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.