Sunday, 22 February 2009

Cambodian Action Committee for Justice & Equity (CACJE)
No: 3 Fountain Ave. Cranston RI, 02920 Web:, Email:
“CACJE is an Alliance for People Power, Promote Social Justice and Support Human Equity”

Official Translation in English:

No: 0044/CACJE

Immediate Press Release

Februay 19, 2009

Press Statement

Cambodian Action Committee for Justice & Equity (CACJE) expressed strong supports the position of Mr. KA SAVUTH, the co-defense attorney of Mr. KAING GUEK EAV alias Duch, ex-Director of TUOL SLENG Prison and the position of Co-Prosecutor against the use of a film documenting torture shot by Vietnamese soldiers shortly after they drove the Khmer Rouge from power in 1979 as evidence before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC). The document film served Hanoi political purpose. The orphan witness claiming living inside TUOL SLENG Prison raised more questions than answers.

Moreover, CACJE expressed displeasure relative to the declaration of CHHANG YOUK, Director of Cambodia Documentation Centre (DC-CAM) which is an organization financed by the American tax- payers. CHHANG YOUK had shown his no-professionalism, not independent, lack of deep understanding of the documentation, not be able to produce trustful documents and witnesses for the ECCC. Instead DC-CAM produces falsified, manipulated and fictive documents to serve political purpose in order to bury the truth about the Khmer Rouge.

Therefore, DC-CAM induced in error the scholar studies of Khmer Rouge Era because of her published fabricated documents

To have a fair and transparent trial, and for the truth, the ECCC must reject all the documents and witnesses provided by Vietnam and China.

CACJE urges the international judges and Co-prosecutors to investigate more people, widening their scope to reach all the Khmer Rouge rulers from the top Chief of State to the region (DAMBAN) chief security forces. International judges and co-prosecutors must focus notably on the documents and witnesses. The polygraph machine might be used to sort out the witnesses.



Traduction officielle en Frence:

Non: 0044/CACJE

Immédiate Communiqué de presse

Février 19, 2009

Déclaration à la Presse

Comité d'Action Cambodgien pour la Justice et d'Equité (CACJE) exprime son vif soutien à la position de M. KA SAVUTH, le co-avocat de M. KAING GUEK EAV alias Duch, exdirecteur de la prison de Tuol Sleng et celle du Co-Procureur contre l'utilisation du film documentaire tourné par les soldats vietnamiens concernant les Khmer Rouge tortures peu de temps après la victoire de Vietnamiens en 1979 comme preuve devant les Chambres Extraordinaires au sein des Tribunaux Cambodgiens (CETC). Il semblait plutôt que le film documentaire serve le but politique de Hanoi. Le témoin de l’orphelin qui prétendait avoir vécu dans la prison de Tuol Sleng a soulevé plus de questions que de réponses.

En outre, CACJE exprime son mécontentement de la déclaration de Chhang Youk, directeur du Centre de documentation du Cambodge (DC-Cam), qui est une organisation financée par l'impôt des contribuables américains. Youk Chhang a démontré son non-professionnalisme, sa dépendance, son manque de compréhension profonde de la documentation. Il est incapable de produire des documents et des témoins de confiance pour les Chambres Extraordinaires au sein du Tribunal du Cambodge (CETC). DC-CAM produisait plutôt des documents falsifiés, manipulés et fictifs pour servir le but politique afin d'enterrer la vérité sur les Khmers rouges.

Ainsi, DC-CAM induit en erreur les études académiques des chercheurs scolaires concernant le régime des Khmers Rouges en raison de ses publications des documents fabriqués.

Pour un procès juste et transparent, et pour la vérité, les CETC doivent rejeter l'ensemble des documents et des témoins fournis par le Vietnam et la Chine.

CACJE exhorte les juges internationaux et le co-procureurs d'élargir leur champ d'application à accéder à tous les dirigeants des Khmers Rouges les plus haut gradés à partir du chef de l'Etat aux chefs des forces de sécurité de provinces (Damban). International co-juges et descoprocureurs

doivent se concentrer notamment sur les documents et les témoins. La machine détectrice de mensonges pourrait être utilisée pour sélectionner les témoins.



Pictures of the day

Security personnel escort family members to the cells holding four Khmer Rouge cadres awaiting trial on the grounds of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

An elderly Cambodian woman, wearing a traditional Krama headscarf, looks out from her slum dwelling on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. According to government figures less than four percent of Cambodia's 14 million people are over the age of 65.(AP Photo/David Longstreath)

A mobile vehicle from the Ministry of Health sprays insecticide at a market to fight an onset of dengue fever on the outskirts of Phnom Penh February 22 , 2009.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Participants of the Special ASEAN+3 Finance Ministers' Meeting (Special AFMM+3) pose for a photo at a hotel in Phuket, south of Bangkok, February 22, 2009. (L-R) President of Asian Development Bank Haruhiko Kuroda, Lao's Finance Minister Somdy Douangdy, Malaysia's Finance Minister Najib Razak, Philippine Finance Secretary Margarito Teves, Singapore's Senior Minister of State for Finance Lim Hwee Hua, China's Finance Minister Xie Xuren, South Korea's Finance Minister Yoon Jeung-Hyun, Thailand's Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, Thailand's Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij, Japan's Parliamentary Secretary for Finance Shinsuke Suematsu, Vietnam's Finance Minister Vu Van Ninh, Myanmar's Minister for Finance Major General Hla Tun, Brunei's Finance Minister Ibrahim Pehin Dato Abd Rahman, Cambodia's Secretary General for Economy and Finance Chuon Naron Hang and Indonesia's Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati.REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom (THAILAND)

Pol Pot henchman faces genocide trial

Toronto Star

Feb 22, 2009

Pol Pot, the despot whose fanatical Khmer Rouge regime turned Cambodia into a slaughterhouse, spent his final days hiding in a wooden shack in the jungle in 1998, sick, scared and on the run. At the end he knew that arrest and prosecution was inevitable. He cheated his victims of justice only by dying as his pursuers closed in on him.

With their infamous "killing fields," the Khmer Rouge tried from 1975-79 to turn Cambodia back to "the year zero" and into a society of peasant farmers. The political, intellectual and business classes were eliminated, cities were emptied, and religion was banned. Some 1.7 million people were killed through execution, forced labour, starvation and disease.

Now, decades after Pol Pot's crimes, a handful of his aging henchmen are being tried for genocide. King Guek Eav, alias Duch, was brought before a United Nations-sanctioned Cambodian special court last week. He ran a notorious prison in Phnom Penh where 16,000 were tortured and died. Other trials will follow.

Why hold lesser, elderly players to account decades late? Because Cambodians deserve justice, if belatedly; the perpetrators should face surviving accusers. Because there is no statute of limitations on genocide. Because the world must remember Cambodia's holocaust, as it recalls the crimes of Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler and Mao Zedong.

And to serve notice on despots and warlords in our own era that they can no longer commit mass murder, war crimes and genocide with impunity.

This is not some abstract point of law.

Judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague are weighing whether to charge Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir with war crimes in Darfur, where 200,000 have died. This would be the first indictment of a sitting head of government.

At the same time, the ICC is trying its first case. Former Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga is accused of war crimes for coercing children to serve as warriors in 2002 and 2003.

The hope at the ICC is that the threat to prosecute al-Bashir and the prosecution of Lubanga will cool Darfur's civil war and discourage the use of child soldiers elsewhere.

The ICC was set up in 2002 as a permanent court to judge crimes against humanity, if national courts were unwilling or unable.

The Cambodia tribunal, in contrast, is a hybrid national court that harks back to the special Nuremberg and Tokyo war crimes tribunals after World War II. The UN has also sanctioned similar temporary courts for Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Lebanon.

Whatever the type of court, all such cases – Cambodia, Darfur and Congo – are controversial. They are difficult, costly and time-consuming. At best, they deliver imperfect justice.

Yet they remind the world that genocide, ethnic cleansing and war crimes are universal crimes and that those who commit them can be pursued to the ends of the earth.

These trials send messages that urgently need to be heard.

Meeting Incentive Conference Exhibition to See Growth in Siem Riep Cambodia

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Teeming with history, marvelous architecture and awash in natural beauty, Cambodia is fast becoming a must see destination in South East Asia. The largest religious monument ever built, Angkor Wat ranks at the top destinations in South Est Asia and top of globetrotting VIP business travellers - must see list of wonders in the world.

After a lengthy period of internal strife and civil war curtailed travel to Cambodia for the better part of three decades, the establishment of the peace has spurred a rise in tourism accompanies by a hotel constructions boom in the town of Siem Riep located just fine miles from Angkor Wat.

Cambodia now becomes a wonderful place to celebrate MICE smoothly, reaching both successful business meeting and negotiation and enjoyable holiday business.

Meeting Incentive Conference and Exhibition, MICE for short, is becoming increasingly important in business context as this model provides elegant facilities with a wide variety of recreational activities during the pleasure holiday business.

With its unique incredible and fabulous culture and nature destination's beauty, Cambodia can be a better place to celebrate MICE smoothly, reaching both successful business meeting, and enjoyable business stay.

“Cambodia is for everyone all sizes of MICE. The international standard hotel with modern conference facilities in a world heritage destination, resort and meeting rooms and variety of attraction suiting all taste for nature and culture lovers, golf, relaxation activities, health and spa enthusiasts, cuisine, day trip to marvelous Angkor Wat and Thom. Nature and culture is waiting to sustain ably serve and satisfy most discerning guests” said Tonny Pham, Mice Department Manager of Luxury Travel.

Luxury Travel Co., Ltd ( is a 100% fully registered and privately-owned Vietnamese company. Luxury Travel has just launched a MICE department and specializes in planning and organizing incentive trips and have been one of the leading MICE destination companies in the region for over 5 years.

The company’s depth of experience and large infrastructure enable it to create unique itineraries with the operational confidence to fulfill client expectations. Among Luxury Travel’s clients are ambassadors, French ministers, Deputy Prime Minister of Canada…and others.

Luxury Travel is headquartered in Hanoi and has offices around Vietnam and management offices in Laos and Cambodia. Luxury Travel has won numerous travel awards for excellence.

“Our company is the first travel company in Indochina specializing in incentive holidays. We have first hand knowledge on MICE, and excellent relations with suppliers in Mice industry for whatever event or incentive holiday you want. Name it we make it happen in style.” added Tonny.

Luxury Travel has everything you need to organize a successful MICE trip in Vietnam Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand.

A country of contradictions

Reuters: Skulls at the Killing Fields memorial

TVNZ New Zealand
Sunday February 22, 2009
Source: Miriama Kamo

So, tomorrow we leave. I'm on the balcony of our guesthouse, listening to the tuk tuks, motorbikes, and people going by. Everything is golden, the one lamp spreading a glow across the warm burgundy and ruby patterned tiles.

There's a funeral below, the cheerful chimes accompanying the dead to their new life. It's hot. I can't believe how well things grow in pots here, an embarrassment of life firing from every wide clay tub.

It's easy to be romanced by this city, by the country, though it doesn't ask to be fallen in love with...perhaps that's what makes it so beguiling: it is what it is.

But despite its simple appeal there is so much which makes this a country of contradictions. The fact that its history belies the reality of its friendly nature today is one. Here, a beautiful temple, there, a baby and his mother sleep on a filthy grey-encrusted roadside mattress. Here, acres of green rice fields lined with water buffalo, there, a shirt growing out of the dirt of the Killing Fields. Yes, just centimetres below your feet likely lie the remains of a human being, yet here is a friendly tuktuk driver touting for business.

I find the war crimes trials contradictory.

On the one hand, they represent hope; finally a process for peace and resolution begins for Cambodians. On the other hand are allegations of corruption and kickbacks, funding crises, and criticisms that the process is fatally flawed.

Today the ECCC (Extraordinary Chambers of the Courts of Cambodia) expresses fear that it's facing bankruptcy within weeks. We go to ask the Government's Information Minister; he says that's wrong.

The court hails the trials as a vital step to resolution for Cambodia, yet the Minister says the trials are not important to the ordinary Cambodian.

So, here's what happened. We met Sambath Reach again, a spokesperson for the ECCC. Last time we talked about the unusual rainfall on trial day one, and he called himself Spokesperson for the Ghosts. Today, I spoke to him about his and the court's concerns that bankruptcy is pending, that the long awaited judicial process is in danger of collapsing.

He gave it one month. "We need more money."

Sadly, for this problem there is no immediate solution. The Court came under fire last year after allegations some staff were forced to pay kickbacks for their jobs; the UNDP froze funding and staff worked unpaid for around two months. The Japanese government kicked in some funds and the court was on its feet again, but now, the money is running out once more.

Should the court process collapse, I asked Sambath Reach, what would this mean? "Justice will be cheated."

We went to meet the affable Information Minister Khieu Kanharith in his grand offices. Lined with ornate Victorian-style leather couches, winged chairs, and plush carpets, his office is not unlike a ballroom. Over green tea in delicate cups I put the apparent funding crisis to the Minister. He waved his hand airily. "There is no concern. We don't need the international funding. We [the government] can pay for this process ourselves."

Will the court collapse, do court officials need to be concerned? "No" was the resolute answer.

So, what is the correct answer?

Just how endangered are these proceedings and if they are, to what extent can the Cambodian government, alone, deliver the type of justice they've committed to deliver to Cambodians and the international community? And how much is this constant uncertainty going to damage their ability to fulfil their 'mission'?

For court officials and those we met at the Tribunal, this commitment to justice through the trials is absolute and crucial to healing Cambodian hearts and minds. The Minister sees things differently. For him the ordinary Cambodian has little interest in the trials and does not see them as a path to peace.

From the Minister's perspective, the trials are more symbolic, a catalyst for historians to investigate more deeply into the Khmer Rouge mentality, to find out 'why' and 'how' things went so wrong. For him, this is more crucial, more important than the enactment of trials.

And as for the idea that Cambodians need to see these trials play out to find peace and resolution, the Minister says this is incorrect: "We find peace inside ourselves".

It needs to be said that the Minister supports the trials nonetheless.


We left his golden and rich brocade office and stepped out into the oppressive heat, dust flying around our legs.

Yes, this is a country of contradictions. The trials are important to the ordinary Cambodian, the trials aren't important to the ordinary Cambodian. The proceedings will collapse, they will never collapse.

We walked down the long languorous sweep of stairs, each one glowing bleach-white under the sun. We passed through the security gates, crowded by graceful palms, and waved down a tuk-tuk, then joined the polluted mania of the city streets.

ASEAN finmins meet on crisis measures

Thailand's Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva (L) walks with ASEAN Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan during his visit at the ASEAN secretariat in Jakarta February 21, 2009. Abhisit is in Indonesia for a two-day state visit.

Sat Feb 21, 2009

By Alan Raybould

PHUKET, Thailand (Reuters) - Asian finance ministers meet on Sunday to discuss cooperation to tackle the global economic crisis plus the expansion of a currency swap agreement, at a time when some of their currencies are tumbling.

The 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) plus Japan, China and South Korea pledged last year to pool bilateral currency swap arrangements under the so-called Chiang Mai Initiative (CMI) in an $80 billion multilateral fund that could be tapped in emergencies.

The finance ministers meeting on the resort island of Phuket will look at how that can be done and will also consider increasing the size of the arrangement, probably to $120 billion, although a final agreement seems some way off.

Suparut Kawatkul, permanent secretary at the Thai finance ministry, told reporters on Saturday that the ministers would look at details for expanding the CMI that were proposed by senior officials at a recent meeting in Japan.

"I hope we should be able to make some progress ... This will be formalized at an ASEAN+3 finance ministers' meeting in Bali in May," he said. "The figure has yet to be finalized but the meeting in Japan suggested $120 billion."

ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, countries with vastly different political and economic systems. ASEAN+3 comprises those 10 plus Japan, China and South Korea.

Japan's new finance minister, Kaoru Yosano, is not attending the Phuket meeting, sending a parliamentary secretary for finance in his place. Singapore's finance minister is also absent.

On the sidelines of the meeting, Japan and Indonesia agreed to double their existing bilateral swap agreement to $12 billion and Tokyo also said it would guarantee up to $1.5 billion of yen-denominated Samurai bonds that Indonesia might issue.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva will address Sunday's meeting, which will discuss what message Asian countries want to send to a Group of 20 finance ministers' meeting in March and then a G20 summit in London on April 2.

Speaking in Indonesia on Saturday, Abhisit said ASEAN countries, most of them heavily reliant on exports, were worried about protectionism as countries around the world tried to stop their economies sliding deeper into recession.

He noted that despite pledges, "we do detect a creeping protectionism in various countries and regions."

"What I hope the ASEAN countries would do at our meeting next week is to send a powerful message to the rest of the world that despite the global financial crisis, we will not be tempted to resort to any kind of protectionism," he added.

Thailand chairs an ASEAN summit in the resort of Hua Hin from February 27 to March 1.

Asian currencies have been battered in recent months, adding urgency to getting the currency swaps agreement.

The idea is to allow countries hit by short-term liquidity shortages to borrow foreign reserves from other countries to absorb selling pressure on their currencies.

On Thursday, Asian Development Bank President Haruhiko Kuroda urged Asian countries to make the currency swap network more effective, suggesting they should be able to raise the size of the swaps without the need for IMF-mandated reform programs.

Most bilateral swap lines in the network are designed to cope with emergencies such as a balance of payments crisis, and 80 percent of the funding is linked to IMF-mandated programs.

($1=35.68 Baht)

(Additional reporting by Orathai Sriring in Phuket and Olivia Rondonuwu in Jakarta; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)

Economic Success Comes At A Price In Cambodia

Michael Sullivan/NPR
Chum Savoeun lives in a squatters shack in Anlong Kro Ngyan, outside the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh. She is among the tens of thousands of poor residents forced out of the city by urban development.

Michael Sullivan/NPR
In Phnom Penh's center, Boeng Kak Lake is being filled in to create a commercial and residential complex. Some boys use the site as a temporary soccer field near the Canadia Bank Tower, the city's tallest building.

Michael Sullivan/NPR
A boy sits atop pipes that will be used to pump sand into the lake.

by Michael Sullivan

All Things Considered, February 21, 2009 · The tiny Southeast Asian nation of Cambodia is trying to put its grim, war-torn past behind it and — economically, at least — it's succeeding so far.

The economy grew at a record 9 percent in 2007 and would have done almost as well last year had the global financial slowdown not hit.

That growth has brought big changes to the capital, Phnom Penh.

Two years ago, there were just two cell-phone providers; now there are six. And the streets of the capital are now surprisingly clean, after the city hired a Canadian firm to keep them that way. There's a fresh coat of paint on Wat Phnom, in the heart of the city. And the steep stairs to the pagoda at the top have been repaired, too.

Most of the vendors and beggars have been removed from the park below Wat Phnom, but people can still buy a songbird to take up the stairs to release, for luck, if they make it to the top.

Across the street from Wat Phnom, there's a new playground that would look at home anywhere in the United States.

And while there's no Starbucks — not yet anyway — the Kentucky colonel has continued his march across Southeast Asia. Cambodia is the latest domino to fall; a gleaming new KFC has landed on Monivong Boulevard, just around the corner from the art deco central market. The market, too, is getting a makeover.

Phnom Penh has its first serious skyscraper, too: the 27-story Canadia Bank Tower. Workers are scrambling to finish the health club and restaurant on the 25th floor in time for a scheduled May opening.

"Every day," says architect and project manager Chea Vuthy, "we come to work and have the cleanest air. And nicest view in the city."

Below, the Mekong, Tonle Sap and Bassac rivers spread out to the east and the iconic Boeng Kak Lake to the west.

Chea Vuthy says it's a good thing for the city to have skyscrapers like this one, to help illustrate the pace of Cambodia's development. Ground has been broken on two more buildings that will be even taller.

But all this development comes at a price. Boeng Kak Lake, for example, is being filled in with sand to make way for a new, high-end commercial complex.

Be Pharon belongs to one of 4,000 families being evicted from their homes on the lake to allow for this new development. She says the $8,000 developers are offering for her one-room house won't even begin to pay for something comparable elsewhere in the city, where residential property can go for as much as $3,000 a square meter.

"Nobody wants to leave here," she says. "It's close to the school and the hospital. And if we accept the developer's offer and move, we'll have to go far away — farther from work, farther from school, farther from everything."

Choung Choug Ngy is the lawyer for the families being forced out. In Phnom Penh, he says, development is a synonym for eviction. He says the project planned doesn't benefit anyone but the investors.

He says he'll keep fighting until the families get a better settlement. But that's a risky proposition in a country where the rule of law often takes a back seat to the desires of those with power.

"Basically, the mindset is, they want to move these people out and they're going to do it any way they can do it — and if people don't accept the packages, they could find themselves with nothing," says Sara Colm, senior researcher for Human Rights Watch in Phnom Penh.

She says tens of thousands of urban poor have been forced out of town in the past five years, and that makes life very difficult for them.

Anlong Kro Ngyan is one of those faraway places outside the city limits. It's a place where there's no electricity and no running water.

But it's a place Chum Savoeun calls home. She and her neighbors were among the first batch of squatters forced from the city center a few years back after a suspicious fire gutted their homes. Bulldozers moved in a few days later to clear the land for development.

Chum Savoeun and her neighbors were brought to Anlong Kro Ngyan and given small plots of land to build on.

"Things quickly turned bad," she says, after her husband got sick with HIV. She was forced to sell their small plot to pay his hospital bill. He died not long ago, and now she finds herself a squatter among former squatters – and HIV positive herself, with three small children to feed. She supports the family by picking morning glory — a kind of water spinach — from a nearby lake and selling it to her neighbors, for about a dollar a day.

Chum Savoeun's biggest fear, she says, is getting kicked out again and forced to move even farther out — as the city continues to expand. Things will be much harder then, she says, but there's nothing she can do but wait.

One big happy and richest family in Cambodia

Hun Sen and his wife Bun Rany (seated) during the wedding of one of their children.

Asia Times Online
By Bertil Lintner

PHNOM PENH - Cambodia's rough-and-tumble politics have long been bloody, marred by frequent political assassinations and violence. But never before have they been quite so blood-linked.

The English-language fortnightly Phnom Penh Post published without comment in late February a family tree it had compiled, revealing how the top leaders of the ruling Cambodia People's Party (CPP) have become more intimate through an old-fashioned Cambodian custom: arranged marriage. And the growing family ties run all the way to the top of Cambodia's political pyramid, Prime Minister Hun Sen, Southeast Asia's longest-serving leader.

For instance, there is Hun Sen's brother, Hun Neng, currently serving as governor of Kompong Cham, whose daughter, Hun Kimleng, is married to the deputy commissioner of Cambodia's National Police, Neth Savoeun. Meanwhile, Hun Neng's son, Hun Seang Heng, is married to Sok Sopheak, the daughter of Sok Phal, another deputy commissioner of the National Police. Hun Sen's 25-year-old son, Hun Manith, is married to Hok Chendavy, the daughter of Hok Lundy, the National Police commissioner.

Another of the premier's sons, Hun Many, 24, is married to Yim Chay Lin, the daughter of Yim Chay Li, secretary of state for rural development. One of Hun Sen's daughters, Hun Mali, 23, meanwhile, is married to Sok Puthyvuth, the son of Sok An, Hun Sen's right-hand man and minister of the Council of Ministers. The friendship between Hun Sen and Sok An dates back to the early 1980s, when Hun Sen was foreign minister and Sok An director of the office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Now those personal ties run blood deep as in-laws.

And that's just a sampling of the connections at the highest echelons. Heng Samrin, who was Cambodia's head of state from the Vietnamese invasion in January 1979 to the United Nations intervention in 1991, and now serves as president of the National Assembly and honorary CPP president, has a daughter named Heng Sam An, who is married to Pen Kosal, an adviser to Sar Kheng, deputy prime minister and minister of the interior - as well as brother-in-law of Senate and CPP president Chea Sim.

Heng Samrin's adviser, Cham Nimol, is the daughter of Cham Prasidh, minister of commerce. Another of Cham Pradish's daughters, Cham Krasna, is engaged to Sok Sokann, another of minister Sok An's sons. Sar Kheng's son, Sar Sokha, meanwhile, is married to Ke Sunsophy, daughter of Ke Kim Yan, commander-in-chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces. And Hun Sen's wife, Bun Ramy, currently serves as president of the Cambodian Red Cross, while its second vice president, Theng Ay Anny, aka Sok An Anny, is Sok An's wife.

Family traditions
There has been no official reaction to the Phnom Penh Post's revealing study. Intermarriage among members of the ruling political and business elites is not uncommon in Asia.

In neighboring Thailand, Field Marshal Phin Choonhavan's son, Chatichai Choonhavan, became prime minister of Thailand, while his daughter, Khun Ying Udomlak married Phao Sriyanond, director general of the Thai police. Another high-ranking Thai army officer, Thanom Kittikachorn, was the brother-in-law of fellow military dictator Praphas Charusathien, while his son, Narong Kittikachorn, also became a military strongman, while his sister Songsuda married Suvit Yodmani, who has served with several Thai governments.

Sino-Thai tycoons are known to have arranged their children's marriages to members of other top business families to progress their commercial interests. But in Cambodia's case, where many of the political elite were wiped out during Khmer Rouge-led purges between 1975 and 1979, the number of political marriages is extraordinary. And these new family ties between the children of ministers and top officials potentially set the stage for the CPP's grip on power to continue for generations.

Significantly, the CPP's family connection is emerging simultaneously with a waning of the royal family's influence over national politics. Ever since Hun Sen and his inner circle of friends and advisers ousted former prime minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh in a 1997 coup, the royalist Funcinpec party's political fortunes have waned.

Ranariddh was forced into exile after the bloody putsch that killed many of his party members, but later returned to Cambodia to become president of the National Assembly after inconclusive general elections in 2003, when the CPP was unable to garner enough votes to form a one-party government and after much squabbling joined with Funcinpec in a wobbly coalition.

One of the sons of former king Norodom Sihanouk and half-brother of the present monarch, Sihamoni, Ranariddh resigned that post last March and subsequently left the country again. While he was away, he was dismissed as co-chairman of the Council for the Development of Cambodia as well as the National Olympic Committee. He later returned to Cambodia - and was ousted as president of Funcinpec, the main opposition party, amid an internal power struggle in October that many political analysts believe Hun Sen had a hand in.

Not surprisingly, perhaps, several of Funcinpec's original leaders were also related. Ranariddh's uncle and former king Norodom Sihanouk's younger half-brother, Norodom Sirivudh, served as foreign minister in a Funcinpec-led government in 1993. Ranariddh's half-brother, Norodom Chakrapong, meanwhile, helped found Funcinpec but later defected to the CPP. Their half-sister and Sihanouk's eldest child, Norodom Bopha Devi, has served as minister of information and culture, while her latest consort, Khek Vandy, was elected to the National Assembly on a Funcinpec list in 1998.

But Funcinpec's family pride has waned considerably since it emerged as the biggest party in the UN-supervised elections in May 1993, when it captured 45% of the popular vote and outpaced the CPP, which came in a close second with 38%. Many political observers think Ranariddh's recent ouster from Funcinpec may represent his last political gasp.

His former Funcinpec colleagues recently sued him on allegations that he embezzled US$3.6 million from the sale of the party's headquarters last August. The Phnom Penh Municipal Court found the prince guilty and sentenced him - in absentia - to 18 years in prison. Ranariddh had recently set up a new party, aptly named the Norodom Ranariddh Party (NRP).

Funcinpec, the NRP and the opposition Sam Rainsy Party will be among 10 different political parties standing against the CPP juggernaut in upcoming commune council elections, which are scheduled for April 1 and widely viewed as a bellwether indicator for next year's general elections.

It may well be an April Fool's election, with the opposition fractured and vulnerable and the CPP allegedly pursuing a campaign of violence and intimidation against opposition candidates and their supporters in rural areas. Khieu Kanharith, CPP minister of information, predicted on February 22 that his party would win about 97% or 98% of the positions in the commune councils, and 95% of the vote in the general elections next year. That may well be the case, as Cambodia is fast morphing into a one-party state dominated by the CPP.

The Phnom Penh Post in its February 9 edition quoted a foreign diplomat as saying: "The CPP controls the government, the National Assembly, the Senate, 99% of the village chiefs, the provincial governments. Their influence goes through the judiciary, through the police ... Practically everything is controlled by one party."

That assessment would appear to jibe with 55-year-old Hun Sen's January 9 pronouncement that he does not intend to stand down from the premiership until he is at least 90 years old. By then, a third generation of CPP family-tied politicians and officials, if everything goes according to the apparent plan, will just be coming of political age.

Bertil Lintner is a former correspondent with the Far Eastern Economic Review, where he reported frequently on Cambodian politics and economics. He is currently a writer with Asia-Pacific Media Services.

Fascinating Angkor Wat helps tourist town prosper

More than two million people a year go to Cambodian world heritage site

Vancouver Sun

November 19, 2008

SIEM REAP, Cambodia -- Got 48 hours to explore the ruins of the ancient Angkor empire? Reuters correspondents with local knowledge help visitors make the most of the temples and Siem Reap, the tourist town booming in the shadow of Angkor Wat.


6 p.m. -- Relax on rattan armchairs in the pleasant garden of the Singing Tree Cafe just down the street from the Siem Reap river. It's a nice place for an evening drink or a healthy meal or for those seeking to unwind completely, there's an evening yoga class in the wooden, traditional Khmer house.

8 p.m. -- Every year, more than two million tourists visit Angkor Wat, the 12th century Hindu-Buddhist temple which is synonymous with Cambodia. By day, flag-waving guides herd package tourists through the world heritage site. But if you go to the night viewing, you can gaze at the reliefs depicting scenes from Hindu mythology and the intricately carved apsaras, or celestial nymphs, in solitude and immerse yourself in the grandeur of the ancient architecture while other tourists eat dinner.


7 a.m. -- After a quick breakfast, head for the temples. Drive around the Angkor Wat moat to Angkor Thom, the last capital of the Khmer empire.

The Bayon temple, with its 200 enormous faces smiling down on visitors from stone towers is a must-see. The Terrace of the Elephants, where King Jayavarman VII viewed public ceremonies, is well preserved compared to some of the surrounding temples which need a bit of imagination to appreciate.

11 a.m. -- Go back to Siem Reap to avoid the midday sun. On the way, take a detour on the airport road to the National Centre for Khmer Ceramics Revival, a workshop which seeks to recreate ancient Khmer pottery using clay from the nearby hills, fired in a giant kiln built based on information found by archaeologists researching similar ancient sites. Watch the potters create giant jars like the ones that are found at archaeological digs or try throwing a pot yourself on the primitive potters' wheel.

12.30 p.m. -- Siem Reap's food choices have expanded dramatically in recent years. Go to Amok Restaurant, named after the Khmer curry made by steaming the coconut-based dish in a banana leaf for a typical Cambodian lunch. Besides the fish amok, the banana flower salad and the green papaya salad are nice.

1:30 p.m. -- A good time to wander around the air-conditioned shops. Angkor Candles stocks a selection of handcarved candles in the shape of local motifs. Rajana is a fair trade shop selling handmade silver jewelry, cushion covers and other knick-knacks. For cotton "krama" or gingham check scarves worn by Khmer Rouge fighters, head to the Old Market where they are sold in every colour combination imaginable.

3:30 p.m. -- For a quick and unusual snack, try the fried crickets and other creepy crawlies sold on the bridge spanning the Siem Reap River. Or, for those less adventurous, you can go to the Blue Pumpkin for a banana ginger tart and iced coffee before journeying back to the temples.

4 p.m. -- If the Angkor temples had not been restored, they would all look like Ta Prohm, about one km (mile) from Angkor Thom. Trees with huge roots threaten to swallow the moss-covered walls of this temple and return it to the surrounding jungle. It's a familiar sight for Tomb Raider fans. Proceed on to Pre Rup, a 10th- century Shiva temple whose sandstone and brick walls glow orange in the late afternoon light. Then, climb up Phnom Bakheng, a temple mountain also dedicated to Shiva, to watch the sun set over what remains of the Angkor empire.

7 p.m. -- To catch the latest gossip on archeological finds, have a drink with the experts. The French team will be at the Laundry Bar in the centre of town. The Japanese, who are the second-largest contingent after the French, are usually at Cafe Moi Moi on the road back to town from the temples.

8 p.m. -- Keeping with the Angkor theme, dine at Le Malraux, a bistro named after writer and statesman Andre Malraux who embarked on an exploratory mission into the Cambodian jungle in the early 1900s and was arrested by French colonial authorities for trying to steal bas-reliefs from one of the Angkor temples. Confit de canard and other things French will help you enjoy the atmosphere of Indochina of bygone years.

10 p.m. -- Night comes early to Siem Reap. But if you follow the neon lights and noise emanating from places like the Sok San Palace and Sokha Entertainment Club, you'll find young Cambodians singing, dancing and trying their luck on the slot machines.


7:30 a.m. -- From dawn, the Old Market is a hive of activity as housewives rush to buy fresh vegetables, meat and fish. That is also when the food stalls offer the most choices. Rice porridge, duck noodles and sticky rice steamed in banana leaf packets make an interesting Khmer breakfast.

8 a.m. -- Drive out to Kbal Spean or the Valley of the 1,000 Lingas. Wear sturdy shoes as it is a bit of a hike to the myriad stone gods carved into the riverbed and boulders on the banks. The Angkoreans believed the water passing over these symbols of Shiva would fertilise their rice fields and ensure a bumper crop.

1:30 p.m. -- Maintain the Hindu theme over lunch at Kama Sutra back in Siem Reap. The Indian restaurant is one of the classier ones in town and serves both north and south Indian favourites. Try their dosas -- very thin and crispy.

2:30 p.m. -- Cambodia's weaving masters at the Institute of Khmer Traditional Textiles will be back from siesta now and at their looms creating silk in intricate designs. You can watch them spin, dye and weave at their workshop on the edge of town. If you are a textile fanatic, journey to their farm to see silkworms being raised and dyes of different hues being created from tree bark, leaves and other natural sources.

4 p.m. -- Follow the road to the right of IKTT, past the crocodile farm and basket shops, and you will soon be in Roluos, an area that is home to a clutch of 9th century temples. Ancient architecture buffs can study the structural differences between the Bakong and Preah Ko temples and Angkor Wat, which was built centuries later. Ordinary tourists will enjoy the journey which takes you through villages, rice paddies and herds of water buffalo wallowing in the mud.

6 p.m. -- Paved roads are increasing in Cambodia, but many are still spine-jarring dirt tracks. Go to Chai Massage near the road to Angkor Wat and let them knead the knots and kinks away.

7 p.m. -- Tourism exceeds journalism by far in Siem Reap, but there is a Foreign Correspondents Club. It's near the river and the garden is the perfect place for a last gin and tonic before the journey home.

Vietnam hails Khmer Rouge war crimes trial

Macau Daily Times
Saturday, 21 February 2009

Vietnam, which overthrew Cambodian dictator Pol Pot in 1979, on Thursday welcomed the start of the Khmer Rouge tribunal, saying those responsible for the regime's crimes should be "severely punished."

The tribunal opened Tuesday with the trial of Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, who ran the Tuol Sleng prison used as a mass torture centre.

"Vietnam condemns the atrocious crimes of the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime and believes that those responsible should be severely punished," Vietnam Foreign Ministry spokesman Le Dung said at a press conference.

The communist country hoped that the UN-backed war crimes court "works justly and fairly to bring justice to the victims," he added.

Some two million people, about quarter of the Cambodian population, died under Pol Pot's regime of terror between 1975 and 1979. The Khmer Rouge, radical communists supported by China, were brought down by Vietnamese-backed troops in January 1979.

The tribunal was established in 2006 after nearly a decade of wrangling between Cambodia and the United Nations.

It has faced controversy over allegations of political interference by the Cambodian government over the prosecution of further suspects.

The year of war criminals

Toronto Star, Canada
Feb 21, 2009

Brett Popplewell
Staff Reporter

After 30 years, the first of five members of the Khmer Rouge began answering for alleged crimes against humanity this week in Cambodia.

Charged with the murder of thousands during the 1975-79 reign of Cambodia's Communist Party, former prison head Kaing Guek Eav is the first to face charges in connection with the slaughter of 1.7 million people.

Meanwhile, Western intelligence agencies have begun working with local officials in Serbia to find Ratko Mladic, the former leader of the Serbian Army wanted for genocide in the killing of Bosnian Muslims, in the hope of getting him to appear before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.

All this while the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center evaluates the findings of a recent investigation conducted by The New York Times and Germany's ZDF television that claimed the Nazi war criminal Aribert Heim, deemed Dr. Death for his surgical mutilations of Holocaust prisoners, died in 1992 while hiding out in Cairo. It had long been believed Heim was alive and in South America.

Arguably not since the Nuremberg Trials have alleged war criminals drawn such interest from all corners of the globe. But as demonstrated by these cases and others, especially that of Radovan Karadzic – the former Bosnian Serb leader who was captured last summer after 13 years living in disguise as a Serbian doctor – bringing some of history's most notorious war criminals to justice is usually a long and arduous process.

The list of the world's most wanted war criminals also includes Omar Hassan al-Bashir, former president of Sudan, accused by the ICC of the ethnic cleansing of more than 35,000 people in Darfur.

Then there's Joseph Kony, leader of Uganda's rebel Lord's Resistance Army, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo's Bosco "The Terminator" Ntaganda. Both are wanted for the deaths of thousands and for conscripting child soldiers. The list also includes Felicien Kabuga, the Rwandan businessman who reportedly supplied the machetes and other weapons used during that country's 1994 genocide.

Though humanity has been waging war from time immemorial, the notion of a "war crime" is rather new.

Thucydides, arguably the first war correspondent, once wrote that in war "the strong do as they will, while the weak suffer as they must."

The Great Powers of the 19th and early 20th centuries tried to address this recurring problem with a series of treaties that lay the groundwork for what now constitutes a war crime: mass murder, the torture and murder of prisoners of war, the killing of hostages, the destruction of cities, and any unnecessary devastation.

While war crimes were clearly defined at the 1907 Hague Conference, the practice of trying alleged war criminals wasn't really instituted until after World War II, when the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials saw the victors try leaders of the defeated axis powers for crimes against humanity.

But high-profile perpetrators of such atrocities as the Nanking Massacre and the Holocaust escaped the noose with the aid of friends and family in Germany, Japan and elsewhere.

The most famous of these is probably Adolf Eichmann, who instituted the "final solution" to shuttle Germany's unwanted citizens to concentration camps where they were systematically executed. He managed to escape to Argentina after the war, to be tracked down by Simon Wiesenthal, the famed Nazi hunter, and members of Israel's secret service, who smuggled Eichmann to Israel, where he was tried and executed for war crimes in 1962.

Subsequent Nazi escapees were found living in Latin America, the Middle East, the United States and Canada.

To their atrocities have been added those of history's more contemporary tyrants.

Bounty hunting has also been largely usurped by the establishment of the ICC in 2002, which was set up to try all alleged war criminals in the same court.

That said, many countries, including the United States, Russia, Israel and China, refuse to join the ICC, thereby leading many to argue that Thucydides' assertion remains as true today as it was 2,400 years ago.

Asia's First Luxury Tour Operator Offers Chic Travel Experience to Angkor Temples Cambodia

The company has just launched a new luxury tour "Luxuries on the Majestic Angkor Cambodia 4 days."

Siem Riep, Cambodia, February 20, 2009 --( Luxury Travel, continues to create niche tourism products for high end travelers, the company has just launched a new luxury tour "Luxuries on the Majestic Angkor Cambodia 4 days."

The Luxury Travel Company is Asia's first luxury tour company and full travel service agency. Luxury Travel is experienced in providing special services and unique tourism products to luxury global travelers.

Teeming with history, marvelous architecture and awash in natural beauty, Cambodia is fast becoming a must see destination in South East Asia. The largest religious monument ever built, Angkor Wat ranks at the top of globetrotting VIP - must see list of wonders in the word.

After a lengthy period of internal strife and civil war curtailed travel to Cambodia for the better part of three decades, the establishment of the peace has spurred a rise in tourism accompanies by a hotel constructions boom in the town of Siem Reap located just fine miles from Angkor Wat.

"This 4 day trip take guests discover all wonders of Angkor Temples and experience the best of Cambodia has to offer." said Tonny Pham, Product manager of Lux Travel (

Tour prices start from USD $917 net per-person double rates, this includes accommodation costs at deluxe rooms at luxury properties, nearly all meals, regional flights, private transfers, private pick up and drop off service. The tour can be booked at last minute, and can be customized to suit individual interests and schedules.

Guests are also free to request helicopter tour, restaurant reservations, meetings with artists, cooking instructors and designers, shopping recommendations, spa reservations, tours with special-interest lecturers, and exclusive access to local activities and cultural events.

Order this tour and travel to Vietnam before 31 Sep 2009 with the company secret code lux4lux, guests get 10% discount. Check it out at

The gift of life denied

Toronto's Tong Tep thought the government would be thrilled when his Cambodian nephew offered to donate an organ. Wrong


Globe and Mail, Canada
February 21, 2009

For 25 years, Tong Tep, a devout Buddhist and Cambodian refugee, worked as a crane operator in Toronto. He saved enough to buy two small houses in the east end, and to send money to relatives back home.

But Mr. Tep, who suffers from diabetes, suddenly found himself in ill health three years ago when his kidneys failed and his left leg had to be amputated.

A 25-year-old nephew from his homeland came forward and offered to donate his kidney to the kind uncle who had helped put him through school.

However, much to Mr. Tep's surprise and devastation, Citizenship and Immigration Canada denied his nephew a visa to fly from Phnom Penh to Toronto for the operation.

"I can't understand it. It would save the government money, and it would save my life," said Mr. Tep, 60, shrugging as he sat in his home watching his two-year-old grandson play with his walker. A gold Buddha smiled down from the top of a large-screen television.

His plight has emerged as a major issue in the field of kidney transplantation. According to nephrologists at the three largest kidney-transplant centres in Toronto and Vancouver, CIC often denies visas to donors from developing countries.

"In our experience, Canadian embassies often deny visas to potential kidney donors from some developing countries out of concern that these donors [might] remain in Canada after having donated their kidney," said Jeffrey Zaltzman, medical director of the renal-transplant program at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto.

This puts immigrant kidney patients - who often only have relatives overseas - at a disadvantage. Not only is pre-surgical testing and screening more complicated for a foreign donor, but it isn't covered by Canada's health-care system, notes John Gill, president of the Canadian Organ Replacement Register.

Dr. Gill, who also works as a transplant nephrologist at St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver, says he has noticed a bias against donors from India and Pakistan. Every year, St. Mike's, Toronto General Hospital and St. Paul's in Vancouver each send out letters on behalf of about two dozen kidney patients who have willing donors living in Sri Lanka, Brazil, Vietnam, India and Pakistan. Often, CIC rejects their visa requests, though six overseas donors have come to St. Mike's recently.

In 2007, 146 Canadians died while on the organ wait list, which numbered 4,167. Two-thirds of the patients are waiting for kidneys.

Transplant specialists say there has been a dramatic shift in recent years toward living donors, who can give up a kidney with no long-term impact on their health. In 2006, 40 per cent of all 1,202 kidney transplants in Canada were from living donors, versus 28 per cent in 1996. The wait list for a kidney from a deceased donor in Canada is as long as seven years, and in Mr. Tep's case, a decade. His blood type, B, is harder to match.

CIC's overly rigorous screening may indirectly contribute to transplant tourism because it encourages disappointed patients to go shopping for a kidney in the black market in body parts, Dr. Gill says.

Buying or selling a kidney is illegal in Canada. At an international conference in Istanbul last May, transplant professionals from 78 countries signed a declaration prohibiting the practice. However, it still thrives in Pakistan, China and the Philippines.

Replacing a faulty kidney actually saves the health-care system $300,000 - and also gets the person back to work, says Dr. Scott Klarenbach, a nephrologist and health-care economist at the University of Alberta: "It's very rare in medicine that you have a treatment that both reduces costs and improves outcomes."

With a new kidney, the patient no longer has to be hooked up to a dialysis machine for 12 hours a week to remove excess water and waste from his blood - as Mr. Tep must do, leaving him fatigued.

"It's not an easy thing to ask someone for a kidney. Usually a family member volunteers, and for people born elsewhere, they often turn to relatives overseas," says Dr. Edward Cole, program director of nephrology at the University Health Network in Toronto.

In Toronto, half of all residents were born somewhere else. Diabetes and high blood pressure, both of which can lead to kidney failure, are more common among certain ethnicities, including Indian and Caribbean.

Mr. Tep paid $5,000 for tests in Phnom Penh to ensure his nephew was a match. After several months, a letter arrived from CIC saying it had reviewed the financial assets of his nephew, as well as his ties to Cambodia, and was unsatisfied he would return home. They would consider issuing a special minister's permit for him to travel to Toronto if Mr. Tep could "prove there is no other relative in Canada who can be a kidney donor," the letter noted.

Mr. Tep says his wife and two sons cannot be donors because they all have diabetes. "My nephew is the only person," he says. "In our culture, families help one another."

His living-room walls are decorated with paintings of his parents and his grandchildren. His younger son, wife and child live with him, and his older son occupies the house he owns down the street.

Doctors say they understand that CIC - which couldn't comment on Mr. Tep's case because of privacy legislation - must uphold the integrity of Canada's immigration program. But they want to improve the overseas screening policy. CIC guidelines note that overseas donors must be medically compatible with recipients, must not be paid and must be able to convince the visa officer they will leave Canada at the end of their stay.

Physicians are working with sister hospitals in developing countries so that donors can be evaluated before the operation, and cared for when they return.

A recent study in a prestigious medical journal, Transplantation, found that patients recover much more quickly if they undergo transplant surgery in Canada. The paper tracked the outcomes of 20 Canadian patients who travelled abroad and purchased live kidney donations. "Many patients were very ill upon arrival [back in Canada], requiring very intensive medical treatment," noted Dr. Zaltzman, the study's author.

Mr. Tep would like a chance to be helped by his family, as he has helped them all these years. "Maybe it was bad karma. The visa officer was in a bad mood that day," he says, shaking his head in dismay and rubbing his prosthetic leg.

Land grabs in Cambodia push poor out

Rights groups press government to end forced resettlement as parcels sold off `to highest bidder'

Feb 21, 2009

Bill Schiller
Asia Bureau

PHNOM PENH–When military police sealed off the ramshackle, inner-city neighbourhood of Dey Krahorm at 2 a.m. one day last month – preparing to forcibly remove its remaining residents to make way for a plush, new commercial development – Lee Robinson, of Victoria, B.C., was inside.

"We knew there was going to be trouble," says Robinson, who runs a small non-governmental organization here called Licadho Canada.

Robinson and a handful of other Canadians, Americans and Germans had come to show their support for the people of Dey Krahorm, many of whom had been fighting for years to cling to what they believed was their rightful property.

Robinson and her foreign colleagues are part of a small but vocal throng of international youth that has converged on Cambodia, to press international donors and their governments to call Cambodia's government to account over its continued seizure of neighbourhoods populated by the poor and to press for civil rights.

But that day last month, they could do little when the neighbourhood of Dey Krahorm was laid to waste by the developer, with the backing of military police, the riot squad, and a band of about 100 "hired hands" clutching crowbars and clubs.

When the sun finally rose over Phnom Penh, the developer's group pushed its way through barricades of wood, metal and vendors' carts mounted by residents, and cleared a path for a massive steam shovel that swung its arm like a baseball bat, crushing every structure in its path.
Tear gas boomed, fires erupted and people were dragged screaming from their homes. Police endured a rain of rocks in retaliation.

"Everything kind of went into a war zone," Robinson recalls. "It was chaos."

By noon it was over. Dey Krahorm, a neighbourhood that began in the mid-1980s and was once home to musicians, actors, comedians and even a few civil servants, was no more.

The defeated were trucked off to a resettlement site some 20 kilometres outside the city, and once again, the development of Cambodia's capital marched on.

International human rights groups here say this is happening with increasing frequency across one of the world's poorest countries.

As international aid floods into Cambodia – aimed at reducing poverty and helping to build infrastructure – the rich elite are growing ever more powerful, while the poor are getting pushed aside.

"Cambodia is basically up for sale," says David Pred, one of the founders of Bridges Across Borders Southeast Asia, a spinoff of a U.S.-based human rights organization.

"It's being parcelled up and sold to the highest bidder."

He says it's time the international community called a halt to it. And it's in a position to do so, he adds.

"International donors provide half of this government's national budget," he notes. "It's time they demanded accountability."

Pred and a growing number of non-governmental organizations and human rights defenders say aid to the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen should be made conditional on its respect for law and human rights.

Once counted among the Dey Krahorm community's staunchest defenders was former Canadian ambassador to Phnom Penh, Donica Pottie.

"People here still remember her," says Naly Pilorge, a French, Canadian and Khmer national who heads Cambodia's largest human rights organization, The Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights. "She stood up for the people of Dey Krahorm and for the poor."

While here, Pottie worked to free jailed human rights defenders and pressed the government to end forced removals and halt widespread land expropriation.

But Pottie returned to Ottawa in 2007 and Canada's mission here was downgraded from full-fledged embassy status following cutbacks from Ottawa.

This month, British-based environmental watchdog Global Witness issued a stinging report detailing what it alleges is the parcelling out of the nation's oil, gas and mineral reserves mainly to the family, friends and trusted associates of the government of Hun Sen.

Opposition parties here immediately seized on the report to demand an accounting from the government. But following national elections in July last year, in which Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party took 91 of 123 seats – elections that were criticized by the European Union and the United Nation's Special Representative for Human Rights as seriously flawed – the opposition is weak.

The government has promised to look into the matter, but with no stated timetable.

Meanwhile, as Cambodia's rich elite get richer, the nation continues to do without.

Cambodia has no national electricity grid.

Its highways are in a shambles.

And more than 60 per cent of Cambodians have no access to clean water.

The land on which Dey Krahorm once stood – the words mean "Red Soil" – was actually granted to the community by the government as a so-called Social Land Concession in 2003, one of several under a plan announced by Hun Sen himself to provide secure land tenure and on-site upgrading for Phnom Penh's poor.

But, as is so often the case in the developing world, the developer persuaded a tiny band of community leaders to affix their thumbprints to documents, turning over the entire parcel for their own lucrative private gain and a remote relocation outside the city. The deal was done without any consultation with the Dey Krahorm residents.

Some gave in. But a rump group of more than 150 families took a stand. They fired the leaders, elected their own and refused to move. Some 250 small retailers and renters stayed with them.

"In our view it (the land grab) was completely illegal," says German lawyer Manfred Hornung, who works for Pilorge's human rights organization and is now defending the leaders of the remaining residents who have been taken to court by the developers.

He warns, too, that forced removals like Dey Krahorm come with significant social costs, costs that may simmer now – and come to a boil later.

"Resettling people so far outside the city disrupts families, forces people to abandon jobs and takes children out of school."

And it's part of a pattern in recent years, he notes.

The forced removal of other Phnom Penh neighbourhoods like Sambok Chap, Mitheapheap and Russy Keo have all forced the poor from the city. And yet another target is Boeung Kak – a lake in the city's north end that developers plan to backfill and build on, pushing as many as 4,000 families in the surrounding area out of the city.

The plans for Boeung Kak constitute a social and environmental disaster in the making, says Pred of Bridges Across Borders.

"International aid is supposed to be about poverty reduction. But this epidemic of land theft is undermining the international community's best efforts.

"We're absolutely not anti-development," he says.

"But what we're seeing here is exclusive development for the super-rich, while the poor get pushed ever deeper into poverty. It's creating conditions for instability."

Taste Buds: Kirirom Cambodian

A.V. Crofts

In the capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh, bakeries and noodle shops typically open for business at the crack of dawn to beat the sting of midday heat. In the early 1970s, Meng Ung’s father, a second-generation Chinese-Cambodian, owned such a bakery in Phnom Penh, where wholesalers would arrive early to purchase loaves of fresh bread followed later in the morning by local Cambodians in search of their breakfast. Today, an ocean and lifetime away in Lynnwood, Ung sits at a polished table in his spotless family bakery and restaurant that shares the name of his father’s original store: Kirirom.

As a Chinese-Cambodian, Ung has a rich appreciation for the ethnic blend in Cambodia that informs their cuisine – from the French colonial presence of the 19th and 20th centuries to Cambodia’s geographic position sandwiched between Thailand and Vietnam. “Phnom Penh is a melting pot,” Ung explains. “You have Chinese influence, you have the French. Cambodian food shares lots of spices with Thai and Lao cooking – we are like brothers.”

Kirirom’s menu reflects the kaleidoscope of cultures that influence contemporary Cambodian cuisine: French baguettes accompany rich noodle soups infused with lemongrass. Chinese donuts and humbao sit side-by-side with flaky apple and cherry turnovers in the bakery display cases. Fried rice, curries and satays all make multiple menu appearances. “Each family has a different cooking style,” says Ung. “Kirirom’s food is how I cook at my house.” Eating at Kirirom provides an education in early food fusion, made visible for the multicultural nature of Ung’s tri-lingual (Khmer, Chinese, and French) household growing up.

The first lesson involves navigating Kirirom’s extensive menu, laid out beautifully with color photographs of each dish and detailed ingredient descriptions. Starting with appetizers that range from the Kirirom Egg Rolls ($4.50 for six) to the Grilled Short Rib Lemongrass ($4.50 for three skewers), the effect is a welcome collection of many Southeast Asian favorites. My personal favorite is the Wrapped Shrimp ($5.25 for seven), a creative starter that presents crispy wanton-wrapped shrimp piping hot with a sweet chili dipping sauce. While some establishments overdo the oil on frying, Kirirom hits the mark on the shrimp without a hint of grease.

With such attractive photographs to pore over and more than 80 options to suit every taste, deciding on entrées was truly challenging. No sooner had my eyes landed on a simply gorgeous soup in both presentation and description, then a rice dish or one of the 14 Cambodian sandwiches (“Cambodians love sandwiches!”) Kirirom creates for hungry customers would pull them to their corner of the menu. Ultimately, curiosity often won out and I was duly rewarded.

The Phnom Penh Sour Soup ($7.65) arrives at your table with a nest of coarsely chopped basil and ground peanuts atop a savory broth, with delicate sections of pickled lotus root the thickness of a pencil swimming with fresh pineapple chunks, sectioned tomatoes, shrimp and egg. The pleasing pucker of the lemongrass broth and pickled lotus is complemented by the high-note sweetness of the fresh pineapple. While not as memorable as the sour soup, the Phnom Penh Noodle Soup ($4.95) starts with a delicious pork broth and is served with thin rice noodles, cilantro, green onions, bean sprouts, ground and sliced pork, wafer-thin slices of chicken loaf, fish balls and a pinch of pickled vegetables on the top.

A standout entrée is the XO Fried Rice with Chicken ($8.25) an addictive dish that combines specially marinated chicken, broccoli florettes, Chinese broccoli and celery coins, egg and juicy shiitake mushrooms. The chicken and shiitake mushrooms make the dish by far one of the best versions of a fried rice entrée my taste buds can remember. The rice is also served with a simple but satisfying pork broth soup and hot sauce.

Kirirom baguettes ($.70 for small and $1.60 for a large) enhance any meal and are baked fresh daily. “We don’t use any preservatives,” Ung says. “The shelf life of our bread is only two days.” Chinese donuts ($.65 each) are also excellent options for dunking into rich broths or sopping up one of the many homemade sauces Ung and his family create in the kitchen. Do not think sweet when it comes to Chinese donuts; these babies are a savory puff pastry that adjusts perfectly for either a swim in your soup or a plunge into your sweetened hot cup of coffee for dessert.

Along with a range of beers and soft drinks, Kirirom boasts a wonderful fresh coconut drink ($2.50), which is happily served in a hefty pint glass with a spoon, to better scoop the generous curls of coconut meat and sinfully sweet juice. Another libation of unusual variety is Kirirom’s soybean drink ($1.25), a canned sweet soy juice that has a wonderfully milky quality reminiscent of horchata and my taco trawling days. These drinks easily qualify as desserts, but if you still feel the need to indulge, Kirirom has an array of baked confections made fresh daily.

While Kirirom recently celebrated its first birthday this past March, its story really begins back in Phnom Penh at the original Kirirom, which Ung and his eight siblings and parents were forced to abandon in 1975 during the rise of the Khmer Rouge, the brutal political regime responsible for over 1 million Cambodian deaths over the course of its brutal reign from 1975-’79. The Khmer Rouge emptied Cambodian cities of its residents, forcing families like Ung’s to relocate to the countryside. Ung was only 9 at the time.

After miraculously avoiding the fate of many of his urban counterparts, Ung fled ravaged Cambodia at the age of 15 into Thailand. He spent three years in refugee camps, first in Thailand and then on an Indonesian island, arriving in Seattle through sponsorship by an aunt and uncle in 1984. Ung was part of the first wave of roughly 3,000 Cambodians to arrive in Washington state in the 1980s. Now Cambodians in the state number over 10,000. Ung has experienced some unexpected reunions since opening Kirirom, with old Cambodian friends from grade school appearing at the restaurant and discovering their shared history.

All but two of Ung’s siblings have since joined him in Lynnwood (one sister is in Sydney, Australia; another sister remains in Cambodia) and his three brothers cook at Kirirom with one sister, the eternally cheerful Davy Chea, whose smile greets each customer upon entry. Davy is so quick that she is able to reach your table, menus in hand, before you do. And Ung, the man behind it all? You’ll catch Ung at Kirirom on weekends; during the week he’s at his desk as a technical designer job at Boeing.

But perhaps the most influential presence at Kirirom is Ung’s father, who relocated with his wife to Lynnwood in 1995. “My father wants to make sure that our bread carries the same formula that we had back home,” Ung shares with me in his soft voice as I survey the restaurant, elegant in its simplicity. He grins and continues, “I want to be known for carrying on the tradition of Cambodian food.”