Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Foreigners do not need to proceed via organisations to marry Cambodian nationals

By Ka-set


In a communiqué dated February 3rd, the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation reminded that with a view to prevent the trafficking of Cambodian women, the government issued, on November 3rd 2008, the Sub-Decree on the Formality and Procedure for the Marriage between Cambodian and Foreign Nationals. The document was communicated to all diplomatic missions accredited to Cambodia through a Ministry Note dated November 17th 2008.

However, the Ministry insisted on making clear to all Diplomatic Missions that “foreign applicants are not under any legal obligation or requirement to be a member of whatever association or organisation in order to be eligible for marriage with Cambodian citizens”.

Cambodia to inspect its detention centers


Hong Kong, China — A recent survey shows that over a quarter of the Cambodian population had been subject to torture in the 1970s under the Khmer Rouge regime. In the early 1990s Cambodia set out to prevent the repeat of this experience and adhere to the U.N. Convention against Torture and, in 2007, to the Optional Protocol to this convention or OPCAT.

However, Cambodia failed to honor its obligations under OPCAT and has been unable to create a national preventive mechanism within 12 months following its ratification of the protocol. The mechanism's main mandate is to visit places of detention and make recommendations to the relevant authorities to ensure respect for the fundamental rights of persons detained in those places.

Now, in a recent workshop in Phnom Penh on the implantation of OPCAT, the Cambodian government has pledged to put it in place in the next two years. In the same workshop, the prosecutor general of the Court of Appeal announced that he would soon exercise his power of inspection of prisons and police stations as conferred upon him and prosecutors of the Court of First Instance by a recently enacted code of criminal procedure. One of the aims of this inspection is to prevent torture or ill treatment of detainees.

Torture and other ill treatment are still used by the police to extract confessions not only to the alleged crime for which a suspect has been arrested but also to his previous crimes. Courts prefer to ignore claims of such treatment by accused persons to avoid the trouble of rejecting their statement to the police, ordering new investigations, and prosecuting the police officer(s) allegedly involved in the act.

Regarding the inspection of places of detention, it is not yet known what kind of methodology the prosecutor general will use to ascertain whether torture or other ill treatment is involved. Nor is it certain whether he will get full cooperation from the concerned officers although he has full disciplinary power over them. Besides, it is difficult to ensure that suspects detained in police cells or inmates in prisons who come forth with allegations of such acts will not suffer any retaliation after he departs following the inspection.

There are also serious doubts about his ability and that of prosecutors of the Court of First Instance to conduct thorough inspections of all police stations and prisons across the country as there are not many prosecutors and not all are allocated adequate resources for their prosecution task, let alone a particular inspection of a detention center.

However, these difficulties are a challenge to them in discharging their constitutional duties as members of the judiciary to protect the rights of Cambodians deprived of their liberty and held in detention centers.

Nevertheless, such inspections of places of detention should be welcomed and judicial officers should be unreservedly supported when exercising their authority. They should be allocated adequate resources for the task and given technical assistance to develop methodologies and other measures to ensure effective inspections to prevent torture and ill treatment of detainees. This will ensure respect for their fundamental rights.

Parallel to this inspection, the prosecutor general should propose amendments to the code of criminal procedure where suspects are informed of their right to legal advice, right to medical treatment and the right to inform family members of their detention, immediately after their arrest, which the present code fails to provide.

He should also issue instructions to all prosecutors of the Court of First Instance to be proactive in detecting torture or ill treatment when police bring suspects to be formally charged. These prosecutors should examine the body and the state of mind of suspects to detect torture, especially within the first 72 hours of their arrest. If they find any signs of ill treatment, they should promptly call for a medical examination, order a prompt investigation and prosecute the perpetrators.

Cambodia Is on the Reform Track, and Reforms Are Crucial

Charge d’Affaires of the Delegation of the European Commission to Cambodia Rafael Dochao Moreno: Cambodia Is on the Reform Track, and Reforms Are Crucial - Tuesday, 3.2.2009

The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 598

“Phnom Penh: The cooperation between the Cambodian government and the Delegation of the European Commission to Cambodia was broadened towards civil society, and the European Commission is an important development partner of the government. A reporter of Rasmei Kampuchea, Mr. Yin Leangkong, had an interview with the Chargé d’Affaires of the Delegation of the European Commission to Cambodia, Mr. Rafael Dochao Moreno, to analyze these relations.

“Rasmei Kampuchea: What improvements regarding relations of cooperation between the European Union [a political and economic union of 27 member states] and the Cambodian government do you see in recent years?

“The Chargé d’Affaires: The relations between the European Union and the Cambodian government grew very well during these recent years, while we had significant economic and technical cooperation with the Cambodian government. Last year, we sent an observer mission to Cambodia in order to participate in observing the elections. Through the election observer mission of the European Union, we created some recommendations from the observations, and those recommendations were supported not only by civil society, but also by the Cambodian government and different opposition parties. Therefore, both groups – civil society and the Cambodian government – supported the position of the European Union regarding the elections.

“Rasmei Kampuchea: What problems do you consider to be challenges between the European Commission and the Cambodian government?

“The Chargé d’Affaires: Being partners, we always worked together and discussed with one another, and also we provided aid to the Cambodian government. Actually, we are not always satisfied with all what the Cambodian government has done, but also, we do not think that all what the government has done is mostly wrong. Our position is to offer support to reform programs of the Royal Government of Cambodia. We also follow with interest the slow reform progress, which has not accomplished what we had hoped for, for example, the adoption of an anti-corruption law is very slow. But we know also that the Royal Government of Cambodia is making efforts to encourage this work to move ahead.

“The European Union is also concerned about the forced evictions by using such force. Like the recent Dey Krahom case, we discussed it also with the Royal Government of Cambodia to find solutions for this problem, and we will continue to meet and discuss eviction problems, and the guarantee of the rule of law in Cambodia.

“Rasmei Kampuchea: Do you consider such evictions to be part of corruption in the government?
“The Chargé d’Affaires: It is a difficult problem, and I cannot answer this question, but I would like to emphasize that what we want to see is the rule of law. It is known that the European Commission has assisted Cambodia in many different sectors. For instance, we help the Khmer Rouge Tribunal’s proceedings, seeing that international standards of law have been established. We support also good governance in different sectors in Cambodia.

“Regarding the evictions, I am really concerned about the use of force in evictions, and we are concerned that there has to be support for the rule of law, leading to justice and fairness in compensations for the various families living there.

“Rasmei Kampuchea: Together with the progress of this cooperation, the relations have also faced problems. What do you think can be done to make the cooperation between both sides smooth?

“The Chargé d’Affaires: What is important is that we focus on bilateral discussions between the European Union and the Royal Government of Cambodia. I would like to mention three significant events: First, last November, we had regular and official discussions about human rights, good governance, and democracy. Second, we will discuss cooperation between the European Union and the Royal Government of Cambodia, to know what factors need to be improved. Third, we will provide support for different sectors through this cooperation, such as human rights, rural development, health, and education. In March, there will be a joint meeting between Cambodia and the European Commission, in order to further strengthen partnership, and make it smoother - which are the points for our eventual discussions.

“Rasmei Kampuchea: Regarding the progress of democracy in Cambodia, do you think that Cambodia is on the right track?

“The Chargé d’Affaires: Cambodia is on a track of reforms, and theses reforms are crucial. I would like to refer to the experience of Spain [the home country of Mr. Rafael Dochao Moreno].

From 1939 to 1975, this country was under the control of the Dictator Franco, and during that period, the court system was very corrupt. However, after he died, Spain undertook reforms towards a just court system and a new administration system, but it took many years to improve the situation. Likewise, Cambodia needs much time to achieve these high goals, and it might take a generation.

“It is important that these reforms are started from the schools. Teachers need better salaries, and judges have to earn higher salaries in order to crack down on corruption, and all of us have to start working together to weed out corruption.

“Rasmei Kampuchea: According to your point of view, is Cambodia already on the right track towards those positive goals?

“The Chargé d’Affaires: We have sponsored and supported by funding programs for education through the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport. We do not grant monetary resources to build schools, but we support, both with funds and training, to expand the capability of education officials, like through accounting skill, financial management, and audits. As for the education sector in Cambodia, I can say that it is on the right track, and that is why we continue supporting this sector.

“Rasmei Kampuchea: In May, Cambodia will hold provincial and city council elections. Has the Cambodian government requested funds or experts from the European Union?

“The Chargé d’Affaires: We have not received any request from the government, asking for funds for the elections. But after the general elections in July 2008, we provided two experts to help the National Election Committee technically - one person helps with the legal section, and the other one helps with the publishing system. This support is provided for six to eight months. As we knew, there is much work that we have to do as stated in reports of the election observer missions, in order to assure independence and trustworthiness of the National Election Committee.

“Rasmei Kampuchea: Some people think that the provincial and city elections are useless. What do you think? Are they useful for the progress of democracy or not?

“The Chargé d’Affaires: I cannot say whether they are useful or not, but what I think is that the European Union provides support for decentralization and deconcentration. Therefore, any work contributing to encourage decentralization and deconcentration is good.

“Rasmei Kampuchea: Relating to Siem Reap Airlines which has been black-listed in the European Union since late 2008, what is its process?

“The Chargé d’Affaires: We got a report in late 2008 from a direct assessment by a group of the International Civil Aviation Organization that came to assess different safety systems, and they released a report saying that the safety systems in Cambodia need improvements. The report was sent also to the Royal Government of Cambodia for consideration. In November 2008, the European Union held a meeting with the Cambodian government to hear responses to the problems found. According to reports from member countries, the European Union decided to put Siem Reap Airlines on a blacklist, so that flights are not allowed to Europe, and this company had to halt their activities until now. What we want to see is that there should be assurances from the Royal Government of Cambodia and from Siem Reap Airlines about their safety and security procedures, before we remove it from the blacklist.”

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.17, #4811, 3.2.2009
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Pheu Thai MPs to meet Thaksin next few weeks

The Nation

A group of 30 Pheu Thai MPs from the Northeast Wednesday revealed their plan to meet ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra within the next few weeks tentatively to take place at Koh Kong, Cambodia.

"Thaksin's brother Payap is in charge of organising the meeting,", MP Sakda Kongphet said.

Sakda said his fellow lawmakers wanted to meet Thaksin in order to exchange views on the political situation. Thaksin will likely travel to one of the neighbouring countries like Cambodia or Laos, he added.

He said Thaksin's phone-in at the party seminar on Monday had been successful in rallying the MPs to support his political aspirations, including a planned comeback for the position of prime minister in two years.

Angkor Wat - Land of varied hues

Wed, 04 Feb 2009

Ranjita Biswas:An image that had remained with me from adolescence when I saw its astonishing splendour in a spread in the Life magazine. And now I was on my way to realise a dream long cherished, to witness the thousand years old temple complex built by Khmer artisans under Hindu kings, the 'Varmans' who once ruled here in Cambodia.

We were advised by experienced travellers to take a bus to Siem Reap, getaway to Angkor Wat, from capital Phnom Penh rather than by the river route via the Mekong. Unless there's loads of time, of course! So I and my friends booked a ride by a 'luxurious' bus with promises of breakfast served on board. Well, the bus was comfortable enough, but don't bank on the breakfast to fill your tummy; they were two puny un-tasty chicken sandwiches. It's better to carry along own food.

Anyway, we travelled on a reasonably good road with wats (temples) and rice fields, most of them bare now after the harvest, for company. The bus made a welcome break for tea in between. People were buying some concoction looking like halwa. Language being a problem, I just decided to buy some to appease my hunger. It turned out to be a sweet made from potato, hot and delicious.

A UNESCO World Heritage site since 1992, Angkor Wat has been going through a multi-national restoration effort for many years now. The western world woke to this astonishing archaeological wonder after French naturalist Henri Mouhot's drawings and notes were published in 1863.

Naturally, we were in a hurry to see Angkor Wat, half an hour ride away. The complex needs at least three days to explore and we had only one and a half. So we decided to have a 'working' lunch. The driver wisely took us to a patisserie called 'Blue Elephant', a favourite with expats. Its reputation is well-deserved. They were some of the best I have ever tasted, and that includes Paris! Cambodia was a French colony for a long time and its influence is evident in its colonial architecture in the cities, and yes, bakery items. My first impression of Angkor Wat as the elongated domes of representing Mount Meru came to view was the oft-repeated word: awesome. To think this vast temple-residences were built during 8th -12th century! We walked up the long carriage-way across a moat to reach the central temple where there's a huge idol of Vishnu in the centre who is worshipped regularly. As evening approached, the temple walls took on a darker hue and we were asked to leave the premises.

Cambodia has a rich tradition of dance and music which was smothered under the dictator Pol Pot regime. Today, hotels and restaurants often put up shows for visitors like us. We bought tickets ($ 12) for a show at Angkor Mondial restaurant which included a buffet dinner with multiple cuisines to choose from (drinks extra). The lilting music, the episodes from Ramayana enacted by graceful dancers, fishermen's folk dance, wrapped up a magical day.

Next day, we had to get up at 4 O' clock in the morning in order to witness the sunrise over the temple. It was still dark when we arrived but many tourists were already teeming the complex, thankfully without talking loudly. We waited on the steps of one of the temples. A vendor came to sell tea and coffee. More than the sunrise, it was the 'feel' of the place, that the Khmers must have witnessed it the same way nearly a thousand years ago, the temple shikhars silhoutted against the gradually pinking sky, that created a special aura.

With daylight we explored the temple, the exquisite Khmer art carvings , the famous samudra manthan (churning of the sea for amrit), etc. The day was already getting hot even though it was December. With a quick breakfast at one of the restaurants we were off to Angkor Thom, the other big complex, a city actually for Khmer kings, built by Jayavarman VII. The faces at the gates, rock-cut huge Shivas looking to the four directions are awe-inspiring. This major complex even has a leper temple with a statue of Yama, the god of death with the legend that one of Angkor kings was a leper. The elephant terrace is also reminiscent of Indian temples.

Well, there's so much one can take at one go and we were back in town. Don't miss the delicious pineapple slices the vendors expertly chop for you.The Old Market in the heart of the town is a good hunting ground for curios and Cambodian silk. A bit touristy but shopkeepers, mostly women, are gentle and not aggressive saleswomen at all and it's pleasure to shop here. Bargaining is expected but things are quite cheap. They also accept payment in US dollar.

The evening in the town can be quite relaxing exploring 'downtown'. The Red Piano (do the people here like colours so much?) is a good spot to relax and eat. I had 'Amok' the local favourite, fish cooked in coconut milk in the kernel itself and served with rice. Yummy! They also have a good vegetarian selection. The street running along was alive with music and chatter in variety of languages.

Walking around the streets lined with street food stalls, we suddenly discovered a Night Market. With stalls under thatched roofs and on pebbled laness, where many NGOs display their wares, it was interesting to explore and buy souven.(Sahara Time)

Cambodia: Newspapers to rent and views to die for

The National Museum at Phnom Penh. Photo / Jim Eagles

New Zealand Herald

Wednesday Feb 04, 2009

Andrew Spooner

As I sit eating a bowl of noodles, a little street kid asks in perfect English, "You want to buy a newspaper?"

"OK if you don't want to buy. I will rent to you. Only 1000 riel (47c). It costs 4000 to buy, so this is a good price. You can read for one hour. Then I will come back and collect it."

As I've only just begun slurping on my noodles, I hand over the cash and get something to read.

Given the destruction that Phnom Penh endured, the creative entrepreneurial skills of some of its poorest inhabitants are certainly inspiring. At last, it seems as though a new identity is emerging from the City of Ghosts.

What is even more surprising is that Phnom Penh is becoming decidedly sophisticated.

"Here's your passionfruit creme brulee," says the sleek, black-clad waitress. I'm sitting outside Metro, one of Phnom Penh's most popular upmarket watering holes. On the menu is an array of Asian fusion nibbles and the kind of cocktail list you'd expect in London or New York.Yet, what London and New York can't provide is the view: Metro is on Sisowath Quay, a riverside road that fronts directly on to the point where the Tonle Sap and Mekong Rivers meet.

To grasp the full potential of Sisowath Quay you have to get up before dawn and head to the Foreign Correspondents' Club (FCC). With its open-walled cafe providing full access to the light and air of the rivers, the FCC serves its breakfast with a staggering sunrise.

"We even have a few rooms for rent," says operations manager, Michelle Duncan, "and we've just opened a new designer boutique property called The Quay a bit further down the river."

In Phnom Penh, boutique hotels are springing up like mushrooms. Many of the colonial-era French villas were left intact by the Khmer Rouge and are now being turned into funky places to stay and eat.

"When I first arrived here I never intended to be a hotelier," says Eric Weisman, a former movie producer from Los Angeles. Eric's property, the Scandinavia Hotel, on Street 282, is a small villa in central Phnom Penh with a resident modern art gallery, a cute, kidney-shaped pool and a low-key, designer vibe that uplifts without being pretentious.

But where did the name come from? "The place used to be owned by a Scandinavian expat who wanted to create a party place for his biker pals. It took a while to restore the reputation," says Eric with a grin.

In Phnom Penh there's the Spanish-managed Boddhi Tree Aram, a tiny, stylish eight-room villa, buried away on Street 244, which has become one of the most sought-after places to stay.

Then there's The Pavilion, an elegant property that has a mixed reputation largely due to a Fawltyesque management style. Back on Sisowath, and probably the pick of the bunch, is the sumptuous Amanjaya - the corner suites have the best riverside balconies in the city.

Phnom Penh also hits home on the culinary front. The bizarre North Korean Government-run Pyongyang on Monivong Boulevard - arrive in time for the surreal nightly 8pm song and dance show - serves up fantastic bulgogi steak, while the Spanish-flavoured Pacharan, on Sisowath, is a revelation.

"Seafood is so cheap here," says my waiter, as a paella arrives. "We can make it even bigger than we would back in Spain."

Soothed by the evening air of the Mekong, I've found my own little bit of heaven. I order a coffee and unwind. All I need is something to read - does anybody have a newspaper to rent?


Cambodia hosts 2,100 Baha’is at historic gathering

A young man from Laos who traveled to Cambodia for the conference studies a message to the gathering from the Universal House of Justice.

Colorful native costumes were much in evidence at the regional Baha'i conference in Battambang.

In Auckland, a crew of volunteers helped keep everything running smoothly for the large conference.

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In addition to the gathering in Cambodia, a simultaneous conference was held in Auckland, New Zealand, for 10 countries and island groups in the Pacific.

Greeters in traditional costumes from the participating countries of Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam welcome people arriving to the Baha'i conference in Battambang.

Bahai World News Service
3 February 2009

BATTAMBANG, Cambodia — Some 2,100 Baha’is from Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam gathered in Cambodia’s second-largest city for a historic conference that had citizens of all four nations sitting side by side to discuss service activities in their communities.

The gathering last weekend was one of a series of 41 Baha’i conferences being held in major cities around the world. The events began on 1 November in Lusaka, Zambia, and will conclude on 1 March in Kiev, Ukraine.

More than 67,500 people have participated in the conferences, with only six of the 41 events still remaining.

In Battambang, a representative of the provincial government, Aem Thoeurn, addressed the conference and emphasized the diverse nature of the gathering.

“The unity of religion and the harmony of its followers is essential for peace,” he said. “Your gathering here is proof that this is possible.”

He expressed the wish that “each one of us will bring this (spirit) back to our own people.”

As in many of the cities hosting the conferences, Baha’i organizers in Battambang were challenged to find a venue large enough for all participants. The Battambang city hall fit the bill, with 1,500 people filling the main auditorium and others watching proceedings by video link from tents set up outdoors.

A simultaneous conference was held last weekend in Auckland, New Zealand, where 1,700 people from 10 countries and Pacific island groups gathered.

All the conferences are being held at the call of the Universal House of Justice, the head of the Baha’i Faith. The purpose is to celebrate achievements in community-building and make plans for future work. This includes devotional gatherings; children’s classes; and programs for the moral education of young people.

For links to reports and photographs from the conferences held to date, go on the Web to:

Talks strike barrier over temple's name


Bangkok Post


Negotiations between Thailand and Cambodia over Preah Vihear have stumbled over the spelling of the name of the famed ancient temple.

A Thai official said yesterday officials of the Thai-Cambodian Joint Boundary Commission were trying to find a way around the problem so border negotiations could proceed.

Vasin Teeravechyan, who chairs the commission, said a solution acceptable to the two countries would be found.

Thailand insists on using "the Temple of Phra Viharn-Preah Vihear" on documents used in the negotiations. Cambodian officials strongly object, saying Preah Vihear is internationally accepted.

Mr Vasin, who is a retired Foreign Ministry official, said the name proposed by Thailand was very common in international negotiations on the issue.

The Temple of Phra Viharn-Preah Vihear has been approved by parliament for the framework negotiations with Cambodia. Thailand will use it in documents to be signed with Cambodia.

The meeting will be concluded today.

The two countries have been unable to settle on a plan to reduce troops in the disputed area which covers 4.6 square kilometres between Kantharalak district in Si Sa Ket and the Cambodian province of Preah Vihear.

Mr Vasin refused further comment on the issue. But earlier he said Cambodia had told the meeting it had no soldiers stationed in the area.

The Cambodia delegation is led by Senior Minister Var Kim Hong.

Despite the disagreement over the name of the temple, the two countries will set up another team to survey the borderline for demarcation between Nam Yuen district in Ubon Ratchathani and Phu Sing district in Si Sa Ket, which is 195km long.

Thailand and Cambodia have already formed a survey team to study the disputed area near the ancient temple which was the scene of a military clash last year.

A plan to reduce the number of soldiers near the disputed area is expected to be included in talks when Defence Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan visits Phnom Penh on Friday.

Homes Demolished in Cambodia Land Grab

RFA/Ouk Savborey
Residents of Dey Krahorm watch as workers demolish their homes, Jan. 24, 2009.

Radio Free Asia

A Cambodian property developer forcefully evicts residents to develop a commercial site in the capital Phnom Penh. Talks of compensations end in the midst of confusion over land rights.

PHNOM PENH—A property developer in Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh, has ended compensation negotiations after forcefully demolishing the homes of residents.

On Jan. 24, 7NG Construction company physically expelled 152 families from Dey Krahorm village in Phnom Penh’s Chmakar Mon district and tore down their homes to develop a commercial site consisting of townhouses and office space.

The residents are now homeless and living without basic necessities.

One resident, who did not provide his name, said community members were given no prior warning of the demolition, which began early in the morning.

“There were many authorities, police, and military police standing in front of my house, and they pointed to me and said, ‘There he is! There he is,’” he said.

“They suddenly grabbed me and beat me. They even pulled my seven month pregnant wife out and pulled her hair,” he said.

“They beat me until I could not see straight, so I do not remember [who attacked me], but they were in police and military police uniforms,” he said.

“They beat my arm with the butt of a gun and they hit me in the jaw, which is still swollen…They kicked me all over my body until I rolled over, handcuffed me, and then pulled me to the other side of the road,” the man said.

The resident said that in addition to being beaten, he was also robbed during the incident.

“Property was looted. 7NG Company sent workers wearing yellow, blue, and red shirts carrying new cloth bags to take property and carry it away on their shoulders. Everything has been looted—goods I purchased for stock worth more than 10 million riels (U.S. $2,500)—there is nothing left,” he said.

Inadequate Compensation

Most of the Dey Krahorm families have been residents of the village since the early 1980s, which legitimizes their possession rights under Cambodia’s 2001 Land Law.

However, authorities have not officially reinstated property rights for the majority of Cambodia following the Khmer Rouge era, leaving many citizens exposed to arbitrary land use decisions.

In 2003, the government gave the Dey Krahorm community an “in-situ social land concession,” which under the Land Law protects poor communities’ right to land. Both the Cambodian Constitution and the Land Law state that no one can have their land taken without fair compensation.

But more than three years ago, 7NG began negotiations with the residents, offering to build them alternative housing with utilities in Damnak Trayeung village, in Phnom Penh’s outlying Dangkor district.

But since then, the price of land in the area has sharply increased, and the residents who did not accept the initial terms have demanded compensation reflecting current market prices.

The families had been demanding at least U.S. $20,000 each, based on what they said was fair market value.

7NG Construction initially agreed to residents’ demands, but then rescinded the offer and carried out demolition plans.

It has since offered U.S. $185 each for their property, in addition to a four by 12 meter apartment without functioning utilities.

Srey Sothea, the CEO of 7NG, said that residents had been told through a representative to accept the offer of compensation or to expect nothing at all.

“We offered the remaining residents extra compensation and asked them to leave by the specified date to avoid an ugly incident,” Srey said.

“We couldn’t wait any longer—we had to take this [extreme] measure or the situation would get worse,” he said.

More than 1,400 families agreed to relocate to Damnak Trayeung, including as many as 90 following the forced eviction, but a remaining group of about 60 families are now homeless and have not received any compensation.

In the eight days since the demolition the evicted families have been forced to sleep in parks and to seek temporary refuge in the offices of human rights groups and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR.)

Calls go unanswered

On Jan. 27, the residents of Dey Krahorm seeking government help in negotiations held a demonstration across from the Cambodian National Assembly, but were removed that evening by security guards and armed forces.

The following morning, residents presented a petition to the office of Prime Minister Hun Sen at the Council of Ministers, but calls for government assistance went unanswered.

The deputy governor of Phnom Penh, Mann Chhoeun, said negotiations broke down due to the unwarranted demands of the Dey Krahorm residents.

“The negotiation could not find a middle ground…The bargaining terms kept shifting, with some home owners originally demanding U.S. $10,000, then asking for U.S. $20,000 in exchange for a single dwelling unit,” he said.

Mann Chhoeun acknowledged that the municipality still owed residents some 90 housing units following the initial terms presented by 7NG in 2005.

But he said that as negotiations continued, residents’ claims on units gradually increased to 150.
“The number of families also increased from 51 to 200, and the municipality could not afford to continue the negotiations,” Mann Chhoeun said.

Call for action

The Cambodian Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and Human Rights Watch in New York condemned the forced demolition, calling for the arrest of the men who beat residents and destroyed their homes.

In a statement, the Cambodian Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said the eviction “runs contrary to the government’s policy of good governance, rule of law, human development, and poverty reduction,” which it said development partners claim to support.

“It is not too late for the municipality, the government and the company to demonstrate that the land law can be upheld and applied to protect the rights of all citizens, regardless of their wealth or social status,” the statement said.

Elaine Pearson, Asia office deputy director for Human Rights Watch in New York, said the Cambodian government should end evictions of residents in land disputes.

“There should be a talk with the community to discuss a resolution first. Last week, in a talk with the authorities, residents said they would agree to demolish their houses and leave the area if they received appropriate compensation for their land,” Pearson said.

“In the meantime, the government should provide the residents emergency aid. They have lost their housing, they lack food and water, and they seriously need long-term aid,” she said.

Confusion over land rights

The land issue dates from the 1975-79 Khmer Rouge regime, which forced large-scale evacuations and relocations throughout the country. This was followed by mass confusion over land rights and the formation of squatter communities when the refugees returned in the 1990s after a decade of civil war.

Housing Cambodia’s large, young, and overwhelmingly poor population has posed a major problem ever since.

Original reporting by Ma Yarith, Pon Bunsong, Ouk Savborey, Hassan Kasem, and Borin Sam for RFA's Khmer service. Khmer service director: Sos Kem. Translated by Oun Chhin and Hassan Kasem. Written for the Web in English by Joshua Lipes.

Cambodian King leaves for China for routine medical checkup

PHNOM PENH, Feb. 4 (Xinhua) -- Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni left here on Wednesday for China for routine medical checkup.

He was seen off at the Phnom Penh International Airport by Senate President Chea Sim, National Assembly President Heng Samrin, Prime Minister Hun Sen, other government officials, royal family members and Chinese Ambassador to Cambodia Zhang Jinfeng.

During this trip, Sihamoni will look in his parents, former King Norodom Sihanouk and former Queen Monineath Sihanouk, who are having a rest in Beijing.

The couple went to Beijing last August for routine medical checkup and rest.

Editor: Zhang Xiang

Number of new businesses opening declines in Cambodia

PHNOM PENH, Feb. 4 (Xinhua) -- The number of businesses that opened in 2008 declined after years of steady growth, Cambodian national media reported Wednesday.

In 2008, 2,744 new businesses registered with the Commerce Ministry, compared to 2,826 new openings in 2007, the Cambodia Daily newspaper said, citing data from the ministry.

Overall in the period from 1988 to Jan. 30 of this year, 18,910 businesses opened and 1,561 closed, according to the data.

In the first month of 2009, only 159 new businesses registered with the ministry, which puts Cambodia on pace to register only about 1,850 new businesses this year, nearly 30 percent down than that of last year.

Editor: Zhang Xiang

Stanford Financial Group Expresses Condolences on the Death of General David 'Bull' Baker (Ret. U.S.A.F.)

PR Newswire

WASHINGTON, Feb. 3 /PRNewswire/ -- The Stanford Financial Group was saddened to learn that Brigadier General (Ret.) David "Bull" Baker, decorated United States Air Force veteran and Director of National Security Research in Stanford's Policy Research Group, passed away on Friday, January 30. Gen. Baker was 62.

A leader in cutting-edge technology and aerospace/defense issues, General Baker specialized in the aerospace and defense sector, geopolitical impacts on financial markets, technology, as it relates to global information operations for commercial and military purposes, cyber-terrorism, and National Security policy and strategy. Gen. Baker joined the policy research team in 1997 following a distinguished 29 year career with the U.S. Air Force (U.S.A.F.). During the Vietnam conflict, Baker served as a forward air controller in an O-2 aircraft, courageously flying at low altitude over the jungle, marking targets for other fighters and bombers. In the spring of 1972, during his 50th combat mission, Gen. Baker was shot down over Cambodia and held as a prisoner of war in several Cambodian prison camps. During his captivity, he was shot twice while trying to escape.

Upon his release in 1973, Gen. Baker reenlisted in the U.S.A.F. and made history by being the only repatriated Air Force serviceman from the Vietnam War to fly combat missions in Operation Desert Storm. He is a recipient of the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, and two Bronze Stars with "V" for Valor.

"David Baker was an inspiration to all of our company's employees and his contributions will be deeply missed," said Sir Allen Stanford, Chairman and CEO, Stanford Financial Group. "On behalf of the entire company, we extend our thoughts and condolences to his family."

Added Edward Garlich, Managing Director, Stanford Policy Research: "For the last 11 years, David was an invaluable member of the policy research team who provided superior analysis and perspective to clients."

In addition to his exceptional military career, Gen. Baker graduated from Hofstra University with a BBA, later receiving an MBA from the University of Hawaii (Beta Gamma Sigma). He was a 1996 graduate of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and also an alumnus of the College De La Defense Nationale in Canada, the Defense Institute for Security Assistance Management and the Air War College.

General Baker is survived by his wife of 40 years, Carol, and two sons, David, Jr. and Christopher.

Police seek help in matriarch's death

Press-Telegram Long Beach

By Kelly Puente, Staff Writer
Posted: 02/02/2009

LONG BEACH - Authorities on Monday continued to search for a suspect in the slaying of a 76-year-old grandmother.

Leam Sovanasy was stabbed multiple times in her home in the 1400 block of Peterson Avenue, police said. A relative found her body at 11:04 a.m. Saturday.

Police said Monday that they have no new information and are asking for the public's help.

Relatives described Sovanasy as a survivor and Cambodian matriarch who kept the family together. She lost her husband and three children and fled Cambodia with her remaining seven children during the Khmer Rouge regime. Sovanasy and her family lived in a refugee camp in Vietnam before coming to the United States in the 1980s.

Sovanasy also experienced loss in Long Beach.

Her grandson, Sakorn Phan, was the city's first homicide victim of 2004, said Phan's brother, Danny Phan, 25.

Sakorn Phan was gunned down on Jan. 1, 2004, by gang member Reuel Dishon Hulbert, who killed three and injured two during a three-month shooting spree. Hulbert was sentenced Thursday to life in prison without parole.

Danny Phan said his grandmother took the news of her grandson's death hard.

"The family was depressed for a long time," he said.

The family was relieved last week with Hulbert's sentencing, Phan said. But now they are grieving another loss.

Funeral services for Sovanasy are pending, family members said.

Anyone with information on Sovanasy's death is urged to call LBPD Homicide Detectives Russ Moss or Teri Hubert at 562-570-7244.

Preah Vihear? Phra Viharn? A temple by any other name…

By Supalak Ganjanakhundee
The Nation
Published on February 4, 2009

It appears as if Thai-Cambodian Joint Boundary Commission wasted a lot of time yesterday discussing the 11th-century Hindu temple that sits on a cliff at the border. To an outsider, it is difficult to understand why senior diplomats from both sides needed to spend so much time trying to agree upon a name. After all, the huge stone structure is called Preah Vihear in Khmer and Phra Viharn in Thai.

However, things get a bit difficult when the name is linked to ownership.

Calling it Preah Vihear could mean that it belongs to Cambodia, while calling it Phra Viharn could give Thailand a sense of ownership.

Many nationalists believe the temple belongs to Thailand even though a 1962 ruling from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) said it belonged to Cambodia.

Still, Cambodia only proposed that the temple be called Preah Vihear after the Thai side suggested it be called Phra Viharn. The Thai negotiation team within the JBC had been given parliamentary mandate to insist that the temple be given the Thai name, said Vasin Teeravechyan, co-chair of the Thai side.

Thailand's suggestion that both names be used in diplomatic documents was rejected by the Cambodian side, which claims that the name Preah Vihear was already well known, while the Thai version was only used among Thai people. It also said that all English-language newspapers called the temple Preah Vihear instead of Phra Viharn.

In addition, Cambodia says that Thailand has no right insisting that the name be changed now when it had never been bothered about it before. The Foreign Ministry had referred to the Hindu temple at the border of the Si Sa Ket province as Preah Vihear until very recently, and only stopped using that name in its English-language press statements in late August last year.

In fact, its statement issued on August 8, 2008, which is still available on the ministry's website, refers to the controversial temple as Preah Vihear.

The ministry only realised that it should use the Thai name in English-language press statements when a group of ultra-nationalists staged a street protest against Cambodia's inscription of the Hindu temple last year.

In fact, Thailand only paid attention to the name when its nationalist pride was bruised. In the 1960s, the temple was widely referred to as Phra Viharn in official documents. That was when the country was in conflict with Cambodia over the ownership of the temple.

Former foreign minister Thanat Khoman, when he wrote to the then United Nations chief U Thant to express his disagreement with the ICJ ruling, referred to the temple as Phra Viharn.
Meanwhile things may have come to a standstill.

Vasin says that Thailand cannot accept that the temple only be referred to by its Khmer name and work on boundary demarcation cannot start until both sides agree upon a name.

Military Land Grabs Rising: Group

By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
03 February 2009

Military involvement in land grabs increased three-fold in 2008, affecting 60,000 families and tens of thousands of hectares of farmland nationwide, a rights group said Tuesday.

In its annual report, Adhoc said 125 land grabs were undertaken by military officials in 2008, up from 40 cases in 2007.

“The land issue became much worse in 2008 compared to 2007,” Adhoc President Thun Saray said. “Our human rights organization is very concerned.”

The number of killings in land disputes went up from two in 2007 to eight in 2008, the group said.

Arrests and detention of land-grab protesters also increased, from 139 in 350 cases in 2007 to 150 in 306 cases, while more than 100 land protesters evaded arrest warrants.

The group also reported threats against 164 activists helping victims of land grabs.

Adhoc’s chief investigator, Ny Chakrya, said at least 62,500 families lost land to military seizures in the 125 cases in 2008. Each case involved between 200 hectares and 500 hectares of land.

“Most of the cases occurred in the provinces of Battambang, Banteay Meanchey, Ratanakkiri, Mondulkiri and Kratie,” he said.

Newly appointed Royal Cambodian Armed Forces Gen. Pol Sareoun said Tuesday the law would handle the problem.

“I don’t know who is grabbing whose land,” he said. “Sometimes in some places, the people grab military land, and in some other places, the military grabs the people’s land.”

Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith dismissed the report.

“The government has not turned a deaf ear on this problem,” he said. “Up to now, the government has resolved many land disputes. In 100 land disputes, the government resolved more than 30 to 40 cases. But we cannot solve all the land disputes completely.”

Artifact Theft 'Cultural Suicide': Official

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
03 February 2009

Not a single Cambodian temple has been immune to looting or war, a scientist said Monday, calling for the preservation of the temples as necessary for cultural identity.

“How can one identify us as Khmer, if we don’t preserve the culture and temples our ancestors left for us?” said Michel Tranet, a doctoral archeologist, as a guest on “Hello VOA.”

At least 1,000 historic temples in Cambodia face “destruction” from looting and war, he said.
“This is not just a crime, but it’s cultural suicide,” he said. “I’m really suffering, seeing our artifacts on the market, but what can I do?”

Asked by one “Hello VOA” caller where temple artifacts are sold, Tranet emphasized that the digging, looting, destruction, trafficking, sale and purchase of artifacts is a crime.

“I’ve scavenged for artifacts before,” the caller, from Kampong Thom, said. “We dug three to four meters underneath temples. We usually found gold. But one day, I got a statue. When we took the statue home, a business man came…. He took it and he did not pay me. I was cheated. Where did he sell it?”

Tranet, who once served as undersecretary of state for the Ministry of Culture, also emphasized the importance of identifying Cambodian artifacts on the market.

“We do not have a full inventory yet, even though there are efforts from the Ministry of Culture and the government,” he said.

In January, Thailand agreed to return a group of statues that had been seized by Thai police as looters left Cambodia.

Border Delegation Leaves for Thailand

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
03 February 2009

Twenty-six Cambodian delegates left for Bangkok Monday to resume stalled border talks following months of political unrest in Thailand.

Thousands of Thai and Cambodian troops have been deployed to the border since July, when long-simmering border disputes ignited after the announcement of Preah Vihear temple as a Cambodian World Heritage.

“We are leaving today for the issue, and we start negotiating on Feb. 3 and 4,” said Var Kimhong, the chief of Cambodia’s border committee.

Cambodia and Thailand remain at odds over maps to demarcate the borders. Cambodia uses a map from the French colonial period, but Thailand recognizes one from the 1960s.

Border talks were dogged by anti-government protests in Bangkok throughout 2008, which deadlocked the administration. Thai border negotiators must have approval of the Cabinet and National Assembly.

Meanwhile, a series of skirmishes between Thai and Cambodian troops have led to at least one death. Military officials said Monday the situation was calm.

Var Kimhong said that if the two sides can agree on a map, a border agreement can be reached during the two days of talks.

“I think we’re hopeful,” he said. “That’s why we’re going, because [the Thai side] wanted us to go as soon as possible, and we accepted.”

In Prey Veng, Ill Chickens Eaten, Not Burned

Bun Eath, a 27-year-old farmer in Prey Veng province, says she would rather eat chickens that die from disease than see food go to waste. (Photo by Heng Reaksmey)

By Heng Reaksmey, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
03 February 2009

Despite efforts to raise awareness of bird flu in Prey Veng province, some villagers say they continue eat chickens that have died from illness.

On a recent afternoon in Krang Svay commune, Preah S’dech district, Bun Eath, a 27-year-old farmer, spread rice to feed her chickens. Last month, she said, she ate several chickens that had died of disease.

“I buried and burned the chicks, but the big ones I cooked for food, because I didn’t want to waste them,” she said.

Health officials warn that eating chickens after they have fallen ill could spread the H5N1 virus, known as bird flu. The disease can spread from bird to bird and bird to human, but experts worry the virus could one day be spread from human to human, creating a pandemic.

Saing Saron, head of the animal health production office of Prey Veng, said that since the first appearance of the bird flu here, when one man died in 2006, he and his colleagues have tried to raise awareness about the disease. Now, as many as 80 percent of the 1 million people in Prey Veng know about bird flu, he said.

Tep Samoeun, head of the Prey Veng health department’s rapid response unit, said the department of communicable disease control of the Ministry of Health had conducted training for 828 villagers from five of the province’s 12 districts.

“What we teach them is about the effects of bird flu and how to kill the chickens, not to eat chickens that die from illness, and to bury and burn them,” he said.

Not everyone listened.

Nearby Bun Eath’s farm was Chhum On, 35, who also said he eats chickens after they have died from illness, although he cooks the meat thoroughly.

“When my chickens die, I also use them for cooking,” he said, “because I think my stomach is more important than the influenza virus.”

Thai-Cambodian JBC meets on border temple conflict

BANGKOK, Feb 3 (TNA) - Members of the Thai-Cambodian Joint Boundary Commission (JBC) met here Tuesday after a hiatus of over two months, with an aim of resolving the two nations' ongoing border conflict, especially in the environs of the ancient temple of Preah Vihear.

Meeting in Bangkok, Vasin Teeravechyan, chairman of the Thai-Cambodian JBC headed the Thai side, while Var Kim Hong, a senior Cambodian minister, led the Cambodian negotiators.

Tuesday's meeting was the first since the committee last conferred in Cambodia's Siem Reap province in November, when they agreed to speed to a survey and demarcate the area around Preah Vihear temple. Members of the two neighbours failed to reach agreement then.

The survey and border demarcation teams have moved from Thailand's Trat province bordering Cambodia to start work at Preah Vihear.

Mr. Vasin told reporters that the delegates discussed a possible additional team tasked to survey and demarcate the border. The new team will survey the area from Phusing and Kantaralak districts of Thailand's Si Sa Ket province, while the existing team will survey from Phusing district to Surin province.

The Thai chairman, however, said the issue has not yet to be settled pending recognition on the official name of Preah Vihear.

Cambodia insisted that the ancient temple should be officially recognised as the Temple of Preah Vihear, while Thailand preferred it to be recognised as the Temple of Phra Viharn, or Preah Vihear.

The unresolved issue, Mr. Vasin said, prevented the endorsement of documents from the last JBC meeting, which delays the border demarcation work.

Two Cambodian soldiers were killed in an exchange of gunfire with Thai troops along a disputed section of the border last July.

Tension rose after Preah Vihear was awarded heritage status by the United Nations last year.
The International Court of Justice ruled in 1962 that the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple belongs to Cambodia, but the demarcation of the surrounding land remains in dispute.

Thailand insists on using the watershed as the border, while Cambodia maintains that the demarcation of the area must be based on a map drawn in 1908. (TNA)

Resistant strain may render anti-malaria drug useless

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


A FRONT-LINE anti-malaria drug currently used around the world could become useless unless an emerging pocket of drug resistance in Southeast Asia is contained, an expert has warned.
Artemisinin therapy is widely used to treat malaria, which is caused by a blood-borne parasite.

“We rely on it in Ireland where it would be used as a treatment for people who present with malaria, and also in many Asian and sub-Saharan African countries it’s the first-line, nationally-recommended treatment for malaria,” explained Prof Sam McConkey, head of the Department of International Health and Tropical Medicine at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.

Artemisinin compounds are usually used in combination with other drugs to kill off parasites that develop resistance to one of the agents, but extensive single-use of the compound artesunate in Western Cambodia appears to have led to the development of drug-resistant parasites, as outlined in a recent New England Journal of Medicine report.

“This is the first time in the world that convincing, scientifically-documented resistance to artesunate has been described,” said McConkey. “They described it in two patients in a total of 60 in this study so it’s relatively infrequent, but it’s very convincing that it did occur.”

The area has previously been a breeding ground of resistance against other anti-malaria drugs that eventually spread around the world, said McConkey.

“The worst-case scenario is that resistance in Cambodia might gradually grow perhaps to 80 per cent over a period of five or 10 years in that location. Then parasites that are resistant might start to appear in other parts of the world, in Papua New Guinea, and Africa and it might spread around the world. That would mean artesunate would become useless for treating malaria.”

Measures to contain the resistance include using the drug in combination with other anti-malarial agents and using insecticide-dipped bednets to help prevent mosquitoes from spreading the drug-resistant parasite between humans, said McConkey. “That goes a long way to preventing resistance, because if you don’t have the parasite in the first place then drugs aren’t an issue.”

Saving children a labour of love


Linda Olsen
Canwest News Service
Published: Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Comfortably seated in her daughter's northwest Calgary home, Marie Ens smiles and gently sways back and forth as she remembers the moment she wrapped her arms around a five-year-old girl in Cambodia.

The child was about to be sold, likely into the sex trade, by the girl's aunt after the youngster's parents died of AIDS.

Through Rescue, the nongovernmental organization she founded in 2003, Ens brought the child to the orphanage she runs in rural Cambodia.

"She had crawled up on my lap. I just hugged her and thought 'you're rescued, you're here and you're OK. Nothing's going to happen to you.' It's just so gratifying. There's just no words for how wonderful it is."

Through Rescue, Ens has raised funds and awareness about the devastation HIV and AIDS have inflicted on Cambodia, one of the countries hardest hit because of pervasive prostitution. The orphanage, called Place of Rescue, includes 20 homes housing 180 children, most of whom lost their parents to the disease. They have also built an AIDS centre to shelter and treat families living with the illness.

"Desperate poverty . . . they couldn't look after themselves, especially after they got so sick, and so they can come there," Ens says. "We have houses and they live there and we just look after all their needs."

Ens spent most of her adult years working as a missionary alongside her husband, Norman. When Ens's husband died, she wanted to continue, but the missionary board she worked with suggested that, at age 66, it was time to retire.

It was a decision Ens struggled with: "People that I respected and loved were saying, 'You really shouldn't be going back on your own,' and really knowing for sure that that was what I needed to do and finally coming to the conclusion that I had no choice, that's what I was meant to do."

That's when Ens created Rescue and devoted herself to making a better life for those in dire circumstances so far away. It's something she hopes more Calgarians will feel inspired to help with, but she's not looking just for money.

It's been eight years since Ens was invited to retire, and today, at age 74, she has no plans to do that. She believes everyone has time and talents to offer at any stage of life.

"I would like to say to seniors, hang in there and keep on doing something, because it's really not over 'til it's over."

The joy Ens receives from a hug or a smile from the little children and families she helps through Rescue is what keeps her hanging in there herself.

"My life has been extremely fulfilling. It's just been really very wonderful."

Linda Olsen anchors Global Calgary's News Hour at 6 and produces the Woman of Vision series. The stories air the first Monday of every month on the News Hour. If you would like to nominate a Woman of Vision, call 403-235-7714

Sao: We want quality

Monday 2 February 2009

After stopping off in Paris to visit PSG's facilities and their new Camp des Loges training complex, Lieutenant General Sokha Sao, the head of the Cambodian Football Association, travelled on to Zurich to pay a visit to FIFA on Monday.

The national police chief, who was elected president of the national FA in 2006, was accompanied by his vice-president Ravy Khek and discussed a number of development projects with Joseph S. Blatter. After his meeting with the FIFA President, Mr Sao spoke to about these projects, the national team's recent form and his hopes for the future. Mr Sao, can you tell us the reason behind your visit to FIFA?

Lieutenant General Sokha Sao: I wanted to talk to President Blatter about the FIFA pilot project for which Cambodia has been selected. It's a new project that sets out to help national associations become more professional in the way they are run and thereby ensure the game develops in each country. I also wanted to update President Blatter on the progress we have made with regard to the Angkor Resolution, which aims to make the Cambodian FA more professional.

And how do you intend to achieve that?

By cutting staff to begin with because what matters is quality, not quantity. We also need to find technical directors to enhance the development of the game, set up a programme for the national teams, identify our strengths and weaknesses in terms of marketing so that we can find more partners, and, finally, put in place an IT network so that we can run a professional FA.

The national team had some disappointing results last season. How are you planning to turn things around?

Our national team is not very strong right now but we hope to make gradual progress and improve our performances. What we would like to do first of all is to strengthen the domestic league and cup competitions through the clubs. Our development plans have yet to bear fruit so we have started looking for Cambodian players overseas who can help make the national team stronger.

The Goal Project II was approved in February 2008. Can you tell us what it consists of?

The Goal Project II should be incorporated into Goal Project I. We have one pitch right now and we will have another one soon. We are also going to put up a building for the national teams, a sports hall for futsal and a store room for equipment.

What is your main role as president of the FA?

My main task is to ensure the successful development of the youth game in Cambodia

Human rights severely neglected in Cambodia in 2008, report says

The Earth Times

Tue, 03 Feb 2009
Author : DPA

Phnom Penh - Cambodia's human rights credentials were tarnished in 2008 by government restrictions on public demonstrations, intimidation of journalists and forced evictions of residents from valuable land, according to a report released on Tuesday by a leading advocacy group. The Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association's annual report said the country's human rights record had improved during the 16 years since the transition to democracy, but criticized the government, police and military for their roles in a range of disputes throughout the year.

It said the government had allowed more public demonstrations than in any other year, but added that authorities had "worked to restrict freedom of assembly."

"Of 155 peaceful strikes and demonstrations that took place, 108 (70 per cent) were suppressed forcibly by the armed forces," it said.

"The authorities often refused to authorize demonstrations, or delayed in granting authorization for demonstrations shortly before they were due to take place, then unauthorized strikes and demonstrations were suppressed by force."

The report accused the military of becoming increasingly involved in land disputes, which saw tens of thousands of residents forcibly evicted from land earmarked for development throughout the year.

It said the number of evictions involving the military rose from 40 in 2007 to 125 in 2008.
Media freedom was restricted throughout 2008, the report said, with state-run media outlets continuing to be controlled by the ruling Cambodian People's Party.

"All state radio stations and private are strictly controlled by the ruling party. Due to these restrictions the public was often unaware of public events organized by non-ruling political parties and some NGOs," it said.

"Journalists were subject to various forms of threats throughout the year, and in one case a journalist was shot dead."

Human rights workers involved in land disputes were subject to personal threats, the report said, and community representatives were "subject to accusations of incitement."

"Such accusations from government officials were designed to intimidate workers and activists from providing legal advice and assistance to victims in land disputes with private companies and powerful people," the report said.

It also expressed concern over a lack of transparency and accusations of corruption at Cambodia's UN-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal, where five former leaders of the genocidal regime are currently facing trial for crimes against humanity.

"Victims of the Khmer Rouge expressed frustration at the slow progress towards trials, with the expected start of the trial of [former S-21 torture facility chief] 'Duch' being pushed back to February 17, 2009," it said.

The number of local and international human rights and civil society organizations in Cambodia has grown into the hundreds over the past decade, and many have attracted the ire of government officials for becoming involved in disputes between authorities and citizens.

Government spokesmen were unavailable for comment on Tuesday.

Dry season curse


The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sovann Philong
Tuesday, 03 February 2009

A resident of Russey Keo district attempts to douse a fire with an improvised fire hose during a blaze that tore through homes of garment workers in the district's Tuol Sangke commune from 2:30pm Monday. No injuries were reported, but officials say at least 25 homes were destroyed in the fire, which reportedly began following an electrical malfunction.

Related story

ACLEDA plans further expansion in Laos

ACLEDA’s head office in Phnom Penh. The Cambodian bank is building more branches in Laos.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by May Kunmakara
Tuesday, 03 February 2009

Two branches and five post offices set to open later this year

CAMBODIAN-owned ACLEDA Bank will expand its presence in Laos with a further two branches and five post offices opening later this year, Managing Director and CEO Phon Narin said.

ACLEDA will open its second bank branch in Vientiane and another in Khammouan province by the end of 2009, bringing its total number of branches in Laos to five.

Laos National Bank Governor Phouphet Khamphou Vong agreed to the plan during a visit at the end of last week to Cambodia as part of a Memorandum of Understanding with the National Bank of Cambodia.

ACLEDA will also open five post offices - one in Vientiane and two each in Savannakhet and Champasak. In July 2008, the Cambodian-owned entity opened its Laotian head office in the capital along with another two bank branches in Savannakhet and Champasak.

"Bank operations in Laos and Cambodia are at the same level, there are just different laws and customs," said Phon Narin.

Like Cambodians, most Laotians keep their money at home, said Phon Narin, noting that people in Laos had been quick to open deposit accounts and take out loans. In many cases, young people have already adapted to using ATM machines and Western Union Money Transfer, he said.

"Customers [in Laos] are increasing by between 10 and 20 per day," he said, adding that the bank had seen very low levels of loan nonrepayment.

After its first six months of operations, ACLEDA has 2,000 account holders in Laos with 360 borrowers, having loaned more than US$1.6 million. Speaking during his visit to Cambodia on Friday, Laos National Bank governor, Phouphet Khamphou Vong, said ACLEDA's would help alleviate poverty in his country and its expanding presence in Laos could also help efforts "among micro, small and medium enterprises to enlarge their businesses".

"I hope that ACLEDA's investment will be part of efforts to boost the financial sector and Laos's overall economic growth," he added.

ACLEDA operates 226 branches in Cambodia, recording total assets of $690 million and $463 million in issued loans for 2008, said ACLEDA bank CEO In Channy.