Sunday, 1 February 2009

Who Killed Chea Vichea? NO ANSWER

This documentary investigates the 2004 assassination of Cambodian union leader Chea Vichea and the framing of two innocent men by police for the crime. More info at http://www.whokilledcheavic...

Efforts to Limit Khmer Rouge Trials Decried

Documentation Center of Cambodia, via European Pressphoto Agency
Chan Kimsrun and her child in a photo taken by interrogators at the brutal Tuol Sleng prison in Phnom Penh.

The New York Times

Published: January 31, 2009

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — At first glance it seems to be simply a numbers game: whether to try 5, 10 or more defendants for the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million people at the hands of the Khmer Rouge three decades ago.

But as a United Nations-backed tribunal prepares to hold its first trial hearing this month, the wrangle over numbers is reinforcing longstanding concerns about the tribunal’s fairness and independence.

The Cambodian government, critics say, is trying to limit the scope of the trials for its own political reasons, a limit that the critics say would compromise justice and could discredit the entire process.

“To me, it’s the credibility of the tribunal which is at stake, its integrity and therefore its credibility,” said Christophe Peschoux, who runs the Cambodia office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The first defendant is the man with perhaps the most horrifying past: Kaing Guek Eav, known as Duch (pronounced DOIK), the commander of the Tuol Sleng torture house in Phnom Penh, where at least 14,000 people were sent to their deaths. His trial is to open with a procedural hearing, set for Feb. 17, during which more substantive sessions, involving witnesses and evidence, are expected to be scheduled.

Four other defendants, all of whom were members of the Khmer Rouge Central Committee, are also in custody, waiting their turns to face charges on crimes that occurred while they were at the top of the chain of command from 1975 to 1979. As much as one-fourth of the population in Cambodia died from disease, hunger or overwork, or were executed under the Khmer Rouge’s brutal Communist rule.

Those five defendants are enough, Cambodian officials say.

But foreign legal experts counter that within reasonable limits, the judicial process should not be arbitrarily limited.

After a decade of difficult and not always friendly negotiations between the United Nations and the Cambodians, a hybrid tribunal is in place, with Cambodian and foreign co-prosecutors and co-judges in an awkward political and legal balancing act.

Now, even before Duch’s trial gets under way, that balance is being tested.

Last month the foreign co-prosecutor, a Canadian named Robert Petit, submitted six more names to the court for investigation, saying that he had gathered enough evidence to support possible charges. Mr. Petit’s Cambodian counterpart, Chea Leang, objected — not on legal grounds, but for reasons that appear to reflect the government’s position on the trials.

Additional indictments, the Cambodian prosecutor said, could be destabilizing. She said they would cost too much, take too long and violate the spirit of the tribunal, which she said envisioned “only a small number of trials.”

Prime Minister Hun Sen, who bargained hard with the United Nations over the shape and scope of the tribunal, has said that trying “four or five people” would be enough, although there is no formal limit on the number.

Indeed, Peter Maguire, author of “Facing Death in Cambodia,” suggests that Mr. Hun Sen’s plan might be to try only Duch — “a garden-variety war criminal” — and hope the other defendants die before they can be tried.

The additional names submitted by Mr. Petit have not been made public. But people close to the court say that none of them hold a significant position in Cambodia’s current government.

Mr. Hun Sen and several senior members of his government were Khmer Rouge cadres, but experts say they do not fall under the scope of the tribunal and are not at risk of prosecution.

The mandate of the court is to try the top leadership of the Khmer Rouge and “those most responsible” for the crimes — that is, people like Duch, who is accused of overseeing the torture and killing of thousands.

In Cambodia, though, courts do not head off in their own directions without tight control from Mr. Hun Sen or the people around him. Some advocates of the tribunal, called the Extraordinary Chambers of the Courts of Cambodia or E.C.C.C., see it as challenging this top-down control by offering Cambodia a model for a more independent judiciary.

“Some in Phnom Penh are apparently frightened that the E.C.C.C. might actually succeed, that it might serve as an example of accountability that could be applied more widely,” said James A. Goldston, executive director of the Open Society Justice Initiative, a New York-based organization that pursues legal reform.

“With the Feb. 17 start of the first trial fast approaching, now is the moment to show that the court is not a tool of the Cambodian government,” he said.

Most Cambodians are eager to see Khmer Rouge leaders on trial, according to a survey published last week by the Human Rights Center at the University of California, Berkeley.

But the poll found that about one-third of people answering the survey had doubts about the tribunal’s neutrality and independence, perhaps because of their experience with their own corrupt and coerced judiciary.

Confidence in the tribunal has also been eroded by allegations of kickbacks that are familiar in the Cambodian court system. The United Nations has investigated the allegations but has not released its findings.

Now, with the dispute between the two co-prosecutors in the open, the checks and balances of the hybrid court will meet their first major test.

The dispute must now go to a panel known as the pretrial chamber, whose makeup reflects the supermajority structure of the tribunal — three Cambodian judges and two foreign judges.
There is nothing so far to suggest that this process will not work as it should, said David J. Scheffer, a human rights law professor at Northwestern University School of Law who took part in talks to create the tribunal.

The real test, Mr. Scheffer said in a recent article in The Phnom Penh Post, will be whether the judges in the pretrial chamber “step up to the plate and do their duty with the highest degree of judicial integrity.”

“We can all assess that when their decision is rendered,” he said.

Evictions Leave Thousands Homeless In Cambodia

SCOOP Independent News (New Zealand)
Sunday, 1 February 2009
Press Release: United Nations

Forced Evictions Leave Thousands Homeless In Cambodia, Says Un Expert

New York, Jan 30 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 areas 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 ῦair 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.

$79 Million for Who?....


NGO monitors documenting aggressive development face an aggressive response by a Cambodian company and authorities, exactly one week before international 'bi-lateral' donors pledge hundreds of millions of developmental dollars to Cambodia's government.

Thousands gather in Thailand for fresh protests

Thai premier Abhisit Vejjajiva, seen here in December 2008, has urged Thaksin Shinawatra not to incite unrest in the kingdom. Some 30,000 supporters of ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra have gathered in Bangkok promising to fight on indefinitely unless the new Thai government leaves office within 15 days.(AFP/File/Christophe Archambault)

A supporter of former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra waves a Thai flag as he sits on a motorcycle in front of the Democracy Monument during a protest march to the Government House in Bangkok January 31, 2009. About 5,000 Thai police took up positions around Government House in Bangkok on Saturday ahead of a rally by anti-government protesters trying to force Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva from power.REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom (THAILAND)

Supporters of former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra stand on the road outside the Government House during an anti-government protest in Bangkok January 31, 2009. Thousands of protesters marched on Thailand's seat of government on Saturday, delivering an ultimatum to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to call elections within 15 days or face bigger street demonstrations.REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom (THAILAND)

Thousand of protesters, so-called ''Red Shirts'' gather in Bangkok. Some 30,000 supporters of ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra have gathered in Bangkok promising to fight on indefinitely unless the new Thai government leaves office within 15 days.(AFP/Nicolas Asfouri)

Thai soldiers try to stop anti-government demonstrators allied with former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra from marching on government house in Bangkok on Saturday Jan 31. 2009. They were demanding the government dissolve Parliament and call snap elections.(AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

Thai soldiers stand guard in front of government house in Bangkok on Saturday Jan 31 2009 during anti-government protests by demonstrators allied with former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra . They were demanding the government dissolve Parliament and call snap elections.(AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

Thai soldiers guard inside the grounds of government house in Bangkok on Saturday Jan 31. 2009 during a rally of anti-government demonstrators allied with former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra . They demand that the government dissolve Parliament and call snap elections.(AP Photo)

Jan 31 09

Some 30,000 supporters of ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra gathered in Bangkok on Saturday to rally against the new Thai government they accuse of illegitimately assuming power last month.

More than 5,000 police were deployed to a city park where the crowd gathered ahead of a planned march to Government House, adopting the tactics of their rivals, who occupied the main government offices for three months last year.

Rally leader Jakrapob Penkair addressed the cheering crowd at 7.45pm (1245GMT), denouncing the government and accusing the army of staging a silent coup to bring it to power.

"We have experienced several fights, several coups, but there is no fight as important as this one because we have to fight to bring back our nation," said Jakrapob.

"How can the party that lost in elections three times become the government? The army denies being involved in setting up this government but no one believes them anymore," he added.

The protesters -- known as the "Red Shirts" because their crimson clothes show they oppose the yellow-clad, anti-Thaksin People's Alliance for Democracy, plan to present their demands when they march to Government House at 9pm (1400GMT).

They are calling for those involved in the siege of Bangkok's airports in November to be fired from government jobs and then prosecuted, and for parliament to be dissolved.

Abhisit sparked outrage in December by appointing PAD sympathiser Kasit Piromya to the post of foreign minister and two other PAD members to key adviser positions.

Police said they would not interfere with the rally so long as it remained peaceful.

"There are around 30,000 protesters gathered at Sanam Luang now but so far there's no sign of violence," police area commander General Anan Srihiran told AFP.

"The police have spoken to the (rally) leaders from time to time, asking protesters not to move... However police will not use force against protesters," he added.

Speaking earlier on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum at Davos in Switzerland, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said he was not worried by the rally.

"I think the mood of the people now is that they very much want to move forward, they want to get over the current divisions, they want to see a government that works hard, that deals with people's concerns and has the honesty and integrity that has been missing for so long," Abhisit said.

"If we can keep on working in the way we have for the last month then I'm not worried about it," he said, adding that deputy prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban would ensure there was no repeat of last year's siege.

Lieutenant General Suchart Mueankaoe, commander of Bangkok Metropolitan police, told AFP 5,250 officers would police the event, with many more on standby, along with military units.

The protesters remained in good spirits as night fell, with the crowd waving Thai flags and foot-shaped clappers as they were entertained by musicians.

Hawkers sold red shirts around the park, which was dotted with pictures of their hero Thaksin.

Thousands of anti-Thaksin protesters marched on Government House in August last year and occupied it for three months as they tried to topple the government elected in December 2007.

They said the ruling People Power Party (PPP) was running the country on behalf of Thaksin, who was ousted in a 2006 coup, but has remained enormously divisive, despite living in exile for most of the time since the putsch.

The PAD escalated their campaign and seized Bangkok's two airports between November 25 and December 3. They eventually got their wish when a court dissolved the PPP and forced then-premier Somchai Wongsawat from office.

The move paved the way for the Democrat Party's Abhisit Vejjajiva to be elected prime minister in a parliamentary vote last month, alienating many PPP supporters who felt robbed of their democratic rights.

Starting a new chapter

Bangkok Post


Sunshine and rainbows don't always follow a shower of rain, yet this man, laid low by a land mine almost two decades ago, has managed to piece together a new life for himself.

A soldier in the Cambodian army until he lost both hands during a mine-clearing operation in 1990, Tok Vanna spent the next 12 years living in dire poverty.

In 2002 he moved to Siem Reap with his family in search of a job, but his disability proved a major obstacle and he only managed to eke out an existence by begging on the streets. The following year his luck finally turned when he was spotted by a staff member from ILO, the United Nations agency.

After finishing a vocational training course, during which he also learned basic English, he received a small sum in seed capital from the ILO, sufficient to buy a pushcart and some books and set himself up in business.

Today his streetside stall boasts a large and interesting selection including an impressive number of non-fiction titles on Cambodia, mostly dealing with the devastation wreaked on that country by decades of conflict and the depredations of the Khmer Rouge.

As I stood there flipping through books with harrowing names like Welcome to Hell, Stay Alive My Son and First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers, he drew my attention to a tome with a red cover which he was holding against his chest with a truncated limb: "This is the best I have," he said in a gentle voice, "I recommend it to everybody."

I left carrying a copy of Survival in the Killing Fields, an account of life under the Khmer Rouge by Dr Haing Ngor, who later won an Oscar for his role in 1984's The Killing Fields.

Witnessing to Christ among children orphaned by AIDS in Cambodia



by Santosh Digal

This is the missionary choice made by a Filipino lay woman, who has been living in Khmer territory since 2003. The woman has organized group therapy and recreational activities for the children, marked by death, suffering, privation. The Cambodian community is also participating in the missionary's work on behalf of the orphans.

Manila (AsiaNews) - Witnessing to Christ among orphan children of Cambodia, whose parents died from AIDS. This is the mission of a Filipino Catholic lay woman, who has been working in Khmer territory since 2003 to bring "hope" back to abandoned children, and guarantee them a basic education.

Marian Matutina began her missionary journey in Siem Reap, in northern Cambodia, in a Khmer family made up of a husband and wife with four children, in order to learn the local language. "From this Buddhist family, I truly felt the presence of Jesus Christ in the love and acceptance I received from them."

She says that in the beginning, she "surrendered everything to God," taking her inspiration for her mission from the first communities of disciples. Together with two other Filipino lay missionaries, she joined the project "Little Folks," founded by the American missionary institute Maryknoll, and dedicated to children orphaned by AIDS. Looking at the history of the Cambodian people, as glorious as it was tragic during the years of massacres perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge, Marian asked, "How shall I encounter Christ among the Khmer people . . . How shall I recognize the face of Jesus amongst the predominantly Buddhists Khmers? How shall I communicate and share with those orphans the love of God?"

The orphans were marked by terrible experiences of death, desperation, constant movement and uprooting from their family atmosphere; but the sufferings they had endured had not deprived them of "hope" in a better future, and many of them wanted to become doctors, nurses, or teachers. Working with the children and comparing her missionary experience with that of her companions, Marian realized that the first step to take in order to help them was to "love them without reservation," and gratuitously.

After learning the Khmer language, the Filipino missionary organized group therapy in order to come to grips with suffering, during which the children could compare and recount their experiences, followed by games and other recreational activities. "In awe and wonder, I saw things slowly took place, with much help from the Khmer people of Cambodia I worked with. After some effort, we able to organize our own older youth members to constitute a core team of 'bong Thoas' (older siblings)."

"I have witnessed their continuing transformation," Marian Matutina concludes, "from being one who receives to being one who gives. I can only praise, give glory, honor and thanks to God who truly makes all things new and whose Spirit truly alive in Cambodia."

The National Assembly Asks for German Experts to Come to Cambodia to Help Organize Laws Related to Fuel - Friday, 30.1.2009

Posted on 31 January 2009
The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 597

The vice-president of the parliament of the Federal Republic of Germany, Dr. Wolfgang Thierse, plans to visit Cambodia at the end of January 2009 for discussions and to strengthen mutual friendship and tourism, following a request by the Cambodian National Assembly, asking for German experts to assist in developing and organizing laws related to fuel in Cambodia.

“The official friendship visit to Cambodia starts on 31 January 2009. Dr. Wolfgang Thierse is to promote cooperation between both countries through tourism from Germany to Cambodia, and Cambodia will ask for funds and invite German experts to come to help the National Assembly of Cambodia to draft three laws related to fuel in Cambodia.

“Mr. Cheam Yeap – the chairperson of the Commission on Economy, Finance, Banking and Audit of the National Assembly was assigned by the President of the National Assembly, Samdech Heng Samrin, to lead fifteen members of the National Assembly, ten from the Cambodian People’s Party and five from opposition parties, to meet with Dr. Wolfgang Thierse, who is in Cambodia for an official friendship visit to Cambodia starting at the end of January 2009. He said that the intention of the meeting was: first, to create closer ties of cooperation between Cambodia and Germany; second, to elaborate publications on policies, in order to increase trust for investment in Cambodia by German investors; and third, to develop tourism from Germany to Cambodia which has dozens of cultural resources and temples all over the country.

“Mr. Cheam Yeap went on to say that during this occasion, Cambodia will invite legal experts from Germany to help to draft three laws: legislation on fuel control, taxation legislation in Cambodia, and legislation to tax the profit of oil exploitation and production in Cambodia.

“It should be noted that Cambodia will get profits from huge amounts of oil in the near future.
“Previously, through cooperation between Cambodia and Germany, a lot of goods were exchanged, and Cambodia had also received substantial aid from Germany.

“According to an announcement from the National Assembly on 28 January 2009, Dr. Wolfgang Thierse will make an official friendship visit to Cambodia from late January 2009 to 4 February 2009, responding to an invitation by the president of the National Assembly, Samdech Heng Samrin.

“Dr. Wolfgang Thierse will meet also the president of the Senate, Samdech Chea Sim, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia Samdech Hun Sen, representatives of the political parties that won seats in the National Assembly, and many different representatives in Cambodia.”

Khmer Sthapana, Vol.2, #193, 30.1.2009
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Friday, 30 January 2009

Border dispute 'now better understood'

Paskorn: Spreading the word

Bangkok Post

Although the Preah Vihear issue seems to have cooled down, the Foreign Ministry's mission to build people's understanding about the issue continues through the Phra Viharn Centre headed by Paskorn Siriyaphan. The former diplomat based in Phnom Penh talks to THANIDA TANSUBHAPOL about this newly established office.

Why was the centre set up and when did it start operations?

The ministry set up the centre on Oct 8 last year and it started operations six days later. The centre is under the permanent secretary's office and is supervised by the Legal and Treaties Department chief.

Its mandate is to improve coordination among internal departments on the Preah Vihear issue. The International Organisation Department deals with Unesco, the Legal and Treaties Department deals with border issues, the East Asian Department deals with Cambodia on bilateral issues and the Information Department deals with public relations in general.

In addition, the centre will also take care of other issues which are not the particular responsibility of any department as well as acting as the secretariat for Preah Vihear issue meetings.

The centre was also set up under Article 190 (3) of the constitution which stipulates that prior to any binding agreements [about a border line change] being signed with the international community or an international organisation, cabinet must inform and provide the opinions of the public to parliament and be ready for any queries related to such an agreement.

The centre is responsible for providing information and listening to the public while border and demarcation talks with Cambodia are in progress.

What information has the centre given to the people?

We have four kinds of information. The first is the background of the border issue. The second describes the causes of the tension last year after Cambodia was trying to list the Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage site while some parts of the compound would have affected Thailand's rights as a claimant. The third explains what happened as the military forces of the two countries were still there. And the last explains what the ministry is doing to cut tension in the short term and negotiate under the framework of the Joint Boundary Commission (JBC) in the long run.

What is the aim of the centre? We would like people to understand more about the Preah Vihear issue and try not to use emotions or misunderstand things to launch accusations against each other.

Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya reaffirmed that the sharing of information with people must be done transparently and without conflict of interest.

He has also made this a priority of the centre.

The centre has also opened a webpage at the ministry's website to listen to public opinion. It will also develop booklets about the issue for public distribution soon.

What is your plan for sharing information with the public?
We plan to reach out to people in each province every month. We held three public opinion sessions.

After parliament approved the short- and long-term negotiation frameworks with Cambodia on Oct 28 last year, we held the first session at Chulalongkorn University on Nov 6, the second on Dec 16 in Si Sa Ket and the latest on Jan 20 in Chanthaburi province.

The information will not be the same every time as we will update it to include the latest results of the minister's visits to Cambodia or the outcome of the latest JBC meeting.

We plan to repeat this in all seven provinces along the Thai-Cambodian border.

We will go back to Si Sa Ket again after there is progress in negotiations with Cambodia (because the temple is located opposite the Thai border in this province.)

Has public opinion changed after the three public meetings?

Yes. I think they understand the issue better. We will not try to argue with the public but will give them all the necessary facts. People in Si Sa Ket and Chanthaburi shared the same opinion that we must protect Thai sovereignty and must have a clear position over the Preah Vihear issue.

In the meantime, we must also keep a good relationship with Cambodia especially in trade between our two peoples. They would like to see trade come before politics and would like the situation to return to normal.

As long as there is a negotiation mechanism, the tension along the border will be toned down. Border demarcation will surely take a long time to complete but we should do everything to avoid further confrontation.

Out Of Luck?

UNFORTUNATE: Cambodian workers leave after their shift at a garment factory in Phnom Penh. (Photo courtesy: TANG CHHIN SOTHY/ AFP)


Just as the stage seemed set for further growth, the four drivers of Cambodia’s economy—agriculture, garment exports, tourism and construction—were hit by changes in external conditions.

"Unlucky.” This was the assessment of the Cambodian economy by Vikram Nehru, the World Bank’s chief economist for East Asia and the Pacific, late last year. It certainly seems appropriate.

While citizens in just about every country in the region can blame the current global economic storm for at least some of their problems, Cambodians probably have more reason than most to feel aggrieved.

Still one of the world’s poorest countries, Cambodia was nevertheless doing well before the global crisis hit. Recovering from a long period of political and social disruption dating back to the 1970s, the economy grew by an average of 11.1% a year between 2004 and 2007.

And the elections of July last year, which saw a landslide victory for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, suggested that the country would soon be able to add political stability to its list of attractions.

The garment sector, which began to expand rapidly in the mid-1990s, provided employment for about 350,000 people. The tourism industry was also booming, with the number of foreign visitors rising by more than 20% annually. Further evidence of the country’s success could be seen in the growing level of direct foreign investment, which reached a high of 10% of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2007.

There were problems, of course. They included rampant corruption, rising inflation, a dysfunctional public service, infrastructure bottlenecks and a developing property market bubble. But with the economy making great strides, and with leaders no longer preoccupied with political survival, there was hope that at least some of these issues would be addressed.

Indeed, soon after the elections, economic managers moved quickly to minimise financial sector risks arising from the enthusiasm with which local banks were rushing to profit from the economic boom. The central bank doubled reserve requirements in July, introduced a ceiling on loans to the real estate sector, then tripled capital requirements in September. Meanwhile, plans were well advanced for the establishment of a stock market.

But just as the stage seemed set for further growth, the four drivers of the Cambodian economy—agriculture, garment exports, tourism and construction—were hit by changes in external conditions.

The tourism industry got into trouble as early as July, when the decision by Unesco to list Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage Site resulted in a military stand-off between Cambodian and Thai forces. Cambodia also suffered from the effects of Thailand’s internal turmoil last month, when anti-government protesters forced the closure of Bangkok’s international airport. The result was a wave of cancellation of hotel reservations at Siem Reap during the height of the tourist season. The global financial crisis looks set to cut further into tourist arrivals.

The garment industry, meanwhile, has begun to suffer from lower demand in the United States, its main export market. Expectations that rice exports would boost economic growth have also been dashed by the fall in international prices since their mid-2008 peak.

The juxtaposition of these political and economic developments has already been reflected in a 25-per-cent drop in revenues from the kingdom’s trade-dependent railway network last year. Rail links with Thailand were cut completely during the tension with Thailand in October.

Finally, South Korean and other foreign companies that were the main drivers of the nation’s construction sector have been winding down their activities in response to developments in their home countries. Modern Cambodia’s first-ever property boom is no more.

Influenced, perhaps, by years of rapid growth, the government late last year rejected as too gloomy an International Monetary Fund report that suggested that GDP growth would fall to 4.8% this year. But officials have since responded to the global slowdown by announcing a budget that increased spending and offered incentives to the garment industry. They have also delayed the launch of the stock exchange.

Early last month, foreign donors demonstrated their continued faith in the country by pledging more than US$950 million in aid, an increase of almost $300 million over pledges made in 2007.

Even so, there is little doubt that the nation faces difficult times. Foreign direct investment fell last year and, according to the World Bank, will likely fall again this year.

With the garment and tourism sectors faltering, widespread unemployment is a distinct possibility. Fifty per cent of the population is under 20 years of age, suggesting that a large number of job seekers will begin to enter the workforce over the next few years.

Yet all is not lost. While international rice prices have fallen, they are still relatively high. Programmes designed to boost agriculture could help absorb some of the unemployed.

Meanwhile, continued strong supervision of the banking sector, an increase in government-funded infrastructure projects and further moves to upgrade the legal framework for investment could help prepare the country for the inevitable recovery. In times like these, Cambodia needs to make its own luck.

(By BRUCE GALE In Phnom Penh/ The Straits Times/ AsiaNews)

MySinchew 2009.01.31

UN expert on adequate housing says forced evictions in Cambodia leave thousands of people homeless


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.

Τhailand - Vietnam - Cambodia golf trail launched

Travel Daily News
Friday, January 30, 2009

Tatiana Rokou

The Thailand - Vietnam - Cambodia Golf Trail is fast becoming the worlds most talked about golf tour. Announced just 6 weeks ago by Indochina’s largest specialist golf travel operator, Golfasian, the golf trail makes it now possible for golf enthusiasts from around the world to play the premier courses in three of the fastest growing Asian Tiger countries.

Mark Siegel, Managing Director of Golfasian said, “The Thailand-Vietnam-Cambodia golf trail is especially popular in these credit crunch times. Not only is it now possible to golf at the best golf courses in 3 countries, but the trail costs are much more economical than other similar quality golf tours around the world.” Siegel went on to day, “Golfers can now enjoy premium golfing at a fraction of the costs they have been accustomed to in the past.”

Participating golf courses on the trail include Thai Country Club in Bangkok, venue for Tiger Woods’ PGA win in 1997, the Montgomerie links Vietnam, Colin Montgomerie’s only golf course in Asia, and the Angkor Golf resort, a challenging Nick Faldo layout that has already received acclaim as the best golf course in Cambodia. In additional to golfing, the Thailand-Vietnam-Cambodia Golf Trail affords visitors the opportunity to visit several world heritage sights including, Ayutthaya in Thailand, Hoi An in Vietnam, and Angkor Wat in Cambodia. Each destination is unique in it’s culture, architecture, and history, all dating to the 10th century. Over the course if the next year the trail will be even further enhances with the opening of several new golf courses.

Golf is the perfect activity to base a holiday around and this can be seen in the rapidly expanding and successful business of Golfasian. Golfers who demand more from their holiday than just excellent golf should consider this one-of-a-kind and affordable golf trail.

Military Stable After Shake-Up: Minister

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
30 January 2009

Seeking to quell rumors of further shake-ups in the military after the sacking of its commander-in-chief last week, Defense Minsiter Tea Banh said Thursday the military is now stable.

Gen. Ke Kim Yan was removed from his post commander of the Royal Cambodia Armed Forces in a surprise order last week, with Prime Minister Hun Sen accusing him of conducting private business enterprises rather than running the military.

The shake-up, which put Gen. Pol Saroeun as military chief, led to worries amid the ranks of regional and division forces that further firings were possible.

“People who say that are just talking, but nothing has happened,” Tea Banh said Thursday.

NRP Reported Sacking Sparks Internal Conflict

By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Phnom Penh
30 January 2009

A senior Norodom Ranariddh Party official was reportedly removed from her position Friday, marking a potential rift within the party’s ranks, officials said.

Meas Sokun, the NRP chief in Banteay Meanchey province and a member of the steering committee, was fired by the party’s governing council, following statements insults and “impolite words” for Prince Norodom Ranariddh during a meeting on Saturday, according to a statement released to the media Friday. But the party’s official spokesman, Suth Dina, who is also a deputy secretary-general, said the governing council had not consulted with the steering committee, and therefore Meas Sokun was retaining her position.

At least one top NRP official, who asked not to be named, said the firing was a legitimate decision by the governing council.

Suth Dina said the group opposed to the firing would now appeal to the Ministry of Interior to bar the Norodom Ranariddh Party from the country.

The differing accounts of the two top officials marked a potential split in the party among those close to Prince Ranariddh, who formed the party ahead of commune elections in 2007, and newcomers close to Suth Dina, who brought his own Khmer National Front party into NRP ranks at its formation.

Neither NRP President Chhim Seakleng nor Secretary-General You Hokry could not be reached for comment Friday.

Meas Sokun denied insulting the prince and said she was keeping her position. She said some members of the party had spoken ill of her to the prince, who now misunderstood her.

“They accuse of me of making trouble in the party, but I’m not troublesome,” she said. “I haven’t done anything troublesome.”

Prince Ranariddh retired from his party shortly after his return from exile in September 2008. He had been found guilty of breach of trust, and refused to return to Cambodia until he was granted a royal pardon.

He is now chief adviser to King Norodom Sihamoni, his brother, and he retains a number of loyal followers within his old party.

Films Submitted as Potential Duch Evidence

Duch, Former Head of Tuol Sleng Prison.

By Kong Sothanarith, VOA Khmer
Phnom Penh
30 January 2009

Two films of Tuol Sleng prison provided to researchers by the Vietnamese government could become evidence in Khmer Rouge tribunal proceedings against the prison’s former chief.

Two deputy prosecutors for the Khmer Rouge tribunal made a motion to the Trial Chamber to allow two films to be entered as new evidence in the atrocity trial of prison chief Duch.

The Trial Chamber must decide by Feb. 17 whether to add the films, which include footage of Tuol Sleng prison shot by Vietnamese soldiers as they entered Phnom Penh in January 1979 as they pushed the Khmer Rouge from power.

The films depict the bodies of prisoners, some of them decapitated, as well as different types of cells, torture devices, shackles and other restraints. One film shows a Vietnamese soldier carrying a weak child out of the prison in his arms and two more child survivors.

The films are two among 20, totaling 480 minutes of footage, that have so far been submitted to the Documentation Center of Cambodia by the Vietnamese.

Duch, 66, whose real name is Kaing Kek Iev, will be tried in March on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, torture and murder for his role as chief of the prison, known to the Khmer Rouge by it’s alphanumeric code S-21.

“The films provided by the Vietnamese government through DC-Cam are related to the indictment against Duch,” the deputy prosecutors, Yeth Chakrya and William Smith, said in their motion to the Trial Chamber. “Those documents are very interesting for finding out the truth about S-21.”

Judge Nil Nonn, head of the Trial Chamber, confirmed he had received the motion, which was filed Jan. 28 and published on the tribunal’s Web site Friday.

The motion will be decided on during the initial trial hearing on Feb. 17, Nil Nonn said.