Friday, 5 December 2008

UPDATE:Former KRouge Prison Chief To Face Extra Charges-Court

Friday December 5th, 2008

PHNOM PENH (AFP)--Cambodia's genocide court Friday ruled that the former Khmer Rouge prison chief will face extra charges, paving the way for the first public trial of a leader of the brutal regime.

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

Judges in August ordered the 66-year-old to stand trial on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity relating to his role in the 1975-1979 communist regime, which wiped out up to two million people. But prosecutors said the indictment failed to go far enough and portray a "full and truthful account" of Duch's crimes.

The pretrial chamber of the court Friday approved the appeal, removing the last obstacle to his trial.

"The pretrial chamber...finds that the domestic crimes of torture and premeditated murder can be added to the closing order," head judge Prak Kimsan said.

This widens the scope of the charges against Duch and makes it easier to convict him under domestic law.

Judges didn't, however, add the accusation that he participated in a "joint criminal enterprise."

The controversial "joint criminal enterprise" 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. Because of its nature, the charge is opposed by other Khmer Rouge leaders, who fear that a conviction in Duch's case would leave them automatically liable.

China, Cambodia To Strengthen Cooperative Partnership


(RTTNews) - China's top political advisor, Jia Qinglin and Cambodian Senate President Chea Sim agreed to further promote bilateral and comprehensive partnership between the two nations. The strengthened ties would help to achieve reciprocal and win-win results for both the sides, they said.

Jia, on a visit to Phnom Penh in the last leg of his tour that took him to Jordan, Turkey, and Laos, said that the Communist Party of China (CPC) honors its relations with the Cambodian People's Party (CPP) and they would further strengthen exchange and cooperation with the Cambodian Senate.

Chea Sim said that the two sides would actively push forward bilateral cooperation in sectors of economy, trade, tourism, culture and education. He also hoped that the two nations would enhance cooperation within the framework of the ASEAN and strengthen coordination in regional affairs.

by RTT Staff Writer

CAMBODIA: Children miss out on school because of corruption

Photo: Geoffrey Cain/IRIN
School children in Cambodia. Corruption within the country's education system is reportedly rampant
PHNOM PENH, 5 December 2008 (IRIN) - When Sok Sopheap could not pay his daily bribe, his secondary school teacher refused to let him attend class.

The teacher demanded he stand for an hour by the door until the class finished. "It was humiliating, but it happens a lot to students," said the 19-year-old son of a food vendor, graduating years late because of what he calls "high corruption fees".

"We have to pay unfairly for almost everything at school," he complained, including exams, tests and even class time.

"I don't think the problem is getting better," he said. "Young people in Cambodia have lived with this all our lives and no one has done much to stop it."

Chronic poverty

"New teachers often face a many-month delay before they receive their salaries," David Coleman, education chief of the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) for Cambodia, told IRIN. "Teachers sometimes supplement their income with a second job. This can affect their own attendance at school, and can put pressure on the amount of time they have to prepare their lessons."

Teachers' salaries start from US$50 a month, even less than garment factory workers earn, Coleman added. High oil and gas costs, which have only fallen slightly since their summer peak, despite a global price plummet, could be adding to teachers' salary woes, said Soprach, a primary school teacher in the capital, Phnom Penh.

"The price I pay for gas every month is almost the same as my salary," Soprach told IRIN. "How am I supposed to survive and feed my family without charging extra?"

Daily fees of 700 riel (20 cents) do little to drain students of money while keeping his own family afloat with $200 a month, he added.

Yet others think the tiny costs add up in significant ways, unfairly forcing poorer students out of school.

A 2007 report by the Cambodian NGO Education Partnership (NEP) reveals education costs for each child averaged $108 annually, or 9 percent of each family's annual income. The inability to pay informal fees was the most common reason parents gave for their children dropping out, the report stated.

"When you include informal and formal school costs, and private classes and snacks, many students are paying $2.50 every day," Leng Theavy, education and capacity-building officer for the NGO Education Partnership (NEP), told IRIN.

"That money is a lot because many Cambodians don't make more than $60 a month. In the survey we found the informal fees to be small, but we think the numbers could be much higher now," she added.

The study also noted that a quarter of parents were unaware that their children were entitled to a free education, a legal right. Informal fees are prevalent in Phnom Penh, not in the countryside, the report said, though Theavy said corruption still happened in the provinces.

"Some teachers in the countryside take large fees too, and often the communes receive documented complaints from parents," she said.

Tackling corruption

As part of Cambodia's Education Strategic Plan for 2006 to 2010, the Ministry of Education is seeking ways to improve efficiencies to reduce informal fees.

The establishment of a Teacher Professional Code, ensuring on-time payments and raising teacher salaries are priorities.

However, Theavy said government had only limited options.

"The situation is out of the control of the Ministry [of Education] even though they circulated a ban on informal payments," she told IRIN. "Teachers commit this on their own."

Corruption overall is one of Cambodia's most pressing issues, with anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International scoring the country the 14th most corrupt in the world in its 2008 index, and the third most corrupt country in the Asia-Pacific region.

US Oil Company Pays US$120 Million to Buy Oil Exploration License for Explorations at the Bottom of the Khmer Sea - Thursday, 4.12.2008

Posted on 5 December 2008
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 589

“It is reported that Chevron, a US big oil company, had paid US$120 million into a social development foundation of the Hun Sen government, in order to receive the concession to explore oil in one of the six blocks in the Sihanoukville sea.

“The report added that an Indonesian company, Medco International Petroleum, spent US$4.5 million to buy a license to do undersea oil exploration in the Cambodian sea, by cooperating with its partners from Kuwait and from Sweden that had also signed agreements with the National Petroleum Authority of Cambodia [as an exception in his context, no Internet website for the National Petroleum Authority of Cambodia could be found – see, however, The Mirror of 10 June 2007]. This license depends on a model contract that the National Petroleum Authority of Cambodia had provided for the first time for Block A to Chevron in 2002. This contract talks about the sharing of benefits with the Cambodian government, and about the taxation rate on oil income.

“When asking the Minister of Information, Mr. Khieu Kanharith, about these problems by telephone, he advised to talk to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Council of Ministers Sok An, who directly administers the National Petroleum Authority of Cambodia. After contacting his office by telephone for an interview, a man who received Deputy Prime Minister Sok An’s phone, said that the Deputy Prime Minister was busy.

“While the US Chevron company was already drilling to explore oil in Block A, the National Petroleum Authority of Cambodia and the cabinet of Minister Sok An provided licenses to other companies to explore oil at different blocks as follows:

- Block A: This block was contracted to Chevron of the United States, and it is believed to have the most oil and gas deposits. In Block A, Chevron has a 55% stake; the partners of this company are Mitsui Oil Exploration, having 30%, and Caltex with 15%. At present, those companies are drilling for oil at fifteen places and are considering to drill even more. According to the National Petroleum Authority of Cambodia, Chevron and its partners have invested US$120 million.

- Block B: It is far from Sihanoukville and it was contracted to the Singapore Petroleum Company cooperating with a Malaysian oil company [Petronas?] and the Thai oil company PTT. Each company has one third stake. The Singaporean company and its partners have invested US$1 million, and they will invest US$2.5 million more when oil deposits are found in this block.

- Block C: This block was contracted to Polytec of Hong Kong. The National Petroleum Authority of Cambodia announced that 100% of the rights were given to the Polytec company only, there are no partners.

- Block D: According to the publication of an Indonesian newspaper, first, the license of this block was contracted to China Zheng Rong Cambodia Energy, but then Block D was transferred to China Petrotech Holding that bought the 48% stake from the Zhen Rong company. Petrotech Holding has invested US$4 million in Block D, and plans to spend another US$2 million of its US$4 million to explore oil for the first time in this block.

- Block E: This block is located next to the Western border of a disputed region with Siam [Thailand] and it was contracted to the Indonesian Medco International Petroleum company, which has a 41.25% stake, Kuwait Energy has 20%, JHL Petroleum with 4.13%, and a Swedish company has 34%. For this Block E, Medco of Indonesia had paid US$4.5 million to a social development foundation of the Cambodian government.

- Block F: This block was contracted to China National Offshore Oil, a big oil company, and it was signed with the National Petroleum Authority of Cambodia a few months ago. Details about the agreement and plans for this block are not shown. “The Director-General of the National Petroleum Authority, Mr. Te Duong Dara, refused to be available for a direct interview over the provision of licenses and the payment by all oil exploring companies to the government.

He added that - because now there are disputes over taxation laws on oil that is found at the bottom of the sea - we have not yet reached a good solution for those companies to pay tax to the state. “Te Duong Dara continued to say that we still have problems with taxation laws and we have to guarantee that the new taxation laws will be right; otherwise, those foreign companies will withdraw their investments from Cambodia.”

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.15, #3630, 4.12.2008
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Thursday, 4 December 2008

Ex-Khmer Rouge Prison Chief Awaits Genocide Court Decision


PHNOM PENH (AFP)--Cambodia's former Khmer Rouge prison chief will appear Friday before the country's genocide court as it decides whether to add a new charge that could impact on other regime leaders.

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

Four judges in August ordered the 66-year-old to stand trial on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

But prosecutors said the indictment failed to go far enough and portray a " full and truthful account" of Duch's crimes.

The court will rule on an appeal Friday, 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.

The controversial "joint criminal enterprise" charge, or 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.

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.

"It makes it a bit easier to hold defendants guilty, because they need not kill someone or order killings themselves to be held responsible," John Ciorciari, a senior legal adviser for the Documentation Center of Cambodia, which collects evidence of Khmer Rouge atrocities, said earlier this week.

The defense 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.

"Duch will sit in the dock in front of judges on Friday afternoon. He will listen to the verdict regarding the closing order," Cambodia's U.N.-backed tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath said.

He said once the ruling had been given, Duch's case would be "finalized and it paves the way for the first public trial to take place," adding that the trial chamber will meet in January to set a date for the start of the trial, expected in the first quarter of 2009.

Duch will be the first leader of Cambodia's brutal 1975-79 communist regime to stand trial at the U.N.-backed tribunal.

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

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.

Preah Vihear security on alert for weekend heritage ceremony

Tensions have run high at the eleventh-century Hindu temple since July, when Unesco announced it would be listed as a World Heritage site. Thailand opposed the listing, triggering off a build-up of troops at points along the Thai-Cambodian border.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Thet Sambath
Friday, 05 December 2008

RCAF forces and bodyguards deploy at the temple to ensure security at the inauguration of the World Heritage site this weekend

MILITARY commanders stationed at the disputed Preah Vihear temple say security will be good when senior government officials visit the temple this weekend for a Unesco World Heritage inauguration ceremony.

"We will have a big ceremony at the temple attended by top government officials, diplomats and other organisations, but I cannot tell which government officials will attend for reasons of security," said Hang Soth, director of the Preah Vihear authority.

"Security is good because we have armed forces stationed there."

Kim Sangath, deputy general director of the Council of Ministers, said Deputy Prime Minister Sok An would travel to the temple this weekend, but he could not confirm rumours Prime Minister Hun Sen would attend the ceremony.

Hing Bunheang, Hun Sen's bodyguard commander, said he had not yet been informed of a trip to the temple, but said sufficient security would be in place should the prime minister wish to attend.

"One thousand [bodyguards] are already at Preah Vihear temple.... Security is confirmed if the prime minister visits the temple because it is in our territory," he said.

Whether or not he attends, Hun Sen said that he looked forward to seeing the temple established as a World Heritage site.

"We are currently awaiting another splendid event to be held at Preah Vihear temple," he said in a ceremony Monday at Angkor Wat celebrating the placing of new World Heritage inscriptions. "We will celebrate tremendously according to its wonderful value."

Water bottler sets sights on growing Cambodian market

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by May Kunmakara
Friday, 05 December 2008

A $2 million company hopes to cash in on the growing local bottled market by using modern technology and local natural resources

A NEW player in Cambodia's purified drinking water market has seen early signs of success with a state-of-the-art manufacturing plant and production facility in Kampot province, and expects to distribute nationwide in 2009, the company said.

TADA Bokor Natural Spring Drinking Water began operations in early November with a US$2 million capital investment from the T-DA Import Export Co Ltd, which distributes the brand in Kampot province, Sihanoukville and Phnom Penh.

Company owner and first deputy president of Cambodia's National Committee for Disaster Management, Nhim Vanda, said TADA Bokor was licensed by the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy in 2006 following a study conducted with foreign partners to determine the suitability of mineral water from Kampot province's Bokor mountain.

A bottling factory was built at the base of the mountain in Makprang district, Nhim Vanda said.

"Our factory was built to rigid technical standards and equipped with the latest technology imported from abroad to meet all hygiene requirements," he said.

"We have been evaluated by our national laboratory at the Ministry of Industry and the Pasteur Institute of Cambodia at the Ministry of Water Management, as well as by consultants from South Korea."

Nhim Vanda said the company also manufactures its own plastic bottles and has taken steps not to adversely affect the province's natural environment, which has become the focus of nascent efforts to create an ecotourism industry in the Kingdom.


TADA Bokor employs 35 workers and produces an estimated 1,200 to 1,500 cases of water each day.

"We purify the natural spring drinking water through reverse osmosis and ozone processes, as well as ultraviolet purification technology, to make it better than other brands," he said.

"I will enlarge our distribution to other provinces nationwide next year," he said.

Chheng Uddra, bureau chief of the Product Licensing Department at the Ministry of Industry, said TADA Bokor has complied with all ministry regulations and requirements.

"I have sent my experts last month to check the quality of the water, the bottling and the factory to ensure it was built to proper standards," he said.

There are more than 130 pure drinking water companies operating in Cambodia, but only 20-including TADA Bokor-operate within health parameters set by the government, Chheng Uddra said.

He added that because the ministry has not always implemented existing laws, it imposes three-month evaluations on companies to test the quality of the water.

If standards are not being met, then companies risk losing their license, Chheng Uddra said.

Fish production expected to rise 15 percent: officials

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
A fish at a farm in Pursat province. This year’s catch is up, but conservationists warn of illegal fishing and habitat

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Khouth Sophakchakrya
Friday, 05 December 2008

But experts warn that an increase in illegal fishing could be partially responsible for the impressive catches this year

A GRICULTURE officials this week said freshwater fish production is expected to increase 15 percent over last year, amid claims by provincial fishermen and development organisations that illegal fishing and land reclamation continues to threaten their livelihood.

Nao Thuok, director of the Department of Fisheries at the Ministry of Agriculture, credited a more aggressive program of fish farming for the spike in production.

"We expect that freshwater fish production will increase to 402,500 tonnes this year because the government has expanded the number of fish farms nationwide to 154 and released millions of baby fish into natural lakes," he told the Post on Monday.

Cambodia processed some 350,000 tonnes of freshwater fish last year, Nao Thuok said, adding that between 20,000 and 50,000 tonnes were exported.

He said Cambodia also imports between 4,000 and 5,000 tonnes per year from Thailand, Vietnam and Japan, principally to satisfy rising demand from Phnom Penh's high-end restaurants.

Despite an expected drop in exports in the future to meet local demand, Nao Thuok said Cambodia's exports this year will likely top 30,000 tonnes.

But area fishermen and development aid organisations see a different picture in the fisheries sector.

Figures skewed

Mark Sithirith, executive director of the Fisheries Action Coalition Team (FACT), said freshwater fish output this year took into account fish caught illegally, skewing the figures.

He added that coming years' totals would likely drop as illegal fishing depletes stocks and growing numbers of natural lakes fall prey to developers.

"Fishermen who live near Tonle Sap lake told FACT they now catch less than 10 kilograms per day, with most of the fish being quite small. But last year, they say they caught more than 20 kilograms per day on average during the dry season," Mark Sithirith said.

Fisherman Yon Yeounin, from Kampong Chhnang province, said his village faces shortages as the fish paste production season is set to begin.

"I think fishing output this year will be lower. Some of the flooded forests were cut off for rice production," he said.

"In early December last year, I could catch 45 kilograms of fish per day. Now I can catch only 25 kilograms in a day."

Aom Chhim, 56, a fisherman in Siem Reap province, also expected fish production to drop this year and blamed the use of illegal nets and reclamation of spawning grounds for rice paddy.

"The flooded forest areas that usually serve as spawning grounds were used instead for paddy fields," he said.

Cost cuts, better security to boost tourism: task force

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Tourists at Angkor Wat. Government authorities and the private sector hope to lure visitors with lower prices and better security.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by May Kunmakara
Friday, 05 December 2008

The new public-private sector tourism body says price cuts could lure tourists back to Cambodia, but others warn the global downturn will keep numbers low

DRASTIC price cuts and aggressive promotional campaigns may be in the works to reinvigorate Cambodia's hard-hit tourism sector, officials say.

The president of the Cambodian Association of Travel Agents, Ho Vandy, told the Post a tourism task force, comprised of travel agents, airline and hotel officials, tourism police and associated government ministries, met Minister of Tourism Thong Khon on Thursday.

The task force urged price cuts and stricter security measures to attract international visitors following instability in neighbouring Thailand and terrorist attacks in Mumbai.

"If we can reduce the price of our tourism services, it will help promote our country to travellers who are increasingly cutting their spending," Ho Vandy said.

Tight security would also boost confidence among potential travellers, he added.

"Terror attacks in other countries have provided an important lesson for us to consider," he said.

Alternative transit routes

Cutting airfares and increasing air service routes from countries other than Thailand were key points of discussion, Ho Vandy said.

"The political chaos in Thailand is not likely to end soon, so we need to promote more direct flights from other hubs," he said.

He said lower airfares, airport taxes and admissions for Cambodia's most popular attractions could encourage more direct flights that bypass Bangkok.

Between 10 million and 12 million tourists visit Thailand every year, with many of them including Cambodia on their itineraries, he said.

But Sokhara Ted Tann, deputy general manager of Korean Air, said the situation in Thailand has begun to improve and questioned whether the measure proposed by the task force would have any impact.

"The most significant issue is the world economic crisis," he said.

Meoung Son, an independent tourism analyst, also questioned whether more direct flights were possible.

"The government should start by reconsidering its unfair and poorly serviced airport tax. Moreover, admission fees and hotel rates are already in line with those in neighbouring countries," he said.

"Hotels, restaurants and bars earn their profits principally during only three months of every year. The airports get their profits every day."

Bun Ratha, president of Siem Reap International Airport, said he is in favour of cutting the airport tax, but said it would require approval from the government and the private company that operates it.

"I think the government has to discuss this with Cambodian Airport Management Services, a French company that earns the airport tax."

Workers stay home over Thai turmoil

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Thet Sambath
Friday, 05 December 2008

IMMIGRATION officials on Wednesday said the number of migrant Cambodian workers crossing the border into Thailand has dropped since political turmoil recently erupted in the neighbouring country.

"We have seen fewer Cambodian farm workers going to Thailand, as well as fewer arrests and deportations since the protests and unrest [in Bangkok]," Im Pon, an immigration police officer at the Poipet border checkpoint, told the Post on Wednesday.

Between 50 and 150 Cambodians per day were deported through the Poipet checkpoint since mid-October, Im Pon said - down from 200 to 250 in previous months.

Meanwhile, fewer than 50 documented workers with passports and health checks have crossed the border daily, compared with 100 per day last month, Im Pon said.

"[People] are afraid to work in Thailand because they are concerned about security after the demonstrations in Bangkok," he said. "Some of them are returning to [Cambodia] to find work in construction or factories."

Local work encouraged

The harvest season generally sees increased numbers of agricultural workers crossing the Poipet border to look for employment on Thai farms, said Im Pon, adding that as many as 6,000 Cambodians have continued working in Thailand's Rong Kleu market just across the border.

Oum Mean, a secretary of state for the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training, said the government is encouraging workers to stay at home and find employment locally.

"We know that workers are concerned about the situation in Thailand. It is not the right time for them to be working [there]," Oum Mean said, adding that officials are now stepping up efforts to prevent people from crossing the border illegally.

"It is dangerous to work in Thailand right now because they are experiencing disorder in their country," said Oum Mean.

Kandal clinics stub out smoking

Photo by: Vandy Rattana
A man enjoys his cigarette. Doctors from health clinics in Kandal province have been told to lead by example and stop smoking

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by May Titthara
Friday, 05 December 2008

Kandal province health clinics's anti-smoking campaign aims to inspire people to kick the habit

SMOKING has been banned in all health facilities in the province of Kandal, the head government health official there said.

"It is our job to educate people about health problems, especially the impact of smoking. If we don't stop smoking [ourselves], how can we expect people to take our advice [seriously]?" said Ourm Thorn, head of Kandal's provincial Department of Health. He said that beginning this week, smoking will be prohibited in all 104 government health centres in Kandal.

"We have tried to do this for two years, but now it's finally starting," he said.

"We are going to put stickers in all the rooms saying that there will be no smoking. If we find our staff smoking, we will fine them 5,000 riels."

"Ninety percent of doctors in my health centres have stopped smoking. For the rest, if they want to smoke, they have to do it outside."

He said doctors should lead by example in helping their patients kick the habit.

Mom Kong, executive director of an alliance of nongovernmental organizations called the Cambodian Movement for Health, stressed the negative impacts of secondhand smoke on households.

According to his group's research, four out of five children in Cambodia live in a home with a smoker.

"People need a clean, smoke-free environment to live," he said.

He applauded the effort in Kandal, saying that health officials were best positioned to set a good example and blaming public advertising for making smoking appear "attractive".

He said the government is failing to discourage smoking by placing low taxes on tobacco products and not including severe health warnings on the packs.

Traffic accidents down but fatalities up, reports say

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
The congested streets of Phnom Penh, perilous to the drivers who flood the city.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Mom Kunthear and Khoun Leakhana
Friday, 05 December 2008

An interim report from the Ministry of Interior shows rise in traffic fatalities, as NGO figures show drop in accidents

THE number of fatalities from traffic accidents is up from last year according to a temporary report from the Ministry of Interior, officials say.

"This year, traffic accident fatalities increased by 1.8 percent from last year," Keo Savin, department chief of land transportation at the Ministry of Public works, told the Post on Thursday, emphasising that these are only interim results.

According to the report, 1,545 people died in road accidents in 2007 compared with 1,572 deaths in 2008 to date.

"We always cooperate with NGOs, private companies, the public sector and citizens in order to reduce traffic accidents, and we usually broadcast to all people about the traffic law, but some of them don't care," said Keo Savin.

He said the overwhelming majority of fatalities were due to people not wearing helmets and driving drunk.

"In Cambodia, only 24 percent [of motorists] wear helmets," said Keo Savin, adding that "the accidents usually happen at nighttime because of the many drunken drivers".

Meas Channy, traffic safety officer at Handicap International, said the first seven months of 2007 saw 16,352 accidents, compared with 14,213 cases in the same period this year, according to Handicap International figures.

"However, the number of people who died in road accidents has increased.... More than four people now die on Cambodian roads each day," Meas Channy said.

"It is necessary for drivers to respect the traffic laws and drive carefully. If everybody can do that, the traffic accident fatalities will decline.

"I think that traffic police have to broadcast traffic laws and practice safe driving because not all people know and understand [the laws]."

Appeals Court slashes sentence of child sex offender to one year

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by ChRann Chamroeun and Thomas Gam Nielsen
Friday, 05 December 2008

Victims' lawyers express disappointment as jail term is cut by more than half for American convicted of indecent acts with teenage girl

THE Phnom Penh Appeals Court has slashed the jail sentence of an American national convicted in April of engaging in indecent acts with a 13-year-old Vietnamese girl, citing a lack of evidence.

In a ruling Thursday, presiding Judge Thou Mony upheld the charge against Thomas Wayne Rapanos, 55, but reduced his jail term from two and a half years to one year, saying there was not enough evidence.

In the same ruling, the judge also dismissed charges that Rapanos had sexual intercourse with a 16-year-old Cambodian girl.Rapanos was arrested when police raided his room at a Phnom Penh guesthouse on March 5, where he was found with the two girls.

Keo Thea, deputy police chief at the anti-trafficking and juvenile unit, told AFP after the arrest that one of the girls was naked at the time of the raid.

In Thursday's appeal hearing, lawyers for the two girls wanted judges to charge Rapanos for having sex with the Cambodian girl, while Rapanos appealed to reduce the sentence handed down by the Municipal Court on April 17.

The girls' lawyer, Peng Maneth, provided by the French child protection NGO Action Pour Les Enfants (APLE), said that the one-year sentence was the lowest possible for an indecent act.

"The victims are not so happy with the trial, but this is the judges' ruling," she said.

APLE director Samleang Seila said the organisation has followed Rapanos' whereabouts since November 2006, adding that he was glad that the perpetrator was being sentenced, but that judges should have considered more evidence in the case - including a claim the older girl had witnessed sexual penetration.

"We still congratulate the fact that he was sentenced, but we wanted the judges to consider evidence not only from the night of the arrest," he said.

The Appeals Court hearing was closed to the public to protect the underage victims' privacy after a joint request from both the lawyers of the victims and the perpetrator.

Court inspections await results amid charges of selective justice

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Thomas Gam Nielsen and ChRann Chamroeun
Friday, 05 December 2008

Two investigations into provincial prosecutors are a welcome step forward, say rights groups, but are no clear indication of reform

THE Ministry of Justice is investigating chief prosecutors in two provincial courts after receiving complaints about the officials' conduct, but rights groups say that the investigations have only moved ahead because the complaints were brought by powerful interests.

Ratanakkiri Provincial Court Chief Prosecutor Mey Sokhan was removed from a high-profile case last month after being accused by agricultural firm DM Group of slowing down the legal process in their case against hundreds of villagers who are disputing the company's right to a 700-hectare plot of farmland.

Kong Seth, chief prosecutor at Kampong Speu Provincial Court, is also under investigation for unknown charges stemming from complaints from provincial officials.

Roath Thavy, provincial coordinator of local rights group Adhoc, said he did not know the exact charges against Kong Seth, but that rumours in the province pointed to allegations of bribery.


Judge Kim Sophorn, who is part of the investigative teams on both cases, said the investigations in Ratanakkiri are now complete, but that he and other inspectors were still logging reports from Kampong Speu.

"We went to Kampong Speu Wednesday to investigate complaints about court chief prosecutor Kong Seth. The charges ware made by the province's environmental officials," he said, adding that he could not make further comments until the investigation is finished.

Adhoc President Thun Saray said it was a step forward for the Ministry of Justice to be investigating complaints about the judiciary, but added that only now - when businessmen or other powerful interests were making the complaints - were steps being taken.

"A lot of people are crying about the injustices of the courts and the police force without the minister of justice reacting," he said. "But as soon as they hear complaints from powerful people and businessmen, they conduct an investigation."

Putting on a good face

Sok Sam Oeun, director of the Cambodian Defenders' Project, told the Post that he supported any effort to reform the judiciary, but said it was too soon to judge whether the current investigations would yield to further reforms.

"If this is a real action, it's a big change for the government," he said, adding that in pursuing the investigations in Kampong Speu, the government might be trying to put on a good face during the current international donors forum. "We will have to see. Sometimes it is only for show."

According to Kim Sophorn, only two Cambodian prosecutors have ever been disbarred, adding that rulings on the two cases will be made by a body called the Council of Discipline under the Supreme Council of the Magistracy.

Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana said that inspection teams usually consisted of four or five officials.

Govt critics question use of donor aid at annual meeting

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
The French, British and Japanese ambassadors (from right to left) at the opening of a donor meeting on Wednesday.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Brendan Brady and Kay Kimsong
Friday, 05 December 2008

With Cambodia expected to reap a windfall in foreign assistance, the opposition says ‘beggar mentality' will persist

EARLY reports that Cambodia will receive nearly US$1 billion in foreign aid for this coming year add a new imperative to the annual debate on the real impact of donor contributions that typically make up half of the government budget.

"Cambodia still needs aid, but they way it is used is the real problem," said political veteran Prince Sisowath Thomico.

"It should be used just to improve certain key sectors like education and health. So far, since 1993, I haven't seen it done this way. It has been given according to the requests of the government."

The government has used this week's donor forum as an opportunity to lay out a new vision for management of the country's resources and to defend itself from criticism from watchdogs and NGOs, releasing a report during the session rebutting a string of recent attacks on land rights and resource extraction.

Prime Minister Hun Sen said Thursday the government would not grant any new land concessions for logging, saying the government would instead focus on collecting revenue from taxes.

"We are better off to keep the forests as a national reserve, and not try to get money from logging."

" Cambodia still needs aid, but the way it is used is the real problem. "

He blamed his previous coalition government "partner", Prince Norodom Ranariddh, for "allowing the government to fall into anarchy" with profit-making schemes such as logging.

But he proclaimed that the years of unscrupulous government were over.

Aiding and abetting?

Despite the government's assertions, opposition leader Sam Rainsy expressed concern that the potential aid windfall next year would only further "a beggar mentality that makes Cambodia remain irresponsible and corrupt".

"A real friend who cares helps a country help itself. It's not about giving money to a country to spend however it wants. I think [donors] don't see that a lot of assistance has not been effectively used. How can the country be improving if it requires more assistance?"

Yet, neither questions of the efficiency of aid nor a looming global recession that is hitting many of Cambodia's key donors hard are likely to spark a drop-off in aid, said independent economist Sok Sina.

For Rafael Dochao Moreno, head of the European Commission in Cambodia, donor contributions stand for more than financial support.

"The EC presence here in Cambodia shows one of the European values and principles: solidarity."

He said that despite financial pressures European governments were facing given their own dire economic troubles, "We are here to stay."

Donors to give US$1b: Official

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Kay Kimsong and Brendan Brady
Friday, 05 December 2008

FOREIGN donors have promised nearly US$1 billion in aid for the coming year, a senior government official close to the process said Thursday, despite expectations that donors would reduce contributions in the face of the global economic crisis. Last year donors pledged $690 million.

"As far as I know, donors will pledge close to $1 billion because the government has done good work," Hang Chuon Naron, secretary general for the Finance Ministry, told the Post Thursday, a day ahead of the expected official announcement.

At the same time, donor groups called for better prioritising of public spending.

Addressing the government's plan to double its military spending to $500 million in 2009, John Nelmes, head of the International Monetary Fund in Cambodia, said: "Military spending should be targeted on critical needs to avoid limiting funding to other key areas".

And Qimiao Fan, World Bank country manager, pressed the government to pass an anti-corruption law that has been delayed for more than a decade.

"Passing the law will be an important signal, providing investors and development partners with confidence to make more long-term commitments in Cambodia."

Cambodian response upsets govt


Friday December 05, 2008


Thailand is disappointed with Cambodia's response to its protest over an incident in which two Thai military rangers stepped on landmines last October.

Virachai Plasai, director-general of the Treaties and Legal Affairs Department at the Foreign Ministry, said Thailand had demanded Cambodia clarify the incident in which Thailand believes mines were newly planted near the Thai-Cambodian border.

Cambodia did not reply directly until two days before the Mine Ban Convention meeting in Geneva last month.

"Cambodia chose to circulate its response to all state parties and finally sent us a formal reply late on Nov 21 [before the meeting on Nov 24-28].

"Thailand was disappointed with its reply in which it tried to evade the crux of the matter," said Mr Virachai.

He said the issue was not about which mines were in whose lands. The real point was that under the Ottawa Mine Convention, both countries had agreed not to plant any new mines anywhere in the world.

Thailand and Cambodia still have unsettled border issues, and are in the process of negotiating demarcation lines.

On Oct 6, two Thai military rangers lost their legs when they stepped on landmines while on routine patrol in a "mine-free zone" inside Thai territory.

The Cambodian side said it started investigating on Oct 20.

Foreign Ministry deputy permanent secretary Norachit Singhaseni raised the issue during a meeting of state parties to the Mine Ban Convention.

The Swiss government, which hosted the meeting, offered to set up a fact-finding committee to help resolve the problem but the Cambodian side refused the offer, saying it wanted to investigate further.

The committee would comprise Thailand, Cambodia, a third country and non-governmental organisations.

"We told the panel that the unilateral investigation might be inappropriate but for our friendship's sake, we can wait for the results which should not have to take too long," said Mr Virachai.

Thailand was tackling the issue step by step through bilateral negotiations but if the issue is not adequately clarified, the government might raise the issue with the United Nations.

Disorder in the court as hearing ends in disarray

Former KR head of state Khieu Samphan in the dock at the ECCC on Thursday.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Georgia Wilkins
Friday, 05 December 2008

Defence lawyers challenge prosecutors to informal debate

FORMER Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan told judges at the Khmer Rouge tribunal Thursday that he did "not understand" why he was standing trial for crimes against humanity during an appeals hearing that ended in disarray, as defence lawyers argued heatedly with visibly upset victims outside the courtroom.

"I have always worked on the side of my country," the frail-looking septuagenarian told judges. "I don't understand why I am being charged with crimes against humanity."

Co-lawyers Jacques Verges and Sa Sovan, who profess to speak only Khmer and French, were appealing an earlier court decision that denied full translation of their client's case file to French, claiming it prevented a fair trial.

"There are 60,000 documents in this case, and so far only 2.5 percent have been translated into French," Verges told the court. "The UN secretary general agreed with me that all documents need to be translated into the three working languages, but perhaps the president of the tribunal would like to tell the UN to get a new secretary general?"

Co-prosecutors argued it was only necessary for the accused person to understand the documents, not his lawyers, suggesting that Khieu Samphan could get a different counsel.

"The prosecution is mocking me," retorted Verges, who has made a career of defending some of history's most notorious criminals, including Nazi Klaus Barbie.

Khieu Samphan told the court he was sick and unable to think clearly, claiming that "if my counsel had been able to understand these documents, then my detention might not have been extended". A ruling is expected at a later date.

At a press conference after the hearing, Verges and Sa Sovan invited the co-prosecutors to participate in a debate outside the court, leading to a bitter row between Sa Sovan and angered victims in the crowd.

"You, co-lawyer, you speak too much. Why not let the victims speak too? We are here but cannot speak," one woman shouted. "My parents were killed during the Khmer Rouge regime. How can you ... say he did not kill people?"

Sa Sovan replied that his mother had also died under the regime, as he and Verges left the room escorted by court officials.

"We don't want a trial through the media," co-prosecutor William Smith told reporters after the incident, adding there were only 3,000 documents still to translate.

Cambodia revives Pol Pot's deadly canals

Children play in the Khmer Rouge canals in Baray, Cambodia. (Thomas Fuller/International Herald Tribune)

International Herald Tribune

By Thomas Fuller
December 4, 2008

BARAY, Cambodia: The dry season has taken hold here, but water is everywhere. It pours out of sluice gates with the roar of an Alpine torrent. Playful children do back flips into the ubiquitous canals and then pull their friends in with them. Fishermen cast their nets for minnows, and villagers wash their Chinese-made motorcycles.

"It's never dry here," said Chan Mo, a 36-year-old rice farmer standing on top of an irrigation dike.

The Khmer Rouge canals have come back to life.

By the time the brutal government of Pol Pot was toppled three decades ago, 1.7 million Cambodians were dead from overwork, starvation and disease, and the country was a ruin. But the forced labor of millions of Cambodians left behind something useful - or that's how the current government sees it.

The leaders of the Khmer Rouge were obsessed with canals, embankments and dams. They presided over hundreds of irrigation projects to revive Cambodia's glorious but perhaps mythical past of an agrarian wonderland.

"There has never been a modern regime that placed more emphasis and resources towards developing irrigation," wrote Jeffrey Himel, a water resource engineer, in a recent study of Cambodia's irrigation system.

"The Khmer Rouge emptied all cities and towns, and put practically the entire population to work planting rice and digging irrigation dikes and canals." Some of the canals were poorly designed - "hydraulic nonsense," says Alain Goffeau, a French irrigation expert with the Asian Development Bank. But many were viable.

The Khmer Rouge built around three-quarters of Cambodia's more than 1,000 canal networks, according to a survey commissioned by the United Nations in the 1990s.

Now, across this impoverished nation of 14 million people, the canals are being rebuilt by a government hoping to take advantage of the world's increasing demand for rice.

The Asian Development Bank is helping finance the rehabilitation of a dozen canals, adding to projects financed by the Japanese and South Korean governments.

"There's a lot of possibility," Goffeau said.

For older Cambodians, the canals are a source of ambivalence. Men like Loh Thoeun, 61, now a rice farmer, think back to the baskets of dirt that he carried away, hour after hour.

He recalls the horrors of the Khmer Rouge - the laborers, hands tied behind their backs, who were "dragged away like cows" and never returned, the Muslim families who were thrown down a nearby well. The foremen of the irrigation project in Baray were killed after the canals and embankments were completed - without explanation. Loh says he once saw Pol Pot inspect the canals on what he described as a "speedboat."

All of the work was done by hand here in Baray, a two-hour drive north of the capital, Phnom Penh. No talking was allowed among laborers. The Khmer Rouge played revolutionary songs and banged hubcaps to encourage the workers. Contemporary photos show huge crowds toiling in the dust.

"The earth here is very hard, and when we dug deeper we got to the hardest part - the most compact ground," said Loh, sitting in a bamboo shelter beside his rice fields. "We had to hammer at it. It was like cutting down a tree."

For so many Cambodians the Khmer Rouge years, from 1975 to 1979, were about digging. Villagers and residents of Phnom Penh, who were forced to move to the countryside, were organized in small work units.

"I was a slave," said Ang Mongkol, now the deputy director general of the Ministry of Interior who was a law student when the Khmer Rouge came to power and was assigned to haul dirt.

Yet despite the sorrow of those years, there are only traces of remorse here about taking full advantage of the canals. Loh hopes the canals he built in slave-like conditions will help double or triple his rice output.

"I always recall the past to my children," Loh said. "I say, "We have water from this canal that was built by the people. And many of them died."

Ang is leading an experimental project that uses water from the canal to irrigate fields of hybrid rice varieties that promise to yield four times as much as the variety traditionally grown here. Because only about 20 percent of Cambodia's fields are irrigated, its rice farmers harvest on average half as much as Vietnam's and one third as much as China's.

The irrigation system in Baray, which is fed from water diverted from the nearby Chinit River, functioned for several years after the Khmer Rouge left power. But in the mid-1980s it fell into disrepair. It was only in 2005 that the government began rebuilding it. Today, the local municipality hires a maintenance crew to keep the water flowing.

Among the workers is Sim Vy, 48. As a teenager she was enlisted by the Khmer Rouge to help build the canals. She was told she was working for national glory but received only a watery gruel as recompense. Now she is paid $55 a month. "I prefer working this way," she said.

Centre helps girls recover from sexual exploitation in rural Cambodia

Phlat is receiving support from the Cambodian Women's Crisis Centre to help her recover from the trauma of her ordeal.


SIEM REAP, Cambodia, 4 December 2008 – In the rural village of Prolet, 17-year-old Phlat sits on the bare floor of her simple timber and thatch house and recounts the trauma she has had to overcome after being sexually assaulted.

“I shut out memories of it," she says, suppressing tears. "I keep myself busy at home. And I have made lots of friends at school who help me to overcome this.”

Sitting with Phlat is a worker from the Cambodian Women's Crisis Centre (CWCC). For the past six months, this worker has helped Phlat recover from her ordeal. A UNICEF partner, the CWCC is dedicated to helping women and children who are the victims of rape, trafficking or domestic violence.

Seeking refuge

The CWCC is located in a large house in the nearby city of Siem Reap. On the front yard, children and women who have sought refuge here sing and play. Inside, a literacy class for teenage girls and women is underway.

Sitting in the second row of the class, Maol, age 16, concentrates on the lesson. She came to the centre recently and still bears physical scars on her neck from the attack. This is the first time she has received any formal schooling.

"At the beginning, after the rape, I felt very depressed and ashamed," she says. "I felt all the other villagers would look down on me."

‘I realized I should live’

Fighting a general apathy towards sexual exploitation and domestic violence, as well as discrimination against its victims, has been a challenge for the CWCC. But the centre is seeing progress.

According to the centre's coordinator, Ket Noeun: “People here used to think domestic violence was a private matter, in the family. But now many more people know it is the problem of the whole community.”

In the countryside, there seems to be an increased willingness to report and prosecute sexual exploitation, thanks in part to efforts by community workers from the Commune Focal Point for Women and Children, who coordinate non-governmental organizations and government agencies to help victims.

Phlat is living proof of the importance of such help. She is now enrolled in school and her attacker is in jail.

“After the rape I only wanted to die,” she says. “But when I started talking to other victims, I asked ‘Why should I die?’ I realized I should live.”

Cambodian PM promises to fight corruption

The Post
Thursday, December 4, 2008

Associated Press of Pakistan

PHNOM PENH: Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Thursday promised foreign donors he would fight corruption as aid donations of nearly one billion dollars were expected to be pledged to the impoverished nation.

Opening a two-day meeting between the government and the country's donors, Hun Sen said he was committed to passing a new anti-corruption law as soon as possible and had already "vigorously combated corruption." "Fighting against corruption is the backbone of sustainable development," Hun Sen told his audience.

Heart surgery gives boy a `miracle'

Doctors at Sunrise Children's Hospital in Las Vegas perform heart surgery Thursday on Cambodian child Soksamnang Vy, who turns 1 on Sunday. Long Beach-based Hearts Without Boundaries arranged for the boy's surgery.

SUCCESS: Cambodian child was brought to the U.S. by Long Beach group.

Press-Telegram Long Beach
By Greg Mellen, Staff Writer

Thanksgiving arrived in the first week of December for a young Cambodian boy and his family.
Soksamnang Vy, who turns 1 on Sunday, had life-altering open-heart surgery at Sunrise Children's Hospital in Las Vegas on Thursday.

The boy, from an impoverished village outside Phnom Penh, Cambodia, was brought to the U.S. by Long Beach nonprofit Hearts Without Boundaries for the procedure, which is not readily available in his home country.

While the boy underwent surgery, his mother, Ratha Pang and extended family from Long Beach, nervously awaited news of the boy's prognosis.

Sitting close together, Pang was comforted by Madeline Lach, who had offered to host the family while it is in Las Vegas.

After being allowed to see her son in intensive care, Pang expressed her gratitude.

Through translation, Pang said she was thankful to the "doctors who could make this miracle happen. They have given my son life and I have no words to thank them. It's like a dream. I am here and my son is going to make it."

"We are truly blessed and thankful," said David Kem, Soksamnang's cousin from Long Beach, upon learning of the successful surgery. "Without the community effort, Soksamnang wouldn't have another chance at life. From the bottom of our hearts we want to thank everyone."

Soksamnang suffered from a ventricular septal defect, or a hole in the heart, a relatively common and easily repaired heart condition in the United States, but a lingering death sentence in Cambodia where access to heart-lung machines and qualified physicians is all but nonexistent, particularly to the poor.

Dr. William Evans, a cardiologist, said the procedure went smoothly and expects Soksamnang, nicknamed Lucky, to live a full, healthy life.

Evans said the defect was about about the size of a dime and in terms of severity "on a scale of one to 10 it's a three."

But he noted the defect needed to be repaired and would have shortened the child's life span and quality of life.

The surgery was performed by Dr. Michael Ciccolo.

Evans said that while he was happy to help repair Soksamnang's heart, he sees hundreds of similar conditions a year and would like to find a way to help kids where they live.

For that reason, his long-term goal, with the help of Hearts Without Boundaries, is to create a cardiac center for children in Cambodia that could eventually be staffed with locally trained doctors.

He estimated it could take a decade to make that happen.

Soksamnang is the second child brought to the United States this year by Hearts Without Boundaries, the fledgling nonprofit founded by NBC producer Peter Chhun.

The first child, 9-year-old Davik Teng, had successful surgery at Los Angeles Childrens Hospital in March and has since returned to her home village near Battambang in northwest Cambodia where she is reportedly in good health.

Soksamnang will likely spend the weekend in the hospital recovering and will be re-evaluated before returning to Long Beach.

Chhun, who couldn't attend the surgery because of a family obligation, said he was happy to hear the good news.

"I'm glad we could save another life," Chhun said. "And I need more donations to save more lives."

Those interested in Chhun's organization can visit it online at or call Peter Chhun at 818-640-6191.

Cambodia: Cambodia Seeks Foreign Aid Despite Global Woes


PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA: Cambodia's prime minister asked foreign donors Thursday (4 Dec) to continue providing economic assistance despite the global financial crisis and promised the passage of an anti-corruption law.

Speaking to donor representatives at the opening of a two-day meeting to coordinate assistance, Hun Sen said aid would be used for health care, education and other social improvements.

Cambodia is one of the world's poorest countries and is heavily reliant on foreign aid.

"Concern for the crisis ahead should not interrupt the continuous mission of poverty reduction and sustainable development," Hun Sen said.

Foreign governments and international aid agencies such as the World Bank have expressed concern about corruption and inefficiency in Cambodia's administration of aid.

The country must quickly pass a long-delayed law to fight corruption in order to build confidence among foreign investors, said Qimiao Fan, the country manager for the World Bank.

"Passing the law will be an important signal, providing investors and development partners with the confidence to make more long-term commitments in Cambodia," he told the meeting.

Hun Sen tried to assure donors he was committed to accountability for their aid and said he is strongly committed to ensure the rapid conclusion and adoption of the law.

It was not known how much donors would pledge at this year's meeting, but last year, Cambodia received US$689 million in aid. Several government ministers declined comment on a specific figure, but a senior official at the Finance Ministry, Hang Chuon Naron, cited a figure of about $900 million. (AP)

MySinchew 2008.12.05

Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup 2008. Indonesia and Thailand are hosting the soccer tournament, which starts on Friday

Cambodia's striker San Narith stretches during a training session with his teammates at the Gelora Bung Karno stadium in Jakarta December 4, 2008 ahead of the Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup 2008. Indonesia and Thailand are hosting the soccer tournament, which starts on Friday.REUTERS/Crack Palinggi (INDONESIA)

Cambodia's soccer team take part in a training session at the Gelora Bung Karno stadium in Jakarta December 4, 2008 ahead of the Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup 2008. Indonesia and Thailand are hosting the tournament, which starts on Friday.REUTERS/Crack Palinggi (INDONESIA)

Cambodia's Ou Tola (L) and Nhanh Vannak compete for the ball during their Homeless World Cup match against Canada at Federation Square in Melbourne December 3, 2008. The sixth Homeless World Cup of soccer started in Melbourne today and eighteen nations were represented at the first Homeless World Cup in Austria in 2003. This year there are 56 countries involved and for the first time a women's tournament is part of the program.REUTERS/Mick Tsikas (AUSTRALIA)

Canada's Perry Senko (L) and Krystal Bell compete for the ball with Cambodia's Ou Tola (C) in a Homeless World Cup match at Federation Square in Melbourne December 3, 2008. The sixth Homeless World Cup of soccer started in Melbourne today and eighteen nations were represented at the first Homeless World Cup in Austria in 2003. This year there are 56 countries involved and for the first time a women's tournament is part of the program.REUTERS/Mick Tsikas (AUSTRALIA)

Jakarta to host delayed meeting of ASEAN FMs

Tony Hotland
The Jakarta Post , Jakarta
Thu, 12/04/2008

A meeting of ASEAN foreign ministers, part of the delayed ASEAN Summit, will take place at the bloc's secretariat in Jakarta on Dec. 15, the Foreign Ministry said Wednesday.

"Thailand has proposed to hold the meeting on that date at the secretariat. This is in line with what our President has previously said, that we should press on with the summit's agenda," Foreign Ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyah said.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Monday offered for Indonesia to host some of the meetings, including those of the foreign ministers and the finance ministers.

It is still not clear if the meeting of the finance ministers from ASEAN and the group's dialogue partners China, Japan and South Korea will take place in Bali, as offered by Yudhoyono.

Amid its current political turmoil, Thailand has postponed the ASEAN Summit to March. One of the purposes of the summit is to hold the official launch of the long-awaited ASEAN Charter, which will make the 41-year-old bloc a rules-based organization.

On Wednesday, AFP reported some member countries said they disagreed with the postponement, with Singapore urging that the summit be held sooner.

"While Singapore understands why the summit has to be postponed, it should not be delayed more than absolutely necessary," Singapore's foreign affairs ministry said in a statement late Tuesday.

"With the global financial crisis affecting all countries in ASEAN, the summit should be rescheduled to the earliest possible date, preferably in January, rather than later in March."

The planned venue for the summit had already been shifted out of Bangkok to the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai.

Malaysia raised doubts over whether Thailand would be able to host the summit at all.

"We'll have to wait (to see) whether Thailand in the future will be able to provide for ASEAN the commitment for the summit," Foreign Minister Rais Yatim told a news conference, while expressing "sadness" about the turmoil.

"Malaysia only hopes that the next government or the next authority in Thailand will be able to foster and germinate the essentials of ASEAN," Rais added.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen expressed "regret" for the postponement, government spokesman Khieu Kanharith told reporters in Phnom Penh, adding that Cambodia hoped Thailand could "solve the problem very soon".

Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam have called for a postponement.

The Philippines agreed with Thailand's decision.

"A postponement would be favorable given the present circumstances," spokeswoman for Philippines President Gloria Arroyo, Lorelei Fajardo, told reporters.

"It will give Thailand more time to resolve its political crisis and give the members more time to prepare," she said, adding the "safety of participants must also be ensured".

The members of ASEAN are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Cambodia's long-delayed rights commission

UPI (United Press International, Asia, Hong Kong)
By Lao Mong Hay
Column: Rule by Fear
Published: December 04, 2008

Hong Kong, China — The Cambodian government in September 2006 announced that it was going to create a National Human Rights Commission for the promotion and protection of human rights. Making the announcement at a conference, Prime Minister Hun Sen had said that the new body would be based on the Paris Principles governing the status and functioning of such national institutions, and that it would be independent and have adequate powers of investigation and resources to effectively perform its duties.

That announcement was enthusiastically welcomed and Cambodia was declared the fifth country in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to establish such a body after Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand. Both the government and civil society representatives participating in that conference fixed a timeframe for enacting a law in the first half of 2009.

Encouraged by the announcement and the agreed timeframe, the Cambodian Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism, which had cosponsored that conference with the government, set out to draft a law for the purpose. A year later, this group came up with a draft and, at the beginning of 2008, submitted it together with the opinions of experts to its government interlocutor, the Cambodian Human Rights Committee.

It took almost a year for this committee to react to the working group’s submission with a decision to cosponsor another conference on the establishment of the new human rights body to be held this month.

However, it is very doubtful whether the government will keep its promise to enact this law in 2009 as agreed in 2006. After its reelection in July, it singled out only three laws to enact as a matter of priority: the penal code, the anti-corruption law and a law on nongovernmental organizations. To date, drafts of these three laws have not been submitted to Parliament and it is likely to take quite some time before they can be adopted.

It is also very doubtful whether this new human rights body will be established in conformity with the Paris Principles, and whether it will have the independence, adequate powers of investigation and resources for performing its duties. These are key issue that will make the body effective in the promotion and protection of human rights.

The prevailing political culture is suspicious of the independence of individuals and legal entities vis-à-vis the government. The ruling elite simply want them under their control. Independent individuals or groupings active in public affairs are invariably branded as “opposition” and are treated as such.

Over the years the government has branded human rights critics, including the U.N. human rights special envoy, as “opposition” and called them names. The courts of laws, whose independence is guaranteed by the Constitution and the king with the assistance of a supreme judicial body, the Supreme Council of the Magistracy, are effectively placed under political control.

In theory, the new body may be given adequate powers to investigate cases. However, in practice it may not be able to exercise them, especially when it has to investigate cases involving the rich and powerful. So far, the police and the courts have not investigated many such cases, which has now created a culture of impunity in Cambodia.

It would be too high a hope to expect the new body to be allocated adequate resources from the national budget to effectively perform its duties. It is likely to suffer the same fate as the courts of law, which have so far received just a fraction of what they need. In this regard, the new body would have to rely on direct funding, which it should be allowed to receive from other sources such as foreign donors.

The new human rights body will largely depend on the courts of law, especially in cases of criminal violations of human rights. When these courts are dysfunctional due to lack of independence, adequate powers and resources, one cannot expect the new body to perform any better.

However, the Cambodian government should be given the benefit of the doubt regarding the establishment of the new human rights body, and the new body should be treated likewise when performing its duties – whenever it sees the light of day.

(Lao Mong Hay is a senior researcher at the Asian Human Rights Commission in Hong Kong. He was previously director of the Khmer Institute of Democracy in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and a visiting professor at the University of Toronto in 2003. In 1997, he received an award from Human Rights Watch and the Nansen Medal in 2000 from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.)

ADB gives $10 mln for Cambodia to improve public financial management

PHNOM PENH, Dec. 4 (Xinhua) -- The Asian Development Bank is (ADB) providing 10.81 million U.S. dollars to support efforts by Cambodia to improve its public financial management to ensure thatmuch-needed government funds reach the rural poor, said an ADB press release here on Thursday.

The program consists of a 6.71 million U.S. dollars of grant for the first of two sub-programs that will strengthen public financial management (PFM) reforms in the three ministries supporting rural development, namely the Ministry of Rural Development, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, and the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology, it said.

Another 4.1 million U.S. dollars of grant will fund an institutional and capacity development project under the program.

The two grants will focus on improving the capacity of the three ministries in PFM subsystems relating to budget formulation,execution, procurement, and reporting; and internal audit for better service delivery to rural communities.

The two grants support Cambodia's Public Financial Management Reform Program, which was launched in December 2004 by the Ministry of Economy and Finance to address weaknesses in the public financial management system, according to the release.

While the benefits of recent growth have been widely spread across Cambodia, the rural poverty rate has not declined as expected. The poverty rate in rural areas was estimated at 39 percent in 2004 compared with the national rate of 34 percent.

With an estimated 80 percent of the population living outside the main urban centers, this translates to more than 4 million people living below the poverty line in rural areas, said the release.

Poverty reduction is severely hampered by the limited effectiveness of public spending due to the weak link between policy and the budget.

"The ministries that support rural development in Cambodia are currently the weakest and most underfunded of all the ministries. As a result, service delivery in rural areas is slow and the ruralpoor do not have many economic opportunities," Prasanna Kumar Jena, Governance Specialist of ADB's Southeast Asia Department, was quoted as saying.

A strong public financial management system will help the government implement its National Strategic Development Plan, which aims to reduce poverty, particularly through policy and financial support to the agricultural sector, which employs an estimated 70 percent of the rural population and accounts for a third of gross domestic product, said the release.

The capacity development needs of the government's National Audit Authority will also be taken into account by the program to improve the overall governance framework of Cambodia's public sector, it added.

Editor: Du
Khieu Samphan

A panel of judges attends the hearing of former Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan

PHNOM PENH (AFP) — Former Khmer Rouge leader Khieu Samphan demanded his release by Cambodia's UN-backed genocide tribunal Thursday on the grounds that his file has not been translated into French for his lawyers.

Khieu Samphan, 77, spoke in a hoarse voice after hearing arguments between prosecutors and his defence team, which includes famed French lawyer Jacques Verges and Cambodian lawyer Sa Sovan, and prosecutors.

The genocidal regime's former head of state and his lawyers argued that in the absence of the translation of the documents into French -- one of the court's three official languages -- Khieu Samphan would not have a fair trial.

"When my lawyers fully understand the documents, I am confident that as I have no guilt at all I would not have been detained up to now," he told the court, wearing a dark grey and blue collared shirt and standing in the dock.

Verges, who has defended some of the world's most infamous figures including Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie and Venezuelan terrorist "Carlos the Jackal", said only 2.5 percent of the 60,000-page case file had been translated.

"The documents I was referring to are almost completely in Khmer and only a small portion has been translated," he said, warning that "a tremendous task is still ahead."

But prosecutors argued that the appeal was inadmissible because the court's governing laws do not provide for appeals relating to the issue of translation.

They asked Khieu Samphan's lawyers to cooperate, saying that the Khmer Rouge figure himself can understand them and that only a fraction of the documents were substantial.

Verges responded, saying that the prosecution "are mocking us... it is a joke.... We need to see documents in French."

Judges said they would rule on the matter at a later date.

Khieu Samphan was detained by the court in November last year on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity under the Khmer Rouge's brutal 1975-1979 regime.

He went before the court for the first time in April to appeal against his pre-trial detention.

But the judges adjourned the hearing and warned Verges over his behaviour after he said he was unable to act for his client because court documents had not been translated.

A fierce anti-colonialist, Verges, who was born in Thailand, reportedly befriended Khieu Samphan and other future Khmer Rouge leaders while at university in Paris in the 1950s.

Khieu Samphan is one of five Khmer Rouge leaders who have been detained by the court for their alleged roles in the regime.

Up to two million people are believed to have been executed or died of starvation and overwork as the communist regime emptied Cambodia's cities, exiling millions to vast collective farms in a bid to forge an agrarian utopia.

Cambodia's genocide tribunal convened in 2006 after nearly a decade of haggling between the government and the United Nations.

Kuwait, Cambodia sign diplomatic agreement


KUWAIT, Dec 4 (KUNA) -- The State of Kuwait and the Kingdom of Cambodia on Thursday signed a bilateral agreement to establish diplomatic missions at both countries.

The agreement was signed by Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Dr. Mohammad Sabah Al-Salem Al-Sabah and Cambodian counterpart, Hor Namhong.

The signing ceremony was attended by Undersecretary at the foreign ministry Ambassador Khalid Suleiman Al-Jarallah, Director of Sheikh Dr. Mohammad's Office Sheikh Dr. Ahmad Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-Sabah, Head of Africa Department and Acting Head of Asia Department at the ministry Ambassador Faisal Al-Mulaifi, Head of Protocols Department Ambassador Dhari Ajran Al-Ajran and the Cambodian Ambassador to the country.

Thai king's illness sparks anxiety

Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadaj reviews the Royal Guards at the Royal Plaza Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2008, in Bangkok, Thailand. King Bhumibol Adulyadaj is scheduled to make a radio speech Thursday night, Dec. 4, 2008 on the eve of his birthday and may Thais are hoping that he will offer guidance on the current political crisis.(AP Photo/David Longstreath)

By DENIS D. GRAY, Associated Press Writer

BANGKOK, Thailand – In six decades on the throne, Thailand's king has stepped in to defuse political crises and halt bloodshed. But not now: The revered 81-year-old monarch was too ill to deliver his annual birthday speech Thursday.

King Bhumibol Adulyadej's failure to show up for the anxiously awaited address shocked a country already reeling from three years of political turmoil and uncertain about its future.
Earlier in the week, the country saw the ouster of its government and a seizure by protesters of Bangkok's two airports, sieges which were only lifted Wednesday.

"I am worried. I think all Thais are worried. Thailand needs him. He is the only one who can make people on both sides realize they are ruining the country. He is the only one who can unify Thailand," said Rojana Duangkaew, a 28-year-old pharmacist, shortly after the king sent his son and daughter to represent him at the birthday event.

Princess Sirindhorn said the king was weak and suffering from bronchitis and inflammation of the esophagus but that his "condition is not serious."

The king's last public appearance was on Wednesday when he looked haggard while inspecting a guard of honor by royal troops. He spoke briefly, reading hoarsely from a text, and seemed barely able to keep his head up.

Last year, the king was hospitalized for more than three weeks for symptoms of a stroke and a colon infection. He also has a history of heart trouble and was operated on in 2006 for a spinal problem.

The question of royal succession has long weighed heavily on Thai politics, and ordinary Thais but probably never more than now.

Although a constitutional monarch, Bhumibol built up his great power through decades of work on behalf of the poor, charisma and political astuteness.

His 56-year-old son, Prince Vajiralongkorn, has nowhere near the king's talents, stature or moral authority. There is concern that Vajiralongkorn, who has married three times and fathered seven children, will have difficulty living up to Bhumibol's record of hard work and diligence.

Sirindhorn, 53, who could technically also succeed her father, is talented and highly popular but said to lack political savvy. There is also almost no historical precedent for a woman becoming the country's ruler.

The royal crisis could not have come at worse time for Thailand, as it struggles to recover from an anti-government campaign by the People's Alliance for Democracy.

It started with mass protests in late 2005 to oust then Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was removed in a 2006 military coup amid accusations of gross corruption and attempting to undermine the monarchy. The coup is widely believed to have been backed by the palace.

Thaksin's supporters won elections held in December 2007. But the protest alliance rejected the outcome, saying the new government was a proxy for Thaksin, and began another round of agitation which culminated with the seizure of Bangkok's two airports.

The alliance ended its airport siege after a court Tuesday ousted the government for voter fraud in the last elections.

But deep, potentially explosive, divisions in Thai society remain. A new government is likely to still include Thaksin allies and the pro-monarchy alliance has vowed to return to the streets if it does.

Although international flights have been partially restored, the crisis has knocked out the lucrative tourist industry and will also hit hard at other economic sectors.

"There were great expectations that awaited this speech and it had been a collective hope that he would be the savior of the day. I think the fact that it did not take place should force Thais to rethink and come to terms with their own conflict because the king will not be around forever," said Thitinan Pongsidhirak, a political scientist at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University.

The uncertainty caused by the king's failure to appear made it unlikely that Parliament would meet Monday, as some had expected, to begin the process of picking a new prime minister.

The king and monarchy as an institution have been key elements in the political upheaval of recent years although much has been carried out in the shadows, given the secrecy and reverence surrounding Bhumibol as well as strict laws punishing those who move against royal family members.

Insulting the monarchy, known as the crime of "lese majeste," carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.

Both the Thaksin camp and the alliance pledged their loyalty to Bhumibol -- it would have been political suicide not to do so. But Thaksin's pledges were viewed as highly suspect although he gained, and maintains, immense popularity among the rural poor, who are generally genuine supporters of the king.

"Thaksin was seen as a competitor to the throne. His popular regime was seen as dangerous to the monarchical institution in a longer term. Monarchists worried that with the king's passing and uncertainty of succession, the Thaksin camp would gain so they were anxious to suppress him," said Thongchai Winichakul, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin.

Thus the king's mortality and the succession issue contributed to the sharpening of the political conflict and will probably continue to do so.

"The next king will not be as influential as King Bhumibol, and I would bet there will be a lot of competition to gain power over him or her by military and political factions who want to use the king for their own ends," said Paul Handley, author of a critical book on the monarchy, "The King Never Smiles."

"The main powers in the palace and military believe that they would be able to keep things on even keel through the succession if there is no one like Thaksin to challenge for power," he said.

During the recent protests, at least some in the palace appeared to signal their support for the alliance, with Queen Sirikit attending the funeral of a protester killed in one demonstration.

Michael J. Montesano, an expert on Southeast Asia at the National University of Singapore, said that in the short term the king's illness and fading from the scene may "get people to moderate their partisanship but at the same time it could deepen the underlying reasons for that partisanship."

"It's going to contribute to feelings of great dread....and concern about the fact that an era about which they felt really secure is approaching its end," he said.
Associated Press writers Grant Peck, Ambika Ahuja and Vijay Joshi contributed to this report.