Monday, 23 February 2009

Cambodia's Missing Accused

February 23, 2009

by John Pilger

At my hotel in Phnom Penh, the women and children sat on one side of the room, palais-style, the men on the other. It was a disco night and a lot of fun; then suddenly people walked to the windows and wept. The DJ had played a song by the much-loved Khmer singer Sin Sisamouth, who had been forced to dig his own grave and to sing the Khmer Rouge anthem before he was beaten to death. I experienced many such reminders in the years following Pol Pot's fall.

There was another kind of reminder. In the village of Neak Long, a Mekong River town, I walked with a distraught man through a necklace of bomb craters. His entire family of 13 had been blown to pieces by an American B-52. That had happened almost two years before Pol Pot came to power in 1975. It is estimated more than 600,000 Cambodians were slaughtered that way.

The problem with the United Nations-backed trial of the remaining Khmer Rouge leaders, which has just begun in Phnom Penh, is that it is dealing only with the killers of Sin Sisamouth and not with the killers of the family in Neak Long, and not with their collaborators. There were three stages of Cambodia's holocaust. Pol Pot's genocide was but one of them, yet only it has a place in the official memory. It is highly unlikely Pot Pot would have come to power had President Richard Nixon and his national security adviser, Henry Kissinger, not attacked neutral Cambodia. In 1973, B-52s dropped more bombs on Cambodia's populated heartland than were dropped on Japan during all of the Second World War: the equivalent of five Hiroshimas. Declassified files reveal that the CIA was in little doubt of the effect. "[The Khmer Rouge] are using damage caused by B-52 strikes as the main theme of their propaganda," reported the director of operations on May 2, 1973. "This approach has resulted in the successful recruitment of a number of young men [and] has been effective with refugees." Prior to the bombing, the Khmer Rouge had been a Maoist cult without a popular base. The bombing delivered a catalyst. What Nixon and Kissinger began, Pol Pot completed.

Kissinger will not be in the dock in Phnom Penh. He is advising President Obama on geo-politics. Neither will Margaret Thatcher, nor a number of her comfortably retired senior ministers and officials who, in secretly supporting the Khmer Rouge after the Vietnamese had expelled them, contributed directly to the third stage of Cambodia's holocaust. In 1979, the US and British governments imposed a devastating embargo on stricken Cambodia because its liberators, Vietnam, had come from the wrong side of the Cold War. Few Foreign Office campaigns have been as cynical or as brutal. At the UN, the British demanded that the now defunct Pol Pot regime retain the "right" to represent its victims at the UN and voted with Pol Pot in the agencies of the UN, including the World Health Organization, thereby preventing it from working inside Cambodia.

To disguise this outrage, Britain, the U.S., and China, Pol Pot's principal backer, invented a "non-communist" coalition in exile that was, in fact, dominated by the Khmer Rouge. In Thailand, the CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency formed direct links with the Khmer Rouge. In 1983, the Thatcher government sent the SAS to train the "coalition" in land-mine technology – in a country more seeded with mines than anywhere on earth except Afghanistan. "I confirm," Thatcher wrote to opposition leader Neil Kinnock, "that there is no British government involvement of any kind in training, equipping, or cooperating with Khmer Rouge forces or those allied to them." The lie was breathtaking. On June 25, 1991, the Major government was forced to admit to parliament that the SAS had been secretly training the "coalition." Unless international justice is a farce, those who sided with Pol Pot's mass murderers ought to be summoned to the court in Phnom Penh: at the very least their names read into infamy's register.

The battle for Prasat Preah Vihear

Illawara Mercury

When I decided to take on the eight-hour pilgrimage to the second most important ancient temple in Cambodia, I knew that I was in for an adventure. But I didn't realise that I would be riding into the middle of an international battle field.

Cambodian soldiers, with machines guns slung over their shoulders and grenades on standby, surrounded Prasat Preah Vihear as we approached the 900-year-old Hindu temple on the border of Cambodia and Thailand.

Some sat near the bunkers that had been built behind stone walls while others paraded up and down the street.

I took photos of the grenades and guns positioned on the stone walls in the direction of Thailand.

The sacred site has been turned into a military zone since Thailand attempted to claim the area in a battle on October 15, last year, which left one Thai and three Cambodians dead.

The Thais have stepped up their claim to the area since it was given World Heritage Status in July, last year. (Angkor Wat is the only other temple in Cambodia to be given such status.)

But I was oblivious to all of this before we set off on our motorbike journey from Anlong Ven, about 200km south-west.

Even as we approached the site we had no idea of the tension.

We chatted to Cambodian soldiers over iced coffee in a small restaurant at Sa Em, the last major town before Prasat Preah Vihear. They were friendly and wanted to have photos taken with us.

We rode past army camps just a few kilometres from the entrance to the temple site, and still we did not sense the tension.

It was not until we swapped to a more powerful motorbike and began the virtually vertical climb to the top of Dangkrek Mountain, which Prasat Preah Vihear sits atop, that I began to question what seemed like an exaggerated military guard which we had not even experienced at Angkor Wat, the most important ancient temple in the country.

My eyes grew wide and my heart raced when we passed four grenades perched on top of a wall. Then came the guns, also poised in their stands in the direction of the wild jungle. Soldiers were walking around everywhere.

Still ignorant as to the purpose of their high presence (we couldn't ask anyone as they didn't speak English and we don't speak Khmer), I felt uneasy as we explored the grand temple amongst soldiers keeping their watchful eye on us.

I relaxed a little when a group of soldiers asked to have their photo taken with me and they all took turns using a camera on their mobile phone.

It was not until we descended the mountain and could ask our motorbike driver Dan, who can speak reasonable English, what all the fuss was about that we realised we had been in such a dangerous area.

But in the end, it was just a few more anecdotes to add to what was already an adventurous trip.

Prasat Preah Vihear is one of the most difficult temples to access. It is virtually impossible in the wet season.

Jill and I rode on the back of one motorbike for four hours each way. After a few kilometres, there are no paved roads and we looked like bandits with face masks and sunglasses to keep out the dust. The ride there was tolerable as we passed new and interesting scenery and listened to Jill's ipod, but the trip back seemed like a never-ending punishment as our thighs cramped up and my butt went numb.

But during the journey home I had time to reflect on how sad I felt about such a sacred site being overrun by men in army uniform and guns instead of the peasants for whom it was built.
According to the little information I could find on the internet about the conflict, the two countries are supposed to be having talks about control of the temple. Let's hope they resolve the dispute quickly, and without anymore deaths, so Cambodians can continue to follow the pilgrimage of their ancestors.

Asian FMs agree to boost emergency fund

The Age, Australia

Thanaporn Promyamyai
February 23, 2009

Asian finance ministers meeting in Thailand agreed on Sunday to boost by 50 per cent a multi-billion dollar emergency fund to fight off the global downturn, officials said.

The proposal was agreed at a ministerial meeting of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China, Japan and South Korea and will be finalised later this year, they said.

"The total size of the Multilateralised Chiang Mai Initiative will be increased from the initially agreed level of $US80 billion ($A124.4 billion) to $US120 billion ($A186.6 billion)," an official statement said.

The meeting was called to discuss ways of softening the impact of the economic crisis, with expanding the Chiang Mai Initiative foreign exchange pool - an emergency credit line for ASEAN countries - at the top of the agenda.

The statement said the move to expand the fund aimed "to ensure regional market stability and to foster confidence in the markets", and would be finalised at another meeting of finance officials this year in Bali, Indonesia.

The proposal will also likely be discussed at the annual ASEAN summit, which will be held from Friday in the Thai resort town of Hua Hin, although there is no time frame for when the expanded fund will be operational.

Ministers and officials from ASEAN's Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam met on Sunday with Chinese and South Korean finance ministers and a top Japanese official.

ASEAN's 10 member states plus China, Japan and South Korea agreed after the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis to set up the Chiang Mai Initiative bilateral currency scheme to prevent a repeat of the turmoil.

The Asian nations now want to expand that agreement into a multilateral reserve pool, as the current economic climate threatens millions of jobs as well as recent robust growth in the developing economies.

A multi-nation scheme of currency swaps aims to make it easier for countries to borrow emergency funds.

The statement said the ASEAN members would contribute 20 per cent of the pool with larger economies Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and the Philippines giving a bigger share.

The remaining 80 per cent will come from the big three Asia economies, and Chinese Finance Minster Xie Xuren told reporters that China, South Korea and Japan were still discussing how they would divide up the sum.

ASEAN Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan said earlier the regional fund would be used to help members "badly affected" as the downturn hits Asia's key trading partners in the United States and Europe.

"It is one of the mechanisms - it is not to replace or compete with the IMF (International Monetary Fund), but it will be an alternative for Asian countries," Surin said on Thai television.

"If it materialises, it will be one of ASEAN's most tangible achievements."

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said earlier the fund would "serve as a cushion against future weaknesses at the time of the crisis".

Sunday's meeting also agreed to strengthen the region's monitoring and surveillance of the world economic climate, and stressed the importance of expanding bond markets in ASEAN.

"We believe that proactive and decisive policy actions are required in order to restore confidence, financial stability and promote a sustainable economic growth in the region," the statement said.

Corruption may undermine Khmer Rouge justice

Eureka Street, Australia

Sebastian Strangio
February 23, 2009

On 17 February, a gaunt former school teacher walked into a packed courtroom in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh, flanked by lawyers and lit by the flashes of the international press corps.

Amid the procedural banalities of the ensuing hearing, an observer could be forgiven for mistaking the momentous nature of the event: more than 30 years after its overthrow by an invading Vietnamese army, a senior leader of the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime was sitting in the dock in a duly constituted court of law.

Kang Kek Ieu, better known by his revolutionary alias Duch, was the self-confessed chief of Phnom Penh's notorious Tuol Sleng prison, which oversaw the torture and eventual execution of as many as 16,000 'enemies' of the revolution. The court has also indicted a further four senior Khmer Rouge, who are set to face trial for the deaths of the estimated 1,700,000 people who perished under the regime during 1975–79.

But the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) — a hybrid court combining local and international staff — has set itself a mandate that goes far beyond the goal of rendering impartial verdicts.

According to its website, the ECCC intends that the trials will help 'ease the burden that weighs on the survivors', as well as 'strengthen our rule of law and set an example to people who disobey the law in Cambodia and to cruel regimes worldwide'.

But both these aims of judicial reform and historical catharsis vastly overrate the demonstrative power of international justice in the current Cambodian context.

Abstract norms of international justice have virtually no precedent in Cambodia, where in the 1970s a nascent modern judicial system was smothered in the cradle by the Khmer Rouge. Nominally independent, the judiciary today is in practice wholly subservient to the ruling Cambodian People's Party.

This reflects the nature of the one-party state and the piecemeal democratisation that has taken place since the UN-brokered elections of 1993. Despite the halting progress of the ECCC, politically-motivated shootings of journalists and trade union leaders continue to go unpunished.

Whether even a flawlessly impartial ECCC trial could reform such a system of engrained patronage is an open question. Indeed the opposite seems to be the case. Yash Gai, the former United Nations human rights envoy to Cambodia, wrote in The Standard on 8 February that 'the weakness and corruption within the national legal system have infected the ECCC, instead of the ECCC influencing the conduct of local judges and prosecutors'.

International observers now recognise that corruption threatens to jeopardise the entire court process. Last week, the New York-based Open Society Justice Initiative released a statement slamming political interference and corrupt employment practices in the court, calling on officials to take 'aggressive action to respond to the allegations of corruption'.

As well as being among the most corrupt in the world, Cambodia's judiciary is also among the worst-funded. According to a 2008 report by the Centre for Social Development, a local legal watchdog, the court system received only 0.28 per cent of the national budget in 2008 — a total of just US$3.3 million. The ECCC, on the other hand, has a projected budget of $135.4 million for the trial of just five suspects.

As the report rightly noted, the disparity in funding raised the question of whether the ECCC is 'a relevant model for local courts, as insufficient funding surely must impact the ability of national courts to render proper justice'.

Whether the court can deliver 'healing' is a more subjective question. In many cases, the open wounds left by the Khmer Rouge era have yet to be staunched, with thousands of known murderers living in the same villages as the relatives of their victims.

A recent survey conducted by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, found that the majority of Cambodians still harbour feelings of hatred towards these former Khmer Rouge members. Nearly half of the 1000 respondents said they were uncomfortable living in the same community with former Khmer Rouge members. More than 70 per cent said they wanted to see former cadres suffer in some way.

At the same time, however, 85 per cent said they had no or little knowledge of the ECCC, and a scant 5 per cent could name the five accused leaders.

Prince Sisowath Thomico, an outspoken member of Cambodia's royal family who lost his parents and eldest daughter to the Khmer Rouge, said he had no faith the process would provide any more than cursory justice for their deaths. 'I don't believe ... that the tribunal will give me justice,' he told me in November. 'And millions of Cambodians will have the same answer.'

To be sure, bringing war-criminals to justice is an important aim for the international community. But in Cambodia, a post-conflict society that as yet lacks the political and economic underpinnings necessary to support Enlightenment notions of justice, such institutions may simply slump into the contours of existing corrupt practice. Or, perhaps worse, they may remain incomprehensible to those in whose name they have been set up.

The experience of the ECCC in Cambodia sounds a warning about saddling international war-crimes tribunals with an unbearable weight of expectation.

Khmer Rouge trial

Asian ministers: uphold free markets in downturn


BANGKOK (AP) — Asian finance ministers pledged Sunday to uphold free trade and investment in the midst of the global economic slowdown and said they would allocate an additional $40 billion to protect falling currencies.

The ministers from 10 Southeast Asian nations as well as China, Japan and South Korea agreed to boost funding for the Chiang Mai Initiative — an arrangement forged after the 1997 Asian financial crisis to address foreign reserve deficits through bilateral currency swaps — from $80 billion to $120 billion.

The 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations will provide 20 percent of funding, with 80 percent from China, Japan and South Korea.

The plan is expected to be approved at an ASEAN summit in Hua Hin, Thailand, from Feb. 27 to March 1.

"We reaffirm our determination to dedicate ourselves to increasing the free flow of trade and investment, to standing firm against protectionist measures which would worsen the economic downturn," the ministers said in a statement.

The commitment to free trade echoed comments made earlier in the day by Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

"I hope that ASEAN will send a signal that in this economic downturn it will not favor protectionism," Abhisit said. "ASEAN will not survive alone while causing trouble to other countries."

In October, ASEAN finance ministers expressed confidence that the group would weather the global downturn, noting its economic fundamentals remained sound even though growth might not match last year's 6.7 percent.

But in recent months, many countries have begun to feel the effects of the downturn on their export-driven economies.

Thailand reported Thursday that exports posted their steepest fall in 12 years in January as demand for the country's cars, hard drives and electrical goods evaporated amid the global slump.

Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines have all announced multibillion-dollar stimulus packages that include a mix of infrastructure projects, cash handouts or tax cuts aimed at creating jobs and boosting consumer demand.

ASEAN was founded during the Cold War as an anti-communist political coalition, later evolving into a trade bloc. It consists of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Vietnam and Cambodia: A meander up the mazy Mekong

MAIL Online

By Diana Preston

The brilliant green wetlands of the Mekong Delta seemed like another world after the hectic streets of Ho Chi Minh City - or Saigon, as the locals still call it - two hours' drive northwards.

Our first sight of the vessel that was to transport us on a week-long exploration upstream into Cambodia also evoked another, more tranquil world. With its rattan chairs, potted palms and brass fittings, the RV Tonle Pandaw, a teak riverboat, was straight out of a Somerset Maugham novel, and intentionally so. The Tonle Pandaw and her sister ships are recently built replicas of colonial steamers that were constructed in Scotland a century ago.

In Maugham's day, tigers roamed the Delta but today the banks and islands have been cleared for the orchards and rice paddies that make it Vietnam's food basket. Lounging on the observation deck as the engines throbbed into life, we watched egrets perch on clumps of drifting purple water hyacinth, and fishermen cast nets from boats with prows painted with staring black and white eyes - a tradition dating from when people believed they would frighten off the monsters lurking beneath the surface of the rich peaty brown waters.

By the time it reaches the Delta, the Mekong has flowed 2,700 miles down from the Tibetan Plateau through China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia and is clogged with silt. Private entrepreneurs are allowed to dredge and sell the sand to Ho Chi Minh City's booming construction industry.

Far out east: Diana Preston meets Cambodian temple dancers

As the sun sank that first evening, a sage-grey mist gathered over the water rendering the figures of people bathing or fishing in the shallows as insubstantial as ghosts. Soon the only light was from cooking fires and hundreds of wicks flickering in tiny lamps tethered on the water to mark fishing pots.

Early next morning we took to small boats ourselves, exploring villages built on stilts over the water and discovering floating markets where water taxis dodged sampans so loaded with plants and flowers that they looked like floating allotments. All around us, trees bowed beneath the weight of mangos, jackfruit, dragon fruit, soft, creamy milk fruit and juicy purple mangosteens.

In the heart of the villages there was quiet but constant industry. An old woman steamed sheets of rice paper used to wrap spring rolls, flipping the glutinous, wafer-thin circles with a bamboo wand. Men stirred rice into a giant wok filled with hot black sand. When the rice began to hiss and pop, they sieved the burning mixture to retrieve the pale gold grain, mixed it with sugar, ginger and coconut and patted it into cakes - which make an ideal accompaniment to the golden Mekong whisky distilled from sticky rice.

Back on the Tonle Pandaw we grew accustomed to the gentle swish of the water against her broad hull. Occasionally the conical tops of gently smoking brick kilns pierced the vegetation along the river banks like the towers of longlost cities. By the third day, we were nearing Cambodia and fish farms were everywhere. At one, we watched 120,000 catfish being fed in a tumult of churning water. Later in the markets of Chau Doc we saw the produce of the fish farms - pyramids of golden dried fillets studded with cloves of garlic and red chillies.

Incredible: Angkor Wat is Cambodia's main tourist attraction

Once over the border and into Cambodia we sailed past tranquil farmlands as the gilded spires of temples rose above groves of palm trees and a warm breeze ruffled the water. People waved from fields and fishing boats. Children ran along the bank to show off their skill at flying the long-tailed kites they'd made from plastic bags and sticks.

Early next morning, Cambodia's capital, Phnom Penh, was silhouetted against a pale peach sky. Barely 30 years ago, the Khmer Rouge expelled the city's entire population into the countryside where many perished in the Killing Fields. Today, two million of Cambodia's 14million population live here and it's thriving. Roads have been mended, hotels built and smart restaurants line a buzzing waterfront.

The 142-year-old royal palace complex has been restored and gleams amid immaculately kept gardens. The Throne Hall with its gilded lamps, golden throne and dark red shutters is magnificent once more. In the Silver Pagoda, diamonds sparkle on a solid gold Buddha while behind it another Buddha, carved from luminous green Sri Lankan jade, sits beneath a red silk canopy sewn with tiny, trembling bells. All too soon our visit was over, and next morning we left Phnom Penh behind.

One of the advantages of a shallowdraft riverboat such as the Tonle Pandaw, which needs a depth of only about 4ft, is that it can get you ashore almost anywhere. With the vessel nestling against the riverbank, the crewmen simply jump ashore with hoes, hack steps out of the crumbly, coffee-coloured earth and position a gangplank. This made it possible to visit remote Chong Koh, a village famous for its weaving, and watch silk-weavers at work on their looms. At another village, families showed us how they boiled vats of palm juice to make palm sugar with the taste and consistency of fudge.

The pagoda complex of Wat Hanchey, 80 miles beyond Phnom Penh, was our final destination along the Mekong. Shaded by giant bamboos, we climbed 300 steps to a 7th Century shrine to the Hindu god Shiva and sat on a terrace overlooking a pool almost choked with pink lotuses. Beyond lay a patchwork of bright green rice fields bisected by the bronze ribbon of the Mekong, snaking north. But, for us, it was time to turn back because our final destination, Siem Reap - site of the ancient Khmer capital of Angkor and its world-famous temples - lay up another river, the Tonle Sap.

Retracing our route to Phnom Penh, we swung from the Mekong into the equally brown waters of the Tonle Sap. After a while, the channel narrowed so dramatically we could almost reach out and pluck a flower from the dense, overhanging jungle.

For the final leg of our journey, we exchanged the stately Tonle Pandaw for a faster vessel - the giant speedboat-that powers daily between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. Standing inches above the water on the speedboat's running board felt as exhilarating as water-skiing as we shot past stilted villages and fishing boats that rocked in our wake.

Onwards: The RV Tonle Pandaw, Diana's river transport

Soon the Tonle Sap was broadening out and we entered the seeming infinity of the Tonle Sap Lake - the largest body of fresh water in Asia. For two hours we skimmed its bright surface until, finally, a cluster of low buildings appeared on the horizon - the port of Siem Reap.

We spent the next three days among the temples of a once-mighty empire. From the 9th Century to the 13th, Khmer kings built here on an epic scale - creating moated palaces, great pyramidal temples, ceremonial walkways, statues of Buddha and of Hindu gods, bridges decorated with writhing 'nagas' (multi-headed serpents) and carved friezes hundreds of feet long.

You can only marvel at the breathtaking imagination and ambition that inspired buildings such as the temple monastery of Ta Promh, where Lara Croft, Tomb Raider was filmed, and the world's largest religious monument, Angkor Wat, which is nothing less than a microcosm of the Hindu universe. But wonderful as Angkor was, the intimate journey that had brought us 580 miles into the heart of river life in Vietnam and Cambodia had been as great a pleasure as our final destination.

Travel Facts

Diana Preston travelled with Voyages Jules Verne (, 0845 166 7035) on their Angkor Wat and The Mekong trip. Prices are from £1,885 and include one night in Ho Chi Minh City, seven nights aboard the RV Tonle Pandaw or sister ship, three nights in Siem Reap and all flights. For independent travellers, British Airways (, 0844 493 0787) flies to the regional hub Bangkok from £529.30 return and Bangkokair flies to Ho Chi Minh City and Siem Reap. The Irrawaddy Flotilla Company, operators of the Pandaw fleet (, also offer river cruises in India and Myanmar.

Cambodia: 'Country for Sale'

Global Witness discuss on Al Jazeera the findings from their latest report 'Country for Sale', which documents how rights to exploit oil and mineral resources have been allocated behind closed doors by a small number of powerbrokers surrounding the prime minister and other senior officials.

The beneficiaries of many of these deals are members of the ruling elite or their family members. Meanwhile, millions of dollars paid by oil and mining companies to secure access to these resources appear to be missing from the national accounts.

To download the Global Witness report go to:

LICADHO Criticized Judgment of the Appeals Court Prosecuting Thach Saveth, Falsely Accused to Be a Murderer - Saturday, 21.2.2009

Posted on 22 February 2009

The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 600

“Human rights officials in Cambodia and many citizens are distrusting the judicial system, which is not independent and does not fulfill its role properly following principles of law, where investigating judges and prosecutors at different provincial and municipal courts as well at higher courts (Appeals Court and Supreme Court) made judgments, based only on reports or on notes of answers received from the authorities.

“On 19 February 2009, the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights – LICADHO – strongly condemned the Appeals Court, saying that it did not have a proper legal basis to prosecute a parachute soldier and condemn him to serve 15 years in prison for allegedly killing a president of the Cambodian Free Trade Union of Workers of a factory in Phnom Penh, Mr. Ruos Sovannareth.

“LICADHO claimed that the accused, Thach Saveth, 26, a former parachute soldier, was arrested for shooting dead Mr. Ruos Sovannareth, the free trade union president of the Try Togea Komara Garment Factory, on 7 May 2004, and the accused was arrested on 24 July 2004.

“The accused, Thach Saveth, was condemned by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court to serve 15 years in prison on 15 February 2005, and the Appeals Court held a hearing on the appeal of the suspected murderer (Thach Saveth), upholding the Phnom Penh Municipal Court’s 15-year-prison-term on 19 February 2009.

“According to LICADHO’s statement of 19 February 2009, there was no concrete reason to believe that the accused Thach Saveth is the murderer, and most of the evidence was fabricated.

“That there was no known investigation by the judges of the Municipal Court who just depended on police reports; this motivated LICADHO to strongly regret the decision; at the same time, this judgment of the Appeals Court did not contribute to find real justice for the real murderer. LICADHO emphasized in its statement that the judgment of the Appeals Court on 19 February 2009 is a bad model of injustice, because the court lacked evidence to put against the accused to be the murderer in the shooting to kill Mr. Ruos Sovannareth; the court did not have investigative evidence, but just relied on reports of the authorities.

“LICADHO went on to say that those who witnessed the murder of Mr. Ruos Sovannareth were not allowed to become witnesses in the hearing, and they were not questioned by the investigating judges in this murder case.

“LICADHO added that one among the many witnesses appeared at the hearing of the Appeals Court last week, as suggested by the defense lawyer of the accused, but the court did not question any of such witnesses. The director of LICADHO, Dr. Pong Chhiv Kek [Dr. Kek Galabru], said, ‘We condemn the judgment of the Appeals Court in order to show that LICADHO does not support such injustice, and we very much regret and are sad, seeing that the court did not provide real justice to the victim, because after national and international human rights groups attentively observed this hearing, they found that there wasn’t any evidence presented to put the burden on the accused.’

“Ms. Pong Chhiv Kek continued to say that at the time when the murderer shot dead Mr. Chea Sovannareth, the person accused to be the murderer was in the Anlong Veng district in Oddar Meanchey. She hopes that the Supreme Court will offer real justice to the victim Ruos Sovannareth who was murdered, release Thach Saveth falsely acused to be a murderer, and order the authorities to arrest the real murderer to be prosecuted, like in the case where the Supreme Court provided justice to the falsely accused Born Samnang and Sok Sam Ouen to be murderers, by releasing them and by ordering the case to be reinvestigated.”

Khmer Aphivaot Sethakech, Vol. 7, #347, 21-23.2.2009
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Saturday, 21 February 2009

Cheap Cambodian crop floods province


AN GIANG — Rice is still being illegally imported daily from Cambodia into the southwestern border province of An Giang.

Duong Su Market in Tinh Bien District’s An Nong commune is the largest granary of smuggled rice from Cambodia in An Giang Province.

Nguyen Anh Nghia, a farmer in the district, said that every day up to 200-300 trucks from Cambodia arrive at Tinh Bien District’s Duong Su Market. Each truck transports over 20 tonnes of rice.

Do Hung Viet, a rice seller in Can Tho city’s Thot Not District, said that the price of Cambodia’s unhusked rice was only VND4,000-5,000 per kilogramme – VND200 cheaper than the locally grown rice. "Buying Cambodian rice help me gain profits and save time," he said.

He added that Duong Su Market never lacks rice. Thus, the number of businesspeople from other provinces flocking to the market is increasing.

Farmers in the province said that rice smuggling makes their lives more difficult.

Vu Huy Hoang, Minister of Industry and Trade, asked the Import and Export Department and relevant agencies of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Viet Nam Food Association to offer solutions for cross-border smuggling of rice into southern provinces. — VNS

Cambodians Ambivalent About Khmer Rouge Trial

by Michael Sullivan
Listen Now [5 min 28 sec]
Weekend Edition Sunday, February 22, 2009 · Cambodia took a concrete step this week toward finding justice for the victims of the Khmer Rouge as the first of five former Khmer Rouge leaders was put on trial for crimes against humanity.

As many as 2 million Cambodians were either killed or died from starvation, malnutrition or overwork during the rule of Pol Pot's murderous regime. But until this week, none had been brought to justice. Some Cambodians wonder whether the trials will achieve their goal of both justice and reconciliation.