Wednesday, 1 April 2009

'Killing Fields' Trial

Cambodian students from the Royal Cambodian Administration school gather for a trial of a former Khmer Rouge prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, also known as 'Duch', at a U.N.-backed tribunal Wednesday, April 1, 2009, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. A day after Duch took the stand and pleaded for forgiveness, the man who ran the Khmer Rouge's most notorious prison is expected to face tough questioning about his running of the communist radicals' torture machine.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Cambodian police look on Wednesday, April 1, 2009, at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia in Phnom Penh. Kaing Guek Eav, also know as 'Duch,' is the first of five former Khmer Rouge leaders being tried for crimes against humanity. The man accused of being the Khmer Rouge's chief torturer put down his prepared speech, removed his eyeglasses and gazed at the courtroom audience as he pleaded for forgiveness from the country he helped terrorize three decades ago.(AP Photo/David Longstreath)

Cambodian Buddhist monks collect pass for getting into the courtroom for a trial of a former Khmer Rouge prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, also known as 'Duch', at a U.N.-backed tribunal Wednesday, April 1, 2009, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. A day after Duch took the stand and pleaded for forgiveness, the man who ran the Khmer Rouge's most notorious prison is expected to face tough questioning about his running of the communist radicals' torture machine.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Cambodian police look on at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia in Phnom Penh Wednesday, April 1, 2009. Kaing Guek Eav, also know as, 'Duch' is the first of five former Khmer Rouge leaders being tried for crimes against humanity. The man accused of being the Khmer Rouge's chief torturer put down his prepared speech, removed his eyeglasses and gazed at the courtroom audience as he pleaded for forgiveness from the country he helped terrorize three decades ago.(AP Photo/David Longstreath)

Cambodian police look on at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia in Phnom Penh Wednesday, April 1, 2009. Kaing Guek Eav, also know as 'Duch,' is the first of five former Khmer Rouge leaders being tried for crimes against humanity. The man accused of being the Khmer Rouge's chief torturer put down his prepared speech, removed his eyeglasses and gazed at the courtroom audience as he pleaded for forgiveness from the country he helped terrorize three decades ago.(AP Photo/David Longstreath)

Photographers take pictures Cambodian Buddhist monks as they wait to enter at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia in Phnom Penh Wednesday, April 1, 2009. Kaing Guek Eav, also know as 'Duch,' is the first of five former Khmer Rouge leaders being tried for crimes against humanity. The man accused of being the Khmer Rouge's chief torturer put down his prepared speech, removed his eyeglasses and gazed at the courtroom audience as he pleaded for forgiveness from the country he helped terrorize three decades ago.(AP Photo/David Longstreath)

In this image made off APTN footage, Kaing Guek Eav, better known as 'Duch', far left, smoothes his hair as his lawyer Francois Roux stands during a trial in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Wednesday, April 1, 2009. The man accused of being the Khmer Rouge's chief torturer put down his prepared speech, removed his eyeglasses and gazed at the courtroom audience as he pleaded for forgiveness from the country he helped terrorize three decades ago.(AP Photo/APTN)

A Cambodian court cleaner, far left, sweeps as fire trucks are parked by security personnel for blocking journalist before they transport former Khmer Rouge prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, also known as 'Duch' for a trial , at a U.N.-backed tribunal Wednesday, April 1, 2009, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. A day after Duch took the stand and pleaded for forgiveness, the man who ran the Khmer Rouge's most notorious prison is expected to face tough questioning about his running of the communist radicals' torture machine.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Cambodian Buddhist monks, center, stand in line before a trial of former Khmer Rouge prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, also known as 'Duch,' at a U.N.-backed tribunal Wednesday, April 1, 2009, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The man accused of being the Khmer Rouge's chief torturer put down his prepared speech, removed his eyeglasses and gazed at the courtroom audience as he pleaded for forgiveness from the country he helped terrorize three decades ago.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Pictured is a live feed of former Khmer Rouge chief torturer Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, during his trial on the outskirts of Phnom Penh April 1, 2009. Duch is on trial for crimes against humanity, the first by a senior Pol Pot cadre, three decades since the end of a regime blamed for 1.7 million deaths.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA CONFLICT SOCIETY POLITICS)

Monks line up to attend the trial of former Khmer Rouge chief torturer Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, during his trial on the outskirts of Phnom Penh April 1, 2009. Duch is on trial for crimes against humanity, the first by a senior Pol Pot cadre, three decades since the end of a regime blamed for 1.7 million deaths. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA POLITICS CONFLICT SOCIETY IMAGE OF THE DAY TOP PICTURE)

Cambodian police check a car outside the court during the trial of Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch. Survivors of the Khmer Rouge regime have expressed scepticism about an apology by Duch -- the movement's brutal prison chief -- as his trial continued at a UN-backed court in Cambodia.(AFP/Tang Chhin Sothy)

Cambodians look on at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia in Phnom Penh Wednesday, April 1, 2009. Kaing Guek Eav, also know as 'Duch,' is the first of five former Khmer Rouge leaders being tried for crimes against humanity. The man accused of being the Khmer Rouge's chief torturer put down his prepared speech, removed his eyeglasses and gazed at the courtroom audience as he pleaded for forgiveness from the country he helped terrorize three decades ago.(AP Photo/David Longstreath)

Cambodians look on at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia in Phnom Penh Wednesday, April 1, 2009. Kaing Guek Eav, also know as 'Duch,' is the first of five former Khmer Rouge leaders being tried for crimes against humanity. The man accused of being the Khmer Rouge's chief torturer put down his prepared speech, removed his eyeglasses and gazed at the courtroom audience as he pleaded for forgiveness from the country he helped terrorize three decades ago.(AP Photo/David Longstreath)

Hun Sen refuses the prosecution of other Khmer Rouge cadres


By Duong Sokha

Cambodian prime Minister Hun Sen publicly urged on Tuesday March 31st not to prosecute former Khmer Rouge leaders other than the five persons who are already indicted, among whom Duch, the former director of the S-21 detention and torture centre who on the morning of the second day of his trial, asked victims of the Pol Pot regime for forgiveness.

Civil war
“If twenty other people were indicted to stand trial, civil war would break out and kill thousands”, the head of the Cambodian government warned, presenting himself as the one who restored peace in the Kingdom. “I told foreign ambassadors that I was ready to accept that this tribunal [in charge of prosecuting former Khmer Rouge leaders] fails, but that I would not allow Cambodia to be torn by war again”, he said. Those words were pronounced as in the meantime Kar Savuth, the Cambodian co-Lawyer for Duch, was wondering during his client's trial about the absence of prosecution of other former Khmer Rouge cadres who were also in charge of supervising security centres.

March 30 not a national holiday
The prime Minister also worked on minimising the historic impact of the ongoing judicial process and said he rejected the request made by the director of the Documentation Centre of Cambodia (DC-Cam) Youk Chhang about turning March 30th, the date of the opening of the first trial of a former Khmer Rouge leader, into an official national holiday for “memory and justice”.

Justice has already been dealt out...
“This tribunal should not be given too much importance”, he said, adding that according to him, turning March 30th into a national bank holiday would be a “great mistake” and would come down to trying to “forget all the efforts made in the past” to “give justice to Cambodians”. These efforts are already honoured by January 7th (1979, date of the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime and arrival of the Vietnamese troops in Cambodia- the country was then placed under the control of the Vietnamese regulatory authorities) and May 20th (or 'Hatred Day', in memory of the May 20th 1976 Direction when Pol Pot's policy of total agrarian collectivisation was launched).

“We debunked Pol Pot's regime of genocide. Without that, would there be any Khmer Rouge trial today? If the Khmer Rouge had been able to participate in the 1993 elections, if they sat in the National Assembly, what would these trials be worth today?”, the head of government asked. “This is not the first time that we give justice to Cambodians”, he tried to explain, thus awaking the interest of the audience: “The fact that the Pol Pot regime was debunked - is this not giving justice to Cambodians? And avoiding the return of Pol Pot's regime - is this not giving justice to Cambodians? We sentenced a few Khmer Rouge back in 1979. Is this not giving justice?”, he insisted, referring to the 1979 summary trials, which were not acknowledged by the UN.

The prime Minister also reminded that if Duch could today be brought to justice, it was “thanks to the order for his arrest” which he personally proclaimed in 1998 in Battambang.

A prayer for less money
As he went back over the budget difficulties that the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) - the hybrid court in charge of trying former Khmer Rouge leaders - are currently faced with, Hun Sen estimated that “this [wa]s not [his] problem” and went as far as to say that he “prayed” for “a budget shortfall” on the UN side of the court, and left it to Cambodian magistrates to issue those “complicated” verdicts, without trying to prosecute other people.

“I do not want to say that I do not support that tribunal”, he said, at last, and deemed the ongoing process “important”. “But they should not look for trouble”.

Defence seeks release of Khmer Rouge prison chief

AsiaOne News

Wed, Apr 01, 2009

by Patrick Falby

PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA - Defence lawyers Wednesday demanded that Cambodia's war crimes court release the prison chief of the Khmer Rouge regime, a day after he issued a dramatic apology for his brutal past.

Duch on Tuesday accepted responsibility for supervising the extermination of around 15,000 people between 1975 and 1979 at the notorious Tuol Sleng prison under the hardline communist regime.

Defence lawyer Francois Roux told the UN-backed court that the trial should continue but that Duch ought to be freed immediately, saying his client had been held for an illegal length of time following his 1999 arrest.

"We come before you to request that you put an end to the detention of Duch because it's well beyond the acceptable time limits of Cambodian law and it's also well beyond the time limit for international instruments," Roux said.

"I'm sorry to bring this before you. It's now your problem and you cannot avoid it," he added.

Roux suggested moving Duch to a safe house for his own protection against possible revenge attacks by families of some of the two million people who died during the Khmer Rouge's iron-fisted rule.

He said that another reason for releasing Duch was that he was being held in a detention centre at the court with four other regime leaders at whose trials he is eventually expected to testify.

Roux went on to ask judges to consider subtracting Duch's time in prison from his final sentence and to also soften its eventual verdict to compensate for the alleged violation of his rights.

But prosecutor Chea Leang said previous rulings that denied Duch's release were still valid. It was not up to the hybrid Cambodian-international court to release him, she said, since it has only held him since 2007.

The court's pre-trial chamber had also refused to release Duch - whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav - because of the possibility of attacks.

Duch stunned the court on Tuesday when he stood up to apologise and beg for forgiveness, saying he felt "regret and heartfelt sorrow" for his role in the Khmer Rouge's atrocities.

But survivors expressed scepticism Wednesday that Duch genuinely felt sorry for his brutal past.

"What is inside a human's heart is very secret - we cannot see it clearly," said Vann Nath, one of only about a dozen people who survived Tuol Sleng.

"We cannot totally believe that what he said is all true. We also cannot say that what he said is not true," added Vann Nath, who was only spared because the regime thought his artistic abilities were useful for propaganda.

The defence has indicated it thinks his public expression of remorse, in which he pledged to cooperate with the court, should help bring him a reduced prison sentence. He faces a life term.

On Tuesday he admitted blame for the crimes committed at the prison but said he was a "scapegoat" and had only been following orders from the Maoist movement's top leadership to protect his own family.

The Irish photojournalist who found Duch in hiding a decade ago said he thought it was important that the former torture chief was cooperating with the court.

"Everybody's asking 'Does he truly feel remorse?' But maybe that's the wrong question to ask," said Nic Dunlop outside the court.

The Khmer Rouge rose to power as a tragic spin-off of the conflict in neighbouring Vietnam, launching a disastrous experiment under its leader Pol Pot to transform the country into an agrarian utopia.

Prosecutors on Tuesday recounted the brutal torture techniques taught by Duch and described him as a central figure in the regime's "widespread attack on the population of Cambodia."

The tribunal, formed in 2006 after nearly a decade of wrangling between the United Nations and Cambodian government, has faced controversy over allegations of corruption and political interference. --AFP

Attorneys seek to ease Khmer Rouge prison chief detention

Duch ran a prison where people were tortured and killed under the Khmer Rouge.

TUOL SLENG, Cambodia (CNN) -- Attorneys for Kaing Guek Eav lobbied Wednesday to ease conditions under which the former Khmer Rouge prison chief is being held during his trial.
The 66-year-old former math teacher, who is better known as Duch, has been held for more than three years at a special facility in the court complex where he faces charges that include crimes against humanity, war crimes, torture and murder. Under Cambodia law, a person can't be held longer than three years without a conviction.

If his defense attorneys are successful, Duch would remain under house arrest within the complex outside the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh, but would have additional freedoms.
A similar move at a pretrial hearing was unsuccessful.

Duch, the first former Khmer Rouge leader to stand trial, has admitted his role in the regime's genocidal reign and on Tuesday expressed sorrow for his actions before the tribunal.
Prosecutors have stressed how Duch, a born-again Christian, actively participated in the torture and killing of some of the 15,000 prisoners at the S-21 facility.

The prison played a vital role in the widespread attack on the Cambodian population, they said.
The Khmer Rouge swept to power in 1975. Three years, eight months and 20 days later, at least 1.7 million people -- nearly one-quarter of Cambodia's population -- were dead from execution, disease, starvation and overwork, according to the Documentation Center of Cambodia.

The tribunal, which is made up of Cambodian and international judges, does not have the power to impose the death penalty. If convicted, Duch faces from five years to life in prison.
The trial is expected to last three or four months.

Four of the regime's other former leaders await trial before the tribunal, also accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Defence calls for 'safe house' for Pol Pot accused

Otago Daily Times (New Zealand)

Wed, 1 Apr 2009

Defence lawyers for Pol Pot torture prison boss Kaing Guek Eav argued today that he should be moved to a "safe house" after spending 10 years in custody.

Today ends the first week of Eav's trial before Justice Silvia Cartwright of New Zealand and four other members of the judiciary.

Following yesterday's dramatic apology by Eav, better known by his revolutionary name Duch, much of this morning was tied up with legal wrangling.

Duch's apology yesterday was what many Cambodians, here and around the world, had been waiting for.

It was qualified by his claims he was only acting under the orders of his superiors while in charge of Tuol Sleng Prison, where an estimated 17,000 people, including New Zealander Kerry Hamill, were detained, tortured and then executed.

The prosecution maintains he had autonomy and actively made decisions to arrest, torture and kill, and personally participated in some torture sessions.

Duch's French lawyer, Francois Roux, asked he be moved from the tribunal's specially built jail to a "safe house," as his rights had been violated by his 10-year detention without trial.

Cambodian law prohibits "provisional detention" longer than three years, Roux said.

After his 1999 arrest, Duch spent seven years in a Cambodian military prison, then nearly three years in the tribunal's jail.

Another argument for moving him was that he shared his quarters with four other Khmer Rouge defendants, and he will be implicating some of them during his trial.

The bail hearing is continuing.

Denmark Finances Cambodian Trade-Program
By Charlotte Lund Dideriksen

The Cambodian Ministry of Commerce, together with DANIDA, has launched the Trade Development Support Program (TDSP) worth 12.6 million U.S. dollars to assist Cambodia to expand its international trade, according to a press release from the World Bank's country office in Cambodia.

"The program focuses on legal reforms, trade facilitation and product standards, and is designed to empower the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) to facilitate trade by improving regulations and internal processes," it said.

TDSP is part of the trade sector-wide approach, which unites all activities funded by development partners to assist the RGC to enhance its trade potential.

"It is a strong commitment of the RGC to translate Aid for Trade into concrete actions that will contribute to a more robust private sector and overall income generation," Cambodian Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh stated at the launching ceremony.

The program is financed by the European Commission, the Danish International Aid Agency (Danida) and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), and will be administered by the Wold Bank


God and genocide in Cambodia

Asia Times Online

Southeast Asia
Apr 2, 2009

By Stephen Kurczy

PHNOM PENH and BATTAMBANG - The Khmer Rouge's former chief executioner asked for Christian forgiveness this week on the witness stand. Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, is charged with overseeing the radical regime's S-21 torture prison, where more than 12,000 Cambodians lost their lives. Like many of his former cadres, he found religion late in life.

His testimony conceding guilt, which could affect the fate of the regime's other four top cadres, has been influenced by his conversion to Christianity in the mid-1990s, analysts say. The other detainees at the tribunal have denied responsibility for the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians from disease, starvation and executions during the Khmer Rouge's four-year reign of terror.

"At the beginning I only prayed to ask forgiveness from my

parents. But later on, I attempted to pray for forgiveness from the whole nation, for all the people who died," Duch said Tuesday on the second day of his trial at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia in Phnom Penh. "I would like to express my regret and my heartfelt sorrow and loss for all of the crimes committed by the CPK [Communist Party of Kampuchea] from 1975 to 1979."

"I would like to emphasize that I am responsible for the crimes committed at S-21, especially the torture and execution of the people there," the 66-year-old Duch told a packed courtroom on Tuesday in an address broadcast live on national radio and television. "I would like you to please leave an open window for me to be forgiven."

Those words have set the stage for painful revelations in the weeks ahead. While the Christian Duch apparently aims for salvation through contrition, his former Khmer Rouge colleagues - some who have turned to Buddhism - maintain their innocence. Some view this as a bid to avoid karmic retribution for their sins in the next life.

Once outlawed by the atheist Khmer Rouge, religion has made a comeback among the radical revolutionaries who brutally transformed Cambodia into a nation of killing fields. Buddhist shrines were destroyed and Christian adherents persecuted as a matter of policy during the Khmer Rouge's paranoid reign.

According to local religious figures, meditative ex-Khmer Rouge cadres now fill Buddhist temples or alternately praise Jesus in Christian churches. Khmer Rouge Brother Number 2 Nuon Chea, the regime's chief ideologue who was arrested in 2007 on crimes against humanity and war crimes, has publicly acknowledged his conversion later in life to Buddhism.

"I personally respect all religions, but mainly Buddhism, as it belongs to the nation," Nuon Chea told The Cambodia Daily newspaper in 2003. During that interview he presented himself as a devout Buddhist, with a large poster of a revered Thai monk tacked to his wall and claims that Buddhist monks visited him regularly to consult on Buddhist teachings.

According to sources familiar with the detainees, Duch has continued to take communion while in detention and Nuon Chea has decorated his cell with a poster of a venerable Buddhist monk. Religious experts say that while religion alone can not explain the opposing pleas lodged by former Khmer Rouge cadres, the two different faiths inspire their adherents to face the past in starkly different ways.

"Christianity in particular has put more emphasis on the sin/redemption theme than most religions," said Stanford University religion professor Carl Bielefeldt. "Conversion to Buddhism may mean little more than relaxing into the default culture, rather than committing oneself to a spiritual choice … In contrast, conversion to a culturally alien religion [to Cambodia] like Christianity may involve a much more self-conscious spiritual choice."

Faithful minority
Currently round 95% of Cambodia's citizens adhere to Buddhism. When the Khmer Rouge were overthrown in 1979, less than 200 Christians remained remained from a pre-1975 congregation of 20,000, according to Heng Cheng, the head of the Evangelical Fellowship of Cambodia. Today, more than 100,000 Cambodians belong to more than 3,000 evangelical churches across the country, among them many former members of the Khmer Rouge.
"The former Khmer Rouge more often open their hearts [to God]," said Heng Cheng. "[Duch] is a role model."

Duch's conversion to Christianity has caused some friction with his former cadres. For instance, Nuon Chea scoffed at Duch's conversion, saying in his revealing 2003 interview: "[Duch] wanted God to take responsibility for his sins! ... You commit the sin, so you pay for the sin. Nobody can help take responsibility for the sin."

For his part, Nuon Chea does not accept responsibility for the Khmer Rouge's atrocities, despite his high-ranking position at the time. Former Khmer Rouge southwestern region army chief Meas Muth, who has not been charged by the tribunal and is also a practicing Buddhist, similarly expresses no remorse for his role in the revolution.

"I don't think the court will call me. But if they do, it's useless," he said, adding that he is not guilty of crimes against humanity. Meas, the son-in-law of deceased Khmer Rouge army commander Ta Mok, admits he conversed with the regime's central committee members, including Nuon Chea and head of state Khieu Samphan, but denies having had any influence over policy formulation.

Meas Muth, too, has found religion later in life. During a recent interview at his spacious home on stilts on the outskirts of Battambang province's Samlot town, he mentions the tens of thousands of dollars worth of donations he has made to the local pagoda, Ta Sanh Chas. There, he gives Pali language lessons and oversees building projects.

Thoeun Samnang, the chief Buddhist monk of Ta Sanh Chas temple, said Meas Muth "comes to the pagoda every day. He comes to find peace with the Buddha." The resident ascetic says he still remembers the day Meas Muth first arrived: the auspicious date of September 9, 2009.

"He is a blessing," said the saffron-robed monk, seated cross-legged in his pagoda. "Former Khmer Rouge soldiers seem more interested in Buddhism. They come here more than other people. They are more active in the pagoda."

It is religiously significant, some believe, that former top Khmer Rouge leaders Meas Muth and Nuon Chea have not sought forgiveness for their roles in the alleged genocide. One possible reason, suggests Columbia University's Buddhist scholar Bob Thurman, is that Christianity uniquely claims that the road to salvation runs through repentance, remorse and making up for past sins.

"Perhaps the Christian ones are more intent on [forgiveness] because they have the belief that repentance and true belief in Christ will help them once and for all reach heaven, no matter what they've done," Thurman wrote by e-mail. "Whereas Buddhists do repent, do try to do better, but remain aware of a long road ahead to reach enlightenment or nirvana - no one else can grant them the ultimate salvation, in their view."

The monk Thoeun says that no matter how often Meas Muth visits his pagoda, the former Khmer Rouge leader will invariably suffer in the next life for his alleged actions in his current incarnation. "Meas Muth cannot escape from what he did in the past. No matter what he does, he must pay for what he has done," the monk said.

When questioned about the notion that a Christian may escape karmic punishment for wrongdoings, the ascetic balked: "Everyone must pay for what they've done. Duch cannot be forgiven. Bad deeds are like shadows that follow you."

Remorse and repentance
Duch's 32-year-old daughter, Ky Sievkim, said that her father longs for forgiveness and views Christianity as a path out of the dark shadow of the S-21 torture prison he previously ran. "My father told me that he had done many wrong things, and that's why he asked Jesus for forgiveness," she said in a recent interview at her small home, also on the outskirts of Samlot town.

Duch may have also converted to Christianity for protection, according to the court's closing order indicting him for crimes against humanity. "Christianity, the West and the realm of international justice symbolized a new form of protection (also undeniably the most effective), because he suffered from insecurity," the order states.

The temptation of salvation has drawn many other former Khmer Rouge cadres to Christianity, according to Victory Heng, executive director of Cambodian Christian Church Organization (CCCO) in Battambang town. "You can be the worst sinner in the world and still enter the gates of heaven," Heng said.

The orginization supports about 100 churches in the provinces of Takeo and Siem Reap, as well as in the former Khmer Rouge strongholds of Battambang, Oddar Meanchey and Banteay Meanchey provinces. Many former Khmer Rouge cadres have entered CCCO's churches, says Heng, although he doesn't maintain an exact tally. "None of them come in and say, 'We are former Khmer Rouge.' And we don't ask. It's not important to us. Our purpose is not to dig up the past. Our purpose is to share Christ."

In that spiritual direction, every year CCCO holds a three-week training course in Battambang town to convert laymen into practicing evangelists. "One of those years, Duch walked through the doors of this building," Heng said, standing outside the clapboard building of the Battambang Christian Church. The year was 1996 and at the end of the training course Duch was baptized nearby in the Sangke River.

Suon Sito says he remembers that day well. He first met Duch four years earlier in Banteay Meanchey province's Phkoam village, where Duch moved his family after living in Thai refugee camps and in China throughout the 1980s. Within months of Duch's arrival, Suon Sito invited him to a CCCO-sponsored house church and soon Duch was inviting others to attend services.

As Duch drew closer to Christianity, he was also attempting to flee from his past, Suon Sito said. He moved his family repeatedly throughout the 1990s - first to another school in Banteay Meanchey, then to a school in Samlot town, then back to a Thai refugee camp - but he never stopped telling his neighbors about the power of Jesus Christ in his life.

"He asked me to be a Christian. He said he wanted to start a Christian community," said Sok Lian, a resident of Samlot town who rented a home on Duch's property for several months in 1999 until Duch's identity and whereabouts were uncovered and published in international media.

When news broke in 1999 of Duch's conversion to Christianity, renowned Cambodia historian David Chandler, who had poured through reams of evidence at Duch's torture prison, says he took Duch's professed conversion seriously.

"He must have given his conversion to Christianity serious thought, as he had done with his conversion to communism in the 1960s, and saw both conversions as ways of clarifying his mind, helping his spirit, and organizing his life," Chandler wrote by e-mail from Australia's Monash University.

"Maybe Duch was looking for refuge found only in Christianity," said Chea Vannath, a political scientist in Cambodia who lives not far from S-21, which is now maintained as a grisly tourist attraction. "Whatever mistakes you make, you recognize and confess and Jesus Christ will help you ... It's possible that if [Nuon Chea] was a Christian, he might confess too."

Stephen Kurczy is an Asia Times Online contributor based in Cambodia. He may be reached at

Cambodia warns Thailand over border dispute

The Brunei Times


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

CAMBODIAN Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday warned neighbouring Thailand that it would face fighting if its troops again crossed their disputed border.

The premier made the remarks a week after Cambodian officials said some 100 Thai troops briefly entered contested territory near an ancient temple where a deadly gun battle broke out last year.

"I tell you first, if you enter (Cambodian territory) again, we will fight. The troops at the border have already received the order," Hun Sen said at a ceremony to open a road named after him in the seaside resort of Sihanoukville.

"I am the leader of Cambodia who was elected by the will of the people, not by robbing power," he added, in an apparent reference to Thailand's current political instability.

Hun Sen also told his audience that Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva will visit Cambodia on April 18, but blasted the Thai foreign minister Kasit Piromya for allegedly insulting him. "He insults me - he has called me a gangster," he said of the foreign minister. AFP

Rob Hamill to be heard at Khmer Rouge trial

New Zealand Herald

Wednesday Apr 01, 2009

New Zealander Rob Hamill is to be heard at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal trial of the man who ran the Cambodian Prison where his brother was killed in 1978.

The tribunal allows civil parties to be represented in court, with 40 people granted that status.

Their lawyers can ask questions on their behalf of witnesses and of Kaing Guek Eav, or Duch, who ran Tuol Sleng or S21 prison where an estimated 17,000 were tortured then executed.

Mr Hamill, an Olympic rower in 1996, is expected to appear at the tribunal.

His brother Kerry Hamill ended up at S-21 when the yacht he and friends were sailing strayed into Cambodian waters in August 1978. One crewman, Canadian Stuart Glass, was shot dead while Mr Hamill and Briton John Dewhirst were taken for interrogation before being killed.

Rob Hamill told NZPA yesterday that it was good that Duch admitted in court yesterday that what he did was wrong, although he did claim he was acting under orders.

The trial is the first of senior leaders in the Khmer Rouge regime under which 1.7 million Cambodians died to be heard before the UN-backed dual international Cambodian Court.

Duch faces charges including crimes against humanity, breaches of the Geneva Convention and violations of the Cambodian penal code, including premeditated murder.

Maggie Tait travelled to Cambodia with the assistance of the Asia New Zealand Foundation.


'I am responsible', Duch tells tribunal

Four-year-old Aliza last month at Toul Sleng, where her grandfather was one of the last prisoners to be killed.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Georgia Wilkins
Wednesday, 01 April 2009

S-21 boss apologises to victims and survivors in a historic moment at his trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

SAYING he was filled with "regret and heartfelt sorrow", former Tuol Sleng prison chief Kaing Guek Eav became the first former Khmer Rouge figure to publicly admit to court his role in atrocities committed more than three decades ago by the regime and to apologise to his victims as he faced Cambodia's war crimes tribunal Tuesday.

Speaking on the second day of his trial, the Khmer Rouge's top interrogator, who is better known by his revolutionary name Duch, told a packed courtroom - including victims of the regime and relatives of those who disappeared into the killing machine he oversaw - that he alone was responsible for the crimes committed under the 66-year-old former maths teacher's supervision.

"I am responsible for the crimes committed at S-21, especially the torture and execution of people there," Duch said.

"May I be permitted to apologise to the survivors of the regime and the family members of the victims of S-21," he said. "I know that my crimes, in particular those towards women and children, cannot be tolerated," he said.

His 29-minute apology followed a harrowing recital of the abuses committed under his command at Tuol Sleng, the regime's most notorious torture centre.

"Victims were beaten with rattan sticks and whips, electrocuted, had toenails and fingernails pulled out, were suffocated with plastic bags forcibly tied over their heads and were stripped naked and had their genitals electrocuted," foreign Co-Prosecutor Robert Petit said.

Cambodian Co-Prosecutor Chea Leang told the court the conditions at S-21 were so dire that desperate detainees tried to commit suicide by "stabbing themselves with pencils, cutting themselves with shards of glass, burning themselves with lanterns and throwing themselves off the upper levels of the prison."

According to the co-prosecutors, S-21 inmates were not only tortured under Duch's direct orders, but at times "by his own hand", Petit said.

Showing documents penned by the prison chief himself, the prosecutors argued that he had even scouted out new "enemies" to imprison, in one case "eagerly asking [his commanders] for another victim".

Duch was described by prosecutors as a "dedicated revolutionary", who "knew better than anyone else at that time just what was befalling the Cambodian population".

[Duch] didn't seem ... really that upset

"The contention that he relinquished [his] responsibility is simply not believable ... he was committed, to the very end, to the success of S-21," Petit added.

Using video and graphic evidence, the prosecution detailed the backdrop against which the prison chief's alleged crimes occurred and the central role S21 played in the Khmer Rouge reign of terror. "[Duch's] crimes were part of a widespread and systematic attack on the Cambodian population," Chea Leang said.

But Duch's defence lawyers argued that the regime's extreme paranoia - thousands of those who ended up in Tuol Sleng were themselves Khmer Rouge functionaries - required that an extreme sense of duty be upheld at all times.

"It is because of the terror that every link in the chain acted zealously," said Duch's French lawyer, Francois Roux.

They claimed the court was using Duch as a scapegoat, saying far more senior Khmer Rouge leaders had yet to be tried in court.

"If any one of the senior leaders is not prosecuted, then I think its better not prosecuting anyone," said Duch's Cambodian lawyer, Kar Savuth.

Outside the court, victims and survivors said that Duch's apology was a necessary step forward, but it was only one step in a larger process of uncovering the truth behind one of the worst bloodlettings of the 20th century.

"I think it is good that Duch apologised, but I can never forgive him," said Va Kim, who lost members of his family to the regime and travelled from Prey Veng to hear the proceedings.

"As a victim of the regime, I will always have anger and can never forget what happened," he added.

Tuol Sleng survivor Bou Meng told reporters video footage shown by prosecutors, which included a corpse chained to a bed, reminded him of how he lost his wife at the prison.

"I cannot forgive Duch because of my wife's life. I want to beat him to death, but I respect the law and now is the time to use it," he said.

Nic Dunlop at the court
Duch became a born-again Christian during the 1990s and was arrested in 1999 after being tracked down to a remote western town by Irish photojournalist Nic Dunlop.

Dunlop, who was at the court and will address the judges as a witness in the trial, told the Post Tuesday's hearing had proven the court was prepared to deal with complex issues beyond the notions of good and evil.

"The big question is whether he is really sorry," he said. "People are naturally inclined to throw up defence mechanisms, and the defence mechanisms being put up by Duch - that he just took orders - are going to be stripped back as the trial goes along.

"What is most fascinating about Duch is that he tells the truth. It's only natural to minimise your responsibility, but I think he's beginning to realise what he's up against. He's going to have his authority questioned, which he never has had before."

Dunlop questioned whether Duch's apology was believable in the face of such immense crimes.

"Petit painted a fairly terrifying portrait of Duch, which makes you realise exactly what we're dealing with. You always want to believe in remorse ... but when things are on such a magnitude as these crimes, it is difficult to believe," Dunlop said. "If he burst into tears, or even shuddered, but he seemed to enjoy his day in court.... He didn't seem like a man who was really that upset."


More suspects risks war: PM

Photo by: Thet Sambath
Former Khmer Rouge military commander and possible tribunal defendant Meas Muth speaking at his house last week.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Vong Sokheng
Wednesday, 01 April 2009

Hun Sen warns against expanding the caseload at the Khmer Rouge tribunal, saying doing so could spark unrest.

PRIME Minister Hun Sen warned Tuesday that Cambodia would be plunged back into civil unrest if the UN-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal sought to prosecute more suspects, saying that he would rather see the court fail than the Kingdom return to war.

"I would prefer to see this court fail than for war to come back to Cambodia," he said at the opening of a road named after him in Sihanoukville.

"That is my absolute position ... just focus on these few people," Hun Sen added. "If they try another 20 people and war erupts, who will take responsibility?

"I would pray for this court to run out of money and for the foreign judges and prosecutors to walk out. That would allow for Cambodia to finish the trial by itself."

So far five former regime leaders have been detained by the tribunal, with Tuol Sleng prison commandant Kaing Guek Eav the only one facing trial.

But foreign co-prosecutor Robert Petit is pushing for at least six more Khmer Rouge cadreS to be investigated - a move that has been opposed by his Cambodian counterpart Chea Leang who, like Hun Sen, says expanding the scope of the trials could destabilise the country.

Similar fears have been expressed in former Khmer Rouge areas, where low-level cadres say they worry that the arrests could reach further down the regime's hierarchy.

Meas Muth, an ex-Khmer Rouge military commander who is widely considered to be one of those targeted by Petit, said the threat of future arrests has sent ripples of anger through the ranks of former cadres.

"There will be problems and disorder in the former Khmer Rouge areas" if more arrests occur, he said last week from his home in Samlot.

"I think this trial is just revenge by the American government because they lost the war in Cambodia. So they want revenge on the Khmer Rouge through this court," he added.

But international observers, including the London-based human rights group Amnesty International, say that it is not enough to prosecute only five Khmer Rouge leaders when the regime caused so much devastation.

The group in a statement released last week "urged the court conducting the trial to increase its caseload".

"The Extraordinary Chambers must urgently expand its prosecution strategy to investigate and prosecute more cases before it is too late," said Amnesty's Cambodia researcher Brittis Edman.

Others doubted that an expanded caseload would spark unrest, saying that the Cambodian people would resist any slide into chaos.

"We have all struggled to see this tribunal through and we are waiting to get results," said genocide researcher Youk Chhang, executive director of the Documentation Centre of Cambodia.

'Leave the door open for forgiveness'

Photo by: AFP
Former S-21 head Duch in the dock at the Extraordinary Chambers on Monday.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Post Staff
Wednesday, 01 April 2009

The following is a partial transcript of Duch's apology in court on Tuesday:

"I would like to begin by saying that between April 17, 1975, and January 6, 1979, the Cambodian Communist Party was the only one responsible for the crimes committed in Cambodia. As evidence of this, I refer to Cambodia's 1976 constitution, the first page of which reads in part: "After leading the national revolution that fully and completely obtained democracy on April 17, 1975, the Cambodian Communist Party continues to lead the nationalist revolution and to build the nation emphatically and with a monopoly on all its parts." This is the evidence I want to show to the nation and to the people through this tribunal.

First, I would like to evaluate the crimes committed throughout the country from April 17, 1975, to January 6, 1979. After April 17, Pol Pot became greedy by enacting policies that claimed the lives of so many people. This was because Pol Pot controlled everything, especially a party whose members numbered in the tens of thousands.

Our crimes at that time were many. More than 1 million lives were lost under the Cambodian Communist Party, of which I was a member. I admit that I am responsible for my role in these crimes. Let me express my profound regret for the atrocities committed by the Cambodian Communist Party between April 17, 1975, and January 6, 1979.

Secondly, I would like to clarify the crimes committed at the S-21 prison. I am responsible for the crimes committed at S-21, especially the torture and execution of people there, as I have already expressed when the co-investigating judges requested the acting out of events in order to assist in recalling what happened at the Choeung Ek killing fields and at the [current] Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum.

May I be permitted to apologise to the survivors of the regime and the family members of the victims. I say that I am sorry now, and I beg all of you to consider this wish. I wish that you would forgive me for the taking of lives. I know that my crimes, in particular those against women and children. cannot be tolerated. It is my hope, however, that you would at least leave the door open for forgiveness.

Thirdly, my feelings of guilt cause me great suffering whenever I am reminded of the past. I feel shock whenever I think of the actions I took and the orders I gave to others, which claimed so many innocent lives. Though I was following the orders of Angkar, I still must take responsibility for these crimes. I have already told the co-investigating judges that I was taken hostage and served merely as a performer in a criminal regime.

I am certain that everyone will think that I am a coward, that I am inhuman. I am willing to accept these words honestly and respectfully. In S-21, I considered my own life and the lives of my family as more important than those of the prisoners, and I could not defy the orders of my superiors. Even though I knew these orders were criminal, I dared not think this way at the time. It was a life-and-death problem for me and my family.

As the head of S-21, I never considered any other alternative to carrying out all orders from my seniors, even though I knew that to do so would mean the loss of thousands of lives. Now, I feel a deep guilt, regret and shame, as I know that I have made so many enormous mistakes against my nation, against the whole Cambodian population, against the families of all the victims who lost their lives at S-21 and against members of my own family, as well, some of whom have already passed away.

To resolve these mistakes, I have decided to cooperate with the Extraordinary Chambers of the Courts of Cambodia, as this is the only way to share the great sorrow over the crimes of S-21 and those committed against the Cambodian community as a whole, and to account for what I have done to my people.

[I am compelled] to tender myself honestly to the [court] to be tried under the law. I promise to continue my cooperation.

Mixed reactions to Duch apology at second day of trial

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Thet Sambath
Wednesday, 01 April 2009

Many Cambodians watched the first public hearings of the Khmer Rouge tribunal with interest, but opinions on Duch remain divided.

AS images of stony-faced former Tuol Sleng commandant Kaing Guek Eav were beamed out across the globe during trial hearings Monday and Tuesday, people across the country have crowded around televisions to witness the historic proceedings that many hope will bring closure to the wounds opened up 30 years ago by the Khmer Rouge.

But many Cambodians - including former Khmer Rouge soldiers based in Pailin province - have expressed mixed feelings about finally seeing Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, in the dock.

"I have followed Duch's trial on television closely because it [involves] former Khmer Rouge leaders," Teang Sen, a 54-year old who joined the communist insurgency in 1972, said by phone Tuesday from Pailin, after watching Duch's sudden, rambling apology to his victims.

"Some are paying attention to [the trial] because they want to know who is involved and some are worried they might [soon] be involved," he said.

Meas Muth - who is likely on a list of additional suspects for investigation compiled by foreign co-prosecutor Robert Petit - said by phone that he has listened to the court's proceedings on the radio during each day of the trial.

But he said he was neither completely convinced of Duch's sincerity, nor his claims that he was forced by his superiors to commit the brutal acts that he has confessed to while overseeing the regime's most important torture centre.

"Duch has blamed the Khmer Rouge leaders for committing crimes, but he still stayed with the Khmer Rouge until [its] integration into government and his arrest," he said.

"If he thought the Khmer Rouge was bad, he should have left them after the Vietnamese liberation in 1979," Meas Muth added.

"This is a point other Khmer Rouge figures have raised against him."

Pailin provincial Deputy Governor Keut Sothea - also a former Khmer Rouge cadre - agreed about Duch's comments at the court Tuesday, saying that he always "tries to raise something" to deflect guilt from himself.

"The finger-pointing will go back and forth between those accused," he predicted.

Don't forgive, forget
Phnom Penh resident Phon Seng said the trials could give young generations a new insight into the history of Cambodia, but added that Duch's apology for his crimes would do nothing to wipe away the effects of his actions.

"I see that Duch expresses sorrow for taking people's lives. He is right to make an apology, but he must not be forgiven and must be punished according to the crimes he committed," he said.

Yeang Touch, another Phnom Penh resident, said that she also watched the trials, but that she had not yet learned much because Duch also wanted to portray himself as a victim.

"I do not understand this trial because he just points at other leaders for ordering him to kill people. I do not know who is to be blamed," she said.

Crimes an 'open wound': HRW

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sebastian Strangio and Vong Sokheng
Wednesday, 01 April 2009

A BACKLOG of unsolved violent crimes involving high-ranking perpetrators could overshadow attempts to bring senior Khmer Rouge leaders to justice, Human Rights Watch said Monday.

In a statement released to coincide with the 12th anniversary of a 1997 grenade attack that tore apart a peaceful political rally in the capital, the New York-based organisation called the unsolved case - and others like it - an "open wound" that sustained the Kingdom's culture of legal impunity.

"The perpetual failure to address this crime has made March 30 Impunity Day in Cambodia. This anniversary, on the day the Khmer Rouge trials are beginning, shows how far Cambodia has to go toward holding human rights abusers accountable," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, in the statement.

The group also claims military officers suspected of involvement in the grenade attack have since been promoted to plum posts in the government and Royal Cambodian Armed Forces.

Huy Piseth, then commander of Brigade 70 - Prime Minister Hun Sen's personal bodyguard unit - was appointed to an undersecretary of state position in the Ministry of Defence, while his deputy Hing Bunheang was appointed to the post of deputy commander-in-chief of the RCAF in January. Brigade 70 troops were deployed at the rally on the day of the attacks, the statement said.

But Ministry of Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak told the Post that the ministry has a "strong commitment" to maintain investigations into all unsolved cases.

"We have never received orders from the prime minister to close the cases," he said Tuesday. "All of the cases are still open and proceeding according to the law, so [they] have no influence on the trial of the Khmer Rouge leaders."

Political will needed
UN rights representative Christophe Peschoux said that continuing political interference in the domestic courts was "closely connected" to the legitimacy of the Khmer Rouge trials and that only political will could end the culture of impunity.

"It requires a political willingness on the part of the government ... to let the courts - whether in Kampong Thom or the ECCC - decide [cases] on the basis of evidence and law," he said.

Shooting probe ends amid fears

Photo by: TOM HUNTER
Chi Kraeng villagers who were shot by security services in hospital last week.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chrann Chamroeun
Wednesday, 01 April 2009

Villagers from Siem Reap's Chi Kraeng commune say they don't trust govt inspection will be fair.

THE MINISTRY of Interior has wound up its investigation into last week's outbreak of violence between police and villagers in Siem Reap's Chi Kraeng commune, but villagers say they do not trust the government to handle the case fairly, journeying Monday to Phnom Penh to request an independent investigation by the National Assembly.

Siem Reap Provincial Deputy Governor Bun Tharidth told the Post Tuesday that a group of inspectors led by Chhem Sarak, a deputy chairman of the Inspection Department of the Ministry of Interior, had launched a March 25-28 probe of the events in the province, which saw four villagers shot by police in connection with a long-running land dispute between residents in neighbouring communes.

"I welcomed the inspection group, and accompanied them to the scene for their investigation," he said.

Neither Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak nor Chhem Sarak could be reached for comment over the progress of the investigation, but Chi Kraeng community representative Thoang Sareith said that the villagers had not yet met any inspectors from the Ministry of Interior over the "land violation" and violence that exploded in the area last week.

"Since March 22, we have fled our village, fearing arrest and concerned about our personal safety," he said. "Until now, we haven't received any assurances that authorities will guarantee our security and solve our problems in a fair, unbiased and just way."

But he said the villagers still had hope that the National Assembly would conduct a fair investigation in the land dispute case, adding that they were staying temporarily at a pagoda in Phnom Penh waiting to present their case to the Assembly when it reconvenes this week.

Canada lends a hand to police cross-border human trafficking

Photo by: Photo Supplied
Ted Price, Canadian police chief, at the conference Monday.
The Phnom Penh Post

Written by KHuon Leakhana and Mom Kunthear
Wednesday, 01 April 2009

Training session with Canadian anti-trafficking experts focuses on confiscation of evidence and taking statements from child victims.

THE Canadian government helped bolster local efforts to fight human trafficking and the underage sex trade in a training session provided to local police Monday, according to officials.

Under the Canadian International Police Agency's Law Enforcement Against Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking of Children (LEASETC) plan, Canada provided three experts to share their experiences with local anti-trafficking authorities from five provinces.

The police who attended the training session were from Phnom Penh, as well as Prey Veng, Kandal, Koh Kong and Pursat provinces - the main locations of cross-border trafficking, Sau Phan, deputy commissioner general of the National Police, said Monday.

"We always welcome the offer of new techniques to investigate these crimes from any country in the world, which means that all countries in the world are actively taking part in tackling the child sex trade and human trafficking," he said.

Rous Savin, the head of Kandal province's Anti-Human Trafficking and Minority Protection Office, said that the local police had enough capacity to investigate cases alone, but that a foreign perspective could help to further reduce cross-border trafficking.

"Cross-border human trafficking is usually done by foreigners, so we need foreign experts who know their tricks and have experience in dealing with those foreign criminals to share their knowledge with us," he said.

Ted Price, a Canadian police chief with the country's International Service Agency, said that his country's experts were training Cambodian police in searching premises, the confiscation of evidence and taking statements from child survivors of sexual assault.

"We are here to assist wherever we can with the protection of women and children, and to give the Cambodian police more skills to investigate sexual exploitation and human trafficking," he told the Post, adding that further sessions would be held in November and December.

Ya Navuth, executive director of the Cambodia office of the Coordinated Action Research on AIDS and Mobility, a global NGO, said that in early 2009, it had already documented more than 10 cases of human trafficking in the Kingdom.

He also expressed fears the current financial downturn could cause further trafficking, citing a report from Cambodian rights group Adhoc showing that 2008 saw a 38 percent rise in cases of trafficking compared with 2007.

"When we face a world economic crisis and factories lay off workers in places such as Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, human trafficking might increase," he said Monday, adding that assistance from Canada would be well-received.

"It is very good that our country has experts from Canada to help out with training and to share some experiences with police fighting against human trafficking. I think that trafficking will decrease one day," he said.

Betting on birds banned

Spectators watch a cock fight in central Phnom Penh in March. The PM has just banned gambling at all such events

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Nguon Sovan
Wednesday, 01 April 2009

Prime Minister Hun Sen outlaws cockfighting and orders all such arenas closed including one at the Takeo home of Deputy Prime Minister Sok An.

THE prime minister's crackdown on gambling has now been extended to an event few believed possible: Cockfighting across the country has now been outlawed.

In a possible sign of bad blood, Prime Minister Hun Sen explicitly singled out Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, a known cockfighting aficionado, and warned him publicly of the ban.

"I am announcing today the closure of all cockfighting arenas including the cockfighting arena of Sok An in the Bati district of Takeo. It must close - it is absolutely obvious," Hun Sen said.

"It is said that Sok An opened a cockfighting arena - [and if] the deputy prime minister can indulge in cockfighting, then why can't others?

Now, I am ordering Sok An - do you hear? I tell [you] to close the Tonle Bati [arena] or I will bring in the armed forces to surround it," he told attendees with a laugh.

Hun Sen was speaking Tuesday during the inauguration of the 9-kilometre Hun Sen Quay in Preah Sihanouk province. The crackdown on cockfighting follows his earlier ban on slot machines, sports betting and all other forms of gambling in a reputed bid to reverse a decline in social morality.

The premier said he had continually been asked why gambling on cockfighting was still permitted when all other gambling had been outlawed.Consequently, the pursuit was now outlawed in all its forms no matter who was playing. Hun Sen emphasised that the playing of sports remained legal.

Hun Sen said that cockfighting was not meant to be about gambling but about raising better poultry: It required 10,000 chickens to get one good fighting cock, he said, and the rationale had been to get improved breeding stock, not wagering money.

One regular attendee at Sok An's now-outlawed cockfighting events is Seng Savorn, the media official at the Council of Ministers. Seng Savorn said Tuesday that he had not yet heard about the closure.

"But if the prime minister orders it to be closed, it will be closed. No one dares to ignore the leader," he said.

Seng Savorn said Sok An's cockfighting arena was not large and said that money was not wagered at his events.

"[It is done in order] to select the best cocks - he arranges an annual cockfighting contest for the bird championship, and there are just a few cockfights each week," he said, adding that cockfighting has until now been shown weekly on CTN.

Hun Sen's decision gained support from the opposition.

"When people talk about cockfighting, they picture Sok An because he is so fond of this kind of game. That is why this is a good example to close the arena of a senior leader ... other arenas will follow," said SRP lawmaker Son Chhay, adding that the pursuit violated animal rights and was a serious sin for Buddhists.

Escort hoax-Stars press for action

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by May Titthara
Wednesday, 01 April 2009

IENG Sithul, director of the Khmer Artist Association, which represents actors and singers, called on authorities to pursue the individuals who purported to manage escort services with celebrities. Movie star Doun Zorida, who also presents an entertainment show on TV5, said she has asked all female film stars whose names allegedly showed up on escort service lists in high-end nightclubs to band together to press authorities to pursue the case. "We want to make it clear that the bodies of Cambodian actresses are not for sale. If we can find out who did it, we don't want (financial) compensation or to punish them; we just want them to publicly apologise to all Cambodian actresses." Phnom Penh police Chief Touch Naruth said he had "heard about the case but had not received an official complaint yet" from the actresses. He said police had searched clubs but could not find any evidence of the scam."We need the actresses to come to us with the evidence - the places where they saw the photo. We need evidence to make arrests," he said.

Police bag animal smugglers in Pursat

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Heng Chivoan
Wednesday, 01 April 2009

One of dozens of snakes and turtles seized from smugglers in Pursat city on Monday after the black Toyota Camry transporting them from Battambang to Phnom Penh struck a motorbike and Military Police vehicle. Police said they were chasing the smugglers at the time of the crash.

EIU defends report on risk of social unrest in Cambodia

A garment factory protest in Takhmao in January. Worker protests have escalated since the onset of the financial crisis, but unrest has been sporadic and contained, without threatening the government.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by STEVE FINCH
Wednesday, 01 April 2009

Economist Intelligence Unit acknowledges wrath of the government, saying assessment of effects of global crisis are based on Kingdom’s vulnerability

THE Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) has responded to criticism of its prediction last month that Cambodia was at high risk of social unrest due to the financial crisis based on what it terms the "high underlying vulnerability" of Cambodia's economy.

The EIU placed Cambodia fourth in a list of countries most at risk from social unrest - equal with Sudan - in its report "Manning the Barricades", prompting a barrage of criticism from government and business leaders in Phnom Penh.

"In response to the Cambodian government, we have tried to assure them that our report was not intended to scaremonger or incite unrest," London-based Cambodia EIU researcher Danny Richards said late Monday.

Prime Minister Hun Sen said last week the EIU had a "political aim", while the International Business Club of Cambodia (IBC) took out a full-page advert in the Post Tuesday refuting the report's conclusions.

Signed by IBC chairman Bretton Sciaroni, the advert said that Cambodia was currently more stable than at any point during the past half decade, adding that the nature of Cambodia's agricultural sector made GDP prosperity assessments difficult to make and often inaccurate.

"We must strongly dispute [the EIU's] conclusions on the prospects for Cambodia which are damaging and constitute a grave injustice to the Royal Government and people in this country," Sciaroni wrote in the open letter.

He was unavailable for further comment Tuesday.

Our report was not intended to scaremonger or incite unrest.

In its original report, the EIU did not explain how it came to its conclusion on Cambodia. However, Richards said the Kingdom had responded poorly to the criteria set out in the EIU risk model, which he said was based on the underlying vulnerability of its economy and the intensity of the economic distress resulting from the crisis.

However, irrespective of a country's ranking, social and political unrest is only expected to result under a worse-case scenario, which the EIU index rates as having a 10 percent chance of occurring.

Although Cambodia was given a ranking of eight out of 10, placing it fourth from the bottom, Richards said the assessment should be viewed in "risk clusters, with Cambodia being positioned within the high-risk cluster".

Differences in the index score were small, he added. Nevertheless, Cambodia was ranked two places ahead of Iraq, three places ahead of Afghanistan and 27 places ahead of Sri Lanka, all of which have a recent history of political unrest, albeit not for economic reasons.

Richards acknowledged Cambodia's impressive recent economic record, highlighted in the IBC's open letter, but added: "This year's expected reversal in Cambodia's economic fortunes - as low agricultural commodity prices depress farmers' incomes, and external demand for garment exports collapses, putting thousands of factory jobs at risk - will have a negative impact on political stability during the next two years."

The garment industry has been hit severely since demand began to fall in major export markets last year, causing tens of thousands of job losses and sporadic worker protests. Agricultural commodities have also suffered Thai blockades, particularly of wet cassava, while retail prices have been volatile.

Figures released Tuesday by the Trade Promotion Department show that the price of milled rice dropped 1.6 percent in the first quarter of this year. Mung beans dropped 8.5 percent in the same period and cashew nuts were down 39 percent. Paddy prices increased 8 percent and poultry climbed more than 10 percent.

In its latest GDP growth estimate for March, the EIU forecast a 3 percent contraction for 2009, the lowest forecast thus far and a revision downwards on its 1 percent growth prediction last month. The EIU's GDP figure would be "the worst performance since records began in the mid-1990s", it said.

"Growth will resume in 2010, when the economy will expand by 2.2 percent," it added.

In its open letter Tuesday, the IBC bemoaned what it called "the latest ‘race you to the bottom' [GDP growth] predictions", citing "failure of the experts in the past".

Growth to hit 2.5pc: ADB

A welder works on a building site in Phnom Penh. ADB cited the construction sector as a drag on GDP growth in 2009 after foreign investors pulled out with the onset of the financial crisis.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by George McLeod
Wednesday, 01 April 2009

Bank cites agriculture as key potential sector to bolster the flagging economy; but contracting construction industry could hurt growth

A STRONG agriculture sector may help the Cambodian economy expand by 2.5 percent, according to growth figures released by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) on Tuesday.

That falls below government estimates of 6 percent growth for the year, but represents the most optimistic assessment among major international organisations.

"[Slower growth] shows how vulnerable Cambodia is to external demand," said Eric Sidgwick, ADB's senior country economist for Cambodia.

He cited slowing garment exports due to lower European and American demand, and competition from low-cost producers in Vietnam and China.

The construction sector would drag down growth because of a fall in Korean investment, while tourism would take a hit from the global slowdown and the weaker South Korean won, he added.

The ADB gave a largely negative assessment for the banking sector, but added that non-performing loans were not yet a serious problem. "Overall, the banking sector is good," said Sidgwick.

That assessment differs from reports by the IMF and World Bank in February that said non-performing loans, low liquidity and poor transparency could be a problem for a number of unnamed banks in 2009.

The agriculture sector would be Cambodia's major driver of growth, according to ADB estimates, with production exceeding last year's 4.5 percent growth due to better irrigation and lower fertiliser prices.

But with the economy entering uncharted territory, the ADB warned growth could fall below projections.

"Downside risks to the 2.5 percent [growth projection] are much higher than the upside risks," said Sidgwick.

He added that the government would have little scope to stimulate the economy. "There is not much room for government policy to have an impact in 2009, but it could have an effect next year," he said.

A local expert agreed with the ADB's favourable outlook on agriculture, saying the country is only beginning to see the sector's growth potential.

"Government policies to strengthen the [agricultural] sector are starting to pay off.... Growth of the sector will depend on the progress in organic farming this year," said Kasie Noeu, chairman of the board of directors at the Peace and Development Institute.

Economist Kang Chandararot from the Cambodia Institute of Development Study said even the ADB's forecast was too gloomy.

"I don't think [growth] will be that low - I expect it will be closer to 4 percent.... There are a lot of opportunities for the government to stimulate the economy through rural development programs," he said, adding that agriculture would drive growth for 2009.

Hun Sen threatens to close S'ville port

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by May Kunmakara
Wednesday, 01 April 2009

PRIME Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday threatened to close agriculture tycoon Mong Reththy's dry port if outstanding taxes are not paid.

The prime minister also pressed for a broader crackdown on illegal goods passing through the country's southern border checkpoints, which is depriving the government of taxes.

"Don't blame me if I close [the port], leaving employees jobless," he said, during a ceremony in Sihanoukville.

"Today, I ask that authorities help the government to collect taxes from all sea-crossing points, especially Preah Sihanouk province. We have to use this occasion to collect taxes," he said.

He encouraged customs officers, police and the navy to cooperate to curb smuggling and other illegal businesses.

"The authorities have to crack down on traders that don't pay their taxes," he said.

He also warned customs officers and traders to stop colluding to dodge taxes.

Agriculture tycoon Mong Reththy endorsed the premier's pronouncement and urged authorities to scrupulously collect taxes on goods crossing through the southern borders.

"I want all ports to cooperate to collect tax on imported goods ... to take this money to develop our country," he said.

However, he would not provide figures on the volume of goods passing through his facility.

Minister of Economy and Finance Keat Chhon said that tax income has increased this month after falling for the past two months due to declining imports.

PM threatens train chief after power row

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Hor Hab
Wednesday, 01 April 2009

PRIME Minister Hun Sen threatened to sack the head of the national railway on Tuesday if he did allow not an electric pylon to be installed on his land near the Vietnamese border.

Power lines from Vietnam were placed in Takeo province Monday and will be connected to Phnom Penh.

But the director of the Royal Railway of Cambodia, Sokhom Phekavanmony, did not allow the lines to be installed on his private property, which threatens to delay the entire project.

"I want to know whether Phekavanmony wishes to maintain his position as director of the Royal Railway of Cambodia or if he wishes to keep his land, because he may lose both," said the prime minister.

"What is the problem? There would only be one pole running through his land," he said.

"If you don't give this small plot of land, you will be terminated from your position. Phnom Penh lacks electricity because of this problem," Hun Sen added.

"The shortage of electricity in Phnom Penh is getting serious, and the EdC [Electricite du Cambodge] is having to rotate blackouts across the city, so I won't let this situation continue anymore," said Hun Sen.

"I hope to have the new electrical lines connected to Phnom Penh before Khmer New Year."

Hun Sen ordered Deputy Prime Minister Men Sam An, Minister of Industry Suy Sem and the municipality to settle the conflict in one week and to start installing the electricity pylons according to plan.

Sokhom Phekavanmony did not answer his phone on Tuesday.

Keo Rottanak, managing director of EdC, the government body in charge of the transmission lines, was also unavailable for comment on Tuesday.

Electricity supply continues to fall short of demand in Phnom Penh, forcing authorities to institute blackouts, which have typically been most severe in poorer districts of the capital.

Thailand cancels quota for Cambodian workers

Migrant Blockade

- Quota of 10,000 Cambodians permitted to work in Thailand last year
- Only 2,116 Cambodians applied to work in 2008
- Only 200 new Cambodian migrant workers have gone to work in Thailand this year
- No more allowed to enter for work at this time
- 8,321 Cambodians working legally in Thailand
- Estimated 60,000 to 200,000 illegal Cambodians working in Thailand
- 2 million Thais unemployed
Source: Thai and Cambodian governments

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chun Sophal
Wednesday, 01 April 2009

Having allowed up to 10,000 Cambodian migrant workers into Thailand last year, a quota that was only about 25 percent filled, Bangkok has decided in the face of growing domestic unemployment that no further workers will be allowed in, a directive that is unlikely to stop illegals

THAILAND has stopped accepting legal Cambodian migrant workers, despite a 2003 memorandum of understanding in which the two countries agreed to accept each others' workers, said the Cambodian government.

In response, the government has vowed to open up work options elsewhere in the region.

In 2008, only 2,116 Cambodian labourers applied to work legally in Thailand out of a quota of 10,000, according to An Bunhak, chairman of the Association for Cambodian Recruitment Agencies.

This year, only 200 new Cambodian workers were sent to Thailand before it ended the quota system.

In total, there are currently 8,231 Cambodian migrants working legally in Thailand, according to the Cambodian government.

Though exact numbers are unavailable, this number is dwarfed by the estimated 60,000 to 200,000 illegal Cambodian workers in Thailand.

With 2 million Thai citizens facing unemployment, Thailand did not want unskilled Cambodian labour taking jobs, An Bunhak said.

Seng Sakda, director general at the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training, said it was not surprising that Thailand had ended its Cambodian labour quota given the economic crisis.

In recent months, with a looming recession in the Kingdom, many more Cambodians are looking for work abroad, according to Ung Seang Rithy, president of Ung Seang Rithy Group Co, which sends labourers abroad.

On Monday, he said that his company had received more applications than before the downturn, but with few contacts in other countries, the most likely place he could send Cambodians was back home.

"We are trying to look for new job markets for Cambodian labourers who wish to work abroad, but we do not expect to be able to send a lot because we are still not experienced in working with other countries," he said.

In order to avoid exacerbating Cambodia's own unemployment by not being able to send workers abroad, An Bunhak said that Cambodia was looking to Hong Kong, Macau and Kuwait to send itinerant labourers.

According to a report of the Association for Cambodian Recruitment Agencies, legal labourers in Thailand - most of whom work in factories and construction sites - receive an average payment of between US$180 and $400 per month, but An Bunhak thinks workers could make even more elsewhere.

"If we can find new markets like Hong Kong and Macau, our labourers will get from $500 to $600 per month," said An Bunhak.

Even if the government can open other markets, Seng Sakda said he would still do what he could to restore a quota for Cambodian labourers.

"We will raise the problem when we talk with Thailand in a bilateral meeting between ministers of the two countries next month. We will request a quota to send Khmer labourers to work there," said Seng Sakda.

When minimalism was king

Photo by: Mark Roy
Khmer Architecture Tours guide Yam Sokly holds forth on the finer points of the Vann Molyvann-designed Chaktomuk Conference Centre on Sisowath Quay.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by MARK ROY
Wednesday, 01 April 2009

A popular architectural tour is aiming to bolster interest in Phnom Penh’s rapidly diminishing stocks of the New Khmer modernist architectural style

While Phnom Penh is host to a number of examples of modernist architecture, many city dwellers see these buildings merely in terms of their utility, if they see them at all.

Classic buildings lie in varying stages of decay, while others still are demolished to make way for new constructions in styles that range from Korean nouveau bland through to Chinese baroque.

However, one local tour group is aiming to redefine the way the city's inhabitants view its architectural form.

Khmer Architecture Tours is a not-for-profit organisation that conducts regular walking and cyclo tours of prominent examples of Cambodia's architectural heritage.

The tours feature many buildings by the group's patron, Vann Molyvann, the Kingdom's pre-eminent architect of the post-independence era.

During the Sangkum Reastr Niyum regime (1955-1970) Prince Norodom Sihanouk pushed for the socially enlightened development of Phnom Penh as a capital city of wide boulevards and sublime public buildings.

Under Sihanouk's patronage, Vann Molyvann created many of the city's landmarks, including the National Sports Complex (Olympic Stadium), Independence Monument, the State Palace, the Institute of Foreign Languages, the 100 Houses project, and the Grey and White buildings on Sothearos Boulevard.

Diminishing heritage
The National Sports Complex was sold to a private developer in 2001, who then reneged on renovating the complex as part of the deal.

Heritage cannot be sold, changed or denied – now they are destroying it.

In 2007, Vann Molyvann's National Theatre building was torn down, after being sold to a private developer.

"Heritage cannot be sold, changed or denied - now they are destroying it," said an angry Vann Molyvann at the time.

Last Sunday, Khmer Architecture tour guide Yam Sokly met with a group of 20 people outside the Vann Molyvann-designed Chaktomuk Conference Hall for a tour of the Front du Bassac and an introduction to key works by architects such as Vann Molyvann and Henri Chatel.

"Chaktomuk was designed in the shape of a fan, with its structure clearly visible on its outside," Yam Sokly said. "It was built in 1961 with US funding - but is now privately owned."

Planned in the 1960s as a civic and cultural centre, the Front du Bassac included the National Theatre, Cite Nautique, and the Grey and White buildings.

The staggered, open design of the Grey Building was effaced when it was rebuilt as the box-like Phnom Penh Centre, and it is now white.

Meanwhile, in an ironic twist, the White Building has turned grey in its tropical environment and, like so many modernist housing projects of the '60s, will end its days as a slum. Some fear its residents are next in line for eviction after the neighbouring Dey Krahorm was razed two months ago.

Inside the White Building, the tour visited the Cambodia Living Arts project, the Aziza School and the On Photography Cambodia (OPC) project, which is helping the building's occupants document their lives within this decades-old experiment in social housing.

The OPC project will culminate in an exhibition in June 2009 at the Bophana Audiovisual Resource Centre.

"We are not aiming to save the building - its future has already been written," OPC project founder Maria Stott said. "The building was designed in the 1960s as a social housing project - the biggest in South East Asia - but what it has come to represent is the complete opposite.

"On the other hand it can become a vehicle for discussions about future urban planning."