Friday, 13 February 2009

Roundtable on business in cambodia

By The Nation
Published on February 13, 2009

Business leaders from both within Cambodia and overseas are due to meet in Siem Reap today to discuss the business and investment prospects of the country and the region.

In cooperation with the government of Cambodia, The Economist Conferences' "Business Roundtable" will feature a keynote address by Prime Minister Hun Sen.

The next 10 years will be more challenging for Cambodia than the past decade, and economic growth is unlikely to be as strong. Nonetheless, with the right policies, the country presents exciting opportunities for foreign investors, say the organisers, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).

As a prelude to the roundtable, Charles Goddard, editorial director of the EIU and co-chair, said: "Cambodia has enjoyed a decade of blistering growth, more than doubling its per capita gross domestic product between 1998 and 2007.

"Much of this performance came about thanks to the introduction of greater political stability, a deepening integration into the global trade and investment community, and improved macroeconomic management. However, the outlook for 2009 and beyond looks far less promising. With the world in the midst of a deepening recession, Cambodia's economy will not escape unscathed."

The EIU is now forecasting that GDP growth will slow from 5 per cent in 2008 to around 1 per cent this year. Demand for Cambodia's exports, especially garments, will be hit by the downturn.
Tourism, a major source of growth in recent years, will suffer too, as consumers elsewhere in the world cut back on travel and holidays. And the construction and real estate sectors will be hurt by tightening credit conditions and the pull-back of foreign investors.

Indeed, the EIU is forecasting that foreign direct investment into Cambodia in 2009 will fall sharply, after rising steadily over the past four years.

Justin Wood, director, Corporate Network, and Southeast Asia expert at the EIU, as well as co-chair of the roundtable, said: "Trying to navigate this less favourable environment will throw up serious challenges for the government in the short term, not least how it should adjust fiscal policy to keep the economy growing.

"The medium- and long-term challenges are just as great. Having relied heavily on four sectors of the economy - agriculture, garments, construction and tourism - to drive recent growth, the government needs to help the economy to diversify.

"Equally, the financial system needs to be strengthened, investment into areas like infrastructure needs to be raised, the monetary and macroeconomic framework needs to be upgraded, and the management of the country's resources needs to be improved - especially its human capital through education."

Wood concluded on a more positive note however, commenting that "The next 10 years will be more challenging for Cambodia than the past 10, and economic growth is unlikely to be as strong. Nonetheless, with the right policies, the country does present exciting opportunities for foreign investors."

The roundtable, taking place at the Angkor Palace Resort and Spa, is sponsored by Acleda Bank and Sciaroni & Associates (lead sponsors), and Jardine Matheson and TFC Capital (supporting sponsors). River Orchid is the supporting PR agency.

Roses are red...

Photo by: Heng Chivoan

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chhay Channyda and Mom Kunthier
Friday, 13 February 2009

A shop assistant at the Floral Express Shop on Sihanouk Boulevard sorts hundreds of red roses into small bouquets ahead of the much anticipated Valentine's Day rush. Established florists must compete with impromptu stalls selling roses that spring up across the capital in the days before the romantic holiday of the year - a largely American invention that has been eagerly embraced by young Cambodians.
Full Story

Christian league climax

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by TOM HUNTER
Friday, 13 February 2009

The Sports Commission under the Youth Commission will hold its annual finals and closing ceremony of the Cambodian Church Football Leagues (Premiership and Division 1) this Saturday at Preak Pra field, Phnom Penh. There are 8 teams in the Premier League and 10 teams in the Division 1 league involving over 360 Cambodian young adults from youth groups all over Phnom Penh. Teams have been competing since November 2008. The CCFL provides an opportunity for youths to develop leadership skills, personal character and a healthy lifestyle in a clean environment with an emphasis on unity and fair play. "It is a grass roots league that aims to break down social barriers" Todd Smith, Advisor to the Youth Commission, told the Post Thursday. Games will run all day starting at 7:30am with the league finals at 2:00pm and 3:30pm.

In Brief: CAMPU Bank wins 6th banking award

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by George McLeod
Friday, 13 February 2009

The UK-based financial monitor The Banker on Thursday named the Cambodian Public Bank (Campu) as the recipient of the Bank of the Year award for the sixth straight year. Net profits were up 58 percent in 2008, and loans and deposits grew 77 percent and 29 percent, respectively, over the previous year's numbers, while new accounts for loans were up 31 percent, said a statement from the bank released on Thursday. It was assigned a D+ Bank Financial Strength Rating by Moody's Investors Service, the highest for a bank in Cambodia, the statement added. Campu is owned by Malaysia-based Public Bank and has paid-up capital of US$90 million.

Phnom Penh Asides: The refined face of lust

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Kevin Britten
Friday, 13 February 2009

This weekend all over the world, including Phnom Penh, people are buying chocolates, roses, cuddly toys, balloons and candle-lit dinners, and offering them as gifts in the name of love, romance or something they're not quite sure of.

What started off as the Christianisation of the wild and crazy Roman festival of Lupercalia, held to avert evil spirits, purify and encourage health and fertility, has ended up as a rather drippy and commercialised celebration of ... well, what exactly?
Romantic love? Most would agree that romance as we know it stems from a medieval literary construct that facilitated the expression of love for a lady through poetry.

Love is, at one level, the civilised face of lust, containing it by convention and regulation and serving the social fabric - for no society can keep control of its genetic material if male-female relations aren't policed in some way.

Of course, structured relationships are not only a feature of human society, as all mammals have ways of controlling the ebb and flow of genetic material.

Polar bears and monkeys have social relationships and sexual relationships, but they don't fall in love in the way we do because they can't read.

We should never forget that reading is one of the things that separates us from other lifeforms on this planet. Reading and cooking our food are about the only two things that we do that ants have never been observed doing.

Romantic love as we know it is an invention of the late Middle Ages and remains one of our most enduring literary conventions, although today the popularity of genres has switched from novels and poetry to movies and music.


The word 'love' should be drummed out of children at a young age by stern primary school teachers.


Many people have deep, loving relationships with their pets, but this relationship is flawed when it comes to romantic expression of love because their dogs and cats can't read or write poetry, can't sing (even though some petlovers think they can) and really understand what's going on in a film.

Besides our tendency to have stunted and lopsided relationships with our domestic animals, another of the English-speaking world's problems is that we only have the one word - love - to express such a huge variety of feelings.

What's in a word

We love our children, the colour blue, rap music, our mothers, baked beans on toast, the beach ... we use the word for everything and leave it meaning nothing.

The word "love" should be drummed out of children at a young age by stern primary school teachers. Every time our children use it, they should have their knuckles rapped with a ruler and be told to choose a word that expresses more clearly what they mean.

In Khmer, srolang is as easy to use as the English word "love" but doesn't come with all the attached meanings. You can't srolang a puppy or a sunset. You can really only srolang a person. (It can only be used ironically or humorously for things like dogs, cars and cigars.)

This linguistic division is quite common. It's English-speakers who are linguistically disabled, with only one word to cover a huge range of ideas and feelings.

The twisted idea of romance

And what of romance, you ask? Romance is also tied to culture and language at a deep level.
Haven't you ever wondered how a Muslim man courts his second, third and fourth wife, an activity that is perfectly legitimate and socially acceptable, but that strikes a strong discord on Valentine's Day.

How does our concept of romance meet the arranged marriage situation where the wooing comes after the winning? The couple is only allowed to start dating after the wedding.

Clearly, this leaves us on Valentine's Day celebrating our most culturally confused and grossly commercialised ex-religious festival, a festival that has now been picked up worldwide, taken and twisted to suit local needs and tastes, and one that is all about an idea - love - that we English-speakers have a hard time even defining.

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In Brief: UN to meet govt over KRT in Feb

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Georgia Wilkins
Friday, 13 February 2009

The government has confirmed that a UN legal official will travel to the Kingdom for a meeting on February 23 to discuss the Khmer Rouge tribunal. "[Deputy Prime Minister] Sok An will meet with a UN legal official on February 23," secretary of state and spokesman for the Council of Ministers told the Post Thursday. However, no schedule of meetings or points of discussion have been officially confirmed by either the UN or the government.

In Brief: Thai Soldiers stay one night at Ta Sim

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Thet Sambath
Friday, 13 February 2009

More than 50 Thai soldiers withdrew from Ta Sim, located near the disputed Preah Vihear temple, on Thursday after the Cambodian military complained about their presence. "They just came Wednesday and stayed one night at Ta Sim," Yim Phim, commander of Brigade 8, told the Post Thursday. "They went back today after our military commanders at the front line asked them to leave because it is a disputed area."

In Brief: Heng Pov trial delayed again

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chrann Chamroun
Friday, 13 February 2009

The trial of former Phnom Penh police chief Heng Pov, which was expected to be held Thursday, was postponed due to a scheduling conflict, with the Phnom Penh Municipal Court busy preparing for the reappointments of judges and prosecutors. It was the second time in two weeks a hearing on charges of illegal detention and interrogation against the former top cop has been delayed. Heng Pov, who while in power was much feared in his role, is currently serving a total of 58 years in prison on charges including murder and kidnapping.

Valentine's Day, by the numbers

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by TOM HUNTER
Friday, 13 February 2009

New research based on extensive interviews with young Cambodian reveals that, for many, what has become known as ‘loving day’ has become simply a catalyst for sex

New research on young Cambodian attitudes towards Valentine's Day and sexual relationships has found that more than half the interviewees questioned were happy to engage in sexual intercourse. In fact, the research shows that many middleclass Cambodians are using Valentine's Day not to celebrate their love but as a catalyst for sex.

The new study, titled "Young People Talking About Valentine's Day in Phnom Penh, 2008", was part of a body of work conducted by independent researcher Tong Soprach.

Tong Soprach, who has a master's degree in public health from the University of Cambodia, conducted in-depth interviews with young Cambodians between the ages of 15 and 24 in an attempt to find out whether they get involved in sexual relationships on Valentine's Day.

The research took the form of a qualitative study with 16 extended interviews and a quantitative study of 458 people conducted over the two weeks prior to Valentine's Day in 2008.
The study questioned youths on two occasions either side of Valentine's Day and found that 61.2 percent of respondents considered Valentine's Day special, but that most knew little about the origins of the day itself. Most youths recognised the day as foreign, with several respondents renaming the occasion "loving day".


Young cambodians ... are experiencing a greater level of urban wealth and sexual freedom.


Almost all Khmer youths were planning to take their sweethearts out on Valentine's Day (99.5 percent), the study found, and 76.6 percent of respondents in a relationship planned to give their partners gifts - 50 percent of which would be flowers.

Both Cambodian males and females saw Valentine's Day as an opportunity to hang out in groups and to socialise in the capital's many parks and restaurants.

Not so ‘loving'

Disturbingly, however, 66 percent of males planned to have sex with their partners regardless of consent, with 39.5 percent of those males losing their virginity.

Also, 26.3 percent of males stated that they would have sex with a sex worker depending on whether they had sex with their partner on Valentine's Day.

Tong Soprach attributes the growing popularity of Valentine's Day in Cambodia to the changing sociopolitical dynamic within the country.

"Young Cambodians are being introduced to notions of individuality and materialism and are experiencing a greater level of urban wealth and sexual freedom," Tong Soprach said.

People are now being exposed to sex on a level never seen before. Globalisation and the Americanisation of Cambodian culture is changing youth attitudes towards sex, Tong Soprach added.

According to the researcher, one in nine educated Cambodians received jobs in their chosen profession, and because young people are putting more pressure on themselves to succeed, sex is often used as an outlet to relieve stress.

Tong Soprach said that some of the worrying aspects of the study are that most individuals receive no sexual advice from their parents, adding that parents need to educate their children about the implications of unsafe sex.

Tong Soprach has spent 10 years in the field of social development and public health and has recently directed his focus towards sexual and reproductive health among Cambodian youth.

He will be speaking at the Partners in Health and Development seminar Saturday from 2 to 2.30pm near the Royal University of Phnom Penh.

Cupid highlights revealing depths of Cambodia's generation gap

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Floral Express on Sihanouk Boulevard.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chhay Channyda and Mom Kunthier
Friday, 13 February 2009

While some view Valentine's Day celebrations as un-Cambodian, the younger generation embraces the occasion through buying gifts and spending time with their loved ones.

Where's the love this Valentine's Day? Apparently, not at Phnom Penh's Bak Touk High School, where director Sok Sovanna tells the Post he's imposed a "love-free" zone during what he calls a very un-Cambodian holiday.

"I don't support Cambodian youth celebrating Valentine's Day because it is not a part of Khmer culture, such as Khmer New Year or P'chum Ben," Sok Sovanna said.

"This is part of Western culture that makes our young people overwhelmed with joy and leads them to forget about their studies."

However, the adamant director acknowledged that his authority on this point does not extend beyond school grounds.

"I don't care if [students] celebrate outside school by giving gifts to loved ones. But if I see students doing such things in my school, I will re-educate them not to show their romantic love here," he said.

Sok Sovanna's "Cupid crackdown" could have an unintended economic impact.

Flower-sellers have done a brisk trade in recent years by setting up stalls near high schools and other areas where students gather. They may find business slow anywhere near Bak Touk High School.


If we celebrate in a good way, it will not have a negative impact on our tradition.


"At my school, there will be no flower-selling inside or outside. This is our rule to enforce discipline among our students," he said.

Jeopardising tradition

Resistance to the holiday is not simply a matter of enforcing parochial discipline but preserving national culture, Miech Ponn, an adviser to the Mores and Customs Commission within the Buddhist Institute, told the Post.

Miech Ponn challenged the capital's love-crazed youth to consider whether their culture will be lost as more young people become enamoured with Western traditions.

"I do not know how they celebrate Valentine's Day in Western countries, but the way we bring in their culture into Cambodia is too overwhelming," Miech Ponn said.

"We seem to bring in outside culture to destroy our own. I think many Cambodians just don't understand their own traditions very well."

If they did, he added, they would find little need to look towards the West.

"Valentine's Day means a loving day. We already have this in Cambodia. It's P'chum Ben and Khmer New Year, during which children and young people show their respect and love, and they make amends to anyone they have wronged. This is our traditional way of showing we love each other," Miech Ponn said.

"I understand globalisation, but if we bring such culture in, why do other countries not take some of our culture back with them? In the end, we expand their culture by forgetting our own," he added.

Celebration of love

But on a day given over to the celebration of friendship and love, questions of tradition or even geo-cultural trends are the last things on young people's minds.

Sok Liya, 18, a student at Indradevi High School, has no boyfriend but plans to celebrate the day by going out to eat with her friends.

"Valentine's Day is good for people who have love and can spend time with their lovers. But even though I don't have a boyfriend, I will spend time with my classmates and have fun," she said.

However, she cautioned young women planning a romantic day with the men in their lives to think of their security.
"[Some men] think that they can do whatever they want," she said.

Sok Chamroeun, 23, a student at Sisowath High School, is preparing for his first Valentine's Day with his girlfriend. Part of those plans will include ditching his studies for the day and purchasing flowers and gifts for his true love.

"I think Valentine's Day is a special occasion for me because I will be able to tell my girlfriend about my honest heart and my feelings for her," Sok Chamroeun said.

He added a word of advice to those who might look down on the holiday or dismiss it as another example of young Cambodian people losing touch with their heritage.

"I know some people will use this holiday to behave badly and in a way that contradicts their culture. But for me, if we celebrate in a good way, it will not have a negative impact on our tradition," Sok Chamroeun said.

"I don't think Valentine's Day is a bad day, as some people say. On this day, all people - young and old - can celebrate together. We don't focus simply on youths."

Final CamEx deal agreed

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Nathan Green
Friday, 13 February 2009

THE Korea Exchange (KRX) and the Cambodian government will sign an official joint venture agreement on Cambodia's proposed stock exchange next week, KRX officials said Thursday, adding that three state-owned enterprises were likely to be the first companies to list on the bourse after its expected launch in December.

The agreement, to be signed Thursday, will replace an existing memorandum of understanding between the KRX and the Ministry of Finance, KRX project manager Inpyo Lee told the Post.

Formalising the arrangement would make it legally binding on both parties and move the exchange a step closer to reality, Lee said.

"It's [currently] just a gentlemen's agreement," he added.

Lee said the capital contribution of each side was confidential at this stage, but he said the Cambodian side would own 55 percent of the exchange and the KRX would control the remaining 45 percent.

He said the exchange was on track for a December launch, provided the companies slated to be listed complete preparations on time.

"It's critical [they are ready]," he said, adding that listing rules would be issued in March.

Cambodia's biggest banking expo set to start next week

The Phnom Penh Post

Friday, 13 February 2009

Event to bring together banking sector and government officials, providing opportunities to discuss recovery strategy, say participants

FINANCE bigwigs from around the region are gearing up for Cambodia's largest-ever banking expo, to be held February 19-20 at the NagaWorld Hotel.

Banking Cambodia 2009 will bring together private sector and government officials from around the region, including Chea Chanto, governor of the National Bank of Cambodia, and Phung Khac Ke, vice governor of the National Bank of Vietnam. A wide range of topics are set to be discussed, including the financial crisis, new technology and microfinance.

The event is organised by International Data Group (IDG) in cooperation with the National Information Communications Technology Development Authority (NIDA), said Derrick Tan, senior adviser to IDG Indochina.

"The two-day conference and expo will focus on information communications technology solutions," he said. "It is also an opportunity for stakeholders in the banking and finance industry to discuss the challenges facing the entire industry and economy ... and then seek strategies and practical solutions to help sustain the growth of the Cambodian economy."


Opportunity ... to discuss the challenges facing the entire industry.


Phu Leewood, secretary general of NIDA, said the event coincides with the worsening credit crisis facing global banks. "The conference and expo will be a chance for bankers and experts in banking and finance institutions to meet and discuss ... crises and solutions in this industry," said Phu Leewood. "It is also an event to push the development of ICT in banking and finance institutions."

In Channy, CEO of ACLEDA Bank, welcomed the exhibition as a great opportunity for the sector.
According to a press statement, the conference anticipates about 500 bank directors, CEOs, presidents, senior managers and experts to attend, with a further 2,000 trade visitors also expected.

Chhoun Pheakdey, coordinator of the event, said at least 30 finance companies including banks, microfinance institutions and IT firms are set to attend, and 30 display booths have been sold for $500 each.

500,000 hit by slump: ILO

Photo by: Heng CHIVOAN
Workers make garments in a factory outside of Phnom Penh. The ILO said the garment industry will likely see high unemployment as overseas demand for clothing drops as a result of the global downturn.

FEELING the slump

The ILO report forecasts a difficult 2009:
- GDP growth 5.1pc
down from 6pc in 2008
- FDI to decelerate 0.9pc
- 2.5pc fall in exports
$75m loss in export revenue
- Job losses
25,600 construction jobs and 19,000 jobs in garment sector to be lost
- More than 1.5 million affected
- Tourism growth to drop 5.5pc growth, down from 15.7pc in 2008
Source: ILO

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Hor Hab
Friday, 13 February 2009

International Labour Organisation paints pessimistic picture of economic downturn’s effect on Cambodian industry in new report released this week

ALMOST 500,000 Cambodians have been affected by the global economic downturn, with another one million expected to feel the effects in 2009, according to a new report by the International Labour Organisation.

A report made public on Thursday is the third in a string of bleak economic assessments released this month, along with that of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

The ILO offers new figures on the employment implications of the crisis, while reinforcing sectoral assessments by other multilateral agencies.

Among the ILO's starkest predictions are 19,000 job losses in the garment sector and 25,600 in construction. On the bright side, the report expects 12,698 jobs to be absorbed in tourism and 203,200 in agriculture.

Cambodia's narrow export base has made the country especially vulnerable, says the ILO. In 2008, garments made up 94 percent of the Kingdom's exports, with 67 percent going to the hard-hit US market and 22 percent to the European Union.

The ILO predicts 5.1 percent growth in gross domestic product in 2009 - 0.3 percent above the International Monetary Fund estimate, which is expected to be cut later this month. Foreign direct investment will decelerate 0.9 percent in 2009, mainly due to the slowdown in China and South Korea.

"The main sources of FDI are from countries heavily impacted by the financial crisis," says the report.
The ILO urged strong government action to cushion the effects of the crisis including establishing a central job information system, an unemployment program and a multi-sector trade union.

Sukti Dasgupta, specialist on employment and labour market policies at the ILO said that female garment workers and migrant workers will be especially hard hit by the slowdown.

"Cambodian GDP depends heavily on exports and FDI, and now this has been affected, so there will be more unemployment and poverty," she said.

"Textiles and clothing, construction, tourism, and real estate are the most affected sectors by the global finance crisis because of the high concentration of FDI and dependency of foreign markets for garment export," said Kang Chandararot, director of Cambodia Institute for Development Study.


Workers in the garment sector are the most heavily impacted.


Government response

Cambodia's Labour Ministry says it is doing all it can to cushion the effect of the crisis. Sath Samoth, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Labour, said that the government is working closely with NGOs and other institutions to find work for the unemployed.

"Workers in the garment sector are the most heavily impacted, and we are trying to find money to train them to do other work in other sectors because we want them to return home with at least one more skill besides garments," he said.

"The government will try its best to cope with this problem, but we have limited resources and a small budget.
"We will seek help from the World Bank and UNDP, but there is not much we can do if thousands of workers lose their jobs at once," he said.

Chea Mony, president of Free Trade Union, said that about 40,000 workers will lose their jobs by April due to factory closures.

"These people will have no choice but to return home to stay and work with families while waiting until opportunities arise," he said.

Watchdog slams KR tribunal

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Georgia Wilkins
Friday, 13 February 2009

DAYS before the opening of the Khmer Rouge tribunal's first trial, international watchdog Open Society Justice Initiative has released a report urging the Cambodian government and international actors to "immediately address grave flaws" at the UN-backed court.

"The court is plagued by pressing institutional challenges that threaten to prevent it from fulfilling its mandate. How the court, the Cambodian government, the United Nations and international donors respond will be crucial to the ECCC's immediate future," states the report, obtained by the Post Wednesday.

The report focuses on a recent dispute between co-prosecutors over the number of suspects to be tried, saying the tribunal must rely "on law and facts, not politics, in deciding how many suspects will be investigated".

It also targeted unresolved allegations of corruption at the court and the court's dire financial situation.

"The court must take aggressive action to dispel the suspicion that its staff have paid kickbacks to political overseers," it said.

"Without an infusion of new financial support, the court risks running out of funds before it can complete a single trial," the report stated.

The tribunal begins its first trial, that of Tuol Sleng prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, on Tuesday after 10 years of negotiations and pretrial investigations.

Stock market still on course

A stock index at the Korea Exchange (KRX) in Seoul. KRX says it will sign an agreement next week to establish an exchange in Cambodia.

Prices shown are aggregates of Phnom Penh market rates collated on Thursday, Feb 12.Prices are indexed using the January 1, 2009, base rate.
Rice 2,460 riels/kg -1.6 percent
Paddy 1,120 riels/kg +12 percent
Beef 23,600 riels/kg -1.67 percent
Pork 16,600 riels/kg +3.75 percent
Chicken 18,600 riels/kg +3.33 percent
Tomatoes 1,620 riels/kg -53.71 percent
Bananas 1,960 riels/hand +22.5 percent
Gasoline 3,150 riels/ltr +6.78 percent
Diesel 2,900 riels/ltr +1.75 percent
Water 550/cubic metre unchanged
Steel 2,645 riels/kg +11.32 percent
Gas 61,950/cubic metre +30.21 percent Source: Ministry of Commerce

KRX’s announcement it will sign a joint venture agreement next week with the government on a proposed bourse follows a period of uncertainty over the exchange after the Finance Ministry said last month plans were delayed due to the global crisis.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chun Sophal and Nathan Green
Friday, 13 February 2009

KRX says it will sign official agreement with Cambodia next week to set up stock exchange by year’s end, despite warnings over economic climate

The Korea Exchange (KRX) and the Cambodian government will sign an official joint venture agreement on Cambodia's proposed stock exchange Thursday next week, KRX project director Inpyo Lee told the Post, but there remained caution given the current economic climate.

The agreement, to be signed by KRX chairman and CEO Lee Jung-hwan and Finance Minister Keat Chhon, sets out requirements for both parties and contains penalty clauses, although Inpyo Lee declined to say what they were. He also refused to list the requirements, but said that the capital contribution was a key one.

He added that the exchange was on track for a December launch, provided the three state companies slated to be listed prior to opening complete preparations on time.

Some observers have warned that the timing of the initiative could create problems as Cambodia faces reduced economic growth, increased unemployment and the threat of increased nonperforming loans.


We won't abandon our plans to establish an exchange due to the crisis.

"I think that currently, the environment is not good enough to proceed with the stock market in Cambodia," said economist Kang Chandararot, president of the Cambodia Institute for Development Study.

He said that to rush prematurely into establishing an exchange risked losing investor confidence "because the risks will be higher for participants".

Nguon Meng Tech, director general of the Cambodia Chamber of Commerce, urged the government to postpone launching the exchange until 2012, saying that not enough Cambodian investors understood how a bourse works.

"Most Cambodian business old hands have little knowledge about a stock exchange. So, how can they throw money at it?" he said.

Keat Chhon acknowledged Thursday that while the government "cannot set an official date for the establishment of the stock market. We will put our efforts into achieving a [December] target".

"The global financial crisis, of course, impacts the stock market," he said. "But we won't abandon our plans to establish an exchange due to the crisis."

Lee said he expected institutional investors and foreigners to be the main source of liquidity in the early stages of the exchange. Investment and retail banks had expressed interest as institutional investors ,he said, although there had been no formal agreements signed.

He confirmed the exchange would initially use the US dollar but could also introduce riels at a later date depending on demand.

Foreigners would be able to invest in the exchange and foreign companies would be able to list, he said.
Lee also said the launch would not be affected by the global downturn, as he anticipated it would be "three or four years" until the exchange was operating at full capacity, by which stage the financial crisis would likely be over.

He anticipated that about 30 companies would be listed by the time the exchange was operating "normally".

KRX, the world's No 3 derivatives exchange, became the sole bourse operator in South Korea in 2005 after it absorbed the Korea Futures Exchange and the junior Kosdaq market.


Buddhist, Hindu clergy convene in Cambodia

Participants at the three-day conference "Giving Global Voice to Eastern Wisdom", which began on Thursday in Phnom Penh.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sarah Whyte and Khouth Sophak Chakrya
Friday, 13 February 2009

At international interfaith meeting, religious leaders pledge global cooperation and lash out at ills they say are afflicting their faiths.

GREATER spiritual freedom for women and a renewed dedication to world peace were the messages preached Thursday at a mixed-faith Buddhism and Hindu forum at Svay Pope pagoda in Phnom Penh.

In a pledge at the three-day conference, titled "Giving Global Voice to Eastern Wisdom", nearly 100 Hindu and Buddhist leaders from India, Sri Lanka, Japan and Cambodia vowed to cooperate to promote international peace in a world of "greed and self-ignorance" and where Eastern ideals were seen to be "marginalised" by the West.

The first day's speakers also addressed more specific problems they said were plaguing their religions, including "aggressive" conversion practices by evangelical Christian groups and the marginalisation of women in the way the faiths are practiced.

"In our religion, women are not given a voice," Jetunama Tenzin Palmo, an ordained Buddhist nun of British origin who has spent the last 25 years in India, told the audience. "Women comprise half of the one billion Buddhists and Hindus in the world, but we have a very inferior place compared to men."

"We have a long way to go before women are respected in the spiritual world," she told the Post.

Dena Merrian, founder of the Global Peace Initiative of Women, said that although women are crucial according to the scriptire of Eastern religions, in reality they are given a secondary role in the way the faiths are practised.

Omalpe Sobhita Thero, a Buddhist monk from Sri Lanka, lashed out at Christian missionaries who, he said, "come in and take our land and ruin our traditions and religions".


We have a long way to go before women are respected in the spiritual world.


"Together, Buddhism and Hinduism must collaborate and stand against Western Christianity," he added,

While Cambodia is 95 percent Buddhist, organisers said Cambodia was the chosen location for its historical mix of Buddhism and Hinduism, which was the dominant religion in the Khmer empire until the 13th century.

"Buddhism is the national religion of Cambodia, but Hinduism is the traditional culture of Cambodian," said Bour Kry, the Supreme Patriarch of the Dharma Yuttikanikaya Order, one of the two biggest sects in Cambodia.

Phon Phalla, a secretary of state for the Ministry of Cults and Religions, said the conference was important to stop religious discrimination in the countries represented.

"I hope this event will reinforce the friendship between the Hindu and Buddhist faiths and therefore reduce religious conflict in the world," he said.

With friends like these...


The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Tracey Shelton
Friday, 13 February 2009

A young construction worker helps prepare the second floor of the new South Korean friendship building under construction at the East end of Hun Sen Park. Workers say the building is due for completion in eight months.


One of the few surviving photos of Duch during the regime, in 1977.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Georgia Wilkins
Friday, 13 February 2009

The Post's Georgia Wilkins speaks to photojournalist Nic Dunlop about the man he found and exposed to the world as Kaing Guek Eav, Cambodia's most notorious prison chief.

What were your impressions of Duch when you met him for the first time?
He cut a small and somewhat eccentric figure. When he talked about the violence of the regime, it was never clear to me if he was aware of the consequences of what he was saying. He seemed a little distracted and distant. I think he felt safe talking with foreigners.

Duch described himself to you during your first meeting as a "technician" of the communist party. What do you think he meant by this?
I think he wanted to give the impression that he simply followed orders and didn't have the authority to give them, lessening his responsibility.

Duch has expressed guilt and remorse for what he did during the regime. Why do you think he waited to be found rather than confessing his crimes on his own behalf?
He was worried for his life. He expressed concern when he began to talk. He believed some Khmer Rouge leaders would be only too happy to have him killed. The war in Cambodia had only just ended, so there was still tension with the shifting of allegiances. I don't think he ever thought he'd end up in prison, but he believed that he might be killed.


"When he talked about the violence of the regime, it was never clear to me if he was aware of the consequences.


You heard and saw Duch confess in person for the first time. What will it mean to you to hear him confess again before the court and a national and international audience?
When I stumbled on Duch, it was a chance encounter. Yes, I carried a photograph of him with me, but there was a part of me that thought that I'd never actually find him. And I never set out to bring people to account. Rather, I wanted to reach an understanding about what had happened under the Khmer Rouge. The fact that Duch was willing to talk the way he did was extraordinary. But I don't feel in any way central to this. I was just a small, accidental part of something much, much bigger. I'm sure that it would have been a question of time before someone else stumbled upon him.

It will only mean something to me if it means something to Cambodians. This is their story and their history. But I worry that ordinary Cambodians don't feel that they have ownership over the process of bringing people like Duch to account. In my experience, they have little understanding of what it means and how it relates to them. It would be a real shame if we have Duch telling the court important things that people need to know and few people are actually aware of it.

When you met Duch, he admitted guilt, but he also suggested that the killings were "the rule of [the] party". What do you think Duch will reveal at the trial about the regime and his place in it?
I would expect him to be able to explain how the orders for the killings were made and how the security apparatus worked and who was ultimately responsible.

Did you get the sense, when you met him before he was arrested, that Duch genuinely felt remorse for what he had done during the regime?
Very hard to say. It was difficult to get a sense of anything, to be honest. It just seemed so ordinary and, of course, it wasn't. I think the fact that he accepted his own role as well as pointed the finger elsewhere was significant. All the others blame others and shirk all responsibility. Duch, by contrast, said he was responsible, but so were others. So, I think that there has to be some remorse, but its hard to say. Having said that, it's important to remember the backdrop to this expression of remorse is thousands of innocent lives.

As the person who searched for and found Duch, do you have personal hopes or expectations about what the trial will reveal?
I hope that the process isn't lost on Cambodians, and I think there is a real danger of that. There is overwhelming support for this court among the population. They want it to happen and to succeed. But because donors have failed to put enough emphasis on making this widely accessible, there is a danger of it being irrelevant. I
really hope it isn't.

Do you believe that there are other people of Duch's rank who are free and should be put on trial?

In an article you wrote shortly after Duch's arrest, you ask the question, "Would a full account from Duch's lips make any difference?" Do you still ponder this question?
Of course. It would be a shame if Duch said important things and really answered questions that Cambodians would like answered and only a handful of people took any notice.

There are universal questions here. I think we can often learn much more from perpetrators than victims - that is, if we're serious about preventing these things from happening again

Translating a trial into a narrative

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
The former Tuol Sleng (S-21) torture centre in Phnom Penh, headed by Duch from August 1975 until the regime's fall in January 1979.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Georgia Wilkins and Neth Pheaktra
Friday, 13 February 2009

The KRT's first trial opens next week, but what will having Duch in the dock mean?

THREE decades after he presided over a bloody reign of terror at the Khmer Rouge's notorious Tuol Sleng prison, Kaing Guek Eav, the math teacher-turned-prison chief, will take his place in the dock and answer questions about his alleged role in the systematic torture and extermination of up to 16,000 men, women and children.

As the first senior Khmer Rouge figure to be brought to justice for his role in the atrocities committed during the ultra-communist group's 1975-79 rule, the trial of Kaing Guek Eav, better known by his revolutionary name of Duch, will no doubt prompt an unprecedented flurry of international media attention. The issue now, observers say, is how the court will ensure the trial has meaning that resonates with those it has been set up to serve.

"I worry that ordinary Cambodians don't feel that they have ownership over the process of bringing people like Duch to account," said Nic Dunlop, the photojournalist who discovered Duch in 1999 working for NGOs in the border regions.

"It would be a real shame if we have Duch telling the court important things that people need to know and few people are actually aware of it," Dunlop told the Post via email.

According to Philip Short, historian and author of Pol Pot: History of a Nightmare, comprehensive Khmer-language coverage of the trial, coupled with grassroots-level discussion of the proceedings is essential.

"But the government has little interest in that kind of nationwide self-questioning and it will in any case be difficult to generate in a society like Cambodia's," he told the Post via email.
THE start of the ECCC's first trial is an important, if overdue, step towards the goal of accountability.

"If, as is more likely, the hearings remain a distant event, confined to the courtroom in Phnom Penh, their significance will be very limited," he adds.

A population-based survey conducted by the University of California, Berkeley, earlier this month indicated that indeed this may be the case.

According to the report, 85 percent of Cambodians interviewed had "little or no knowledge" of the court as of last September, a statistic that was disputed by the court's public affairs officers, who claimed it was "not consistent with [their] own feedback in the field". In addition to a lack of knowledge, the survey pointed to public doubts about the court's objectivity: One-third of respondents familiar with the tribunal said they did not believe the court was neutral, with 23 percent saying it was corrupt.

While the trial itself may be a significant step on the path to justice, historian Ros Chantrabot of the Royal Academy of Cambodia says that whether legal procedures can be translated into meaningful narratives remains to be seen.

Translating truth into justice

"This hearing is very important for Cambodia and the world. But we don't know yet whether the hearing can bring the truth," he said.

Regardless of whether it can, the opening of the Extraordinary Chamber's first public trial ratchets up the pressure on the court to deliver.

But many argue that expectations are too high, and that the court - however successful its first public trial - was never going to be able to meet them.

"If reconciliation were the aim, there are other ways of going about that, as South Africa has shown," said Short.

"This tribunal has nothing to do with reconciliation. How can the condemnation of a few elderly men, no matter how appalling their acts, reconcile people in the villages with those who, during KR times, murdered their relatives, and who still live a few houses away from them?" Short asked.

Moreover, the court's legitimacy remains dented, and observers hope the start of a trial will be used by the court to boost its credibility.

"The start of the ECCC's first trial is an important, if long overdue, step toward the goal of accountability for serious crimes in Cambodia," James Goldston, executive director of New York-based Open Society Justice Initiative, said in an email.

"[But] the court must take aggressive action to respond to repeated allegations of corruption and provide adequate protection to those who come forward to report corruption," he said.

However, international co-prosecutor Robert Petit argues that, as the most public manifestation of the tribunal so far, the trial would refocus attention back to its original goal.

"These trials are by nature very complex but I'm confident in the Court's abilities to see them through to the highest standard," he said by email.

Despite numerous caveats, the first public trial of a Khmer Rouge leader could further knowledge and understanding of the workings of the still-mysterious regime.

"We know what S21 did; we know much less about why it did it," Philip Short says of the torture centre headed by Duch.

"What one would like the trial to reveal is the political mechanism behind S21: the role of Nuon Chea and other members of the Security Committee, Pol Pot and Son Sen; and the extent to which the political leadership controlled what was done there," he adds.

Historian David Chandler says the trial is significant because of the weight of documentary evidence linking Duch to the executions at S-21.

"A full account, if we got one, would deepen our understanding of the DK era," he said.

Even Duch, a converted Christian, has acknowledgesd the need to reveal the truth.

"The killings must be understood. The truth should be known," he told Dunlop as his arrest was imminent.

According to Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Centre of Cambodia, the public trial itself is a key part of getting the truth about the Khmer Rouge to the public.

"It will indeed contribute to our history and how we confront the past," he said. Whether victims are content with the verdict is immaterial, as "they will be able to make their own decision".


Photo by: DC-CAM
Duch (left) and a colleague photographed at Tuol Sleng in this undated photo.

Duch (left) and a colleague photographed at Tuol Sleng in this undated photo. AGIFTED maths teacher before he turned revolutionary, Duch, the man who oversaw the Khmer Rouge's security apparatus, ran the regime's killing machine with cold, numerical precision.

"Duch oversaw a precise department of death," journalist Elizabeth Becker says in her book When the War Was Over. "Duch even set aside specific days for killing various types of prisoners: one day the wives of ‘enemies'; another day the children; a different day, factory workers," she writes.

Duch, whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav, oversaw the torture and extermination of 16,000 men, women and children at the Khmer Rouge's Tuol Sleng prison during the regime's 1975-79 rule. He was arrested in 1999 after photojournalist Nic Dunlop uncovered him earlier that year working for a Christian relief agency in western Cambodia.

Born in 1942 in Kampong Thom province, Duch's revolutionary roots were laid early. In the mid-1960s he studied for his teaching certificate under Son Sen, a fiery activist who would later emerge as the Khmer Rouge's defence minister and Duch's immediate superior.

He was remembered not as a committed teacher but as a committed communist, and he fled to the Khmer Rouge following the March 1970 toppling of Prince Norodom Sihanouk, when Cambodia's political environment became more volatile.

Inside the "liberated" zones, Duch is said to have been appointed head of special security. He allegedly oversaw a series of prisons before consolidating his power in Tuol Sleng after in 1975.

What began as only a few dozen prisoners each day turned into a torrent of condemned coming through Tuol Sleng as the regime repeatedly purged itself of its "enemies".

Ever meticulous, Duch built up a huge archive of photos, confessions and other documents with which the final horrible months of thousands of inmates' lives can be traced.

His alleged last act before slipping away from advancing Vietnamese troops was to oversee the murder of Tuol Sleng's few remaining prisoners, whose mutilated bodies were found still chained to their beds.

Shortly after his wife was murdered in 1995, Duch began attending Christian prayer meetings and was later baptised by Christopher LaPel, a Khmer-American minister.

In a 1999 interview with Time magazine, LaPel remembered Duch as an enthusiastic convert, but said there were signs of his dark past.

"Before he received Christ, he said he did a lot of bad things in his life. He said: ‘Pastor Christopher, I don't know if my brothers and sisters can forgive the sins I've committed against the people'," LaPel was quoted as saying at the time.

Hong Kimhong, Duch's younger sister, living in Battambang's Somlaut district, told the Post on the eve of his hearing that she had mixed feelings about the trial. "As Duch's sister, I was not happy when [he] was accused of crimes against humanity and war crimes. As I know him, my brother Duch is a good person," she said.
"But I will let the court decide."



April 17, 1975
The Khmer Rouge enter Phnom Penh, launching a reign of terror that leaves an estimated 1.7 million people dead.

January 7, 1979
The Khmer Rouge regime falls to the Vietnamese, who install a new regime in Phnom Penh. Civil war begins, pitting the Vietnamese-backed People’s Revolutionary Party of Kampuchea (PRPK) against an alliance of Khmer Rouge, nationalist and royalist factions. October 23, 1991

A peace treaty is signed to end the conflict. Cambodia is placed under UN supervision until elections are held. UN peacekeepers begin operations almost five months later.

March 1998
The Khmer Rouge’s last stronghold, Anlong Veng, falls to government forces, but top leaders including Pol Pot escape.

April 15, 1998
Pol Pot dies in mysterious circumstances at his jungle base on the Thai border.

March 6, 1999
Ta Mok, the last of the top Khmer Rouge rebels, is arrested and accused of genocide. May 10, 1999
Duch is arrested by Cambodian police for his role as head of the Khmer Rouge S-21 interrogation centre.

June 6, 2003
After tough negotiations, the United Nations and Cambodia agree to an international tribunal for former Khmer Rouge leaders.

October 4, 2004
The National Assembly approves a law paving the way for the Khmer Rouge tribunal.
December 2004
The court’s budget is finalised at US$56.3 million.

March 28, 2005
In New York, 13 nations contribute a total of $38.4 million – $5 million short of the UN’s target. Japan’s $21.6 million contribution is more than all other donor contributions combined. March 30, 2005

Cambodia requests assistance in meeting its stipulated share of the budget – $13.3 million.

May 4, 2006
Cambodia’s highest judicial body approves 17 Cambodian and 13 international judges and prosecutors for the Khmer Rouge tribunal. July 3, 2006
Judges for the Khmer Rouge tribunal are sworn in.

July 21, 2006
Ta Mok, known as “The Butcher”, dies before appearing in front of the tribunal.

February 2007
The Open Society Justice Initiative, an independent court monitor, accuses senior ECCC officials of taking kickbacks. All claims are vehemently denied by the ECCC. September 19, 2007
Top Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea (below), known as “Brother No 2”, is arrested at his home close to the Thai border.

November 12, 2007
Ieng Sary, former KR foreign affairs minister, is arrested along with his wife, Ieng Thirith, the regime’s former social affairs minister.

November 19, 2007
Former KR head of state Khieu Samphan is arrested.
February 2008
Co-investigating judges hold on-site investigations at Choeung Ek “killing fields” and Tuol Sleng prison.

June 24, 2008
Khieu Samphan’s request for release from pretrial detention refused; ECCC seeks additional $43.8 million to see it through to the end of 2009. January 19, 2009
The date for the start of the first trial, that of Duch, is announced for February 17, 2009.


Union leader Chea Mony nominated for human rights award

The first secretary general of Amnesty International, Martin Ennals, was "a fiercely devoted activist" who "devoted his whole life to human rights", according to the award's website. He died in 1991. The award was first given in 1993.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Neth Pheaktra and Robbie Corey-Boulet
Friday, 13 February 2009

The nomination of the brother of slain union leader Chea Vichea recognises ‘courageous' work in dangerous labour environment.

UNION leader Chea Mony has been nominated for the 2009 Martin Ennals Award, a prize given by 10 leading human rights NGOs to an individual who has "demonstrated an exceptional record of combating human rights violations by courageous and innovative means", the London-based charity One World Action announced in a press release distributed Thursday.

Chea Mony, president of the Free Trade Union of the Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia (FTU), is the brother of Chea Vichea, a union leader who was shot and killed near Wat Lanka in 2004.

"This award would mean the world would recognise my hard work defending garment factory workers as well as human rights and justice in Cambodian society," Chea Mony told the Post Thursday.

"Every day I work and protest against social injustice without worrying about my personal security."

"Cambodia is a very dangerous place in which to be a trade unionist," reads the release announcing Chea Mony's nomination. "Even though the constitution guarantees citizens the right to establish and belong to trade unions, labour unions face severe pressure and intimidation."

Organisations behind the award, which will be given in May, include Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the International Federation of Human Rights.

One World Action describes itself as a partner of the FTU and presented it with the Sternberg Award in 2007 for its "outstanding commitment to human rights".

Adoption restrictions to rule out single, gay foreign applicants

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Vong Sokheng
Friday, 13 February 2009

In meetings with French, US officials, the government asks that such applicants be screened out after draft law is approved.

IN meetings with representatives from France and the United States, Cambodian officials this month expressed their opposition to adoptions involving single parents, gay parents, low-income parents and parents who already have two children.

This opposition will become an outright ban when a draft law on adoption, currently being reviewed by the Council of Ministers, is approved by the National Assembly, said Koy Kuong, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who added that he hoped the law would be passed "soon".

Minister of Foreign Affairs Hor Namhong met with Jean-Paul Monchau, the French official responsible for overseeing international adoptions, on February 3 and voiced concern about the potential psychological effects such adoptions can have on children, according to a ministry press release issued Tuesday.

Ouch Borith, a secretary of state at the ministry, raised largely the same points in a Monday meeting with Janice Jacobs, the assistant secretary of state for consular affairs at the US State Department.

Cambodian officials asked the French and American officials to screen out adoption applicants who would no longer qualify once the draft law on adoption is passed.

The adoption law would also make it legal for Cambodian parents to give up their children for adoption, Koy Kuong said. Currently, only Cambodian orphans can be adopted.

Foreign response

Koy Kuong said Jacobs told Ouch Borith at the meeting that the United States would consider supporting the new legal framework for international adoptions.

John Johnson, a spokesman for the US embassy in Phnom Penh, declined to discuss in detail the meeting between Ouch Borith and Jacobs, saying the US is waiting to see whether the adoption law passes.

Tuesday's press release said France had recently expressed interest in increasing the number of Cambodian children adopted by French parents.

Researchers locate two of four child S-21 survivors

Norng Chan Phal and his daughter.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Neth Pheaktra and Georgia Wilkins
Friday, 13 February 2009

RESEARCHERS have found two of four living former child prisoners of Tuol Sleng prison, one week after evidence first emerged suggesting they were still alive.

Brothers Norng Chan Phal and Norng Chanly have been confirmed as two of the five children the Documentation Centre of Cambodia (DC-Cam) identified in archival footage donated by Vietnam last month.

DC-Cam has confirmed that one of the five is dead.

"I have met with the older bother, Norng Chan Phal. They were both detained at S-21 with their mother in 1977," DC-Cam Director Youk Chhang said.

Youk Chhang said DC-Cam has long thought there were more than seven prisoners who escaped S-21, although just seven had been identified.

Contacted by the Post Thursday, child survivor Norng Chan Phal, now 39 years old, confirmed he would present himself at prison chief Kaing Guek Eav's trial, which begins next week.

"I present myself now to join the hearing," he said. "I haven't presented myself before because I felt hesitant. The [Khmer Rouge tribunal] has been delayed and left victims to feel hopeless about justice. It has meant that the regime's top leaders died one by one."

Keat Bophal, director of the court's Victims Unit, said it was "not possible" for the child survivors to participate as civil parties in the trial of Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, because the deadline, according to internal rules, has passed.

"However, they can still file a complaint so their information is sent to the trial chamber, who will decide whether to call them as witnesses," she told the Post.

New traffic calming measures for bridge

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chhay Channyda
Friday, 13 February 2009

MUNICIPAL officials plan to build a roundabout at the east end of the Japanese Friendship Bridge in Russei Keo district in an attempt to alleviate traffic congestion, Kob Sles, the district's deputy governor, told the Post Thursday.

Kob Sles referred further questions to Nhem Saran, director of the Phnom Penh Municipal Department of Public Works and Transport, who could not be reached for comment Thursday.

In an interview on the television station TV3 last week, however, Nhem Saran said construction of the roundabout would begin this month.

Kob Sles said he did not know how many families would be affected by the project. But he said municipal authorities had already told families living in temporary settlements near the project site that they would likely be relocated.

"Residents should know that the affected land will be given for development," he said, adding that he did not yet know what form of compensation would be offered to those displaced by the project.

Pech Saroeun, Chruoy Changvar commune chief, said a report he received said 150 families would be displaced, but added he believed the department was trying to reduce the number of families that would be affected.

Chan Touch, 35, who lives on National Road 6 just 50 metres from the bridge, said he supported the project because heavy traffic during rush hour each day "causes traffic jams for hours". But he also said he believed "authorities should discuss the impact with people before they start".

Pol Pot's Khmer R: "Not a Clear-Cut Murder Case
Friday, 13 February 2009, 9:01 am
Article: Richard S. Ehrlich

Defending Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge: "Not a Clear-Cut Murder Case"

By Richard S. Ehrlich

BANGKOK, Thailand -- An international trial starts next week in Cambodia, against five of Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge, but the British head of the Defense Support Section warns "it is not a clear-cut murder case" despite skeletons in mass graves and survivors who describe torture and executions.

"The prosecution will say that the Khmer Rouge evacuated people from the cities, as part of a master plan to imprison them. There is another theory that will say they evacuated them to protect them from the American bombing, which had been going on for many, many years," Richard J. Rogers said in an interview on Wednesday (February 11).

Mr. Rogers is Officer-in-Charge of the Defense Support Section at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, which is the U.N.-backed international trial against five former Khmer Rouge officials.

Mr. Rogers said he "put together a team of varied and very competent defense lawyers" for the trial, which begins on February 17 on the outskirts of Cambodia's capital, Phnom Penh.

When Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge guerrillas toppled Cambodia's U.S.-backed regime in 1975, Pol Pot suddenly forced all Phnom Penh residents at gun-point into the jungle, where many perished after they were enslaved, tortured, starved, or executed.

"With the starvation, a lot of people with the prosecution might say that the Khmer Rouge intentionally starved people, or was negligent," Mr. Rogers said.

"One alternative theory is that there simply wasn't enough food around, because of the five-year civil war before the Khmer Rouge took power.

"There are plenty of alternative theories to most of the allegations. For example, the mass graves. We don't know that they were killed under the Khmer Rouge," the U.N.'s Defense Support officer said.

In 1998, American investigator Craig Etcheson said in an interview he found nearly 10,000 mass graves "dating from the Khmer Rouge era, containing an estimated 500,000 victims of execution," which could be used as evidence.

"They could have been killed by the American bombing," Mr. Rogers said.

"None of them have been properly excavated. The numbers in the mass graves have been estimated. There aren't accurate numbers. So it is very difficult to tell exactly what happened."

An estimated 1.7 million Cambodians died under the Khmer Rouge's leadership, which was ousted by Vietnam's 1979 invasion.

In January 1979, the Vietnam News Agency said the Khmer Rouge murdered Cambodians "with hammers, knives, sticks and hoes, like killing wee insects."

Mr. Rogers said the Khmer Rouge's "killing and torture" is "accepted by most people," so defense lawyers will focus their strategy elsewhere.

"Most people condemn all those [five Khmer Rouge] that are in custody at the moment, and I think the evidence is much less clear than that.

"For example, the regional leaders used a lot of their discretion, or disobeyed orders, and a lot of the crimes were committed in the regions.

"One thing we do know is that the leaders spent most of their time in Phnom Penh, they weren't out in the fields knocking people on the head and shooting them. That simply didn't happen," he said.

"It is not a clear-cut murder case."

One of the accused, Khieu Samphan, enjoys support from French lawyer Jacques Verges, who defended several infamous criminals, including a beautiful Algerian bomber who killed French military officers in the 1950s, and who Mr. Verges later married.

Mr. Verges also defended "Carlos the Jackal" who led a 1975 assault on OPEC in Vienna, and Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie, known as "The Butcher of Lyon," in 1987.

Mr. Verges did not win those cases.

"I think Jacques Verges is an excellent lawyer," Mr. Rogers said.

"He's done amazing work in the past, and I'm sure he's going to do a great job defending Khieu Samphan."

Former Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan, and Mr. Verges, 83, became friends in the early 1950s when several Khmer Rouge, including Pol Pot, were scholarship students in Paris.

Another accused, Kaing Guek Eav commonly known as Duch, has confessed and repented.

Duch, 65, is expected to reveal horrific details about how he ran the S-21 Tuol Sleng torture chambers in Phnom Penh, which sent at least 16,000 people to their death.

Pol Pot died in 1998. But others on trial include his so-called "Brother Number 2" ideologue Nuon Chea, plus former Khmer Rouge foreign minister Ieng Sary, and his wife Ieng Thirith, who was "social affairs" minister.

Mr. Rogers expects the trial to be complicated.

"I run the Defense Support Section, which fits together the defense team, supports them legally with logistics and administration, and runs the legal aid system. We help ensure fair trials for the accused."

Prosecutors will insist the five Khmer Rouge were responsible.

"This is something the prosecution are very keen on, because it means that it is far easier to convict. That is, when a group of people make a decision to carry out certain acts for a criminal purpose, and then they could be held liable for all the acts that were done in furtherance of that purpose.

"The prosecution have charged 'joint criminal enterprise' in their introductory submission," he said.

On February 17, the trial opens with a scrutiny of the witness list, and confirmation that everything is ready. A date will be set for testimony, probably in March.

Cambodia no longer metes out the death penalty, so maximum punishment would be life imprisonment.


Richard S Ehrlich is a Bangkok-based journalist who has reported news from Asia since 1978. He is co-author of "Hello My Big Big Honey!", a non-fiction book of investigative journalism, and his web page is

Trial at hand for former torture chief

Vann Nath, a former prisoner of the Khmer Rouge, stands beside a painting of himself and other prisoners being led into the S21 torture centre. Jared Ferrie / The National

The National
Jared Ferrie, Foreign Correspondent
February 13. 2009

PHNOM PENH // Vann Nath has rendered his country’s painful history in brush strokes. One of a handful of survivors of a prison where about 17,000 people were tortured, Mr Nath documented the year he spent there in a series of oil paintings titled Endurance.

On Tuesday, three decades after Vietnamese troops ousted the Khmer Rouge, the man who ran the S21 torture centre goes on trial at an international war crimes tribunal in Cambodia’s capital.

Kong Keach Eav, better known as “Duch”, faces charges of crimes against humanity. He is the first of five Khmer Rouge leaders to be tried for their roles in the regime that killed as many as two million Cambodians between 1975 and 1979.

At the preliminary hearing on Tuesday, judges will decide on the nature of participation in the trial of “civil parties”, or victims who have asked to be included in the proceedings. Court officials said Duch’s trial will continue in March, although an exact date has yet to be announced.

For Mr Nath the trial comes late, but better than never.

“The time it has taken is very long and it makes me feel tired of waiting,” he said. “If we can get the trial as soon as possible it is the best thing.”

Mr Nath was tortured before entering S21, but not while he was at the prison. His art saved his life.

“That’s the only reason they kept me alive – because I could do the painting,” he said.

When his captors discovered he was an artist, they put him to work painting portraits and sculpting busts of Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge leader who died in April 1998 in his stronghold in western Cambodia.

Every day was a struggle to please the overseers of the prison and Mr Nath lived in constant fear he would be tortured.

“I never had any hope that I would survive there,” he said. “The only way was to try to work hard to please all the cadre so they would let us stay alive and work for them.”

Lawyers have not publicly outlined their cases in detail, but the prosecution is likely to point to the central role that S21 played as the headquarters of the Khmer Rouge’s security network, which executed about 500,000 people. (Many more died of starvation and sickness in labour camps.)

In her book When the War was over, Elizabeth Becker wrote that Duch rose to become “one of the half dozen most important leaders in the country” as his S21 facility became “the nerve centre of the system of terror” that extended to torture prisons throughout the country.

According to Ms Becker, a former Washington Post reporter and one of only two journalists to interview Pol Pot, Duch answered only to Pol Pot and a few other high-ranking Khmer Rouge leaders who began to kill suspected enemies within their ranks in Stalinist-like purges.

The Khmer Rouge wanted to turn Cambodia into an agricultural utopia, but when they failed, leaders looked for enemies inside the party that could be blamed for undermining the revolution.

Duch led the witch-hunt. He and his torturers extracted false confessions from party officials and mapped out elaborate spy networks that did not exist. And they documented their work in meticulous detail, producing hundreds of thousands of pages of confessions and photographs of victims.

As head of the Documentation Centre of Cambodia, Youk Chhang has spent 12 years collecting those and other records of Khmer Rouge atrocities. Many documents from the centre have been submitted as evidence to the tribunal.

Despite years of research into S21, Mr Chhang said mysteries remain.

“I’m hoping that the hearing will allow us to understand what happened there. Right now we just don’t know,” he said.

As more material is unearthed, more questions arise. For example, Mr Chhang recently tracked down the only known footage of S21. Vietnamese soldiers filmed it when they liberated Phnom Penh and it shows four children that were living at the prison.

The identities of the children are unknown, as are the reasons they were kept alive, said Mr Chhang.

While being sent to S21 meant almost certain death, records also show that Duch decided to release 177 prisoners.

“I want to know why he released them,” Mr Chhang said. “Is there any act of humanity in such horrible conditions?”

During his nine years of detention, Duch has kept silent about what happened at S21 and what his role was, Mr Chhang said.

Mr Nath said when he was detained at S21, he did not know Duch was sending prisoners who survived torture to be executed at the Killing Fields on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. He thought prisoners were being sent to work camps.

“Back then the man that ran S21 seemed to be a smart man, an intellectual man,” Mr Nath said. “After 1979 when we discovered that so many crimes had been committed, so many people had been killed, I realised he was a very cruel man, killing people without any sympathy.”

David Chandler, a former US diplomat turned-Cambodia historian, said Duch was complying with orders from superiors.

“There is no way he could have been acting on his own,” said Mr Chandler, who is the author of Voices from S21 and now teaches at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia.

“I think he was well educated, smart and completely dedicated to the Communist Party and to his macabre work,” he said. “Cruelty has nothing to do with it, and there was no room at S21 for compassion.”

Before S21 was taken over by the Khmer Rouge it was a school. These days it is a museum where tourists stroll sombrely through rooms filled with instruments of torture and thousands of black and white photos of prisoners. Some stare at the camera wide-eyed in terror, while others can barely open their eyes from the beatings they have received from torturers answering to Duch.

Now a born-again Christian, the 67-year-old former head of S21 is the only one among the five suspects to confess his role in carrying out purges.

Mr Nath said he was reserving judgement on whether Duch is sincere in his conversion to Christianity, or whether he regrets the atrocities he committed.

“I just have to wait until the court makes verdict and then I will have to decide whether he is a good man now or a bad man,” he said.

If found guilty, Duch and the other former Khmer Rouge leaders face a maximum sentence of life in prison and a minimum sentence of five years imprisonment.

Police Question 2 About Australia Fires


Police detained 2 suspects Thursday after they were reported acting suspiciously in an area burned out by last weekend's fires, some of which authorities suspect were set by arsonists. (Feb. 11)

What kind of believe to drink the urine of a cow ?

Cambodia villagers collect the urine of a cow believed to have healing powers in Kompot province, about 100 km (62 miles) south of the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh, on September 26, 2002.(Chor Sokunthea/Reuters)

Cambodia is one of the most heavily mined countries in the world

A landmine victim stands in the cafeteria of a school in Cambodia's western city Battambang on February 12, 2009. Cambodia is one of the most heavily mined countries in the world.REUTERS/Adrees Latif (CAMBODIA)

A man wearing prosthetics sweeps near a man on crutches in the courtyard of a school for landmine and polio victims in Cambodia's western city Battambang on February 12, 2009. Cambodia is one of the most heavily mined countries in the world.REUTERS/Adrees Latif (CAMBODIA)

A landmine victim rests his foot on a ball in the courtyard of a school for landmine and polio victims in Cambodia's western city Battambang on February 12, 2009. Cambodia is one of the most heavily mined countries in the world.REUTERS/Adrees Latif (CAMBODIA)

Unexploded ordinances sit displayed in a land-mine field in the outskirts of Cambodia's western city Battambang on February 12, 2009. Cambodia is one of the most heavily mined countries in the world.REUTERS/Adrees Latif (CAMBODIA)

Intercountry Adoptions Under the Hague Adoptions Convention

WASHINGTON th U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) today clarified that it continues to be unable to approve any Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative, filed for a child to be adopted from Cambodia. Also, the Department of State (DOS) has advised USCIS that DOS has determined that Cambodia is not currently meeting its obligations under The Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Hague Adoption Convention).

( - WASHINGTON – U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services ( USCIS ) today clarified that it continues to be unable to approve any Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative, filed for a child to be adopted from Cambodia. Also, the Department of State ( DOS ) has advised USCIS that DOS has determined that Cambodia is not currently meeting its obligations under The Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption ( Hague Adoption Convention ). As a result, DOS consular officers cannot issue the required Hague Adoption Certificate or Hague Custody Declaration. Therefore USCIS is unable to approve any Form I-800, Petition to Classify Convention Adoptee as an Immediate Relative, filed for a child to be adopted from Cambodia at this time.

Certification of compliance with the Hague Adoption Convention and the Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000 is required under the procedures for Hague Convention adoptee cases. Since prospective adoptive parents cannot complete the immigration process for an adopted child from Cambodia at this time, they are strongly urged not to file Form I-800A, Application for Determination of Suitability to Adopt a Child from a Convention Country, identifying Cambodia as the country from which they seek to adopt.

The Hague Adoption Convention entered into force for the United States on April 1, 2008. The Hague Adoption Convention provides important safeguards to protect the welfare of children, birth parent( s ) and adoptive parent( s ) engaged in intercountry adoptions. Effective April 1, 2008, new intercountry adoptions between the United States and other Hague Convention countries must comply with the Hague Adoption Convention standards. Cambodia also ratified the Hague Adoption Convention in 2007. In the United States, Hague Convention adoptions are processed on USCIS Forms I-800A and I-800.

Before the United States and Cambodia ratified the Hague Adoption Convention, Cambodian intercountry adoption cases were processed on USCIS Forms I-600A,Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition, and I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative. However, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, USCIS’ legacy agency, suspended U.S. orphan visa petition processing in Cambodia on Dec. 21, 2001 due to fraud, irregularities, and allegations of child-buying in the Cambodian adoption process. Because these concerns persist, DOS has determined it is not able to issue Hague Adoption Certificates or Hague Custody Declarations in Cambodia. It is important to note that this Cambodian suspension remains in effect for all Form I-600 ( orphan ) petitions filed before April 1, 2008.

USCIS will promptly advise the public when it can commence processing of Forms I-800 for Hague Convention adoptions from Cambodia.

On a mission

Contributed photo
Carol Buhrman, left, takes a traditional cyclo ride with her friend, Amy, in Prey Veng.

By Gracie Hart
Review Staff Writer
Published: February 12, 2009

The quest to find one’s self is nothing new but few travel halfway around the world and find themselves like Carol Buhrman has. Buhrman, who works in the provincial town of Prey Veng, Cambodia and is in her final year of a three-year mission with the Mennonite Central Committee, credits her mission with changing her life and helping her to find out who she is.

Burhman first heard about the MCC program, which is the relief and development branch of the Mennonite church, through her church. The MCC’s main goal is to relieve and help people around the world. Burhman, having already graduated from college, was ready to get involved.

“I picked where I wanted to go,“ she said. “I knew that I didn’t want to go to Africa and I didn’t know Spanish so South America wasn’t a choice. I saw the job [for Cambodia] online and it looked like the most interesting.“

She arrived in Cambodia in November 2006 as a girl who had logged very little travel time in her life. Now, her travel time is extensive with a very long and very expensive trip from Orange County to Prey Veng, Cambodia.

“It’s mentally tiring in that you say goodbye but then you don’t arrive until about a day and a half later,“ she said. “That’s a long time to think and imagine and process things.“

Buhrman has a lot to think about during the long trip including the family and friends that she left behind at home and also the people she has met during her time in Cambodia. After living with a host family in Prey Veng for two years, she has become accustomed to life there. But it hasn’t always been easy.

“Leaving my family was one of the hardest parts and it was hard to leave in general because Prey Veng is so far away; it’s literally halfway around the world,“ she said. “I miss having good people to connect to; it took a while for me to build a group in Cambodia and it wasn’t easy with my support system halfway around the world.“

Having moved to Orange County when she was just three years-old, making the switch from rural town to a whole new place proved interesting.

“There are actually lots of similarities,“ she said. “[You’re] going from one rural town to another and everyone knows what you’re doing so they follow you around. But there’s no comfort food, very little internet access and dirt roads without many cars.“

Buhrman also admits that she misses the little things like the convenience of running to a store and buying yogurt. However, she enjoys the works she’s doing as a rural health advisor and an advisor to Women’s Peace Makers. Burman writes proposals for grants, edits reports and talks to donors out of her office in the provincial capital of Prey Veng town.

“Cambodia is a developing country,“ she said. “Half of them live on less than a $1 a day. We’re trying to get them to diversify farming.“

Buhrman lights up when she talks about the people that she’s met there.

“They are some of the most generous people I’ve ever met,“ she said. “It also helps when you’re trying to learn the language and you practice with them. They have a strong sense of community [and] they want to know everything about you if you’re riding with them in a taxi.“

Buhrman, who recently came home for a friend’s wedding, was thankful to come home but she’s ready for her last year in Cambodia.

“I was ready for a break and it was good to come back but now I’m ready to go back,“ she said. “I’m not ready to end that period of my life yet. I did this for me and I knew this was something I wanted to do; other people are blessed through that.“

Next up for Buhrman, after her year of service, is applying to graduate school to study dietetics and possibly another extended trip.

“I will probably go back to visit Cambodia once my mission is over,“ she said. “I would like to do another overseas appointment somewhere. Asia is a good fit for my personality.“

For people interested in signing up for a mission overseas, Buhrman suggests taking the risk and doing it.

“I would defiantly say do it,“ she said. “It’s a great experience. It’s good to experience other things and cultures. You figure out what you want and how to live your life. Know that if you do something like this you’ll be changed. You won’t come back the same.“

For more information on the MCC and Buhrman’s time in Cambodia, visit her blog at