Saturday, 27 September 2008

Cambodian PM renews beauty pageant ban

PHNOM PENH (AFP) — Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Friday renewed his ban on beauty pageants in the Southeast Asian country, calling a previous beauty contest "bad luck."

Hun Sen said the Miss Cambodia pageant in 1993 was "bad luck," pointing to the fact the capital's historic Tonle Bassac theatre burned down the year after it hosted the contest.

"Don't spend (money) on a Miss Beauty contest. Don't hold it," he told officials during the first meeting of his government's new cabinet.

Hun Sen urged people instead to "please go ahead with boat racing."

The premier cancelled plans for a Miss Cambodia pageant in 2006, calling it a waste of funds that were better spent on farming. He also said he would not allow such a contest until poverty in Cambodia was reduced by more than half.

More than 30 percent of Cambodians live in grinding poverty in the tiny country of 13.4 million people.

There has not been a Miss Cambodia contest since the 1990s.

The Fourth Term Government Has 250 Members without Calculating the Number of Under-Secretaries of State

Posted on 27 September 2008
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 578

“The organizing structures of the National Assembly and of the fourth term Royal Government were voted upon with a vote of confidence.

“In the morning of 25 September 2008, the National Assembly opened its first session under the presidency of Mr. Chea Soth, the eldest member.

“During the session, the fourth term National Assembly elected the president, the vice-presidents, and the chairpersons of the nine commissions of the National Assembly, but during the vote of confidence to create the fourth term Royal Government, the members of the Sam Rainsy Party and of the Human Rights Party were not present in the National Assembly. However, the session did not lack a quorum. Samdech Ponhea Chakrey Heng Samrin was elected President of the National Assembly, Mr. Nguon Nhel First Vice President of the National Assembly, Mr. Say Chhum Second Vice President of the National Assembly, and nine other members from the Cambodian People’s Party were elected to chair the nine commissions of the National Assembly. In addition, the National Assembly conducted a (package) vote [one vote for the whole list of names, not on the individual names ] of confidence in the 249 members of the fourth term Royal Government as shown in the list below:

Composition of the Royal Government

Prime Minister
Samdech Akkak Moha Senapadei Dekchor Hun Sen

Deputy Prime Ministers

1.H.E. Sar Kheng
2.H.E. Sok An
3.H.E. Tea Banh
4.H.E. Hor Namhong
5.H.E. Men Sam An
6.H.E. Bin Chhin
7.H.E. Nhek Bunchhay
8.H.E. Keat Chhon9.H.E. Yim Chhai Ly

Senior Ministers

1.H.E. Im Chhun Lim
2.H.E. Chhay Than
3.H.E. Cham Prasidh
4.H.E. Mok Mareth
In Charge of Special Commissions

5.H.E. Nhim Vanda
6.H.E. Tao Seng Huor
7.H.E. Khun Haing
8.H.E. Ly Thuch
9.H.E. Kol Pheng
10.H.E. Sun Chantol
11.H.E. Veng Sereyvuth
12.H.E. Nuth Sokhom
13.H.E. Om Yentieng
14.H.E. Ieng Moly
15.H.E. Var Kimhong
16.H.E. Yim Nol La

1. The Council of Ministers

1.H.E. Sok AnSecretaries of State
2.H.E. Prak Sokhom
3.H.E. Bun Uy
4.H.E. Seng Lim Neou
5.H.E. Majas Las
6.H.E. Chan Tani
7.H.E. Nhor Srun
8.H.E. Svay Sitha
9.H.E. Sok Pheng
10.H.E. Keo Saphal
11.H.E. Khim Bo
12.H.E. Chek Leng
13.H.E. Sim Vanna
14.H.E. Tep Nonnry
15.H.E. Chrea Chenda
16.H.E. Phay Siphan
17.H.E. In Vireakcheat

2. The Ministry of Interior

1.H.E. Sar Kheng
Secretaries of State

2.H.E. Em Sam An
3.H.E. Prum Sokha
4.H.E. Nouth Sa An
5.H.E. Sin Pinsen
6.H.E. Sak Setha
7.H.E. Ngy Chanphal
8.H.E. Khan Savoeun
9.H.E. Chou Bun Eng [F]
10.H.E. Pol Lim

3. The Ministry of National Defense

1.H.E. Tea Banh

Secretaries of State

2.H.E. Chay Saing Yun
3.H.E. Moeung Samphan
4.H.E. Neang Phat
5.H.E. Phan Nguon
6.H.E. El Vansarath
7.H.E. Hun Phoeung

4. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation

1.H.E. Hor Namhong

Secretaries of State

2.H.E. Long Visalo
3.H.E. Ouch Borith
4.H.E. Kao Kim Huon
5.H.E. Ung San
6.H.E. Sun Saphoeun [F]
7.H.E. Hak Savuth

5. The Ministry of Economy and Finance

1.H.E. Keat Chhon

Secretaries of State

2.H.E. Ouk Rabun
3.H.E. Aun Pom Moniroth
4.H.E. Kong Vibol
5.H.E. Bun Sam
6.H.E. Chea Peng Chheang
7.H.E. Ou Bunlong
8.H.E. Ung Tea Seam
9.H.E. So Victor.

6. The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries

1.H.E. Chan Sarun

Secretaries of State

2.H.E. Chan Tong Ives
3.H.E. Por Try
4.H.E. Lim Sokun
5.H.E. Teng Lao
6.H.E. Uk Sokhann
7.H.E. Kieng Vang
8.H.E. Om Kimsear

7. The Ministry of Rural Development

1.H.E. Chea Sopahara

Secretaries of State
2.H.E. Suos Kong
3.H.E. In Chantha
4.H.E. Ly Pros
5.H.E. Lon Phan
6.H.E. Sao Chivoan
7.H.E. Try Meng
8.H.E. Sim Sun

8. The Ministry of Commerce

1.H.E. Cham Prasidh

Secretaries of State

2.H.E. Kem Sithan
3.H.E. PBnn Sosak
4.H.E. Ok Boung
5.H.E. Chan Nara
6.H.E. Keo Soknay
7.H.E. Mao Thora
8.H.E. Var Cheang

9. The Ministry of Industry, Mines, and Energy

1.H.E. Suy Sem

Secretaries of State

2.H.E. Ith Praing
3.H.E. Klaut Vandy
4.H.E. Nhek Chroeng
5.H.E. Chea Siang Hong
6.H.E. Sat Samy
7.H.E. Taing Kin Vin
8.H.E. Phork Soanarith

10. The Ministry of Planning

1.H.E. Chhay Than

Secretaries of State

2.H.E. Ou Orhat
3.H.E. Hul Lim
4.H.E. Ouk Chay
5.H.E. Hou Taing Eng
6.H.E. Nger Chhayleang
7.H.E. In Satoeung
8.H.E. So Nath

11. The Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sport

1.H.E. Im Sethy

Secretaries of State

2.H.E. Pith Chamnan
3.H.E. Bun Sok
4.H.E. Mak Vann
5.H.E. Nath Bunroeun
6.H.E. Chey Chap
7.H.E. Ouk Moun
8.H.E. Phoeung Sakona [F]

12. The Ministry of Social Affairs, Veteran and Youth Rehabilitation

1.H.E. Ith Sam Heng

Secretaries of State

2.H.E. Nim Thoth
3.H.E. Yi Yaun
4.H.E. Say Siphann
5.H.E. Sam Chanrem
6.H.E. Sem Sokha
7.H.E. Mut Khiev
8.H.E. Hav Bunse
9.H.E. Tor Soeuth

13. The Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction

1.H.E. Im Chhun Lim

Secretaries of State

2.H.E. Chhan Saphan
3.H.E. Nuth Narang
4.H.E. Prak Ham
5.H.E. Phoeung Sophoan
6.H.E. Roth Sarin
7.H.E. Kim Kayleang
8.H.E. Kim Kosal

14. The Ministry of Environment

1.H.E. Mok Mareth

Secretaries of State

2.H.E. Prach Sun
3.H.E. Khieu Muth
4.H.E. Khong Sam Nuon
5.H.E. Yin Kim Sean
6.H.E. Thuk Kroeun Vutha
7.H.E. Heam Kolbot
8.H.E. Sim Soleng

15. The Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology
1.H.E. Lim Kean Hor
Secretaries of State
2.H.E. Sam Sarith
3.H.E. Veng Sakhon
4.H.E. Phang Sareth
5.H.E. Sao Sereymony
6.H.E. Sing Kiri
7.H.E. Tan Vanthara
8.H.E. Bun Hean

16. The Ministry of Information
1.H.E. Khieu Kanharith
Secretaries of State
2.H.E. Uk Prathna
3.H.E. Mao Ayuth
4.H.E. Thach Phen
5.H.E. Nouv Sovathero
6.H.E. Chan Savuth
7.H.E. Hor Sopheap
8.H.E. Lev Sinara

17. The Ministry of Justice
1.H.E. Ang Vong Vathana
Secretaries of State
2.H.E. Hy Sophea
3.H.E. Long Phol
4.H.E. Chan Sotheavy [F]
5.H.E. Sam Sophal
6.H.E. Ngor Sovann
7.H.E. Prum Setra
8.H.E. Meach Sam On

18. The Ministry of National Assembly-Senate Relatioins and Inspection
1.H.E. Sam Kim Suor [F]
Secretaries of State
2.H.E. Chheng Saroeun
3.H.E. Hong Them
4.H.E. Kang Nem
5.H.E. Phou Sothea
6.H.E. Tuot Lux
7.H.E. Thach Khom
8.H.E. Duch Sovanary
9.H.E. Sopheak Thavy [F]

19. The Ministry of Post and Telecommunication
1.H.E. So Khun
Secretaries of State
2.H.E. Chin Bun Sean
3.H.E. La Narath
4.H.E. Sarak Khan
5.H.E. Ros Samay
6.H.E. Khay Khun Heng
7.H.E. Ek Vandy
8.H.E. Kouch Ky

20. The Ministry of Health
1.H.E. Mam Bunheng
Secretaries of State
2.H.E. Heng Taykry
3.H.E. Ung Phyrun
4.H.E. Eng Huot
5.H.E. Sok Pheng
6.H.E. Ouk Monna
7.H.E. Te Kuyseang
8.H.E. Chou Yinsim

21. The Ministry of Public Works and Transportation
1.H.E. Tram Iv Tek
Secretaries of State
2.H.E. Ing Bun Hoa
3.H.E. Mom Sibon
4.H.E. Suong Heng
5.H.E. Touch Chankosal
6.H.E. Kep Than
7.H.E. Lim Sidenine
8.H.E. Nou Souvath

22. The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts
1.H.E. Him Chhem
Secretaries of State
2.H.E. Khim Sarith
3.H.E. Chuch Phoeum
4.H.E. Khouy Mengheang
5.H.E. Ming Kosny [F
]6.H.E. Ouk Socheat
7.H.E. Som Sokun
8.H.E. Thai Naraksatya
9.H.E. Meng Huor

23. The Ministry of Tourism
1.H.E. Thong Khon
Secretaries of State
2.H.E. Sam Prumanear
3.H.E. Ros Ren
4.H.E. Sieng Kim Han
5.H.E. So Mara
6.H.E. Chum Iek
7.H.E. Kimouchansamith
8.H.E. Ly Bunthoeun
9.H.E. Kor Sumsaroeut

24. The Ministry of Religions and Cults
1.H.E. Min Khin
Secretaries of State
2.H.E. Phlok Phan
3.H.E. Chhom Iem
4.H.E. Men Han
5.H.E. Dok Narin
6.H.E. Sos Mossin
7.H.E. Norak Ratanakvathanor
8.H.E. Phon Palla [F]

25. The Ministry of Women’s Affairs
1.H.E. Ing Kantha Phavi [F]
Secretaries of State
2.H.E. Kheng Samvada [F]3
.H.E. Khim Chamroen [F]
4.H.E. Chan Sorey [F]
5.H.E. Im Sithe [F]
6.H.E. Sy Define [F]
7.H.E. San Arun [F]
8.H.E. Sivann Botum [F]

26. The Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training
1.H.E. Vong Sauth
Secretaries of State
2.H.E. Pich Sophoan
3.H.E. Othsman Hassan
4.H.E. Kin Mon
5.H.E. Prak Chantha
6.H.E. Oum Mean
7.H.E. Huy Han Song
8.H.E. Mon Vannak

27. Minster Delegated to the Prime Minister
1.H.E. Ouk Rabun
2.H.E. Ho Sithy
3.H.E. Prak Sokhon
4.H.E. Aun Pom Moniroth
5.H.E. Sok Chenda
6.H.E. Mam Sarin
7.H.E. Sri Thamrung
8.H.E. Ngor Sovann

Secretariats under the Council of Ministers
1.Secretariat of Public Functions
H.E. Pich Bunthin [Secretary of State]

2.Secretariat of Civil Aviation
H.E. Mao Havannal [Secretary of State]

Chakraval, Vol,16, #2814, 26.9.2008
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Friday, 26 September 2008

Cambodia: Anti-forced eviction activists silenced by the wealthy
26 September 2008

Cambodia: Anti-forced eviction activists silenced by the wealthy

Rich and powerful individuals and groups involved in land disputes in Cambodia are increasingly using their power to silence opponents through the criminal justice system, said Amnesty International today, as it called for greater protection for human rights defenders.

In its report - A risky business - defending the right to housing - Amnesty International provides examples of abuses of human rights defenders working for the promotion of land rights and against forced evictions in Cambodia in the last two years.

Informal village leader Chhea Ny, released in December 2007 after 16 months in prison, told Amnesty International:

"I was chained and held in a dark prison cell for one week. I was so miserable. And I was not allowed to wash. After one week they removed the chain from my legs. When they took off the chain they let me stay outside in daylight, and they offered an apology; they said they had made a mistake and [punished] the wrong man.'

He had been arrested in August 2006 over a long-standing land dispute with local officials, business people and high-ranking military in Boeung Pram village, in Battambang province.
Amnesty International's Cambodia Researcher Brittis Edman said:

"Chhea Ny's case is a blatant example of what happens when the legal system fails to protect human rights and to serve justice."

According to local human rights groups, over the past two years the number of land activists arrested has almost doubled from 78 in 2006 to 149 in 2007.

This rise corresponds with an increase in the number of reports alleging that police have unfairly arrested land activists; prosecutors have pressed groundless criminal charges against them; and law enforcement and court officials have threatened people protesting against forced evictions with arrest or imprisonment.

Brittis Edman continued:

"The rapid increase in the number of peaceful land activists in prison is a serious concern in its own right. But every imprisoned human rights defender becomes a tool for intimidation of other activists, demonstrating that detention, trials and imprisonment are a real threat.

"The Cambodian authorities must ensure that the legal system fairly protects all parties involved in land disputes and protecting human rights, and must investigate allegations of intimidation and unlawful arrests of human rights defenders."

Earlier this year (Feb 08) Amnesty International revealed that Cambodian authorities are failing to protect the population - in law and practice - against forced evictions.

By contrast, those with political or economic power are allowed to act with impunity in arbitrarily expropriating land. They do so by colluding with local authorities in ways that lead to the issuing of dubious land titles and eviction orders, and the misuse of the court system to prevent victims from acting to defend their rights.

Background 1. In 2008, some 150,000 Cambodians were known to live at risk of being forcibly evicted in the wake of land disputes, land grabbing, and agro-industrial and urban redevelopment projects.

2. Tens of thousands have already been forcibly evicted in recent years, many left homeless, others relocated to inadequate resettlement sites with poor infrastructure, lacking basic amenities including sanitation, and with limited access to work opportunities.

3. Attacks against such activists violate international human rights law provisions guaranteeing the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly and the right to participate in public life. They run counter to the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, which reflects and details these rights. In many cases, other rights of human rights defenders have been violated, including the right to equality before the courts and freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention.

Hun Sen’s 5-Year Plan Met With Skepticism

Prime Minister Hun Sen

By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
26 September 2008
Prime Minister Hun Sen on Friday announced the official plan for the next five years, building on four main pillars of development and political stability, but skeptics said they doubted the government’s commitment.

Topping the priorities for the government, Hun Sen said during the new government’s first cabinet meeting, will be the promotion of the rule of law and protection of human rights and democracy.

The government will also seek to maintain 7 percent annual economic growth, reduce poverty by 1 percent per year, and increase the effectiveness and credibility of public services.

Hun Sen’s administration was voted into office by newly-elected National Assembly lawmakers on Thursday.

“We must promote socio-economic and other responsibilities for all state works,” Hun Sen told nearly 248 members of the new cabinet, who gathered at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Friday morning.

Hun Sen also reminded the gathered officials not to maltreat the people.

“We must think of the poor more and more,” he said. “We must promote public services for the people.”

Critics of the plan, which Hun Sen distributed as a booklet, said Friday there were few signs the new government would be different from former administrations.

Human Rights Party President Kem Sokha said he was not optimistic the four priorities of the government would work, because there were no signs of reform.

“What Hun Sen has said in his political platform is only on paper,” he said. “The CPP is good at promising, but the implementation is not reached. So whatever the government promises, if the government cannot reach it, all the ministers and the prime minister should step down.”

Opposition Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Yim Sovan said that if the government failed to reform the judiciary and pass a much-awaited anti-corruption law, “the government platform will fail.”

“I have little belief in the government to reach its political platform,” he said.

Thun Saray, president of the rights group Adhoc, said he believed stability and economic growth were attainable, but he was concerned poverty reduction and improved quality of public service would not be reached.

In Fisheries Office Fraud, Impunity Worries

By Chiep Mony, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
26 September 2008

The office of the fisheries department of the Ministry of Agriculture sits on nearly one hectare of land on Norodom Boulevard in Phnom Penh’s Chamkar Mon district. The large office building has been a workplace for fisheries officials since 1979.

The building and the land underneath it—worth millions of dollars in today’s real estate market—became the focus of an expansive investigation by police and military police this week, after they arrested 18 people allegedly involved in a scheme to sell the land through forged government documents.

Now the people who work in and around the office say they fear the alleged perpetrators, some of whom are a part of the government, will be released.

Inside the fisheries office compound on Thursday evening, Pom Sok Hot, a 27-year-old staff administrator, was incensed at the attempted sale.

“If someone is found not guilty, he should be released. But any person found to be involved in forging government documents should not be released,” she said. “If the person found guilty is released, that is injustice.”

Nearby, a roadside motorcycle repairman, Soeung Rithy, 39, said he worried that powerful and wealthy people would be released.

“Frankly speaking, I’m afraid there could be corruption,” he said.

RCAF Lt. Col. Saphon Dara was charged at Phnom Penh Municipal Court Wednesday with document forgery. His mother, Neang Sovanny, was charged in absentia for the same crime.

Seventeen others, including Lt. Col. Men Vichet, deputy commander of RCAF infantry, and three other military officers, were charged with the use of forged documents.

A military policeman told VOA Khmer on condition of anonymity that Saphon Dara was found with a forged letter purporting to come from the Council of Ministers and offering a sale of the fisheries office.

Copies of the letter were distributed to Phnom Penh land brokers seeking buyers for the office, and one copy found its way to Men Vichet, the policeman alleged.

Offers to buy the land would have been tempting. Land situated on main boulevards, such as Norodom, command a high price in Phnom Penh’s booming real estate market.

Soeng Bunna, who owns Bunna Realty Group, said Friday land on the main boulevards, attractive for large business developments or even embassy construction, fetches up to $4,000 per square meter.

That means the fisheries department land, which is nearly 9,000 square meters, could have been worth up to $36 million.

By last week, reports of the fraudulent letter had reached Prime Minister Hun Sen, who ordered authorities to find the forgers and arrest them.

On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, police and military police called in 22 people for questioning, sending 18 to the courts, along with Saphon Dara, who was arrested Monday.

Police are still searching for Neang Sovanny.

Condoms Advised To Prevent Deadly HIV

Dr. Tia Phally, adviser to UNAIDS

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
26 September 2008

A leading health expert on Thursday warned men to use a condom to prevent HIV infection, seeking to clear up confusion among some men who still believe they are safe from the deadly virus.

“Even couples who both have HIV have to use condoms, because if not, a million sperm from the male contains more of the virus, which will cause more rapid health damage,” saidDr. Tea Phally, a UNAIDS health adviser, as a guest on “Hello VOA.”

Cambodia has an estimated 170,000 HIV positive people, and spread of the disease and AIDS is a growing concern.

Although it can be difficult for a sex worker to refuse a powerful man’s demands to have sex without a condom, women must find a way to say “no,” Tea Phally said.

The main causes of HIV transmission are through sexual intercourse, the sharing of dirty needles and breast feeding, Tea Phally said. Men who have sex without a condom are at risk of the virus even if they withdraw to ejaculate, he added.

Treatment can now extend the lifespan of someone with HIV up to 20 years, but such drugs must be used under proper medical supervision or they can lead to more problems, Tea Phally said.

Rights defenders under fire

The Phnom Penh Post

Friday, 26 September 2008

RIGHTS defenders continue to come under fire in Cambodia, the prominent human rights group Licadho said Thursday in a report detailing dozens of attacks against social activists and labour leaders.

"Cambodia is a dangerous place for human rights defenders," the group said. "Throughout 2007, the patterns of threats and attacks ... observed in previous years have continued and intensified."

The group said that, in particular, lawyers acting on behalf of victims of rights abuses had been undermined, with many "justifiably afraid to conduct their legitimate activities".

Licadho also highlighted what it called last year's two worst cases of intimidation or violence: the killing of union leader Hy Vuthy and the alleged kidnapping and deportation of Kampuchea Krom monk Tim Sakhorn. "The cases ... are typical of the impunity which is granted to those who attack human rights defenders," said Licadho director Naly Pilorge.

When asked about Hy Vuthy's murder, Phnom Penh's Municipal Police Chief Touch Naruth told the Post Thursday, "We know the identity of the suspects, and our police are always on the alert." But Licadho claims that police never seriously pursued the case. "We have been told that the court has not issued any arrest warrants," said Naly Pilorge.

Gifts for ghosts

Tracey Shelton

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Tracey Shelton
Friday, 26 September 2008

Believers pay homage to their deceased relatives, offering food, water and prayers for their quick release from purgatory and re-entry into the circle of rebirth at Phnom Penh's Wat Botum at 4am Thursday. Celebrations for P'Chum Ben - or the festival of the dead - began September 15 and will culminate early next week with many Cambodians travelling back to their home provinces to celebrate with family members.

Mandate changes UN rights envoy

VANDY RATTANA; UN human rights representative Christophe Peschoux in his office in Phnom Penh on Thursday. Following the somewhat acrimonious departure of former UN special representative Yash Ghai, the future of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Cambodia was momentarily questioned by the government, which now says it will welcome a new UN rapporteur.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Georgia Wilkins and Cheng Sokha
Friday, 26 September 2008

Changes in the way the UN envoy reports to the Human Rights Council signify a turning point for human rights in Cambodia as the government says it will welcome a new envoy

THE Human Rights Council in Geneva has decided to renew its special envoy to Cambodia, albeit under a different title, signalling a turning point for the controversial UN mandate and human rights work in the Kingdom.

The envoy post, which was held by Kenyan lawyer Yash Ghai until his resignation last week, will now report to the council rather than directly to the secretary general, and will go under the title of special rapporteur rather than special representative.

"The change makes very little difference [in practice]," Christophe Peschoux, representative of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, told the Post Thursday.

Peschoux said the changes do not reflect diminished representation, despite the fact that many members of the UN Human Rights Council do not support UN mandates.

"It does represent a downgrading in position ... it is simply a move by the UN to simplify profiles," Peschoux said.

Government looking foward

Despite having threatened to close the UN office after Ghai's resignation, government officials Thursday expressed pleasure at the renewal of the mandate in its changed form.

" The UN has a lot of good people, so i am confident they will assign someone who will not report negative issues [like yash ghai]. "

"We will welcome the UN assignment of special rapporteur for human rights in Cambodia," Om Yentieng, head of the government's human rights committee, told the Post.

The change in mandate comes after both the world body and the government came under fire for their allegedly lucklustre commitment to improving the Kingdom's human rights climate.

Ghai used his resignation speech to expose what he described as a lack of support from the highest levels of the UN for his work, and to lament a total lack of commitment on the part of the Cambodian government to improving human rights.

During his three-year stint as envoy to Cambodia, Ghai himself was repeatedly publicly attacked by Prime Minister Hun Sen and other officials for his unusually blunt critiques of the government's rights record.

Om Yentieng said the government was now looking forward to working with a new personality. "The UN has a lot of good people, so I am confident they will assign someone who will not report negative issues [like Yash Ghai].

" Local NGO groups have welcomed the renewal of the mandate, but expressed some concern for the way human rights are "managed" in Cambodia."

The UN mandate can be problematic when special rapporteurs collaborate with the government and take a softer approach to important human rights issues," said Thun Saray, president of Cambodian rights NGO Adhoc.

He said it was an important time to establish the difference between diplomacy and complacency. "It is a symbolic time for human rights in this country," he said. "The UN needs to set up key areas of reform if there is to be use for a special mandate."

Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, welcomed the renewal, but he said that while the UN office was important, it was risking becoming redundant.

"The UN office plays a different role to local NGOs. They have a mandate. They carry a lot of weight," he said.

"Having an office here is one thing, but having an office here that is effective and willing to sacrifice red-carpet service from the government is another."

But he said that this is a universal problem for the UN, which has a narrow scope to criticise government and must rely on good dialogue and cooperation to operate in all countries.

Comment from UNOHCHR

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Christophe Peschoux
Friday, 26 September 2008

The resolution, supported by the Cambodian government, was adopted Wednesday by the Council for Human Rights. It requests the Council continue to monitor the human rights situation in Cambodia via the appointment, for one year, of a Special Rapporteur, tasked to assess progress, outline areas of priority and foster dialogue and cooperation with the government, civil society and all actors involved in the reconstruction of a state of the rule of the law in Cambodia. We welcome very much this outcome and we look forward to continuing to work closely with the Special Rapporteur, the government and civil society in a spirit of partnership, mutual respect, and effective cooperation. By this I mean working together to look for solutions and address some of the real human rights issues: land grabbing and forced evictions by powerful interests - and when we say land grabbing, what we mean here is theft, a crime under the law; the devastating effects of food prices rising which undermines efforts to reduce poverty; the improvement of the administration of justice to restore public confidence in a court system largely perceived as corrupt, ineffective and abusive (and in particular, the difficult issue of impunity); the improvement of the dire conditions in which over 11,000 prisoners currently live; and cooperation between authorities and a solid, independent civil society in the search for practical, legal, peaceful and just solutions to these burning questions. There has been a lot of progress since 1993, and Cambodia today is far from where it was then. We hope that efforts will continue in order to consolidate positive advances and correct continued abuses....This is a call for an effective dialogue and cooperation.

Study: Mental health during pregnancy impacts child

Heng Chivoan; A participant reads a brochure at a workshop on the wide-ranging impacts of maternal mental health Thursday.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Mom Kunthear and Eleanor Ainge Roy
Friday, 26 September 2008

A new research paper finds a strong correlation between maternal mental health and the well-being of the child

ASTRONG correlation between mental health problems during pregnancy and low birth weight and stunted childhood development has been identified by a study aiming to raise the profile of maternal mental health in Cambodia.

The study, conducted by the Trans-cultural Psychosocial Organisation (TPO), Volunteer Service Overseas (VSO) and Cambodia Reproductive and Child Health Resource Centre (RACHA), focused on Pursat province and was largely based on interviews with 297 women.

Among the sample study, symptoms of depression and anxiety were detected in 17.8 percent of pregnant women while 9.8 percent reported symptoms of anxiety only.

The risk factors identified by the study included poverty, unplanned pregnancy, history of abortion, loss of a child, illness or death of a family member, marital conflict and a history of mental health problems.

Currently, maternal mental health is of low priority amongst stakeholders in Cambodia, possibly due to a lack of research and understanding into the potential impact of poor maternal mental health on the general health and well-being of both mother and child, officials said.

Chan Theary, executive director of RACHA, said prioritising mental health has long been neglected by both government and donor agencies in Cambodia. "Women's mental health remains low on the agenda of planners and policymakers not only in Cambodia but generally in the developing world. This is an emerging public health challenge," she said, adding that depression will be the second most common global disease by 2020.

Professor Ka Sunbaunat, psychiatrist and director of National Program for Mental Health, said mental health problems in pregnant mothers have profound effects on the health of the unborn child. "Mental health problems in mothers can cause children to have retardation, epilepsy or physical underdevelopment. Some of these problems are incurable," he said.

Anonymous anti-king leaflets to be probed, prime minister says

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Vong Sokheng and Cheang Sokha
Friday, 26 September 2008

Hun Sen says the offending political fliers that flooded the city prior to the opening of the National Assembly 'will not be tolerated'

PRIME Minister Hun Sen has ordered an investigation into anonymous leaflets insulting King Norodom Sihamoni and leaders of the ruling Cambodian People's Party, which were distributed in Phnom Penh prior to the opening of the new National Assembly on Wednesday morning.

The leaflets, a copy of which was obtained by the Post, insult the King, calling him "a puppet" of Hanoi and Beijing. They also label Hun Sen, Senate Chairman Chea Sim and National Assembly President Heng Samrin as "national traitors".

"I thought [these leaflets] were a serious insult to the King. This issue cannot be tolerated and the authorities are beginning investigations," Hun Sen said.

Touch Naruth, Phnom Penh Municipal police chief, said there were no suspects, but that the police have begun investigations.

Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Yim Sovann told the Post that the opposition party and its parliamentarians were not concerned about the leaflets, adding that the SRP always made its criticisms publicly through the media.

"I think someone is playing a trick and trying to put the fault on someone else," he said. "We didn't have any thing to do with the leaflets."

Ou Virak, director of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said the leaflet expressed a marginal view, and that political leaders should ignore it. "The Prime Minister is wrong to concentrate on the leaflets," Ou Virak said. "The government should perform its role by focusing on corruption, education and other issues."

19 charged in fisheries building sale scam

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chrann Chamroeun
Friday, 26 September 2008

PHNOM Penh Municipal Court has charged 19 people for using forged documents in an attempt to sell the government's Fisheries Administration offices on Norodom Boulevard, court officials said Thursday.

"Seventeen suspects were charged with using forged public documents. The additional two, who are believed to be the masterminds of the fraud plot [and include] RCAF Lieutenant-Colonel Saphan Dara ... were charged with forging documents," said deputy prosecutor Kry Sok Y.

Investigating Judge Chan Madyna is expected to rule soon on whether the suspects will be detained pending trial, but could not be reached for comment Thursday.

National Police Commissioner Mok Chito told the Post that "it might be too late for the court to release a warrant to detain [the suspects]," but he was confident the court would work on the case "in a careful way".

Sok Sam Oeun, director of the Cambodian Defenders Project, said the suspects could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

Yong Kim Eng, president of the People's Centre for Development & Peace, said that the attempted fraud was a sign of wider problems facing the country.

"Land speculation is a big concern.... Public property belongs to the people, not to individuals," he said.

CPP consolidates power in new government

HENG CHIVOAN; Prime Minister Hun Sen speaks to reporters at a news conference after the King opened the National Assembly on Wednesday.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Cheang Sokha
Friday, 26 September 2008

Ruling party takes over all but one key parliamentary position; rights advocate calls on opposition to drop boycott

ANEW government was sworn in Thursday despite the total absence of opposition parliamentarians, who vowed to boycott the ceremony to highlight their allegations of electoral fraud.

Twenty-six elected officials from the Sam Rainsy Party and three from the Human Rights Party - more than a fifth of the total 123 elected parliamentarians - were absent from the meeting of the National Assembly.

Prime Minister Hun Sen attributed their absence to infighting within the opposition bloc. "I think the internal problems of the SRP are growing," he told reporters, adding that the government would be formed with or without opposition officials.

SRP parliamentarian Yim Sovann said his party decided to join the inauguration ceremony Wednesday after the Cambodian People's Party, which controls 90 of the Assembly's seats, promised to improve the election law and give the SRP a "bargaining voice" in the assembly.

They withdrew Thursday, however, to protest the use of a single vote for all government positions, which Yim Sovann said the CPP used to "dictate" the process.

In one block vote, the National Assembly elected its prime minister and nine deputy prime ministers, along with chairpersons and deputy chairpersons for its nine committees. The CPP received all but one of the positions - Funcinpec stalwart Nhek Bun Chhay will remain as a deputy prime minister - in a dramatic consolidation of its authority.

The CPP dealt some secretary and undersecretary positions at ministries to its partner Funcinpec, which earned only two seats in the National Assembly.

" ...[the opposition parties are] not strong enough to pull off a boycott. "

Get over it
Ou Virak, director of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, encouraged opposition parliamentarians to put aside their grievances and delve into the duties of their posts.

He described the SRP's previous plans to boycott as political manoeuvering to gain power and insisted "they were not strong enough to pull off a boycott".

New cervical cancer test offers hope for Cambodian women

AFP; Nearly a quarter of the country’s women will develop cervical cancer.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Mom Kunthear and Georgia Wilkins
Friday, 26 September 2008

The cheap prodecure developed for use in poor countries would help early detection of the disease if implemented in the Kingdom, health officials say

A NEW test for cervical cancer developed for use in poor countries has been lauded by health officials, as nearly a quarter of the country's female population is afflicted by the disease.

Produced by the Dutch company QIAGEN, the test does not require electricity or running water and can be used by nonmedical staff.

Unlike other tests that require sophisticated laboratories and a long waiting time for results, this test can indicate results within two hours, minimising multiple costly doctors' visits.

According to researchers, the test has already produced highly accurate results in trials amongst women in rural China.

"It will be very good for Cambodian women if we can get new [cervical cancer] testing," said Chan Vanna, of the Department of Women's Disease and Birth Spacing at the Reproductive Health Association of Cambodia (RHAC).

"It would be so much better than the test we do today," Chan Vanna said.Most Cambodian woman receive no routine testing for cervical cancer, which is the most common form of cancer in the Kingdom, health officials say.

" If a cheap test was available in cambodia it would be wonderful. "

While many women live in areas where routine testing is not available, another primary reason for those in more urban areas is cost.

According to the SOS International Clinic, pap smear tests conducted in Cambodia are usually sent to Singapore to be analysed.

A price tag of around US$110, on top of doctor's fees, means the procedure is out of reach for many.

Veng Thai, Phnom Penh's municipal health director, said the test is a promising development against the disease.

"I would certainly welcome the cervical cancer test if it were made available in Cambodia," he said earlier this week.

"So many women who do not have the money to go to Thailand or Vietnam develop cervical cancer, and if a cheap test were available in Cambodia, it would be wonderful," he said.

High incident rate

According to Dr Eav Sokha, head of the Department of Oncology at the Cambodian-Russian Friendship Hospital, 24 percent of Cambodian women develop cervical cancer in their lifetime, making it the most common form of cancer in the country. The second most prevalent is breast cancer.

Worldwide, more than 270,000 women die from cervical cancer and 493,000 new cases are diagnosed each year, some 80 percent of them in developing countries, the World Health Organisation says.

Routine screening in developed countries has helped cut mortality from the disease in advanced economies by between 50 and 80 percent.

Chan Vanna said the incident rate in Cambodia was so high because of factors specific to the Kingdom, such as women marrying at a young age and the prevalence of congenital disease. A lack of sanitation also plays a large role.


Business leaders encouraged by formation of government

AFP; Garment workers in Phnom Penh sew clothing in this file photo.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Kay Kimsong and Hor Hab
Friday, 26 September 2008

Political stability in the Kingdom should bring increased foreign direct investment, but global financial turmoil leaves future prospects uncertain

ECONOMISTS and government officials say the smooth transition to Cambodia's fourth governing mandate will pave the way for sustained economic growth and stronger foreign direct investment.

Kang Chandararot, director of the Cambodian Institute for Development Study, said Wednesday's swearing-in of the Cambodian People's Party-dominated parliament as a sign the government will forge ahead with an aggressive economic development program.

"The swearing-in yesterday provided a strong sign that the country's business development plans will move forward," he said.

National elections in 2003 produced a year of political turmoil that delayed the formation of government and drove the economy down, shattering local and foreign investor confidence, he said.

Kang Chandararot said this year's transition has created a favourable climate for foreign direct investments.

"Social security and safety has been assured for current and new investors," Kang Chandararot said.

He added that he hoped the new government would push to reduce corruption amidst increased media and NGO scrutiny of the government.

"We are now under the same government, the same economy and the same political strategy," Kang Chandararot said.

"What lawmakers and government need to do is to pass an anti-corruption law, create a commercial court, keep the macro- and microeconomy stable and promote agro-industry and tourism," he added.

He also urged the government to focus on strengthening tax collection.

" The country's business development plans will move forward. "

Kang Chandararot said Cambodia has remained largely sheltered from the global financial crisis, but that the garment sector has seen some impact.

He added that the new government should offer tax incentives on imported agricultural raw materials and equipment.

For the booming real estate sector, he urged the government to pass a land tax to avoid land speculation.

Sok Sina, an independent economic analyst, also agreed that Cambodia's economy is healthier than in 2003 due to political stability, "The opposition party was responsible in joining the new government quickly," he said.

Chea Peng Chheang, secretary of state for Ministry of Economy and Finance, said the government will continue a long-term development strategy.

He also applauded the parties for quickly forming a new administration.

"I hope the government policy and strategy will go smoothly," he said.

"Cambodia growth will continue to increase, the country depends on tourism, agriculture and garments," Chea Peng Chheang said.

However, he worried that the global economic crisis has affected some Asia countries such as Japan and South Korea - both large investors in Cambodia.

CPP Senator and casino tycoon Phu Kok An also said the fourth government mandate will be the best for foreign and Cambodian investors.

"This situation will help assure investors more than before," Phu Kok An said.

"I think that the economy will be better day-to-day for investors from Korea, Japan and China to continue their large-scale development projects," he added.

Although political stability has boosted economic prospects, Cambodia's problem of rampant corruption appears to be worsening, according to international watchdog groups.

A report this week on perception in corruption by the Berlin-based Transparency International ranked Cambodia 166 out of 180 countries, a drop of five spots from the previous year.

The Asian Development Bank has also cut growth prospects in one of the region's most vibrant economies, predicting that GDP growth will slow to 6.5 percent this year and drop again to 6.0 percent in 2009 as world markets struggle to recover from the effects of the US credit crisis.


Korean developers critical of new construction rules

HENG CHIVOAN; Labourers at work on the site of CamKo City, a huge South Korean-backed development project on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chun Sophal
Friday, 26 September 2008

Builders say regulations could stifle Kingdom's construction boom but others see rules bringing order to chaotic sector

AN association of Cambodia's leading foreign developers has lashed out at recently approved regulations requiring builders to place large cash deposits with the government and obtain a raft of additional licences before breaking ground on new projects.

"Cambodia would be seen as a ‘high risk' country if the new regulations on housing development take effect," said Shin Woo Kim, a legal adviser to the Korean Real Estate Development Association (KREDA), whose members are involved in some of the Kingdom's most ambitious construction projects.

The Finance Ministry in July issued the new rules, which require all developers to obtain licenses from an Inter-Ministerial Task Force, purchase construction site insurance and deposit at least two percent of the total project cost in a ministry account at the central bank.

The Finance Ministry said the regulations will tighten up a largely unregulated construction sector, and set this coming Tuesday as the deadline for all developers to apply for new licences. But Shin urged the government to delay the law until next year.

"Developers normally have to sign many contracts with partners and related parties. The regulations would make these negotiations more difficult," he said at a seminar earlier this week at the Finance Ministry.


Govt to consider delay

Ngy Tayi, an undersecretary of state at the ministry, defended the rules, saying they would protect developers and customers. But he added that the government would consider the delay request. "We will evaluate the suggestion, but we can't delay as long as one year," he said.

Five hundred developers operate in Cambodia, but only 80 have obtained government permits, the ministry said, adding that only 20 companies have applied for the real estate valuation licenses.

Sung Bonna, president of the newly formed Cambodian National Valuation Association, agreed that rushing to enforce the regulations would stifle the construction boom.

"I think the best period for enforcement to begin is in the first quarter of 2009," he said.

Risk and confusion

Finance Minister Keat Chhon, however, told the seminar this week that the regulations would generate more tax revenue and service fees, and improve project management.

"The real estate market in Cambodia has become a confused and high-risk process. Both housing developers and their clients have become increasingly nervous," Keat Chhon said.

"We think the regulations will strengthen the development sector by boosting customer confidence and creating sustainable economic growth.

"They will also bring the housing development market into compliance with national and international standards," he added.

Licences cost between 1.5 million riels (US$375) and 12 million riels and remain valid for two to five years, depending on the size and scope of the project, according to the Finance Ministry.

One prominent local business leader who did not want to be named welcomed the new rules. "Some of the construction that is being done is a disaster waiting to happen," he said.


Motorists report gouging by Phnom Penh tax officials

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Hor Hab
Friday, 26 September 2008

Motorists say their annual fees have risen as much as 50 percent as collectors pad their pockets to defray office expense costs

OVERCHARGING for road fees by municipal tax collectors could be costing nearly US$300,000 this year, say motorists.

There were about 670,000 motorbike drivers nationwide in Cambodia last year, according to the Ministry of Public Works and Transport.

The government enforces two types of motorbike taxes. Drivers with motor sizes of 70cc or less pay 3,000 riels (US$0.75) per year, while those with motors greater than 70cc pay 4,500 riels.

But tax collection officials are charging motorists an additional 1,500 to 2,000 riels for official stickers to prove compliance with road taxes, say drivers.

"I paid 5,000 riels for my 50cc Honda Cub instead of the 3,000 the government normally charges," Phnom Penh resident Ing Virak, 29, told the Post this week.

Other motorists report similar experiences. Hean Ran, a 30-year-old moto taxi driver from Tuol Sangke, said tax collectors required him to pay an additional 1,500 riels this year.

"I don't know why they forced me to pay extra, but I paid it because I didn't want to waste any more time there or risk being stopped by police later for not having a tax sticker," he said.

One tax collector who declined to give his name said the additional charges were intended to cover administrative fees.

"I charge extra to cover the cost of paper and writing for processing the tax," the official said.

Motorists also complain that tax-collection procedures and documentation are unnecessarily complicated, while tax stickers have increasingly become a target for thieves.

Sek Borisoth, director of the anti-corruption group Pact, said motorists should be given proper documentation to prove they have paid taxes even if their stickers have been stolen.

Sim Eang, director of the Tax Department at the Ministry of Economy and Finance, said the department has already announced new tax procedures through local media that will make compliance much easier for motorists.


Campura inks deal with US developer

The Phnom Penh post

Friday, 26 September 2008

SOFTBRANDS, a global software leader for the manufacturing and hospitality industries, has partnered with Campura Systems Corp, a local company that provides management systems to hotels, banks, restaurants and telecom operators, Campura said.

The partnership would see SoftBrands Campura promote, sell and support SoftBrands' property-management software used by hotels around the world, including hotels in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, said Campura's chief executive, Volak Sao. He said the deal will allow Cambodian companies using Softbrands' Hotel Information Systems to work through Campura, instead of Thai partners.

Campura was founded in 2007, and its yearlong sales are around US$1 million. Campura Systems Corp expects to earn about US$500,000 from the SoftBrands software in the first 12 months and expects to see at least 100 percent growth every year, he said.

There's no substitute for doing it by hand

Tracey Shelton; Kong Buntheoun is one of the few traditional sign makers in Phnom Penh.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Anita Surewicz
Friday, 26 September 2008

Traditional hand-painted signs live on in the Kingdom as one artist works against time and technology to preserve the beauty of the old ways

THE tradition once thrived and can still be spotted occasionally in the countryside and in some areas of Phnom Penh, but the humble hand-painted shop sign may soon be a thing of the past as Cambodia becomes increasingly accustomed to Western advertising techniques.

Some may consider hand-painted signs, known in Khmer as chook tip ("perfect painting" or "realistic painting"), unsophisticated, but they certainly do get the message across.

They still hang in back streets, alleys and lanes advertising a variety of wares and services, from long-lashed brides and freshly shaven young men to motorbike repair shops, photocopy facilities and pool halls.

Others are used to broadcast warnings or educational messages, such as large billboards depicting officious-looking characters binning their cigarettes or villagers disposing of firearms.

The retro-charm of these quintessentially Cambodian hand-painted signs may soon disappear-a victim of the digital age's preference for detailed airbrush techniques and computer-generated graphics.

Kong Buntheoun, 51, is one of the few remaining artists struggling to keep the tradition alive. He learned his craft at the age of 16 by working with sign artists in Phnom Penh.

But his art took a back seat to survival when the Khmer Rouge evacuated Phnom Penh in 1975. He left the capital for Battambang province.

When Vietnam deposed the Khmer Rouge in 1979, Kong Buntheoun opened his own sign-painting shop in Battambang before relocating it to the capital in 1998.

"I wanted to make my business larger then the businesses in Battambang, and I wanted to compete with other businesses in a big city by being the best at hand-painting pictures," he said.

Some 80 percent of signs in Cambodia used to be hand-painted, but most are now painted with machines (airbrush techniques), Buntheoun said.


"There are many shops that use machines to paint pictures, but I am known in Phnom Penh for making hand-painted signs," he said. "Most shops can't do that and there are only three artists left in Cambodia who can hand-paint signs. People still come to me because I can paint pictures by hand," he said.

"Hand-painted signs are now more expensive than machine-painted signs, but some customers still want me to hand paint even if it takes more time because [they] are beautiful and natural," he said.
A hand-painted sign on the streets of Phnom Penh.

Buntheoun is versatile when it comes to his art and proud to be able to paint all types of pictures, both modern and traditional.

"Most painters today don't know how to paint traditional Cambodian pictures like angels and giants. They only know how to draw modern pictures they copy from somewhere else," he said.

Having painted more than 1,000 pictures in his 35-year career, Buntheoun has a personal favourite that he plans to keep forever.

"I love almost all my paintings because they look attractive, but there is one picture that I love the most. It is a picture of lady who has a soft manner that I drew when I was single."

"A lot of my customers are from overseas. They want me to draw their pictures as farmers or in costumes. My local customers are mostly businesspeople who ask me to draw their shop signs," he said.

"The biggest picture that I ever painted was a picture advertising a film that was put in front of a cinema. I spent about five days working on it," he said.

Buntheoun expressed regret that his children have never learned his art and will not take over the family business in the future.

"I really would like my children to continue my line of work but they are not interested," he said. "I am not sure whether Cambodia will have any hand-painted signs in the future, but I see that there are not many students learning the art," he said.

"I feel sad that hand-painted signs will disappear from Cambodia in the future," he said. "But most young people only think of money and not of quality work. They choose to use machines to make signs because it is easier and faster."

Cracking percussion festival

VANDY RATTANA; Members of the international percussion festival Cracking Bamboo read music before a jam session at Meta House

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Eleanor Ainge Roy
Friday, 26 September 2008

Cambodia's first international percussion festival Cracking Bamboo hits town Saturday

CAMBODIA'S first international percussion festival, Cracking Bamboo, will be held at Chenla Theatre in Phnom Penh on Saturday night.

Under the direction of international tutors from five different countries, drummers from around the globe will have the chance to perform with Khmer musicians.

Cracking Bamboo will also give performances in Indonesia, Vietnam and Laos.

The festival will offer "a platform for an encounter between top-class percussionists with ‘modern' instruments from Europe and their forefathers, the traditional instruments of Southeast Asia", a news release announcing the event stated.

Artistic Director Bernhard Wulff, a music professor at Freiburg University in Germany, will direct the multinational group.

Among the group's distinguished players are Khmer musician Yun Theara and Samdandamba Badamkhorol, a member of the renowned Urtin Du singers from Mongolia.

Other performers include Pierre Stephane Meuge (France), Soyoung Seok (Korea), Nagisa Shibata (Japan) and Max Riefer (Germany).

The festival is being presented by Meta House in cooperation with the Asia-Europe Foundation, the Goethe Institute and the Art Plus Foundation.

The event starts at 7pm and admission is free.

Oxnard man faces 210-year sentence for sexually abusing Cambodian girls

The seven girls who were drugged, beaten and raped at his Phnom Penh compound were brought to the U.S. to speak at his sentencing hearing. Former ambassador urges maximum penalty.

By Scott Glover
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

September 26, 2008

The young girl stood at the podium in a cavernous federal courtroom in downtown Los Angeles, 8,000 miles and a world away from her native Phnom Penh, Cambodia.A prosecutor offered her a wooden footstool to stand on so she could better see the judge, but the girl declined.

She eyed the defendant, who had done unspeakable things to her and six other girls. He was seated just a few feet away with a smirk on his face.

The girl, 14, rocked back and forth, seeming to summon the courage to speak, and then, in a voice so faint it could barely be heard, she did.

"I don't want any other children to be like us," she told U.S. District Judge Dale S. Fischer through a translator. "Please don't allow this to happen again."

The girl spoke during a sentencing hearing for Michael Joseph Pepe, 55, of Oxnard, who was convicted in May of having sex with seven Cambodian girls ages 9 to 12. He faces a maximum sentence of 210 years in federal prison.

Pepe, a retired U.S. Marine captain, was working as a civilian teacher in Cambodia when he hired a prostitute to procure the children from their families in 2005 and 2006, according to testimony in the three-week trial.

The victims, six of whom were flown to the United States to testify, said Pepe drugged, bound, beat and raped them in his compound in Phnom Penh, the Cambodian capital.

In addition to the victims' testimony, prosecutors showed jurors restraints, sedatives and homemade child pornography seized by Cambodian National Police during a raid of Pepe's residence in 2006.

Cambodian police began investigating Pepe after one of his victims came forward. U.S. authorities joined the investigation at the request of their Cambodian counterparts.

All of the victims were in court for Thursday's hearing, but it took some coaxing from Fischer to get them to speak.

"I don't want you to be afraid," the judge told the girls, one of whom clutched a fluffy pink teddy bear. "This is a safe place."

Then, one after another, they got up and said a few words. Some stole nervous glances at Pepe as they spoke.

"What he did to me, it's very painful," said one girl in a striped dress. Another, with long black hair and a sweet voice, told the judge: "I just want to say thank you that you helped me find justice.

"Each of the girls spoke through a translator.

Social workers who are helping to care for the girls in Cambodia told Fischer the youngsters probably would be traumatized for the rest of their lives, particularly in a culture in which victims of sexual abuse are stigmatized.

"The culture that they live in considers these children as refuse now," said Don Brewster, who runs a mission in Cambodia that helpssexuallyabused children. "They have a life sentence of overcoming what their culture thinks of them."

After Brewster spoke, Fischer again addressed the girls. "Nothing that happened to you is your fault," the judge said through a pair of translators who conveyed her message to the girls seated in the courtroom gallery. "You are all very brave and strong to come here and testify."

Pepe, who was dressed in white jail jumpsuit, did not speak during the hourlong hearing. He is expected to be sentenced Nov. 4, after Fischer has had an opportunity to weigh the victims' statements and other issues in the case, said Assistant U.S. Atty. Patricia A. Donahue, the lead prosecutor in the case.

Among the materials the judge probably will consider is a letter from the former U.S. ambassador to Cambodia, Joseph A. Mussomeli, asking that she impose the maximum sentence.

Mussomeli, who stepped down from the post last month, wrote that corruption, lack of respect for the rule of law, and the trafficking of women and children "have created a breeding ground where pedophiles can integrate into the expatriate community and prey on the weak and defenseless."

He added: "A well-publicized and strong sentence will send a clear and unequivocal signal that this illicit behavior will not be tolerated."

Study: Mental health during pregnancy impacts child in Cambodia

PHNOM PENH, Sept. 26 (Xinhua) -- A strong correlation between mental health problems during pregnancy and low birth weight and stunted childhood development has been identified by a study aiming to raise the profile of maternal mental health in Cambodia, national media reported Friday.

The study, conducted by the Trans-cultural Psychosocial Organization (TPO), Volunteer Service Overseas (VSO) and Cambodia Reproductive and Child Health Resource Centre (RACHA), focused on Pursat province and was largely based on interviews with 297 women, according to the Phnom Penh Post.

Among the sample study, symptoms of depression and anxiety were detected in 17.8 percent of pregnant women while 9.8 percent reported symptoms of anxiety only.

The risk factors identified by the study included poverty, unplanned pregnancy, history of abortion, loss of a child, illness or death of a family member, marital conflict and a history of mental health problems.

Currently, maternal mental health is of low priority amongst stakeholders in Cambodia, possibly due to a lack of research and understanding into the potential impact of poor maternal mental health on the general health and well-being of both mother and child, officials said.

Chan Theary, executive director of RACHA, said prioritizing mental health has long been neglected by both government and donor agencies in Cambodia.

"Women's mental health remains low on the agenda of planners and policymakers not only in Cambodia but generally in the developing world. This is an emerging public health challenge," she said, adding that depression will be the second most common global disease by 2020.

Professor Ka Sunbaunat, psychiatrist and director of National Program for Mental Health, said mental health problems in pregnant mothers have profound effects on the health of the unborn child.

"Mental health problems in mothers can cause children to have retardation, epilepsy or physical underdevelopment. Some of these problems are incurable," he said.

Editor: Yao

A battalion of Ministers ready for the re-assembly

Cambodge Soir


The new government, with about 200 members, will hold its first council under the supervision of Hun Sen who was once more re-elected Prime Minister.

Friday 26 September, some traffic jams are to be expected around the Bassac area. The first Council of Ministers of the new legislature will take place at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, pending the completion of the construction works of the new building donated by China.

No less than 196 Deputy Prime Ministers, Ministers of State, Ministers, Secretaries of State, without counting Deputy Secretaries of State who’ll be nominated at a later date by Hun Sen, will join, after the approval of the new government by the National Assembly on Thursday 25`September.

Hun Sen, Prime Minister, was re-elected for a fourth mandate of five years. This time he’ll be surrounded by nine Deputy Prime Ministers, 16 Ministers of State and 34 Ministers, amongst which eight delegates of the Prime Minister, joined by 119 Secretaries of State. Soon, about 200 Deputy Secretaries of State will join the list.

All the ministers who are member of the CPP have kept their position, with the exception of Men Sam An, former Minister of Relations with Parliament and Inspection, who will become Permanent Deputy Prime Minister. She is being replaced by Som Kim Sour, former CPP deputy.

Concerning Funcinpec, only Ing Kantha Phavy, Minister of Women’s Affairs, could save her position by opportunistically joining the CPP. Her colleagues have all been dismissed. Nut Sokhom, Head of the Ministry of Health, is being replaced by Mam Bunheng, former Secretary of State. Lu Lay Sreng is succeeded by former Phnom Penh Governor, Chea Sophara, at the Department of Rural Development. Finally, Veng Sereivuth passes on his position as Minister of Culture to Him Chhen, CPP member and former Secretary of State. Hun Sen will explain the outlines of his program to his new team on the occasion of the start of the new government

Hun Sen: the opposition victim of its own policy

Hun Sen, 24 September

Cambodge Soir

During the second parliamentary session, at which the SRP and HRP were absent, the Prime Minister spoke ironically about the attitude of Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha.

The twenty six deputies of the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) remained absent on Thursday 25 September, during the second day of the new Parliament, as well as the three elected representatives of the Human Rights Party. The 90 elected representatives of the CPP, the 2 representatives of Funcinpec and the 2 from the Norodom Ranariddh Party have unanimously appointed the leaders of the Assembly and the leader of the Government.It’s without surprise that Hun Sen kept his position as Prime Minister and Heng Samrin his position as President of the National Assembly. The latter will receive the assistance of two Vice-Presidents, Ngoun Nhel and Say Chhum, General Secretary of the CPP.

Afterwards the Government leader held a speech in the large Assembly Hall. After having expressed his gratitude towards the deputies for their trust, he declared his determination to apply the main outlines of his program in order to speed up the country’s development. Next, he brought up the subject of the opposition’s attitude, speaking ironically about the presence of Sam Rainsy and his deputies at the opening session, pointing out that this decision might put the SRP leader in a delicate situation in front of his colleagues.

“This morning, Sam Rainsy asked me to show understanding, declared the Prime Minister. As a politician I’m totally aware of what’s happening within the ranks of his party. It would have been difficult for Sam Rainsy to show up today in order to support the government.”

However, Hun Sen believes that the SRP leader is sole responsible for his problems. “He is victim of his own policy; I hope that this will teach a lesson to all the politicians of this country”.

The Prime Minister has also uttered some accusations towards the Human Rights Party, the only party which was absent during the opening session on Thursday 24 September. “Kem Sokha asked me lots of advice at the start. Then he followed Sam Rainsy. Finally he didn’t know which position to take when he saw the SRP deputies seated in the hemicycle.”

According to Hun Sen, the HRP should, like any other party, adopt a policy of independence in order to avoid being cornered by its allies.

The HRP elected representatives will be able to take the oath after the Pchum Ben festival, as well as the CPP deputies who should join the Assembly, replacing the members of parliament appointed to the government, said the Prime Minister.

The inflation in Cambodia exceeds by far 22.3%, according to the CDRI

The price of rice has doubled over one year.

Cambodge Soir


According to an independent survey, the importance of food products and fuel in the household consumption has been underestimated.

In one year, the price of rice has doubled and the one of fuel has increased with 50%, indicates a survey of the Cambodia Development Resource Institute (CDRI), published on Thursday 25 September. According to the CDRI, the inflation exceeds the official number of 22.3% which was announced for the period between July 2007 and July 2008.

This number, based on a basket composed of 227 consumption goods, doesn’t give enough importance to food products, which represent 70% of the expenses for 40% of the population. In order to cope with this price increase, the poorer have bought lower quality rice, with a price increase from 1000 riel to 2000 riel per kilogram, while the traditional rice increased from 2000 riel to 4000 riel per kilogram.

Other food products with the highest increase between May 2007 and May 2008 are pork (between 50 and 70%), poultry (+54%) and beef (+16%).

The price increase of fuel and labour has resulted in higher production costs. Gasoline increased with 50%, diesel with 80%, fertilizers between 80 and 200% and one day of labour between 40 and 50%, particularly on the field of agriculture.

Amongst the sectors most hit by inflation: the food products and tobacco (36.8% on average), transport and communication services (27.1%), and medical care (16.2%).

The areas suffering from the highest inflation are the regions of the Tonlé Sap, in the provinces of Siem Reap, Kampong Thom and Kampong Chhnang. 37% of the households might face scarcity.

Over short term, the CDRI recommends that the country increases its food reserves in order to limit the impact of food price fluctuations. The Institute mentions that rice imports which aren’t registered through customs are an obstacle for the evaluation of cereal stocks.

Over mid-term, the independent Institute believes that it’s essential to invest in agriculture in order to ensure food self-sufficiency in Cambodia.

119 Members of the National Assembly Attends the First Session under the Presence of the King

Posted on 26 September 2008
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 578

“The first session of the fourth term National Assembly was opened as planned yesterday, 24 September 2008. This session was attended by 119 members, among the 123 members of the National Assembly, with the presence of four parties, except for the Human Rights Party of Mr. Kem Sokha, who was reported to have been caught in a traffic jam, making it impossible for him to attend.

“Among the 119 National Assembly members, 90 were from the Cambodian People’s Party, 25 of the 26 members from the Sam Rainsy Party with Ms. Tioulong Saumura absent, 2 from Funcinpec, and 2 from the Norodom Ranariddh Party.

“The Sam Rainsy Party canceled its boycott surprisingly after negotiating with the Cambodian People’s Party in the night of 23 September 2008, which could bring many benefits for the nation. But the softness at the lass minute invites doubts from some who support the Sam Rainsy Party, because they had not received any clear explanation from the leaders of the Sam Rainsy Party, particularly from Mr. Sam Rainsy. However, Mr. Hun Sen had accepted a request by the Sam Rainsy Party for reforms of internal rules, so that the National Assembly can proceed smoothly.

“After the first National Assembly session, Mr. Hun Sen informed reporters in the National Assembly about the negotiations, mediated through Oknha Kit Meng, Director General of Mobitel (the provider of the 012 mobile phone system). Mr. Hun Sen spoke also about this process which went on until midnight; and after 7:00 in the morning there was mutual agreement, but it was too late for the National Assembly members from the Sam Rainsy Party to wear the proper clothing according to the plan, which did foresee to wear Kben [a skirt rolled in front and pulled up to the waistband in the back] and white jackets..

“In the meantime, Mr. Hun Sen took the opportunity of the unprepared participation by the Sam Rainsy Party in the National Assembly session to attack the leaders of the Sam Rainsy Party, who had asked for a discussion in order to solve the stalemate, and who wanted to honor the King who presided over this first day session.

“Mr. Hun Sen was angry with [the leader of the Human Rights Party] Mr. Kem Sokha, who wanted that a joint statement be made by all five parties that won any seats, which was considered by Mr. Hun Sen to be an action of taking the winner to be a hostage. Moreover, Mr. Hun Sen used arrogant words like he had used previously: that the one who wants to issue a joint statement by all is stupid.

“The parliamentarian Son Chhay, the spokesperson of the Sam Rainsy Party, said during a press conference at the Sam Rainsy Party headquarters afters the session, ‘Last night when we talked we contacted each other for this morning session; and Prime Minister Hun Sen has already affirmed to create a working group to monitor the internal rules of the National Assembly, where an official role is to be given to the opposition party, to fulfill its role as the party which is not in the government - a way used also by other countries that practice parliamentary democracy.’

“Mr. Son Chhay added, ‘I believe that the internal rules have to be corrected, to form new ones, will will state that parties, that are not members of the government, can be nominated by the King, and have a budget for doing their work, to be provided for properly … this is an important point.’ Mr. Son Chhay stated in front of journalists that that is the promise they had gotten in the talks at night of 23 September 2008.

“The reform to form new internal rules according to the requests of the Sam Rainsy Party require to form groups of members of the National Assembly that consist of less than 10 members, so that they are able to express their opinion in the National Assembly, and if there would not be such a reform, the National Assembly members with less than 10 members, like Funcinpec, the Norodom Ranariddh Party, the Human Rights Party, will not be able to express their opinions during National Assembly sessions.

“Mr. Son Chhay went on to explain the points that led National Assembly members to decide to attend the first session, ‘We expect that the issues of the nation are considered to be above individual interests and political parties. We see the intrusion by Thailand into Cambodia as a worse situation; we see economic issues. We see the issue of the high price of goods which are a reason to cause Cambodians to face serious danger for guaranteeing economic growth and poverty alleviation for our citizens.’

“Mr. Son Chhay continued to say that even though the National Assembly members from the Sam Rainsy Party know that the Cambodian People’s Party will take all leading positions in the National Assembly, the National Assembly members from the Sam Rainsy Party still decided to attend the session, and soon, there will be discussions on reforms – in order to lead the nation with proper safeguards.’

“Regarding the anger of Mr. Hun Sen about the wish of Mr. Kem Sokha to have a joint statement, Mr. Son Chhay said, ‘That joint statement had an open content; what we always demanded is nothing new; it is just that we want to clarify the reasons for our unity, to strengthen the multi-party democracy.’ He continued that the alliance with the Human Rights Party of Mr. Kem Sokha remains strong, and there is no split and no betrayal.

“Mr. Son Chhay said also that the discussions that led to attend the National Assembly session yesterday morning dealt with reforms for the election laws, that is to reform the procedures, so that all Khmer citizens can vote.

“The King, Samdech Boromneath Norodom Sihamoni, stated yesterday morning his expectation, while presiding over the National Assembly, that the fourth-term National Assembly will go ahead smoothly. Some hours after the first National Assembly session, the King issued a Royal Decree nominating Mr. Hun Sen as Prime Minister for this fourth-term government and even organizing the composition of the new government.

“In response to the journalists who asked whether the Sam Rainsy Party will receive positions to chair committees of the National Assembly or not, Mr. Son Chhay said, ‘We did not demand to chair committees; we requested to organize internal policy rules. It is a policy question that will require how the roles of the parities in the National Assembly are divided; it should be stated in law, and then, during the next elections, there should be no talks about this: if any party win 20 seats, positions have to be allocated to be in line with that.’

“Mr. Son Chhay continued that according to democratic policies, the ruling party cannot control all positions in the National Assembly.

“Although there were only 119 members attending the session, the National Assembly announced the validity of the 123 members already. Yesterday afternoon, the National Assembly members who had attended the session, also went to swear in the Royal Palace.”

Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.2, #250-#251, 24-25.9.2008
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Thursday, 25 September 2008

High food prices in Cambodia increase dog meat consumption

ABC Radio Australia
September 26, 2008

The consumption of dog meat is said to be increasing in Cambodia as higher food prices cutting into the livelihoods of the poor.

Planning Minister Chhay Than says high oil prices pushed Cambodia's annual inflation rate to 22 per cent in July, the highest in 15 years and that this is seriously affecting Cambodia's poor.

The chief of the Phnom Penh Municipal Veterinary Office says sales of dog meat are definitely increasing.

He says it's hard to estimate the size of the trade the meat is sold outside traditional markets for less than half the price of pork.

Germany Pledges $4.3 Million More To Cambodia War Court

PHNOM PENH (AFP)--Germany will give another EUR3 million ($4.3 million) to Cambodia's U.N.-backed Khmer Rouge war crimes tribunal, the country announced in a statement Friday.

The money comes as international backers have shown an increased willingness to fund the tribunal, following the appointment of an ethics monitor to grapple with ongoing corruption claims within the court.

This month, the U.S. made its first donation to the court with a pledge of $ 1.8 million. Japan, Germany, France and Australia made pledges earlier this year.

The German embassy said its most recent donation will be used for court operations over the next two years.

The tribunal recently announced a budget shortfall of more than $40 million.

The war crimes court has twice been hit by allegations that Cambodian staff paid kickbacks for their jobs, leading international donors to withhold funding in July.

The tribunal, which began work in 2006, originally was budgeted at $56.3 million over three years, but cost estimates quickly rose to more than $100 million.

Tribunal staff expect the first Khmer Rouge war crimes trial to begin by early 2009.

Up to two million people died of starvation and overwork, or were executed, as the communist Khmer Rouge dismantled modern Cambodian society in a bid to forge an agrarian utopia during its 1975-79 rule.