Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Planes, Passengers Finally Leaving Thailand

Associated Press

Flights are finally leaving Bangkok's international airport, nearly a week after protesters took it over. Airlines are now able to move their planes to other parts of the country, so that passengers can get to their final destination. (Dec. 1)

Should RED and YELLOW can make their country to be a LAND OF SMILE?

Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat waves to supporters after a court dissolved the ruling party and banned him from politics. The court decision prompted jubilant anti-government protesters to lift a blockade of Bangkok's main airport.(AFP/Str)
Pro-government demonstrators leave the administrative court after a rally in Bangkok Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2008. The Constitutional Court dissolved Thailand's top three ruling parties for electoral fraud Tuesday and temporarily barred the prime minister from politics, bringing down a government that faced months of strident protests seeking its ouster.(AP Photo/Wason Wanichakorn)

Anti-government protesters react after the Thai court ordered Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat's party to be disbanded during a rally at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi international airport December 2, 2008. Thai judges ordered PM Wongsawat's ruling People Power Party (PPP) disbanded on Tuesday after it was found guilty of vote fraud, but party members vowed to "move on" and form another government.REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom (THAILAND)

People's Alliance for Democracy protesters celebrate at the besieged Suvarnabhumi international airport in Bangkok, Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2008. Thailand's Constitutional Court has dissolved the three biggest parties in the ruling coalition and banned the prime minister along with top party executives from politics for five years.(AP Photo/Vincent Thian)

People's Alliance for Democracy protesters celebrate at the besieged Suvarnabhumi international airport in Bangkok, Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2008. Thailand's Constitutional Court has dissolved the three biggest parties in the ruling coalition and banned the prime minister along with top party executives from politics for five years.(AP Photo/Vincent Thian)

Pro-government demonstrator waves a flag - the symbol of the group - at the Administrative court in Bangkok on Tuesday Dec. 2, 2008. Hundreds of pro-government demonstrators swarmed around the court building forcing the relocation of judges who will rule on the fate of a Thai government beset by protests and a virtual shutdown of international air links.(AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

Paramedics move an injured anti-government demonstrator into an ambulance after a bomb blast at Bangkok's Don Muang airport December 2, 2008. A bomb blast killed an anti-government protester and wounded 22 at Bangkok's blockaded Don Muang airport on Tuesday, hours before a vote fraud case that could deal a crippling blow to the government.REUTERS/Stringer (THAILAND)
Pro-government demonstrators ask Thai soldiers to go out of Administrative court in Bangkok Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2008. Hundreds of pro-government demonstrators swarmed around a court building forcing the relocation of judges who will rule on the fate of a Thai government beset by protests and a virtual shutdown of international air links.(AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

Pro-government demonstrators ask Thai soldiers to go out of Administrative court in Bangkok Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2008. Hundreds of pro-government demonstrators swarmed around a court building, forcing the relocation of judges who will rule on the fate of a Thai government beset by protests and a virtual shutdown of international air links.(AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

A pro-government demonstrator shouts slogan in front of Administrative court in Bangkok Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2008. Hundreds of pro-government demonstrators swarmed around a court building forcing the relocation of judges who will rule on the fate of a Thai government beset by protests and a virtual shutdown of international air links.(AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

Thai soldiers arrive at Administrative court for security in Bangkok Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2008. Hundreds of pro-government demonstrators swarmed around a court building forcing the relocation of judges who will rule on the fate of a Thai government beset by protests and a virtual shutdown of international air links.(AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

Pro-government supporters force a Thai soldier out of the protest area during a rally outside the Administrative Court where the Constitutional Court is meeting in Bangkok December 2, 2008. Thailand's Constitutional Court will give its verdict later on Tuesday in a vote fraud case against Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat's People Power Party (PPP), a judge said. Verdicts would also be issued for two smaller coalition partners in the case, which could see them disbanded for electoral fraud in the December 2007 election. Somchai and other ministers from these parties would then have to step down.REUTERS/Darren Whiteside (THAILAND)

Thai court dissolves ruling party, PM banned

Tuesday December 2, 2008
ANN/ The Straits Times (Singapore)

BANGKOK: Thailand’s Constitutional Court on Tuesday disbanded the ruling People’s Power Party (PPP) leading to the dissolution of Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat’s government.

The court also banned PPP’s executive board members, including Somchai, from politics for five years.

It further ruled to dissolve Chart Thai Party, imposing the same ban on its executive board members for five years.

On Monday, Thai police had asked the military to help step up security in the capital, fearing that pro-government supporters would react violently should the PPP be declared illegal for electoral fraud in last year’s polls.

Already, anti-government protesters in Bangkok have come under attack in recent days. Pro-government “red-shirts” are said to be prepared to head for the capital from the provinces in their thousands once the signal is given.

The court verdict may prove a turning point in a country roiled by months of political turmoil.

The conflict pits the yellow-shirted members of the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) against Somchai and his government, seen by them as corrupt proxies of ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

In their campaign to bring down the government, the PAD’s supporters seized the Prime Minister’s official compound in Bangkok in August and, last week, took over both Suvarnabhumi and Don Muang airports.

The airport seizures have stranded over 350,000 travellers in Thailand. Various airlines and governments were scrambling Monday to deploy more flights to Phuket, Chiang Mai and U-Tapao to get them out.

Meanwhile, in a switch of tactics, the PAD moved most of its supporters at Government House to the airports on Monday.

“We are not abandoning the site,” PAD spokesman Suriyasai Katasila insisted. By evening, hundreds were still ensconced in the compound.

As all sides braced themselves for the court decision, senior members of the PPP were said to be urgently considering alternatives should the party be thrown out of power.

Already its members are describing a dissolution of the party as a “judicial coup.” The judgment could come within days, if not Tuesday itself.

One option is for the PPP itself to dissolve Parliament before the judgment is out, and to call an election -- which it is sure to win.

In this scenario, its MPs would merely switch to another party, Puea Thai, and fight the election.

Another option is for the PPP to set up a “government in exile” and create a resistance movement nationwide, should there be a military coup.

The mechanics for this are being worked on right now, but the idea is not new: It was considered but not implemented in September 2006 when the army toppled the Thaksin government.

It is not clear where such a “government in exile” would be based, but Thaksin is said to be in Cambodia while also working on setting up a base in Dubai.

Somchai, who was asked by reporters Monday when he would return to Bangkok, remarked that he could run the country from anywhere.

“The place is not an issue as long as I can work and get cooperation from all parties,” he added, insisting that he was not stepping down.

For the moment, Chiang Mai is his base as the northern city is home ground for him -- and Thaksin -- making it harder for the army to detain him in the event of a coup.

The political upheaval has also disrupted plans for Asean meetings from December 13 to 17.

“I will propose at the Cabinet meeting tomorrow (Wednesday) to postpone the summit to March as we can’t open our airport for leaders’ planes to land yet,” foreign minister Sompong Amornwiwat said.

Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono proposed his country as an alternative venue.

Indonesia and Asean Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan were offering to hold the meeting of its foreign ministers and East Asian dialogue partners in the Asean Secretariat offices in Jakarta, while the finance ministers could meet in Bali, he said.

New sky train to ease growing traffic snarls in the capital, govt says

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Nguon Sovan
Tuesday, 02 December 2008

Elevated roadway could be completed by 2017, according to officials, but project lacks money and must look to donors, private sector for funds

OFFICIALS studying ways to ease growing traffic congestion in downtown Phnom Penh have proposed that a sky train could be built between Central Market and Phnom Penh International Airport as a way to get vehicles off of the roads, a senior official with the Ministry of Public Works and Transport said.

The idea came to the fore following a three-month study by the Japan External Trade Organisation, commissioned by the ministry, on improving traffic, said Touch Chankosal, a ministry secretary of state.

"[They] conducted a feasibility study to build a sky train to improve the deteriorating traffic situation and showed that it was possible to build it between the Central Market and [airport], at a length of eight kilometres," he told the Post on Sunday.

The project is estimated to cost US$300 million, he added.

Heavy scepticism

Officials, however, say a sky train should not be a development priority for Cambodia, which still lacks basic transport infrastructure in many places.

"I think the sky train project is not a priority. The government should focus on rural infrastructure," said Mu Sochua, deputy secretary general of the opposition Sam Rainsy Party.

"The sky train will do nothing to relieve the city's traffic burdens."

Others, too, are skeptical of the benefits of the project.

"If [it] materialises, it could make only a small change in congestion due to the fact that are more vehicles on the roads and there is ignorance of traffic laws," said Phnom Penh Traffic Police Chief Tin Prasoeur.

The number of automobiles and motorbikes in Cambodia has increased nearly three-fold in the last few years, with some 80,000 cars and 220,000 motorbikes currently registered in the capital alone, according to Phnom Penh Tax Branch records.

Tin Prasoeur added, however, that a sky train would be a sign of the city's economic development.

Crippling costs

Touch Chankosal said that, despite the project's feasibility study, its cost would require funding by outside investors.

"It is a huge project, so.... It should be conducted by the government in partnership with the private sector," he said. "But our government has no budget for such a large project.

"The ministry and [the Japan International Cooperation Agency] are currently looking for Japanese investors, especially from experienced construction firms such as Katahira and Marubeni," Touch Chankosal added.

But despite the high costs, the project is a necessary step towards alleviating the capital's traffic, which sees vehicles grinding to a halt during the rush hour on many of the city's main roads, he said.

"Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines have such projects," Touch Chankosal said.

"I think that it is time we take on this megaproject," he added.

Trade with Indonesia increasing 20 percent per year, officials say

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by May Kunmakara
Tuesday, 02 December 2008

The government hopes that stronger ties with Indonesia will replace trade with Thailand that has been disrupted by the border dispute

A COMMERCE official said Sunday that bilateral trade between Cambodia and Indonesia has risen 20 percent annually since 2006.

Mao Thora, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Commerce, made the announcement during an Indonesian Trade and Tourism Promotion exhibition, saying year-on-year trade has reached US$120 million and could offset trade losses with Thailand amid an ongoing border crisis and escalating political turmoil in Bangkok.

"Indonesia is responding to Cambodian market needs with high-quality products, particularly construction materials, cosmetics, food and medicines," Mao Thora said.

He added that Cambodia hopes to boost its exports to Indonesia to balance the trade relationship in coming months.

The exhibition, which began on Sunday and runs through Wednesday, aims to highlight Indonesia's cultural heritage as well as its trade opportunities, Mao Thora said.

Harry Warganegara, vice chairman of the Indonesian Young Entrepreneurs Association, said Indonesian businesses are increasingly looking to Cambodia for investment opportunities.

"I believe that Cambodia will be one of the new tiger economies in the region, so we would like to grow with them," he said.

Warganegara said Indonesian products may be unfamiliar to Cambodian consumers, but that their quality and cost made them competitive with other foreign goods.

He added that the lack of economic safeguards has not deterred Indonesian investment in Cambodia, as companies see the potential for continued trade growth.

Trade between Cambodia and Thailand has slowed since a border standoff over disputed territory began in July.

Officials expect further losses following the closure last week of Thailand's two main airports after anti-government protestors stormed the terminals and rebuffed attempts by police to remove them.

Britons face long wait to get home

Katherine Atkinson, 24; Karlee Samuels, 24; Eilidh Yorscon, 23; Nicole Mehan, 23, all from London, have been travelling in Asia for three months. They were due to leave Bangkok two days ago

By Thomas Bell and Andrew Drummond in Bangkok

Thai officials have warned that even when demonstrators leave Bangkok's airports, they will take at least a week to reopen because computer and security systems have been compromised.
Anti-government protesters have shown no signs of ending their sit-in and yesterday moved to reinforced their numbers.

The People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) withdrew most of their remaining members from Government House, which they have occupied since August, to join the protests at two airports.

Only the group's "security guards" – armed with explosives, hand guns and baseball bats- now remain at the official seat of Thai government.

Yesterday, British tourists claimed other nationalities were receiving more help from their embassies to get home.

Not a single flight is believed to have reached Britain from Thailand in a week since Bangkok airport was hijacked.

But a growing number of planes have reached other destinations such as Frankfurt as the response to the crisis is slowly picking up.

More than 100,000 foreign tourists -including at least 7,000 Britons – are stranded in Bangkok and the number is rising every day as holidays end with no way home.

A thin trickle of travellers have been leaving the country overland or via provincial airports and some governments including of Spain, France and Australia have laid on special flights.

Neil Lindsay, 53, a photographer from Wadebridge in Cornwall, was with 121 other Britons among 1,200 Thai Air passengers moved to a hotel near U-tapao airfield – which is receiving a small number of flights.

"We are stuck here without a hope but all the Germans have got home already, the last went on Saturday," complained Mr Lindsay.

"We just keep getting bumped. It's quite clear that Brits are well down the pecking order when it comes to getting home.

"I have not seen any British consular officials, but the Aussies have been here in force and I know they have been using their influence to get their citizens home.

"I have rung up the (British) Embassy twice, but they just say 'sit tight'. I'm not surprised the Foreign Office will not supply charter flights to get us out, there are too many of us. Why can't they be like other the embassy officials we see here?"

Prime minister Somchai Wongsawat meanwhile is sheltering in the government's northern electoral stronghold of Chiang Mai, reportedly fearful that the army will capture him if he returns to the capital.

Although the army chief General Anupong Paochina has repeatedly ruled out mounting what would be Thailand's 19th coup since 1932 the army is generally sympathetic to the protesters' pro-monarchy agenda.

Thailand's constitutional court – which earlier this year dismissed a prime minister for appearing as a TV chef – is expected to rule as early as today (Tues) in a case that could lead to the dissolution of three parties in the ruling constitution.

Government supporters say such a ruling would be a "judicial coup, a coup by the gowns instead of the tanks". And it may change little, because government MPs have already prepared a new "shell party" to move into in expectation of the verdict.

Thai artist seeks discomfort as a medium for his message

© Manit Sriwanichpoom
Horror in Pink by Manit Sriwanichpoom.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Eleanor Ainge Roy
Tuesday, 02 December 2008

Manit Sriwanichpoom, known for his provocative commentary on growing Thai consumer culture, advises Cambodia to look to Thailand in order to avoid the pitfalls of development

AS AMERICA'S post-Thanksgiving sales degenerated into consumer chaos on Saturday - one Wal-Mart employee was crushed to death beneath frenzied bargain hunters and a gunbattle erupted in a Toys R' Us store - Thai photographer Manit Sriwanichpoom stirred his black coffee and looked with curiosity around the polished interior of Metro, a very different Phnom Penh from the one he knew when working as a freelance photojournalist here in 1992-93.

"It was rather scary coming back because I knew tourism must have changed things dramatically. The countryside is still very beautiful, but Phnom Penh architecture seems a bit of a mess. I think Cambodia should look to Thailand as a case study to avoid the pitfalls of development. It seems that Cambodia is at a crossroads right now - didn't Phnom Penh use to be called the Paris of the East?"

Manit is visiting Phnom Penh for the first ever PhotoPhnomPenh festival, which is being hosted by 11 different venues across the capital this week.

Manit's work can be seen at the French Cultural Centre during the festival, and he will be hosting a projection introducing new talents in photography from Thailand at 8pm today at the same venue.

Documenting vs creating

Initially trained as a visual artist, Manit has been working as a photographer since the early 1980s. He began his career working for advertising agencies in Bangkok and as a freelance news photographer on the Thai-Cambodian border, where a humanitarian crisis at the vast refugee camps provided him with more than enough work.

"What I love about photojournalism is that you have only one chance to speak out, one image to capture an idea and everything has to be in that image," Manit said.

" It seems that cambodia is at crossroads right now – didn't phnom penh use to be called the paris of the east? "

"But gradually I began to get frustrated with photojournalism, as everyday I was waiting for the work call - where you are going and what you are shooting, even if it doesn't really interest you.

As a photojournalist you are waiting for things to happen, but because I was trained as a visual artist, I was taught to create them by yourself and I had a kind of conflict within me. It was frustrating to not be able to express myself, so I said, okay, I don't want to be a photojournalist anymore. Instead I want to express my feelings, my ideas and my anger," he said.

"However, I do sometimes miss the feeling of photojournalism that you always have to be ready. I feel rusty sometimes and I think, ‘OK, I have to be prepared and move faster'," he added.

Art photography

Following his creative calling, Manit began making what is commonly dubbed "art photography' and started constructing provocative images on the growing Thai consumer culture, often putting his own spin on famous photographs from the Vietnam War.

One of his best known works is the "Pink Man Series" - consumer icon of the contemporary Thai man, pushing his pink supermarket cart in search of material satisfaction.

"The suit is a symbol of Westernisation and capitalistic success. The flashy pink satin personifies tastelessness and conspicuous consumption," Manit said.

"I did Horror in Pink in 2001. In the year 2000, one of the politicians - the last prime minister of Thailand, Samak Sundaravej, was elected as mayor of Bangkok. Now Bangkok is meant to be made up of educated, well-informed people, and I was so angry that most did not seem to know about Sundarajev's support of the 1976 pro-democracy student massacre," he said.

"How could he get in on a landslide vote? I thought something was very, very wrong," he continued.

"The man being beaten in the photograph is a student who was fighting for democracy," he added.

"But the government spread the lies that these people were communists, and communism was the ghoul of the time that would eat you up. Vietnam had just ‘fallen' to communism and rumours was spread that these Thai students were in fact Vietnamese invaders."

By placing the pink man in this context, Manit was trying to bring this photograph to the attention of the new Thai generation, which is often unaware of this event.

"When I was at the print shop printing this image, the young shop assistant came up and said where is this? I told her to guess, and she said, ‘Cambodia, Burma, I don't know'. I said, ‘look at the picture, can't you see the palace, look for the temple - it is Bangkok', She was really shocked and said, ‘No, no, no, no' , and I said, ‘Yes, this is not the Thailand that you know'."

The land of smiles?

Thailand calls itself the land of smiles, but this is a myth, Manit said. Like in many parts of Southeast Asia, nationalism is very strong and it is used by the government as a tool to control the people, Manit added.

Manit said the pink man works because he is annoying, he gets under people's skin, and makes them ask questions which, even if they don't have answers, are important as a means to begin dialogue.

Nearing the end of the interview, talk inevitably turned to the border dispute near Preah Vihear temple, an 11th-century Cambodian ruin that is at the centre of a military standoff between the two countries, and the current occupation of Bangkok's international airports by anti-government protestors.

Despite having to make the 12-hour overland journey the day before to reach Phnom Penh, Manit thinks the current disruption in his homeland is a blessing in disguise.

"I don't think anybody likes the situation at the moment, but is a good thing that it is happening. This is a chance for the Thai people to reconsider themselves, and what is happened in their own country, in their culture, in politics and everything," he said. "It is a good time for Thai people to come back and examine the problems - they have to open themselves up.

"These disruptions are a sign that, whether we like it or not, maybe we have a problem in ourselves, we have a cancer in ourselves. And if it is like a cancer ... we must go through this operation even if it is painful."

Aids fight must focus on youth

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Children wave Cambodian flags Monday at a ceremony in Hun Sen Park to mark World Aids Day.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Khoun Leakhana
Tuesday, 02 December 2008

Children under 15 seen as high-risk, officials say, but understanding of HIV increasing

ONE thousand out of every 7,400 people infected with HIV each dayaround the world are 15 or younger, and in Cambodia, where more than a third of the population is under the age of 25, this is a daunting statistic for health officials trying to keep the disease in check, officials said Monday.

"Cambodia really must develop more initiatives to protect and fight against Aids as this high-risk population grows up," said Alice Levisay, Cambodia representative of the United Nations Population Fund, at a ceremony marking World Aids Day.

Cambodia, which has more than halved its infection rate since 1997 to 0.9 percent, is lauded as a success story for its fight against HIV/Aids.

But officials said Monday that while the rate of infection has been brought under control overall, the disease was rapidly spreading to other, more isolated groups of people, where infection rates could be many times higher than the average.

"We are concerned about gays, drug users, sex workers and other vulnerable people," said Ly Cheng Huy, president of the HIV/Aids Coordinating Committee.

Stigmatising these high-risk groups and pushing them further away from prevention and treatment programs was also a continuing problem, officials said.

But despite this, health authorities said the basic understanding of HIV/Aids and its spread was rising among Cambodians, helping to keep the disease at bay.

Access to anti-retroviral drugs was also high, with some 70 percent of those infected with the disease able to access free health care, said Teng Kunthy, secretary general of the National Aids Authority.

According to World Health Organisation figures, there were 33.2 million people suffering from Aids worldwide in 2007. Last year 2.1 million people died from the disease.

New channels set for launch

Photo by: Kay Kimsong
CTN owner and Royal Group Chairman Kith Meng at the launch of the Kingdom's first KFC outlet earlier this year.
The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chhay Channyda and Nguon Sovan
Tuesday, 02 December 2008

Cambodia's already-crowded television sector will welcome two new local stations in 2009, but critics worry they will lower programming quality

TWO new local TV channels are to be officially launched next year after receiving government broadcast licences in 2007, bringing the total number of channels in the Kingdom to nine.

The Cambodian Television Network (CTN) plans to launch its new MYTV channel early next year, which will be followed by the launch of the regional South East Asia TV station later in 2009.

MYTV, which will have the same management as CTN, has been set up as a joint venture between the Royal Group and cellphone company Millicom Cambodia, which owns the Cellcard Mobitel brand, under the direction of Royal Group chairman Kith Meng, according to CTN general manager Glen Felgate.

He added that MYTV will broadcast nationwide and will go on air early next year, with an exact date to be announced soon.

‘‘Innovative'' programming

"The channel will be hi-tech, modern and innovative. We are hoping MYTV will be more than just a TV channel," Felgate said.

"We are hoping to create an entire community brought together through the mediums of TV, internet and mobile phone," he said, adding that programming will be a mixture of youth-oriented reality TV, music, modern action and science-fiction programs, as well as "entertaining" education programs.

"We are aiming to self-produce at least 50 percent of the schedule, and we have done deals with major international record labels so that we can legitimately broadcast the latest high-quality music videos," Felgate said.

South East Asia TV is also set to be launched in Cambodia next year, with general director Sem Sovanndeth expecting it to hit the airwaves around April or May.

"The TV station, equipped with the latest and most sophisticated technology, will be focused on education, IT and culture in Asean member countries," he said.

"We do not hope to take profits from the already-crowded TV market in Cambodia. We just want to promote education, IT, research and culture."

" More TV stations will make it difficult to produce quality programs. "

Information Minister Khieu Kanharith welcomed the new channels, saying they will give more choice to viewing audiences.

"The more TV networks, the more job creation," he said, adding that both networks received licences from his ministry last year.

But Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Son Chhay said that the anarchic issuing of TV broadcast licences would lower the quality of programming.

"More TV stations will increase competition for commercial adverts, making it difficult for them to earn revenue and produce quality programs," he said, adding that despite the proliferation of channels there is still no independent station in Cambodia.

"All TV channels are under the direct and indirect influence of the ruling party," Son Chhay said.

Violence breaks out at R'kiri courthouse

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chrann Chamroeun and Meas Sokchea
Tuesday, 02 December 2008

A SKIRMISH broke out Thursday at a provincial court in Ratanakkiri province between 10 armed police and a group of some 40 ethnic minority hill tribe people, a right groups said.

The violence broke out when 10 local police officers entered a provincial courthouse where hill tribe community representatives, along with two members of the rights group Adhoc, were being interrogated on charges of destroying rubber trees belonging to the DM Group, an area business.

Some 40 hill tribe people followed officers into the court after hearing cries for help, the rights group claimed.

According to a statement issued by Adhoc on Monday, their activists, Svin Vev, 37, and Yang Thang, 45, were "suddenly beaten and strangled, and the deputy prosecutor [Ros Saram] rolled pieces of paper [and] stuck them into their mouths".

The statement added that one police officer was seriously hurt and three or four villagers sustained mild injuries in the tumult.

Deputy provincial police chief Chea Bunthoeun said police did not use violence and were now looking for Svin Vev, who escaped during the fight.

Ratanakkiri court Chief Prosecutor Mey Sokhan said in July this year the DM Group charged the hill tribe villagers with destroying rubber plants.

Mey Sokhan was subsequently taken off the case after the company filed a complaint. He was in a Supreme Court hearing in Phnom Penh when the arrest of the two activist was ordered.

"I am very sorry to hear that violent fighting took place and that Yang Thang was arrested," he said.

Govt takes back highway from private toll company

Photo by: Kem Sovannara
Cows, trucks and cars pass through the toll booth on Street 598 in Russey Keo district.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chhay Channyda
Tuesday, 02 December 2008

A highway in Russey Keo district will return to government ownership after a private road company fails to develop it

PHNOM PENH officials have cancelled their contract with a private road company after deciding the firm did nothing but collect tolls.

The Phnom Penh Highway Co, which turned street 598 in Russey Keo district into a toll road in 2005, will be forced to give the road back to the municipality, where it will be put back under government control.

According to a statement Friday by City Hall, following an order given by Prime Minister Hun Sen, the company that ran the build-operate-transfer road project did not implement what was agreed in the contract and left the road "severely damaged".

"The company did not develop the road. They just collected money from drivers - at least 1,500 riels (US$0.37) for a small car," said Kob Sles, deputy governor of Russey Keo district. "It violated the contract."

The contract between Phnom Penh Municipality and the Phnom Penh Highway Co was signed in 2005. In the contract, the company was required to install all necessary infrastructure, Kob Sles said.

"The company did not put street lamps or a drainage system along the road," he said. "We will do all of this."

After removing tolls on the road, city officials said they would start new construction on Wednesday to expand the seven-metre-wide road to 11 metres.

The road, which stretches between National Road 5 in Russey Keo district to Russian Boulevard in Tuol Kork district, is home to many people, said Kob Sles.

"There will be a small number of families living along the road affected by the new construction," he said, adding that authorities are now working to assess the number of people affected by the plan.

Sun Ly, a resident living near street 598, was happy that the government was removing toll collection from the road, even if it meant that any new construction could cut two metres off his 3.5-metre-by-six-metre house.

"I know the construction will narrow my land, but it is the government's requirement," he said.

Murdered reporter's family: police probe not transparent

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Cheang Sokha
Tuesday, 02 December 2008

A lack of information into the investigation of Khim Sambo's death has raised fears about its progress, family members, monitors say

FAMILY members of slain opposition journalist Khim Sambo and his 18-year-old son have expressed anger at the lack of transparency in the investigation of their deaths.

"It is really unjust for the victim. The relatives of the victims never receive any information on how [the investigation] is going," Khim Laurent, Khim Sambo's brother, told the Post Monday. He added that he had never received information from police on the state of the investigation.

Chan Soveth, a monitor for rights group Adhoc, said that despite repeated requests for information, he had also been shunned, with police declining to reveal any details of the case.

"We do not know how it has developed so far," he said. "We have asked for information, but police have tried to hide it from us."

Khim Sambo, who wrote for Moneaksekar Khmer, a daily paper affiliated with the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, was gunned down while on a motorbike with his 21-year-old son Khat Sarinpheata outside the Olympic Stadium.

Phnom Penh deputy police commissioner Hy Prou, who is in charge of the investigation, said that the probe was progressing but had been slow because of delays caused by the Water Festival and the death of the National Police Chief Hok Lundy.

"We have not completed our work yet," he told the Post Sunday.

John Johnson, a spokesman for the US embassy, said that the FBI, which joined the investigation in August, was making progress. "The investigation is ongoing," he said via email Monday.

Falling prices, not bird flu, hurt chicken sector: farmers

Photo by: Sam Rith
A chicken farm in Kampong Chhnang province where many farmers report they are struggling to survive.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sam Rith
Tuesday, 02 December 2008

Kampong Chhnang province

Prices are down by nearly half from earlier this year, pushing Kampong Chhnang chicken farmers to the brink of bankruptcy

CHICKEN farms in Kampong Chhnang province are being forced into bankruptcy by a decline in the price of chicken and the quality of imported chicken feed, according to local farmers.

Farmers have complained that their birds are being killed by low-quality feed from Thailand and that any birds that survive to maturity were fetching less and less on the open market.

"I just closed my chicken farm in early [November]," said Sok Phea, 47, a chicken farmer in Tuol Kh'schach village, Rolea Piear district.

Sok Phea said that about a quarter of his 8,000 birds had fallen sick and died since he started large-scale chicken farming in May and dismissed suggestions the deaths of local birds were being caused by avian influenza.

"My chickens died after I had them eat low-quality chicken feed imported from Thailand," he said. "It was not caused by avian influenza."

During bird flu outbreaks in Cambodia over the past few years, thousands of poultry have been culled and several chicken farms closed down to avert the spread of the lethal H5N1 virus.

According to Ly Sovann, deputy director of the Communicable Diseases Control Department at the Ministry of Health, seven Cambodian people died of the H5N1 virus between January 2005 and the end of 2007, but that there had been no reported instances of bird flu so far in 2008.

"However, we are always careful, especially from January to April, because it is the cold season," he said.

Falling profits

Sok Phea said the death of his chickens and the low market price were forcing his business and others to the brink of bankruptcy.

"After just five months in the chicken business, I lost about US$7,000," he said, adding that he had sold chicken for more than 12,000 riels ($3) per kilogram earlier in the year to around 7,000 riels in November. The drop had been triggered by a flood of cheap chicken imports from Vietnamese and Thai poultry farms, he said.

San Dina, 23, another chicken farm owner in Rolea Piear district's Khsam village, started raising chickens about six months ago, and claimed he has lost between $1,000 and $2,000 for each of his first three generations of birds.

He added that his profits had been decimated by falling market prices and that, like Sok Phea, many of his chickens had died because of low-quality imported feed.

"My business could be bankrupt soon if the market price remains low," he said. "However, I am still struggling to continue raising the chickens."

Meanwhile, Sok Phea said he plans to stop raising chickens until it again becomes profitable to do so.

"I will start farming again when the market price is higher and imported chicken feed is of a higher quality," he said, adding that only one of Kampong Chhnang's four chicken farms is still operating.

Overcrowding plagues Pursat prison, officials say, warning of illness

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by May Titthara
Tuesday, 02 December 2008

The province's prison population has risen 33 percent in the last month, exceeding capacity and creating an immediate need for new cells

PURSAT'S provincial prison population has leapt 33 percent to 233 inmates during the last month, officials said Monday, warning that severe overcrowding was threatening the health of prisoners.

"This month the number of prisoners has increased and rooms that are equipped for five people are now being used to hold seven. This prison should only ever hold 180 prisoners," said provincial police chief Ngoun Lay. "The rooms used to hold them are only two-metre by three-metre, and holding seven people is too many."

Ngoun Lay says he is worried that overcrowding will harm inmates' health and that prison guards have increased exercise hours to try and combat this risk.

Medicine is also being dispersed more frequently than before, as many prisoners succumb to colds and flu.

He added that an additional building is in the works, but will take months to complete.

Eng Chhunhan, provincial coordinator for the Cambodian rights group Licadho, said he was also concerned about the overcrowding, saying that many prisoners are suffering from poor sanitary conditions.

"This situation is not good. During the night if they want to turn over all of them have to turn at once," he said.

Khlem Sokoun, chief of the Pursat Health Department, said the prisoners' health was being compromised in such conditions.

"We have allowed our staff to visit them in prison for treatment, but this is dangerous for us and my staff are at risk of being kidnapped by the prisoners and used as hostages," he said. "We are trying to decide if it is best to treat the prisoners in jail or transfer them to the hospital."

Chea Vannath, an independent social analyst, said the rapidly-rising prisoner population indicated an unacceptable level of lawlessness that must be addressed.

"When there is an increase in the number of prisoners it ... is often because they are neglected individuals who suffer from a poor standard of living and social problems," she said.

Slavery perpetuated by global economic crisis

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Ban Ki-moon
Tuesday, 02 December 2008

Dear Editor,

The slave trade was formally abolished 200 years ago, but this flagrant human rights violation persists, fuelled by a continuing lack of respect for the dignity of human beings, a denial of their humanity and desperate poverty.

Despite centuries of prohibition against slavery, traditional forms still exist. We have also seen a disturbing emergence of contemporary forms of slavery, such as the sale of children, debt bondage and human trafficking. Domestic and migrant workers are often kept as de facto slaves, as are people working in construction, catering, garment production and other industries.

The global economic crisis could exacerbate this already alarming situation. Poor people are likely to be driven further into poverty, making them more vulnerable to slavery-like practices. Those who consciously exploit them will have to extract even more to make a profit, and consumers, who may not be aware of the consequences, will be more likely to purchase products whose labour costs are kept unreasonably low.

The United Nations World Conference against Racism, held in 2001, broke new ground by declaring that slavery was and is a crime against humanity.

There are now an estimated 27 million victims of this atrocity, and we must reach out to help them.

Governments, civil society organizations, businesses and individuals must join forces to protect victims, raise awareness and demand an end to all forms of slavery and exploitation. We need new strategies to deal with this old curse. We need to change laws, and we need to alter attitudes and customs.

On December 10, the world celebrates the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Together, we must ensure that one of its most fundamental tenets - that "no one shall be held in slavery or servitude" - will soon ring true.

Ban Ki-moon
United Nations secretary general

Send letters to:
newsroom@phnompenhpost.com or P.O. Box 146, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The Post reserves the right to edit letters to a shorter length.

Hercules being sent to Thailand

News Talk ZB Auckland 89.4 FM
(New Zealand)

As tension grows in Thailand, the Government is dispatching an Air Force Hercules to the region, in case it is needed to rescue the more than 200 New Zealanders stranded in Bangkok.

The aircraft will be deployed tonight, and will be available to fly 65 passengers at a time from a military base outside Bangkok to either Singapore or Malaysia.

Mr Key says the Hercules will be dispatched in case it is needed, with stranded New Zealanders encouraged to continue trying to get out on commercial flights. He says because of the period of time it takes for the Hercules to be in place, it is prudent that it is deployed today.

The Government is also exploring the possibility of a charter flight. It comes as Bangkok's Don Muang Airport has been rocked by a grenade blast, which has killed at least one person and injured an estimated 22 people. The airport has been occupied by the People's Alliance for Democracy since Thursday.

Tens of thousands of stranded tourists are squeezing into U-Tapao Military Airport, trying to get out of the country.

New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully has been talking to his Australian counterpart and the Government now feels there needs to be emergency contingency plans.

Both the Air Force 757 jets are out of commission for repairs in the United States.

A man looks at skulls displayed at the Choeung Ek killing fields memorial, 15 kilometres southwest of Phnom Penh. The Cambodian genocide court will decide on Friday on a possible indictment of former Khmer Rouge leaders. (AFP)

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Cambodia's genocide court will decide on Friday whether a charge that could have wide-ranging effects on top Khmer Rouge leaders should be added to the indictment of the regime's former prison chief.

Kaing Guek Eav – better known as Duch – was indicted in August for allegedly overseeing the torture and extermination of more than 12,000 men, women and children when he headed Tuol Sleng prison, known as S-21.

The 66-year-old faces charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, making him the first leader of Cambodia's brutal 1975-1979 communist regime to stand trial at the UN-backed tribunal.

Court officials had hoped that the hearing would start in September, but prosecutors appealed against the indictment, saying it failed to go far enough and portray a "full and truthful account" of Duch's crimes.

The court is now set to rule on the appeal, under which prosecutors demanded that the charge of "commission of crimes through participation in a joint criminal enterprise as a mode of liability" be added to Duch's indictment.

Because of its very nature, the charge is opposed by other Khmer Rouge leaders who fear that a conviction in Duch's case could leave them automatically liable.

"These are all important issues that need to be addressed for Duch and relate to the cases against the other defendants," said John Ciorciari, a senior legal advisor for the Documentation Centre of Cambodia, which collects evidence of Khmer Rouge atrocities.

The controversial "joint criminal enterprise" (JCE) is a legal doctrine that allows a court to hold multiple people responsible for crimes when they act as part of a coordinated process, according to legal officials.

"It makes it a bit easier to hold defendants guilty, because they need not kill someone or order killings themselves to be held responsible," Ciorciari told AFP.

He said the judges will also decide during the hearing whether joint criminal enterprise is a "viable principle" in the Khmer Rouge court.

"The importance of the December 5 hearing for them is that it will set a few key precedents" for the senior Khmer Rouge leaders, said Ciorciari.

"Their (judges') decision will probably influence not only Duch but other defendants as well," he added.

Duch, a mathematics teacher who became the Khmer Rouge's torturer-in-chief, has been in prison since 1999 for his role at Tuol Sleng. He was formally transferred to the tribunal and indicted in July 2007.

Thousands of inmates were taken from the centre he ran for execution at Choeng Ek, now known as the Killing Fields.

Up to two million people were executed or died of starvation and overwork as the regime emptied Cambodia's cities, exiling millions to vast collective farms in a bid to forge an agrarian utopia during its rule.

The defence teams of four other former Khmer Rouge leaders who are detained by the court for crimes committed by the regime have expressed fears that the court's decision will affect their clients.

They have asked for intervention on the issue of joint liability, but the court has denied them.

"Every (defence) team is concerned that a major decision on a far-ranging-legal issue...will affect not only Duch but other accused persons," said Andrew Ianuzzi, a legal consultant for Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea's defense team.

Nuon Chea was the Khmer Rouge's former "Brother Number Two," the most senior of the regime's cadres held by the tribunal.

But the trial of Duch will be moving forward and is getting closer, court officials said.

The hearing "marks the end of appeals... which will enable the trial to start sometime soon in the first quarter of 2009," tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath said, adding that "no more investigation" is needed for Duch's case.

A lawyer for victims of the regime said that if the appeal is rejected the trial could start in March, but if not then it could be delayed for many more months.

Established in 2006 after nearly a decade of negotiations between Cambodia and the UN, the long-stalled tribunal seeks to prosecute crimes committed 30 years ago by senior Khmer Rouge leaders.

Cambodian football team readies to face Singapore in Indonesia

The Hundu
Tuesday, December 2, 2008

PHNOM PENH (Xinhua): The Cambodian national football team will fly to Indonesia on Wednesday to play Singapore in their opening match of the 2008 ASEAN Football Federation Suzuki Cup, national media said Tuesday.

Cambodia was well prepared for the Friday game, Ouk Sethycheat, secretary general of the Football Federation of Cambodia, was quoted by English-Khmer language newspaper the Cambodia Daily as saying.

"We are ready and will do all the best efforts we have," he said, adding that the 22 players had been in a training camp since Oct. 24.

It was a major success for Cambodia to qualify to compete, he added.

Cambodia has never defeated Singapore. As part of Group A, Cambodia is also scheduled to play host Indonesia on Dec. 7 and Myanmar on Dec. 9.

Cambodian rice production increases 12 pc

The Hindu
Tuesday, December 2, 2008

PHNOM PENH (Xinhua): Cambodia's production of unmilled rice increased 12 percent this year, which would create a surplus of 2.8 million tons in 2008, up 300,000 tons over last year's figures, national media reported Tuesday.

"This surplus has come from the use of better seeds and improved farming practice," Agriculture Minister Chan Sarun was quoted by the Phnom Penh Post as saying.

"We hope the quantity of rice production will continue to increase next year," he said.

The Cambodian government expects total production of unmilled rice to hit 6.8 million tons, which would represent a million-ton gain over last year, according to a preliminary evaluation conducted by the agriculture ministry.

Chan Sarun said the government is negotiating with several countries to secure additional markets for Cambodian rice.

"I expect that Cambodia will export at least 2 million tons of rice in 2009 to countries in the region, in the Middle East, the European Union and in Africa," he said.

Cambodian gov't dismisses Global Witness statement


PHNOM PENH, Dec. 2 (Xinhua) -- The Cambodian government has dismissed a statement by environmental watchdog Global Witness (GW) that criticized the government for its poor management of the nation's potentially vast oil and mineral resources, national media reported Tuesday.

"It is naive for Global Witness to think Cambodia's international donors are not aware of their ill-intent to damage Cambodia's economic development," the Cambodian embassy in London wrote in a press release, according to the Phnom Penh Post.

Global Witness made a scathing attack on the government in a statement, dated Nov. 25, on rampant asset-stripping and graft in the country's oil and mining sectors, the Post said.

The statement comes as donor countries gear up for a meeting in Phnom Penh from Wednesday to Friday to decide on next year's aid budget allocation, which last year amounted to around 600 million U.S. dollars, it said.

Cambodian Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith told the Post that the government is not worried about the impact of the GW statement, claiming it was "just a political statement in support of the opposition party" to express anger over the government's cancellation of GW's forest-monitoring contract.

Editor: Chris

Thai Crisis May Cause US$100 MLN Loss to Cambodian Tourism

PHNOM PENH, Dec 2 Asia Pulse - The tourism industry of Cambodia will see a loss of US$100 million this year, if the current chaos in Thailand can't be reversed in three months, Cambodian media on Tuesday quoted minister as saying.

The Thai capital is a regional hub, from where tourists can enter Cambodia, so the situation there can have a direct impact over the tourism industry here, Cambodian Tourism Minister Thon Khong told Chinese-language newspaper the Commercial News.

About 1,500 passengers come to Cambodia through Bangkok everyday, making up 30 per cent of all daily entry of visitors into the kingdom, he said.

"Each of them is expected to spend US$770 per day in the country," he said.

When times were stable, 10 to 12 flights shuttle between Siem Reap, Phnom Penh and Bangkok, but the crisis in the neighboring country has stopped the boom and will lead to loss to Cambodia for sure, he added.

Tourism is one of the pillar industries of Cambodia. Over two million foreign tourist arrivals are expected this year according to the government's original plan, but the number has been scaled down by almost a quarter recently due to the global financial crisis.

Family of woman fatally shot at gas pump seeks answers

Tue. December 02, 2008

Dec 02, 2008 (Houston Chronicle - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Chou Ung was low on gas when she left work at her family's West Houston restaurant Sunday night. She called her parents to tell them she was on her way -- even though it was after 9 p.m., they were holding dinner so she could join them.

Ung never made it home. In an apparently random attack, the 28-year-old was gunned down by a stranger and died when she stopped to fill up at a Chevron station in the 11300 block of Westheimer.

Police are searching for the man who apparently tried to rob Ung at the pumps, then shot her in the head during a struggle.

While they investigated her death Sunday night, Ung's family called her phone again and again, worrying more with every unanswered ring.

"We called her cell phone so many times," said her brother, 42-year-old Tony Ung. "We didn't know where she was."

When police showed up at their door hours later, they were devastated.

"My parents are speechless," Ung said. "I can't describe how we feel."

Chou Ung lived with her parents in Alief, where the Chinese family emigrated from Cambodia 30 years ago. They own several restaurants in the Houston area, including Chef Huang's, the take-out restaurant where Ung was helping out Sunday night.

"She was a nice and giving person," her older brother said Monday. "She helped out a lot for the family."

Chou Ung, a graduate of Elsik High School, was also studying education at the University of Houston and hoped to become a teacher, her brother said.

He described her as a popular young woman with many friends, known for her sense of humor and her quick smile. Her page on Facebook, the social networking Web site, shows that she was a Texans fan who grew up watching The Cosby Show.

"She was the funniest person," her older brother said. "She brings all the laughter here. That's what we'll miss."

On Monday, the family waited to hear from detectives about any leads in the case.

"We want to know who killed my sister," Ung said.

Police said Ung's death appeared to be the result of a hold-up gone wrong, but they were still trying to find out if anything had been taken from the woman.

Chronicle writers Zen Zheng and Jennifer Latson contributed to this report.

Hundreds of tourists treated in Thailand

December 01 2008

Bangkok - Thai authorities said on Monday that 282 foreign tourists have sought medical treatment at a naval base from which travellers are being evacuated during an opposition blockade of Bangkok's airports.

Most were suffering from complaints including headaches, vomiting, fainting, cold, muscle sprains, skin irritation and food poisoning, the Public Health Authority said in a statement.

Foreign nations are scrambling to get their nationals out of the Vietnam-era U-Tapao airbase southeast of Bangkok while the capital's international and domestic airports remain occupied by protesters.

The health authority said both government-run and private-run hospitals across the country had been ordered to give "free medical service to trapped foreign businesspeople and tourists if they fall ill".

The ministry had also provided mobile toilets for the more than 5 000 passengers who are using the cramped U-Tapao base daily to escape the troubled kingdom, it said. - AFP

Bangkok Airport Bomb attacks and Chaos Worsens 12-1-08

Bangkok airport chaos worsens . Bomb attacks and the airport stand-off continue in Bangkok.

The protesters reinforced their siege of the 2 airports Monday as the politically paralyzed country struggled with more than 300,000 stranded traveler

Anti-government protesters with their belongings wait to be transported from the Government House to either one of Bangkok's two airports Monday, Dec. 1, 2008, in Bangkok, Thailand. The protesters reinforced their siege of the two airports Monday as the politically paralyzed country struggled with more than 300,000 stranded travelers. In a switch of tactics, protest leaders, told its members occupying the prime minister's office compound for the last three months to leave and join compatriots at the airports, which they seized last week in their push to oust the government.(AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong)

Anti-government demonstrators detain a suspected pro-government supporter in Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport on December 1, 2008.REUTERS/Stringer

Pro-government supporters gather for a rally in Bangkok, Thailand, Monday, Dec. 1, 2008. Anti-government protesters trying to force the prime minister's resignation brought in thousands of reinforcements to occupy Bangkok's two besieged airports Monday, extending the political paralysis that has stranded 300,000 travelers. Neither the army nor Thailand's revered king has stepped in to resolve the crisis, or offered the firm backing that Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat has sought.(AP Photo/David Longstreath)

Motorcycle taxi drivers look on as Thai pro-government activist Jatuporn Phrompan, seen on screen, speaks at a rally in Bangkok, Thailand, Monday, Dec. 1, 2008. Anti-government protesters trying to force the prime minister's resignation brought in thousands of reinforcements to occupy Bangkok's two besieged airports Monday, extending the political paralysis that has stranded 300,000 travelers. Neither the army nor Thailand's revered king has stepped in to resolve the crisis, or offered the firm backing that Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat has sought.(AP Photo/David Longstreath)

Thailand's Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat is seen at a Buddhist temple in Chiang Mai province, northern Thailand, Monday, Dec. 1, 2008. Anti-government protesters camped at Thailand's government seat were shifting tactics to join colleagues at Bangkok's besieged airports Monday as the politically paralyzed country struggled with more than 300,000 stranded travelers. A leader of the People's Alliance for Democracy said demonstrators will end their more than three-month sit-in at the prime minister's office compound and move to both Bangkok airports, which they seized last week in their push to oust the government, severing all civilian flights in or out of the capital.(AP Photo/Wichai Taprieu)

Tommy, from Sweden, holds his son Patrick while waiting with other stranded passengers to check-in for their flights, departing from U-Tapao, at a makeshift airline terminal in Bangkok December 1, 2008. The Airports of Thailand (AOT) on Monday opened check-in counters in Bangkok for stranded passengers to take flights to U-Tapao Airport. Anti-government protesters consolidated their positions at Thailand's besieged main airport on Monday as attention shifted to a court verdict that could end the crisis.REUTERS/Adrees Latif (THAILAND)

Security guards keep watch at a makeshift airline terminal in Bangkok December 1, 2008. The Airports of Thailand (AOT) on Monday opened check-in counters in Bangkok for stranded passengers to take flights to U-Tapao Airport. Anti-government protesters consolidated their positions at Thailand's besieged main airport on Monday as attention shifted to a court verdict that could end the crisis.REUTERS/Adrees Latif (THAILAND)

Gustav, 5, awaits with this parents and other stranded passengers to check-in for their flights at a makeshift airline terminal in Bangkok December 1, 2008. The Airports of Thailand (AOT) on Monday opened check-in counters in Bangkok for stranded passengers to take flights to U-Tapao Airport. Anti-government protesters consolidated their positions at Thailand's besieged main airport on Monday as attention shifted to a court verdict that could end the crisis.REUTERS/Adrees Latif (THAILAND)

Stranded passengers line up to check-in for their flights at a makeshift airline terminal in Bangkok December 1, 2008. The Airports of Thailand (AOT) on Monday opened check-in counters in Bangkok for stranded passengers to take flights to U-Tapao Airport. Anti-government protesters consolidated their positions at Thailand's besieged main airport on Monday as attention shifted to a court verdict that could end the crisis.REUTERS/Adrees Latif (THAILAND)

Anti-government demonstrators load equipment, used in rallies at the Government House, onto a truck in Bangkok December 1, 2008. Officials from the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) said they were shifting the focus of their protest from Government House in central Bangkok to Suvarnabhumi Airport, which they took over last Tuesday night, paralysing flight traffic and leaving thousands of tourists stranded.REUTERS/Kerek Wongsa (THAILAND)

Thai protestors to lift siege of Government House

Monday 1st December, 2008

Anti-government protestors in Thailand decided Monday to end their three-month occupation of the prime minister's office, but remained in place at Bangkok's two airports which they have shut down for almost a week.

People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) leader Chamlomg Srimuang urged supporters still at Government House to move out and join others at Suvarnabhumi International Airport and Don Mueang Airport.

The PAD occupied Government House Aug 26, depriving the prime minister and cabinet of their offices.

The decision to vacate the Government House grounds came after several grenade attacks on the compound in recent weeks which killed one PAD member and injured scores of others.

The last attack, over the weekend, injured 46 people.

Anger against the PAD - a loose coalition of groups dedicated to toppling the government because of its links to fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra - has mounted since it took control of Suvarnabhumi airport Nov 25.

The protesters closed down the $4-billion facility, and two days later also occupied Bangkok's former international airport Don Mueang, completely cutting the capital off from air traffic.

The airport seizures were part of the PAD's strategy to bring the government to its knees.

Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat Thursday put the two airports under emergency law and ordered the police to clear the facilities of the PAD. But police failed to act over the weekend, apparently fearful of public criticism if things turned bloody, and and aware that Somchai's government may soon be disbanded.

The PAD has enjoyed strong backing from Bangkok's middle class and members of the country's political elite, including the army.

Garment industry needs to improve quality - GMAC

December 01, 2008 (Cambodia)

Even though, Prime Minister Hun Sen sounded upbeat during the summit of trade leaders from the world's poorest countries held in Siem Reap, and said that the garment sector will not be seriously impacted by the global financial crisis; however, Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia (GMAC) is not so sure.

According to PM, factories should focus on cheaper garments and the country can continue to sell if they are marketed properly. "At this point, I think that there has been no serious impact on the garment sector” said Hun Sen.

GMAC is worried about the decreasing export orders, continuous closures of factories and retrenchment of workers.

Even, Clothing demand has fallen sharply in the US as financial difficulties are forcing consumers to cut back on nonessential purchases.In this context, while speaking to Fibre2fashion, Mr Cheat Khemara Senior Labour Officer, GMAC said, “Due to finacial problem in US, garment export of our country is facing tough time. There is a major cut down in the export order. Every year between November to May, we have peak season for export order. But this year there is 70 percent drop export orders compared to last year.”

“Manufacturing factories are in a dire state. Many are facing problem as they have to finish orders, send shipments and they have to wait three months to receive payments. Inability to sustain the current pressure, more than 30 garments factories have been closed this year.”

Discussing the corrective measures, Mr Khemara, suggested, “To bring back the situation to normal, union leaders and workers have to work in amicably, without raising further issues. Even factories need to improve quality of garments, at the same time they will have to increase quantity of the total production.

“Even Government has to take some steps to help factory owners and should find good solution so that more export orders can be fetched from different countries apart from the US.”

Available statistics show that Cambodia's export garment market is worth nearly $3.6 billion a year.

Data released by US Department of Commerce, Cambodian garment exports to the US, totaled to $1.8 billion in the first nine months of 2008, slightly down from the same period the previous year.

Garment industry is considered as one of the pillars of Cambodian economy, providing 80 percent of its foreign exchange and employing more than 300,000 people.

Fibre2fashion News Desk - India

The Fate of the Garment Sector in Cambodia in 2009 Is Not Yet Clear- Monday, 1.12.2008

Posted on 2 December 2008

The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 589

“No one knows the fate of the garment sector in Cambodia in 2009 well; some said that it will be good, while some said that it will be bad if the world still suffers from a financial crisis.

“The president of the Cambodian Free Trade Union of Workers, Mr. Chea Mony, said on 27 November 2008 that he cannot forecast the situation of the Cambodia garment sector for 2009, but he said that this sector will not be severely affected.

“He added, ‘I cannot forecast, but so far, the garment sector of Cambodia does not yet have problems.’

“He went on to say that so far, the financial crisis is spreading, but good companies still place buying orders in Cambodia.

“Regarding the same problem, Mr. Chuon Momthol, the president of the League of Cambodian Trade Unions, said on the same day that if the financial crisis still continues, the fate of the Cambodian garment sector will be seriously affected, because most of the big markets for Cambodia are also the root causes of the crisis. He continued to say that now, the big markets for the garment industry in Cambodia are the United States and Europe; therefore, if these countries are affected, their citizens will stop buying, and we will be affected.

“He continued, ‘During the three month since the spreading of the crisis started, I received information that 101 small and big factories closed temporarily, and some had closed permanently because they did not have any buying orders. He added that among all factories, some have between 5,000 and 10,000 workers.

“Mr. Chea Mony seems to have different information and ideas from Mr. Thol, as he says that so far, 30 factories have closed, and there are up to 60 new factories. This is a positive sign.

“He added, ‘If the Cambodian garment sector were affected, why would the number of factories increase from more than 400 to more than 500 at present?’

“He went on to say that 29 big companies continue to have contracts to buy garment products from Cambodia, and moreover, recently some factories relocated from Vietnam and from Thailand to Cambodia.

“He continued that in Cambodia, factories will not easily close, because Cambodia is one of the Least Developed Countries that produces garments for the rich countries; as for other countries like Thailand, Malaysia, or Vietnam, they seems to have less interest in the garment sector, because they are concentrating on other [higher valued] products.

“An official of the Garment Manufacturers’ Association in Cambodia, [the External Affairs Manager] Mr. Kaing Monika, said on 28 November 2008 that the Association worries because of this crisis. The influence of the global financial crisis exists, and recently, the Association heard that many shops selling garments, both wholesale and retail, in the United States, started to close, and the future of buying orders is no longer clear.’

“He added that ‘generally, in previous years at this point of time, we saw that there were buying orders until May and June, but now, there are buying orders only to January and February.’

“He went on to say that in September and October, our garment factories did not face a crisis, but now, since November, the crisis started gradually.

“Relating to the closing of factories, he said that he does not have the numbers, because some factories are not members of the Association; however, some factories have closed.

“He pointed out, ‘The Association had 310 factories as members, but when we met at the Ministry of Commerce recently, only 285 factories were left.’

“So far, there are two types of factories, and most of the factories registered in the Association are factories that produce garments for direct export, while other factories are subcontracting factories.

“By October 2008, the export rate of garment products of Cambodia reached US$2,1 billion, but it dropped by about 1% compared to the same period in 2007.”

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.16, #4756, 30-1.11-12.2008
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Monday, 1 December 2008

Thai crisis deepens as airport siege intensifies

Bangkok Riot Police gather in formation near a checkpoint at the besieged Suvarnabhumi international airport in Bangkok, Monday, Dec. 1, 2008. Protesters trying to force the prime minister's resignation brought in thousands of reinforcements to occupy Bangkok's two besieged airports Monday, extending the political paralysis that has stranded 300,000 travelers.(AP Photo/Vincent Thian)

By VIJAY JOSHI, Associated Press Writers

BANGKOK, Thailand – Thailand's leader attended a Buddhist ritual Monday, seemingly indifferent to a deepening political crisis that has paralyzed his government, shut down two main airports and stranded 300,000 foreigners in the country.

The crisis is draining millions of dollars from the country's economy even as Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat appears powerless to remove radical anti-government protesters who have occupied the airports for the past week. He has refused to send in police to evict them for fear of bloodshed, instead making weak pleas for the protesters to go home.

The protesters have vowed to stay until Somchai steps down but he has refused.
Neither the army, a key player in Thai politics, nor the king has offered Somchai the firm backing he needs to resolve the crisis.

With no end to the deadlock in sight, many Thais hoped a court ruling could resolve the crisis.

A Constitutional Court is set to decide whether Somchai and others in his party committed electoral fraud — a move that would see him banned from politics and his party dissolved.

Even if that scenario comes to pass and the protesters disperse, it is expected to take at least another week before the airports become operational again.

The airport closure has severed all commercial flights in and out of the capital, forcing thousands to cancel their vacations during peak tourist season, and halted vital postal air services, preventing the arrival of everything from specialized medicines to raw fish for Bangkok's Japanese restaurants.

Somchai has been working out of Chiang Mai since Wednesday, saying he wants to avoid a confrontation with the People's Alliance for Democracy, the group that has been campaigning since May to topple his government.

On Monday, Somchai went to a Buddhist temple in the northern city and prayed with dozens of monks for the health of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the country's revered constitutional monarch who celebrates his 81st birthday on Friday. He also attended a royal flower exhibition.

Asked about the crisis, he told reporters: "The authorities are working in line with due process, but we have to depend on police, soldiers and civil servants." He refused to elaborate.

The protesters accuse Somchai of being a puppet of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, the alliance's original target. Thaksin, who is Somchai's brother-in-law, was deposed in a 2006 military coup and has fled the country to escape corruption charges.

Alliance supporters are largely middle-class citizens who say Thailand's electoral system is susceptible to vote-buying and argue that the rural majority — the Thaksin camp's political base — is not sophisticated enough to cast ballots responsibly.

They have proposed discarding direct elections of lawmakers in favor of appointing most legislators, fostering resentment among rural voters.

The divisions have slipped into deadly violence. So far, six people have been killed in bomb attacks, clashes with police and street battles between government opponents and supporters.

On Sunday, the alliance bused in more protesters to reinforce its siege of the Suvarnabhumi international airport and the domestic Don Muang airport. The reinforcements came from the prime minister's office compound, which the alliance had occupied since Aug. 26.

Protest leader Chamlong Srimuang said they were moving out because it was becoming unsafe to stay in the compound, which has frequently come under grenade attacks by unidentified assailants. The latest occurred on Sunday and wounded 49 people.

"We are not abandoning the site. We will end the siege at all sites at the same time," said Suriyasai Katasila, an alliance spokesman.

On Tuesday, a Constitutional Court will hear closing arguments in the electoral fraud case against Somchai's People's Power Party and two other parties in the governing coalition. A ruling could come as early as sometime this week.

If found guilty, the parties would be dissolved and Somchai and 23 other lawmakers could be barred from politics for five years. Somchai's removal from office would bring down his government, but other members of his dissolved party would be free to join other parties and form a new government.

"The protesters will achieve (their) objective if the court dissolves the ruling parties and the government falls," said Chamlong.

However, a ruling against Somchai is also likely to intensify divisions in the country. Somchai's supporters are already expressing their displeasure at the possibility of a guilty verdict.

It would be a "coup in disguise," said Veera Musikapong, a pro-government leader.

"This is a coordinated effort to overthrow the government. It looks like justice is being done but it's nothing more than a hidden coup," he said.

Meanwhile, Thailand's economy has suffered immensely.

Fitch Ratings on Monday forecast that the economy will grow by 0.9 percent in 2009, which would be its slowest rate since the 1997-1998 Asian financial crisis.

"It is a concern that, in the absence of effective and credible political leadership, economic policy could be either neglected or ineffective at a time when policy stimulus is likely required," said Vincent Ho, an associate director at Fitch.

Kongrit Hiranyakit, head of the Tourism Council of Thailand, said over 300,000 travelers were stranded in Thailand, with 35,000 to 45,000 being added each day the airports remained closed. Thousands of others trying to enter Thailand from around the world are also stuck.

Stranded travelers are driving hundreds of kilometers (miles) to other airports such as Chiang Mai and Phuket in the south to leave the country.


Associated Press reporters Ambika Ahuja, Jocelyn Gecker and Mick Elmore contributed to this report.

Genocidal loopholes in Cambodia

Asia Times Pnline

By Stephen Kurczy

Southeast Asia
Dec 2, 2008

PHNOM PENH - The Khmer Rouge's alleged former chief executioner and head of state will both appear in court this week in Cambodia. Yet instead of reeling the radical Maoist regime's most senior leaders closer to justice, the two-and-a-half-year-old United Nations sponsored tribunal's final hearings for this year will showcase defense stall tactics and set up one defendant to be the first, and possibly the only, cadre convicted for the regime's crimes against humanity.

French attorney Jacques Verges, who represents Khieu Samphan, the former Khmer Rouge head-of-state, will argue later this week before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) that the failure to translate all evidence into French has violated his client's right to a fair trial and thereby warrants his release.

Meanwhile, the court is expected to announce whether former torture prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, will be tried under the 1956 Cambodian penal code and Joint Criminal Enterprise, a form of liability that holds all members of a conspiracy responsible for each other's crimes. The ruling could prove disadvantageous to the defense, as the Khmer Rouge is accused of some of the most egregious violations of international humanitarian law in the 20th century during its three-year, eight-month and 20-day rule.

While Duch nears conviction for crimes committed during his oversight of the S-21 prison in Phnom Penh and the notorious Choeung Ek killing fields nearby, where a combined 12,380 detainees died, observers say Khieu Samphan's case showcases a defense team vigorously defending its client.

"The Khieu Samphan hearing will very much send the message, 'sounds like the court is hung up on technical details and administrative issues'. The other one, with Duch, looks a lot like a trial that is actually going to deliver something in the foreseeable future," said John Ciorciari, senior legal advisor to the Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam).

The last time Verges appeared in the ECCC, on April 23, he refused to speak because all evidence was not translated into French. The pre-trial judges found that Verges' refusal to cooperate violated Khieu Samphan's right to be represented and "right to a timely hearing". The sideshow earned Verges a warning from the court, but also an eight-month delay in procedures.

More than a year has passed since the court placed Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot's right-hand man in detention for his alleged role in "directing, encouraging, enforcing or otherwise rendering support to [the Communist Party of Kampuchea] policy which was characterized by murder, extermination, imprisonment, persecution on political grounds and other inhumane acts such as forcible transfers of the population, enslavement, and forced labor." Because of the delays and legal stalling tactics, Ciorciari said Khieu Samphan's trial is unlikely to begin until 2010.

That's good news for Verges, former advocate for Nazi Gestapo officer Klaus Barbie and the Venezuelan terrorist Carlos the Jackal. He has said that the ECCC "borders on lynch-mob justice". Observers don't expect to see Khieu Samphan's release when the pre-trial chamber rules this week on Verges' appeal, legal experts say, but do anticipate another entertaining presentation from Verges. As Verges himself said in a November interview with German magazine Der Spiegel, "A good trial is like a Shakespeare play, a work of art.

" Verges "is someone with a lot of tricks up his sleeve, and he's very masterful at using criminal processing in a way that tells a larger narrative about justice", said Beth Van Schaack, assistant law professor at the US's Santa Clara University School of Law who served on the criminal defense team for John Walker Lindh, the American citizen who joined Afghanistan's Taliban. "He'll be using whatever legal loopholes that he can find. To a certain extent, that's what we expect from a defense."

Verges and other defense lawyers can't claim full responsibility for delaying the UN tribunal. Twice in the past two years the court has been rocked by allegations of internal corruption. The Open Society Justice Initiative in 2007 said tribunal staff paid kickbacks for their positions and this year in August the UN Office of International Oversight Services in New York said multiple tribunal staffers had complained of graft.

John Hall, associate professor at Chapman University School of Law in California, has said the corruption allegations could "fatally" damage the tribunal if the Cambodian government cannot stamp it out. Not surprisingly, Verges has also called the entire court into question, saying in the Der Spiegel interview, "It may be that the trial against Duch will begin soon, but not the trials against the other four prisoners … because the tribunal in Phnom Penh has already gambled away its credibility and legitimacy."

Ailing comrades

Meanwhile, the aging Khmer Rouge cadres complain of illness. Khieu Samphan, 77, was treated in May for a minor stroke. Ex-foreign minister Ieng Sary, 83, entered the hospital in late July after doctors discovered blood in his urine during a routine checkup. Duch, at 66, is the junior by at least a decade to the other four detainees. Yet aside from Duch, none of the detainees are expected to go to trial until late 2009 or 2010, two years after the trials were originally expected to conclude.

"The more likely thing is that [Duch] happens to be the only one convicted before the other four all croak. He will, in a narrow legal sense, be the only one who got nailed," DC-Cam's Ciorciari said by telephone from Stanford University.

"It sounds a bit like Duch is being set up to be the fall guy," said Cambodia historian David Chandler, the author of Brother Number One and Voices from S-21 and an emeritus professor of history at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia.

However, the court on December 5 will rule on the very issue that could prevent Duch from becoming the fall guy: whether to allow as a form of criminal liability Joint Criminal Enterprise, a legal theory wherein members of a conspiracy are held responsible for each individuals' actions.

On January 7, 1979, when Vietnamese forces entered Phnom Penh and stumbled on Duch's detention center, "Troops discovered a number of recently killed persons still chained to iron beds, and thousands of documents scattered in and around the buildings," according to Duch's indictment. Twenty years later, the former math teacher was found in Battambang province living under a pseudonym. He had converted to Christianity and had his children baptized. Duch was arrested and placed in Cambodian military jail until July 2007, when he was transferred to the ECCC detention center.

The court's pre-trial investigation included interviews with Duch wherein he admits to receiving and conveying orders to execute, and also interviews with numerous witnesses, S-21 personnel and detainees that detail Duch's instructions to use electric shock, asphyxiation and fingernail extraction as methods of interrogation.

In their August 8 indictment, the co-investigators narrowed Duch's liability to crimes against humanity and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949. It's what they did not charge Duch with that is the subject of the December 5 hearing. The co-prosecutors appealed the closing order because they believe Duch is also liable under the 1956 Cambodian Penal code - for homicide and torture - and Joint Criminal Enterprise (JCE).

JCE is not clear-cut. In three briefs to the court, submitted in late-October, three legal experts offered differing views on JCE applicability, which comes in three classifications: JCE I, where participants share intent, such as in a heist when both the robber and the driver share the intent to rob a bank; JCE II, where participants engage in a common design, such as in a concentration camp when both the prison guards and the incinerator operators share tasks indispensable for the achievement of the camp's main goals; and JCE III, where participants in a common design are liable for those results foreseeable even if not necessarily intended, such as when the forced eviction of a city leaves the young, sick and elderly dying along the roadside.

JCE III has been rejected outright as a mode of participation in Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland, and remains highly criticized in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom. But in Antonio Cassese's brief to the court on JCE, the editor-in-chief of the Journal of International Criminal Justice backs the form of liability and cites from the 1947 International Military Tribunal Judgment at Nuremberg: "Hitler could not make aggressive war by himself. He had to have the cooperation of statesmen, military leaders, diplomats, and business men. When they, with knowledge of his aims, gave him their cooperation, they made themselves parties to the plan he had initiated."

Cassese's parallel is plain: though Brother Number 1 Pol Pot is dead, his crimes were part of a larger conspiracy that arguably included cooperation from the five Khmer Rouge leaders in detention today. Allowing JCE as a form of liability in Duch's case would bring the four other Khmer Rouge leaders in detention - Khieu Samphan, former foreign minister Ieng Sary, his wife former social affairs minister Ieng Thirith, and the regime's chief ideologue Nuon Chea - closer to responsibility for the atrocities at S-21 and further from escaping culpability.

"If I were a prosecutor trying to nail the other four," said DC-Cam's Ciorciari, "I would want to link them to Duch, because his crimes are the easiest to prove. If a prosecutor wants - and it would be wise - to link them all to Tuol Sleng, I would want to use a legal theory, like Joint Criminal Enterprise, that would enable me to connect these others to the very provable atrocities of Tuol Sleng.

Compelling evidence

Evidence already links Duch's torture prison with the four other detainees. Duch's named "superiors," whose identities are redacted in the indictment, are believed to include at least Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan. Chandler has said the chain of command passed down from Pol Pot to Nuon Chea to Son Sen, the deputy prime minister of the Khmer Rouge's Democratic Kampuchea government, to Duch at S-21, which was known of and approved by Ieng Sary, Ieng Thirith and Khieu Samphan.

By allowing JCE as a form of liability, the court may cast a net so wide that it implicates and leads to the subpoena of senior Cambodian officials serving in today's government; a year ago, Norodom Sihanouk's official biographer Julio Jeldres said the court appeared on the verge of collapse when it was questioned if the former king should testify. (See Khmer Rouge tribunal in jeopardy (again) Asia Times Online, September 18, 2007.)

"JCE will bring other people to light," said Beth Van Schaack of Santa Clara University. "If the investigation becomes too wide-ranging, subpoenaing sitting members of the government, it could provoke some government backlash," she said by telephone from San Francisco.

It remains debatable whether all three forms of JCE existed on April 17, 1975, when Pol Pot's ragtag army first marched into Phnom Penh. Cassese, an ardent backer of JCE, has been called impartial by the defense because he was one of the five appellate judges at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia who authored the very phrase "joint criminal enterprise."

If the pre-trial chamber on December 5 announces that JCE is not allowed, the co-prosecutors say "the full scope of torture or mistreatment of detainees that was practiced at S-21" will not be covered. Of additional concern is that the prosecutors gambled away a half-year of precious time. While Duch's trial was anticipated to begin in September, court spokesman Peter Foster said the prosecutors' appeal pushed the starting date into the first quarter of 2009.

"The important thing to realize is it shouldn't be considered a delay. This isn't something out of left field," Foster said. The tribunal "takes as long as it takes. There's no ending mandate. What there is, are international standards."

Van Schaack agreed, arguing that even if JCE is unexpectedly barred as a form of liability, this decision will allow the co-investigating judges to hone in on evidence and frame future indictments. "Resolving jurisprudential questions is never a waste of time," she said. "There's no doubt that people are disappointed by the lack of progress. There's no doubt that it would have been nice had things moved along, but that's one of the problems of ad hoc justice, it takes time."

But what amount of time - and money - is justifiable? Rival goals of a speedy trial, yet on an international standard, will collide in public view during the final ECCC hearings of 2008 and may incite major donors of the proceedings, such as the US, to speak up and demand results, said Ciorciari.

In September the US pledged its first donation of US$1.8 million. Yet the US remains concerned about the ECCC's ability to meet international standards and address corruption in an efficient manner, John Bellinger, a legal adviser to the US secretary of state, said on November 14 in an address at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in Massachusetts. He told the audience, "Justice delayed is justice denied."

Already over-budget and nearing its original end-date with not a single trial begun, the tribunal must measure the cost of justice for the victims of the Khmer Rouge, Ciorciari said, either with a trial hurdling stall tactics and rushing to a timely end, or with a trial stretching beyond the natural lives of detainees, costing hundreds of millions of dollars more, and resulting in only one conviction.

"If someone doesn't say 'giddy-up,' we're in real danger."

Stephen Kurczy is a Cambodia-based journalist.