Saturday, 31 January 2009

Mouy Tang: Nearly 20 searches and no lead (with link to investigative report)

Mouy Tang was last seen Sept. 3.

Saturday, Jan 31 2009

Click here for The Star's investigative report on the search for Mouy Tang and the closing of Unique Living

LAWNDALE - After 18 searches, Quyhn Tang now believes her missing sister-in-law isn't where family members originally thought.

"We believe that yes, she was picked up," Tang said Thursday. "She had to (have been)."

Mouy Tang, a 46-year-old native of Cambodia and former Unique Living resident, was last seen Sept. 3 near Burns High School in Lawndale. Subsequent searches haven't unearthed a single lead.

But the most recent effort did produce at least something."We had nurses that used to work at the Yelton facility (Unique Living) that came to talk to us," Quyhn said. "The two were very instrumental in giving information."

Quyhn was told that officials drove out to search for Mouy around 15 minutes after they realized she was gone.

Quyhn said that while Mouy couldn't walk well, she was supposedly long gone when employees began searching.

"Apparently they couldn't locate her," Quyhn said. "It might have taken her 30 minutes to get to that intersection (of Philadelphia Road and Stagecoach Trail where Mouy was last seen)."

The numbers just didn't add up.

"She was picked up instead of wandered off," Quyhn said.Family members recently accepted what some professionals suggested after the last search, Quyhn said.

"We came to terms with it (that she was possibly picked up)," she said. "They did another 5-mile search. Thirty-two people from all over. Nothing."

Specifics for future searches have yet to be determined, Quyhn said. Satellite imaging will be used to scan the landscape for remains before anyone goes on the hunt again.

"If someone has any news, good or bad, we need it," Quyhn said.

B.C. court decision upholds Canada's child-sex tourism law


VANCOUVER, B.C. — A B.C. court has rejected a constitutional challenge of Canada's child-sex tourism law in the case of a man who faces allegations of abusing children in three countries.

Kenneth Klassen faces 35 charges for the exploitation and sexual abuse of children in Cambodia, Colombia and the Philippines between July 1997 and March 2002.

Klassen challenged the child-sex tourism law, saying the incidents happened in other countries where Canadian courts have no jurisdiction.

The landmark decision means the case against him can now proceed in B.C. Supreme Court.
Only three Canadians - a B.C. man and two Quebec aid workers - have been convicted under Canada's child-sex law.

University of B.C. law professor Benjamin Perrin, an expert in child-sex tourism legislation, says the court decision is a boost for prosecutors, non-governmental organizations and police in the fight against child-sex tourism.

Forced to fish: Cambodian sea slaves

A fisherman mends a net. Photograph: Brian Harris

Guardian Weekly

Friday January 30th 2009

Promised better-paid jobs across the border in Thailand, Cambodian men are being kidnapped by gangs of traffickers and sold onto illegal fishing boats that trawl the Gulf of Thailand and the South China Sea. For two years Chorn Theang Ly was kept at sea under armed guard. He describes how his quest for a better life turned into a nightmare

I live in the village of Anlong Khran in Cambodia. One day a man came to the village and said we should go to Thailand as we would have a much easier life there. Here, we work in rice fields, growing our own rice and vegetables. We make up to $200 a year. The man said we would make a lot more than that in Thailand.

He took a dozen of us over the border. We paid him 7,000 Thai baht for this – 3,000 for the transport plus a month’s worth of our pay. He said we would work on the riverbank, in factories, and have a much better life.

When we got to Thailand he took us to a house. Suddenly we were locked up inside it, all of us together in one room. It was only then that I realised that we had been sold. We tried different ways of escaping, all of us, but we had no money, passports or papers; there was nowhere for us to go.

We stayed there all night. Then, at about 4am, we got a wake-up call. Some men took us to a fishing boat, and that's when I realised what would happen to us. We had been trafficked. It was too late to do anything. We were powerless.

At sea, we all got seasick. I remember it got so bad for me that I was vomiting blood. As a group we decided we would stick at it for one month, earn our wages and then somehow get back to Cambodia.

The boat's owner told me we would have to work for him for at least three years. I found out that there is a whole system at work: a good employer lets you go ashore after eight or 10 months and pays you off, but a bad one will keep you at sea for three years and not pay you anything, or just a token amount.

Conditions on board were very hard for us. We worked all hours of the day, and there was little food or fresh water, just one small bucket. If we got a big catch we’d have to work day and night, slicing and gutting fish. If there was a torn net we would have to work for two or three nights without sleep to repair it. Another boat would sometimes meet us to take the catch and give us more food and water. We scarcely saw land.

I saw killings too, with my own eyes. There were three Thai crew on board and they were all armed. The captain would physically abuse us. In the early days he beat me nearly unconscious. He would beat us with the tentacle of a squid or sometimes a large shell. The man I saw killed was beaten and then thrown overboard. Another time, a man was shot and his body thrown into the sea.

We were constantly plotting to kill the captain and take the boat ashore. But the crew had guns and we knew we couldn't do it.

I was transferred to other boats after that first one. In the end I was at sea for two years. Finally, when a boat I was on put ashore in Thailand I persuaded them to let me go. They took me back to the border in a truck and left me there. With the help of one of the traffickers I got back across the border into Cambodia.

There are many people from my area who still want to go to Thailand. I tell them about the cruelty and the lies, but they are determined. The problem is there is so little to do here. We used to make money from charcoal, cutting and burning trees, but the government stopped that for environmental reasons. How else are we supposed to make a living?

• Chorn Theang Ly was talking to Jonathan Gorvett in Cambodia.

UN Special rapporteur on adequate housing denounces forced evictions in Cambodia

Human Rights Tribune

30 January 09

UN, Geneva - The following statement on the latest in a series of forced evictions in Cambodia was issued today by the UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, Raquel Rolnik:

“More than 130 families were forcibly evicted during the night of 23 and 24 January 2009 from Dey Krahorm, in central Phnom Penh to make way for a private company to redevelop the site.

The forced eviction was carried out in the middle of the night, without prior notice and the shelters belonging to this poor community were torn down and destroyed. This situation has grave consequences for all the victims, but particularly the women and children. Reports also state that prior to the eviction, the community suffered intimidation and community representatives and members were also subjected to criminal charges.

It is regrettable that the ongoing negotiations with the residents were abandoned, casting aside a valuable opportunity to reach a just and lawful solution to this longstanding dispute. It is now of utmost importance that the rights of the residents to fair compensation for their lost homes and property and the provision of adequate alternative housing are fully respected.

Unfortunately this is by no means an isolated case, and the increase in forced evictions throughout Cambodia is very alarming. Reports indicate that tens of thousands of poor people have been forcibly evicted and displaced, pushing them into homelessness and further destitution.

In Cambodia, a consistent pattern of violation of rights has been observed in connection with forced evictions: systematic lack of due process and procedural protections; inadequate compensation; lack of effective remedies for communities facing eviction; excessive use of force; and harassment, intimidation and criminalization of NGOs and lawyers working on this issue.

Forced evictions constitute a grave breach of human rights. They can be carried out only in exceptional circumstances and with the full respect of international standards. Given the disastrous humanitarian situation faced by the victims of forced evictions, I urge the Cambodian authorities to establish a national moratorium on evictions until their policies and actions in this regard have been brought into full conformity with international human rights obligations.”

The former Special Rapporteur on adequate housing conducted a mission to Cambodia in 2005 and presented a mission report on his findings and recommendations (E/CN.4/2006/41/Add.3). Concerns on forced evictions in Cambodia have been shared through a large number of communications by the Special Rapporteur with the authorities. These communications remain unanswered to date.

Forced evictions leave thousands homeless in Cambodia, says UN expert

Raquel Rolnik, Special Rapporteur on adequate housing

UN News Cetre

30 January 2009 – The forced evictions of tens of thousands of Cambodia’s poor constitute a “grave breach” of human rights, a United Nations independent expert said today, calling for damages to be paid for lost homes and the provision of alternative housing.

In the middle of the night last week, over 130 families were forced to leave their homes without prior notice in the capital, Phnom Penh, so that a private company could redevelop the site. The shelters in the poor community were destroyed, and there have been reports that before the eviction, the community suffered intimidation and that the area’s representatives were subject to criminal charges.

“It is regrettable that the ongoing negotiations with residents were abandoned, casting aside a valuable opportunity to reach a just and lawful solution to this longstanding dispute,” said Raquel Rolnik, the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, in a statement. “It is now of utmost importance that the rights of the residents to fair compensation for their lost homes and property and the provision of adequate alternative housing are fully respected.”

She noted that last week’s evictions in Phnom Penh are not isolated, but are “[alarmingly]” on the rise, with tens of thousands of people losing their homes and becoming even more destitute.

In the South-East Asian nation, the expert said, there has been a “consistent pattern” of rights violations tied to forced evictions, including the systematic lack of due process, inadequate compensation, and the excessive use of force.

“Given the disastrous humanitarian situation faced by the victims of forced evictions, I urge Cambodian authorities to establish a national moratorium on evictions until their policies and actions in this regard have been brought into full conformity with international human rights obligations.”

Ms. Rolnik, who reports to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council, took up her post last May and serves in an independent and unpaid capacity, as do all Special Rapporteurs.

UN criticises forced evictions in Cambodia

Fri Jan 30, 2009

GENEVA, Jan 30 (Reuters) - The Cambodian government is forcing tens of thousands of poor people from their homes in a grave breach of human rights, a U.N. investigator said on Friday.

Raquel Rolnik, United Nations special rapporteur on adequate housing, called for a halt to the evictions in the Southeast Asian country.

"The increase in forced evictions throughout Cambodia is very alarming," Rolnik said in a statement.

Cambodian police fired teargas to move more than 130 families last weekend from a Phnom Penh slum facing the Mekong River, without giving them prior notice, she said. It was the latest of a series of land disputes in the country where garment factories and hotels are springing up fast.

Rolnik, a Brazilian architect and urban planner, said those evicted from the site that the Cambodian government had sold to a private company should be compensated for losing their homes.

Witnesses said an elderly woman and a boy were hit by a bulldozer during the nightime eviction, and other residents were injured by clubs and stones, some seriously.

Police denied using excessive force against the group who had waged a 3-year battle against their eviction.

"We did not use violence against them, but tear gas to disperse the people who resisted," Phnom Penh police chief G. Touch Naruth told Reuters.

In her statement, Rolnik said Cambodia sould stop the practice that results in increased homeless and destitution.

"Forced evictions constitute a grave breach of human rights. They can be carried out only in exceptional circumstances and with the full respect of international standards," she said.

(Reporting by Laura MacInnis; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

Eviction of remaining Dey Krohom families could have been avoided, says UN Office


By Ka-set

From the very start, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Cambodia talks about a “setback for the rule of law” in a statement published on Wednesday 28th January, that is four days after the “sudden and violent” eviction of what remained of the community leaning against the Building, in the heart of Phnom Penh. Its representatives say they have “watched with consternation” the scenes of destruction and brutality, “the latest in a far too long series of violent evictions in the capital [carried out] in the name of urban development and 'city beautification'.”

“This eviction could have been avoided.” The UN Office accuses the municipal authorities of “hav[ing] failed to uphold the law and protect the rights of the residents of Dey Krohom” although they met the criteria for possession rights under the 2001 Land Law as they had settled there since the early 1980s.

By going back on its commitment made in 2003 to give the residents an in-situ social land concession, the government has breached their rights, the OHCHR summarises. “Both the Constitution and the Land Law state that no one can be arbitrarily deprived of their land without fair compensation.”

Negotiations were initiated over three years ago between the residents of Dey Krohom and the 7NG company, who acquired their land in 2006 under a contested agreement according to housing rights organisations. In this context, the developer offered as compensation a compartment-type house in a newly established housing area on the outskirts of Phnom Penh (in Chom Chao), a solution already accepted by several hundreds of families. The others are asking for adequate financial compensation taking into account market prices – a “legitimate demand” – and have resisted pressure, threats, intimidation “aimed at forcing their hand,” the OHCHR recalls. “In this process, [the families] have been unfairly portrayed as 'anarchic' and 'opportunistic elements' and the area as a hub for violence, robbery, drugs and prostitution,” the United Nations Office reports before calling the Municipality and 7NG to their responsibilities, by ensuring that these families who have lost everything during the eviction receive fair compensation, as they are entitled to by law.

Recommendation from the OHCHR: that the last financial offer of 20,000 dollars made by 7NG to the residents remain valid. Since the eviction and the demolition of all the houses of remaining families, 7NG has withdrawn this option to only offer relocation to Chom Chao – and only that – to some 90 families they recognise.

Although this dispute was solved in a way that was neither lawful or peaceful, the statement insists that it is “not too late for the Municipality, the Government and the company to demonstrate that the land law can be upheld...”

Cambodia to deploy 30,000 police for upcoming local election

PHNOM PENH, Jan. 30 (Xinhua) -- The Cambodian government plans to deploy 27,133 police forces to safeguard the commune councils election in all its towns, districts, cities and provinces in May, national media said on Friday.

The deployment aims to guarantee safety and order of the election, the state-run Television Kampuchea quoted Sar Kheng, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, as saying.

"We want the election process to be free, fair and with justice," he added.

On May 17, Cambodia will hold its nationwide election for positions on district, provincial and municipal councils as part of the government's drive to transfer more decision-making powers to the local level.

Editor: Sun Yunlong

Witness Dont take my land

Part 1

Part 2


Former Khmer Rouge soldiers fight the Cambodian government to keep their land given to them by their commander in the mid-90s.

Cambodia's 'fake' orphans


Al Jazeera discovered that many of the children in the streets of Cambodia have been pretending to be orphans in order to gain the sympathy and lose change of wealthy tourists.

From Pnomh Penh, Al Jazeera's David Hawkins reports on the young street preformers who demonstrate Cambodia's broken system of care for the parentless children.

Pork industry gets boost

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Breeding pigs imported from England. The local pork industry aims to improve sanitary standards and produce export-quality products within five years.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Hor Hab
Friday, 30 January 2009

Less smuggling and better local-processing facilities are part of public-private efforts to increase local production and exports

LOCAL pork producers and agriculture officials are pressing ahead with plans to boost the local industry by improving processing facilities, cutting feed prices and cracking down on smuggling.

This year, the government set up additional border inspection points to stem the illegal flow of animals entering the country and is providing free veterinary services to farmers.

"We don't charge for veterinary services for locally bred animals, but we charge 100 riels (2.42 cents) per kilo for imported ones," said Kao Phal, director of the Animal Health and Production Department at the Ministry of Agriculture.

Local production

He said that the government's aim is to reduce dependence on imported pigs.

"We are trying to attract more investment in animal food production ... to keep the price low for farmers and create jobs," said Kao Phal.

Officials are also cracking down on smuggling and have installed new inspection points at the border and inside the country.

Each day 800 pigs are imported from Thailand and Vietnam with many more smuggled. Kao Phal said that three smugglers have been caught this year and fined.

Processing plants

Mong Reththy, head of Mong Reththy Group, said his company is spearheading an effort to improve sanitary standards and reduce processing costs.

The company is building a US$1 million processing factory capable of producing 10 tonnes of pork per hour.

The facility will export local pork and pork products within five years, he said.

"We can sell pork abroad at $10 per kilo, but only $5 locally, so we need to encourage exports. Firstly, we need to improve our sanitary standards otherwise nobody will buy local pork," said Mong Reththy. "I think we can export some of the pork and leave local farmers to supply the Cambodian market."

He said that his company will not undercut local farmers, but will raise the standards of the industry.

The facility would source its feed locally, he said, which would allow farmers to sell low-quality grains in-country.

The company hopes to take advantage of Cambodia's free trade agreements by targeting China and Japan as export markets.

In the long term, the company would make dried pork and sausages for export at a $1.8 million facility, said Mong Reththy.

Srun Pov, the first deputy president of the country's biggest pork association, the Cambodian Pig Raisers Association, said that farmers earn nearly double if they process pork locally.

"We are asking the government to encourage local processing to boost the Cambodian pork industry," he said.

He urged the government to focus on cutting feed prices ,which can account for 70 percent of farmers' costs.

$350m dam planned for Kampong Thom

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chun Sophal
Friday, 30 January 2009

Govt seeks foreign bids for construction of major project

CAMBODIA is seeking international bid s to construct what would be one of the country's biggest dams, on the Sen River in Kampong Thom province, as part of a series of projects aimed at boosting electricity production and agriculture.

Using US$350 million loaned from Kuwait, the government plans to begin construction of the 40-megawatt dam by 2011, said Chan Yutha, chief of Cabinet of the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology. The project would take a further five years to complete, he added, meaning it would be scheduled for use by 2016.

Nine megawatts of power and water from the dam will be supplied to 130,000 hectares of land near the project, according to current plans. The remaining water would be distributed throughout Kampong Thom and Preah Vihear "for other uses" Chan Yutha told the Post.

One of the main aims of the development would be to boost rice production, Deputy Prime Minister Hor Namhong said on January 16 after the Kuwaiti loan was finalised. "We expect that the loan will help produce rice twice a year," he said.

Rice, one of Cambodia's main exports, is harvested just once a year. The last time the Kingdom attempted to harvest rice more than once annually was under the Khmer Rouge regime.

Victor Zona, the deputy general director of the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy, said the dam was vital for developing the rural economy: "The project provides a lot of benefits for the agricultural sector and the overall economy because water for irrigating rice fields and power for various uses will be produced," said Victor Zona. He added it would be the first hydroelectric project in Cambodia directly aimed at agriculture.

From 2012, further dams - on the Atay River and Ta Tai River - are planned for Koh Kong and Pursat provinces, respectively. At present, of Cambodia's three million hectares of arable land, only 44 percent has a direct water supply that can be used for irrigation.

But while the government has lauded the economic benefits of its development plans, concerns remain over the value of such projects and their environmental impact.

"This is among the biggest projects we have ever had, so the Ministry of Water Resources should carefully study their impact on our society," said Yang Saing Koma, president of the Cambodian Centre for the Study and Development of Agriculture.

He acknowledged that the benefits could be huge, but added, "If we have millions of dollars [to spend]", then smaller irrigation projects might be considered instead.

Ngy San of River Coalition in Cambodia said the government must also weigh the negative effects such dam projects would have on the environment and begin a dialogue with the Cambodian people in a bid to get the most from similarly large investments.

CAMBODIA Trip For Greenock Songwriter

Inverclyde NOW
30 January 2009

GREENOCK singer/songwriter Yvonne Lyon’s work attracted such interest at a gig that she was offered a place on a charity’s fact-finding trip to Cambodia

Yvonne was singing at the Greenbelt festival in Cheltenham last year and later got an e-mail from Christian aid organisation Tearfund.

She explained: “A woman who had been there enjoyed the way I wrote and how I observed the world in my songs. She invited me to go as a guest on this team of women going to Cambodia looking at women’s issues in poverty and attending a leadership conference.

“She said Tearfund see it as a good thing to invest in artists. She said that if the trip inspires me and I write something that they can use in the future then great or if I talk about the experience at gigs it will have done its job.

Among the team are a youth worker and a representative from Premier Christian Radio. During the 10-day trip the group are visiting projects run by Tearfund partner organisations, hospitals, churches and stay in a village for two days with a family dealing with HIV/Aids.

Yvonne said: “This has really come out of the blue. It’s a chance to write about and experience a new perspective.”

Yvonne plans to start work on a new album, her fourth, in the spring.

Decide on trials: observers to KRT

Photo by: Sovann Philong

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sovann Philong
Friday, 30 January 2009

A tourist reads an information sign at Choeung Ek outside Phnom Penh. The first trial at Cambodia's Extraordinary Chambers, that of ex-prison chief Duch, whose infamous management of Tuol Sleng prison helped fill the killing fields, will start next month. But observers say the court must decide whether to try more suspects, as the international co-prosecutor Robert Petit wants, before Duch's trial begins.

here to see full story

Ke Kim Yan uncertain of future plans

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Thet Sambath
Friday, 30 January 2009

GENERAL Ke Kim Yan, former commander-in-chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, is uncertain of the future following his unceremonious removal from the post last week.

"I have no idea of what work I will do in future," Ke Kim Yan told the Post Thursday. "The whole country knows I have stopped being commander-in-chief, [so] let everything be quiet from now on."

The general previously said he resigned his post for "health" reasons, but Deputy Prime Minister Nhek Bun Chhay said Tuesday that the CPP stalwart was removed by Prime Minister Hun Sen because his business activities were distracting him from his role as head of the armed forces.

"Prime Minister Hun Sen told a Cabinet meeting that Ke Kim Yan has a lot of land. He is a military officer, and he is also involved in business," he said. "While he is in the military and does business, he should give up his work."

But a senior official in the Council of Ministers, who declined to be named, said the prime minister was more specific, saying the former RCAF chief was removed for illegal land deals and failing to fulfill the duties of his office.

"Ke Kim Yan was withdrawn from the post of commander-in-chief because he has much illegal land and is not active along the border with the soldiers," the official quoted Hun Sen as saying during the Friday meeting.

"He has a lot of illegal land in the provinces ... and he is not as active as other commanders like Kun Kim and Hing Bun Heang.""

There are bigger problems than this, but we can't release them to the public. They are internal issues," the official added.

KR trial raises questions

A sign at the Choeung Ek "killing fields" site. The tribunal must decide whether to prosecute more suspects.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Georgia Wilkins and Neth Pheaktra
Friday, 30 January 2009

Observers say hybrid court needs to decide whether to try more suspects before first trial of ex-prison chief Duch opens on February 17.

THE trial of ex-prison chief Duch is now little more than a fortnight away, but with a decision on further prosecutions at the hybrid court still pending, the long-awaited hearing could raise more questions than it answers, observers say.

"Duch's hearing will generate more questions than clarifications," Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Centre of Cambodia told the Post via email.

Duch was not a "senior leader" but a member of "those most responsible" category that, coupled with the fact there were hundreds of prisons similar in size and scope to Tuol Sleng, poses the question: "Will the ECCC look into them [other prisons and prison directors] as well?" wrote Youk Chhang.

Moreover, the 67-year-old born-again Christian is the only one of five suspects currently detained at the court to have confessed to his role in carrying out purges under the regime and has agreed to cooperate in what observers say may be part of a plea bargain. Information regarding others involved in the wide-scale perpetration of Khmer Rouge-era crimes is likely to come out during the trial.

Consequently, observers say the tribunal must make it clear now, before Duch takes the stand, whether more prosecutions of lower-ranking KR cadre are likely.

Whether the court should try more than the symbolic, big-name five it already has in custody is a question that has been asked by those inside and outside the court since the tribunal's inception.

The court's international co-prosecutor, Robert Petit, and the Cambodian prosecutor are at odds on the issue, prompting Petit last month to file a formal statement of disagreement. The court's Pre-Trial Chamber must now decide, but there is no timeline for a final decision and the rules regarding its publicity remain ambiguous.

Observers are anxious that without an answer forthcoming, Duch may "name names" first, blurring the lines of who is accountable according to the court's mandate of bringing to trial "senior leaders of Democratic Kampuchea and those who were most responsible for the crimes" under the Khmer Rouge era.

"This is the last sort of legitimacy crisis the ECCC needs, especially in light of the continued corruption allegations and investigations," Beth Van Schaack, international lawyer and author of the book Bringing the Khmer Rouge to Justice: Prosecuting Mass Violence before the Cambodian Courts, told the Post in an email.

" This is the last sort of legitimacy crisis the ECCC needs. "

"There are already rumblings throughout Cambodia that [Co-prosecutor Chea] Leang's position is purely political," she said.

Moving down the food chain

The six potentially new suspects have not been named, but sources close to the investigation say they are mid-ranking regime officials, possibly including at least one district chief.

As senior members of the current CPP government held similar positions under the Khmer Rouge regime, historians and observers say there is an understandable reluctance on the part of the government to allow further investigations to proceed.

Most international observers agree that the court should at least explore the possibility of further prosecutions.

"For the sake of perception and legitimacy, the process has to be open to explore evidence [regarding more suspects]," said David Cohen, director of the Berkeley War Crimes Studies Centre and the Asian International Justice Initiative at the East-West Centre, who are monitoring the court.

Whatever the decision of the Pre-Trial Chamber, observers say it needs to be made - and made publicly - fast. Yet although the internal rules of the court have a whole chapter on how such disagreements should be resolved, observers question their efficacy in providing a solution.

"The rules do not provide a timeline or deadline for the decision," Heather Ryan, a tribunal monitor for Open Society Justice Initiative, said via email. "Also, the rules are ambiguous about if it will be made public," she said.

Ryan said her greatest concern now was the timing of such a decision, which, if delayed, could have ramifications not only for Duch's trial, but for the court as a whole.

"It's important, if the court wants to move on with its work and for the sake of its reputation, that they make this decision," she said.


SRP gears up for May elections

Add ImageThe Phnom Penh Post

Written by Brett Worthington
Friday, 30 January 2009

Weekend national congress to stress opposition unity

THE Sam Rainsy Party will hold a national congress this weekend in an attempt to unite the party ahead of the Kingdom's first provincial, district and municipal council elections, scheduled for May.SRP Deputy Secretary General Mu Sochua said that Saturday's meeting would see party members come together to exchange views with the hope of improving the party's unity and resolve at the local level.

"Our main objective is to bring together the electorates, the people who will be electing the councillors, to ensure we can keep the seats we hope to win," she said.

Elections for the new council positions are scheduled for May 17, but only individuals currently holding seats on commune councils will be eligible to vote.

The system has already been criticised by election monitor Comfrel, which says it facilitates vote-buying.

"Some political parties try to buy councillors to support their party," said Koul Panha, executive director of Comfrel. He said the organisation was boycotting the May elections as a result of the flawed electoral system being used.

"The process [encourages] the buying of councillors and a lack of transparency. Only those with seats can vote, and this is not fair and does not truly reflect the [feeling of a] community."

Having suffered a string of high-profile defections in the run-up to the national election in July, the SRP is especially wary of its supporters breaking ranks before the May poll.

"We understand the CPP are trying to take people. We are valuable. We can compete with CPP.

We are the only party that can," said Mu Sochua, adding, however, that the party was confident it could hold together.

"We are not concerned about more people defecting. We are concerned, in a sense, that the CPP has all sorts of tricks, but we are not concerned about being broken within because we have the support and conviction for change. We are solid."

Protesters force court closure

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Kyle Sherer
Friday, 30 January 2009

Siem Reap courthouse hit by demonstrations

PROTESTERS from Chi Kraeng village in Siem Reap province forced the provincial courthouse to close Thursday in demonstrations calling for the release of three villagers arrested over a bitter land dispute in November.

Khem Savoeun, a representative of the protesters, said employees inside the courthouse were forced to lock the doors, halting proceedings, and preventing officials from entering and leaving.

"The deputy governor and the courthouse in Phnom Penh want the prisoners to go free," he said, declining to elaborate further.

The threat resulted in the deputy governor promising an informal meeting, Khem Savouen added, and that the prisoners would be released "in the near future".

Protesters also tried to burn down the courthouse, he said, but had been unsuccessful. Police and fire vehicles arrived at the scene but witnesses among protestors and police said there had been no injuries or arrests.

Dispute continues

About 100 villagers have been camped outside Siem Reap's provincial courthouse for over a week, protesting the imprisonment of two Chi Kraeng farmers and a journalist from local newspaper Khmer Society. The trio were jailed after allegedly accusing the district governor of interfering in a land dispute between farmers from Chi Kraeng and Anlung Samnor communes.

The arrests prompted protesters to burn tires outside the Siem Reap courthouse and post pig heads to members of staff there.

Student group stakes claim to Ranariddh's divided party

Prince Norodom Ranariddh shown here in a file photograph.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Meas Sokchea
Friday, 30 January 2009

NRP officials condemn students for ‘defaming' retired Prince Norodom Ranariddh as royalist party falls further into disarray.

ACAMBODIAN student group claimed ownership of the Norodom Ranariddh Party (NRP) Thursday, urging current leaders to defect and arguing that they have no firm strategy for carrying the party forward.

Sun Sokun Mealea, a member of the Democratic Front of Khmer Students and Intellectuals and a central committee member of the NRP, emphasised the historical links between the royalist party and the Democratic Front, dismissing reports of her defection to the Cambodian People's Party (CPP)

"I have not defected to any party. [The NRP] is my party. I used to be deputy president of the Khmer Front Party," she said.

"We must remain in order to protect the party that we gave birth to and to preserve our ideals for the nation."

The NRP took its current shape in 2006 when the Khmer Front Party, formed from the Democratic Front, backed Ranariddh and adopted his name for the party.

Her comments follow accusations by the NRP that the student group had defamed former party leader Prince Norodom Ranariddh, who retired from politics in October and whose connection with the party has been a matter of ongoing contention.

Sun Sokun Mealea said Ranariddh's retirement effectively left ownership of the party in the hands of the Democratic Front.

Kim Sok, a spokesman for the Democratic Front and a member of the NRP, told the Post Wednesday that the student group had lost faith in Ranariddh and the NRP's current leadership.

NRP officials were unavailable for comment Thursday, but the party issued a statement Wednesday condemning the student group and accusing it of defaming Ranariddh.

In Cambodia, Sam Rainsy no worse for wear: legal officials

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Brendan Brady and Neth Pheaktra
Friday, 30 January 2009

PPenh legal minds say defamation ruling against Sam Rainsy will not reverberate locally; Hor Namhong waits for Cambodian case to progress.

ALTHOUGH the local fallout of a French court ruling Tuesday against opposition leader Sam Rainsy for disinformation and defamation has yet to materialise, Phnom Penh legal officials doubt the verdict will hold sway in a Cambodian court.

Foreign Minister Hor Namhong, who sought to sue Sam Rainsy for defamation in both French and Cambodian courts, has yet to deliver any resounding words calling for further punishment of the opposition leader, but Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said his boss was waiting for local officials to "further their investigation".

" Even though Sam Rainsy has lost for now, that accusation is still going around. "

In his autobiography, Rooted in Stone, published in May last year, Sam Rainsy accused Hor Namhong of heading the Boeung Trabek "re-education" camp, where former diplomats and government officials from the Lon Nol and Sihanouk regimes were detained.

Hor Namhong had previously filed a lawsuit in Phnom Penh in April after the opposition leader alluded to the minister's involvement in the leadership of the Khmer Rouge in a speech at the Choeung Ek "killing fields". Hor Namhong shelved the case, however, awaiting the French verdict addressing the more explicit comment Sam Rainsy made in his book.

According to Phnom Penh Municipal Court President Chiv Keng, while the local case was ongoing, it would not be impacted by Tuesday's ruling, since that case "depended on facts from a different place".

For Sok Sam Ouen, director of the Cambodian Defenders Project, more charges against the opposition leader would, in his opinion, effectively amount to double jeopardy, as the claim Hor Namhong objects to is the same.

Sam Rainsy's lawyer, Kong Sam Onn, said any local legal action would require his client first be stripped of political immunity by order of the National Assembly.

He also denied tremors from the French verdict would register in Phnom Penh since, he said, "there is no law allowing a Cambodian court to use an international decision to rule on a case".

Sam Rainsy, for his part, remains unrepentant, telling the Post he "has no regrets and would not change a word."

Accusation not debunked
While legal minds may see the opposition leader's local legal standing as no worse off, Chea Vannath, a commentator on domestic social and political affairs, described the verdict as a political victory for the ruling Cambodian People's Party, whose membership has been publicly linked to leadership roles in the Khmer Rouge.

She said, however, the charge against Hor Namhong had not been laid to rest.

"Even though Sam Rainsy has lost for now, that accusation is still going around," she said.

She said she expected the ruling party would continue to address public remarks linking it to the brutality of the ultra-Maoist regime when expedient.

New chief prosecutor at Municipal Court

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Cheang Sokha
Friday, 30 January 2009

THE Supreme Council of the Magistracy will officially appoint Yet Chakriya as chief prosecutor of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court Friday, said Hanrot Raken, a member of the council and general prosecutor at the Court of Appeal.

Chakriya has been promoted from his previous post as prosecutor at Banteay Meanchey provincial court and will replace Ouk Savuth, who will be appointed deputy general prosecutor at the Court of Appeal.

Hanrot Raken described the move as "part of a normal reshuffle within the court system".

"He [Ouk Savuth] has not made any mistake, but he served at the Municipal Court for seven or eight years," he said.

Municipal Court President Chiv Keng, a member of the council, said judges and prosecutors are rotated every four years.

"Iron fist" reform

The rotation system first began as part of Prime Minister Hun Sen's "iron fist" judicial reform campaign, which began in mid-2005.

Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of the Cambodia Defenders Project, said the removal of Ouk Savuth, like the transfer of any civil servant who has been in the same position for a long time, would reduce the possibility of bias and corruption.

Of the court system generally, he said: "The system has slowly improved in recent years, but not significantly."

Neither Yet Chakriya nor Ouk Savuth could be reached Thursday for comment.

Friday, 30 January 2009

Landmark hotel in the firing line

The historic Hotel Renakse was shrouded Thursday by tarps and netting, and behind razor wire as its fate hangs in the balance.

The current state of the hotel renakse dispute

Kem Chantha's lawyer, Chong Iv Heng, said in an interview this week that he had yet to receive any information regarding his client's case in Phnom Penh Municipal Court, which was filed after she was removed from the hotel and banned from the premises January 6. "We have still not heard anything from the court yet, so we are still waiting," he said. "If they do not cancel the [January 6 ruling issued by Ke Sakhorn], I will appeal." In an interview with the Post January 18, Kem Chantha said workers contracted by the municipality had begun demolishing the hotel, but these claims have been difficult to verify, as officials have declined to discuss the present condition of the building and their plans for it. No workers were present at the hotel Wednesday morning. The gate to the hotel was locked, and a sign posted on a white piece of paper outside the gate warned passersby against entering the hotel compound. A blue tarp covered both the hotel itself and the fence surrounding it. SRP lawmaker Mu Sochua publicly called on officials to preserve the hotel, saying, "There has been enough destruction of national landmarks in the city of Phnom Penh."

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Robbie Corey-Boulet and May Titthara
Friday, 30 January 2009

The historic Hotel Renakse is at the center of an acrimonious legal tussle between the former owner and powerful members of the ruling CPP, and its fate still hangs in the balance.

AS the legal dispute over the Hotel Renakse sits unresolved in Phnom Penh Municipal Court, Kem Chantha, the hotel's former manager, has taken the fight to other fronts.

In the past three-and-a-half weeks, she has waged a campaign to prevent the French colonial-era building's demolition and secure her reinstatement as manager, attempting to enlist support from potential allies in the government, the international community and the media.

Her efforts, she said in recent interviews with the Post, have included:

- Distribution of additional copies of a January 15 letter by Unesco Country Representative Teruo Jinnai arguing that the building should be preserved for the sake of the city's urban heritage;

- A January 4 meeting with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior Sar Kheng, which she claimed led to a petition urging Prime Minister Hun Sen to save the building from demolition. Sar Kheng could not be reached Wednesday to answer questions about the meeting or to confirm it had occurred;

- And rounds of interviews with reporters, during which she has stressed that corrupt officials want to oust her from the building she managed for nearly two decades without going through the proper legal channels or providing her with adequate compensation.

Having been banned from the hotel since January 6 - when police and officials removed guests, staff and Kem Chantha herself from the premises - she no longer has an office, which she said makes it difficult to arrange meetings. But she vowed to continue to press both for the preservation of the hotel and her reinstatement as manager.

Comparing her own plight to that of the families forcibly removed from Dey Krahorm, she suggested the government would have a more difficult time getting rid of her than it did evicting the community's residents, whose homes were demolished last Saturday by workers using bulldozers and hammers.

"They tried to use power and guns to force me to take this money," she said, referring to a US$200,000 compensation offer made by Alexson Inc, which has purchased the hotel for $3.8 million. "But I'm not like those small settlement houses."

Official (non)response

Officials involved in Kem Chantha's removal from the hotel and its sale to Alexson would not answer questions this week on the current state of the dispute.

Ke Sakhorn, the judge who issued the January 6 order evicting her from the hotel, could not be reached for comment. Min Khin, minister of cults and religions who allegedly arranged for the sale of the hotel, declined to make himself available for an interview despite repeated requests. And Khiev Sepphan, the CPP lawyer handling the sale, declined to comment on the case beyond saying "it is a very complicated issue".

Sok Sam Oeun, director of the Cambodian Defenders Project, said the reticence of the officials might reflect their desire to avoid interfering in a legal case currently before the court.

" They tried to use power and guns to force me to take this money, but i'm not like those settlement houses."

But he said they did just that at least once before when they carried out the order to remove Kem Chantha from the hotel.

"That was not the right thing for them to do," he said. "If a case is brought to the court, then only when that case has been decided can officials do that."

Regardless of whether officials interfere, Kem Chantha said the court's actions so far - in particular, the issuing of the order that barred her from the hotel's premises - have exposed its inability to resolve the case fairly. She said any ruling would be compromised by the fact that Ching Sokuntheavy, the company director of Alexson, is married to the nephew of Ke Sakhorn, the judge.

"They make decisions without proof and not in accordance with the law," she said of the courts.

She said she has several documents - including letters from top CPP officials - that prove she should be reinstated as manager, but she said the court will likely ignore them.

She said her only hope is for Hun Sen to intervene on her behalf, but she said she had not heard from him regarding the case since he wrote in an August 28 letter that authorities should "seek an appropriate resolution to this matter".

Outside parties who have argued that the hotel should be saved have expressed a reluctance to weigh in on whether Kem Chantha should be reinstated as manager.

Teruo Jinnai of Unesco said pressing for her reinstatement would go beyond his organisation's "mandate".

"We are working in the field of education, and we have expertise we can offer," he said. "When it comes to a contract, this is not our mandate."

SRP lawmaker Mu Sochua, who wrote a letter earlier this month urging the CPP to preserve the building, said the particulars of the dispute between Kem Chantha and CPP officials did not interest her.

"I'm not looking at the case," she said. "I'm looking at this national treasure. It is one of the few we have left, and it must be preserved."

A long engagement

Kem Chantha said she first became interested in the hotel when she began working for the Ministry of Tourism in 1986. She signed a five-year lease on the hotel in 1989, she said, and immediately began refurbishing the building, a process that involved repairing the dilapidated walls and roof.

She said she changed the original five-year lease to a 20-year lease in 1992 because she wanted to make sure she would be in charge of the hotel long enough to see a return on her investment.

In 2001, she said, she signed a lease that lasted until 2050.

Several documents pertaining to the ongoing legal case indicate that she planned to remain in the hotel for years, if not decades, to come. In a letter sent last month to Chea Sim, president of the CPP and president of the Senate, she wrote of her plan to turn the Renakse into a luxury hotel as part of the Amanresorts chain, which operates a resort near Angkor Wat. A company spokesman could not be reached for comment this week.

She said she repeatedly poured her own money into the 35-room hotel, which she said had seven rooms when she first took control of it.

Asked to quantify the amount she has spent on renovations to the hotel over the years, however, Kem Chantha said she could produce no receipts verifying the payments.

She said she had also been making payments towards the purchase of the hotel during her tenure as manager, though she said she could not remember how many payments she made, how much they were worth or when she stopped making them.

She also declined to say whether any amount of potential compensation would be enough to persuade her to rescind her claim to the hotel.

But she did say that $200,000 - the amount Alexson offered to pay her in October 2008 for breaking her lease - was insufficient.

"It's very bad," she said of the offer.

RENAKSE takeover

December 29-30 Police enter the hotel compound, and municipal officials inspect the building, which they say has fallen into severe disrepair

January 6 Acting on an order issued by Ke Sakhorn, police evict guests, staff and manager Kem Chantha from the hotel, removing pipes and fittings in the process

January 15 Unesco Country Director Teruo Jinnai sends a letter to Minister of Cults and Religions Min Khin arguing that the Renakse should be preserved for the sake of Phnom Penh's urban heritage

January 18 In an interview with the Post, Kem Chantha says workers contracted by the municipality have begun demolishing the hotel

Australian students build homes for evicted families

Australian Geelong Grammar students take a break from hauling sand on Tuesday.

Habitat for Humanity says that over the next few years it aims to assist some 5,000 familes across the provinces of Kampong Spey, Kampong Cham, Siem Reap, Banteay Meanchey and Phnom Penh in building and renovating their homes and water systems.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sarah Whyte
Friday, 30 January 2009

Aussie team moved mountains of sand as part of Habitat for Humanity program to erect houses using volunteer labour.

Five students and two teachers visiting Cambodia from Australia's Geelong Grammar School spent the last week hauling mountains of sand - 90 tonnes to be precise, they say.

The team, from the state of Victoria, have been constructing two homes for recently evicted families. The project was organised by the NGO Habitat for Humanity to provide homes for families relocated to Phnom Penh's Samaki village.

Nimol Kive, Habitat's project manager, said his organisation plans to construct 30 homes for families in Samaki village by November with the help of around 500 volunteers.

For the visiting students, the labour has come with unexpected perks.

The students were visited on their work site by Deputy Prime Minister Nhek Bun Chhay and opposition leader Sam Rainsy, and Prince Norodom Ranariddh hosted them for lunch.

Hands-on help

"We've had a really rewarding stay." said Justin Corfield, the supervising teacher.

"A benefit of this program has been the practical side, where the students get to actually see where the money is going rather than writing a blank cheque," he said.

"The students also wanted to fund a project they could contribute to with their own time and efforts."

Students from the school independently raised more than US$8,000 during the year to fund the trip and building project.

"The students approached me with the idea to fund a community organised by Habitat for Humanity about a year ago. Cambodia was geographically the closest country for us to partner with, and we have had several dignitary visits to our school, with Sam Rainsy paying over three visits during the past 10 years," said Corfield.

The students were also drawn to Cambodia after hearing broadcasts aired on Australian radio programs about evicted families.

Sam Aull, 17, called the experience "challenging but rewarding".

"I have never been to Asia before, and the absence of a middle class has astounded me," he added.

Student Sabrina Tee saw the trip as the first of many.

"I hope this program continues to grow and students can again come over next year to help these families," said the 17-year-old.

"It's been such a rewarding experience, but definitely hard work."

Corfield said he planned to institutionalise the trip to make it a mainstay for successive classes at the school.

Chevron funds HIV and TB prevention in capital, Sihanouk

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Khouth Sophak Chakrya
Friday, 30 January 2009

US oil company's $35,000 health initiative launched officially as licence to operate in Cambodia comes up for renewal in March.

CHEVRON Overseas Petroleum marked the official launch Tuesday of a US$35,000 tuberculosis- and HIV-prevention program in Phnom Penh and Sihanouk province, in an attempt to lower the number of deaths caused by the diseases over the next year.

In opening remarks at the launch event, held at the InterContinental in Phnom Penh, Gerard Flaherty, an executive for Chevron Asia South Ltd, said the company is committed to fighting tuberculosis and HIV/Aids, adding that efforts to combat the diseases would improve the health of both the Kingdom and its businesses.

Quoting Bjorn Stigson, president of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, Flaherty said: "Businesses can't succeed in failed societies."

The program, which will end in September and will be coordinated by the NGO Pact Cambodia, is designed to provide technical support to the government's own disease-fighting initiatives.

Pact Vice President Kurt MacLeod said he believed the program would, in addition to fighting HIV and tuberculosis, "ensure that the principles of social responsibility are met, as well as protocols to operate in this country, for the benefit of Cambodian citizens".

Chevron in Cambodia

Chevron has operated in Cambodia since 1995, when it set up a network of Caltex retail service stations throughout the country, along with a marine depot.

The American corporation in July 2006 signed a joint study agreement with the Cambodian government for Block A, a section of the Gulf of Thailand, to develop oil and gas. Chevron's licence is due to expire in March this year, when it will be up for renewal.

Khun Kim Eam, head of the planning and statistics unit of the National Centre for Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control, said 11,658 people died of tuberculosis in Cambodia in 2008.

In 2007, 7.8 percent of tuberculosis patients also had HIV, and 123,100 people aged 15 to 49 were infected with the virus, he said.

Phnom Penh playtime

Photo by: Sovann Philong

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sovann Philong
Friday, 30 January 2009

Children play Wednesday in the new drainage pipes waiting to be installed at Boeung Tumpun lake on Street 271 on the outskirts of Phnom Penh as part of efforts to develop the city's sanitation infrastructure. The majority of untreated sewage from Phnom Penh flows into Boeung Tumpun lake.

Regulation of foreign marriages misunderstood

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Tep Phearun
Friday, 30 January 2009

Dear Editor,

On behalf of the Ministry of Interior, I wish to refer to the article in The Phnom Penh Post dated January 6, 2009, titled "Subdecree creates new body to regulate foreign marriages: govt" I would like to offer some comment and to correct an inaccuracy contained therein.

In general, the ministry wishes to stress that it has laws and regulations that have continued to be applicable even during the period of suspension by a ministry letter of marriages between Cambodians and foreign nationals from March 29, 2008 to November 3, 2008.

During the suspension the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have worked closely together to sort out some of the challenges and irregularities in the regulations enabling the relevant legislation.

This has resulted in subdecree No 183 dated November 3, 2008. Although this subdecree has been approved by the government, there is still a requirement for the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to devise some common guidelines to implement the subdecree, and the Ministry of Interior wishes to apologise for any inconvenience caused by this.

No commercial agencies

In particular, ministry officials needed to examine the operation of Article 3 of the subdecree which states that "any marriages arranged through a marriage agency, a broker or a commercial enterprise is prohibited".

In line with this Article, the statement in The Phnom Penh Post on January 6, 2009 that a new organisation, the Association for People Protection (APP), has been set up by Government subdecree is not correct. Nor is it correct that foreigners hoping to wed Cambodians must become members of the APP, as was stated by a notice from the organisation.

The APP, according to its status, cannot be a commercial company.

Letters of permission to any such organisations will not be issued by the Ministry if it is suspected that the aims of the organisation are political or to generate profit.

I hope that this has clarified some of the issues raised in your article.

Tep Phearun
Ministry of Interior

Reactions on the Web to the Dey Krohom eviction range from emotion to rallying

Several websites have published articles, videos, pictures and songs to mobilise Internet users about the fate of the families evicted on Saturday 24th January from Dey Krohom, a neighbourhood in the capital of Cambodia.


By Laurent Le Gouanvic

Cambodian police firing tear gas, an army of young workers demolishing frail houses with sledge hammers and axes, bulldozers crushing everything on their way at the risk of injuring tearful residents fleeing with the few possessions they have managed to save in the chaos... These images of the violent operation to evict the last residents of Dey Krohom, in Phnom Penh on Saturday 24th January, were not broadcast on CNN or any major international television network. Yet, for the last few days, they have been going round the world through the Internet and its new “social networking” tools, like Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, Blogspot or Wordpress. Gradually, after the initial emotional reactions, outraged Internet users are trying – and somewhat struggling – to raise awareness about what happened with the widest possible audience, in Cambodia and abroad. One of their first actions is to launch an international appeal to draw mass protest against the Cambodian authorities and the 7NG company.

A message addressed directly to the authorities

“Dear Prime Minister Hun Sen, I am writing to express my shock at the violent eviction of the Dey Krahorm on January 24th, 2009 and to request that the evicted families receive adequate compensation for their losses.” So begins one of the two “sample letters” published on the website of the organisation "Bridges Across Borders " who invites Internet users throughout the world to copy and send these letters by email or fax to the head of the Cambodian government as well as the Minister of the Council of Ministers Sok An, the Chairman of the National Assembly Heng Samrin, the Governor of Phnom Penh Kep Chuktema, and the Chairman of the 7NG company Srey Sothea. The appeal is also relayed through emails and on a group page dedicated to land conflicts in Cambodia on the social networking website Facebook .

The page was created at the initiative of John Weeks, aka Jinja (or The Gecko in Khmer), an expat blogger in Cambodia who is very active in the Cambodian web circles and responsible for an important compilation of the different sources of information available on the Dey Krohom case . To this day, some 400 members have joined the Facebook group and publish statements, press articles, photos and videos on evictions in Cambodia. The messages posted on the Facebook page originate from Phnom Penh of course, but also from remote Colorado (United States), Canada, Ireland, Switzerland, Australia, Thailand, Hongkong, Philippines, India, or China... Some send a simple message to express their indignation, while others call for concrete actions, including donations of food or basic necessities.

Videos shot in the heart of the action

The group set up on this networking site also – and essentially – serves as a hub for all the written, photographic and audiovisual documents, which represent as much evidence on the eviction. It includes links to the multimedia slideshow and trilingual articles of... Ka-set , videos shot in the middle of the eviction, like the one co-produced by Platapus and Licadho Canada which was initially made available on-line on BlipTV and other “footage rushes” made public on the YouTube video broadcasting site or the human rights multimedia platform The Hub .

Also available on these websites, many archive documents, whether on the daily lives of the Dey Krohom residents , before their eviction, or on other cases of past or ongoing evictions, like at Boeung Kak lake.

“One eviction can hide another”

In parallel to the videos, photos taken during the eviction – but also before and afterwards – are also circulating on a large scale on the Web, whether on the sites of professional photographers (Peter Harris , John Vink ...), amateur ones (Chea Phal , a young Cambodian working for a Japanese NGO whose spends his free time taking pictures) or on photo-sharing sites like Flickr. A moderator on the Khmer Network forum invites people to hang these pictures on their walls to replace “useless” ones and comments “One eviction (forced displacement) can hide another... Watch this space.”

Also, voices are heard on blogs and echoed on the website Global Voices which offers a panorama and excerpts of bloggers' reactions.

Heated reactions

On her personal website, Jivy , a young Filipino living in Phnom Penh, breaks with her usual light messages on shopping and eating out. Still under the shock, she describes what she saw on the morning of Saturday 24th January. “Loud pounding noises woke me up this morning. (…) I looked out of my window and saw hundreds of men wearing green shirt, hammering the small houses in front of the building where my whole family live. It’s my first time to encounter scenes like this and it sent goosebumps all over me. There were lots of police men guarding the site and hundreds of spectators from their homes watched how their fellow Cambodians ruined other people’s houses in a small span of time. (…) I don’t know the whole story behind this horrifying scene, I don’t know if the land is under the government or under a private individual. All I know is that there are people out in the street this morning asking for some more time to discuss this matter before proceeding with the demolition. But people with no hearts didn’t listen.”

Other bloggers also share what they saw, comment on articles or, like Steve, Wendy, Isaac and Niam , the four members of an evangelist family working in Cambodia, express their anger and call to pray for the evicted residents of Dey Krohom.

Weak reaction among Khmer bloggers

However, one cannot but notice that only a few Cambodian bloggers (or Cloggers) express themselves on the eviction. Most of them, including those used to starting heated debates, are strangely silent on the Chinese New Year eve. Similarly, the issue hardly inflames discussion forums of Cambodians living in France. On Khmer Network, while a message on “paedophiles in Cambodia” has generated over a hundred responses and been read more than 3,000 times since 18 January, the one about Dey Krohom has only been commented on seven times and read by about a hundred visitors... Hence the reaction of BAC, one of the few people who reacted, “It [Dey Krohom] is a cause for concern. Why? Well, because it is not a topic for discussion or blathering. It is such a cause for worry that the government is not saying anything. And even people on this forum remain silent. When something is too troubling, people have little of interest to say. It is more fun to blabber.”

The Association for People Protection (APP) regulates the intermarriage.

Reporter Heesoo Jung

The Association for People Protection (APP) received permission by the Cambodian Interior Ministry on Dec. 12 according to the Phnom Penh Post.

The licensed APP is aimed to work as a mediator to facilitate legal consultations by lawyers between husband and wife alike and to protect Cambodian migrants overseas, in particular, women married foreigners.

The APP said in a statement, “The duty of the association is to help people applying for passports and visas to do this legally. Any foreigner who wants to marry a Cambodian woman will have to become a member of the APP.”

The intermarriage suspension was enacted in April as the number of broker unions including the poor and the uneducated has been exploded.

In addition, it is reported by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) that an increasing number of Asian women including Cambodian and Vietnamese brides have spent a hard time in piteous plights with the South Korean husbands, whose middlemen made a large amount of profits.

Around 1759 marriage visas for Cambodians were issued by South Korea in 2007, compared with 72 in 2004.

Heritage award for Cambodia specialist

The University of Sydney
30 January 2009

An organisation founded by the University of Sydney's Dr Dougald O'Reilly to protect Cambodia's cultural heritage has won one of the archeological world's most prestigious awards.

Dr Dougald O'Reilly accepted the The Archaeological Institute of America's Conservation and Heritage Management Award in Boston earlier this month for his work with Heritage Watch, an organisation he founded in 2003.

Dr O'Reilly said he established Heritage Watch "as a result of the increase in the destruction of Cambodia's cultural heritage. The organisation has implemented a whole range of projects to end the illicit excavation and trafficking of antiquities."

The organisation's focus is the Angkor, the World Heritage Site in Cambodia and location of the iconic temple Angkor Wat, with its main aim the promotion of responsible tourism.

One of its current projects is the Heritage Friendly Tourism Campaign, which aims to raise awareness of the importance of travellers practising responsible tourism when visiting sensitive archaeological sites.

Dr O'Reilly recently told the Sydney Morning Herald: "We also hope to discourage people from purchasing antiquities and to broaden their travel experience outside of just Angkor. Cambodia is an amazing and diverse country with much to offer, yet too few people leave Siem Reap where the temples of Angkor are located."

Heritage Watch has recently certified a number of businesses as being 'heritage friendly,' with banners, street signs and stickers helping travellers identify ethical companies.

Other projects on Heritage Watch's agenda include: Heritage for Kids, which will see educate children in the importance of heritage; and an online legal database of national and international legislation affecting the management of cultural resources in Southeast Asia.

Currently three Cambodian nationals work at Heritage Watch, along with a number of unpaid foreign volunteers. Dr O'Reilly says it is funded by various small grants and is trying to become self sustaining by publishing Touchstone, a heritage and responsible tourism magazine.

"I was, of course, very pleased that Heritage Watch received recognition from such a prestigious organization as the AIA and it is a credit to the hard work of all our volunteers and interns," Dr O'Reilly said on receiving the award.

The AIA said: "Heritage Watch has identified the major issues affecting both local and worldwide archaeological sites, including looting, the trade in illicit antiquities, tourism overload and rapid development that outpaces national policies to protect sites."

Contact: Kath Kenny
Phone: 02 9351 2261

Tribunal Reserve Judge To Be Chosen

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
29 January 2009

The Supreme Council of Magistracy on Friday will discuss the U.N. nomination of a Zambian judge with experience in the Rwandan war crimes trials for an international reserve judge position at the Khmer Rouge tribunal, an official said Wednesday.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon nominated Florence Mumba for the position, the official said.

Previously, she worked for the International Criminal Court for Rwanda, as a member of the Appeals Chamber. Mumba also was part of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, presiding as judge over several cases. In Zambia, she served as counsel to the Supreme Court in the 1970s.

The Supreme Council of Magistracy, which is chaired by King Norodom Sihamoni, is scheduled to review the selection of the reserve judge on Friday.

Tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath confirmed the council would make a decision, but was unable to provide further detail.

The Pre-Trial Chamber, which is currently supposed to decide on whether more Khmer Rouge leaders will be indicted, has three national judges, two national judges, as well as one each from each side in reserve.

Cambodia Seeks Return of Seized Statues

By Kong Sothanarith, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
29 January 2009

Cambodia has sent a package of documents to Thailand to initiate the repatriation of 18 ancient statues from a total 43 seized by Thai authorities from traffickers over the past decade, a top official said Wednesday.

“We sent the documents to clarify that among 43 statues, 18 belong to Cambodia,” Foreign Minister Hor Namhong told VOA Khmer Wednesday. “We will conduct a study on the rest of the statues to find reasoning that they are antiques that belong to Cambodia.”

During years of civil war, antiques and statues were pillaged from ancient temples, pagodas and other sites and smuggled from the country, sometimes by armed men that authorities were reluctant to stop.

The 43 statues in Thailand were taken after they crossed the border in smuggling operations since 1999.

“Among those statues are the head of a Buddha, the head of a giant, a lion, and [partial] statues of Buddha,” said Hatt Touch, director of the museum department of the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts. “They were stolen from Bantheay Chmar temple in Bantheay Meanchey province, stolen from the Bayon temple [in Angkor Wat] and from other temples also.”

The Joint Border Committee between Thai and Cambodia will meet next week to discuss options for returning the first 18 statues, Hor Namhong said.

US, Cambodia Prepare Diplomatic Missions

By Reporters, VOA Khmer
Original reports from Phnom Penh & Washington
29 January 2009

Newly appointed US Ambassador Carol Rodley held her first meeting with Prime Minister Hun Sen Thursday, promising a continued policy of cooperation, as Cambodia’s own ambassador prepared for his post in Washington.

The United States will continue friendly relations in politics, economics and culture in a bilateral relationship, the ambassador told VOA Khmer Thursday, following a nearly one-hour meeting with the premier.

“It was our first meeting, and it was very good to have a chance to talk to him again,” said Rodley, who was the deputy chief of mission at the US Embassy in Phnom Penh from 1997 to 2000. “We will continue to have very good cooperative relations and continue to provide assistance to Cambodia.”

Ieng Sophalleth, a spokesman for Hun Sen, said the premier had thanked the ambassador for US assistance.

Cambodia and the US have enjoyed warming relations in recent years, including the resumption of military aid and other programs.

However, the US government should strengthen its democracy-building in Cambodia, said Kem Sokha, president of the Human Rights Party, “and especially help the Cambodian National Assembly strengthen democracy, to make a balance of power in the government.”

Rodley’s meeting with Hun Sen follows the arrival of Hem Heng, Cambodia’s ambassador to the US, in Washington.

“I do hope that our Cambodian people who are living here, as well as living across America, will help my mission to reach success and achievement for our nation,” Hem Heng, who has yet to be officially recognized as ambassador, said following a monk’s blessing at a pagoda in the state of Maryland Sunday.

'Children of the Khmer': FĂȘted in Scotland … bulldozed back home

Scotsman, United Kingdom

30 January 2009
By Tim Cornwell

Arts Correspondent

SIX months ago they were being fĂȘted in Edinburgh, cheered by crowds in the Festival parade and winning four-star reviews for their show of traditional monkey and peacock dances.

But the Cambodian teenagers, who performed as the "Children of the Khmer" in Scotland last August, are among hundreds of people who have lost their homes in a slum clearance in the centre of Phnom Penh, The Scotsman has learned.Poor residents of Dey Krahorm had been fighting eviction for three years until police and bulldozers moved in this week.

Many of the dancers affected are orphans or from poor single-parent homes. Thoem Bunleng, at 21 one of the oldest performers, who played a monkey drummer in Edinburgh, watched while his home was razed.

"His father just died, and he couldn't afford to pay for the funeral, and he is basically homeless," said Richard Chappell, who helped bring the Cambodian group to The World venue in Edinburgh. "He is staying in one of the classrooms we have in Phnom Penh."

Witnesses described demolition workers rocking stilted houses till they fell apart as inhabitants tried desperately to remove belongings.

Amnesty International this week called on the Cambodian authorities to stop the demolitions and ensure adequate compensation and restitution for those evicted. Opposition MPs also condemned the "grave violences" of the municipal authorities in the Cambodian capital.

Amnesty said more than 150 poor urban families had lost their homes when a force of about 250 police, firemen and workers moved in at 3am, dispersing protesters with tear gas.

"The most urgent task now is for the government to immediately address the humanitarian needs of these people, who have lost their homes and face imminent food and water shortages," said Amnesty's Cambodian researcher, Brittis Edman.

The Cambodian families claim they have legal rights to the land their shanty homes are built on, but that local authorities signed it over to a developer as property values have skyrocketed. The development company, 7NG, claims to have offered up to $20,000 (£13,986) compensation.

But many of those evicted have said they do not know how to apply for payment – which will be far harder to do now they've been forced out.

The company offered alternative accommodation, but it is said to be several miles outside the city with no facilities and no running water. One girl dancer, Chandaloy, who lived in little more than a cupboard, lost her home yesterday.

"They have full legal right to their houses, they are not squatters. All the simple ground-level houses have been cleared. Stage two is the apartment buildings," said Mr Chappell.

The Children of the Khmer show featured 26 young Cambodians trained by Cambodian Living Arts. CLA is a non-governmental organisation which supports traditional Cambodian artforms, widely banned under the Khmer Rouge.

More than 100 CLA students and at least five teachers live in Dey Krahorm.

John Simpson, of the World venue, which brought the Cambodians together, said: "The real interest for us is to follow through on the projects with the Cambodians. We are going to bring them in 2010 and this will certainly not stop us.

"I am sure the people of Edinburgh will be as welcoming and supportive as they were last time. It means a lot for the kids to know the people they met in Edinburgh are supporting them during such difficult times."

Anyone wishing to help can send an e-mail to


UNDER the Khmer Rogue regime of Pol Pot, at least 1.7 million Cambodians, some say more than two million, died of starvation, disease and executions during the dictator's primitive experiment in human engineering, called "Year Zero".

The idea behind Year Zero was that all culture and traditions within a society must be completely destroyed or discarded, replaced by a new revolutionary culture.

Consequently, about 90 per cent of the country's performing artists died during the Khmer Rouge regime, a devastating blow to all of Cambodia's ancient traditions.

After the fall of the Khmer Rouge, the cultural tragedy was compounded by two decades of economic hardship, when very few of the surviving performers could make a living for themselves.

Cambodian Living Arts stepped in to support those performers who, despite their deep knowledge and skill, had either retired or reduced their teaching and performing loads. Now, it funds 16 classes throughout Phnom Penh and seven other provinces to promote the tradition.

The Municipality’s Plan to Cut Down Illegal Constructions in the City - Thursday, 29.1.2009

Posted on 30 January 2009.
The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 597

“Phnom Penh: In the morning of 28 January 2009 the Phnom Penh authorities held a meeting at the meeting hall of the municipality which was presided over by a deputy Phnom Penh municipal governor in charge of cadastral work, Mr. Mab Sarin; also the deputy chief of cabinet of the Phnom Penh Municipality, Mr. Koet Chhe, the director of the Department of Land Management, Urban Planning, and Construction, Mr. Chhay Rithisen, all district deputy governors, and some other relevant officials participated. The major intention of this meeting was to awaken and to encourage cadastral officials to focus on preventing illegal constructions happening, and to improve the situation by taking action to reduce illegal constructions.

“The deputy municipal governor, Mr. Mab Sarin, said, ‘We are really embarrassed that we have enough commune and district authorities and expert officials, but no one seems to knows that illegal constructions are going on in their localities until the construction is finished; when citizens informed them, they said they were surprised. We do not believe that the authorities do not know when illegal constructions are going on, because no one knows better about every construction than the local officials. We meet therefore to discuss methods to achieve solutions, and somebody must take real responsibility for such problems. If you still say that you do not know, you will receive administrative punishments or be shifted out from work.’

“Mr. Mab Sarin added, ‘We do this in order to cut down illegal constructions. The authorities do not want to start conflicts with anyone; that is, the authorities have to enforce the laws which have been made. Previously, letters were issued to stop some illegal constructions, but until there were solutions reached, most of the constructions had almost been finished, and the administrative work was slow, exactly because of the lack of action of the district authorities.’

“The director of the Department of Land Management, Urban Planning, and Construction, Mr. Chhay Rithisen, admitted that some of his officials are really afraid to stop illegal constructions of the rich and of powerful officials, because sometimes, when they take action, there were complaints lodged at the courts against those officials, and they suddenly and unexpectedly became the accused. He requested that, regarding the above problem, the municipality should create a committee at municipal level, like a committee to check excavation pits and buildings sites, where all agencies cooperate, including armed forces, so that it will be efficient, because until now, ‘when we go to check illegal constructions, our people were prohibited to enter by bodyguards of the owners of the construction sites, and sometimes cadastral officials were even arrested.’

“The deputy chief of cabinet of the Phnom Penh Municipality, Mr. Koet Chhe, said that previously, when cadastral officials and district authorities went to stop illegal constructions, both sides did not get along with each other well, because there was no cooperation at all.
Sometimes, when the authorities went to stop or crack down on illegal constructions, powerful officials had letters from higher officials permitting their constructions. ‘However, as the Phnom Penh authorities, we have enough possibilities, and we are willing to use them, and if there are problems, we also have two lawyers to get the courts involved.’

“Mr. Koet Chhe went on to say that from now on, the municipal authorities will go to check all localities regularly, and the relevant local authorities must be responsible for all illegal constructions. This plan is to achieve improvements. ‘That means that we must not let illegal constructions spread like mushrooms, and the local authorities must hold responsibilities in their respective localities. ‘

“Illegal constructions not only cause anarchy, but also affect the beauty of the city.”

Koh Santepheap, Vol.42, #6564, 29.1.2009
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Thursday, 29 January 2009

Circus with its roots in helping refugees is in its sixth year


by Jamie Rhein
Jan 29th 2009

If a trip to Cambodia is in your future this coming March or April, here's an event to look for. Tini Tinou 2009 is a megawatt circus-type festival that has its roots in doing good works. The non-profit group Phare Ponleu Selpak, started in the l980s to help Cambodian children in Thai refugee camps by using the visual arts, has been putting on the Tini Tinou Circus Festival for the past five years.

This spring for the sixth year in a row, a bevvy of professional artists and performers from around the world will come to entertain and teach. This is a two part venture. The first part takes place in Phenom Penh from March 10-28. Along with two-weeks of workshops where artists from countries ranging France to Japan teach young Cambodian artist some tools of the trade, on the 28th, the public can enjoy the action. There will be a parade, a light show and a cabaret.

From April 2 to April 5, the festival circus moves to Battambang where Pare Ponleu Selpak (meaning Light from the Arts) is based. Here, 120 different acts from 10 different countries will dazzle and delight throughout the event.

If you want to find out more about the circus and how to pair a visit to Cambodia with a trip to this event, there are two tour operators to check out for the details. One, Asia Adventures Ltd who sent out the press release about Tini Tinou 2009 is planning tours that will take in the circus and other sites in Cambodia.

The other I found is asia trails. As the CEO of this company states in a letter posted last year, going to events and places helps boost the economy and sustain people. Tourism, then, is like a non-profit circus when you think about it.