Thursday, 5 March 2009

Rise in prison population forcing reform of system

A guard monitors the entry road to Phnom Penh's Prey Sar prison.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by May Titthara
Thursday, 05 March 2009

Officials say a seven-percent increase in 2008 has pushed current capacity to the limit, but promise prison reforms.

THE Kingdom's prison population has increased in the last year, causing authorities to strengthen prison security, officials said Tuesday.

Heng Hak, director of the Ministry of Interior's Prison Department, said that the number of prisoners increased by seven percent over 2008.

"This year there are 11,688 prisoners, an increase of 786 compared to 10,902 prisoners at the start of last year," he said, adding that authorities were "worried" by the increase.

"We're afraid some prisoners will attempt to escape, and it's extremely difficult for us to control them," he said. "We have to take strict measures to ensure their security."

According to an annual report released by the ministry Thursday, 22 prisoners, two of them women, escaped from prison facilities in 2008. Of these, three were re-arrested and detained.

"While the number of prisoners has increased, we are renovating old buildings and will establish another prison facility in Pursat province," he said.

Now we are allowing them to come out of their cells in the morning.

He added that to resolve problems of overcrowding, the department had transferred prisoners between facilities and had written a proposal to the Ministry of Economy and Finance requesting an increase in funding per prisoner from 1,500 to 2,800 riels (US$0.36 to $0.67) per day.

"It is difficult to account for the increase," he said. "But according to our research and the outcomes of the Asia Pacific Conference [of Correctional Administrators], most developing countries have also experienced rising numbers."

Chheav Hourlay, a prison researcher for local rights group Licadho, said that the increasing numbers will impact prisoner health and, in particular, disease transmission.

"Now, the biggest problem for prisoners is food," he said.

"They are allocated only 1,500 riels per day, which is inadequate with respect to market prices."

Kuy Bun Sorn, deputy director of the Prison Department, said that prisons had also "altered their sleeping arrangements" due to overcrowding, and that each 1.6 metre by 0.8 metre cell, which once held four people, was now accommodating eight.

"The main health problems facing prisoners are skin and gastrointestinal illness, and vitamin deficiency due to inadequate food," he said.

"Now, we are allowing them to come out of their cells in the morning to exercise and to grow crops and vegetables.

Heng Hak added that authorities have also increased guard-to-prisoner ratios, for both security and humanitarian reasons, as well as taking more action to reform the local prison system.

"We are also taking measures to educate guards about prisoner health, enhancing their professional and interpersonal skills, and reforming the prison industry," he said.

Sam Rainsy in France to register concerns about loss of immunity

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sebastian Strangio and Meas Sokchea
Thursday, 05 March 2009

SRP spokesman says visit to include meetings with MPs from European Commission and the world parliamentary body.

OPPOSITION leader Sam Rainsy left Cambodia for Europe Tuesday to visit family in France and report on the recent suspension of his parliamentary immunity to the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) in Geneva, his party said.

Sam Rainsy Party spokesman Yim Sovann confirmed the opposition leader had flown to France, where he would meet with family and celebrate his birthday on March 10.

Although he said the impetus for the trip was "unrelated to the political situation", he said Sam Rainsy would also take the opportunity to meet with members of parliament from the European Commission and report on the recent actions of the National Assembly.

"His immunity was suspended unconstitutionally, so he needs to inform everybody about this," Yim Sovann said Wednesday.

"If something happens in Cambodia, the international community should know about it because they contribute a lot of money to Cambodia's development."

Sam Rainsy confirmed Sunday that he had lodged complaints with the IPU, a world organisation of parliaments, in relation to the National Election Committee case, and that he would fight the "unconstitutional" decision to suspend his immunity.

Legal limbo
Sam Rainsy has been without immunity since February 26, when the National Assembly's Permanent Committee voted to suspend it after the SRP president refused to pay a 10 million riels (US$2,500) fine levied by the NEC for comments made during last year's national election campaign.

Although he has since paid the fine, Sam Rainsy's immunity remains suspended; and the National Assembly, currently in recess, will be unable to lift it until it reconvenes next month.

National Assembly first Vice-Chairman Nguon Nhel said that even once the Assembly sessions reopen, it would not be able to reinstate his immunity until it is requested by the Justice Ministry.

In most democratic countries, they wait for the [Mp's] term ... to be over.

"This is not up to the parliament. The immunity suspension was requested by the minister of justice," he said.

He added that if the NA acted without an express request from that power, it would be in violation of the law.

But Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, said the suspension of the immunity was itself illegal, pointing out that such an action required a two-thirds majority in the NA, not just a vote in the Assembly's Permanent Committee.

"If Sam Rainsy has already paid the compensation, and the NEC has dropped its case, there should be an automatic restoration [of his immunity]," he said.

He added that, being a minor crime, the suspension was "not justified", and that the government could have found other ways to deal with the case.

"In most democratic countries, they wait for the term of the parliamentarian to be over," Ou Virak added.

Cambodia to host annual peacekeeping training operations

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Thet Sambath and Sebastian Strangio
Thursday, 05 March 2009

US government initiative to train international peacekeeping troops will be held on Cambodian soil for the first time next year.

CAMBODIA will host multilateral peacekeeping exercises in 2010 as part of a US State Department program, the US embassy said Wednesday.

"The Royal Government of Cambodia has agreed to host a multilateral peacekeeping training event in 2010 as part of the Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI)... an annual Capstone training event attended by GPOI member nations and other regional and international partners," embassy spokesman John Johnson said by email.

Johnson added that the event would provide training in line with the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations, including "field tactical and command post operations", but that formal planning and preparation for the exercise will not begin until later this year.

Ministry of Defence Cabinet chief Nem Sowath confirmed that the country would host the GPOI Capstone event with American assistance sometime next year. "It is not a military exercise involving offensive manoeuvres, but will train armed forces for peacekeeping operations," he said.

RCAF Commander-in-Chief Pol Saroeun confirmed the country would host the operations in 2010, but said the Defence Ministry was currently coordinating the nations that would be involved, which he expected would include Asean member states.

Filling a shortfall
According to a GPOI strategy report, the program, established in 2005, aims to "train and, as appropriate, equip at least 75,000 peacekeepers worldwide ... to increase global capacity to participate in peace operations" by 2010. The project has an estimated budget of US$96 million for 2009.

Previous hosts for the GPOI Capstone exercises were Mongolia (2007), in which 43 Cambodian soldiers took part, and Bangladesh last year, in which a further 40 participated. The 2009 Capstone event is scheduled to be held in Indonesia.

Around 400 Cambodian de-miners have been posted to Sudan since 2006 as part of the UN peacekeeping mission in Darfur.

Port authority official calls for creation of coast guard

A ship used for sand dredging is moored off the coast of Cambodia in this file photograph.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sam Rith
Thursday, 05 March 2009

They say the Kingdom can do little to monitor suspicious ships offshore or assist in the event of an environmental accident.

A LEADING official at the Sihanoukville Autonomous Port has called on the government to establish a coast guard unit to patrol the coast, protect security and the environment, and assist at sea.

May Marith, the director of the Harbourmaster's Department at the port, said that neighbouring countries had a coast guard service to maintain security, check on suspect ships, investigate oil spills and look out for smuggling and piracy.

Last week, he said, his Vessel Traffic Management System (VTMS) had spotted a ship 30 kilometres from the port, but he was unable to find out anything about it, including what it was doing there.

"We saw that this ship was anchored in the same place for three or four days," he said, "but we had no way of inspecting it because it was too far away. I would have wanted to check it, but we couldn't afford the expense of doing so - such as the cost of fuel".

He said the rumour at the port was that the ship was transporting sand from Cambodia to other countries. A spate of illegal dredging operations has been reported off the south coast in recent months.

Sboang Sarath, the provincial governor of Preah Sihanouk province, said that as far as he knew the Customs Department had set up a task force to keep an eye on smuggling activity at sea. And he said that the navy was on a government committee to monitor security on the ocean. But he agreed the country had no way of removing oil from the sea in the event of a spill.

An officer at the naval base in Ream said there was no piracy in Cambodian waters, which are generally considered safe. But the officer, who declined to be named, agreed that a skilled coast guard unit would be useful in the event of an oil spill. He said Ream Naval Base was responsible for security at sea and cooperated with Vietnam and Thailand in fulfilling its responsibilities.

Jane Chan Git Yin, associate research fellow with the Maritime Security Program at S Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, said no cases of piracy were reported in Cambodian waters last year. The annual International Maritime Bureau's Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships report listed Indonesian waters as the third most dangerous in the world, with 28 cases reported.

Honouring a fallen comrade

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Rick Valenzuela
Thursday, 05 March 2009

Journalist Glenn MacDonald, who worked for ABC News and covered the fall of Saigon, at the FCC in Phnom Penh, where a commemorative obituary of friend and fellow journalist Neil Davis was permanently displayed on Friday. Davis was killed by machine gun fire in Bangkok in 1985 during a military coup.

In Siem Reap, an art form passes on

Photo by: Jason Leahey
Goun Koung (left), a master in the Cambodian art of shadow puppetry, works alongside a student in the NGO House of Peace, which hopes to preserve the ancient craft.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Jason Leahey
Thursday, 05 March 2009

Siem Reap

Cambodian shadow puppetry is as old as the Angkor temples, but the craft is at risk of being lost to more modern forms of entertainment. One young Cambodian, however, is fighting to keep it alive.

In a humble building on National Road 6's extravagant hotel row in Siem Reap, 75-year-old Goun Koung laboured meticulously in his workshop, creating puppets, a craft he has practised since he was 18.

In the morning he makes puppets in the workshop that is part of the House of Peace NGO, and in the afternoon he teaches the younger generation the ancient art of Khmer shadow puppetry.

"When I was young, I loved the pictures of the Ramayana carved on Angkor Wat," he explained.

"I did not want Cambodia to lose the heritage. I want the children to know it, too."

Shadow puppets - tanned hides manipulated between cloth screens and roaring bonfires - date back to the golden age of the Angkor empire.

The icons and legends they depict still adorn the walls of the temples, but puppetry itself has become a dying art.

The youthful House of Peace director, 20-year-old Koung Sovannra, said only four or five shadow-puppet schools still exist in Cambodia.

Most puppet masters were butchered by the Khmer Rouge, and revitalisation of the art has been difficult in a society riddled with poverty.

But the workshop at House of Peace rings with activity. On plastic-reed mats, Goun Koung and his disciples squat over tanned cow hides, punching holes with wooden mallets and metal awls, cutting tiny half-moon incisions with scalpel-like knives, tracing delicate ink lines with fine brushes.

No one uses a guide pattern; no one references a text-book. Skill, patience, a steady hand and a keen eye are the essentials that the puppet master teaches his 15 adolescent students and the few older boys who have stayed on to further hone their craft.

A craft, not livelihood
Though the students' work is beautiful by anyone's measure, that beauty does not necessarily lead to a livelihood.

Koung Sovannra said, "Khmer people, they only like looking at the puppet. They do not want to buy".

House of Peace students are advised that they probably won't be able to make a living from the craft.

Their efforts should be a source of pride, not necessarily financial gain.


Woleak, a 13-year-old student, has been learning puppet carving for almost a year.

Like all House of Peace students, his family is poor, and like all new puppet makers, he specialises in carving small puppets - the elephants, chickens and cows used in the Ramayana iconography.

When one of his puppets is sold, Woleak receives 30 percent of the takings, which he uses to buy school supplies.

"I am very proud," he said. "I do not have to go ask my mother and father for money like most boys."

Director Koung Sovannra elaborated on the benefits of the workshop, saying, "Imagine you have the big sea and there is a place you want to go to eventually. Well, Woleak wants to study English and computer skills, and then he can study at the university".

"Then he can find the job, maybe be the manager of a hotel. That very good job is the place he can go," Koung Sovannra said.

"Shadow puppetry is the ship that can take him there," he added.

The House of Peace itself is mostly reliant on sales to tourists, especially during the high season.

But during the low season, the puppet school and the NGO's neighbouring day school are subsidised by Dr Chan Thon Serey, a Cambodian who lives in Germany and established House of Peace in 2004.

Mobile theatre
Chan Thon Serey sees shadow puppetry as important in improving the lives of Cambodian people, along with education, so he has extended operations by buying two vans dubbed Theatre Mobile and Library Mobile.

The latter is lined with bookshelves, and Koung Sovannra has begun assembling a collection of Khmer language and culture textbooks.

The Theatre mobile will transport the materials and puppeteers that bring a performance to life in the provinces.

The newly mobile Koung Sovannra's ambitions, however, are not limited to books and performance.

Orphaned by Aids, he has taken it upon himself to educate his students and Cambodians at large about the omnipresent dangers of the disease.

"The people in the countryside, they don't know how to keep Aids away," he said.
"We will tell the story."

When the students are ready, Goun Koung and his House of Peace mobile division will hit the road to include HIV education and prevention alongside the more traditional theatrical productions.

But the theatrical tradition remains secure in Koung Sovannra's heart.

He is also honing his puppet-making skills and his grand plan includes branching out beyond Siem Reap's borders to establish schools in other Cambodian provinces.

"If I don't do this, then I think maybe puppetry will be lost."

Siem Reap's satellite city takes shape

Photo by: Kyle Sherer
Meng Heang, architect of Borey Sieng Nam.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Kyle Sherer
Thursday, 05 March 2009

Investors are snapping up properties, those involved with the development say, despite global crisis.

CONSTRUCTION of Siem Reap's Borey Sieng Nam satellite city, about five kilometres southeast of the town centre, is nearing completion and investors are snapping up property, one of its designers said.

Meng Heang, an architect involved in the project, told the Post that 90 percent of the area has been sold to eager buyers who predict it will turn into a hotspot as the population of Siem Reap climbs.

Construction on the 52 hectares of land began three years ago, after it was subdivided by Siem Reap politician Sieng Nam. Meng Heang said that 60 percent of the housing is now complete, but because the new landowners are working to their own timetables, he couldn't provide an exact completion date.

The satellite city will contain housing, two markets, hotels, restaurants, guesthouses and a large quantity of office space. Lim Sophy, an executive at Cambodia Angkor Real Estate, said that the district will be less Westernised than Siem Reap town.

"The markets and businesses will be local, rather than European," he told the Post, adding that the area will likely appeal to Asian tourists.

David Coleman, property adviser at Cambodia Angkor Real Estate, has pegged Borey Sieng Nam as the future administrative capital of Siem Reap.

"I could see a lot of the government departments moving down there," he said. "It's not too far from town. The office space there would suit organisations that don't rely on walk-in customers."

As the population of Siem Reap grows, so does the pressure to expand the town boundaries. But the expansion prospects of Siem Reap are limited by geographical factors.

"The constraint on developing Siem Reap is it's squeezed between the agricultural park on the north side and the lake and the floodplain on the south," Coleman explained.

"So it can really only expand east to west. Borey Sieng Nam was started with the thinking being that it was the most likely area for the town's expansion."

Lim Sophy said that while the global economic turbulence might affect the value of Borey Sieng Nam properties, he thinks the district will still ultimately be successful. Even if it takes a long time for businesses to run effectively, they will be very well placed as Siem Reap grows, he said.

Khun Chea, at Cambodia Angkor Real Estate, said that Borey Sieng Nam is filling up with multi-use properties that could be used for a combination of office space, shop front and living space, similar to buildings on Sivutha Boulevard.

Port traffic down by as much as 30pc this year

A freight ship docks at the Phnom Penh Port awaiting a consignment of cargo in this file photo. A global slowdown in trade has hit heavily Cambodia’s two main shipping

30% drop in throughput at Phnom Penh Port
Cambodia's second largest container port has been affected more heavily than Sihanoukville by the global economic crisis during the first two months of this year

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by May Kunmakara and George Mcleod
Thursday, 05 March 2009

Global downturn hits trade, with flagging construction imports accounting for the bulk of the losses since January

CARGO shipments at Cambodia's second-largest port have declined sharply in the first two months of the year as global trade slows, say port authorities, adding that hundreds of jobs have also been axed in the downturn.

The Phnom Penh International Autonomous Sea Port reports a 30 percent drop in throughput, largely due to falling imports of construction materials, officials told the Post Wednesday.

"The decline is caused by the global financial storm that started to hit at the end of last year. This affected not only our ports, but also others in the region," said Hei Bavy, director general of the Phnom Penh port.

He said that about 90 percent of goods crossing through the docks are construction materials. With many of the country's construction projects stopping or on hold, the port says shipments are in free fall.

"Developers are suspending their imports because they face the credit crunch," he said, adding that staff had been cut from 700 to 400.

"I do plan to cut more staff, but I have reduced salaries to prevent more layoffs," Hei Bavy said.
He added that the company is also instituting across-the-board cost cuts to prevent further job losses.

This affected not only our ports, but also others in the region

Port traffic is falling globally, with Asia bearing the brunt of the international trade slowdown. Singapore, the world's largest container port, said container traffic was down 20 percent, and Shanghai, the world's second biggest, down 19 percent, according to Bloomberg.

Cambodia's ports are reporting similar troubles, with officials blaming not only a slowdown in the construction sector, but flagging overseas garment sales as well.

The Finance Ministry in February reported a two-percent drop in garment exports at the beginning of the year.

Lou Kim Chhun, director general of Sihanoukville International Autonomous Port, told the Post Wednesday that he is waiting on figures for February, but that container shipments were down 20 percent due to the economic slowdown.

"The crisis has impacted our port revenue, which will hurt the government's tariff and tax income," Lou Kim Chhun earlier told Rasmey Kampuchea.

Hei Bavy said that the export of agricultural goods have been one bright spot for the Phnom Penh Port.

"Agricultural exports have been stable, but I expect the crisis to affect us for a long time," he said, adding that Cambodians should rely more on domestically produced goods.

"If our people stop using imported products, it will support local businesses. The crisis could drain our national wealth if people keep buying foreign goods."

Cassava exports increased this year despite blockade: official

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Khouth Sophakchakrya
Thursday, 05 March 2009

District governor in Banteay Meanchey province says Thai block on cassava has not stopped exports increasing twofold compared with this time last year

CONTRARY to recent reports that cassava farmers in Banteay Meanchey province have been unable to sell their product in Thailand, Tep Khunnal, governor of the province's Malai district, told the Post Wednesday that cassava exports to Thailand from his district have actually increased this year.

Since January, he said, farmers in his district have exported 12,000 tonnes of cassava to neighbouring Thailand. In the first two months of 2008, he said, they had only managed to sell 6,000 tonnes, meaning that exports of the crop had increased 100 percent since last year.

He said the price had increased from 2,700 Thai baht (about US$75) last year to 2,900 baht (about $80) this year despite reports of an oversupply.

But Tep Khunnal said farmers in his district were concerned about reports from farmers elsewhere in the province that the Thai market had been closed to Cambodian products.

Cambodian Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh said Sunday that Thai protectionism had flooded the domestic cassava market, prompting a price decline this year.

He said he discussed the issue of market access with Thai Commerce Minister Pornthiva Nakasai during last weekend's Asean summit.

If the Thai government closes the border as their people have been demanding, we will suffer.

The English-language Thai newspaper The Nation reported Tuesday that irate cassava farmers "sealed off" the Thai Commerce Ministry for two hours Monday to press the government to shore up cassava prices. Some protesters decried the fact that Cambodian cassava had entered the Thai market, resulting in an oversupply of the crop - cassava has generally been cheaper in Cambodia than across the border due to an increase in production in recent years as farmers have sought to access the Thai market.

The Kingdom's border provinces produce about 100,000 tonnes of cassava per year, according to the Commerce Ministry.

Tep Khunnal said the livelihoods of many farmers in his district were dependent on access to the Thai market.

"If the Thai government closes the border as their people have been demanding, we will suffer because we will have no market to sell our products," he said.

He said he wrote to Mao Thora, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Commerce, on March 1 asking officials to find ways to keep the Thai market open to Cambodian cassava farmers.

Naga lays off 15 staff, blames downturn

Naga finances

Figures from Naga’s published financial results as a company listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange, as follows for 2008:

Total revenue - $193.5m
Total costs - $105.5m
Gross profit - $87.98 million
Net profit - $40 million
Dividend per share - $1.93

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Kay Kimsong
Thursday, 05 March 2009

CITING losses stemming from the global economic downturn, the NagaWorld Hotel and Casino laid off 15 Cambodian employees on February 26, Sok Narith, the head of hotel's 1,000-member union, told the Post Wednesday.

Sok Narith, who was among those laid off after working at the hotel for 13 years, said the fact that the hotel axed Cambodian workers as opposed to higher-paid foreign employees amounted to "unfair treatment".

He said executives' claims that the firings had been necessitated by the downturn were "not true". Rather, he said, they were targeting employees involved in contract negotiations.

He said the union had become more forceful in pressing for workers' demands over the past year.
Daniel Lee, an executive at NagaWorld, said Wednesday that he could not comment on the firings because he was overseas.

"I am not aware of what are you taking about," he said. "I will be able discuss it with you on Saturday once I get more information from my staff."

Bath Sambo, president of the Cambodian Tourism and Service Worker Federation, said the February 26 layoffs were the first in the hotel industry to be attributed solely to the economic crisis.

Employee response
Sok Narith said the 15 workers had filed a complaint with the Ministry of Labour requesting that they be allowed to return to Naga to work.

He said the company had offered the laid-off employees a one-time payment of between US$5,000 and $10,000.

Sok Narith pointed to a financial report available on the website of Nagacorp Ltd, which owns the hotel, stating that the company's revenue totalled $193.5 million and that gross profit increased by 12.6 percent in 2008.

The same report also states, however, that net profit decreased by 20.3 percent - Naga is subject to an annual 12.5 percent tax increment until 2018.

Slump has hit the dump, say recyclers

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Trash collectors by the Tonle Sap river in Phnom Penh.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sam Rith
Thursday, 05 March 2009

Foreign buyers of recycled paper and metal have disappeared, say collectors who blame the global economic crisis

SELLERS of recycled paper and metal have reported a sharp decline in business in recent months, which several said has coincided with the global economic downturn.

Tiv Theary, who runs a repository in Phnom Penh that purchases trash paper from individuals and small business and turns it into sellable recycled paper, said she used to sell four tonnes of paper each day.

Since about last June, however, she has been able to sell only one tonne each day, she said.

She said the price she can charge for recycled paper in Vietnam and Thailand has fallen dramatically. For example, she said, the price per kilogram has fallen from seven Thai baht (19 US cents) last June to one baht (three US cents). As a result, she said, she has begun selling recycled paper only in Cambodia.

Lim Thavy, who owns a paper factory in Phnom Penh that makes products from recycled paper, said her factory's sales had decreased by 75 percent since last summer. For this reason, she has not needed to purchase much recycled paper produced by repositories like Tiv Theary's.

Now it takes four months to sell what we produce in one month.

"Before, we could sell the product at the same rate we produced it," she said. "Now it takes four months to sell what we produce in one month."

Lim Thavy said there are five factories that process recycled materials in Phnom Penh, including one that specialises in metals.

Bel, who runs a small shop on the Thai-Cambodian border in Banteay Meanchey province that sells recycled metals, said he had stopped selling to Thai businessmen because the price had fallen from 20 baht (55 US cents) per kilogram to six baht (17 US cents) since last summer.

Thon Virak, deputy director general of the directorate general of international trade at the Ministry of Commerce, said the ministry could not provide information on the amount of recycled goods sold domestically or exported to Thailand and Vietnam each year.

Exhibit to showcase the art of 'radical otherness'

A young boy poses in Leh, Ladakh, in the trans-Himalayan district of Jammu and Kashmir in northern India in 2006.

Vigneau's influences are pictorial more than photographic: "[Albrecht] Durer for faces and melancholy, [William] Turner for the skies, [Paolo] Uccello and Caravaggio for light and choreography." Robert Maplethorpe, Diane Arbus and Nadar also inform her work.

The Phnom Penh Post

Thursday, 05 March 2009

Photographer Marylise Vigneau's work is an exercise in wonder and a chronicle of Asia's many indecipherable mysteries

Marylise Vigneau's attitude towards photography is simple. "I walk and wait to be surprised, intrigued, moved or amused." The fruits of this philosophy can be seen in her latest exhibition, "The Inner Circle of Strangers" - 32 thought-provoking images of central and southern Asia - on display beginning today at the Java Cafe & Gallery in Phnom Penh.

The title of her latest exhibition reflects many of her ideas about photography. "‘The Inner Circle of Strangers' emphasises the radical otherness but familiar mix of sadness and joy that can be projected from others." This ethos is well-represented in her touching, delicate, sometimes almost surreal observations. "I walk by, raise questions, wonder at things - the speed of life, peoples' choices," she said. "And the little click of the trigger comes as a reverence."

Vigneau's sense of adventure came to the fore at an early age. She grew up in Paris and attended various religious schools that gave her a taste for "peeping through keyholes and climbing walls. I delighted in dreaming of escaping, getting dizzy, travelling." In her early 20s, she explored Eastern Europe, which was still, falteringly, behind the iron curtain. "I used a notebook and a pencil, and then a camera, which I used rather clumsily."

Asia's myriad mysteries
A year spent studying photography helped her get over this weakness. "It had confirmed what I'd seen as a child - going away, escaping, travelling, freedom from studios and immobile places." She went on to study literature and had a child.

"When he was nine, he uttered those unforgettable words: ‘Mummy, how about travelling the Trans-Siberian?'" And that was how Vigneau discovered Asia, the scene for many of her pictures. Her work is centred on Asia, as it is a mystery to her. "A myriad of mysteries that I have no wish to decipher," she said.

Unlike previous exhibitions, Vigneau's latest works are in colour. "Colour is not important," she said. "For me, it is not the prominent aspect of a picture. Contrast is - juxtaposition of seemingly opposite elements locked together."

Irony in Kashmir
Good examples of this outlook are seen in her pictures from the Kashmir region on the India-Pakistan border.
The Kashmir border area, a tense flashpoint on a disputed border, was interesting to Vigneau.


"In some ways, it is a desperate place, which makes it easy to photograph, but I wanted to see behind the cliches, to see the humour in despondent situations," she said.

The dressers on the edge of the lake at Srinagar is another poignant image. "To see these things that are used for beauty, in a setting that they wouldn't normally be seen in, in a place where women traditionally cover themselves up, was, for me, ironic."

The ironic, almost surreal theme is evident in many of Vigneau's works.

"Reality is mischievous," she said. "I do not pretend anything. I don't explain anything. I don't tell any story. The only message is the one that people want to take away with them."

This reasoning may be behind the fact that there are no pictures from Cambodia in the collection.

"I love this country, but it doesn't inspire me photographically. I live here. It is familiar. I pathologically need displacement when taking photos."

Dana Langlois, owner of Java Cafe & Gallery, has followed Vigneau's work for years. "She has a great eye for composition, the use of space. One can see a story, but one of mystery which brings up a sense of curiosity and intrigue."
As Vigneau says: "Beauty is in the small details, the way things are organised."

Vigneau's "The Inner Circle of Strangers" opens today at 6pm at Java Cafe & Gallery on Sihanouk Boulevard in Phnom Penh. The exhibit runs through March 29.

Revival of Khmer dance

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Zoe Holman
Thursday, 05 March 2009

Cambodian Dance: Celebration of the Gods outlines the history and revival of the Kingdom’s traditional dance

WITH the global notoriety of the relatively recent Khmer Rouge atrocities, dance does not immediately spring to the fore in public images of Cambodia. And yet, author and journalist Denise Heywood describes traditional Khmer dance as an "embodiment" of the country's past. As Heywood explains, "The story of Cambodian dance is ... in fact, the story of Cambodia. Every chapter in Cambodian history includes dance."

Heywood's most recent publication, Cambodian Dance: A Celebration of the Gods, explores the many phases of this variegated history through the prism of one of the country's oldest artforms. A lavishly illustrated 144-page work, the book is described by Heywood as a "labour of love".

Despite her tangible passion for the topic, dance was far from Heywood's mind when she first decided to visit Cambodia. Arriving during the initial stages of UN peacekeeping operations in 1993, Heywood initially came to the country as a traveller and a journalist.

It was the graceful spectacle of Cambodian dance that lured Heywood to remain here and dedicate herself to the study of the tradition.

"The very first time I saw Cambodian dance was children performing at the foot of Angkor Wat. I just fell in love with it," she said.

In contrast to this idyllic scene, however, it was the brutalities suffered by classical dancers under the modern Pol Pot regime that most inspired Heywood's fascination.

"I love dance generally, but I was most touched by the plight of Khmer dancers," she said. "I just found their story so moving and so heroic."

Dance in Cambodia had historically been the domain of royalty, with dancers serving functions of entertainment, worship and diplomacy in the nation's courts for over a millennium. As a result, dance became an emblem of the Cambodian monarchy, and subsequently under the Khmer Rouge, of all that was abhorrent and outlawed.

Like others from artistic and educated classes, dancers were singled out by the regime and transported to rural camps or the killing fields, where 90 percent of them were slaughtered.

An epic task awaited those who survived. As Heywood describes, "The remaining dancers walked barefoot and starving back to Phnom Penh, where they attempted to restore together their art."

Piecing together tradition
Classical dance has historically existed only in the minds and bodies of performers.

"Expertise was handed down through the generations from master to pupil and never documented in written form," Heywood said.

With the lives lost to the Khmer Rouge then, so too, whole swaths of knowledge and skill became irrecoverable.

Yet, through their combined knowledge and reference to the Ramayana tradition from which Cambodian dance arose, survivors were able to gradually piece together much of what was destroyed.

The commitment of survivors to restoring their craft mitigated this loss, as dancers continued to practise and pass on the art to a new generation of Cambodians in refugee camps in Thailand.

So too, a renascent Khmer dance has received modest sponsorship from international aid organisations and NGOs. The art has been embraced both within Cambodian and internationally, with the Royal Ballet of Cambodia added to Unesco's 2004 list of Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

Like the performers in classical dances who emerge from temples as living incarnations of the gods, so too Khmer dance has re-emerged as an embodiment of national culture.

It is the original spiritual function of the art that holds most appeal for Heywood and informs the title of her book.

"Cambodian dance is ... first and foremost ... a sacred art-form. It originated in the ancient temples and is tied up with cosmic symbolism." So too, this mysticism has bound Heywood to Cambodia since her initial visit. "I came here by chance, although I always say it was my destiny," she said.

Denise Heywood will present a talk on the content of her book today at 7pm at Monument Books.

Khmarnival to raise HIV/Aids awareness

Photo Supplied
Previous Khmarnival parade in Sihanoukville.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Mom Kunthear and Tom Hunter
Thursday, 05 March 2009

M'LOP Tapang is to hold its annual art parade, Khmarnival, along the streets of Sihanoukville at the weekend to raise awareness of HIV/Aids in Cambodia.

Mlop Tapang, the organisation behind the parade, is an NGO that helps street youth, drug users and orphans who are unable to attend school.

The series of parades, which start tonight, will run for three days and feature seven Khmer-style floats out of which condoms will be distributed to participants and onlookers.

Last year's parade was the fourth consecutive Khmarnival event in Cambodia and attracted a crowd of about 3,000 people over a three-day period, said Vanry Meth, one of the event organisers.

"I want to tell the community not to forget about HIV/Aids. It follows us all the time.... We may see a beautiful girl walking down the street, but hidden behind her could be many skulls," Vanry Meth added.

M'Lop, meaning "to shade" or "to protect", and tapang, the umbrella trees that line the province's beaches, was first established to specifically aid children finding refuge under Sihanoukville's tapang trees.

Today, the main aim of the organization is to bring the region's youth together to teach them vocational skills such as machine repair, tailoring, crafts and electronics.

In addition, M'Lop Tapang urges youth to be smart about HIV/Aids and focuses particularly on those who have had no education.

With a number of new Khmer-themed floats planned for this year's parade, the organisers are expecting an increase in attendance from previous years.

Khmarnival will kick off today with a street parade around Little Market, and live shows starting at 5pm at the Sihanoukville Boys Vocational Centre.

The Phnom Penh Post News In Brief

In Brief: Rural trade fair to start

Written by Kay Kimsong
Thursday, 05 March 2009

A rural trade fair will take place across four provinces over the next two months in a bid to boost trade within Cambodia. The events should see 60 booths showcasing the best in local goods. Curtis Hundley, head of Cambodia Strengthening Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, a body set up to promote rural trade development, said the fair would start in Kampot on Saturday, before moving to Kratie and then Siem Reap, eventually finishing in Battambang. "We aim to promote domestic trade and create a fun time for local traders," Hundley said. It is funded by USAID.

In Brief: Electronics demand

Written by Hor Hab
Thursday, 05 March 2009

Electronics importer K Four is reporting a 50 percent fall in sales over the past six months on weak consumer demand. The company imports and wholesales Philips, Toshiba, Panasonic, Sony, and LG products. "Sales are down to about US$20,000 to $25,000 per day compared to US$40,000 to $50,000 before," said company spokesman Soun Ladang. "The company has seen this slowdown over the past six months," he said.

In Brief: Buying confidence down

Written by George McLeod
Thursday, 05 March 2009

Thirty-nine percent of Cambodia's consumers are less optimistic than six months ago, according to a survey by Indochina Research. It selected 600 people each in Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos in January to gauge buying behaviour. Cambodia was second of the three countries with 27 percent giving a positive response and 25 percent saying the situation was unchanged. Laos was the most optimistic with 61 percent favourable, while among Vietnamese, 46 percent were less optimistic than before, the data showed.

In Brief: Three Foreigners charged on drugs

Written by Chann Chamroeun and Tom Hunter
Thursday, 05 March 2009

Two of three foreign nationals arrested last Friday in Wat Phnom commune were charged with drug dealing by Phnom Penh Municipal Court Wednesday. One Australian man also accused of the crime was absent from Wednesday's trial hearing. Judge Chhay Kong said that he charged Frenchman Hert Ossorto, an Australian and two women of Khmer and Vietnamese origin with drug charges. The case has been referred back to the court for further investigation.

In Brief: Accused german to face S'Ville court

Written by Chrann Chamroeun
Thursday, 05 March 2009

A 46-year-old German national, Walter Orson Novak, is to appear in court today on charges of child sex crimes after his arrest in Sihanoukville Tuesday, according to Suon Sophan, deputy chief of Preah Sihanouk province's Department of Anti-human trafficking and Juvenile Protection. Provincial deputy prison chief Vuon Nguon said Wednesday the provincial prison was holding two foreigners convicted of purchasing child prostitution and indecent acts against a minor, with another four under pretrial detention.

In Brief: NGO law ignores rights: group

Written by Sebastian Strangio
Thursday, 05 March 2009

The government's proposed NGO regulation law could undermine civil society's "solid foundations" in Cambodia, the Asian Human Rights Commission said Wednesday, requesting that the law accommodate the country's international human rights obligations. The Hong Kong-based group said that the law should "faithfully reflect" rights obligations set out in agreements to which Cambodia is a signatory. "Cambodian lawmakers should be reminded that civil society is essential for democracy and development," the statement said.

Food for thought


The Phnom Penh Post

Written by JR
Thursday, 05 March 2009

A garbage truck at the Stung Meanchey dump on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. The photograph superimposed on the truck depicts the eyes of a woman who used to work at the dump as a child. It was taken last November by French photographer JR, well known for his large-scale installation art. JR is currently in Phnom Penh working on his "28 Millimeter: Women" installation project.

A One-eyed Bastard Thanks You for Your Donation (New Zealand)

Thursday, 5 March 2009, 12:04 pm
Opinion: SOLO - Sense of Life Objectivists

SOLO-NZ Op-Ed: A One-eyed Demonic Bastard Thanks You for Your Donation

Philip Duck
March 5, 2009

Between one-third and one-half of Cambodians live in crushing poverty as they try to survive on a dollar or less a day. That poverty motivates many poor peasant families to sell their young daughters into brothels; one-third of Cambodia’s prostitutes are under the age of seventeen and sentenced to a life of being caged in a grubby shack to service grubby men, for nothing more than a bowl of rice each day.

Poverty results in one half of Cambodian children under the age of five being underweight, and infant mortality stands at 95 deaths per 1000. More than half of those deaths are due to diseases and infections that can easily be prevented by vaccines. The percentage of its population living with HIV/Aids is the highest in Asia and it has been estimated that more that 7 million Cambodians- that’s 64% of the population- carry tuberculosis. Poverty means an average life expectancy for a Cambodian is just 56 years.

NZAID, the New Zealand Government’s international aid and development agency, has allocated 4.4 million dollars to Cambodia as it attempts to address this suffocating poverty. And who could argue against that- a dollar each from comparatively wealthy New Zealanders to assist the desperately poor. But of course this is not the government’s money to give away; in true Robin Hood style the government steals from the taxpayer to give, without consent, to deprived Cambodians. The government with supreme arrogance gets to declare those who most deserve your money.

That’s despicable, but what if those tax dollars don’t actually help the poor but rather they prop up both an untouchable Cambodian elite and an evil government led by a ruthless killer? What if your money doesn't provide vaccinations for young Cambodians but instead is used to bribe policeman to turn a blind-eye to men having sex with children? How would you feel about your money contributing to that?

Bauk, or gang rape, is almost a sport to wealthy young Cambodian men. These spoilt cowards carry out their deeds with impunity; money, influence and corruption ensure that they will not come to trial.The favourite method for rich wives to take revenge on their husband’s mistresses is to throw a bucket of acid in their rivals face; however political and business power ensure that justice will never be served. And should you have a disagreement in a nightclub with one of Cambodia’s moneyed he might just shoot you. Or more likely he will get one of his bodyguards to do it. Either way for them it’s all risk free. Meanwhile corrupt government officials and developers regularly throw the poor and powerless off their land whilst the police beat them should they resist. And it’s your money that pays for some of that unearned power and the bribes and intimidation, it really is.

Corruption and intimidation have long been a problem in Cambodia and while there have been campaigns by the UN and nations such as New Zealand to make any supply of aid dollars contingent on improvements in basic human rights and the rule-of-law, these have largely failed; the Cambodian government whilst making the right noises, politely gives the finger to its donors and continues as it wishes. Why wouldn’t they, when your money keeps on coming in?

That money makes up more than 50% of Cambodia’s budget but incredibly it is estimated that corrupt practices cost the Cambodian people 500 million dollars every year. That’s hundreds of millions of dollars of foreign aid drained off to support a truly wicked government and their cohorts and used to bully the poor, imprison opponents, censor the media and steal land as and when they please in an environment where corruption is not just tolerated but encouraged.

Foreign taxpayers money started coming in 1992 when the UN established the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC). Its mandate was to implement law and order, rebuild the country’s infrastructure and assist with the re-settlement of tens of thousands of people who had fled the murderous Khmer Rouge regime. Most importantly UNTAC was there to oversee free and fair elections. UNTAC bought more than 9,000 vehicles, spent $118 million on salaries and $62 million on travel and, incredibly, paid a daily hardship allowance to a large number of senior UN officials of more than the average annual Cambodian salary. Two billion dollars was spent in all and they failed.

The lead up to the 1993 elections was marred by violence and political intimidation, particularly by the members of the Cambodian People’s Party (CCP); a party led by Hun Sen. Hun Sen had for some years been the Prime Minister of Cambodia having being installed by the Vietnamese as a puppet and this allowed him to make full use of his already established powers over the police and army. Bizarrely, despite the attacks but most likely because of the immense amount of dollars poured into Cambodia, the UN declared the election to be ‘free and fair.' Nevertheless, regardless of all CCP attempts it was the Royalist party, FUNCIPEC, headed by Prince Ranariddh that headed the election with 45% of the vote against the 36% achieved by the CCP.

However, Hun Sen refused to accept this loss and with heavy threats backed by both military and police force and a few well-aimed grenades he destroyed the new democratic process by forcing a coalition with an unwilling FUNCIPEC. Incredibly this arrangement meant Cambodia was to have two Prime Ministers, with Ranariddh being Prime Minister Number One and Hun Sen, Prime Minister Number Two. Prime Ministers One and Two quickly increased M.P salaries ten-fold. And after spending $2 billion dollars of other people's money the UN sat back and allowed all this to happen and in the process showed Hun Sen that he could do just as he pleased. Meanwhile government and UN money kept on rolling in.

In 1997 Hun Sen, described by Singaporean strongman Lee Kwan Yew as “utterly merciless and ruthless, without humane feelings,” carried out a bloody coup that removed FUNCIPEC from power. Hun Sen, an ex-military commander of the Khmer Rouge was now firmly in control and a series of ‘free and fair’ elections have sinced increased his parliamentary majority. That majority is surely nonsense; since 2000 I have made 8 or 9 visits to Cambodia and I have yet to find one Cambodian supporter of Hun Sen. Not one. What you can find though is fear, hatred and rage for that one-eyed demonic bastard. Yet your money keeps on rolling in.

Following the coup, to further secure his power, Hun Sen shaped 180 new ministerial positions, most of which he proceeded to sell for $100,000 a pop. It’s often claimed that Hun Sen leads the biggest per capita government in the world and it is certainly one of the most corrupt. Yet donor money keeps on rolling in. It keeps on rolling in despite a 2003 UN development report that found that poverty has become much worse under Hun Sen and that the rate of infant mortality rose between 1987 and 2000; not that such matters as infant mortality, tuberculosis or grinding poverty would be of any concern to a man like Hun Sen. And the money keeps on rolling in despite Hun Sen’s public support for the barbarians of the Burmese junta and it keeps on rolling in despite Cambodia’s development as a breeding ground for terrorists. Ultimately your taxed dollars, funnelled through to Cambodia by the UN and government funds these outrages. How do you feel about that?

If well-targeted 4.4 million dollars could achieve many, many positive things in Cambodia. But certainly government has no right to take your money and then decide to use it in its own way, let alone in a way that helps fund Hun Sen and his cronies. Rather, the business of donating is best left to individuals or private companies who can research and scrutinise, should they wish, the many private charities in Cambodia to see where best their money could be used. Hell, they couldn’t do worse at that than NZAID who are also in the process of spending more than 13 million dollars on the one-party states of Laos and Vietnam.

SOLO (Sense of Life Objectivists):

Ben Kiernan Speaks on Cambodian Genocide

Manhattan College Quadrangle

Kayla Hutzler
Issue date: 3/4/09

When people attend a Cambodian Genocide symposium, most are expecting to hear story of heart-wrenching despair about the victims. However, at his lecture "Genocide in World History" on Feb. 24th Ben Kiernan introduced about 35 students to another side of genocide - the side of the leaders and their consequences.

Keirnan wrote six names on the board, one up higher and then next five a few inches lower in list form. Those were the names of six influential leaders of the Khmer Rouge. Pol Pot was the infamous leader who is now dead. The other five however are currently awaiting trials in Cambodia before an international criminal tribunal. This is a government composed of UN and Cambodian judges, where neither group of judges can make a decision on their own.

Duch was the second name that appeared on the board. He controlled Tuol Sleng prison, a prison/death camp, where he was responsible for the murder of at least 14,000 people. Towards the end of Khmer Rouge command, Duch was told by Nuan Chea to destroy the documents and photos they had taken at Tuol Sleng. (Nuan Chea was a chief decision maker in the Khmer Rouge.)

However, Keirnan explained, Duch killed the last of the prisoners and never had time to destroy the documentation. This has resulted in about 4,000 photo negatives being found, a large part of evidence against them.

Duch; Kheiu Samphan, who was head of state; Ien Sary, the former foreign minister; and his wife Ieng Thirith, who was involved in the Khmer Rouge Central Committee, have all been imprisoned for the past ten years. Duch's trial began last week, and it is believed that he will release incrimination information about other Khmer Rouge leaders.

While some formal charges have been lodged against these leaders, it is not yet known what they will be charged with. The prosecutors seem to have enough evidence to ensure they receive charges of crimes against humanity, forced labor, crimes against political parties and war crimes.
Unfortunately, to charge them with genocide is an extremely large task explained Kiernan. The genocide convention act requires that the alleged group must prove to have deliberately attempted to destroy an entire group of people.

This appears to be the case, as they murdered almost every Vietnamese, Chinese, and Muslim person. However, Keirnan seemed skeptical as to whether or not there was enough evidence to charge the remaining five leaders with genocide.

A large concern of Kiernan and many of the Cambodian Genocide survivors is that the ECCC (Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia) will run out of money before all the leaders are put on trial. The mixed tribunal and the ECCC do not receive nearly enough funds to continue working through the evidence and putting on the trials. A large concern is they will run out of money before all five can be rightfully charged.

Kiernan spent the rest of his time explaining history of the Khmer Rouge, something a few of the confused students found great relief in. While getting heavily into the current day issues of legality and punishing the leaders, many students still seemed to be wondering exactly what it is they had done, and how this had occurred in such a recent age.

The Q+A time proved to be the moment most students will remember and take with them. As students were asking questions, an older Cambodian raised his hand, and in a foreign language spoke with Kiernan, who then translated. He explained that he and two of the gentlemen with him were Cambodian Genocide survivors and that everything he said was entirely true, and he genuinely thanked him.

Cambodia's Curse: Struggling to Shed the Khmer Rouge's Legacy

Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting

By Joel Brinkley

Foreign Affairs

Download a PDF of the article here

Theary Seng often thinks of that April morning in 1975 when she watched her parents cheering on the Khmer Rouge as its soldiers marched into Phnom Penh. She was four years old. Within days, Pol Pot's foot soldiers had killed her father; three years after that, her mother died in a prison compound. Today, Theary Seng runs a nonprofit legal-advocacy group in Phnom Penh. She is eager to move on. But the rest of Cambodia, and much of the world, remains mired in the nation's sorrowful past. During its four-year reign, the Khmer Rouge killed as many as two million people. Nowadays, the venal government of Prime Minister Hun Sen may take "ten lives or even a hundred lives," she told me in August, "but what's that compared to two million? That's still the Cambodian standard, and that's the international standard."

The devastation Pol Pot wreaked on his country remains hard to comprehend, even three decades later. His goal, as he put it, was to return Cambodia to "year zero" and transform it into an agrarian utopia. To that end, he purged his nation of educated city dwellers, monks, and minorities, while imposing a draconian resettlement program that uprooted almost everyone else. These measures led to the deaths of one-quarter of the country's population.

The Khmer Rouge fell in 1979, when Vietnam invaded Cambodia and replaced the regime with a puppet government, in which Hun Sen became the foreign minister. When Vietnamese forces pulled out ten years later, they left behind several Cambodian factions battling for control. Then, in 1991, these groups' leaders signed a UN-sponsored peace accord, giving Cambodia the extraordinary opportunity to start over. Before Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, and even the Balkans, Cambodia was the international community's grand nation-building project. The country's new constitution awarded Cambodians the human rights, personal freedoms, and other protections of a modern democratic state. And in 1993, the United Nations staged a national election to select a democratic government. After the horrors of the Khmer Rouge, Cambodia would remake itself at last, and its people would have a chance to thrive.

But in the 16 years since that election, the government has squandered that opportunity. Hun Sen came in second in the 1993 election but muscled his way into the government nonetheless. Four years later, he staged a coup. Since then, his government has been looting Cambodia's natural resources, jailing political opponents, kicking thousands of the weakest out of their homes, and fostering an expansive system of corruption, all the while ignoring any challenges or complaints from organizations and governments around the world.

"People in America, all they know of Cambodia is the Khmer Rouge," Joseph Mussomeli, then U.S. ambassador to Cambodia, told me in August. "Cambodia is trying to make it in the twenty-first century, but Washington is still stuck in the 1970s." Its perception skewed by this outdated vision, most of the world barely seems to notice that the Hun Sen government is destroying the nation.

Co-Judges of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal Release Search Warrant after Confidential Information Leaked - Wednesday, 4.3.2009

Posted on 5 March 2009
The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 602

“The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia – ECCC – released an announcement yesterday, 3 March 2009, about a violation of the confidentiality of investigations, after there was information about confidential documents published by defense lawyers on their website.

“The announcement said that responding to clear and repeated violations against the instruction of the co-investigating judges, the co-investigating judges ordered defense lawyers to stop immediately their publication of documents related to investigations, except for documents that had been published already on the website of the ECCC, and take off those documents from the website of the defense lawyers, otherwise they will be punished for a new offense.

“In the meantime, the co-investigating judges sent copies of the documents of the warrant to the Professional Unit, which relates also to the Defense Protection Unit, to consider measures to be implemented.

“The announcement added that this decision was made based on Regulation 56.1 of the internal regulations of the ECCC, which states, ‘To protect all sides’ rights and interests, investigations must not be made public. All individuals taking part in investigations have to keep confidentiality.’ This regulation must by applied to all individuals joining investigations, especially to lawyers of all sides, and to all types of evidence. The internal Regulation (56.1) adds that only co-investigating judges have the authority to decide to publish information regarding investigations being conducted, or permit any media or any third parties to receive information about investigations.

“In the case that they do not abide by the different conditions defined by judges, Regulations 35 to 38 will be implemented. The co-investigating judges would like to explain the different reasons leading to this decision.

“Before there are public hearings, all procedures of the court always start with short or long investigations, depending on the extent of work. The confidential characteristic of this stage is crucial for the quality of the court process, especially to guarantee the protection of privacy of individuals, whose names are included in case documents, and to guarantee the presumption of innocence, and also the investigative efficiency.

“Co-investigating judges know that the stages of confidential investigations will not allow observers outside of the court to know much of the the process of that procedure. Thus, co-investigating judges try to limit the duration of investigations to make them as short as possible. The co-investigating judges recalled that in Duch’s case, the duration of the investigation was less than one year (the concluding warrant, sending the case for a hearing, with detailed clarifications about the different accusations, was published on 8 August 2008), which cannot be considered to be too long, looking at the complexities of the case. Likewise, the co-investigating judges try as much as possible to work speedily, so that the present investigation of a second case will proceed without delay.

“In order to promote public awareness as much as possible, the co-investigation judges reminded the public that every month, they produce bulletins, briefly describing the activities of different units of the ECCC . In addition, to guarantee the efficiency of all policies above, the co-investigating judges will make more publications than before about their different activities and publish more documents related to the investigations.

“The co-investigating judges would like to remind the public that though all decisions of the court might be opposed by appeals complaints, the respect for decisions has to be upheld.”

Cheat Khmer, Vol.1, #30, 4.3.2009
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Cambodia Needs A Rights-Based NGO Law (New Zealand)
Thursday, 5 March 2009

Press Release: Asian Human Rights Commission

In 1991 two accords were concluded to end the war that had ravaged Cambodia for so many years. These accords assigned the UN to keep the peace, organize the election of a new government and administer Cambodia for some 18 months, in 1992 and 1993, for all these purposes.

The UN presence then gave birth to a civil society in Cambodia, previously a communist country, when local NGOs were successively created to do human rights and development work. Together with the peace accords and international assistance, the UN laid a solid foundation for the civil society’s further development after the end of its mandate.

Nowadays, despite the lengthy and tortuous procedures for their creation through some ten layers of administrative units from the grassroots to the top of the Ministry of Interior, there are nevertheless some 2000 NGOs on the ministry’s register. Thanks to their work across the country NGOs have become an integral part of Cambodia’s social fabric.

However, over recent years, the government has imposed a number of restrictions on their activities, especially the activities of human rights NGOs. In 2005 the Ministry of the Interior issued a set of guidelines to instruct all commune authorities (grassroots authorities), among other things, that all activities of NGOs and other associations and civil society organisations, "must have cooperation from provincial or municipal governors" and "all invitations to provincial, district and commune officials to attend any seminar or training sessions must have the approval" of these governors as well.

These guidelines in effect restrict the activities of NGOs as their members have to travel potentially long distances to the offices of provincial or municipal governors and get through lengthy bureaucracies to get such approvals. Cambodian local authorities have rigorously enforced these guidelines and have banned or interrupted many NGO activities, especially the holding of public forums for the public to debate issues affecting their livelihood.

Now the government has set out to regulate NGOs through an act of parliament. Upon its election in July 2008, with a substantially increased majority, 90 out of the total seats of 123, the government has made this law one of the three laws to be enacted as a matter of priority, the other being the penal code and the anti-corruption law. The reason for this urgency was the government’s concern that their funding could come from terrorist groups. Prime Minister Hun said in September 2008: “We have a concern that sometimes under so and so NGO, financial assistance has been provided for terrorist activities, take for instance the Al Um Quran under which Ham Bali hid himself in Cambodia.”

This reason is hardly plausible since the control of funding for terrorist activities are already adequately dealt with by the Anti-Terrorism Law enacted in 2007 (Chapter 11 on funding and aid for terrorism). The real reason behind the need for such a law is more likely the anti-NGO sentiment still prevailing in the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, a former communist party. In 2006 Heng Samrin, the President of the National Assembly and Honorary President of the ruling party, said: “Today, so many NGOs are speaking too freely and do things without a framework. When we have a law, we will direct them.” After the July 2008 election Heng is still holding the two positions.

As spelt out clearly in Cambodia’s Constitution, freedom of association is one of the fundamental rights of the Cambodian people, and, according to the same constitution, there needs to be a law to determine this right.

However, this law should further guarantee and protect this fundamental right. It should faithfully reflect Cambodia’s international human rights obligations under the peace accords mentioned above and other international human rights instruments, and also its own constitution.

The accords say, among other things, that “all persons in Cambodia shall enjoy the rights and freedoms embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other relevant international human rights instruments” and “Cambodia undertakes “to support the right of all Cambodia citizens to undertake activities that would promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms".

The Universal Declaration, which Cambodia has incorporated in its constitution, guarantees the right to freedom of association. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Cambodia is a party, also guarantees this right and elaborates it further “1. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and join trade unions for the protection of his interests. 2. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those which are prescribed by law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order (ordre public), the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others."

The same NGO law should not in any way curtail the Cambodian people’s “right to participate actively in the political, economic, social and cultural life of the nation”, a right that is guaranteed and protected under Article 35 of their Constitution.

Cambodian lawmakers should be reminded that civil society is essential for democracy and development, and their country is supposed to be a liberal democracy according of its Constitution. The regulation of NGOs should not mean to “direct them” as National Assembly Chairman Heng Samrin has said.

In designing the NGO law, those Cambodian lawmakers should get inspiration, for instance, from the South African Non Profit Organisations Act of 1997. Like the South African Law, the Cambodian law should be designed, for instance, “to provide for an environment in which (NGOs) can flourish” with no unjustified restrictions on their activities, and “to establish an administrative and regulatory framework within which (NGOs) can conduct their affairs”. The same law should also require “every state organ to determine and co-ordinate the implementation of its policies and measures in a manner designed to promote, support and enhance the capacity of nonprofit organisations to perform their functions.”

About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

CCNN Valentines Day day of the death


Cover Valentines Day, Cambodia adoption and the dumping of a military chief

CCNN: worst interview ever


This week: 10,000 Thai soldiers come arrive in Cambodia for shelling. Bun Rany told Hun Sen to stop using derogatory words and the worst news interview ever!

Govt plans combination therapy to treat drug-resistant malaria


By Angel Navuri

The Government is planning to introduce a combination therapy treatment for malaria to address the problem of drug resistance in the country.

Deputy Health Minister Dr Aisha Kigoda told ‘The Guardian` in an exclusive interview that the therapy would help improve malaria treatment in the country.

Dr Kigoda was giving the country`s stand on the recent warning by World Health Organization (WHO) that the emergence of Artemisinin resistant parasites along Thai- Cambodia border could seriously undermine the global malaria control efforts achieved.

She explained that the government would sort out the monotherapy malaria drugs so that there won`t be confusion.

She said that the combination therapy would help treat all complicated malaria cases.

Surveillance systems and research studies supported by WHO to monitor anti malarial drug efficacy in countries are providing new evidence that parasites resistant to Artemisinin have emerged along the border between Cambodia and Thailand where workers walk for miles every day to clear forests.

The risk that they may be infected with a drug-resistant form of malaria could set back recent successes to control the disease.

``Huge strides have been made in the last ten years to reduce the burden of malaria, one of the world\'s major killer diseases.

Strong malaria control programmes have helped lower infection rates in several countries,`` says the statement.

It further states that the recent shift from failing drugs to the highly effective Artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) has been a breakthrough, adding that appropriate treatment with ACTs succeeds in more than 90 per cent of cases.

WHO, with a US$22.5 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will endeavour to contain Artemisinin resistant malaria parasites now emerging along the Thai-Cambodia border before they spread and reverse the gains.

The statement added that WHO will work in collaboration with several key partners including the National Center for Parasitology, Entomology and Malaria Control of the Cambodian Ministry of Health, Bureau of Vector-Borne Disease of the Thai Ministry of Public Health, Faculty of Tropical Medicine of Mahidol University Bangkok, Institut Pasteur Cambodia, Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit, Bangkok and the Malaria Consortium.

SOURCE: Guardian

PM Proposes to Omit National Congress from Cambodian Constitution

Web Editor: Xu Leiying

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Wednesday that national congress is not a good idea for the country and should be deleted from the Cambodian Constitution.

"The (part about holding) national congress should be omitted from the constitution, because it could cause turmoil for the country if we conduct it," he told a school inauguration ceremony in Takeo province.

According to the constitution, a national congress can be convened, if needed, for all political parties to join and debate relevant issues.

"Now, we have at least 50 political parties which are registered at the Ministry of Interior and it is easy to cause turmoil for the country (if a national congress is held for them), " national television TVK quoted him as saying.

"It is difficult to conduct a national congress," he said, adding that only the major ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) can collect enough votes to omit it from the constitution.

In the 1950s and 1960s, Cambodia used to hold national congress in front of the National Museum near the Royal Palace to seek the best resolution for the problems of the country and also debate the difficult matters that the country faced.

Since the kingdom conducted its first general election in 1993, no national congress has been convened again.

There is now the National Assembly, the top legislative body for the political parties to discuss government issues and participate in management of the country.

PM welcomes Cambodian planning minister

VOV News

The planning and investment sectors of Vietnam and Cambodia should increase the exchange of visits and share experience to promote bilateral cooperation in trade and investment, said Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung.

While receiving Cambodian Minister of Planning Chhay Than in Hanoi on March 4, Mr Dung affirmed that Vietnam is willing to help Cambodia train its officials in planning.

Minister Chhay Than said that his ministry wants to learn from Vietnam’s development experience and expand cooperation with the Vietnamese Ministry of Planning and Investment, particularly in personnel training.

He thanked the Vietnamese people for their heart-felt support and valuable assistance to Cambodia during the past struggle for national liberation and the current process of national construction.

He conveyed top Cambodian leaders’ regards to Mr Dung and other Vietnamese Party and State leaders.

Earlier in the morning, Minister Chhay Than held talks with his Vietnamese counterpart Vo Hong Phuc and they signed a memorandum of understanding to increase bilateral cooperation in planning.

Vietnam, Cambodia boost cooperation in planning and investment

VOV News

Vietnam and Cambodia signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in Hanoi on March 4 to strengthen bilateral cooperation in planning and investment.

Signatories to the document were Vietnamese Minister of Planning and Investment Vo Hong Phuc and Cambodian Minister of Planning Chhay Than.

Under the MoU, both ministries will closely co-ordinate in devising plans to improve advisory work for their governments. They will hold the exchange of high-level delegations annually, share experiences in planning, and organize short-term training courses for their staff.

This year, the Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI) will invite officials from the Cambodian Ministry of Planning to visit several border provinces on fact-finding trips to promote mutual understanding.

Last year, the Government of Vietnam provided VND90 billion in non-refundable aid to the Cambodian Royal Government to strengthen cooperation in the field of education and training, according to the MPI. In addition, Vietnam also granted more than 1,800 scholarships to Cambodian students in the field of education, culture, sports, and inspection.

In 2008, two-way trade between the two countries reached US$1.7 billion, up 42 percent compared to the previous year. Currently, around 39 Vietnamese projects capitalized at US$211.2 million have received business licenses from the government of Cambodia.

Cambodian rule weighs on Dreamgate’s RM200m debt notes


Written by Joe Chin
Wednesday, 04 March 2009 22:43

KUALA LUMPUR: RAM Ratings has placed the A1/P1 ratings of Dreamgate Corporation Berhad’s RM200 million Commercial Papers/Medium-Term Notes Programmes (2007/2014) on Rating Watch, with a negative oulook.

The rating agency said on March 4 the Rating Watch reflects RAM Ratings’ concerns about the adverse impact of the recent changes in Cambodia’s gambling regulations, which are expected to have negative implications on Dreamgate’s credit profile.

Most of Dreamgate’s profit-generating technical support and management Services (TSM) concessions are located in Cambodia (as of end-2008, some 79% of its concessions were positioned in that country.)

RAM Ratings said it understood that the Cambodian government has issued directives banning its citizens from gambling.

At the same time, slot operators have been asked to remove gaming machines from entertainment clubs by June 2009. This means that all slot machines can only be located in licensed casinos and hotels.

About 1,500 of Dreamgate’s slot machines (or 30% of its devices installed in Cambodia) are affected by the ruling.

On top of that, another 1,900 of Dreamgate’s slot machines in Cambodia have been affected by a more recent directive issued in February 2009.

Now, even slot machines in Cambodian hotels are required to temporarily cease operations, pending a full review of their licences and compliance with the earlier directive.

“We understand that the management plans to relocate the initially affected 1,500 machines to Macau, the Philippines and other casinos under the Group’s stable in Cambodia; the exercise is expected to be completed by mid-2009. On the other hand, the fate of the other 1,900 machines remains uncertain at this juncture,” it said.

RAM Ratings said Dreamgate might consider relocating these machines to Macau and the Philippines as well, if the licence review stretches more than two months.

In 4Q FY Dec 2008, Dreamgate incurred a pre-tax loss of RM9.48 million, due to various factors that include slowing TSM sales, write-off of expenses in relation to club closures and higher operating costs arising from additional outlets; before the regulatory changes, Dreamgate had added 12 new outlets in fiscal 2008.

Given these disruptions to its Cambodian operations, the Group’s performance in FY Dec 2009 is likely to come under severe pressure.

“RAM Ratings is concerned about Dreamgate’s position going forward. Given these rulings, we opine that the Group’s businesses in Cambodia are unlikely to yield the same returns as before.

While we note that Dreamgate will be moving these machines to new TSM concessions in Macau and the Philippines, its TSM presence in these countries is still relatively small,” says Kevin Lim, RAM Ratings’ Head of Consumer and Industrial Ratings.

RAM Ratings said it was monitoring the developments vis-à-vis Dreamgate, and keeping in close contact with the management in the lead-up to our annual review of its ratings.

The ratings will remain on Rating Watch until the review is completed; this is expected within the next three months.

Sacked General Proposed for Deputy PM

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
04 March 2009

Gen. Ke Kim Yan, the former commander of the armed forces who was fired in January, will be given a position as deputy prime minister, pending parliamentary approval, officials said Wednesday.

Prime Minsiter Hun Sen fired Ke Kim Yan for improprieties in running a side business, instead of commanding the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, but officials say a proposal for his appointment to deputy prime minister will be made to the National Assembly.

Defense Minister Gen. Tea Banh told VOA Khmer Tuesday there was “nothing strange” about the appointment, as Ke Kim Yan had served the military “for a long time.”

Ke Kim Yan served as commander-in-chief for three administrations. His sacking worried some over a split within the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, but one observer said the promotion to deputy prime minister indicated “peace and stability” within the government.

The military command shake-up comes as Cambodia prepares for continued cooperation with the US and set to host a multinational military exercise in 2010, Tea Banh said.

More than 10 countries, including the US, will participate in the exercises, a “heavy responsibility” for Cambodia, Tea Banh said.

Cambodia regularly sends troops on UN peacekeeping missions to Sudan and has joined military exercises with Mongolia and Bangladesh.

Judges Threaten Sanctions of Tribunal Defense Team

By Kong Sothanarith, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
04 March 2009

The defense team for jailed Khmer Rouge leader Ieng Sary agreed to temporarily withdraw information from a Web site Wednesday, following orders from tribunal judges over concerns of confidentiality.

Ang Udom, Cambodian defense for Ieng Sary, said the team had decided to remove the content in order to retain good relations with the court.

“Most of what [the judges] raised is incorrect,” he said. “We posted only what was related to legal procedure, that which we expect the public should know, understand and hear and that [the judges] hide.”

In a statement posted on their Web site Wednesday, the defense lawyers strongly disagreed with a court order to remove information posted on the site and said they planned to issue a public response to the “flawed legal reasoning” of the Office of Co-Investigating Judges.

The “confidential” documents sited by the investigating judges are, “in fact, public,” the lawyers said.

Tuesday’s order called for the removal of three documents from the site, the lawyers said: the appeal against the tribunal’s refusal to appoint a psychiatrist to Ieng Sary and requests for information about two international staff members of the court.

In a letter to the defense, investigating judges Marcel Lemonde and You Bunleng ordered the removal of the documents within 48 hours, threatening legal consequences if the order was not followed.

Ieng Sary, 84, whose health is the poorest among five jailed leaders, faces charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role as foreign minister of and senior leader of the regime.

Tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath said his defense team had posted documents that were already banned by investigating judges.

US, Cambodia To Have Defense Attachés

By Taing Sarada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
04 March 2009

Cambodia and the US have agreed to establish military attachés in their respective embassies, officials say, in a move that further enhances cooperation between the two countries.

“A military attaché between Cambodia and the US is a very good sign, in order to have better cooperation and confidence in each other, Kouy Koung, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told VOA Khmer.

Mutual defense attachés have not existed between the two since the 1970s.

The agreement was made in January, to strengthen Cambodia’s military capacity to combat crime, such as drug trafficking and production, human trafficking and terrorism, Kouy Koung said.

Cambodian Defense Minister Gen. Tea Banh told VOA Khmer by phone that the reemergence of a defense attaché established a relationship “like countries around the world.”

The US has provided equipment and training to Cambodia since 2006, and will assist in the future with equipment, training and courses in English for the military, US Embassy spokesman John Johnson said.

The US gave 31 trucks to the Defense Ministry last year, along with $7 million in military aid.

An opposition lawmaker said the addition of defense attaché to the missions of each country would improve Cambodia’s currently “unprofessional” defense force.

Cambodia has also enjoyed improving military relationships with Vietnam and China.