Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Cambodia, FAO vigilant over re-occurrence of bird flu

June 17, 2008

PHNOM PENH, June 17 (Xinhua) --it is important for Cambodia to remain vigilant for possible re-occurrence of avian influenza, as Cambodia shares borders with Vietnam and Thailand where outbreaks of the pathogenic virus continued to occur, said a statement on Tuesday.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Cambodian Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in their joint statement said that they have been organizing public awareness and education activities to warn Cambodians of the danger avian influenza poses to their poultry and to their health.

Village meetings in Svay Rieng, Takeo, Kampong Cham and Kampot provinces, all bordering Vietnam, have been conducted since April, drawing 4,000 people from 25 villages, it added.

"The ministry and FAO have been working together to provide technical and communication skills training to veterinary officials, village animal health workers and village chiefs, so they will be able to educate the public on actions they can take to prevent avian flu infection," said Kao Phal, Director of the Department of Animal Health and Production at the ministry.

Although Cambodia hasn't had any outbreak since April 2007, it does not mean that the risk of AI is not present anymore, said the statement.

"FAO, with support from the United States Agency for International Development and Germany, will continue to strengthen the government's laboratory capacity to detect bird flu, improve bio-security in the backyard farms and in the markets, as well as in disease surveillance and early response to minimize the risks of avian flu," said Etienne Careme, FAO Emergency Program Coordinator.

In addition, both sides will organize a community forum on avian influenza in Pouk District, Siem Reap province, on June 19.

While not located along the border with Vietnam and Thailand, Siem Reap is among the provinces with the largest poultry population and represents an important trade center for poultry, majority of which is sourced from its villages, said the statement.

Siem Reap experienced an AI outbreak in poultry in two villages in February 2004.

In Cambodia, bird flu has killed seven people, including a 12-year-old girl in Kampong Cham province, the latest case of its kind.

Source: Xinhua

Invoking command responsibility without proof unjust--expert

By Robert Gonzaga
Central Luzon Desk

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT -- The idea of command responsibility "without proof of direct link" in the prosecution of cases involving extrajudicial killings is unjust, a top prosecutor in the genocide trials in Cambodia has said.

"It's easier to prosecute someone with blood on [his] hands than the person who ordered, or perhaps more relevant to the context, the person who let it happen, or was in a position to create a climate that either incited, encouraged or empowered the person who actually committed the crime," said Robert Petit, the international co-prosecutor from the United Nations Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Trials (UNAKRT).

"You have to prove that the person is specifically responsible in some way. Just holding a [military] general responsible for the action of subordinates if he had no way of knowing is just undermining the system," Petit told the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Monday.

Petit addressed prosecutors, lawyers, and human rights workers in a conference on the prosecution of crimes against international human rights and international humanitarian law.

The conference is a complement to the two-day Seminar Workshop on Extrajudicial Killings and Enforced Disappearances by the Philippine Judicial Academy (Philja) and the Commission on Human Rights which opened Monday at the Vista Marina Hotel here.

Petit, according to his bio-data, is co-prosecutor in the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, an internationalized tribunal set up with the help of the United Nations to try perpetrators of war crimes during the reign of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.

Thai FM braces for no-confidence debate over historic temple

BANGKOK, June 17 (TNA) - Thailand's Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama said on Tuesday he is well prepared to clarify his position and actions regarding the Preah Vihear temple which the opposition Democrat Party would challenge in its no-confidence motion scheduled to be handed to House Speaker later Tuesday.

The Opposition earlier cast doubts regarding the new map of the historic temple, suggesting that the foreign minister might have compromised Thailand's national interests over the issue.

Brushing aside the Democrats concerns, Mr. Noppadon, one of the six ministers from the ruling People Power Party targeted by the Opposition in its current no-confidence move, told Modernine TV (Channel 9)'s morning news programme that the disputed and undemarcated 4.6-square kilometre area surrounding and adjacent to the temple complex itself is not included on the map which Cambodia is using in its application for Unesco (the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation) to register Preah Vihear temple as a new world heritage site.

The minister also emphasised that all details in the new map would be released after the World Heritage Committee meets in July to consider the matter.

Mr. Noppadon explained that he could not reveal what he described as "official secret information" now under joint consideration among the Royal Thai Survey Department, the Foregin Ministry and state agencies concerned.

The 21-nation committee is scheduled to hold its meeting in Quebec from July 2 to decide whether or not to grant the world heritage site status to the temple.

Historically, both Thailand and Cambodia have claimed the ancient Khmer-built Hindu temple complex astride the mutual border in Thailand's Si Sa Ket province in the northeast, but practical access is only possible from the Thai side.

The International Court of Justice ruled in 1962 that the temple belonged to Cambodia.

The Thai Cabinet on Tuesday endorsed the new map of Preah Vihear temple approved by the National Security Council (NSC) on Monday.

Meanwhile, Pipob Thongchai, a core leader of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), currently encamped on Rajdamneon Avenue on an extended demonstrattion calling on the government to resign, said the coalition's supporters will march to the Foreign Ministry on Wednesday to press for the Preah Vihear issue to be clarified to the public.

The PAD believes arrangements regarding the resolution of the two countries' dispute over the overlapping zone was linked to former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Mr. Pipob said. (TNA)

Puffer fish mauls Cambodian boy's groin

Picture is courtesy of Koh Santepheap, by Bun Ry

June 17, 2008

A Cambodian teenager was recovering in hospital after an angry puffer fish attacked him in the groin, local media reported.

The Khmer-language Koh Santepheap daily ran a picture of the unnamed 13-year-old in a hospital bed with heavy strapping around his testicles, saying he was lucky to be alive.

The paper quoted the boy's father, Sok Ly, as saying the fish had become enraged when it was accidentally trapped in the boy's net and, when it was freed, had attacked the boy's scrotum.

Cambodian legend has it that the bite of the fish is even more dangerous than its poisonous spines, especially for boys, and Cambodian boys are traditionally advised not to swim in waters where the fish is common.

The victim, from Prek Pneuv commune outside Phnom Penh, was expected to recover from Monday's attack, the paper said, but the extent of the damage had yet to be determined.

Preah Vihear - a Hindu temple steeped in ancient history

Tue, 06/17/2008
— Peter Janssen

Preah Vihear, Cambodia - Preah Vihear, a millennium-old temple dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva - the divine destroyer - has been a magnet for conflicts in its recent history.

The temple, which may be designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO next month, prompted an ownership spat between Cambodia and Thailand that led to a suspension of diplomatic relations in 1958 and eventually ended up in The Hague for an international settlement in 1962.

Cambodia won, but even today embers of the old border dispute burn on.

Preah Vihear also provided the "last stand" in two very different Cambodian civil wars. In May, 1975 the last remnants of the pro-US Lon Nol army finally fell to the Khmer Rouge at the mountain-top Preah Vihear and then in December 1998, the temple site was used to negotiate the surrender of diehard remnants of the Khmer Rouge.

Scars from these recent military conflicts remain, including strategically situated cement bunkers around the temple complex, bullet holes in its limestone bricks that the Khmer Rouge shot up for AK-47 target practice and rusting artillery pieces. The leftover land mines have allegedly been removed.

Perched on a 525-metre high cliff on the Dangrek Mountain range, Preah Vihear provided an ideal setting for a temple dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva by the past monarchs of the Brahman-influenced Khmer Empire.

It is believed that construction on the temple, built in several stages starting with the Shiva sanctuary at the top and moving down the mountain side in four levels, began some time in the 9th century, well before Cambodia's spectacular Angkor Wat complex was built.

At its height of power in the 12th to 13th centuries, the Khmer Empire encompassed much of modern-day Thailand.

"It included everything right up to Lopburi and all of what is now Bangkok," said Sulak Sivaraksa, a well-known Thai historian and social critic.

The Thai empire didn't really become a regional force until the 15th century, with the rise of Ayutthaya.

Thai invasions of Cambodia, then in its decline, led to the adoption of many Khmer cultural traditions by the Thais, including the Hindu concept of god-kings and court rituals, and an ongoing fondness for Brahman-inspired black magic, especially among Thai politicians, noted Sulak.

Besides Preah Vihear there are many other Khmer-style temples to be found in Thailand, especially in the north-eastern provinces bordering Cambodia such as Buri Ram, Surin and Si Sa Ket.

Preah Vihear, arguably the most magnificent, has proven the most contentious.

The French, former colonial masters of Indochina, began delineating the Thai-Cambodian border in 1904, using the watershed along the Dangrek Mountain range as one of the landmarks.

Although Preah Vihear is rather clearly on what is now the Thai side of the Dangrek cliff edge, on the French-composed map the temple mysteriously moved inside the Cambodian side of the watershed.

But because Thailand never officially objected to the French map, it lost Preah Vihear to the newly independent Cambodia at the International Court of Justice on June 15,1962.

"Something tricky happened," said Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Tharit Charungvat, in reference to the original French map. "If you used the watershed to divide the border Phear Vihear should be on Thai territory, but the court ruled that since we never expressed our objection, the map flaw was immaterial."

Although Thailand lost the temple to Cambodia, Cambodia lost Pheah Vihear's three Shiva lingams (originally in the sanctuary), to Thailand. The whereabouts of the missing lingams remains a mystery.

When Cambodia decided to propose Preah Vihear as a World Heritage Site to UNESCO in 2007, the old territorial dispute came to life again.

Thailand objected on the grounds that the site's map, as drawn up by Cambodia, included some territory outside the temple compound that is still disputed, and derailed Phnom Penh's initial Preah Vihear push at UNESCO.

At a meeting between Thai and Cambodian officials on May 22 at UNESCO's Paris headquarters, the Cambodian side agreed to redraw the inscription map, including only the temple.

Although there are still some minor objections, Thailand will hopefully accept the new map in time for UNESCO to name Preah Vihear a World Heritage Site at its meeting next month.

But by limiting the site to only the temple compound, and not the surroundings, UNESCO will have less say over the Preah Vihear neighbourhood, which bodes ill for the site.

For instance, there is already talk of a Chinese firm seeking a concession to build a hotel-casino complex on the Cambodian side of the border, and maybe even a cable car to help ferry gamblers to and from the temple.

Travel tips: The easiest access for tourists to Preah Vihear is, ironically, on the Thai side of the border. It is best to drive to the small Thai town of Kanthalak, in Si Sa Ket province, spend the night at one of the town's two hotels, which charge 500 baht (15 dollars) for air conditioned rooms and drive out to Preah Vihear early to be at the border crossing when it opens at 8 am and the weather is still cool and windy. Foreign tourist need to pay 200 baht (6 dollars) to enter Thailand's Phra Vihan National Park, on the Thai side, and another 200 baht on the Cambodian side when entering the temple. There is also a 5 baht charge collected by the Thai military for use of their border road. Don't buy the duty free booze on the Cambodian side. The bottles are genuine, the booze usually isn't. (dpa)

Female Sex Workers and AIDS Activists Voice Concerns over New Law

Posted on 17 June 2008.
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 565

“On 15 February 2008, Cambodia implemented its new law to curb down human trafficking and sexual exploitation. This law aims to punish criminals who traffic humans and commit sexual exploitation, in order to protect human dignity and human rights, to promote the values of proper customs and traditions of the country, and in order to comply with the protocol of the United Nations on these problems. Article 23 of this law defines Prostitution a having sexual intercourse with an unspecified person or other sexual conduct of any kind in exchange for any value.’

“However, entertainment workers, sex workers, and AIDS activists voice concerns about this law. A 36-year-old female sex worker of a brothel in Sihanoukville, the resort and international seaport, said, ‘I had never heard of the law talking about sexual exploitation, and if it is true, I think that it is a severe problem for us. I agree that sex work undermines Khmer culture and Khmer women’s reputation, but we have no choice.’ Sreyrath, who is a widow with four children, and who has been working as a sex worker nearly 10 years, said that she and her friends do not want to do such work, but it is because they are poor and illiterate. And Rath was trafficked to work as a prostitute in Thailand in the late 1990s; she used to use drugs as well. She said, ‘We are sex workers because of poverty and of the social situation which forces us to do this job. The leaders should understand our situation.’

“Poverty and the lack of skills seem to be significant factors hindering the social progress for women. Most of the interviewed women said their husbands died, and the big burden fell on them, especially it is really difficult for those who have children. For instance, as 27-year-old widow with three children, working in a restaurant said, ‘I do not want to go out to sleep with men, but since my husband died, I have no one else to depend on. I have no skill to find another job. Sleeping with one guest one night, I can get US$30, sometimes, US$100. If the law is adopted and it is the implemented seriously, I think it will be very difficult for us. We do not know what other job else could do.’

“According to Cambodia’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Dermatology and Sexually Transmitted Diseases, the number of women who do sex work regularly is approximately 3,430, and 13,723 do it occasionally. The organization KHANA with cooperating partner organizations provides knowledge and information on HIV and Sexually Transmitted Diseases’ prevention to 1,568 regular sex workers and to 4,715 occasional sex workers.

“Anter Nita, Director of the Sihanoukville-based. Community United for Development [CUD], said if the new law will be enforced strongly; sex workers, especially those at present at brothels, will do clandestine work .

“Nita added, ‘My organization has regularly educated sex workers to help them to protect themselves from infection from AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Diseases, teaching them methods to persuade guests who want to force them to have sex without condoms, and teaches them methods to find good services for their health care. Our present program ‘One hundred percent condom use’ and the education programs for preventing diseases among sex workers will be affected, if they work clandestinely.’ According to reports from some local non-government organizations, police of some provinces warn owners of Karaoke parlors and of bars that they will be fined, if condoms are found in their places. These reports shows that since the implementation of this law started, some brothels have been closed, and people dare not to talk or to put condoms openly.

“Sreyrath said, ‘I would like to suggest that the law should not penalize women who are sex workers, otherwise we will have no means to feed ourselves. We really do not want work as sex workers, but we have no other jobs. Moreover, with this law sex workers will move around and continue to do sex work with no definite places to stay, and they cannot receive education about AIDS.’”

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.7, #1668, 15-16.6.2008

Local film studio has high hopes in the can

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chamroeun Chrann
Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Despite cinema closures and the faltering of the Cambodian movie industry, the head of one local production company said he wanted his firm to set a standard for higher quality film productions that would generate greater popular interest in the movies.

"I am proud that KMF is gradually making progress, and I hope that it will contribute to the development of Khmer film," said Millan Lov, director of Khmer Mekong Film (KMF), soliciting the support of both movie fans and the authorities in reaching his goal.

In an initial move to raise the profile of KMF as a major production company, KMF was building a six-storey headquarters in Phnom Penh's Daun Penh district, a project due for completion early next year.

The top three floors would serve as film studios, the second and third floors as a hotel, and the ground floor as parking, he said.

KMF’s most recent production has been a 13-episode television series on national and social issues. It is being broadcast on CTN, and the producers hope the series will help contribute to a revival of the Cambodian movie industry.

The first of the 30-minute episodes, which began airing June 1, opened the door on domestic violence. Other installments will cover issues such as HIV/AIDS, the Khmer Rouge trials, human trafficking, the challenges facing the disabled, and the activities in Cambodia of the United Nations Development Program.

The series has received funding from the UNDP, the German aid agency GTZ, the Ministry of Women's Affairs, the British embassy, the Asian Development Bank, the Asia Foundation and the American NGO Family Health International.

KMF was formed in 2006 by executives of a company funded by the British government that produced "A Taste of Life," a 100-episode hospital drama with an HIV/AIDS awareness theme. "A Taste of Life" began screening in 2003 and became one of the most-watched television shows in Cambodia.

NSC accepts Preah Vihear map

The Bangkok Post
Tuesday June 17, 2008



The National Security Council (NSC) yesterday endorsed the new map of Preah Vihear temple, paving the way for a final decision from the cabinet today.

The security agency agreed the disputed and undemarcated 4.6-square-kilometre area was not included on the map, Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama said.

Experts from the Royal Thai Survey Department earlier went to the temple area to verify the map Cambodia is using to support its application that the ruins be registered as a World Heritage site.

Preah Vihear temple is in Cambodia, on the border adjoining Kantharalak district in Si Sa Ket province.

If the Thai cabinet finds the map acceptable, Cambodia will forward all the documents, including the map and the joint statement, to the 21-nation World Heritage Committee, which will meet in Quebec from July 2 to decide which of the new proposed sites should be included on the World Heritage List.

Unesco says Thailand's backing is necessary if Preah Vihear is to be listed.

A government source said the NSC meeting was concerned the issue would be politicised, which could lead to conflict between the two countries ahead of the July 27 general election in Cambodia.

Mr Noppadon had earlier demanded soldiers and other officials in charge of considering the new map to stop commenting on the sensitive issue.

But academics remained sceptical about negotiations between the Thai and Cambodian governments.

Senator M.R. Priyanandana Rangsit suggested at a seminar on the issue that the Thai government should protest against Cambodia's attempt to register the Preah Vihear temple, or at least defer any decision on it, for fear that it would absorb the overlapping territory in the future.

M.L. Walwipha Charoonroj, of the Thai Khadi Research Institute, suspects the rush and collaboration of politicians from both sides might have something to do with personal gain.

Foreign affairs permanent secretary Virasakdi Futrakul said the Foreign Ministry has been assured by experts of various agencies that Thailand would not lose any territory to Cambodia under the new map.

Islamic groups raise funds for teachers jailed in Cambodia

The Bangkok Post
Tuesday June 17, 2008


Five Islamic groups have joined forces to raise funds for the families of two Islamic religious teachers sentenced to life in jail by a Cambodian court for involvement with the regional terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah (JI).

Abdul-asi Hayijaoming and Muhammad Yalaludin Mading were jailed in March by the Phnom Penh Supreme Court.

Anantachai Taipratarn, who heads a fund-raising panel, said the Council of Muslim Organisations, the Young Muslim Association, the Southern Cultural Foundation, the Community Development Foundation and the Muslim Lawyers Centre would hold a fund raising seminar at the Islamic Committee office in Yala on Saturday.

The meeting would discuss the JI problem and the legal battle in Cambodia. Participants would also hear from the two men's wives, A-isa Hayijaoming and Parida Mading.Abdul-asi from Narathiwat and Muhammad from Yala were sent to Cambodia in 1999 by the Yala-based Ammulguroh charitable foundation to teach religion in remote provinces.

The two were arrested in May 2003 for alleged involvement with JI, which was behind the 2002 bombings on the resort island of Bali that killed 202 people, mostly foreign vacationers.
The Cambodian court threw out the case in December 2003, but charged the couple the same day with attempted terrorist attacks on the US, British and Australian embassies in Phnom Penh.

The Supreme Court handed them both a life sentence in March.

Security volunteer Abroheng Joh-ngoh, 46, was arrested in Narathiwat yesterday for leaking intelligence to the Runda Kumpulan Kecil (RKK) militant group in Sungai Padi district.

During the search of a house belonging to Mr Abroheng's wife, authorities and reporters ducked for cover as four armed militants emerged and opened fire.

After a brief exchange of gunfire, the militants retreated to a paddy field at the back of the house, but ran into a back-up force which apprehended Nasueran Pi, 24. Mr Nasueran was on the authorities' list of militants and is a cousin of Mr Abroheng's wife.

Yesterday, Privy Councillor Surayud Chulanont, the former prime minister, toured the Daruslam ponoh institute in Yala's Muang district which was chosen by the San Jai Thai Su Jai Tai (Uniting Thai Hearts for the South) project initiated by Privy Council President Gen Prem Tinsulanonda as a model ponoh school.

The Daruslam ponoh's students have been encouraged to contribute to school improvement by exercising their carpentry, painting and metal welding skills.

''The students have not only sharpened their skills, but showed the power of cooperation,'' Gen Surayud said.

The school, which has 295 students, was also selected under Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn's project for improvement of academic standards and quality of life.

Hun Sen faces few challengers as Cambodia vote nears

A Cambodian Buddhist monk walks past the Sam Rainsy Party headquarters in Phnom Penh on June 16. There are still nearly six weeks until Cambodia's general election, but almost everyone says they already know the result.(AFP/Tang Chhin Sothy)

A Cambodian man pushes his cart past the Cambodian People's Party headquarters in Phnom Penh on June 16.(AFP/Tang Chhin Sothy)

PHNOM PENH (AFP) — With nearly six weeks until Cambodia's general election, almost everyone says they already know the result.

Prime Minister Hun Sen, Southeast Asia's longest-serving leader besides the sultan of Brunei, has spent much of his 23 years in power ruthlessly undermining his political rivals, who are now so weakened that analysts say none have much hope of success.

Cambodia has 57 parties, but only 11 are running in the July 27 poll -- less than half the number that contested the last national election five years ago.

Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party (CPP) towers above them all.

"Who will win? The CPP. No doubt about that. Even without taking into consideration threats, pressure and vote buying, the CPP is the one with the people on the ground," said Cambodian political analyst Chea Vannath.

The CPP was installed by communist Vietnam in 1979, after Hanoi invaded and toppled the Khmer Rouge -- the genocidal regime behind Cambodia's infamous "Killing Fields."

While the CPP has dropped its communist ideology, it retains a ubiquitous presence across the country and a tight grip on every level of government.

"Government and administrative offices throughout the country are very extensive and tightly controlled," said Lao Mong Hay, senior researcher at the Asian Human Rights Commission.

Opposition members have already accused Hun Sen of buying off their supporters by offering them attractive jobs, a charge the premier has brushed off.

"They say that we are buying people. We are the ruling party -- we have the right to appoint them to positions of power," Hun Sen said last week, during one of his daily televised speeches given at events big and small across the country.

Hun Sen, 55, became prime minister in 1985 and has single-mindedly focused on staying in power, publicly vowing to remain in office until he turns 90.

He actually lost his first election to a royalist party in UN-backed polls in 1993, but bargained his way into becoming a "second prime minister" and then reasserted total control in a 1997 coup.

Hundreds of people were killed in the run-up to elections the following year. Protests against Hun Sen's victory were put down violently.

The last national election in 2003 was far less violent, but plunged the kingdom into a year of political stalemate as parties wrangled over forming a coalition.

The party's current coalition partner, the royalist Funcinpec, has been hobbled by infighting and the ouster of its leader, Prince Norodom Ranariddh, who has formed his own eponymous party.

With their ranks divided, analysts say the royalists appear spent as a political force.

The main opposition Sam Rainsy Party is expected to win few votes outside the capital. Hun Sen rival Kem Sokha has formed a new Human Rights Party that will be cutting its teeth in the polls.

Some 8.1 million people are registered to vote at 15,000 polling stations, under the eyes of more than 13,000 domestic and international observers.

During his rule, Hun Sen has steered the impoverished country out of the ashes of civil war and grown the economy by opening up to trade and tourism.

Garment exports and tourism have brought double-digit economic growth, but Cambodia remains one of the world's poorest countries. Some 35 percent of its 14 million people live on less than 50 US cents a day.

Spiralling inflation has raised concerns about CPP's management of the economy.

"You can see the price of gasoline goes up every day," analyst Chea Vannath said. "I'm sure it will be one of the main concerns."

But he predicted Hun Sen would nonetheless romp to victory.

"The Cambodian people are traumatized by past experiences, so they don't show up on the street," she said.

Day in Pictures

A Cambodian Buddhist monk walks past the Sam Rainsy Party headquarters in Phnom Penh on June 16. There are still nearly six weeks until Cambodia's general election, but almost everyone says they already know the result.(AFP/Tang Chhin Sothy)

A Cambodian man pushes his cart past the Cambodian People's Party headquarters in Phnom Penh on June 16.(AFP/Tang Chhin Sothy)

Robert James Elliott for The International Herald Tribune
Ly Monysar lost his family when he was 9. He is among hundreds of Cambodians who have applied to be recognized in court as a tribunal sits in judgment against former leaders of the Khmer Rouge.

Cambodians lighted incense last month on the outskirts of Phnom Penh during a ceremony honoring people who died under the Khmer Rouge. Chor Sokunthea/Reuters

Dragon's shadow lengthens over Cambodia



Economic activity between the two countries is being stepped up in the sectors of trade, industry, and tourism. China also offers military assistance, while the percentage of students studying Mandarin is increasing. But the Chinese influence is also bringing corruption and the exploitation of manual labour.

Phnom Penh (AsiaNews) - Chinese influence is growing in Cambodia: the Asian giant, thirsty for energy and raw materials, and interested in extending its influence in the region, is stepping forward as the country's leading investor and trade partner. This influence is not limited to trade and industry, but extends to the social and cultural level, since the Chinese language has become an essential point of reference in the business world, surpassing even the monopoly held until now by English.

Relations between the two countries date back to the end of the 1950's, and were reinforced two decades later during the bloody regime of the Maoist dictator Pol Pot, actively supported by China, in spite of the genocide of the Khmer people, which caused the death of more than one million Cambodians in less than five years. Sources for the Chinese News Agency say that China is one of Cambodia's main trade partners, thanks to the 3,016 Chinese businesses operating in the territory, which produced 1.58 billion dollars at the end of 2007. Last year, bilateral trade grew by 30% compared to 2006, for a total volume of investments of 730 million dollars. This support is not limited to economic exchange, but is also reflected in the country's defence system: China is providing military assistance to Cambodia, strengthening its marine fleet with nine patrol boats in 2007, and five warships in 2005.

But there is another side to the Chinese presence: human rights and anti-corruption activists denounce an exponential growth in illegal logging, land-grabbing, and worker exploitation, and a dizzying increase in corruption levels. According to Simon Taylor, director of the international group Global Witness, "the effect of lots of money coming in with few strings attached, going to a lot of people in the government, is generally exacerbating corruption".

In the meantime, the Cambodian government has approved the construction of two hydroelectric power plants, to be built by Chinese companies. Work will begin by the end of 2008. The project is opposed by environmentalists, who denounce "serious damage to the country's ecosystem, and risks to the lives of thousands of people". The dams will be constructed in the province of Koh Kong, in the southwest of the country. The project will bring an investment of 540 million dollars from the China National Heavy Machinery Corp., and 495.7 million dollars from the Michelle Corp. It is expected to produce 338 megawatts of electricity.

Investments from Chinese companies are also prompting students in the country to study Mandarin over English (which nevertheless remains the most widespread foreign language), because it is becoming indispensable for business: it represents a fundamental resource for finding a better position in the professional arena, in the sectors of industry and tourism. The most important Chinese school in Cambodia is the Duan Hoa Chinese School in Phnom Penh, subdivided into two different sectors with more than 7,000 enrolled students; the second, the Chhung Cheng Chinese School, is fairly popular among Chinese-Khmer families, and numbers about 2,000 students. The government, finally, expects to add Chinese to the obligatory curriculum of its universities.

One man helps Cambodia rebuild trust

Monychenda heng: He aids fellow CambodiansDavid Montero

Solutions: Buar Sramum (l.) and Son Rony (r.), a couple, sought help from a Buddhism for Development conflict-resolution team.David Montero

A former monk trains volunteers to resolve disputes that might otherwise turn violent.

By David Montero Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
from the June 16, 2008 edition

BATTAMBANG, Cambodia - A timeless problem nearly ruined the Buar Sramum's marriage: Her husband, a fish seller, doesn't make enough money, and the money he makes he often mismanages, making it even harder in this impoverished village to feed the couple's three children. When Mrs. Sramum berated her husband, things got heated, and they argued bitterly for weeks.

Disputes like this are rarely discussed publicly in Cambodia, but they are a common cause of domestic abuse. They are also one strand in a larger set of village conflicts contributing to human rights violations and violence in Cambodia's countryside, including land disputes, petty crimes, and conflicts over resources such as water and cattle.

Central to the problem is that there is often nowhere to go for help: Decades of war and poverty have left Cambodia's legal system in disarray. Courts are often too far away or too expensive for the rural poor.

But the Sramums – like thousands of others – didn't become another statistic, thanks to Monychenda Heng, a former Buddhist monk who is helping to restore two of the most precious resources Cambodia lost in the devastating years of the Khmer Rouge: trust and hope.

Since 2002, Mr. Heng's organization, Buddhism for Development, has pioneered the concept of dispute resolution committees in seven northwestern provinces. The committees – which include five to nine members culled from the community, including two seats mandated for women – listen to both sides of a dispute. Then they offer advice, usually free of charge, sometimes at a nominal fee of about 50 cents.

The results are radical – not necessarily for the advice given, but for the fact that poor people like Mrs. Sramum can seek mediation at all.

Today she and her husband are not fighting any more. "The committee gave advice to my husband that he should change his attitude, because he always gets angry when he comes from the field after work," she says, prompting a sheepish grin from her husband, and laughter from the people sitting around her.

In the couple's Norea commune, a village of 991 families in Battambang Province, about 1,000 community leaders have been trained in conflict resolution. Of 33 complaints referred last year to the local conflict resolution committee, 30 were resolved, with two others referred to a local court and one to provincial authorities.

Local authorities praise the committees for reducing violence and filling holes in Cambodia's legal system. "The number of domestic violence cases has decreased according to yearly statistics. People believe the system works," says Sok Sambath, Norea's chief.

The success rate is just one of the many small victories that Buddhism for Development, founded in 1995, believes can add up to a better future for Cambodia.

Mr. Heng knows from personal experience that hope is an incremental enterprise. When he was young, his aspirations of becoming a monk were seemingly derailed when the Khmer Rouge swept to power. Like thousands of others, Heng and his family fled to a refugee camp near the border of Thailand in the late 1970s. It was there that he met the Venerable Pin Sem, his spiritual master, and incubated his Buddhist approach to social development.

Under Pin Sem, he saw that the principles of Buddhism – physical development, emotional development, and compassion – could be a tool to inspire the economic and social development Cambodia needed to get back on its feet. And as he educated himself, he began teaching children about Cambodia's history, so that they wouldn't forget what their country was and what it could be again.

Ten years later, in the late 1990s, Heng not only returned home to his native Battambang Province, but won a scholarship to Harvard University – no small feat for a poor refugee with no formal education.

Heng says the practical necessities of life at Harvard compelled him to give up the monkhood, but that the Buddhist principles continue to underpin his group's work. With donations from the US and Denmark, Buddhism for Development has trained an army of facilitators, youths, and volunteers, including many monks and nuns, to undo the Khmer Rouge's painful social and economic legacies. They teach farmers to plant better seeds, dispense microloans, and care for patients.

Heng is careful to point out that his organization is not trying to spread Buddhism, and highlights that many of his beneficiaries are Muslim communities – as in Norea commune, where almost half the families are Muslim.

Perhaps Buddhism for Development's most important work is that of its small-scale dispute-resolution committees. "Trust among Cambodian citizens has broken apart.... Low education and illiteracy – especially at the grass-roots level, where the majority citizens are living – make people more vulnerable to conflicts," Preap Kol, a community development activist who has worked with Heng, writes in an e-mail. "In this context, a project to provide [a] mechanism [for] conflict resolution at the village level is important."

Out on Bail, Editor Vows Same Coverage

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

Khmer audio aired 16 June (1.08 MB) - Download (MP3) Khmer audio aired 16 June (1.08 MB) - Listen (MP3)

Opposition editor Dam Sith vowed on Monday to continue critical coverage of the government following his release on bail Sunday, with defamation and disinformation charges still pending.

Dam Sith, who is the defendant in a suit led by Foreign Minister Hor Namhong, was jailed for a week and became the center of debate over media freedom and pre-election intimidation.

The editor said Monday his stance was the same and his newspaper was publishing as it did before, criticizing the government on corruption issues and standing for the opposition party.

Dam Sith was released following an official request from Prime Minister Hun Sen delivered to Phnom Penh Municipal Court Judge Chhay Kong Saturday.

In an interview with VOA Khmer Monday, Dam Sith said he was thankful to Hun Sen, but he said, "My newspaper will never change. We will always publish criticism of the government."

The newspaper, Moneaksekar Khmer, was established Aug. 4, 1994, and has continuously supported the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, Dam Sith said. The black-and-white paper is a daily publication of four pages, one broadsheet folded in half.

The arrest of Dam Sith was part of a long line of intimidation and threats, said Sam Rainsy Party Secretary-General Eng Chhay Ieng.

Opposition journalists always receive threats, he said, and over the years at least one has been killed.

Nun Chan, editor-in-chief of the opposition paper Serei Pheap Thmei, or New Freedom, was shot dead in 1995.

Parties Prepare for Campaign Period

By Ratana Seng
Original report from Phnom Penh
16 June 2008

Khmer audio aired 16 June (1.13 MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 16 June (1.13 MB) - Listen (MP3)

With the official campaign period approaching and elections on the near horizon, some of the nation's 11 competing parties are beginning to organize.

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy said his party will lead a sweeping campaign in Phnom Penh, gathering more than 10,000 activists in a "people movement strategy" when the official campaign period begins, June 26.

Norodom Ranairddh Party spokesman Muth Chantha said his party was not depending on a big campaign, but he was preparing to gather 3,000 people for public displays of support, driving by car or marching by foot in Phnom Penh.

The party will also campaign in remote areas where they have registered candidates, but each rural campaign will be up to individual candidates, he said.

The Society of Justice Party will have an election campaign in Battambang province, the only place where the party is registered, said party president Ban Sophal, who was once the former deputy governor of the province.

Seng Sokheng, secretary-general of the Hang Dara Democratic Movement Party, said preparations were underway, with 100 cars and 1,000 motorbikes reserved to carry supporters around Phnom Penh and in main provinces like Battambang, Prey Veng and Siem Reap, which have a high number of parliamentary seats up for grabs.

About 200,000 activists will move house to house handing out political platform brochures, Seng Sokheng said. Such large numbers of supporters were possible because Hang Dara, president of the party, was once the leader of the popular pro-Sihanouk movement, and this is not the first time for him to join an election. He also participated in 2003 and 2007.

Chiem Yeap, a lawmaker for the Cambodian People's Party, said the party would keep its standard election campaign strategy, to hold political rallies on the first and last days of the campaign period, which lasts until July 25.

NEC Secretary-General Tep Nitha said each party will have 10 minutes, broadcast twice a day on TVK, throughout the campaign period, to explain political platforms.

Teachers Rally Over Alleged Beating

By Chiep Mony, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
16 June 2008

Khmer audio aired 16 June (795 KB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 16 June (795 KB) - Listen (MP3)

More than 100 teachers from five separate schools demonstrated in front of a Bantey Meanchey provincial administration office Monday, calling for the arrest of the perpetrators who beat a teacher last month.

Demonstrators say one student who had been chastised in class drove by his teacher, Muth Bunthoeun, 38, with an unidentified man on the back of a motorcycle, who allegedly hit the teacher in the head with a brick.

Provincial Police Chief Hun Heang said his officers were seeking two suspects in the assault, student Oeun Tikea and the unidentified assailant.

Muth Bunthoeun, who has no money to be treated in the hospital, is still recovering at home, but he participated in Monday's protest for five minutes before his injuries forced him to leave.

"Until now, the family of Oeun Tikea has not compensated me, so I have no money to continue treatment of my injuries," Muth Bunthoeun told VOA Khmer by phone.

The protest was a warning for other students not to commit such crimes, he said, adding that this was the first time he'd seen such violence.

Demonstrating teacher Ing Nara said she wanted the criminals arrested and compensation for Muth Bunthoeun paid so that he can return to work.

Kampot Authorities Destoy 83 Homes

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

Khmer audio aired 16 June (.97 MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 16 June (.97 MB) - Listen (MP3)

Military police and security forces of the Ministry of Environment's forestry department destroyed 83 thatch homes Monday in Chhouk district, Kampot province, in what villagers and human rights groups say violated their rights to live on the land.

The mixed security force of about 100 troops, equipped with rifles, axes and hammers, dismantled the homes starting from 8 am Monday, villagers and officials told VOA Khmer.

"We must dismantle all anarchic houses, because these houses, constructed of thatch, have no one living there, and to protect against the grabbing of state land," said Sim Vuthea, a local member of the Kampot province social land concession commission, a government group.

The commission had permitted 181 families to stay on the forest land, because they had built farms and cultivated fields, Sim Vuthea said. However, the 83 thatch homes belonged to no one and were a part of the assets of an additional 227 families the commission was not permitting to remain on state land.

Villagers told VOA Khmer they were living there, but fled when they heard the forces were coming.

"I am very disappointed with the government, and I felt hopeless when I saw my home destroyed, but I have no right to retaliate for what they did," said Chhim Chhin, a 58-year-old farmer.

"If the authorities had confiscated this land as state property, it would be very good," Adhoc rights investigator Try Chuan said. "But the authorities should have solved the villagers' demands, because a small number of villagers could accept the authorities' request, but the majority of them did not accept it."

Opposition newspaper editor freed from jail pending defamation trial

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Cheang Sokha
Monday, 16 June 2008

Opposition journalist Dam Sith has been freed from jail pending trial for defamation after Prime Minister Hun Sen urged the courts to release the newspaper editor amid international outrage over his arrest.

Sith, the editor-in-chief of Moneaksekar Khmer, was arrested on June 8 and charged with "defamation" and "disinformation" over an April 18 article that quoted opposition leader Sam Rainsy as linking Foreign Minister Hor Namhong to the Khmer Rouge.

His release on June 15 came a day after Hun Sen wrote to Phnom Penh Municipal Court president Chev Keng urging that Sith be released on bail.

Sith's lawyer, Kong Sam On, told the Post on June 16 that his client still faced jail if convicted.

“It is just a temporary release,” he said. “My client still faces prison if the court finds him guilty.”

The court had ignored earlier appeals to free Sith from the Ministry of Information, rights groups, journalists’ associations and the Sam Rainsy Party, which is fielding the newspaperman as a parliamentary candidate in next month’s national elections.

Investigating Judge Chhay Kong, who handled the case, maintained his court’s independence, saying court officials did not bow to political pressure in deciding to free Sith.

“The release of Dam Sith is the will of the judge,” he said. “We did not have any pressure on us to release Dam Sith, and the court had the right to reject the requests.”

Pen Samithy, president of the Club of Cambodian Journalists, welcomed Sith’s release on bail and urged the foreign minister to drop his complaints against him.

“I would like to appeal to Hor Namhong to withdraw the case against Dam Sith,” Samithy told the Post.

“Any case related to journalists should use the Press Law, not others,” he added, joining widespread criticism of an UNTAC statute being used against journalists, rather than Cambodia’s 1995 Press Law, which does not carry a jail sentence for the relevant offenses.

NSC endorses Preah Vihear map

The Nation
June 16, 2008

The National Security Council (NSC) Monday endorsed the new drawing map annexed into Cambodia's proposal to Preah Vihear list as the world heritage, Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama said.

"The map clearly indicated boundary of the Hindu temple and no part of the claimed territory is in Thai soil," the minister told reporters.

The cabinet would also approve the map, enabling Phnom Penh to submit its proposal to the Untied Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco)'s world heritage committee.

The Nation

Khmer Rouge victims get chance for revenge at trials

Sok Chear with her adopted baby in Phnom Penh. She would prefer torture for former Khmer Rouge leaders but will take part in civil cases against them at their trials. (Robert James Elliott for the International Herald Tribune)

The International Herald Tribune
By Seth Mydans
Published: June 16, 2008

PHNOM PENH: If Sok Chear had her way, she would slice the elderly man into ribbons and pour salt into his wounds. She would beat him up and torture him and give him electric shocks to make him talk.

For Ly Monysar, "Only killing them will make me feel calm. I want them to suffer the way I suffered. I say this from the heart."

Sok Chear, an office worker, and Ly Monysar, a security guard, are two of the millions of Cambodians who suffered for four years in the late 1970s under the brutal Communist Khmer Rouge, who caused the deaths of 1.7 million people.

Today, three decades later, five aging former Khmer Rouge leaders have been arrested and are awaiting trial. And Sok Chear and Ly Monysar have an innovative role to play in the tribunal, where the first case is expected to get under way this autumn.

They are two of hundreds of people who have applied to the court to be recognized officially as victims of the Khmer Rouge and to bring parallel civil cases against them.

They will have the chance, not to beat and torture them but to seek symbolic reparations - a monument, perhaps, or a museum or a trauma center.

It is a controversial experiment in this unusual hybrid tribunal, which is administered jointly by the United Nations and the Cambodian government, cobbling together elements of both local and international law.

"For the first time in history the internal rules of a tribunal will give victims of crimes the possibility to participate as parties," said Gabriela González Rivas, deputy head of the tribunal's victims unit.

Victims have been included in other comparable tribunals like the International Court of Justice, but their role has been more limited.

As civil parties, the victims here will have standing comparable to those of the accused, including the rights to participate in the investigation, to be represented by a lawyer, to call witnesses and to question the accused at trial, according to a court statement.

"Participation in these types of proceedings is a tool of empowerment," Rivas said. "People can tell their story, feel that what happened to them is a consideration, a recognizing that what happened to them shouldn't have happened."

The inclusion of victims is part of the evolution and refining of the mechanisms of international justice, said Diane Orentlicher, special counsel of the Open Society Justice Initiative, in an interview by telephone from New York.

"There has been a growing recognition, after 15 years of international and hybrid courts like this one, not to exclude victims from the justice that is being dispensed on their behalf," she said.

"This is one of the frontier issues in ongoing efforts to improve ways in which war crimes trials are carried out."

The Cambodia tribunal has been criticized for compromising international standards of justice with its awkward admixture of Cambodian law and its vulnerability to manipulation by the country's strongman, Prime Minister Hun Sen.

The participation of victims is drawing more criticism, partly from people concerned for the rights of the accused and the preservation of the presumption of innocence.

Victor Koppe, a defense attorney for one of the Khmer Rouge leaders, called the presumption of innocence "the most fundamental issue" in a case whose defendants have already found a place in history books as the perpetrators of the killings.

"The question is whether or not everything in this tribunal is institutionalized in such a way that only guilty verdicts can come," he said.

Other critics say the court is being distracted by social agendas from its core task of seeking justice for crimes against humanity.

"I would put this under the category of therapeutic legalism," said Peter Maguire, a specialist in international justice and author of "Facing Death in Cambodia."

"The task of an international criminal court is to convict the guilty and exonerate the innocent," he said. "To ask more of it than that is asking way too much of any criminal trial."

For many people, though, these related benefits are the main purpose of the trials in a country that has never fully come to grips with its tormented past.

The trials will offer a catharsis and a measure of healing, they say, and will set a base line for an end to impunity in this still raw and sometimes lawless country.

"This is an invention of the 1990s where people freighted the trials with all this baggage," said Maguire. "How do you measure closure, how do you measure truth, how do you measure reconciliation? These are not empirical categories."

These added elements can also encumber an already tortuously slow process, the critics say.

Almost two years of the tribunal's budgeted three-year mandate have passed since it was set up in August 2006, after nearly a decade of contentious negotiation between the United Nations and the Cambodian government.

Nearly a year has passed since the first of the five defendants was charged in the case. A new budget has been submitted, and most analysts are confident that more money will be found from international donors to extend the life of the tribunal. But as Maguire put it, this court needs to get hustling.

So far, Rivas said, her office is processing about 1,300 applications to participate from people who say they are victims. About half of them seek to be civil parties, while the other half offer evidence that could be submitted to prosecutors. Most names have been channeled through a documentation center or through human rights groups.

Ten people have been accepted so far as civil parties, she said.

As the number grows, it is likely that they will be combined into class actions representing religious or ethnic groups, victims of particular crimes or other parties.

Theary Seng, 37, a Cambodian-born American lawyer who lost her parents to the Khmer Rouge, is organizing two groups of orphans - including Sok Chear and Ly Monysar - to bring civil cases.

In February, Seng became the first - and so far the only - victim to address the court, standing face to face with a man she blames for the deaths of her parents.

Though her words were addressed to the court, she said, her eyes were locked directly with those of the defendant, Nuon Chea, 81, the most senior of the five imprisoned leaders - the man Sok Chear said she wanted to flay.

In a short statement, Theary Seng contrasted the legal protections that Nuon Chea is receiving with the arbitrary arrest and abuse she said she and her younger brother suffered as children under the Khmer Rouge.

Nuon Chea, the Khmer Rouge ideologue, was sometimes known as Brother No. 2 to Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge leader, who died in 1998.

"He was stoic, stoic," said Theary Seng, recalling the confrontation. "He's completely stoic. Eighty percent of the time I was addressing him in my statement. He didn't break the stare."

Nearly one-fourth of the Cambodian population died between 1975 and 1979 from execution, torture, starvation and overwork in the mass labor brigades the Khmer Rouge created.

Today, though, most of the survivors are as stoic as their victimizers. When asked about the tribunal, most simply say they want to know who caused their suffering and why.

But the approach of the court sessions has aroused the feelings of many people, and those who have applied to be counted as victims are among those with the strongest emotions.

Sok Chear, 32, who said she was raped and brutalized as a girl by the Khmer Rouge, remains inconsolable over the loss of her father, an engineer, who disappeared into the hands of the black-clothed cadre and never returned.

"We were always waiting for him to come home, but he never came," she said. "We were always waiting and waiting. Even now, I still look around. Maybe my father is still alive."

Tears still come when she talks about him.

"He gave me rice to eat, and I want to repay him," she said, "even one plate of rice, my gift to him, even one plate for him to eat from his daughter."

Ly Monysar, 41, is a broken man, poor and sick and bitter, his voice quavering as he tells of the loss of his entire family when he was a boy of 9.

He sustains himself with fantasies of revenge every bit as chilling as the calculated brutality of men like Nuon Chea.

"I want to kill all those people who did this to me," he said.

"And if I can't, I'll come back in the next life and find them. I'll create my own genocidal regime and take my revenge on them all."

Cambodian sex workers gather at Buddhist temple to protest against crackdown

Cambodian sex workers hold lotus flowers together with incense sticks and pray in front of a Buddhist temple in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Monday, June 16, 2008. Cambodian sex workers gathered at the Buddhist temple Monday in the latest protest against a police crackdown on prostitution.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Cambodian sex workers hold lotus flowers together with incense sticks and pray in front of a Buddhist temple in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Monday, June 16, 2008. Cambodian sex workers gathered at the Buddhist temple Monday in the latest protest against a police crackdown on prostitution.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Cambodian sex workers hold incense sticks and pray in front of the Royal Palace, Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Monday, June 16, 2008.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Cambodian sex workers stand for a prayer in front of the Royal Palace, Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Monday, June 16, 2008.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)
The Associated Press
Published: June 16, 2008

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia: Cambodian sex workers gathered at a Buddhist temple Monday in the latest protest against a police crackdown on prostitution.

Dressed in white, about two dozen sex workers kneeled inside a Phnom Penh pagoda and prayed for the government to halt a crackdown that started in March after a new anti-trafficking law was introduced.

"Please Lord Buddha help make our leaders listen when we say that the new law does not protect us," said Su Sotheavy, 68. "Our families depend on our profession."

Police began rounding up male and female sex workers from brothels, bars and parks in March. The law does not specifically target sex workers but activists say it prompted authorities to take a tougher stand against prostitution.

Earlier this month, some 200 Cambodian sex workers protested against the crackdown and alleged that some of them had been physically and sexually abused in custody.

Cambodian law does not explicitly define prostitution as illegal, but commercial sex is frowned upon by authorities who routinely launch sweeps to clean up the streets.

Some sex workers at the protest said they were married with children and their families relied on their job.

Cambodian grandmother, 70, seeks record sexual harassment payout

The Earth Times
Mon, 16 Jun 2008
Author : DPA

Phnom Penh - A Cambodian grandmother is seeking a record sexual harassment payout after accusing her 55-year-old, one-legged neighbour of attacking her, groping her breasts and stealing a kiss, police said Monday. Bavel district deputy police chief, Kom Reiy, of the northwestern province of Battambang said Pin Mean had demanded a settlement of 1,800 dollars.

She is demanding that her "fumbling" and love-struck neighbour, named as Moung, pay restitution for allegedly attacking her from behind and forced himself on her.

"He denies the attack so at this stage we are still investigating - it is an unusual case," Reiy said.
"We have no idea why he may have decided to fall in love, but she does not love him back."

If Mean does win the record settlement in court for Friday's alleged attack, it would be a landmark decision in a country where sexual harassment usually goes unpunished and the majority of people live on less than a dollar a day.