from 2010, said Mick Kanthul, director of NIS's Economic Statistics Department, adding that considerable work will be involved.

The census, which will cost about 2 million U.S. dollars, will gather data on all types of business, their number of employees, wages and other salient information, he said.

Both the agriculture and business censuses will be conducted at intervals of 10 years.

Report of Yash Ghai Unfolded the Failure of Legal and Judicial Reform in Cambodia

Posted on 21 March 2008.
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 552

“A foreign news agency reported that Mr. Yash Ghai, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Human Rights in Cambodia, criticized government of Prime Minister Hun Sen on 19 March 2008, who is thought to be addictive to power [this judgment by the journalist is not part of Mr. Yash Ghai’s report], about the failure of legal and judicial reforms, and about letting human rights to be seriously violated. Mr. Yash Ghai submitted his third report [click on the report - find “Cambodia” - click on “E” for English to download A.HRC.7.42.doc] to the Human Rights Council of the United Nations in its Seventh Session meeting from 3 to 28 March 2008 in Geneva. He strongly criticized the failures of the Cambodian Government.

[There are webcasts available, video-voice-recordings here, first select “19 March 2008″, then look for and click on “Report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Human Rights in Cambodia, Mr. Yash Ghai” in English, and for “Cambodia as a concerned country, Mr. Om Yentieng” - in translation in [English], and in the original in [Cambodian]. - Also responses to the report of Mr. Yash Ghai are recorded at the same section form Japan, Slovenia (on behalf of the European Union), Malaysia, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Sweden, from the International Federation of Human Rights Leagues (FIDH), Amnesty International, and finally answers to the questions and final remarks by the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Human Rights in Cambodia]

“According to the report of Yash Ghai, the Royal Government of Cambodia was not doing enough to reform the legal and judicial system, but the international community continued to provide Cambodia with assistance, even when there were human rights violations. Mr. Yash Ghai quoted from a report by LICADHO [Ligue cambodgienne des droits de l’homme - Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights: Human Rights in Cambodia – the Charade of Justice] published in December 2007, which states that the judicial system in Cambodia has failed, despite the intervention by the United Nation Transitional Authority in Cambodia [UNTAC, 1992/93], and of 15 years of aid for legal and judicial reform.

“The report continues that ‘in 2007, the primary functions of the courts continue to be: To prosecute political opponents and other critics of the Government, To perpetuate impunity for State actors and their associates, and To promote the economic interests of the rich and powerful.’ The twenty five-pages report of Mr. Yash Ghai gives details about human rights violation, impunity, victimization of others, violations of the principles of a market economy, violation of land ownership rights, land disputes, and the lack of independence of the court system.

“Mr. Yash Ghai stated in his report that there was little respect for the rule of law in Cambodia. The national and the international community must address the severe consequences of the lack of the rule of law. The report continued describing land grabbing, forced evictions, and the detention of protesters. Thirteen community representatives face criminal lawsuit because they protested against forced eviction in Phnom Penh [Report Section 37: Dey Krahom], while other thirteen villagers were arrested and accused of criminally damaging other people’s properties [Report Section 36: Spean Ches, Sihanoukville].

“A spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Cambodia refused to comment on the report of Mr. Yash Ghai [but Mr. Om Yentieng, the head of the Cambodian government’s human rights committee, spoke at the Geneva meeting – see link above]. The Prime Minister, Akak Moha Senapadei Dekchor Hun Sen, has already strongly condemned the report of Mr. Yash Ghai. He even criticized the situation of Kenya, where Mr. Yash Ghai was born. The Prime Minister declared that he would never allow Mr. Yash Ghai to meet him.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Cambodia has filed a complaint to the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon about the inappropriate evaluation of Mr. Yash Ghai, who stated that the court system is corrupt, and who reported about human rights violation in Cambodia. Mr. Yash Ghai recommended that the Royal Government of Cambodia should actively take responsibility to reinforce the rule of law and to promote the respect for human rights by the government and in society. However, the government of Mr. Hun Sen, who is so addictive to power [this judgment by the journalist is not part of Mr. Yash Ghai’s report], did not take the recommendations of Mr. Yash Ghai into consideration. The government uses all kinds of tricks to cover its bad behavior.

“According to foreign news agencies, the statement of Mr. Yash Ghai in the meeting of the Human Rights Council of the United Nations session on 19 March, yesterday morning, informed the world about the situation of human rights, lawlessness, and the failure of legal and judicial reforms in Cambodia, although the Ministry of Foreign Affair of Cambodia, led by Mr. Hor Namhong, is trying to hide these problems from the by public.

“The same foreign [public UN] sources of information show that Mr. Yash Ghai is not the only person who reported about the conditions of human rights in Cambodia. Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the Human Right Committee of Asia, ADHOC, and LICADHO also provided the UN Council for Human Rights with similar reports. Therefore, the situation that the Royal Government of Cambodia failed to reform the legal and judicial systems, as well as the fact that human rights violations continue, cannot be hidden from the public.

“However, many people believe that the international community and the donors also need to share the responsibility for the failure of the Cambodian government, because they keep providing more and more aid to the Hun Sen government, even while they see irregularities and corruption practiced in the Cambodian judicial system, while human rights violations increase. In this regards, the international community and the donors should reconsider this issue. A big portion of the assistance does not reach the hands of the really needy people.

“Some members of civil society believe that the situation of human rights violations in Cambodia is even worse than what Mr. Yash Ghai described. For instance, in the period towards the fourth general elections, there are more and more cases of violent land grabbings in many cities and provinces, committed by high-ranking officers and businesspersons who are closely related to the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.”

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.15, #417, 20.3.2008

Chinese Police Open Fire on Tibet Protestors

Bail denied for Khmer Rouge head

Thursday, 20 March 2008

A UN-backed tribunal has rejected an appeal for bail from the Khmer Rouge's most senior surviving member.

Judges ruled that Nuon Chea, deputy to the group's leader Pol Pot, must remain in custody ahead of his trial.

The octogenarian faces charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, relating to the Khmer Rouge's four-year rule in the 1970s.

More than one million Cambodians are believed to have died under the brutal Maoist regime.

Nuon Chea, who is thought to have been the ideological driving force behind the regime, denies committing any crime.

He had argued that he was not a flight risk and said he would not try to influence potential witnesses.

But the court in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh, ruled that his detention should continue pending his trial, which is expected to take place later this year.

Nuon Chea is one of five former Khmer Rouge leaders currently being held by the court.

Bail has already been denied to Duch, the former head of the notorious Tuol Sleng prison where thousands of people were executed.

Also in custody are Ieng Sary, the former foreign minister, his wife Ieng Thirith, who was minister for social affairs, and Khieu Samphan, the former head of state.

Immediate and unconditional release of SRP commune chief

Phnom Penh March 20, 2008


Sam Rainsy Party calls on the Kompong Thom court to unconditionally andimmediately release Mr. Tuot Saron, a commune chief of Pong Ro, Kampong Thomprovince, who was charged and jailed on 19 March, 2008 for a crime he didnot commit.

Mr. Tuot Saron was arrested in Kompong Thom a day after the Prime Ministeropenly ordered the court to take action against him. In the same speech,other SRP members were mentioned by PM as possible targets for arrest. Forthe court to act under direct order made by PM without proper investigationis clearly explain the power of the Prime Minister Hun Sen over the court,judges and prosecutors as identified by the UN special envoys for HumanRights in Cambodia.

The use state and private media to disseminate orders for arrest members ofopposition party is not just an abuse of power, but also an attempt tospread fear among voters and members of political opponent who are rejectingthe CPP. Such action is seriously violating Human Rights, particularly thepolitical rights of our citizens which is one of the most fundamental humanrights stipulated in our Constitution and UN Conventions.

SRP is gravely alarmed by the current political environment which is notconducive to free and fair election to be held on 27 July, 2008, just fourmonths from now.

SRP strongly urges the International Community to call on the government andthe National Election Committee to take all measures to immediately stopthese political harassment and threat so that the 2008 election can and willbe held with free and fair environment.

SRP calls on the International Community not to delay sending observers tomonitor the upcoming election and to seriously take note of the recentpolitical development as a threat to free and fair election.

SRP Members of Parliament
For further information call 012858857

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Forty-eight hours in Cambodia

A must-see ... statues at Cambodia's fabled Angkor Wat temple complex / AAP
Rich history ... Angkor Wat is thought to have been constructed as a Hindu temple between AD 1113-50 / Reuters
Take a break ... Angkor's temples are quite spread out so hiring a remorque-moto is almost a must / AFP

Phnom Penh - Why Siem Reap and Phnom Penh? Siem Reap is the gateway to the temples of Angkor, including the awesome Angkor Wat. With the possible exception of Burma's Bagan temples, you probably won't see anything as atmospheric and extraordinary in the region or in your lifetime.

Unlike Bagan, Siem Reap is easily reached. It's also in the throes of a luxury hotel building boom so there is no shortage of comfort when you return from a hot day exploring. Fortunately, the town has kept its laid-back charm and is an excellent place to relax. Phnom Penh has few of the charms of Siem Reap but it's a great place for a one-night stopover.

What is there to see and do? In short, far more than you could possibly fit into one weekend. Angkor, the glory of the Khmer civilisation, which shaped Cambodia from the 9th to the 14th centuries, covers a vast area and has around 100 temples.

A two-night break may only give you one full day in Angkor in which case you might want to limit yourself to Angkor Wat and a second temple, probably the breathtaking Ta Prohm ­ a temple swallowed up in jungle with the roots of giant trees embracing its 1,000 year-old walls.

Ta Prohm gives you an idea of how Indiana Jones must have felt hacking through the dense jungles to rediscover these mighty temples as the French colonisers did in the 19th century. The best way to get around the temples is on a tuk tuk-style motorbike for around 15 dollars a day.
Elephant rides are available for 10 dollars each between Angkor Thom and the Bayon temple.

If you spend a night in Phnom Penh en route to Siem Reap, take time to see a darker side of Cambodian history by visiting the Tuol Sleng Museum ­ a high school that became the largest centre for detention and torture under the murderous reign of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge.
The killing fields of Choeung Ek, with its monument of 8,000 skulls, is 15 kilometres from central Phnom Penh.

Where should I stay? If you are coming via one of Asia's hubs consider picking up a package which are the best value, if you are planning to stay in a mid to top-range hotel. A two-night, three-day package (including hotel and return fare) from Hong Kong will cost around 250 to 600 dollars. The Grand Hotel d'Angkor, oozes colonial charm and would cost 300 dollars a night upwards, if you arrived independently, but is included as the top-end option in most packages.

If you prefer somewhere less formal, the Angkor Villa and La Residence d'Angkor are good options. In Phnom Penh, stay at the Raffles if you can, or the Billabong if you want a cheaper option.

What shouldn't I miss? You'll only ever see Angkor Wat once and it's a memorable sight ­ so make the most of it. Catch your first glimpse at sunrise before the crowds arrive. Save your shopping for Phnom Penh and visit the huge Psar Tuoi Tom Pong, commonly known as the Russian Market and it has everything.

What one piece of advice would you give to a first timer? Be prepared for beggars, particularly children in Siem Reap. Have one pocket stuffed with small notes so that you can buy something inexpensive without attracting a hoard of hangers-on by pulling out a wad of 100 dollar bills to buy a postcard.

How do I get there? Flights to Cambodia will most likely involve a change-over, if you are coming longhaul. In that case, it may be worthwhile shopping for a cheap deal to Bangkok, Hong Kong or Singapore and arranging an onward flight or package to either Phnom Penh or Siem Reap from there.

Dragonair (Hong Kong), Thai International, Bangkok Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Vietnam Airlines and Malaysia Air all fly into Phnom Penh.

Vietnam Air and Bangkok Airways also fly to Siem Reap while Siem Reap Airways operates between Hong Kong and Siem Reap. You can hop between the two Cambodian cities via a domestic flights or take a fast boat for around 25 dollars each way. Cambodian Embassies are few and far between so visas can be issued on arrival.

Vietnam Signs ASEAN Charter

Hanoi, Mar 20 (Prensa Latina) Vietnam became the fifth signatory of the Charter of the Association of South East Asia Nations (ASEAN).

Nguyen Hong Cuong, head of the local Foreign Ministry Department for ASEAN, said President Nguyen Minh Triet approved of the addition to show strong commitment to regional integration.

A more powerful ASEAN means a stronger Vietnam, adding that without this membership the country will not be able to show its achievements in foreign affair and foreign investment.

Among its contribution to the letter lies preserving its inter-governmental nature that guarantees the sovereignty to each of its ten member countries, and does not turn it into an external organization like the European Union.

The members of ASEAN are Singapore, Laos, Brunei and Malaysia while Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Cambodia and Myanmar are expected to join in before January 2009.

Torture still endemic in Cambodian legal system, US ambassador says

The Earth Times
Thu, 20 Mar 2008
Author : DPA

Phnom Penh - More than a quarter of Cambodian court defendants surveyed reported being tortured or coerced into confession and ordinary people lacked faith in the justice system, US ambassador to Cambodia Joseph Mussomeli said Thursday. Speaking at the launch of an annual judicial review by local anti- corruption organization the Centre for Social Development (CSD), the ambassador said that although the figures showed some improvement, the country's notoriously fraught system was still poor.

"The CSD annual report makes clear what goes on inside Cambodia's courtrooms still falls short of what can be considered procedural justice," he said.

"CSD reported that over 25 per cent of defendants appearing in court claimed to have been tortured or coerced into giving confessions. I note that this ... is the same as reported last year, indicating there has been no significant change."

The Court Watch Project by CSD has come to be viewed as the definitive annual survey of developments in the fledgling Cambodian judicial system since it was launched in 2003.

CSD, which receives funding from a number of donors including Germany and the US, interviewed a wide range of judicial officials, witnesses, lawyers and defendants between October 2006 and September 2007.

Judicial reform of the notoriously corrupt Cambodian system has been earmarked by donors to the aid-dependant nation as a key factor in the country's development after 30 years of civil war.

The report outlined a number of concerns, including poor training of the judiciary, bribery, torture, underfunding, a lack of independence and frequent pre-trial detention of prisoners for terms exceeding the legal limit of six months.

"Not all the news is bad," Mussomeli said, but "on balance ... there remains a good deal to be done before the people of the judicial system will earn the trust of the people of Cambodia."

Cambodia death: accidental verdict

Lewis Newbury

Royston Crow News
20 March 2008

A CORONER has recorded a verdict of accidental death on a 23-year-old man who died while travelling in Cambodia.

An inquest at Hertfordshire Coroner's Court on Thursday heard that Lewis Newbury, 23, of Stamford Avenue, Royston, died at the Okay Guest House in Daun Penh, Cambodia, on October 12 last year.

A post-mortem examination showed that he died of acute cardio-pulmonary failure.Coroner Edward Thomas told Lewis's family: "This death was unintended. I can't begin to imagine how awful this has been for you and nothing I can say will take away what has happened.

"Lewis was very happy and enjoying himself. His friends said he was an easy person to travel with, who often spoke of his family," he said.

The coroner read a statement from Conrad Franks, a friend who Lewis met while travelling in south-east Asia.

He said that on the day of Lewis's death they had spent much of the afternoon and evening drinking beer and vodka with another friend, Richard Sergeant.

They had planned to visit a night club after dinner, but Lewis decided to stay behind at the hotel, as he was already "extremely drunk, laughing, and swaying on his feet".

Conrad and Richard took Lewis to his room, and put him to bed at about 11.30pm. They returned at 5am, and said that when they checked on Lewis his skin was warm and he appeared to be asleep.

When Lewis did not show up for a coach trip the group had planned the next day, the alarm was raised.

The coroner also read a report from the chief of police in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, who said that officers found no sign of a break in and that there were no injuries to the body.

He added that it was the conclusion of local police that Lewis "probably died of alcohol overdose or heart failure."
A post-mortem examination carried out at the Lister Hospital found that Lewis had suffered a cardio-pulmonary failure. Mr Thomas said that this was common in someone whose cardio-respiratory system had consumed a high level of alcohol.

A torturous road to nation-building

By Barbara Crossette
March 20, 2008

When the U.S. State Department's voluminous global human rights report appears each year, as it did last week, the temptation is to dive into the sections on hot-topic nations such as China, Iraq or, lately, Pakistan. Not a lot of readers would turn first to Cambodia. Yet this poor and psychologically wounded country is a prime object lesson in the perilous, unending business of nation-building. With a national election coming in July, Cambodia needs some attention well in advance.

In 1992-1993, the United Nations led a multimillion dollar effort to remake this Southeast Asian nation, which in barely two decades had been whipsawed into the American war in Indochina, brutalized by the Khmer Rouge and ground down and isolated by a Vietnamese occupation.

Fifteen years later, the country is among the world's most badly governed and politically corrupt. The State Department's report summarized it concisely: "Corruption was considered endemic and extended throughout all segments of society, including the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government." It is made all the worse, the report added, by a "culture of impunity."

Corruption is not just money; it is a corrosive mentality that debases national life in a country still not sure of itself. It deters aid and investment except by people from predictable (mostly Asian) nations who don't care - or who benefit from pervasive graft. But in a broader sense, what corruption has done to Cambodia is create a culture of easy wealth and casual lawlessness, a sad example to young people born into a broken society that was stripped of its intellectual middle class and Buddhist leadership under the Khmer Rouge.

Even the quality of architecture, scholarship, literature and the Khmer language has eroded. A measure of success nowadays is a garage full of late model Lexus SUVs and Toyota Land Cruisers, most of them acquired by government officials or their cronies at public expense.

Life in the graceful capital, Phnom Penh, is good. There are French restaurants and fine hotels that cosset tourists. But the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen, a crafty and uncompromising leader who was able to corner political and military power in the 1990s, abetted by misguided UN decisions, has no coherent social policies.

People in the countryside live perennially on the edge of hunger. The World Food Program is still feeding about 1.8 million of the country's 14 million people. Health services in rural areas are all but non-existent; unqualified midwives cause the maternal mortality rate to rank among the worst in Asia.

Corruption also threatens the credibility and indeed the future of a UN-backed tribunal designed to bring to trial, finally, some of the remaining Khmer Rouge leaders who terrorized the country and reduced it to human and physical ruin from April 1975 to January 1979. In tribunal custody are four top former Khmer Rouge officials: Nuon Chea, Brother Number 2 to Pol Pot, who died in 1998; Khieu Samphan, the former head of state; Ieng Sary, the foreign minister, and his wife, Ieng Thirith, who held, bizarrely, the portfolio of social affairs. Also in jail is the Khmer Rouge chief torturer, Kaing Guek Eav, known as Duch, the commandant of the notorious Tuol Sleng interrogation center, which is now a tourist attraction.

The tribunal, at the insistence of Hun Sen and against the wishes of UN legal officials, was designed not to be independent but a hybrid called the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia. That has brought a corrupt judiciary and political patronage practices into a judicial process that distinguished and experienced international lawyers, prosecutors and judges struggle to keep on track.

The Cambodian government, reacting to outside reports detailing corrupt or questionable tribunal staffing, has refused to open an investigation of its own. Donors - most of all the United States, which pressed Kofi Annan, the former UN secretary general, to agree to a flawed tribunal - are withholding money needed to carry cases to their conclusion. Trials are expected to begin this year.

Many Cambodians distrust the tribunal, not only because they do not understand why any of those in custody deserve a day in court, but also because they suspect that political chicanery by the Hun Sen government, with its share of former Khmer Rouge figures, will see to it that the process is carefully controlled, or thwarted. Mindful of its own history, the government abjures the terms Khmer Rouge or Communist and labels the disaster that overtook the country simply the "Pol Pot regime" absolving itself of guilt.

The State Department noted in its current report that there do not appear to be any politically motivated killings or political prisoners in Cambodia. But the report does acknowledge, citing work by courageous Cambodian human rights groups, that abuses by the military and police, often in league with governing party officials, occur widely around the country. Journalists can attest to that. There is also vigilante justice in the absence of a judicial system that Cambodians can trust. The UN human rights office in Phnom Penh has documented brutal land seizures by the well connected that drive out thousands of poor farmers with no means of recourse. This is a major deterrent to rural development.

The corruption and violence in the countryside should be a warning. During the Khmer Rouge years, as discussion around the tribunal is making ever more evident, Cambodians suffered most at the hands of local zealots and barely thought about a national movement or knew its name.

The level of horrors that killed about 1.7 million Cambodians - through slave labor, dislocation, disease, starvation and execution - varied from place to place. In the eyes of most Cambodians there was no central government then. There is little more now.

As the July election approaches, the governing Cambodian People's Party knows how to stage a vote that monitors will likely find reasonably fair. What visitors will not see is the maneuvering already under way to buy off potential opposition figures with government jobs or bring bogus charges against others, to sow dissent within and among what few independent political groups that survive, and to use the party's ubiquitous neighborhood committees to bring voters into line. This is not the democracy the world thought it had installed. Cambodia's nightmare is not over.

Barbara Crossette, a former bureau chief of The New York Times in Southeast Asia, was in Cambodia in January and February helping local journalists prepare to report on the Khmer Rouge trials.

Khmer Rouge leader held pending war crimes trial

Taipei Times

The Cambodian court rejected the appeal from `Brother No. 2,' who is accused of committing numerous crimes against humanity

Friday, Mar 21, 2008

Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea will remain in jail pending trial for war crimes allegedly committed during Cambodia's 1970s genocide, the country's UN-backed tribunal ruled yesterday.

A panel of five judges rejected Nuon Chea's appeal for freedom, saying there were "well-founded" reasons to believe he committed the crimes of which he is accused.

"The appeal is dismissed," said Prak Kimsan, chief judge of the court's pre-trial chamber.
"The grounds for the provisional detention are still satisfied," he said.

The regime's former "Brother No. 2," who is charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity, has denied the accusations against him and claims his arrest last September was an "illegal act."

His defense team had argued that the judges violated legal procedures during their first interviews with Nuon Chea, during which he was without a lawyer because he had mistakenly waived his right to an attorney.

Nuon Chea's Cambodian lawyer, Son Arun, said following the ruling that he "was not satisfied with the decision."

"I had hoped the court could release him, but unluckily no," he said.

"I want Nuon Chea to join his family so that he can be more comfortable," he said, adding that his client's mental and physical health had deteriorated since his arrest.

"His health is weakening and he is forgetting a lot," Son Arun said, adding that he had asked the court to determine whether Nuon Chea would be mentally fit to stand trial.

"In order to conduct this case properly, the court needs to provide better care," he said.

The 81-year-old appeared frail during yesterday's hearing and had to be helped to stand up by courtroom guards.

Nuon Chea is the senior-most of five Khmer Rouge cadres currently detained by the court over their alleged role in one of the 20th century's worst atrocities.

Up to 2 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 and their populations exiled to vast collective farms, while schools were closed, religion banned and the educated classes targeted for extermination during the communist regime's 1975-1979 rule.

Nuon Chea was the closest deputy of Khmer Rouge supreme leader Pol Pot -- who died in 1998 without ever facing justice -- and was allegedly the architect of the regime's devastating execution policies.

In their detention order issued last year, the tribunal's investigating judges alleged that Nuon Chea had enforced policies "characterized by forcible transfers of the population, enslavement, forced labor and other inhumane acts."

The judges argued that Nuon Chea could intimidate witnesses, destroy evidence or flee the country if he remained free pending trial.

Cambodia's genocide tribunal was convened in 2006 after nearly a decade of fractious talks between the government and the UN over how to prosecute the regime's leadership.

Cambodia dismisses UN human rights envoy's report as sensational, exaggerated

Om Yentieng

The Associated Press
March 20, 2008

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia: Cambodia dismissed a U.N. envoy's report criticizing its government for human rights abuses and corruption as sensational and exaggerated, saying the country is on the right track for democracy.

Om Yentieng, head of the government's human rights committee, said the report ignored the progress his government has made in improving rights and the rule of law.

He said the government is disappointed with Yash Ghai, the U.N. secretary-general's special envoy on human rights in Cambodia, who submitted the report to a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva.

Many issues described in Ghai's report "are selectively made for sensational purposes and/or overly exaggerated," Om Yentieng said in a statement received Thursday.

His response is the latest shot in the Cambodian government's long-running war of words with Ghai, a Kenya-born professor, whom Prime Minister Hun Sen has called "deranged" for accusing his administration of poor governance.

Om Yentieng, who is also a senior adviser to Hun Sen, described as "unacceptable" Ghai's assertion that the country's justice system has failed to function independently from the executive branch.

"Legal guarantees and security associated with the rule of law are largely missing in Cambodia," Ghai said in a statement on the release of his report.

Ghai said the government's control of the judiciary has bred a "high level of corruption" resulting in victimization of the poor across Cambodia and "legal impunity for ministers, officials and friends of the government."

Cambodia's judicial system is widely regarded as corrupt and susceptible to political manipulation.

The U.N. envoy also slammed the government on the issue of land and property rights.

Thousands of urban and rural dwellers have been "illegally and inhumanely" evicted from land that has been appropriated by corporations and influential individuals, he charged.

He warned that, in the long run, the inability of courts to settle disputes in a fair manner will "aggravate tensions, conflicts and the risk of violence that will be hard to manage."

Om Yentieng responded that Ghai's evaluation "does not fairly reflect the reality in the country" which "is moving on the right track" of democratic and economic progress.

Nuon Chea Denied Pre-Trial Release

By Mean Veasna, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
20 March 2008

Jailed Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea will remain in tribunal detention ahead of his atrocity crimes trials, a panel of judges ruled Thursday.

Nuon Chea's lawyers had argued his health had worsened since he was jailed in September, but the panel, led by Judge Prak Kimsan, chief of the Pre-Trial Chamber, ruled he could flee, damage evidence or intimidate witnesses.

"There is enough evidence for the provisional detention," Prak Kimsan said.

Nuon Chea, 82, is the senior-most of five jailed Khmer Rouge leaders in tribunal custody.

Son Arun, his lawyer, told journalists he "regretted" the decision and that Nuon Chea's mental health had deteriorated since his arrest.

"If the court wants to try him to the end, they must take care of Nuon Chea's health," Son Arun said.

The decision was fair and up to international and national standards, said Hisham Mousar, a tribunal monitor for the rights group Adhoc. But he warned that the case of Ieng Sary may be different, because his health problems are more urgent.

Prak Kimsan also ruled Thursday that civil parties would be allowed to participate in future hearings, as important parts of initial investigations and national reconciliation.

The tribunal, meanwhile, announced former social affairs minister Ieng Thirith's pre-trial hearing was scheduled for April 21, and former nominal head Khieu Samphan's April 23.

Official: Envoy's Rights Report Wrong

By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
20 March 2008

The government issued a strong denial of a UN human rights report Thursday, claiming its work in improving the rights situation had gone unmentioned.

Cambodia's human rights adviser, Om Yentieng, said in prepared remarks to the UN Human Rights Council that a report by UN special rights representative Yash Ghai did not accurately reflect the "real situation in Cambodia."

Ghai delivered a report and an address to the Rights Council in Geneva Thursday, saying Cambodia's slow progress in building the rule of law led to a lack of guarantees and security.
This led to the victimization of the poor and the increasing marginalization of disadvantaged communities, he said.

Om Yentieng, who is the chairman of Cambodia's Human Rights Committee, said Ghai's analysis of the government was "not acceptable."

Ghai had also been critical of donors, who he said continue to deliver aid despite widespread rights abuses.

Kaori Yoshimatsu, third secretary at the Japanese Embassy, said Thursday Japan contributed to human rights by providing aid in the building of civil law, procedures of law and the training of legal professionals.

French Embassy spokeswoman Fabyene Mansencale said Thursday France hoped Ghai and the government would "find a way of working together for the wider benefit of the people of Cambodia."

Group Notes Continued Concern for Courts

By Chiep Mony, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
20 March 2008

A worrying number of people report coerced confessions ahead of trial, and many are kept beyond reasonable limits awaiting trial, the Center for Social Development said Thursday.

In an annual report, the group found a high number of cases where defendants were allegedly beaten in order to extract confessions.

In six courts monitored by the group, including the Appeals and Supreme courts, 25 percent of defendants claimed they were coerced into confessions by judicial or police officials.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court had the most allegations against it, followed by Kandal provincial court, according to the report.

Courts continued to be under-funded, said Pen Reny, head of the CSD legal unit, noting the budget for the court remained 0.28 percent of the national budget in 2007.

"The lack of court officials impacts the hearings and leads to insufficient justice for defendants, and it also can delay hearings and leave defendants in detention beyond a reasonable time," she said.

US Ambassador Jospeh Mussomeli, who attended a discussion coinciding with the report's release, noted that the percentage of coerced confessions was the same as last year, indicating no change in the way defendants are treated in the initial case process.

He said adults were frequently detained beyond reasonable limits while awaiting trial, and even more so with juveniles. This was something the courts could do something about, he said.

Keu Khem Lim, deputy director-general for the Ministry of Justice, said the ministry was trying its best to carry out the government policy.

In 2007, the ministry drafted new criminal and civil codes, which would provide a basis for proper court conduct, he said.

Officials Push to Put Women in Politics

By Ros Sothea, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
20 March 2008

Officials from four political parties attended a two-day workshop to seek new ways of getting more women in politics, especially as candidates in the upcoming national elections.

A very small number of women hold high government positions.

There are only two women ministers, of 26 ministries, and zero provincial governors. However, some women have found seats as chiefs of communes.

UNDP officials said Thursday Cambodia had a "very low level of women in decision making positions within the legislature."

Water diaries tell of life in Cambodia

A man transports his floating house up river near Chong Khneas floating village in Cambodia. REUTERS/Tim Chong

20 Mar 2008

Written by: Becky Webb

Even now, during the dry season, water seems to penetrate all aspects of Cambodian culture. Thousands of Cambodians earn their living by rice farming, while many more live on floating villages - whole communities set adrift along the river.

Life for people here is ruled by water - too little rain and the rice production will fail, too much rain and the fishing industry will suffer as the rivers and lakes swell, making catching fish all the more difficult.

The British Red Cross has been helping children in the UK understand how precious clean water is, by comparing their experiences with Cambodia where many children die from water-related disease. To mark World Water Day, the Red Cross asked schoolchildren from both the UK and Cambodia to write water diaries to compare their experiences of this vital resource.

In Chong Khneas floating village, over 500 children attend the floating school. As the water gently rocks the classroom, teacher Ean Fophon explains that the school is constantly moving with the water.

"The school changes position depending upon the season as it flows along with the water, so in the rainy season it moves closer to the mountains," she said. The lake on which the school floats is also the only water to which many of the villagers have access.

"Many villagers here do not have latrines and so defecate into the water," Fophon continues. "This is then also used for bathing, swimming and fishing."

Viey Savet, 12, attends a floating school. "All our water comes from the lake so I don't know where other people get their water from," he says. "I think there is enough water all around the world though. The main dangers with water here are getting diarrhoea and skin diseases."

The local health centre sees up to 40 cases of diahorea and skin diseases every month, which they directly attribute to bathing in the lake. The amount of rainfall has a direct impact on peoples lives, as the incidence of disease is reportedly higher in the dry season when the water in the lake is more concentrated.

As changing weather patterns continue to tip this delicate balance, life for many Cambodians is becoming more difficult. The pressures are greatest in the distant rural areas, away from the hustle and bustle of Phenom Penh, in provinces such as Oddar Meanchey.

Here, the lack of water and sanitation facilities is brutally apparent. Oddar Meanchey province has more than double the urban mortality rates - here some 11.0 percent of Cambodia's children die before reaching the age of five, compared with 5.2 percent in the capital.

In Chong Kal School in Oddar Meanchey province, over 1000 pupils are benefiting from the work of the Red Cross as water filters in the corner of each class room provide clean and safe water for the children throughout the day. Samnat, aged 11, has studied how children in the UK access water. "We take the water from the well, and in the UK they turn on a tap," he says. "I don't know if they use more or less water than we do, but the water in the UK is better than the water in Cambodia."

Getting water from the well was something which five-year-old Ta Daa also describes in his diary: "In the morning before school I get water for the family from the well which quite near my house. I carry the water all by myself - it is difficult because it is very heavy," he writes.

Back in the UK, 11-year-old Fraser from Southborough in Kent has been reading the Cambodian pupils' diaries. "Taps definitely make our lives easier," he says. "I've been at Scout Camp and it made me use less water as we had to try and make it last. We had to walk to get water and it is much heavier to carry than you think."

In Cambodia, the British Red Cross has helped more than 60,000 people to have cleaner water and sanitation over the past five years. However, every 20 seconds worldwide, a child dies as a result of poor sanitation. That's 1.5 million preventable deaths each year. There is still much more to be done.