Saturday, 3 January 2009

Additional searches planned for missing Cambodian woman (with file video, link to investigative report)

The StarSunday, Jan 4 2009
David Allen

Click here for The Star's investigative report on the history of Unique Living

Officials and volunteers will brave the wilderness later this month, expanding the search for Mouy Tang, a former Unique Living resident who disappeared Sept. 3.

Tang, a 46-year-old native of Cambodia, hasn't been seen in nearly four months, but additional searches hope to change that.

Search teams from both the Carolinas and Florida will be in town Jan. 16, 17 and 18 to scour areas previously unchecked, according to Quyhn Tang, Mouy's sister-in-law. The new plan is to expand the search an additional 25 miles.

Horses, sonar and additional searchers are entering the mix this time around, Quyhn said. Map grids and GPS will ensure every square mile is properly covered.

"It's awesome to watch them work," she said. "They are so professional. They've done an excellent job."

Anyone looking to volunteer can meet Jan. 17 at Burns High School at 7 a.m.

Police Begin Enforcement of Helmet Law

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
02 January 2009

Phnom Penh police fined 236 motorists for failure to wear helmets Thursday, the first day of new enforcement measures, a top official said.

"This morning, we just fined those who were not wearing helmets, and later on we will fine any motorist without a rear-view mirror and without a license plate," said Col. Chev Hak, deputy chief of Phnom Penh traffic police, as a guest on "Hello VOA" Thursday.

Chev Hak estimated that about 85 percent of Phnom Penh motorists were now wearing helmets, following threats of stricter enforcement by Prime Minister Hun Sen last month.

An estimated 179 people had died in 700 traffic accidents, about one person every other day, Chev Hak said, making it the leading killer of Cambodians.Hun Sen called traffic deaths a worse scourge than landmines or AIDS.

Chev Hak appealed to motorists to wear their helmets and not try to outrun police blockades, as this too was dangerous.

"If the police fine you, its only 3,000 riel," about $0.80, he said, "but if you turn away, causing an accident, there will be a lot of money spent."

Ieng Sary Released Again From Hospital

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

Jailed Khmer Rouge leader Ieng Sary was released from Calmette hospital Friday, ending his second visit to the hospital in a week and raising concerns his health may be failing.

The return to the hospital of the ailing leader raises again the specter that the five jailed leaders will escape their days in court, even as the tribunal is preparing for the first trial since its 2006 inception, of Kaing Kek Iev, the chief of Tuol Sleng prison, early this year.

"His situation could be serious," Ang Oudom, Cambodian defense lawyer for Ieng Sary, said Thursday, adding that his client may need an operation.

However, if the operation would cause adverse effects on his health, he said, "then the doctors would not do it."

Arrested in November 2007, Ieng Sary, 84, faces charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role as the foreign minister of the Khmer Rouge regime. Of five jailed leaders, he has visited the hospital the most times.

He was released from Calmette Wednesday, Dec. 24, after two days in the hospital for treatment of a swollen leg, and readmitted Sunday, Dec. 28. Family members have told his lawyers he has kidney disease.

Police find Home-made bombs near Cambodian defense ministry

A bomb disposal personnel examines one of two home-made bombs found near government buildings in Phnom Penh January 2, 2009. Picture: AFP

One of the two home-made bombs found near government buildings explodes during a controlled detonation in Phnom Penh January 2, 2009. Authorities have blamed anti-government groups for wanting to prevent people from attending next week's anniversary to mark the fall of Pol Pot's regime.REUTERS/ Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

A bomb disposal personnel examines one of two home-made bombs found near government buildings in Phnom Penh January 2, 2009. Authorities have blamed anti-government groups for wanting to prevent people from attending next week's anniversary to mark the fall of Pol Pot's regime.REUTERS/ Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Bomb disposals personnel put sandbags around one of two home-made bombs found near government buildings in Phnom Penh January 2, 2009. Authorities have blamed anti-government groups for wanting to prevent people from attending next week's anniversary to mark the fall of Pol Pot's regime.REUTERS/ Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Child trafficking in Cambodia

Thursday 01 January 2009

Watch Video

Child trafficking, a loose term with negative connotations, is essentially when young offspring are given away to wealthy foreigners in exchange for money.

For lucky adopters, the actual sum is inconsequential. Exhausted after costly and upsetting attempts in their own countries, many gratefully look to smaller, developing nations in their bid to find a child, countries like Cambodia, where widespread poverty forces many locals to consider desperate ways to make ends meet.

Dazzled by the promise of a better life for their loved ones, parents and families readily relinquish control and sign away their offspring. But an increasing number of abuses of the system by rogue adoption agencies has prompted many Western governments to immediately suspend all adoptions of Cambodian children.

In France, the government has only just recently lifted the ban that had been in place for some five years, but French authorities are enforcing stringent tests and vetting on would-be parents.

In Cambodia, there are as yet few laws against the widespread corruption and not enough incentive to make parents stop this tragic practice of selling their children.

Cambodian Court Must Act on Murder of Trade Union leader murder case of union Leader Chea Vichea

Submitted by Mick Duncan on January 2, 2009

Amnesty International calls on the Supreme Court to dismiss the case against Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun, and ensure that they are released without delay and their names cleared. In view of the human rights violations perpetrated during their detention and trial, including torture or other ill-treatment, unfounded and inadmissible 'evidence' and deeply flawed court proceedings, this is the only fair and just outcome for this case, the organization said.

Amnesty International believes that the true perpetrators of the murder remain at large, while Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun have spent almost five years in prison after a seriously flawed criminal investigation and a grossly unfair trial.

Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun had alibis for the time of the shooting on 22 January 2004. Instead of conducting a thorough, impartial investigation, police officers threatened and detained people who would provide these alibis, and intimidated other witnesses. Born Samnang repeatedly stated that police beat, coerced and bribed him into making a confession; despite this the Municipal Court accepted the confession as a central piece of evidence on the basis of which both men were convicted. On 1 August 2005, the Municipal Court sentenced them both to 20 years imprisonment for murder; on 6 April 2007, the Appeal Court upheld the decision, despite the prosecutor's acknowledgement there was insufficient evidence.

Amnesty International repeats its calls to the Cambodian authorities to conduct an impartial and effective investigation into the murder of Chea Vichea so that those responsible for it are brought to justice.

The organisation also urges the authorities to initiate a thorough, independent and impartial investigation into the conduct of the case - including allegations of torture or other ill-treatment by police during the initial interrogation of the two men, intimidation of witnesses and political interference with the judicial process.

BackgroundChea Vichea, President of Cambodia's Free Trade Union (FTU), was murdered on 22 January 2004 after receiving a series of death threats. He was shot dead in an assassination style killing at a news-stand in central Phnom Penh. Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun were arrested shortly afterwards on suspicion of his murder.

Chea Vichea was a well-known trade union leader who championed workers rights in Cambodia’s burgeoning garment industry and a founding member of the main opposition Khmer Nation Party (KNP) in 1995, renamed the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) in 1998. He was elected President of the FTU, one of Cambodia’s largest trade unions, in 1999, when he left all official positions within the SRP.

Since Chea Vichea’s death another two FTU activists have been killed in Phnom Penh. In May 2004, Ros Sovannareth, FTU President at the Trinunggal Komara factory, was murdered. Thach Saveth was sentenced to 15 years in prison for his murder in a one hour trial described by observers as grossly unfair. On 24 February 2007, Hy Vuthy, FTU President at the Suntex factory, was shot dead. No one has been brought to justice for this killing, and by September 2008, a Phnom Penh court official told media that the investigation had been closed for lack of evidence. Moreover, numerous other trade union members have been victims of harassment, intimidation and violence.

Public Document
For more information please call Amnesty International's press office in London, UK, on +44 20 7413 5566 or email:
International Secretariat, Amnesty International, 1 Easton St., London WC1X 0DW, UK
Read this statement on the Amnesty site at:

Police find explosive devices near Cambodian defense ministry

PHNOM PENH, Jan. 2 (Xinhua) -- Police on Friday found explosive devices at two locations in front of the National Defense Ministry and another one near the headquarters of TV3 in downtown Phnom Penh.

Mine clearance group disassembled these materials, without causing any damage and casualty.

"We found them at 0300 p.m. local time (0800 GMT) and have been investigating the case to catch the perpetrators," said Sao Sokha, chief of the National Military Police.

So far, no one has claimed responsibility for the deadly placements yet.

The explosive substances were placed in cans of mosquito-killing spray when the police found them in the public garden before the ministry and on the sidewalk beside the TV headquarters, according to the police.

Editor: Chris

Experts press for more agriculture support

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Rice farmers in rural Cambodia. Experts hope that a strong agricultural sector will insulate the country from the economic crisis.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by KAY KIMSONG
Friday, 02 January 2009

With foreign direct investment and the property market in the grips of market crisis, experts say the agriculture sector should be the government's focus

DEVELOPMENT officials called on the government this week to devote more resources to the agricultural sector in an effort to mitigate the effects of the global economic crisis.

Kang Chandararot, president of the Cambodia Institute for Development Study, said that while the tourism and garment sectors continue to struggle for access to international markets during the slowdown, Cambodia's agriculture sector holds the best hope of weathering the crisis.

"We face a difficult situation, but the government should use most of the [nearly] US$1 billion in donor aid to develop our rural areas as a top priority," he said.

He said greater improvements in rural development would cut poverty and reduce dependence on loans from banks or microfinance institutions.

"While direct loans from banks and microfinance institutions provide necessary support, aid through the rural development and agriculture ministries should be used to modernise our agricultural methods," Kang Chandararot said.

Such aid could be used to renovate Cambodia's aging water systems, find new seedlings and fertilisers, and improve rural markets, he said.

Bank lending for infrastructure improvements poses risks for farmers, said Tep Khunnal, governor of Malai district in Battambang province, who has proposed a new community-based capital savings and lending initiative.

"I understand that loans and financing from outside are necessary, but capital reserves established in Malai district could be sufficient for providing financing to local farmers," Tep Khunnal said.

"We are thinking of a community bank, where farmers can borrow money at low interest rates," he said.

The governor said Malai farmers expect to earn about $5 million from this year's harvest of corn, beans, cassava and rice, despite a dip in some commodity prices.

The price of corn per tonne is $144, down 58 percent from June and July this year, when it sold for $346 per tonne, he said.

"We met with a large group of farmers in Malai district to discuss what crops would be best to plant next year based on our predictions of how the prices might fluctuate," he said.

He added that based on recent analysis by agricultural experts, crop prices would rise in late 2009 on a predicted increase in oil prices to between $60 and $80 per barrel.

Son Koun Thor, president and CEO of Cambodia's Rural Development Bank, said the global financial crisis was not likely to affect farmers in remote areas who had little access to larger markets.

Suicide family coaxed from bridge

Investigation ... Police investigate the car of a 40-year-old man who jumped off the Hawksbury River Bridge. Pic. Gary Graham

The Daily Telegraph

By Gemma Jones
January 02, 2009

THE wife and children of a man who jumped to his death off a bridge on the F3 had to be coaxed by police off the outer railing after he leaped.

Police officers following the Cabramatta family's car on the Brooklyn Bridge probably prevented a murder-suicide on New Year's Eve by talking the woman and two children down from the bridge's edge.

Officers were too late to save their husband and father, whose body has still not been found.

It was unclear if the children had been coerced by their father to follow him over the 20m drop to almost certain death about 9.30am on Wednesday.

Police are investigating whether the children may have been drugged before their father drove them - extremely slowly - north along the F3 to the bridge. "Two officers acted quickly to grab a 39-year-old woman as she also climbed to the outside railing and drag her back to safety,'' a police spokeswoman said yesterday.

"Police also intercepted a girl aged 9 and boy aged 7 as they too climbed the bridge railing.''

Superintendent Peter Marcon praised the officers for preventing a bigger tragedy and for their quick thinking in securing a boat to begin a search for the man.

"The officers acted quickly to avert a far more serious situation on the bridge, then were in a boat searching for the missing man only minutes after he jumped,'' he said.

"The officers involved will be commended for their actions.''

The mother and children, who are believed to be from Cambodia, were treated at Hornsby Hospital.

Police needed interpreters to speak with the mother.

Authorities will resume a search of the Hawkesbury River today.

An underwater search was called off at 10.30am yesterday because of strong currents, while Polair and State Emergency Service personnel continued searching for an hour.

"We do not hold out much chance for his survival,'' Inspector Steve Martlew said.

Police probe Thailand nightclub fire tragedy

A Thai family is interviewed by a female reporter, back to camera, while waiting for the body of a son who died at a nightclub fire at a police hospital in Bangkok, Thailand, Thursday, Jan. 1, 2009. A fire swept through a high-class nightclub jammed with several hundred New Year's revelers early Thursday, killing at least 59 people and injuring more than 200, officials said.(AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong)

By Associated Press
Friday, January 2, 2009

Boston Herald. com

BANGKOK, Thailand — Grieving families prayed for the spirits of their loved ones Friday while police probed for the cause of a fire that ravaged a Bangkok nightclub, killing about 60 New Year’s Eve partygoers.

Police Maj. Gen. Jongrak Jutanont said investigators were focusing on whether the blaze was sparked by a countdown fireworks display organized by the club owners or by firecrackers brought in by guests.

The fire broke out shortly after the midnight countdown and raced through the jammed two-story club, trapping a number as they tried to flee through one main door.

No charges related to the fire have yet been filed, but the owner, Thai-Chinese businessman Wisuth Setsawat, would be initially charged with allowing underage customers into the Santika Club, Jongrak said. A 17-year-old high school student was found among the dead, he said.

On Friday, families of victims gathered at the gutted, charred club in a Bangkok entertainment district to take part in Buddhist prayers, beseeching the spirits of the dead to make their way back home.

The Phranakorn Center, an official agency dealing with accidents in Bangkok, said Thursday that at least 61 people died and that 35 foreigners were among the injured. The Narenthorn Emergency Center, which was coordinating relief efforts, said more than 200 had been injured.

But the state-owned Radio Thailand gave the death toll Friday at 58 while some Thai media said 59 had perished.

Among the casualties were a Singaporean who died and at least 35 foreigners who were injured, including citizens of Australia, Belgium, Britain, France, Japan, Singapore, South Korea and the United States, according to officials and reporters.

Jongrak said that 21 bodies, burned beyond recognition, have yet to be identified.

He said that an investigation into the club’s history found that its application for operation five years ago was turned down by the metropolitan police because the building "wasn’t ready." But the club opened anyway on the basis of a court appeal.

"Even now, the court still hasn’t issued a ruling," he said.

The party at the wildly popular, classy Santika was billed as both a New Year’s blowout and a last-night celebration of the nightclub before it moved to a new location. "Goodbye Santika," the promotion poster read.

"Everybody was pushing against each other trying to get out to the front door as quickly as possible," said Sompong Tritaweelap, who lives in an apartment behind the nightclub. "I saw people, particularly young girls, being pushed away and crushed underneath as others were stomping on them trying to get out."

Sompong said the fire spread through the entire building within 10 minutes.

"People were screaming for help from every window. It was a terrible sight. Their hair and clothes were on fire but there was nothing they could do as the fire engulfed them," he said.