Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Police Blotter: 07 Jan 2009

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Lim Phalla
Wednesday, 07 January 2009


Two incidents of child rape happened on Friday and Saturday in Phnom Touch and Kouk Ballangk communes, Mongkol Borei district, Banteay Meanchey province. Phaing Bor, 28, was arrested for raping a four-year-old girl on Saturday near her grandmother's house. The suspect had been asked to look after the girl by her grandmother, who trusted the man. The other case happened on Friday when a 20-month-old girl was raped after her mother had gone to market, leaving her home alone. The perpetrator escaped.


Sok Srey, 15, was sentenced to three years in prison for stabbing and killing Pross Den in August. The suspect and the victim were both living at the Centre of New Family Organisation in Slaeng Roling village, Phnom Penh, and had been fighting over an egg during dinner. The boy died on the way to hospital. The court released the verdict on December 29.


Police saved Teng Maly, 17, when she was about to jump off Chruoy Changvar bridge in Phnom Penh to commit suicide. The girl told police that she wanted to commit suicide because many people had insulted her, saying her face was very ugly and unlucky. According to her mother, Ly Kimhour, the girl is paranoid and this is the third time she has tried to kill herself.


Yoeum Nhanh, 57, was killed on Sunday night in Pring Kaong viilage, Bos Sbov commune, Serei Soaphoan district, Banteay Meanchey province, after coming to the aid of a neighbor, Smok Chhit, when seven robbers entered the neighbour's house. The robbers, armed with guns and sticks, stole a gold necklace, 30,000 baht and a DVD player. The victim was shot in the head and died on the ground.


Phouk Bunphan, 30, was shot and seriously injured in the left hip by a group of three robbers on Street 310 in Phnom Penh on Sunday night. The victim was driving his girlfriend when the three robbers pointed a gun at the victim and told him to stop his motorbike. When he did not stop, the robbers shot him, stole his motorbike and escaped.

Report about Human Trafficking Released by US Department of State - Tuesday 6.1.2009

Posted on 7 January 2009
The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 594

“Cambodia is a base and a target country for victims of human trafficking. Women and children are trafficked to Thailand and to Malaysia for sexual exploitation. Some Cambodian men migrating on their own to Thailand in order to find jobst fall into a situation where they are forced to do hard labor on fishing boats, at construction sites, and in the agro-industry.

Cambodian women and children are trafficked to Thailand to work in exploitative conditions as household servants, and some are forced to serve as prostitutes. Some Cambodian men migrate to seek jobs, but when they returned from India, South Korea, or Malaysia, they said that they were forced to do hard labor and fell into dept bondage. Children are trafficked to Thailand and to Vietnam to work as beggars, candy sellers, flower sellers, and shoes-shine boys.

“Some Khmer women migrated to Taiwan to get married through international marriage brokers, but at the end, they were trafficked to work as prostitutes. Trafficking of woman and girls, also affecting Vietnamese people, happens also at the Cambodian border, from rural areas to Phnom Penh, to Siem Reap, and to Sihanoukville. Cambodia is a targeted country to send Vietnamese girls to work as prostitutes. Cambodia is targeted also by foreign sex tourists who want to have sex with children, and there are more and more Asian men traveling to Cambodia to have sex with underage virgin girls.

“Even though the highest standards for the elimination of trafficking have not been reached, the government is making remarkable efforts to fight such trafficking. Now [in the Trafficking in Persons Report 2008 that had been released by the US Department of State on 4 June 2008], Cambodia was ranked for the first time since 2004 on the Tier 2 Watch List [of three tiers], because the government stepped up cooperation to fight human trafficking in the previous year. The government created a special working group against human trafficking on the national level in order to improve the possibility to respond better as an international agency against trafficking, to improve coordination with civil society, to increase law enforcement activities against traffickers and colluding officials, and to increase protecting activities. In February 2008, a new Cambodian law to crack down on human trafficking and sex exploitation was promulgated and came into force. This law provides power to the police to investigate all forms of trafficking, and it is a strong measure to bring human traffickers to prosecutions. High ranking officials of the government publicly announced a ‘no tolerance’ policy for officials benefiting from or colluding with human trafficking.

“The report pointed out that the Cambodian government continued to implement laws against human trafficking last year. But in February 2008, a new Cambodian law to crack down on human trafficking and sexual exploitation came into force. This law provides criminal penalties against all forms of human trafficking, including debt bondage, it states the punishment for wrongdoings which are sufficiently firm which will be applied against serious crimes such as rape. Because of insufficient resources, the government does not provide useful statistics about prosecutions made. The Ministry of Interior reported complaints received regarding 53 cases of human trafficking from April 2007 to March 2008. 35 cases were related to trafficking for sexual exploitation, with 60 victims, and 11 cases were trafficking for forced labor with 106 victims. Cambodian police had taken action on 43 cases. The Ministry of Interior went on to report that 65 traffickers were arrested during the period of this report, and the Phnom Penh Municipal Court had conducted hearings on 52 traffickers.

“The Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Department of the Ministry of Interior reported 52 cases involved with 65 traffickers which led to 8 prosecutions. Non-government organizations reported 19 cases of human trafficking for forced labor, related to legal migrant workers who were forced to be salves in Malaysia, but labor recruitment companies in Cambodia normally paid monetary compensation, so they were not convicted for their crimes. It has not yet been seen that labor recruitment companies were prosecuted for being responsible for trafficking migrant workers. In February 2008, Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen ordered the Ministry of Commerce to cancel the licenses of marriage brokerage companies, as it was considered that such business is a form of human trafficking.”

Koh Santepheap, Vol.42, #6544, 6.1.2009
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Dark memories of Cambodia's killing spree

Were Cambodians liberated from the Khmer Rouge, or invaded by another power?

BBC News

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Exactly 30 years ago, a coalition of Cambodian and Vietnamese troops forced Pol Pot and his followers from power - after a four-year reign which left as many as two million people dead.

But, as the BBC's Guy De Launey reports, Victory Day is not universally celebrated in Cambodia.
Even in 1979 it was a strange kind of victory.

There was no hero's welcome for the conquering troops. But nor was there a nervous population, fearful about the intentions of the incoming army. Because Phnom Penh was almost completely deserted.

The Khmer Rouge had forced millions of city-dwellers to march to the countryside when it took power in April 1975. In the intervening years only a small number of party workers were allowed to live in the capital, and they had fled as the Vietnamese-backed forces approached.

Vann Nath was one of the few Phnom Penh residents to witness the final hours of Pol Pot's murderous government. As an inmate of the notorious Tuol Sleng prison, however, his was not the most comfortable vantage point.

"When the Vietnamese arrived there was a group of us locked in one room in Tuol Sleng. I heard some gunshots, outside on the main street," he remembers.

Soon after, with no little disbelief, he walked free. "In all there were seven of us who survived Tuol Sleng. To this day I still don't know why I was allowed to live."

Vann Nath had beaten formidable odds. Around 15,000 prisoners had passed through Tuol Sleng, but only a handful survived. Many died during the prison's systematic torture process; the rest were bludgeoned to death in the so-called killing fields on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.
Two million dead

Under the Khmer Rouge, tens of thousands shared a similar fate, executed as "enemies of the revolution", often on the flimsiest of pretexts. Others perished on the gruelling journey from the cities to rural villages, or starved to death while working as forced labourers on collective farms.

As many as two million Cambodians are thought to have died because of the policies of Pol Pot's government and the actions of Khmer Rouge members.

The current government says the end of that era is a cause for celebration. Prime Minister Hun Sen was among the Cambodian troops who joined Vietnamese forces to oust the Khmer Rouge.

In the run-up to the anniversary, the governing Cambodian People's Party has called 7 January a "historical day" and a "new birthday" for the country.

The CPP is planning to mark the 30th anniversary in grand style. To ensure maximum attendance at a rally in Phnom Penh's Olympic Stadium, thousands of children from nearby schools will each receive cash for food and drink, as well as T-shirts and caps in CPP colours.


The party political nature of the celebrations is an indication that not all Cambodians acknowledge 7 January as a day of liberation. Opposition leaders sometimes refer to it as a Vietnamese invasion.

Pen Sovann feels that more deeply than most. He was one of the founders of the anti-Khmer Rouge front, and became prime minister in 1981 before a spectacular fall from grace.

Disagreements with the government's Vietnamese sponsors earned him first the sack, then a 10-year spell in a Hanoi prison.

"It was liberation at first. They couldn't stand and watch their neighbour's house burn, so they provided the water to help put out the fire," he says now.

"But I wasn't happy that they were trying to exert their influence over Cambodia. They were getting stronger and stronger, and even now they have more influence than the current Cambodian leaders."

Others, however, are happy to embrace 7 January as a day of liberation from the Khmer Rouge, whatever they feel about the decade-long presence of Vietnamese troops in Cambodia and the on-going close relations between the two countries.

It can hardly compare to the years of madness which had seen Khmer turn against Khmer.


For many, more than anything else, the anniversary provides an opportunity to keep alive the memory of what happened in the Pol Pot era.

Pum Chantinie is now the secretary general of the Cambodian Red Cross. Along with the surviving members of her family, she walked hundreds of kilometres from the countryside back to Phnom Penh in January 1979, pushing a hand-made cart - only to discover their old house wrecked and surrounded by barbed wire.

"Our family gathers and we tell stories about our lives during the Khmer Rouge regime to our young generation," she says. "They ask me, 'Why, why why?' and I tell them I don't know why they did this - to our family, to Cambodian people."

Most Cambodians are too young to remember the Pol Pot era, or even the years of civil war which followed. But the anniversary should be followed, within months, by another reminder of what happened. The first trial at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal may start as early as March.

In the dock, charged with crimes against humanity, will be Vann Nath's former jailer, the man best known as Comrade Duch. All the indications are that he is willing to reveal what he knows about how the Khmer Rouge leadership made the decisions which led to so many deaths.

That may not be a cause for celebration. But it may at least answer some of the questions that people like Pum Chantinie have struggled with for so many years.

Thailand blocks 2,300 websites for insulting monarchy

Tuesday 6th January, 2009

Thai officials Tuesday said the government recently blocked 2,300 websites for allegedly insulting the monarchy and is seeking court approval to shut down another 400.'

We are preparing to ask for court approval to shut down an additional 400 sites,' said Thailand's Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) Minister Ranongruk Suwanchawee.

In a press release posted on the ministry's website, Ranongruk said the ministry will seek amendments to the current lese majeste law to increase the ICT's powers to crack down on websites deemed insulting to the monarchy.

The ministry has spent 45 million baht (1.3 million dollars) on equipment for its 'war room' targeting inappropriate web sites, reported The Nation online news service.

Thailand's existing lese majeste law is already deemed the strictest in the world, carrying a maximum penalty of 15 years imprisonment for insulting the king or members of the royal family.

Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 81, has publicly criticised the law, noting that he should not be above criticism.

Thailand has been under a constitutional monarchy since 1932 when a group of young army officers overthrew the absolute monarchy and launched Thailand on its bumpy road to democracy.

The king has limited powers under the constitution. As head of state he must endorse new governments, official appointments, ambassadors and legislation but is required to remain 'above politics.

'The institution of the monarchy has come under increasing criticism over the past three years as it was politicized by groups opposed to populist politician Thaksin Shinawatra, a billionaire former telecommunications tycoon who was prime minister between 2001 to 2006, and those who want him back in power.

Thaksin was toppled by a coup Sept 19, 2006, and last October was sentenced to two years in prison on an abuse of power charge. He is living in self-exile.

Cambodia, Thailand to reopen talks on border dispute+

Jan 6, 2009

PHNOM PENH, Jan. 6 (AP) - (Kyodo)—Cambodia and Thailand will reopen talks on their border dispute when Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya pays an official visit to Cambodia later this month, a senior Cambodian official said Tuesday.

Koy Kuong, an undersecretary of state and a spokesman for the Cambodian Foreign Ministry, told Kyodo News that Thailand has notified Cambodia that Kasit plans to visit Cambodia on Jan. 25-26.

Kasit is expected to meet with Prime Minister Hun Sen and hold bilateral talks with Foreign Minister Hor Namhong, who is also deputy prime minister.

While describing Kasit's visit as routine by a senior official of an ASEAN member state, Koy Kuong said the border dispute between the two countries is an important issue and the two foreign ministers "will resume discussions on the matter."

The meeting between Kasit and Hor Namhong would be the fourth round of talks at the foreign minister's level since the border conflict erupted in July last year.

The area around Preah Vihear Temple, which was inscribed as a World Heritage Site on July 7 last year, has since been the scene of a tense standoff between the Cambodian and Thai armed forces.

The Cambodian government insists Thai troops have deployed on Cambodian soil, while Thailand says its troops are only in the disputed zone.

The territorial dispute stems partly from the use of different border maps.

Where to go in Cambodia's capital

Times Online
January 6, 2009

Richard Green

I am going to Thailand and Angkor Wat later in the year with my boyfriend. He really wants to go to Phnom Penh too, but I m a bit nervous about that. Is it a safe city, and are there things to do and see, other than just the Killing Fields, which you know who is very keen to visit? Mary Holden, Newcastle

Sunday Times travel expert Richard Green responds: Actually, the Cambodian capital is a fabulous little place and well worth a visit I’d say, even if you don’t have your boyfriend’s ghoulish streak.

It’s changing fast, with lots of property development going on, but it still has a definite charm; a bit chaotic and noisy for sure,­ but it is set on the banks of the Tonle Sap and Mekong Rivers, has some interesting colonial era districts, and the fabulous Royal Palace too.

Perhaps start at the National Museum, for some peace and quiet in its lovely courtyard, and for a break from all the traffic. After that, and just across the road is the sprawling Royal Palace complex, with incredibly ornate rooms like the dance pavilion, the Throne Hall, and the famous Silver Pagoda - with over 5 tons of silver tiles on its floor. You can only peek at a few of them from an entranceway though, as most remain covered for their protection.

You should definitely stroll over to Wat Phnom too, for a good view over some of the city rooftops. It’s the only hill the city has at just 88 feet. There are some street hawkers here, but it is usually good-natured stuff, and they are really targeting the many Cambodians who climb here to pray for good luck. Oh, and do drop in on the huge domed Central Market, just towards the river from here, for some crafty souvenir shopping.

Nearby is the grand Hotel Le Royal (, which has a smashing bar and restaurant, and peaceful gardens too. In the evening, there are tons of great bars and restaurants, but you should try out the Foreign Correspondents Club ( It’s a sundowners institution, with big armchairs, ceiling fans, and a mainly expats and backpackers crowd. There are great views from the top floor terrace, and the western food is pretty good too – pizzas from £6.

The two main Khmer Rouge era sites are the Killing Fields and the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. They are both horrific and leave a strong and lasting impression. You’ll see plenty of locals visiting here too, and if you can face it, be sure to do it at the beginning of your stay in town rather than at the end, so that the wonderful spirit and joy of Cambodia today is the impression that you leave with.

PM: 30% of Cambodians live under poverty line

PHNOM PENH, Jan. 6 (Xinhua) -- Some 30 percent of Cambodians now live under the poverty line, said Prime Minister Hun Sen here on Tuesday while addressing a bridge inauguration ceremony.

"We are making efforts to reduce poverty step by step and I couldn't achieve giant leap in this regard," he said.

Cambodia realized 1 percent reduction of poverty on annual basis in the past years, thanks to the government policy and the economic growth, he said.

Cambodia is one among the 49 least developed countries in the world and the government previously claimed that 35 percent of the population lived under the poverty line of no more than 1 U.S. dollar of daily income for a person.

Editor: Xiong

In US, Cambodian Businesses Hurting

By Taing Sarada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
06 January 2009

The economic downturn has begun hurting the US businesses of many Cambodian-Americans.
“The clients won’t come, if there are a lot of layoffs in their work,” U Makara, who runs a sushi restaurant in the state of Michigan, said recently. “Sushi food is kind of an expensive food.”

People who had come in to eat two or three times per week were now coming only once a week, he said, adding that he had yet to lay off his own staff.

U Makara has 15 sushi branches throughout big groceries store in Michigan. Making them work during an economic crunch meant having twice-weekly sales.

He is not alone.

Im Sonith, a Cambodian living in the state of Alabama, owns two grocery stores. His businesses have been hit by the crisis as well, though he too is weathering the storm by putting his goods on sale.

“I have discounted some of my grocery products,” he said. “The grocery companies have increased their product price, because the gasoline price had increased, so they continued to increase the price of goods. I dare not increase the price like them because people do not have very much money to spend. I sell just to break even.”

Since the middle of 2008, many US businesses have been on the decline, with major banks declaring bankruptcy and many people unable to afford houses they purchased. Lately, restaurants, bars, grocery stores, supermarkets, car companies and furniture stores are quiet and empty. At least 2 million Americans have lost their jobs, and the auto industry is facing major problems.

Mouy Chomreun, who has lived in America since 1975, has three businesses: cars sales, car maintenance and taxi rental. His car sales and repair businesses have fallen off 80 percent over last year, he said.

“Compared to last year or the year before, my businesses for renting cars and taxis is normal, but my auto mechanic business and my car sales business have decreased so much,” he said, adding that he planned to stop selling American-made cars and start selling those made in Japan, such as Toyota.

“Now people are afraid of paying for their rent, rather than fixing their cars,” he said. “For my old customers, who always came to my garage, when I tell them that the repair cost will be between $400 and $500, they are afraid of the cost. It is not like before.”

CPP Prepares for Contentious Anniversary

By Heng Reaksmey, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
06 January 2009

The Cambodian People’s Party will commemorate the 30thanniversary of the fall of the Khmer Rouge at a ceremony at Olympic Stadium Thursday, under criticism from Human Rights Watch and Cambodian political parties that justice remains elusive for Khmer Rouge leaders and a culture of impunity remains.

Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said more than 10,000 people are expected to participate in the ceremony, which commemorates the day when forces of Vietnamese-backed groups ousted the Khmer Rouge from Phnom Penh.

Starting Wednesday morning, senior officials, guests and observers will gather at Olympic Stadium for speeches by key leaders and a procession inside the stadium of CPP officials and other supporters from Phnom Penh and the provinces.

The day is a “second birthday” for Cambodians, “so the people never forget, and they remember who liberated them from the Khmer Rouge,” he said.

The Khmer Rouge held power in Phnom Penh from April 17, 1975, until Jan. 7, 1979, during which time nearly 2 million people died under the regime.

The Jan. 7 celebration is always greeted with mixed feelings in Cambodia, however, because it also marked the beginning of a decade-long occupation by the Vietnamese, who left in 1989.

Human Rights Watch said in a statement Wednesday that 30 years after the Khmer Rouge fell, “Cambodia’s culture of impunity remains as strong as ever.”

The group’s Asia director, Brad Adams, said in a statement that more leaders of the regime should be brought to justice, following a statement by the Khmer Rouge tribunal’s Cambodian prosecutors that no more leaders should be charged.

Tribunal co-prosecutor Chea Leang wrote in a statement no further indictments should be pursued because of “Cambodia’s past instability and the continued need for national reconciliation,” among other reasons.

“No serious observer believes there is any threat to Cambodia’s stability if additional cases are filed against alleged Khmer Rouge killers,” Adams said.

Former Minister Remembers the Fall

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
06 January 2009

Pen Sovann, the former prime minister of the People's Republic of Kampuchea, discussed the fall of the Khmer Rouge on Monday, with a subtle reminder that it had been his United Front for the National Salvation of Kampuchea that had brought the Vietnamese troops in to help against the regime.

"I thoroughly think about this and that, and why I asked the Vietnamese forces to help fight against the Khmer Rouge," Pen Sovann said, as a guest on "Hello VOA," reminiscing on a period of Cambodian history remains contentious.

On Jan. 7, 1979, whose 30th anniversary is on Wednesday, the United Front, formed by Pen Sovann, Heng Samrin and Chea Sim, accompanied Vietnamese soldiers into the capital. Jan. 7 has become a national holiday, although it marked the beginning of a decade-long occupation.

Hun Sen became the foreign minister of the new administration, before taking over as prime minister in 1985.

Pen Sovann said Monday he would let history "reveal itself in the heart of the people."

"But I did not promise to cut land for [Vietnam]," he said, defending his actions ahead of his arrest, in 1981. "I did not agree to other requests by Vietnam, allowing immigration into Cambodia, or send Cambodian men to cut forest on the Cambodia-Thai border. That's why I was arrested an put in the custody in Vietnam."

"It was because of the 1991 Paris Peace Accords that I was released," he said. "Otherwise I would be dead."

Bomb hits Cambodia-Vietnam statue in Phnom Penh

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - A bomb exploded at a Cambodia-Vietnam friendship monument in Phnom Penh on Sunday, forcing the evacuation of a public park where two other devices were found and defused, police said.

The 10-kg bomb detonated around dawn, causing no injuries and little damage to the stone statue erected after Vietnam’s invasion of Cambodia and defeat of the Khmer Rouge in 1979.

"This site represents the friendship of Cambodia and Vietnam. This plot was meant to destroy that relationship," Phnom Penh police chief Touch Naroth told Reuters at the scene.

He said police had no suspects.

The statue, which portrays a Cambodian soldier and a Vietnamese comrade standing protectively over a Cambodian woman and her baby, is in a park near Prime Minister Hun Sen’s residence.

Hun Sen and other top members of his Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) were with Vietnam’s army of invasion and were installed and supported as rulers of Cambodia during Vietnam’s decade-long occupation.

In 1998, opposition protesters, who have accused Hun Sen of having too close a relationship with Hanoi, attacked the statue with hammers and set it alight with petrol.

The incident drew a formal protest from Vietnam.

Curtain raises again on Jacques Verges

Asia Times Online
Jan 7, 2009

By Stephen Kurczy

PHNOM PENH- He requests French wine - which can cost up to US$162 a bottle at the Raffles Hotel Le Royal in Phnom Penh - but the legendary and controversial French attorney Jacques Verges has to settle for $8 glasses of house red when he stays at impoverished Cambodia's swankiest hotel.

He's a celebrity lawyer whose fame now equals that of some of his most notorious clients; and he gained it by defending the indefensible. His abysmal win rate might embarrass a lesser personality - before France abolished the death penalty in 1981, he had earned the nickname "Monsieur Guillotine" - but not Verges.

The man nicknamed "the Devil's Advocate" is a walking
contradiction. Verges earned a reputation as a war hero with Charles de Gaulle's Free French resistance during Word War II, but was jailed in and disbarred in 1960 for openly supporting terrorists. He wrote a book titled The Beauty of Crime and once admitted to a "passionate interest in evil" - but he has also changed the course of legal history.

And precisely because he embodies such conflicting narratives - notably with a puff of a fine cigar and a sip of red wine - he is able to defend the world's most infamous figures.

Literally and legally, Verges is on stage once again. In Paris, he is currently performing a self-penned, one-man play three times a week at the Madeleine Theater. And in Phnom Penh he's become the star attraction of the ongoing United Nations-backed trial for the former leaders of the Khmer Rouge - some of whom were his close friends and Parisian classmates.

At present, the stop-start tribunal - or the Extraordinary Chambers in Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) as the court is known - is at a standstill amid swirling charges of internal corruption and heated arguments over how many suspects to bring before the court. Into the vacuum of substantive progress have come histrionic courtroom antics from Verges.

Ever the showman, Verges has recently lambasted the ECCC for wasting money and lacking ethics. (See Killing time at Cambodia's 'show trial', December 12, 2008.) He has called the entire three-year, $50 million enterprise a lamentable "show trial" and challenged court officials to an open debate.

Verges claims he can't defend his client and fellow Sorbonne student, former Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan, until all evidence against is translated into French. But Verges' membership in the Paris Bar states he is comfortable working in French and English. Critics have called this, and other legal maneuvers, blatant efforts to stall the court.

The 83-year-old denies that genocide occurred in Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge's rule from 1975 to 1979, when approximately 1.7 million perished, arguing that most died of starvation and disease as a result of an American embargo. But Verges has refused to visit the Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam), an archive of the crimes committed by the ultra-Maoist regime in 200 prisons and 20,000 mass graves across Cambodia.

He has befriended terrorists and mass murderers across the globe, but so far has avoided victims of the Khmer Rouge.

"He's afraid of me," Youk Chhang, director of the DC-Cam, says of Verges. "He's afraid that my reaction would damage his argument."

Excluding Verges, every defense attorney at the ECCC has met with Chhang and utilized DC-Cam, the world's largest repository of documents on the Khmer Rouge with more than 650,000 papers and 6,000 photographs from the Khmer Rouge's rule between 1975 and 1979.

Chhang witnessed his sister's disembowelment after she was accused of stealing rice. He says Verges is reticent to face someone like himself, who has come to terms with his family members' murder and can calmly and convincingly discuss the regime's atrocities.

"He uses emotion as an argument. I don't. I use facts," Chhang told Asia Times Online.

Verges, however, has proven that tapping into emotion can be effective in court. By appealing to public opinion, he brokered the release of his first well-known client, Algerian terrorist Djamila Bouhired. It was 1956 and Verges was 31. A year earlier he'd graduated with a law degree from the University of Paris, passed the Paris Bar, and come to realize his passion during his first case defending "some small-time hoodlum", as he says in the 2007 documentary Terror's Advocate. He looked at the felon and thought: "'That guy is me. I could have done what he did if I'd been in his shoes.' It was then I knew my calling."

A year later, when young Algerian student Bouhired was accused of planting a bomb in a cafe in Algiers that killed several French military officers, Verges volunteered to defend her.

Verges says he became obsessed with Bouhired's case because of his own family's struggle with colonialism. (Friends of Verges suggest he was merely obsessed with the beautiful Bouhired, whom he later married.) He and his twin brother were born in 1925 in Thailand, where their father, Raymond, was serving as a French diplomat. Their mother was Vietnamese, and the mixed marriage led to Raymond's forced resignation from the French foreign services. Hecklers shouted "Chinaman!" at Verges during Bouhired's trial.

Verges lost the case and Bouhired was sentenced to death. In turn, Verges took the case to the public. He penned articles and essays attacking the French court's validity, sparking public rallies and international calls for Bouhired's release. Her execution was delayed and she was eventually pardoned. Verges, after temporary disbarment and two months in jail for supporting terrorists, courted Bouhired.

Longtime friend and French cartoonist Sine, in Terrors Advocate, says he joked to Verges that if he married Bouhired he'd have to convert to Islam, and be circumcised. Nevertheless, Verges converted and changed his name to Mansoor. He and Bouhired settled in Algiers and had two children. He became a divorce attorney, but hated the life. After seven years, he left his wife and children and went into hiding.

Where Verges went from 1970 to 1978 remains a mystery, but some believe he was with the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. Verges had joined the Communist Party as a teenager and while studying in Paris had met fellow students Khieu Samphan and Saloth Sar, who later became Pol Pot.

DC-Cam's Chhang said he and filmmaker Barbet Schroeder, director of Terror's Advocate, searched for months for evidence that Verges visited Cambodia in the 1970s but found nothing. Former Brother Number 2, Nuon Chea, who is now awaiting trial at the ECCC, has said he is certain Verges was not in Cambodia during that period.

After he re-emerged, Verges took up his old practice. In 1987, he defended Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie, known as "The Butcher of Lyon" for overseeing a Gestapo camp in France. In 1997, he represented Illich Ramirez Sanchez, aka Carlos the Jackal, who masterminded a 1975 raid on Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries headquarters in Vienna. Verges later volunteered to defend Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and Slobodan Milosevic, ex-leader of the former Yugoslavia.

Verges' reputation as a defense advocate is disputable. "The Butcher" got life in prison and "The Jackal" sacked Verges and found a new lawyer. Both Saddam and Milosevic refused Verges' counsel. This is all of no matter to Verges, says international war correspondent and Carlos the Jackal biographer Colin Smith.

"It appears that [Verges] is utterly terrified to take on a case he might win. Instead, he delights in defending the indefensible," Smith told Asia Times Online by e-mail. Verges did not return e-mails or phone calls for an interview.

By influencing public emotions in his numerous cases, Verges changed the nature of legal defense. Michael Radu, an expert on terrorism and senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, calls Verges a trailblazer for radical lawyers everywhere. In the 1950s, before Verges took Bouhired's case outside the court, appealing to public opinion was unheard of.

"You could say that I invented the tactic," Verges says in his play, according to a recent article in Radio France Internationale. " ... [B]efore I used the trial as a tribune, the accused were isolated. And now they aren't alone and they can appeal to world opinion".

When it was confirmed in 2006 that Verges would take part in the Khmer Rouge trial, the news was not unwelcome - even from the court's prosecutors.

"I have not worked before with Jacques Verges, but his reputation goes before him, and in searching for the truth he is a man who never fears to ask any question of anyone, no matter how difficult the answer may be for many people," Rupert Skilbeck, the ECCC's principle defender, told the Phnom Penh Post at the time. "If one of the purposes of the ECCC is to find out what happened in Cambodia and why, then there is no better advocate to assist in that task. Attacking the prosecution is the job of any good defense advocate. Maitre Verges happens to be very good at it."

Verges' play, Serial Paideur, is a two-hour monologue. According to the playbill, Verges dramatizes a courtroom battle between prosecution and defense as they tell two, not necessarily true, but probable, stories.

"Jacques Verges is a showman," says Theary Seng, a civil party victim at the ECCC and a US-educated lawyer and member of the New York Bar Association. While a trial proceeds inside the chambers of the ECCC, Seng said she expects another trial to simultaneously play out in the court of public opinion. Just as Verges won Bouhired's case outside the courtroom, Seng said she expects Verges will shine in the public arena.

"I think he will raise, from his grandstanding, political issues that will broaden the scope of the trial. ... We may find it distasteful, but through it, if he's raising issues that are of curiosity and drawing attention, then there are limited benefits," she said.

Seng briefly interacted with Verges at the first Khieu Samphan hearing in February as the two entered the court compound together.

"It was my first time seeing him in person," Seng recalls. "After passing through security, I turned to him and said, 'You must be Jacques Verges. I am Theary Seng.' He turned to me and said, 'Oh,' and walked away."

Seng laughed. "He's a very intimidating, unfriendly man," she continued. "He's just an old, grouchy, celebrity lawyer. He is one loud voice. Other voices will help to balance out his."

Those are the voices that DC-Cam's Chhang and Seng want Verges to hear. Seng lost her parents to the Khmer Rouge. As executive director of the Center for Social Development, a human-rights organization in Phnom Penh, Seng said she is now helping register as civil parties more than 60 Khmer Rouge survivors who also lost their parents to the regime.

Many hope to testify in court, including Seng, and many have already attended pre-trial hearings, including the December 4 appeal of Khieu Samphan's detention, when Verges accused the court of misappropriating funds and failing to translate all evidence into a language he can understand.

"It's a joke," Verges told the judges during the hearing. "We cannot accept this state of affairs," he told the media during a press conference afterward.

Verges' provocations drew tears and cries from many of the victims present. Several said they would lose all faith in the court if Verges remained involved. But Seng still argues that Verges' approach will broaden the issues addressed by the court.

"Jacques Verges, because of his history of defending political figures, he will raise political questions and issues and implicate the 'why'," Seng told Asia Times Online. "We know the US will never be on trial. We know [former US secretary of state] Henry Kissinger will never be on trial. Given that he is a very sharp lawyer, Jacques Verges will know how to raise questions in the minds of the larger public."

Of more concern than Verges' controversial tactics, says Seng, is corruption on the Cambodian side of the court, and political interference by the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen, himself a former Khmer Rouge cadre.

While Seng sees the UN-backed tribunal tainted by its Cambodian legal team, Ly Monysak, who lost both his parents to the regime, argues that foreign attorneys like Verges are the ones derailing justice and misappropriating funds.

"Foreigners are using the money to stay in luxury. Not for a speedy trial," Ly Monysak said after the December 4 public hearing.

Luxury, indeed. The ECCC picked up Verges' $450 tab in December when he stayed two nights at Phnom Penh's Raffles Hotel Le Royal. The bill would have been higher if not for the ECCC's special rate of $300 rooms for only $100 a night.

Verges' latest bill shows $21.93 in drinks from his room's wet bar, a $20.35 meal and a $38.73 meal delivered to his room. Nothing abnormal, except for the fact that Verges had just accused the court of wasting funds by conducting community awareness trips in Cambodia's rural provinces.

On December 4, before flying back to Paris for his one-man show, which runs until the end of February, Verges retreated to Raffles for a late lunch. He requested a glass of French wine, a hotel employee told this correspondent, but the options were only South African, Chilean or Australian.

Verges, perhaps out of concern for the court's finances, settled for a glass of the house red.

Stephen Kurczy is a Cambodia-based journalist.

Rights group lambasts Cambodia 30 years after Khmer Rouge fall

Phnom Penh, Jan 6 (AFP) A rights group accused Cambodia&aposs government of obstructing a UN-backed tribunal of former Khmer Rouge leaders today, as the country prepared to celebrate 30 years since the fall of the regime.
Cambodia&aposs ruling party is planning large-scale celebrations tomorrow to mark three decades since the day in 1979 when Vietnamese-led forces drove the brutal Khmer Rouge out of the capital.

But New York-based Human Rights Watch said even though war crimes trials of five ex- Khmer Rouge leaders are expected to begin this year, impunity remained in Cambodia while Prime Minister Hun Sen"has done his best to thwart justice".

" After 30 years, no one has been tried, convicted or sentenced for the crimes of one of the bloodiest regimes of the 20th century,"said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, in a statement obtained today.

The group called the upcoming Khmer Rouge trials"deeply flawed,"citing allegations of job-selling among court personnel and the fact there are cases against only five suspects.

The court will soon rule whether to broaden investigations after a disagreement between the co-prosecutors on whether to pursue additional Khmer Rouge leaders.

International prosecutor Robert Petit wishes to open more cases against other suspects but his Cambodian counterpart, Chea Leang, does not want more investigations because of the country&aposs"past instability and the continued need for national reconciliation,"said a court statement yesterday.

Petit told AFP that the disagreement shows there is healthy debate within the court and that its mechanisms are working.

Migrant Spouses Talk Up Life in Korea

The Korea Times

By Bae Ji-sook
Staff Reporter

When Lorphoumara, a Cambodian native, came to Korea to live with her Korean husband six years ago, all she knew about the country was that it had just hosted the World Cup.

She married her husband after meeting him through one of her acquaintances who is also married to a Korean man. Lorphoumara wanted to leave Cambodia because she couldn't make more than $70 a month as a teacher in Phnom Penh.

``He was a bit short and we couldn't fully communicate in English, but life was good in every way,'' she said, recalling her first impression of her husband.

But when she was pregnant with her first child, bad luck struck the family. Her husband suddenly collapsed and couldn't move for a single day. He had high fever all over his body and was diagnosed with spondylitis, inflammation on the spine. ``I had to take care of him all day long for three months. I was full of tears,'' she said.

Now fully recovered, he is running a small business alongside his wife.

Lorphoumara is also helping other fellow migrant spouses. The Ministry for Health, Welfare and Family Affairs has designated her a mentor for them.

She said her happy life in Korea has brought her friends and her family to Korea. Four of her neighbors in Cambodia came over to Korea and her brother is now preparing to work here.

Of course, she is one of the lucky cases. Her story, along with other tales of foreign spouses, has been released in a collection of essays published by the ministry.

Marites from the Philippines, who has stayed here for more than nine years, said she has not yet fully adapted to living in Korea because she is busy farming. ``All I do is work at a family tomato farm all day long. I have no time to learn the Korean language because I have no time to go to school and no one talks to me during work,'' she said.

She also revealed that some wives are suffering from domestic violence. ``I have a friend who went back to the Philippines because her husband would hit her hard when drunk. My husband drinks alcohol a lot and every time he drinks I get scared, too. I am lonely,'' she said.

Their Korean spouses also suffer difficult times when communication falters and the cultural gap is wider than they thought. Park Byoung-yun, married to a Vietnamese woman Guenjjukli, who is 12 years younger than he, said for the first year, the marriage was littered with rows and fighting. ``We didn't really know about each other's country and we had such high expectations for each other,'' he said.

For migrant spouses to learn about Korea and build friendships with fellow migrant spouses, the ministry has set up ``Multicultural Home Centers'' across the nation. The centers, located in suburban areas from where many foreign women marry males in the agricultural industry, help Korean spouses understand their partners' problems and help them find ways to communicate.

``We went on a seminar trip and, while there, I understood how ignorant I was about our relationship, about her. I always tried to make her a Korean, thought low of her culture and never tried to learn it,'' Park said. He is now head of the local center's users meeting.

The government, too, has set out to help these spouses become accustomed to living in Korea. Alongside various educational programs, the education ministry recently announced a plan to hire migrant spouses as local language instructors, giving them the chance to make money, and the welfare and family ministry is also planning to hire them as local counselors.

``They are not foreigners and too different from us. They are just neighbors in society,'' welfare minister Jeon Jae-hee said in a previous interview with The Korea Times.

A milestone in Cambodia’s history

VOV News

Thirty years ago on January 7, a red flag with five yellow towers at its centre, signifying the Cambodian United Front for National Salvation, fluttered high above Phnom Penh, marking the fall of the genocidal Pol Pot regime and the start of national reconstruction in the war-torn country.

The genocide in Cambodia originated from the brutal dictatorship of a group of intellectuals represented by Saloth Sar known as Pol Pot. Unlike fascist dictator Adolf Hitler who suffered a bitter defeat in the end due to the capitalist policy, Pol Pot thought that he would succeed in establishing a dictatorship in Cambodia hold on to power and build communism in the country.

To realize his plan, he founded a military-ruled communist party known as the Khmer Rouge in which all Party members knew how to use guns. He acted as General Secretary and Commander in chief.

On April 17, 1975, Khmer Rouge guerrillas marched into Phnom Penh, four days after US Ambassador to Cambodia John Gunther Dean and acting Cambodian president General So kom Khoi fled the country. Four years later, Cambodia fell victim to a genocidal regime under the leadership of Pol Pot. He planned to build a special communist society in which only Khmer people were respected. City-dwellers were forced to move into rural areas and the entire population, including monks and intellectuals, had to work in Khmer Rouge-ruled communes. All non-Khmer people were tortured or executed. According to statistics, more than 3 million people were killed in the country, where there has been no freedom and no human rights but blood and tears. Cambodia was on the brink of mass genocide.

After April 17, 1974, Pol Pot alleged that Vietnam had developed a scheme to establish the Union of Indochina with the aim of taking over Cambodia. Besides chasing away and killing Vietnamese nationals in Cambodia, on May 10, 1975, the Khmer Rouge deployed its troops on Vietnam’s Tho Chu islands, arresting and killing hundreds of local islanders.

On April 30, 1977, the Khmer Rouge deployed 13 key divisions to launch attacks on Vietnam along the border. In late 1978, it sent in 19 out of its 23 key divisions to attack the Ben Soi area in the south-western border province of Tay Ninh in an attempt to support reactionary forces to overthrow the newly-established administration in Ho Chi Minh City.

However, three of its regular divisions were smashed by Vietnamese forces and its plot to overthrow the young administration was foiled.

On December 2, 1978, the Cambodia National News Agency and national radio announced that the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) had established the Cambodian United Front for National Salvation and released an appeal to the Cambodian people for support in their cause. On December 25, 1978, Vietnamese and Cambodian soldiers jointly launched counterattacks against the Khmer Rouge and liberated Phnom Penh on January 7, 1979. Pol Pot fled and his dictatorship crumbled into dust.

After the victory, the Cambodian people got down to work on the national reconstruction process under the leadership of the CPP. To defend the fruits of the revolution, in addition to Vietnamese volunteer soldiers, Cambodia asked Vietnam to send its specialists to the war-torn nation.

As a result, Cambodia alleviated hunger between 1979-1980 and gradually revamped its economy to meet its people’s needs. On September 27, 1989, all Vietnamese volunteer soldiers and specialists withdrew from Cambodia, completing their international humanitarian mission. The withdrawal testified to the fact that the Cambodian people had successfully escaped from the genocidal regime and begun to rebuild the country.

At a get-together in Phnom Penh on January 7, 1989 to mark their 10-year presence, State President Heng Somrin said that the Cambodian people would forever remember in their hearts and minds the great contributions to their nation by Vietnamese specialists and volunteer soldiers. In recent years, Cambodia has recorded notable socio-economic achievements with its annual GDP per capita increasing to US$589 and likely to hit US$1,000 by 2015, and its poverty rate dropping from 35 percent in 2004 to 31 percent in 2007

First ethanol export marks start of lucrative industry, officials say

Photo by: SAM RITH
MH Bio-Energy, Cambodia’s first ethanol plant located in Kandal Province.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by May Kunmakara
Tuesday, 06 January 2009

Korea’s MH Bio-Energy opens the door to the possibility of lower fuel prices at home, but remains the target of pollution accusations

A KOREAN company says it completed Cambodia's first ethanol shipment last month, marking a major step forward for the local biofuel industry.

The 9,600-tonne load was produced by MH Bio-Energy Group and exported to Europe for use in gasohol fuel, said Ros Sopharith, senior manager of the company.

The company was formed with more than US$30 million in Korean investment, and includes a factory in Kandal province's Ponhea Loeu district.

Despite the recent success, the company is mired in controversy after being accused by area villagers of spilling toxins into a nearby lake.

The company denies any wrongdoing, and local authorities have not ruled on the villagers' complaints.

Ethanol is refined from dried tapioca supplied from the company's own fields, as well as local farmers'.

"Our ethanol is checked properly and the factory is equipped with high-tech facilities to comply with international standards," Ros Sopharith said.

Operations began in 2007 with a capacity of 120 tonnes per day. About 100,000 tonnes of dried tapioca are used to produce 36,000 tonnes of ethanol for export.

"We have a lot of foreign markets in Asia and Europe," Ros Sopharith said.

"I am prepared to ask government permission to sell ethanol locally because it can protect our environment. In the near future, we plan to double production capacity to meet global market demand."

For export onlyBut even with local production in full swing, Cambodian consumers will have to wait for cheaper gasohol to become available at Cambodian pumps, officials say.

Ith Praing, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy, said that Cambodia does not have the means to produce gasohol locally.

"We hope that we will be able to blend this biofuel in the future to cut petrol costs," he said.

Sok Sina, an independent economist, said that the factory represents the beginning of a potentially lucrative industry.

"The factory will increase exports and employ a lot of farmers to increase their tapioca capacity," he said.

Even though Cambodia has vast biofuel potential, while suffering at the same time from high petrol prices, the country lags far behind in production and availability.

In Thailand, for example, government support has led to surging gasohol sales in recent years, with 85-percent ethanol fuel introduced last August.

Local melon growers enjoy sweet success

Photo by: HOR HAB
Farmer Kim San shows off a locally-grown melon. He says he is the Kingdom’s first melon grower.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Hor Hab
Tuesday, 06 January 2009

Tens of thousands of melons are grown every year in the Kingdom as local farmers cash in on increasing local demand

ALMOST unknown in Cambodia until a few years ago, the honeydew melon has become a hit in the Kingdom, with local farmers looking to cash in on the Mediterranean fruit.

Kim San credits himself with being the first farmer to grow the fruit, which is low in fat, cholesterol and sodium, but high in vitamins C and B6, after importing seeds in 2006.

"We still only supply a few supermarkets such as Lucky Market in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap," said Kim San from his farm about 40 kilometres from Phnom Penh.

He added, however, that buyers offer him about US$1.30 per kilogram - high, by the standards of the produce market - and that demand is rising.

Nontraditional crop

High food prices and government efforts to tap export markers are leading farmers to expand beyond traditional crops and take advantage of the country's ample water supplies and warm climate.

Other farmers are catching wind of Kim San's success, and new operations are starting in Kandal and Siem Reap provinces.

The honeydew melon is not native to Cambodia, and seeds are imported from Thailand, which has a large local melon market.

Cambodia's tropical soils are unsuited for the early stages of development, so farmers buy peat moss that is imported from the Netherlands in order to get their crops rooted.

Kim San said that honing his techniques has boosted crop yields from 10,000 melons per year to about 30,000 from his two melon farms in Kandal province's Kean Svay district and Udong district in Kampong Speu province.

"If we have enough manpower and a bigger market for the products, we will be able to increase the harvest to 100,000 [melons] a year," he said.

Kim San has employed between five and six workers on his two farms.More than 10 families in Siem Reap have been taught to grow melons by a Thai produce supplier, according to Kim San and other farmers in the melon trade.

" If we have enough manpower and a bigger market for the products, we will be able to increase the harvest to 100,000 per year. "

Inherent risks

Although Cambodia's hot weather makes for speedy growth, farmers also face the challenge of melon-destroying mold and pests such as insects.

Melons are thought to originate in drier regions of southern Europe and North Africa, making them vulnerable to tropical humidity and blights.

"We don't have greenhouses to grow the melons like in other countries," Kim San said.

"But we have to find practical techniques to protect against diseases because they can spread very quickly in this climate," he added.

Keeping melons healthy means daily inspections, especially during the humid rainy season. Kim San said it takes about two-and-a-half months until a melon matures.

Melons weigh 2.5 kilograms on average, but some can weigh up to four kilograms.

Melon grower Pheoun Tith, 20, said that the new fruit is a profitable, but high-maintenance crop."We need to work very hard to take care of melons before they are one month old, but once the skin thickens they are easier to grow," Phoeun Tith said.

He said he has been working for a year on the farm and is paid $50 per month, in addition to free meals.

Local demand

Heng Darith, a fresh products purchaser for the Lucky Market Group, said that the company used to buy all of its melons from Thailand and Vietnam, but is now relying on local supplies.

"We normally order melons from outside, but when local farms can supply our demand we buy from them," Heng Darith said.

"The only problem is they cannot produce enough," he added.

Lucky is the largest seller of melons in Cambodia, but purchase orders are made according to market demand.

"Lucky buys about 40 to 60 kilograms of melon per day, and most customers are foreigners," Heng Darith said.

"But more and more Khmer people are buying them," he added.

Program to extend use of hi-tech biodigester

The Phnom Penh Post

Tuesday, 06 January 2009

SOME 17,500 rural households will be equipped with eco-friendly biodigesters, which convert agricultural waste into cooking gas, in order to meet the country's growing energy needs under a new Dutch-funded program, government officials said .

"We hope this biodigester will benefit not only households, but the agricultural sector as a whole because it can help reduce the rate of deforestation, and the waste left over ... will be used for natural fertiliser," Agriculture Minister Chan Sarun said.

The Agriculture Ministry, in partnership with the Netherlands Development Organization (SNV), began the National Biodigester Program in 2005 but has so far installed only 3,633 of planned biodigesters.

FMO (Netherlands Development Finance Co) via Prasac Microfinance Institution has provided US$2 million for low-interest loans for farmers to build biodigester plants, which cost between $200 and $1,000.

The plants require about 20 to 40 kilograms of animal dung daily and can supply energy for five to six hours of cooking and 12 to 15 hours of lighting every day.

Biodigesters can last more than 20 years, allowing farmers to recover their costs of construction in 16 to 24 months, based on similar programs in central Asia.

Some 22,000 people in Cambodia already benefit from biodigester plants, program officials say, with Takeo province leading with 1,126 devices now in use.

No more KR suspects: Cambodian prosecutor

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Brendan Brady
Tuesday, 06 January 2009

The Extraordinary Chambers’ Chea Leang breaks her silence on why the court must not seek to bring more ex-KR leaders on the docket

PUTTING more former KR leaders on the docket would contradict the original mandate of the Khmer Rouge tribunal, overstretch its duration and budget, and undermine national stability and reconciliation, according to Cambodian co-prosecutor Chea Leang, whose reasoning against expanding the trials was made public for the first time on Monday.

Since late last year, Chea Leang and her international counterpart, Robert Petit, have been at loggerheads over whether to submit more suspects for investigation - beyond the five former Khmer Rouge leaders currently detained.

"She feels that this court should instead prioritise the trials of the five suspects already detained," especially since, according to her, the tribunal's mandate "envisioned only a small number of trials", said a statement from the UN-backed tribunal released Monday.

"She maintains that this Court's mandate can be adequately filled by the prosecution of the suspects already detained," it added.

Chea Leang, who could not be reached for comment Monday, had filed her arguments December 29 to the tribunal's Pre-Trial Chamber in response to a "statement of disagreement" lodged earlier in the month by Petit after the pair failed to agree on his proposal to add additional suspects. While Petit has refused to confirm any figures, sources close to the court say that six additional former regime members have been targeted.

"There is a difference in our interpretation of what this court is about," Petit told the Post Monday, although he insisted the disagreement has not delayed ongoing investigations at the tribunal.

Expanding the docket would help the court fulfill its mandate, he said, adding: "The stability of any society can only be enhanced by improved accountability".

Petit acknowledged that expanding the docket presented "legitimate" financial concerns but was confident the move "would be supported by donors".

Long Panhavuth, program coordinator for the legal watchdog Cambodian Justice Initiative, said, "Expanding the number of suspects will improve the integrity and independence of the court, and that will attract more donor funds".

The group has urged the Cambodian side of the court to demonstrate its independence by allowing further investigation in the face of government fears that a wider roundup could expose current leaders to scrutiny.

Official suspended over slots

Photo by: HOR HAB
A slot-machine parlour in Phnom Penh. The government is in the midst of a crackdown on illegally licensed slot-machine establishments.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Nguon Sovan and Chhay Channyda
Tuesday, 06 January 2009

The head of the Phnom Penh tourism authority has been suspended for his role in illegally licensing slot-machine parlours, minister says

PHNOM Penh's tourism director was suspended last Tuesday for his role in a hotel licensing scam that helped dubious establishments use a legal loophole and illegally operate slot machines, according to Cambodia's minister of tourism.

"I suspended Chen Saman, the director of the Phnom Penh tourism department, on December 30 for his involvement in issuing licences for six nominal hotels without practical inspections," Minister of Tourism Thong Khon told the Post on Sunday.

"[Chen Saman] was careless in his duties because he failed to have these venues properly inspected before licensing them as hotels," said Thong Khon. He said some of the places that received licenses were actually restaurants with only one or two rooms, but Chen Saman's office nonetheless designated them as hotels.

Following a December 5 government directive, the Ministry of Finance can only issue licences to operate slot machines legally inside hotels. Individual slot-machine owners may rent space at hotels if they want to continue to run their business.

Thong Khon acknowledged that some places applied for hotel licences just so they could operate slot machines.

"The problem is that our officials conspire with the operators in issuing licences improperly," he said. "From now on, we will thoroughly inspect the hotels before issuing their licences."

" ...our officials conspire with the operators in issuing licences improperly. "

Opposition lawmaker Yim Sovann said on Sunday that since the directive was issued, many slot-machine operators have relabeled their venues as hotels, even though they do not offer accommodation.

"The suspension of Chen Saman is not enough," he said. "I believe there are many officials involved in this process, as corruption is a fact of life in Cambodia.

"He said he did not think the December 5 directive was effective because inspectors sent by the ministry would take bribes from slot-machine operators and turn a blind eye on the issue. He criticised the government for allowing any slot machines, saying that the revenue did not benefit government coffers but was shared by operators and corrupt officials.

Chen Saman could not be reached for comment on Sunday.

On December 19, Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered all relevant authorities to shut down 12 slot-machine operators in Phnom Penh, two in Sihanoukville and one in Kandal province, all of which operated without licences.

Em Sam An, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Interior, said Sunday that he could not provide figures on how many slot machines have been shut down so far, but said that the specific venues named by the prime minister were shut down immediately.

He said the government had to continue its drive to identify slot machines operating without licences and fake hotels.

"I urge the Tourism and Finance ministries to investigate before issuing licences for hotels and slot machines."