Monday, 2 March 2009

Protectionism a dirty ASEAN word

Asia Times Online

Mar 3, 2009
By Charles McDermid

HUA HIN, Thailand - Southeast Asian leaders issued an economic rally cry for the region on Sunday, calling for greater coordination to ensure the free flow of goods and taking aim at the protectionist sentiment many of them fear is on the rise in countries such as the United States.

The 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) [1] at its 14th summit also pledged to form a European Union-like economic bloc by 2015 and called for an overhaul of the international finance system to better serve and protect developing nations.

The summit meeting also endorsed a free-trade agreement with Australia and New Zealand and measures to expand a pre-existing emergency foreign exchange pool to bolster regional currencies that come under speculative assault.

"We want to send a strong signal that we are anti-protectionist," Thai Deputy Prime Minister Korbsak Sabhavasu told Asia Times Online. "We see what other countries are doing and we want to signal that while other countries are looking out for themselves - in ASEAN we are helping each other out."

"Regional cooperation becomes even more important as we seek to pursue joint approaches and pool our resources to cope with difficulties that we all face," Asian Development Bank president Haruhiko Kuroda told reporters on Sunday.

But even as ASEAN announced its raft of feel-good policies and delivered its unified mantra of anti-protectionism, economists were scratching their heads as to how the lofty proclamations of togetherness will actually help the fractious region's export-driven economies and shield its 570 million people from rising global economic turbulence.

While ASEAN's anti-protectionism line was clear, mixed messages were rife from individual countries. For instance, it was reported this month that Indonesian civil servants were ordered by the Trade Ministry to buy and use domestic products. Smaller economies such as Cambodia and Laos have long had "buy local" campaigns in place.

It was only a little over two years ago that Thailand imposed capital controls on foreign equity, currency and bond transactions, in a surprise market intervention aimed at curbing the appreciation of the local currency, the baht. In fact, ASEAN's much-touted new charter, ratified in December, includes no mechanisms to stop or punish member countries from implementing protectionist policies.

In an interview with local media last week, Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi said it was perfectly normal for countries to protect their domestic industries during an economic slowdown. Abdullah, however, modified his stance in the summit's press finale on Sunday, saying: "All of us are of the same mind: we are anti-protectionist. Countries that are saying 'buy us', countries that are engaging in protectionism - we want to engage with them."

"I think we have to pay a lot of attention, whatever measures we do, we do not give the impression that we are becoming protectionist, that we are turning inwards, because ASEAN depends on this global market," said Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

The Southeast Asian blitz against protectionism - defined as economic policies restraining trade between nations by way of tariffs and quotas - was seen by some as a thinly veiled challenge to the United States. In an interview with Asia Times Online, US ambassador for ASEAN Affairs Scot Marciel admitted that " ... in the region, there are some people who have put the blame on us".
As the largest importer of Southeast Asian goods, the US's recently approved stimulus package, bent on internal spending and including mandatory American purchases from trade partners, has sent shivers through the region's export-dependent economies.

ASEAN countries have been mired in an economic slowdown that has slashed demand for computer chips, autos and commodities. According to figures released by ASEAN, the region is almost twice as dependent on exports as the rest of the world.

Singapore, Southeast Asia's most trade-reliant economy, is now technically in recession, with two consecutive quarters of negative growth, including a -3.7% year-on-year contraction in the fourth quarter.

Thailand, where exports usually account for over 65% of gross domestic product (GDP), is widely expected to be the region's next recessionary domino. In US dollar terms, Thailand's goods export growth was down 26.5% year-on-year in January. Malaysia recorded its slowest growth in seven years in the fourth quarter while the Philippines saw its goods exports contract over 40% in December.

Still, the summit was bullish about its accomplishments. Attending finance ministers agreed to boost a regional foreign currency pool from US$80 billion to $120 billion. The 10 members of ASEAN plus Japan, China and South Korea - or ASEAN+3 - had arranged to pool bilateral currency swap pacts under the so-called Chiang Mai Initiative - providing a multilateral fund that could be tapped in emergencies.

Southeast Asian currencies have slid in recent months, diminishing the ability of countries hit with short-term liquidity shortages to borrow foreign reserves from other countries to absorb selling pressure on their currencies. "We have learned from previous experience that if we work together, the damage is less when we have a currency crisis," said Malaysian Premier Abdullah, referring to a special regional meeting to address the 1997 Asian financial crisis.

ASEAN heads of state, however, warned that any global economic recovery could take years. "The financial crisis is worldwide. Each ASEAN country, each one of us is affected," said Singapore's Lee. "You could easily be in for several more years of quite slow growth worldwide. And I think it's best that we prepare for that, and our people."

Whether committed to protectionism or free trade, ASEAN countries are in for rocky economic times.

1. The 10 members of ASEAN are Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.

Charles McDermid is an Asia Times Online correspondent based in Thailand.

Southern Gold commences drilling for gold, base metals in Cambodia

Proactive Investors Australia

Southern Gold (ASX:SAU) has advised that the Company’s maiden reverse circulation (RC) drilling campaign has commenced on its Cambodian gold and base metals tenements.

The objective of Southern Gold’s first RC drilling program in Cambodia is to confirm the scale and grade of gold and base metal mineralisation identified at surface through work undertaken over the last few field seasons by Southern Gold. Additional drill targets are expected to be prioritised as results are received from current trenching exploration programs.

The RC drilling campaign on the joint venture tenements is fully funded by the Japanese Government‐backed JOGMEC pursuant to a Joint Venture agreement whereby JOGMEC can fully fund exploration activity to a total of US$4.5 (~A$7) million over 3 years to earn a 51% interest in three tenements – Phnum Khtong (Kratie North Project), and two adjoining blocks, Preak Khlong and O’Kthung (Kratie South Project), all to the northeast of Phnom Penh. Southern Gold will fund a small drill programme on its 100% owned Anchor Prospect.

Key targets of the current programme are summarised as follows:

Oh Tron Prospect – Kratie North JV

Six RC drillholes totalling 400m are following up trench gold intersections including 32m @ 2.7g/t gold, and also targeting multiple gold, arsenic and copper anomalies over a 1,000m x 3,000m area defined by detailed soil sampling. Additional trenching activity is currently underway on this prospect area which will further define drill targets.

Central Prospect ‐ Kratie North JV

Three RC drillholes totalling 320m are targeting zinc, nickel & copper soil anomalies over an area of 2,000m x 3,000m associated with a layered mafic intrusive identified by Southern Gold’s detailed airborne magnetic surveys in 2008.

Norfolk man working with Cambodia's poor

Robin Shorthose who is working for the New Hope Community Centre in Cambodia

Norfolk Eastern Daily Press
02 March 2009

As tourists, Tony and Linda Shorthose enjoyed the sights of Cambodia but it was only when they made a return visit to see their son Robin, who is helping a charity, that they discovered the real country.

Here Tony, founder of Norwich-based marketing company Shorthose Russell, writes about their experience.

The journey from five-star hotels to poverty can be measured in minutes in Siem Reap, the jewel in Cambodia's cultural crown.

Reflecting the great Khmer civilisation between the ninth and 14th centuries, the stunning temples in the area include Angkor Wat, acknowledged as one of the great wonders of the world. But this small country in south-east Asia has fallen a long way from its glory days. Under the brutal regime of the Khmer Rouge in 1975-1979, an estimated two million people were murdered in Pol Pot's “killing fields” while starvation was endemic among those who survived.

While a few are now achieving prosperity and most are at least making progress, there are many who are terribly poor and in some cases starving.

Cambodia has no meaningful welfare system and has to rely on Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) to fill the vacuum as best they can.

One of these is the New Hope Community Centre which is supported by the UK registered charity, Globalteer.

Through volunteers it is able to help with skills, pairs of hands and financial support - using the donations volunteers pay and contributions via the website - to sponsor individuals and families.

In autumn 2007 one of those was our son Robin, 36, from Norwich, who decided he needed a new challenge.

He chose to go to Cambodia initially for eight weeks but was sufficiently moved by the need he found to accept an offer to go back in January 2008 as a member of the small team looking after administration and planning.

Though Globalteer supports four other projects in the area, Robin has a particular interest in New Hope (the name was his suggestion) based in the village of Mondul 3 on the outskirts of Siem Reap.

It was founded by local man and ex-buddhist monk Kemsour Sot, the 27-year-old son of a village chief who had enjoyed a good education and moved to Mondul 3 to build a life with his wife and two young sons.

He soon recognised the community desperately needed help and financed the original grass hut base and work himself until Robin introduced Globalteer to the project and they agreed to support it.

Robin said: “The village is a highly impoverished community. Most of the people are remnants of army families, children with only one parent or being raised by a grandmother. Many of the fathers were killed serving in the army or died of illness and disease.

“Up to 400 girls live in the village as karaoke entertainers and prostitutes. These girls come to Siem Reap from rural areas to find jobs to support their families. Having no education or skills they quickly fall victim to the sex trade. Prevalent health problems in the village are chronic malnutrition, HIV, Hepatitis, Typhoid, Tuberculosis and Dengue Fever.

“The nearest primary school is more than 5kms away. Most families are too poor to provide the uniforms, resources and transport for their children to attend. So for many residents the education New Hope provides is all that is available to them.

“There are now more than 320 students being taught in English and the local Khmer language. In addition vocational skills in sewing, traditional carving, computers, beauty treatment and cooking help older children and adults find employment.

“There is no free medical care for adults so in the most extreme cases the poor simply die if they have no help. We have employed a resident doctor to see the sick and needy. He dispenses free medicines and arranges for those needing hospital care to be transported into Siem Reap where New Hope meets their costs.

“For reasons I can't understand, Cambodia's poverty is invisible in the UK. We rightly help those in Africa and India where we are familiar with the problems but no country has a more tragic recent history and places like Mondul 3 are in desperate need. There is a rice list of more than 100 undernourished families who once a month collect a bag of rice and local seasonings. Only those with absolutely nothing qualify but there are still more than we can afford to help. The families that get sponsored come off the list enabling new ones to be added. Only £25 monthly will feed a family, help with housing and provide medical care.”

Robin is quick to point out that his role is behind the scenes with the great day-to-day operational pressures being borne by 50-year-old Australian Kerry Huntly who arrived as a Globalteer volunteer in January 2008 with the intention to stay for three months.

Over a year later the centre has taken over her life. She lives on site surrounded by the seven children she has taken into guardianship in the new shelter opened last summer.

Kemsour's dream is to make New Hope self-sustainable and less reliant on donations as demand will always exceed available funds in the foreseeable future.

Today's children are the future of Cambodia. With nourishment and education they can break the cycle of poverty and avoid the traps their parents have fallen into.

Sponsorship today can lead to extraordinary, lasting changes in the lives of children and their communities.

To find out more or to help New Hope support the people of Mondul 3 see or if you are interested in volunteering go to

Cambodia to open game hunting park: government

Daily Times
Monday, March 02, 2009

The Cambodian government has approved the establishment of a game park for well-heeled hunters in a remote jungle-covered northern province, officials said.

The cabinet passed a sub-decree for the creation a more than 100,000-hectare (247,105-acre) reserve for game hunting in Ratanakkiri province, a government statement said. The establishment of the reserve is for “investment, wildlife conservation and the sustainable development of wildlife hunting in order to serve the economy of the community”, the statement said. The reserve would help eradicate illegal wildlife poaching, it said.

The statement did not say when the park would open or who would operate it, but Madrid-based NSOK Safaris expressed an interest in December 2007. “First, we have to establish the area and the investment is the next step,” Chheang Dany, deputy director of the forestry administration’s wildlife protection office, said. afp

Resolution of border dispute near for Cambodia, Thailand

PHNOM PENH, March 2 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia and Thailand have agreed to resolve their long-running border dispute by using a memorandum of understanding signed in 2000, said English-language daily newspaper the Phnom Penh Post on Monday.

Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Thai counterpart Abhisit Vejjajiva agreed to do so during their meeting on Friday, the paper quoted Hor Namhong, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, as saying here on Sunday upon his return from the 14 ASEAN Summit in Thailand.

"I think if Thailand has a clear stance and is willing to use the 2000 MoU, there will be no further difficulties in the future," he said, adding that "we decided to resolve the (border) issue peacefully."

The MoU states that the Joint Border Committee (JBC) of the two countries should use maps drafted in 1904 and 1907, which was ratified by Siam (as Thailand was then known) and France, Cambodia's former colonial power, to delineate the common border.

Tension between Thailand and Cambodia ratcheted higher in 2008, when troops from both countries clashed near the Preah Vihear temple at the border area and soldiers on both sides died in their fighting in October. An uneasy peace was restored days later.

Editor: Xiong Tong

Cambodia to host ASEAN-EU ministerial meeting in May

PHNOM PENH, March 2 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia will host an ASEAN-EU foreign ministers' meeting from May 4 to 6 to push forward the cooperation between the two regional bodies, Chinese-language daily newspaper the Commercial News said on Monday.

Representatives from over 40 countries will join the meeting to be held in tourism province of Siem Reap to find ways to strengthen the friendly cooperative ties between the ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and the EU (European Union), the paper quoted Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh as saying here on Sunday upon his return from the 14 ASEAN Summit in Thailand.

The United States will also send delegates to the meeting, he added.

Meanwhile on the same occasion, Hor Namhong, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, told reporters that the ASEAN and the EU are now preparing to sign an agreement of friendly cooperation.

He didn't give details of the agreement.

Cambodia used to maintain good trade relationship with the EU, which was the second largest importer of its garment products.

Editor: Xiong Tong

U.S. helps Cambodia probe foiled bomb plots in Phnom Penh

PHNOM PENH, March 2 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is working with Cambodia's national police to investigate the foiled bomb plots that occurred in Phnom Penh in January, said national media on Monday.

Police asked the FBI for assistance after it identified potential suspects overseas, English-Khmer language newspaper the Cambodia Daily quoted national police spokesman Kieth Chantharith as saying.

"We have requested assistance from the FBI to do some investigation on suspects abroad," he said, while declining to say in which foreign country police believed the suspect reside.

Calling it a "terrorist case," the spokesman said that it is normal for Cambodia to contact foreign police forces when their home country becomes relevant to the investigation.

Three explosive devices of very limited killing power were found on Jan. 2 near the Ministry of National Defense and the state-run No. 3 Television Station, but detonated by experts later in the day, without causing any casualty and damage.

At least 6 people have been arrested so far in connection with the case. All the suspects belonged to an anti-government organization called the Tiger Head Movement.

Editor: Xiong Tong

Only 4 parties to join local election of Cambodia in May

PHNOM PENH, March 2 (Xinhua) -- Only 4 political parties became eligible to participate in the local election of Cambodia in May, as the registration process has come to its end, said English-language daily newspaper the Phnom Penh Post on Monday.

They are the major ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP), the major opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP), the co-ruling Funcinpec Party and the opposition Norodom Ranariddh Party (NRP), the paper quoted Tep Nytha, secretary general of the National Election Committee (NEC), as saying.

The 4 parties have registered themselves with NEC for the election in accordance with relevant regulations, while dozens of other small parties haven't responded yet, he added.

On May 17, Cambodia will hold the polling for positions of district, provincial and municipal councils as part of the government's drive to transfer more decision-making powers to the local level.

NEC has set altogether 193 temporary offices all over the country to serve the process, and the government plans to deploy 27,133 police force nationwide to guarantee safety and order.

Editor: Xiong Tong

22 attacks conducted against journalists in Cambodia

PHNOM PENH, March 2 (Xinhua) -- Twenty-two cases of violence against journalists were recorded in the second half of 2008 and the first two months of 2009 in Cambodia, said English-language daily newspaper the Phnom Penh Post on Monday.

These included cases in which journalists were detained and cases in which threats or accusations were made against them "by individuals, groups, authorities and court institutions," the paper quoted a press release from the Club of Cambodian Journalists (CCJ) as saying.

Meanwhile, the CCJ decried unprofessional behavior on the part of some journalists, who accepted bribes or used unethical means to advance the aims of the groups that they supported.

The press release also urged the Ministry of Information to use more discretion in issuing press cards.

"Some media pass holders are not journalists," said CCJ secretary general Prach Sim.

Over 300 newspapers are registered with the ministry, but only 10 are publishing daily and 30 can get printed on regular basis.

Editor: Xiong Tong

Cambodia PM testimony sought at Khmer Rouge trial


PHNOM PENH (AP) — Attorneys have asked the U.N.-backed Khmer Rouge genocide tribunal for permission to interview Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and former King Norodom Sihanouk, according to confidential documents obtained Monday.

The request was made by the defense team for Nuon Chea, the main ideologist of the regime whose 1975-1979 rule left an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians dead.

The long-delayed tribunal begins its first trial later this month, while the trial for Nuon Chea — charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity and facing life imprisonment — is expected to begin later this year.

The confidential court documents obtained by The Associated Press also request testimony from current senate president Chean Sim and assembly president Heng Samrin. Both men, along with Hun Sen, were members of the Khmer Rouge regime but defected to Vietnam before it was ousted.

"They are likely in possession of much relevant information to the pending judicial investigation," one of the documents said. All have denied any role in atrocities.

Hun Sen, who has ruled Cambodia for more than two decades, was a former Khmer Rouge soldier who fled to Vietnam in 1977 and became prime minister of a Vietnamese-installed communist government after the regime's fall.

Son Arun, Nuon Chea's Cambodian attorney, confirmed the authenticity of the documents but said he had not personally filed the request, an apparent effort to distance himself from the move to put Cambodia's strongman on the stand.

The defense team said that the 86-year-old former King Sihanouk, who briefly served as a symbolic head of state after the Khmer Rouge took power, had "rare access to the Khmer Rouge leadership, their strategies and policies" and was "privy to a range of sensitive information."

The tribunal's first trial, scheduled to begin March 30, is for 65-year-old Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, who headed the Khmer Rouge's largest torture center. Later trials will be held for Khieu Samphan, the group's former head of state; Ieng Sary, its foreign minister; and his wife Ieng Thirith, who was minister for social affairs.

Activists barred at summit

Prime Minister Hun Sen at Phnom Penh International Airport after returning Sunday from the Asean summit in Cha-am, Thailand.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sebastian Strangio and Cheang Sokha
Monday, 02 March 2009

CAMBODIA joined Myanmar's military junta in blocking human rights activists from attending talks during the annual Aseansummit, detracting from a meeting that has been billed as a crucial step forward for human rights in the region.

Leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations' 10 member states were set to hold rare talks Saturday with civil society representatives in the Thai beach resort of Cha-am, but Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Myanmar counterpart Thein Sein reportedly refused to attend if activists from their countries were present.

Pen Somony, a program coordinator for the Cambodia Volunteers for Civil Society, and Khin Ohmar, a rights activist from Myanmar, were both forced to sit out the meeting, instead holding talks with Thai Premier Abhisit Vejjajiva.

The planned Asean human rights body, set forth in the organisation's charter, was expected to be a focus of the talks, but Bridget Welsh, a Southeast Asian specialist at Johns Hopkins University, said the row over civil society participation was instead an indication of Asean's limitations.

"It is truly sad that an organisation known for ‘talk' won't even talk to those working to expand freedom in the region," she said.

"The pandering of Asean to its authoritarian members' demands over a simple dialogue with civil society groups shows how disingenuous the support of human rights is within the organisation."

But Ou Virak, executive director of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, said that the response of the Cambodian and Myanmar premiers made little sense as a collusive strategy, since he expected a full-scale attempt to undermine the proposed Asean rights body, which would include communist Vietnam and Laos - two of Asean's serial rights offenders.

He added that while the exclusion of civil society members was to be expected from military-ruled Myanmar, the Cambodian reaction could only be put down to Hun Sen's own attitudes towards civil society.

"It seems that recently [Hun Sen] has gone on the attack, with the proposed introduction of the NGO Law and references to NGOs and civil society as ‘crazy' and ‘deranged'," he said, adding also that a "certain lack of confidence" on the part of two leaders - forced to account for themselves internationally - could also have contributed to the barring of the delegates.

"In a way, they are being challenged by civil society intellectually, and in terms of policy," he said.

But Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said the two delegates were prevented from taking part in talks because they did not appear in a list of civil society organisations contained in the Asean Charter.

"I would like to clarify that Cambodia's delegation ... did not prevent Pen Somoly from entering the meeting," he told reporters on his return
from Thailand Sunday.

"The Thai organisers did not allow these two representatives to join after the government complained [that] the groups did not have names on the civil society list."

Indeed, Pen Somony appears to have a low profile, both locally and internationally. Neither Ou Virak nor Thun Saray, president of local rights group Adhoc, had heard of Pen Somony, and his organisation, Cambodia Volunteers for Civil Society, has no website. There are also few web references to either outside of events at the weekend's summit.

Ou Virak admitted the low profile of the activist could have contributed to his being barred, but said a "higher-profile" rights activist in the same position would also likely have been blocked.

Thun Saray said he could not comment on the specifics of the Pen Somony case, but said civil society involvement was vital if Asean's proposed rights body was to be anything more than a talking shop.

"The Asean Charter recognises the role of civil society to have dialogues with governments," he said.

"This is a crucial time for us to provide input to the draft of the [rights body] document and give recommendations."


Journalist ethics questioned

Phouk Sopheap, a newspaper stand owner on Phnom Penh's street 51, arranges her products.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chhay Channyda
Monday, 02 March 2009

Club of Cambodian Journalists report chastises unprofessional journalists and tallies 2008-09 attacks on the press.

THE Club of Cambodian Journalists (CCJ) said Thursday that 22 cases of violence against journalists were recorded in the second half of 2008 and the first two months of 2009. These included cases in which journalists were detained and cases in which threats or accusations were made against them "by individuals, groups, authorities and court institutions", according to a CCJ press release.

In addition to violence against journalists, the CCJ also decried unprofessional behaviour on the part of some journalists, namely those who accept bribes and those who use other unethical means to advance the aims of groups they support.

Attempts to bribe journalists amount to attempts to erode press freedom in the Kingdom, the press release states.

Press card abuse
The press release urges the Ministry of Information to use more discretion in issuing press cards.

Prach Sim, the secretary general of the CCJ, told the Post Thursday that he believes too many press cards have been issued, including some to people who have no interest in actually producing journalism in any form.

"Some media pass holders are not journalists," he said.

"And many journalists use media passes just to earn money."

Of more than 300 total newspapers that are registered with the Ministry, he said, only 10 are published daily. Yem Noy, director of the ministry's Information Department, also said that only 10 newspapers are published daily, though he said 30 of the 300 are published often enough to be considered active.

[many journalists in cambodia] use media passes just to earn money.

A report produced in May 2008 by the rights group Licadho states that the Ministry of Information has a list of 303 newspapers, not including international media.

"However, this is a cumulative total of years of registrations and does not reflect what actually appears on the newsstands," it states. "Several publications are listed more than once, and others exist only on paper, having gone bankrupt or their owner having died."

The report estimates that only between 15 and 20 papers are published "regularly".

Yem Noy said Thursday that the ministry was concerned about the CCJ statement, in particular about the reported abundance of press cards being used for purposes unrelated to journalism.

He said the ministry has "carefully issued media passes for journalists".

With regard to incidents of violence against journalists, he said these "mostly happen in the provinces" because journalists there "use their media to do other business besides running newspapers".

Lawyers seek PM's testimony

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Georgia Wilkins
Monday, 02 March 2009

Nuon Chea's attorneys ask that ECCC interviews Hun Sen

LAWYERS for the former Khmer Rouge chief ideologist Nuon Chea have requested judges at the Khmer Rouge tribunal interview Prime Minister Hun Sen and King Father Norodom Sihanouk as part of investigations into their client's role in the 1975-79 regime.

In a court document dated Tuesday and obtained by the Post Saturday, lawyers argued that the prime minister, along with National Assembly President Heng Samrin and Cambodian People's Party President Chea Sim should be under investigation in the case "given their former ranks within DK".

"The above-named individuals are likely in possession of documents and information relevant to the pending judicial investigation," it said.

It requested co-investigating judges to interview the individuals with respect to any previous interactions with Nuon Chea, and the existence of a "common plan of systematic persecution".

It is the tenth such request by the defence team, who have also called for the King Father, Norodom Sihanouk, and former allies of the Khmer Rouge to be investigated.

"Given [Sihanouk's] unique role in the DK government as well as his uncommon access to the Khmer Rouge inner circle, Sihanouk is singularly capable of providing information relevant to the [prosecutors'] allegations relating to the DK authority structure," states a separate request dated December 1 and also obtained by the Post Saturday.

Andrew Ianuzzi, legal consultant for Nuon Chea's lawyers, could not comment on the documents except to confirm that they had been filed and no responses had been received.

Minister for Information Khieu Kanarith told the Post Sunday he had not yet seen any formal request but refuted the value of such interviews.

"You have to ask the logical questions. If they were low-ranking officers, how could they know about the system? If Hun Sen did not clearly know who Nuon Chea was [during the regime], how could he be a witness?" he said.

"I have not yet seen any request from the defence lawyers yet, so I do not know if this is an official request," he added.

KR Tribunal hearing deferred

Photo by: AFP
Khieu Samphan in the courtroom during a pretrial chamber public hearing at the ECCC on Friday.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Cheang Sokha and Georgia Wilkins
Monday, 02 March 2009

In the absence of his famous French lawyer Jacques Verges, a bail hearing for former Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan is postponed to April.

CAMBODIA'S UN-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal Friday adjourned a bail hearing for the former regime's head of state Khieu Samphan due to the absence of his famed international defence lawyer, Jacques Verges.

The 77-year-old Khieu Samphan, who faces charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, requested the court defer proceedings until his co-lawyer could attend.

"I would like to request that the pretrial chamber adjourn this meeting to a later date," he told judges from the dock.

Cambodian co-lawyer Sa Sovan told the court that Verges had been called to the bedside of a relative who had been in a serious traffic accident and was in a life-or-death situation.

Later in a press conference, however, he told reporters that it was an important colleague of Verges's who was in hospital.

History of delay tactics
Verges, whose previous clients include Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie and international terrorist Carlos the Jackal, has been accused of willfully delaying procedings with disruptive courtroom tactics.

"I cannot force myself to believe that all these explanations are true," civil party lawyer Ny Chandy told reporters at the press conference.

"If it happens next time, we civil parties will be forced to continue without him," he added.

However, Sa Sovan said Verge's absence was "unexpected".

"Frankly, we, the defence, do not really want to delay the proceeding because we made a request to release the charged person," he said.

"We would be happier if our client was released tomorrow, as I think this matter is more unintentional and unexpected."

Judge Prak Kimsan, president of the pretrial chamber, said that the hearing would be adjourned until April 3, as requested by Sa Sovan.

Khieu Samphan is one of the five Khmer Rouge leaders being held at the tribunal for their role in the regime.

Although the trial of Tuol Sleng prison chief Kaing Guek Eav began last month, many victims of the regime have feared that the other four suspects, now ageing and sick, could die before they are tried.

Japanese ships to arrive in S'ville

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Robbie Corey-Boulet
Monday, 02 March 2009

THREE Japanese Maritime Self-Defence Force ships are scheduled to arrive at Sihanoukville Autonomous Port this morning, marking the beginning of a five-day visit that will allow 110 cadet school graduates to study the Kingdom and its military system, according to a press release issued last week by the Japanese embassy.

Captain Miwa Kazumasa, who is heading the visit, plans to pay courtesy calls on leaders at the Ministry of National Defence, the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces and the Cambodian navy.

The visit is part of an effort to strengthen ties between Japan and Mekong region countries.

Sam Rainsy seeks restoration of immunity after paying fine

Sam Rainsy, who had his parliamentary immunity lifted to force him to pay an NEC fine, speaks at a press conference last month.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Meas Sokchea
Monday, 02 March 2009

Opposition leader pays 10m riels after months of disputing NEC action, which led to loss of parliamentary protection.

SAM Rainsy, president of the Sam Rainsy Party, has written to the chairman of the National Assembly requesting that his parliamentary immunity be reinstated.

The opposition leader wrote his letter to National Assembly Chairman Heng Samrin on Friday, the day after he was stripped of his immunity by the assembly's parliamentary permanent committee for refusing to pay a fine related to last year's national election.

"I would like Samdech [Heng Samrin] to undertake the legal steps to reinstate my parliamentary immunity, as I am a parliamentarian," the letter reads.

The opposition leader had refused to pay a 10 million riel (US$2,400) fine levied by the National Election Committee (NEC) for comments he made about leaders of the ruling Cambodian People's Party during last year's general election.

Both the NEC and the Constitutional Council have ruled against Sam Rainsy, who has called the decisions illegitimate, saying the matter was a penal one and should be ruled on by the courts.

Last week, Prime Minister Hun Sen announced that he would ensure Sam Rainsy would be stripped of his parliamentary immunity if he did not pay the fine.

On the day Sam Rainsy lost his immunity, he paid the fine - a step that NEC Secretary General Tep Nytha said led the election body to withdraw its complaint against the opposition leader. Tep Nytha said the money would be placed in the national budget.

Sam Rainsy said Sunday that he had emailed a complaint to the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), an international grouping of parliaments based in Switzerland.

"The IPU knows me well because I have filed complaints with them before," he said. "I have paid the fine so that I don't fall into [the government's] trap - but I am fighting back. This action is to show that the court is not independent and is putting pressure on the opposition and violating the constitution."

CPP lawmaker Sman Teath, who sits on the parliamentary permanent committee, said the committee would consider reinstating his immunity because he had acted in accordance with the law. But he said the matter was not pressing.

Paedophile roundup

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chrann Chamroeun
Monday, 02 March 2009

Police say they've arrested two foreigners on paedophile charges in separate cases; rights group hopes for full penalty.

PREAH Sihanouk's provincial court last Friday charged a French national with committing "indecent acts" with two underage girls and has placed him in pretrial detention while police investigate the case, according to a court prosecutor.

A man identified by police only as Jean Claude, 64, was arrested Thursday at a guesthouse where he was found with a 10-year-old and 13-year-old girl, Mak Khieng said.

"Our police took many photographs of the suspect playing in the ocean and at the beach with the two girls as evidence before the arrest," he said. "Both girls told me the suspect bathed them and touched their vaginas."

The suspect denied the allegations and said he had taken the girls to his guesthouse to treat them for an illness, he said.

Suon Sophan, deputy chief of the province's Anti-human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Department, told the Post that police raided the suspect's room based on a tip from the anti-paedophile NGO Action Pour Les Enfants.

Samleang Seila, APLE's country director, said the man was believed to have known the girls and their mother for several years, and officials from his NGO became suspicious after they saw him leading the two girls into his guesthouse. He said the two girls temporarily have been put in the care of the NGO World Hope.

He said the suspect used a method typical of paedophiles of using gifts of money to lure children to their residences - an act that amounts to purchasing sex from a minor, and must be distinguished from the minor crime of indecent acts, he said. Under the anti-trafficking law passed last year, purchasing sex from a minor - someone under the age of 15 - requires a prison sentence of seven to 15 years, while the crime of indecent acts carries a jail term of one to three years.

Further hearings, arrests
On Friday, Phnom Penh Municipal Court postponed the trial of US national Jason Todd Baumbach, 40, who was arrested in September last year on charges of purchasing sex from a 13-year-old girl.

Last Tuesday, another American man was arrested in Siem Reap on charges of purchasing sex with two boys, ages 13 and 14, according to Bith Kimhong, director of the Anti-human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Department. The man, identified by police as a 41-year-old named Peter Erik Leonardus, is being held in Phnom Penh's Prey Sar prison, he added.

ILO series nears completion

Actresses on location in Phnom Penh filming the ILO's soap opera. The educational series aims to teach workers about their rights.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chhay Channyda
Monday, 02 March 2009

Educational series dramatises some of the challenges faced by Cambodia's garment workers and educates them about their rights and responsibilities.

FILMING wrapped last month for the final two episodes of the soap opera At the Factory Gates, produced by the International Labour Organisation to shed light on issues in the garment industry and, in particular, the plight of garment workers.

The episodes feature appearances by Cambodian actors Nhem Sokun and Pov Kisan. In the first episode, titled "Overtime", gangsters set workers up with factory jobs in exchange for a share of their overtime payments before factory managers and union representatives step in to warn the workers about the perils of associating with "middlemen".

In the second, titled "Life Skills", female garment workers are tricked by the same gangsters to work in karaoke bars.

Previous episodes in the eight-part series have dealt with issues such as occupational safety and health, working mothers and breast-feeding, and how to handle workplace grievances.

The first two episodes were funded by the American clothing company Gap Inc, and the next four were funded by the United States Agency for International Development. Agence Francaise de Developpement provided funding for the final two.

Minna Maaskola, a consultant for the ILO's Better Factories Cambodia, said the soap opera had proved to be a particularly effective educational tool, in part because the literacy rate among garment workers is low.

The episodes, she said via e-mail, give garment workers "an easy way to learn about their roles and responsibilities".

"While viewing the films, workers can link their own working experience to the issues in the video," she said.

The drama and humour written into each episode as well as the use of well-known Cambodian actors had appealed to audiences so far, she added.

An educational experience
For the actors themselves, the process of filming the episodes made them more knowledgeable about the garment industry, they said.

Movie actor Pov Kisan plays a villain named Kosal who serves as the leader of a protest who agitates only for the sake of agitating and has little interest in resolving conflicts with his employers. As a result, Kosal is put in jail for one year. After his release, he is more willing to negotiate and ultimately receives an award from the Ministry of Interior for his cooperation with police and other authorities.

Pov Kisan, who has been playing villains for more than two decades, said he enjoyed playing a multifaceted character.


"I cry in the film, and I have never had to act like that before," he said. "This is a great story, and the film crew pushed me to express new feelings."

He added, "Among the educational films I have done, I like this ILO series the most."

Nhem Sokun plays Dara, a union president who urges workers to resolve disputes with their employers. In the first two episodes of the series, he explains to workers which forms of protest are legal and which are not.

"It is hard for me to act in this kind of film because I have to remember key terminology for the labour sector, which I have never used before," he said.

"It is not easy to act in the series. This kind of character is knowledgeable about the labour law. He pursues justice and helps garment workers who are in trouble."

He said he believes the series is "balanced" in that it is sympathetic to the positions of employers as well as frustrated workers.

"It is an educational film that everyone - but especially garment workers - should view because it will help them find solutions to disputes in their working life," he said.

The producer of the series, Nick Wood, said it was demanding to write episodes that would appeal to all sides of the typical labour dispute - workers, government officials and unions.

"The hardest thing was writing a film that was believable, entertaining, informative and dramatic and that would appeal to" these various parties, he said.

"The easiest thing was working with motivated, committed and talented Khmer actors and a great production team."

Minna Maaskola said production of the final two episodes would take about one month to complete and that she was not sure when they would air on television.

DECENTRALISATION: May election registration closing

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Neth Pheaktra
Monday, 02 March 2009


THE ruling Cambodian People's Party, the royalist Funcinpec and Norodom Ranariddh parties, and the opposition Sam Rainsy Party will be the only parties represented in the May council elections, Tep Nytha, secretary general of the National Election Committee (NEC), told the Post Sunday.

May's council election will see the country's commune councillors vote to determine the representation of their respective parties at the higher-level district council and the municipal and provincial councils. Under the council election law, councillors may not vote for any individual of their choosing but instead must vote for one of the candidates put up by each party represented in that commune. Parties have had a five-day window, between last Thursday and today, to list their candidates. Some 11,353 commune councilors will vote to elect 3,235 representatives.

The CPP holds 7,993 seats in the Commune Council, with the SRP sitting on 2,660 seats. Funcinpec and NRP, which hold 274 and 424 seats, respectively, have formed a coalition to pool their weak bases for the May election.

The Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (Comfrel) has predicted the CPP will sweep 2,436, or more than 75 percent, of the seats, with the SRP carrying 689 seats and NRP and Funcinpec taking 60 and 44 seats, respectively.

The election watchdog group last week issued a report criticising the upcoming election, in which the group says the polls will hold no interest for the general public, which is not allowed to vote in them, and will therefore prove largely meaningless.

Sedge mat industry thinks global

Minister of Women's Affairs, Ieng Kantha Phavi, inspects sedge products Thursday.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Khouth Sophak Chakrya
Monday, 02 March 2009

Association's recent award shows industry's capacity for empowering women in Kandal province

THE Cambodian Sedge Mats Business Association (CSMA) is looking to capitalise on the publicity stemming from a recent award to expand the global customer base for sedge mats, said Minister of Women's Affairs Ing Kantha Phavi during a ceremony Thursday marking the opening of two training centres for sedge mat weavers in Kandal province.

GTZ, a German-based enterprise promoting sustainable development, announced last December that a project promoting the production of sedge mats in Kandal province was among five recipients of its "New ideas for more employment" award. The prize for the award, according to the GTZ website, takes the form of "professional presentation of the projects for media purposes and international publicity for them".

The sedge mat industry currently employs an estimated 10,000 women throughout Cambodia, according to a GTZ release announcing the award. There are more than 1,000 sedge farmers and 4,000 women weavers in Kandal province alone.

Previously, sedge mat products only attracted local customers, Ing Kantha Phavi said. But in recent years, she said, sedge mats have been purchased by an increasing number of customers in other Asian countries, Europe and the United States for use in homes and offices.

The CSMA website states that the traditional method of weaving sedge mats, once common in Southeast and East Asia, "has vanished in most parts of Asia".

"In Cambodia's Kandal province, however, the technique has been preserved," the site states.

Training for rural women
In her remarks Thursday, Ing Kantha Phavi urged farmers in the area to increase sedge mat production. She also called for CSMA and GTZ to increase technical training provided to women weavers.

She said the growth of this and other industries in rural areas would reduce the number of women who migrate to Phnom Penh in search of job opportunities.

Peter Bolster, who works as part of GTZ's program to promote private-sector development in rural areas, said the innovation demonstrated by those currently working in the sedge mat industry was on par with those involved in the other winning projects, including one promoting the reintegration of unemployed Chinese women into the workforce and one promoting the socioeconomic reintegration of youth and ex-combatants in Ivory Coast.

Eco-toilets bound for Angkor Wat temples

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by May Kunmakara
Monday, 02 March 2009

A JAPANESE nonprofit group, Groundwork Mashima, has offered to donate two ecologically friendly toilets for use at Angkor Wat, according to Cambodian officials.

Produced in Japan, the toilets use bacteria-laced cedar chips that break down waste into nitrogen and water. The "biotoilets", which have been installed in Japan's iconic hiking destination, Mount Fuji, need a small amount of electricity to function and do not require emptying.

Khuon Khun Neay, deputy director of Apsara, the government authority charged with running the World Heritage site, said he would meet with officials from the Japanese group later this month to finalise the terms of the donation. The biotoilets would "help keep the Angkor Wat temple complex's fresh atmosphere for tourists", he added.

Ho Vandy, an official with the Cambodian Association of Travel Agents, said he hoped the Japanese group would provide additional biotoilets for Cambodia's other prominent tourist destinations. But Khuon Khun Neay said additional units would need to be purchased for over $10,000 each.

Toyohiro Wantanabe, executive director of Groundwork Mashima, was quoted as saying in the Japanese Mainichi Daily News that his group wanted to contribute "toward the protection of the ruins".

While over a million tourists visit the Angkorian temples near Siem Reap every year, the complex includes only 11 public restrooms.

A visionary behind the scenes

Lao Mong Hay has been working on Cambodian human rights issues since the 1980s.
The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Neth Pheaktra and Sebastian Strangio
Monday, 02 March 2009

From nationalist rebel to commentator with the Asian Human Rights Commission, Lao Mong Hay keeps his critical edge.

Having been the head of the Khmer People's National Liberation Front's (KPNLF) Human Rights Unit during the 1980s, how do you see the human rights situation in Cambodia today? Have there been improvements?

With the movement from communism to a more liberal regime, restrictions such as movement inside and outside the country no longer need prior authorisation. Economic freedom is not complete, but largely free: If you have a skill or capital and you want to invest it, you can do it. But there is still largely a lack of freedom of expression. Who is in charge of the newspapers? Mostly people who are affiliated with the ruling party - so the papers are largely pro-government. Audiovisual media are controlled by the authorities, and there is no free editorial policy.

You spent time working as KPNLF president Son Sann's aide during the late 1980s and early 1990s. What do you recall about him?

We were instrumental in getting all the Cambodian factions to agree to accept the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and then later on to agree to the human rights clauses in the Paris Peace Agreements. But since Son Sann was not successful in contesting the 1993 elections, those successes were kept at a low profile.

Son Sann was forward-looking for his age: When I got to the border, he initiated a number of programs to prepare people for repatriation and for rebuilding the country. He initiated the creation of a technical school, where refugees were trained in a number of technical skills, and an institute of public administration to train district leaders and officials in public administration, economics and law. There were hundreds of graduates from that school.

Who can be sure our leader will not appoint his descendants, like kim il sung and kim jong il have?

The KPNLF was in nominal alliance with the Khmer Rouge during this period. Did this worry you? How did it influence your human rights perspective?

When I joined the KPNLF in the field to work with the fighters, I told Son Sann and my senior colleagues that I would not have the letters CGDK [Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea] on my namecard. I would only have the KPNLF. When I came to work closely with the KPNLF and the people, we brought to the Cambodian communities on the border - and later, inside the country - the concepts of human rights, the rule of law and democracy. Later on when people were repatriated from the border, the seeds of human rights and democracy were created inside the country. But unfortunately, because Son Sann was not successful at the elections, we could not translate the ideas that we cherished into concrete actions.

What is the most pressing human rights issue in Cambodia right now?

Freedom of expression. Freedom of expression means ideas, which can be critical of the government. But our rulers do not accept freedom of expression or ideas that are not compatible with their own. That's the definition of dictatorship.

Is it dangerous for democracy that the Human Rights Party is not allowed to speak in the National Assembly?

This is part of the curb on freedom of expression. That rule is unconstitutional. The affected party and all MPs should check the Constitution and should ask the Constitutional Council to remove that clause.

How do you view the growing influence of the Chinese government in Cambodia? Will it set back human rights?

Not directly. Being a communist country whose government is not responsive to the people, we can't expect China to do otherwise. And China is like any big power in the past. It is solely concerned with its own strategic or economic interests, and foreign aid basically serves foreign policy. Look at the American government. So long as recipient countries pursue policies in conformity with American foreign policy, they will give aid. There's a double standard: America can support dictatorships as well as democracies.

Following your work with Yash Ghai, do you think that Cambodia can benefit from hosting a UN special rapporteur for human rights?

Cambodia can swing like a pendulum from one extreme to another, and a third party can help restrain us. We agreed already, when we signed the Paris Peace Agreements, that there should be a special rapporteur in the form of the UN representative. But through hostility towards the field office of the UN's High Commissioner on Human Rights, and through hostility to the special representative, Cambodia showed that it is not sincere in its pledges to the Paris Peace Agreements. When we pledge something in front of the international community, we should honour it.

Is the current period of CPP dominance an indication of democracy functioning successfully or a slide back into one-party rule?

The last election was a bad turn for Cambodia. Look at how the elections were controlled, right down to the grassroots. All institutions of the country are controlled by the ruling party: our King, our Constitutional Council, our courts, our parliament, our civil service, our army and police force. They should be politically neutral. To correct this flaw, we must pass a law preventing any members of these institutions from being members of any political party. And it needs to be enforced.

What do you think about the new alliance between the SRP and HRP?

I don't think the two parties could work very well together. There are clashes of personality. There are no clear ideas or policies. This sort of alliance comes and goes, and they'll need to work hard to consolidate their unity.

What do you think caused the royalists' decline in politics?

Authoritarianism. When leaders are so autocratic, their subordinates lose their creativity. I have met some of them. At the beginning, they were very bright, but after one or two years there were no more ideas because they were not allowed to think.

There are some princes that have continued to be in politics, for instance Sisowath Sirirath. The nation might be in crisis later on, and we might need the royalists as we did in the 1980s and 1990s. And who can be sure our ruler will not appoint his descendants, like Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il have? He could become King under a new name.

How do the old political leaders - like Son Sann - compare with new leaders, like Sam Rainsy or Kem Sokha?

Some of those old leaders started off with work experience as government officials and then, when the French left, they became leaders. For the time that the French had been in Cambodia, they left behind a reasonable working system of government: the basic institutions of the Cambodian state, and the rule of law. So we were more conscious about rules. Compare this to leaders now. How long was Sam Rainsy in government? Two years, and at the top. And Kem Sokha: What work experience in public administration does he have?

Recently, the Khmer Rouge tribunal has been beset by disagreements over whether prosecutions should be broadened to include other prominent KR figures.

In principle, I agree with the UN experts of the late 1990s. The creation of that court has defined one legal principle already: All those who are suspected of committing any crimes should be held accountable and should be tried. Look at the statement of our Cambodian co-prosecutor. She mentioned the political instability that might be caused by that sort of prosecution. As a prosecutor, she should not bother about that. If somebody has been accused of a crime, it is the government's responsibility to ensure stability, not the court's.

Interview by Neth Pheaktra and Sebastian Strangio

Casinos adapt to survive gaming ban

Casino workers in Bavet on the border with Vietnam in Svay Rieng province.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Kay Kimsong
Monday, 02 March 2009

MANY of the capital's gambling clubs are now operating as restaurants or coffee shops following the government's outright ban on all venues offering slot machines and electronic gaming machines.

The Ministry of Economy and Finance issued its directive on Wednesday following an order from Prime Minister Hun Sen. All valid gaming licences to operate betting machines were ruled invalid from that date, ostensibly to protect public morals.

An official at the ministry said the directive had led to the closure of 60 gambling clubs in the past week. He said the industry contributed more than US$20 million annually, of which US$1 million came from Cambo Six.

The manager of one former gambling club, the Golden Tower, said his company had laid off 1,000 staff.

"In order to save some of the jobs we've changed our club to a restaurant," said a manager who identified himself only as Sophal. He said each worker had earned a monthly wage of around US$100.

Most gambling clubs had enforceable contracts with their landlords, who insisted on clubs meeting their monthly rental payments, he added.

"We can't cancel the contract with our landlord - we had agreed to pay them rent for the club space," said Sophal. "For that reason we have had to create another business rather than completely close down."

The manager of another club, the Atlantic, said his business would now look at serving food. He said the ministry's decision had cost thousands of people their jobs.

Tax revenue lost
"We have to pay rent every month, so we have to do something - and this is better than doing nothing," said the manager, who requested anonymity. "We thought we were protected by our business licence, but in fact we're not."

He added that his club contributed US$7,000 in taxes each month to the treasury, spent US$10,000 on wages, US$5,000 on under-the-table payments to the local authorities and US$20,000 for its business licence.

But the clampdown has not affected all gambling outlets. CPP Senator Phu Kok An, the owner of Golden Crown Casinos, told the Post Sunday that the government directive did not affect slot machines in legal casinos along the border with Thailand and Vietnam.

He said that it also did not affect the NagaWorld casino located on the same block as Parliament in Phnom Penh. The Post ascertained Saturday that slot machines are still operating at NagaWorld.

"As long as we can ban Khmer people from gambling, slot machines in casinos will not be affected," he said.
Cambodian nationals are banned from entering licensed casinos to gamble.

Phu Kok An agreed that several thousand people had lost their jobs in the clampdown. But, he said, the spread of gambling had created social problems that outweighed the benefits. He said those investors who already had a licence would not be able to start their businesses, but although they might be disappointed, they ought to follow government policy.

"I think that those places offering slot machines should change and become restaurants or coffee shops," he said.

Thai visa policy set to benefit Cambodia

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Mom kunthear and May kunmakara
Monday, 02 March 2009

Thailand's offer of free three-month visas will boost domestic tourism, minister says

THAILAND'S offer to allow free three-month tourist visas will bring more visitors to Cambodia, Minister of Tourism Thong Khon told the Post Sunday.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva announced the fee exemption during a speech last week in Bangkok that was part of the ongoing "Amazing Thailand - Amazing Value" tourism campaign.

The exemption is scheduled to begin Friday and last until June 4.

Thong Khon said he believed the exemption would attract more visitors to Cambodia because Thailand is a major feeder market for Cambodia's tourists.

"If Thailand succeeds with this program, [Cambodia] will also benefit because they will have a lot of tourists coming to the country," he said.

"It will not reduce the number of tourists."

He noted that the private Tourism Working Group last month proposed a one-year Cambodian visa-fee exemption and that officials from the Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Economy and Finance were studying the feasibility of visa exemption.

About two million foreign tourists visit Cambodia each year, with each required to purchase a US$20 tourist visa.

If thailand succeeds with this program, [Cambodia] will also benefit.

Ang Kim Eang, president of the Cambodian Association of Travel Agents, said he supported the forthcoming Thai fee exemption but said he did not believe it would result in a substantial increase in tourists for Thailand or Cambodia.

He noted that Thailand already offers free visas to residents of 20 countries for stays not exceeding 15 days and to residents of 42 other countries up to 30 days.

"I think this promotion will not really benefit their tourism industry," he said.

In his speech last week, Abhisit said officials were "pleased to see that visitor arrivals are on the upswing again" but lamented the fact that numbers for the first quarter of 2009 were likely to be 30 to 40 percent lower than the same period the previous year.

He attributed this to the global economic crisis and fallout from political turmoil late last year that led to the temporary closure of Bangkok's two airports.

In a separate speech last week, Santichai Euachongprasit, deputy governor for international marketing at Thailand's Tourism Authority, said tourism totals fell by one percent in 2008, but added that the beginning of 2009 had seen economic conditions worsening.

"There has been a decline in arrivals from key source markets like East Asia," he said.
He pointed to several strategies designed to bolster tourism figures for 2009, including the visa fee exemption and the waiving of airport fees for a period equalling time of the airport closure.

A government-private sector group is working to attract more visitors to the kingdom. Proposals include industry-wide price cuts and measures to boost quality.

Cambodia's ex-king cites progress against his cancer

File image of former Cambodian King, Norodom Sihanouk, who says he is showing progress in his most recent fight against cancer, according to a royal letter posted on his website.(AFP/File/Tang Chhin Sothy)

Sun Mar 1

PHNOM PENH (AFP) – Cambodia's former king Norodom Sihanouk says he is showing progress in his most recent fight against cancer, according to a royal letter posted on his website.

The 86-year-old, who left for Beijing in July last year to receive medical treatment for other illnesses, said in late December that his Chinese doctors had found a new cancer in his body.

Sihanouk said in a letter dated February 27 that after treatment, "today I went to hospital to have it checked with modern equipment (PET Scan) and saw that this cancer has shrunk."

However he added that he needed to prolong his stay in Beijing for further treatment.

Sihanouk was first diagnosed with B-cell lymphoma, a cancer affecting blood cells crucial to the immune system, in 1993.

The cancer began in his prostate and recurred in 2005 in his stomach.

Sihanouk has suffered from a number of other ailments including diabetes and hypertension.

Despite giving up his role as monarch, Sihanouk remains a prominent figure in Cambodia and often uses messages on his website to weigh in on matters affecting the country.
Photo Supplied A photographic still from the The Sea Wall, filmed on location in Kampong Som province. Images from the production, taken by professional and amateur photographers, are to be on display beginning today at the Bophana Centre.

The Phnom Penh Post

Monday, 02 March 2009

The making of Rithy Panh's stirring film, based on a Marguerite Duras novel, is chronicled in the Bophana Centre's latest audiovisual presentation

Making a film is no easy feat. It takes scores of people and countless hours of hard work and dedication to put together a quality product.

It is this lengthy but captivating process that Bophana Audiovisual Resource Centre will document in their upcoming photo exhibition, "Making Of: The Sea Wall".

Un Barrage contre le Pacifique (The Sea Wall, 2008) is the 2007 film adaptation of the 1950 autobiographical novel of the same name by Marguerite Duras and stars award-winning French actress Isabelle Huppurt.

Set in Cambodia in the 1920s, The Sea Wall is a compelling drama about the struggle of an expatriate woman and her two teenage children living in the Prey Nob region of Kampong Som, and trying to make ends meet under the oppressive rule of French colonial officials. The film paints a vivid picture of colonialist and Cambodian society during this time period.

The film was directed by the highly acclaimed Cambodian-born filmmaker Rithy Panh, who has made 13 major films, most of which have been screened all over the world. This is Rithy Panh's fourth narrative feature film.

Photo Supplied Acclaimed Cambodian filmmaker Rithy Panh.

Preserving the past
Rithy Panh is also one of the founders of the Bophana Centre, which aims to collect and preserve the images and sounds of Cambodia and to train Cambodian people for a career in all things audiovisual. The centre currently houses over 1,000 archival resources dating from 1899 to the present.

"Making Of: The Sea Wall" will feature more than 50 photographs that were taken over a three-month period of shooting The Sea Wall in Ream district of Preah Sihanouk province, and will include shots by both professional and amateur photographers.

Photographs will reveal the teamwork it takes between workers, tradesmen and artists to get the perfect shot, as well as the steps that need to be taken before and after the shoot to arrive at the final product.

Objects and documents from the film, such as clothing, props and scripts, will also be displayed at the exhibition.

"This will be a good opportunity for the public, especially Cambodians, to come and discover international cinema," said Noy Chum, cultural event manager at Bophana Audiovisual Centre. "They can see the process of filmmaking from beginning to end, as well as the final product."

As a complement to the exhibition, Bophana is offering a two-hour workshop titled "Backstage at the Cinema". The workshop is free of charge for youths under 18 years of age, and will include information and tips from image research analysts about filmmaking as a career and international cinema in general.


This workshop is offered as an offshoot of the Bophana Centre's image education program, where young people can learn about audiovisual material, how to use a camera, the process of making films and other relevant information concerning audiovisual professions.

Rithy Panh in spotlight
During the month of March, Bophana will also offer two other films within the framework of the exhibition.

Uncle Rithy, a documentary directed by Rithy Panh, discusses his 20 years of filmmaking, reflections on documentary style films, and the moral and ethical limits of cinema.

Prey Nob, a Community on Water: Filmed Evaluation of the Project Prey Nup in Cambodia, 1998-2008 analyses the social, economic and political impacts of the coastal dam building project in Prey Nob, Preah Sihanouk province, by L'Agence Francaise de Developpement along with local NGOs.

The original version of The Sea Wall will be screened at the French Cultural Centre, one block north of Bophana. Tickets and showtimes are available at Bophana Audiovisual Center.

Education in images
"All events are free of charge," said Noy Chum. "We want to encourage the public to learn more about filmmaking and international cinema, as well as the history and culture of Cambodia. People are also free to come to the Centre throughout the week and consult the archives. The old generation might want to revive memories of the past, while the new generation can come to understand more about themselves. As you know, we cannot live without the past."

"Making Of: The Sea Wall" opens today at 6PM and will run through March 28. For more information, please contact Bophana Centre at 023 992 174, or stop by at #64 Street 200 (Okhna Men).
The Extraodinary Chambers in the Court of Cambodia (ECCC) in Phnom Penh on February 26. Lawyers have asked Cambodia's UN-backed Khmer Rouge genocide court to interview Premier Hun Sen, former king Norodom Sihanouk and other current leaders, local media reported Monday.(AFP/ECCC/File)

PHNOM PENH (AFP) – Lawyers have asked Cambodia's UN-backed Khmer Rouge genocide court to interview Premier Hun Sen, former king Norodom Sihanouk and other current leaders, local media reported Monday.

The English-language Cambodia Daily and Phnom Penh Post said the request was made by the defence team for former Khmer Rouge ideologue Nuon Chea, who is scheduled to be tried later this year for crimes against humanity.

Confidential court documents leaked to the newspapers said lawyers also asked for testimony from senate president Chea Sim and national assembly president Heng Samrin about their service to the regime in the late 1970s.

"The above-named individuals are likely in possession of documents and information relevant to the pending judicial investigation," the Phnom Penh Post reported, quoting the request.

All the leaders named in the document at one time played roles in the Khmer Rouge, but left the regime before it was ousted in 1979 and deny any participation in atrocities which killed up to two million people.

Nuon Chea's Dutch co-defence lawyers filed the request, his Cambodian attorney Son Arun told AFP, adding that his partners would file a complaint at the court to investigate "the leak of the documents."

Former "Brother Number Two" Nuon Chea is one of five Khmer Rouge leaders to be tried by the court for killing up to one quarter of Cambodia's population through overwork, starvation and execution in a bid for a communist utopia.

The long-awaited first Khmer Rouge trial started last month when the regime's notorious prison chief, Kaing Guek Eav, better known by the alias Duch, went before the court.

Cambodia's UN-backed Khmer Rouge court does not have enough money to pay local salaries this month, said a leading judge Monday, following corruption claims that have made donors wary.

Kong Srim, head of the Khmer Rouge tribunal's supreme court chamber, told a plenary session of the tribunal that donations have dried up for Cambodian staff salaries as proceedings start against leaders from the 1975-1979 regime.

"Unfortunately the national side of the court will not have sufficient funds for the staff salaries for this month," Kong Srim told Cambodian and international judicial officials in an opening speech.

'Little dancers'


The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Post Staff
Monday, 02 March 2009

The first Phnom Penh performance of the "Little Dancers of Banteay Srey", featuring children from Le Petit Conservatoire Samdech Preah Ream Norodom Buppha Devi School of Dance, took place at Raffles Hotel Le Royal on the weekend. The school is sponsored by Nginn Karet Foundation of Cambodia (NKFC), which works with 14 villages in the Banteay Srey district and has over the years implemented programs in hygiene, basic health care, vaccination, water policy, agriculture and malaria prevention.

Border resolution near

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Cheang Sokha
Monday, 02 March 2009

FOREIGN Minister Hor Namhong said Cambodia and Thailand had agreed to resolve their long-running border dispute by using a memorandum of understanding signed in 2000.

He was speaking after returning from the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) meeting in Thailand Sunday.

Hor Namhong said Prime Minister Hun Sen had met his Thai counterpart, Abhisit Vejjajiva, in a bilateral meeting on Friday, and they had agreed to use the memorandum signed between the two countries in 2000.

The agreement states that the Joint Border Commission should use maps drafted in 1904 and 1907 - ratified by Siam (as Thailand was then known) and France, Cambodia's former colonial power - to delineate the common border.

"I think if Thailand has a clear stance and is willing to use the 2000 MoU, there will be no further difficulties in the future," Hor Namhong told reporters at Phnom Penh International Airport. "We decided to resolve the [border] issue peacefully."

He added that the two premiers had also discussed overlapping seabed claims in the Gulf of Cambodia between the two countries and were resolved to negotiate this issue as soon as possible. The gulf is thought to contain sizeable reserves of oil and gas.

Soldiers clashed on the border late last year after Preah Vihear temple was listed as a Unesco World Heritage site in early July.

Cambodia's top border negotiator, Var Kimhong, is to discuss border demarcation and de-mining with his Thai counterpart in Siem Reap in mid-April.

The Phnom Penh Post News In Brief

In Brief: ECCC to hold judges plenary this week

Written by Georgia Wilkins
Monday, 02 March 2009

The Khmer Rouge Tribunal will hold its fifth plenary session this week at which judges will discuss proposed amendments to the internal rules of the court, including rules relating to investigations, civil parties, witnesses and evidence. A press release stated that the plenary, which begins Monday and runs until Friday at the capital's Cambodiana Hotel, would also consider administrative and technical matters, and the procedures of the Supreme Court Chamber.

In Brief: Ministry issues bird flu warning

Written by Chhay Channyda
Monday, 02 March 2009

The Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation released a statement Tuesday warning people of an increased risk of bird flu through December to April. The statement warned against eating or letting children play with sick or dead chickens or ducks. It also urged poultry vendors to be vigilant in handling produce. "If there is a suspicious case, send sick people to the nearest health centre or referral hospital," the statement advised. The ministry hotlines are: 012 488 981 and 012 836 868.

In Brief: King father to remain in china

Written by Sam Rith
Monday, 02 March 2009

King Father Norodom Sihanouk has said he needs to remain in Beijing for further treatment for his illnesses. He said no date had been fixed for his return. In a letter issued Friday, he said Chinese doctors had treated his cancer - lymphoma B - for a month. "Today, I went to hospital to be checked with a PET scan and found the cancer is getting healed," he wrote, praising the "very skilful" doctors. Palace officials said they did not know when King Father Norodom Sihanouk would return to Cambodia, adding that he needed more time for treatment.

ASEAN Concludes Meetings in Thailand

Leaders from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations link arms at the group's annual summit, held in Thailand. From left are Thailand's Abhisit Vejjajiva, Vietnam's Nguyen Tan Dung, Burma's Thein Sein, Brunei's Hassanal Bolkiah and Cambodia's Hun Sen. (By Tomohiro Ohsumi -- Bloomberg News)

Activists Pull Out of Meeting After Ultimatum by Burma and Cambodia

HUA HIN, Thailand, Feb. 28 -- A summit of Southeast Asian countries got off to a rocky start Saturday when the leaders of Burma and Cambodia threatened to walk out of a meeting on human rights if activists from their countries were included. The activists reluctantly offered to withdraw, and the meeting went ahead without them.

The annual summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations is the first since the organization formally signed a charter that, among other things, mandates the establishment of an independent human rights body as part of a program to make the organization "more caring and sharing," in the words of Abhisit Vejjajiva, Thailand's prime minister and the group's chairman.

"We need to make ASEAN more people-centric. Protection and promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms is a key feature of our community," Abhisit said at the opening ceremony Saturday afternoon. "The establishment of an ASEAN human rights body by the end of this year, the first ever of its kind in the region, will be a big step in this direction."

Rights groups said that Saturday's ultimatum from Burma and Cambodia shows that they are already trying to undermine the agreement.

"The Burmese military regime and the Cambodian government have set out to deliberately sabotage one of the most important aspects of the ASEAN charter," said Debbie Stothard of Altsean-Burma, a human rights advocacy group.

The refusal of Burmese and Cambodian authorities to engage with their critics will bolster skeptics who say the organization has always put the principle of noninterference above its promise to better the lives of the 570 million people who live in the 10 member countries.

Analysts have expressed doubt that all of the ASEAN members, especially Burma, are fully committed to the process. Burma was severely criticized in a recent U.S. State Department report for its human rights abuses.

Burma was controversially brought into ASEAN in 1997 on the grounds that regional engagement was more likely to change the country's direction than ostracism. But the experiment has been largely unsuccessful, and Burma's human rights record almost always threatens to overshadow the rest of the ASEAN agenda at its meetings.

Some observers say the organization's problem lies in execution rather than principle.

"If engagement is still the principle, you have to use the carrot and the stick, and I don't see any stick," said Bara Hasibuan, a political analyst based in Jakarta, Indonesia's capital.

After the human rights meeting, Abhisit made an effort to meet the excluded delegates. He later told reporters that the organization would "try to ensure that there is civil society participation" in its future work, the Associated Press reported.

"We will take gradual steps and encourage a wider participation," he said.

The ASEAN members are Thailand, Burma, Cambodia, Brunei, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam.

Asean, Armed With New Charter, Remains Far From EU Dream

By Daniel Ten Kate and Shamim Adam

March 2 (Bloomberg) -- Southeast Asian governments want to speed the formation of a European Union-modeled economic grouping, as the global recession slows their export-driven economies. They may not be willing to make the hard choices required to achieve it.

Leaders from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, who met in Thailand Feb. 27 to March 1 for their annual summit, signed trade deals and agreements to form an integrated economic community, without a common currency, by 2015. Absent from the agenda were the deep concessions analysts say are necessary to boost growth in the region.

“Asean’s biggest problem is that individual members haven’t been willing to sacrifice for the common good,” said Michael Montesano, a visiting research fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore. “Every European Union member has given up sovereignty to be part of a stronger union, and we haven’t seen that in Asean.”

Wide economic disparity among Asean members has hindered the region’s ability to leverage its market of 570 million people and compete for investments with China and India, the world’s fastest growing economies. Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, who chaired the summit, called on the bloc to “accelerate” the formation of an “attractive single market.”

Common Standards ‘Difficult’

Southeast Asian leaders agree that closer regional integration would boost growth, Thai Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij said in an interview. Still, the large differences in wealth among Asean members “makes it difficult to create common standards because our national standards remain so far apart,” he said.

“We’ve got to be realistic in the kind of goals that we set for 2015,” Korn said. “We’re not talking about the level of integration that has taken place in the EU.”

The push for more integration comes at a time when the EU is straining under the pressures created by a similar disparity in the strength of its constituent economies.

Multinational companies have scaled back spending plans because of the global recession, leading to fiercer competition among governments looking to attract investment and create jobs. Singapore has cut corporate taxes for the second time in three years, Malaysia has pledged to liberalize its services sector and Cambodia extended tax breaks for garment makers.

Trade deals such as the one Asean signed with Australia and New Zealand Feb. 28 “won’t make a difference in the short term as long as the drop in global demand doesn’t stabilize,” said David Cohen, director of Asian economic forecasting at Action Economics. “There is no magic bullet.”

Foreign Direct Investment

Two years ago Asean saw foreign direct investment jump 18 percent to more than $60 billion, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said Aug. 26. China attracted about $83 billion of foreign direct investment that year. The bloc includes Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, the Philippines, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.

Singapore, Asean’s richest country, said fixed-asset investments may fall as much as 44 percent this year to S$10 billion ($6.5 billion) as the island slides into recession. By contrast, China announced a 4 trillion yuan ($585 billion) stimulus plan to boost the economy, which the government expects to grow 8 percent in 2009.

The region’s four largest economies -- Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia -- account for almost 90 percent of all foreign investment into Asean. The purchasing power of the group’s four poorest countries was five times less than the other members in 2007, according to statistics on the bloc’s Web site.

No Enforcement Mechanism

Asean’s new charter, which came into force three months ago, has no mechanism to stop member countries from implementing protectionist policies. Earlier this month Indonesia ordered civil servants to use local products, and Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said it was “normal” for countries to resort to protectionist measures in a slowdown, according to local media reports.

For four decades, Asean made decisions mainly by consensus, refusing to interfere in the affairs of individual countries. Two years ago the bloc’s leaders signed a charter, the first legally binding document since the group’s founding in 1967.

Governments found to be in violation of its rules will be referred to Asean leaders to come up with a consensus on action. The group rejected proposals to add voting, expulsion or sanctions on its members.

Later this year, Asean plans to finalize a human rights body that cannot tackle country-specific issues. At the summit, Asean leaders sidestepped concerns about the treatment of Myanmar migrants who reportedly died after Thai authorities towed them out to sea, though said “the welfare and well being” of Palestinians in Gaza “was of paramount importance.”

‘Bite the Bullet’

Asean will never become similar to the EU because the political and institutional differences between the countries are too large, said Razeen Sally, a director of the European Centre for International Political Economy in Brussels. Individual countries must “bite the bullet” and make structural reforms on their own to benefit when the global economy recovers, he said.

“The problem with Asean is that they can only arrive at a very low common denominator,” Sally said. “It’s not going to be a strong collective body and we can’t expect it to come up with a strong collective response to global challenges.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Daniel Ten Kate in Cha-am, Thailand at; Shamim Adam in Cha-am, Thailand at