Monday, 27 April 2009

Protest against the Government in Bangkok April 25, 2009

Supporters for the United Front of Democracy against Dictatorship, react, Saturday, April 25, 2009, in Bangkok, Thailand, as she displays a photo she claimed to be that of a supporter killed during recent clashed with the military. The 'Red Shirts' took to the streets earlier this month in a series of violent protest against Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's rule.(AP Photo/David Longstreath)

A demonstrator holds a portrait of former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra during a protest against the Government in Bangkok April 25, 2009. Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva ended a 12-day state of emergency in the capital on Friday, saying he wanted to foster reconciliation after violent anti-government protests killed two people and further eroded investor confidence. The pro-Thaksin United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) has vowed to continue the fight for fresh elections and planned a peaceful rally in the capital at around 5 pm (1000 GMT).REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom (THAILAND POLITICS CONFLICT)

Supporters of former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra shout slogans during a protest against the Government in Bangkok April 25, 2009. Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva ended a 12-day state of emergency in the capital on Friday, saying he wanted to foster reconciliation after violent anti-government protests killed two people and further eroded investor confidence. The pro-Thaksin United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) has vowed to continue the fight for fresh elections and planned a peaceful rally in the capital at around 5 pm (1000 GMT).REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom (THAILAND POLITICS CONFLICT)

Supporters of the United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship gather Saturday, April 25, 2009, in Bangkok, Thailand, for their first rally since the Thai government lifted the emergency decree banning political gatherings. The 'Red Shirts' took to the streets earlier this month in a series of violent protest claiming Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva rule is illegitimate and undemocratic.(AP Photo/David Longstreath)

Supporters of the United Front of Democracy against Dictatorship gather Saturday, April 25, 2009, in Bangkok, Thailand, for their first rally since the Thai government lifted the emergency decree banning political gatherings. Thousands of supporters of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra regrouped to rally Saturday, the first anti-government demonstration since their protests earlier this month turned violent and were forcibly stopped by the army.(AP Photo/David Longstreath)

Day in Pictures

A tourist looks at portraits of victims of the Khmer Rouge regime at the Tuol Sleng genocide museum in Phnom Penh on April 20, 2009. Judges at Cambodia's UN-backed war crimes court have grilled the former prison chief of the Khmer Rouge regime, Duch (whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav) about his notorious jail, where thousands of people were tortured and killed.(AFP/File/Tang Chhin Sothy)

A foreign tourist looks at portraits of victims of the Khmer Rouge regime at the Tuol Sleng genocide museum in Phnom Penh. The former Khmer Rouge prison chief told Cambodia's war crimes trial a list of 10 ruthless rules supposedly posted at his notorious jail was fabricated by Vietnamese agents.(AFP/Tang Chhin Sothy)

Khmer Rouge prison chief S-21, Kaing Guek Eav better known as Duch (R) talking with his defence lawyer Fran├žois Roux in Phnom Penh. Duch told Cambodia's war crimes trial a list of 10 ruthless rules supposedly posted at his notorious jail was fabricated by Vietnamese agents.(AFP/ECCC/File)

Rik Reay protesters make stand

Choeun Panha, 33, a resident of Phnom Penh’s Rik Reay community, watches from her window as developers move in Sunday.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by May Titthara
Monday, 27 April 2009

LINKING arms to form a human chain, about a hundred residents of Phnom Penh's Rik Reay community stood in front of four machines dumping sand into their community in an attempt to prevent development work on Saturday.

Undeterred, workers for Bassac Garden City turned on the machines - pushing sand around and over the feet of the protesters, while others aimed guns at them, a local resident said.

"They pointed guns to get us to unlock our arms, and then they proceeded to push dirt at our legs because we refused to back down," said Chan Bunthol, 39, a community representative and one of the protesters.

Rath Kumnith, a legal adviser to Canadia Bank, which is providing a loan toBassac Garden City to fund the development, was unavailable for comment on Sunday.

Chan Bunthol said as a result of his protests he fears for his safety. "They want to arrest me because they've accused me of being a gangster, but I am only trying to protect my home," he said.

Heng Samphos, another community representative who has lived in Rik Reay since 1990, said the protesters also placed a giant Cambodian flag on the ground but that the development machines drove on top of it - proof, Heng Samphos said, "that they look down on our nation".

Sim Vay, the deputy chief of Village 8 said, "It is very hard to help people here. ... They asked me to talk to the Bassac Garden City owner to get a higher price [for compensation], and after I talked with the owner they agreed to increase the price by US$1,500, but people rejected it."

The deputy chief said the protesters "did not want to help our village but only to make trouble by themselves".

Khat Narith, the Tonle Bassac commune chief, said that Bassac Garden City filled their own property: "It is not related to residents' land," he said.

"Now, there are only about 50 families out of 219 who refuse compensation because they want to get between $100,000 and $150,000 for each family," he said, adding, "The company has the land titles to the land - which the people do not - so people don't have rights to that land. I think the company's compensation is enough for them because their houses are small, wooden and dilapidated," he added.

But Bunn Rachana, a monitor for the Housing Rights Task Force, said the company's actions were illegal, even if the company did hold the land title.

"What the company did with the Rik Reay community is against the people's housing rights because it is under negotiation. But the company filled up the land ... [to] put pressure on people to accept their compensation," Bunn Rachana said.

NGOs condemn eviction
The Housing Rights Task Force released a statement on Sunday calling on the Bassac Garden City company to negotiate in good faith with the community and to halt all activities on the land.

The statement said the filling of the land was "in direct violation of the possession rights of community members, as guaranteed in the 2001 Land Law and the 1993 Constitution of Cambodia".

Amnesty International condemned the increase of forced evictions in Cambodia

In its submission to the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights from early April, Amnesty International wrote: "Cambodian law does not include a clear prohibition on forced eviction and only provides a limited and weak degree of protection against forced evictions."

Amnesty International's submission highlighted a dearth of effective legal remedies for villagers like the ones at Rik Reay community who feel they were unlawfully evicted, saying it was "not aware of any instance in which victims of forced eviction have been able to acquire restitution through litigation".

The Amnesty submission specifically mentioned the alternative housing offered to the Rik Reay community as "inadequate" and called the compensation "insufficient".

Lawmaker could lose immunity

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Meas Sokchea and Sebastian Strangio
Monday, 27 April 2009

SRP leader Mu Sochua says ready to fight case in court

GOVERNMENT officials have warned that Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Mu Sochua could face legal action and a possible suspension of her parliamentary immunity following last week's announcement she would sue Prime Minister Hun Sen for defamation.

Om Yentieng, one of Hun Sen's advisers and president of the Cambodian Human Rights Committee, told Cambodian media Friday that government lawyers would countersue Mu Sochua and that ruling party MPs would meet to suspend her immunity if the court found she was at fault.

Om Yentieng could not be reached for comment Sunday.

But Mu Sochua said Sunday her lawsuit would be filed at Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Monday and that she was unconcerned about the government's response.

"I am not scared about Hun Sen countersuing me, but I would like the courts to remain independent in this case. I have enough proof about what Hun Sen said about me," she said.

"If I lose in the court and parliament strips my immunity, I would like them to strip Hun Sen's immunity as well because he is also a people's representative involved in the same case," she said.

Mu Sochua and her lawyer Kong Sam Onn announced Thursday that she would sue Hun Sen for defamation for calling her cheung klang, or "strong leg" - a term that she says is especially offensive towards women - during a speech in Kampot on April 4.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said government lawyers were discussing what action to take against the Kampot province MP, adding that her lawsuit was being used to attract sympathy from abroad.

"Mu Sochua's action is designed to bring outside pressure on Cambodia," he said.

But Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, said the threat to lift Mu Sochua's immunity undermined parliamentary guarantees that allow lawmakers to speak out forcefully on behalf of their constituents without fear of legal repercussions.

"[This] is nothing but an attempt to silence everybody, and it is a very clear example of just how the government responds to criticism," he said.

When pig flu strains fly

A woman walks by a pig head in a market in Sen Monorom, Mondulkiri.

Written by Christopher Shay and Khuon Leakhana
Monday, 27 April 2009

Health professionals say Cambodia needs to remain vigilant but that it is well-situated to deal with a swine flu pandemic

AFTER as many as 81 people died in Mexico from swine flu, the Cambodian government and health officials are on high alert but say the infrastructure laid down to prevent and contain bird flu puts the country in a good position to limit the effects of the disease should it reach Cambodia.

"From an epidemiological and biological point of view, it's not that scary," Dr Phillipe Buchy, chief of the virology unit at the Pasteur Institute, said, though he added the data on the disease at the moment was "very limited".

In the past, deadly flu pandemics have occurred as a result of hybrid flu viruses being reintroduced to humans from pigs, according to Buchy, pointing to the 1957 Asian flu that killed an estimated 2 million people worldwide.

If a pig becomes infected with both a human and avian strain of the flu, the genetic material can mix and then spread back to humans as a hybrid flu strain, Buchy said, but he added that there were no recorded instances of this hybrid flu in Cambodia.

Dr Lotfi Allal, the chief technical adviser for the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, said Cambodia has had an active bird flu surveillance system since 2005, preparing it well for a potential swine flu pandemic.

He said Cambodia already has the equipment to do flu testing and has trained 8,000 village health workers in 184 districts.

"If something happens, we are prepared.... The surveillance chain is already ready. The lab is functional," Allal said.

Already in Cambodia, all suspect flu cases are tested, Buchy said.

Allal said he will ask the government on Monday to start testing pigs in the markets for swine flu just to be sure, saying that, though the virus is not a problem yet, "we have to continue to be vigilant".

Government officials said though they were "worried" and closely watching the spread of the disease in other countries, they did not want to circulate information about swine flu yet for fear of creating unnecessary panic.

"As the disease has not spread into Cambodia yet, we have not spread the news about the disease ... because we do not want to scare people, as this may affect the economy of Cambodia by dropping pig prices down," said the director of the Phnom Penh Municipal Health Department, Veng Thai.

Though no swine flu cases have been reported in Cambodia or even in its neighbouring countries, Buchy said, "No one can predict it. There is always a risk."

Virulent strains of the flu can cross continents quickly. In New Zealand, 25 members of a school group were quarantined pending the results of medical tests after returning from Mexico with flu-like symptoms, AFP reported.

Veterans, rural poor in line for social land concessions: officials

Written by Chun Sophal
Monday, 27 April 2009

The Ministry of Land Management says it will distribute over 16,000 hectares of land to landless peasants and disabled army veterans

THE government plans to distribute over US$50 million worth of social land concessions to about 10,000 landless families across nine provinces, the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction said at its annual conference Thursday.

Sareth Boramy, president of the ministry's land distribution and economic development project, said Sunday that the ministry would distribute land to families and disabled veterans in nine target provinces.

"Poor disabled soldiers and widows are given priority in the distribution of land, but they will not be given land ownership certificates until they have lived there for five years," he said.

According to a report released at last week's conference, 16,097 hectares of land concessions will be granted to families in Siem Reap, Preah Vihear, Oddar Meanchey, Stung Treng, Kampot, Battambang, Pursat, Kampong Chhnang and Kampong Speu.

All people will receive a plot of land measuring 20 metres by 40 metres, or a cultivation plot of between 1 and 2 hectares, depending on the size of their family.

"We want people to have their own land so that they are able to earn a living and get themselves out of poverty," he added.

Tackling landlessness
The first stage in this project was launched in November 2008, when the government distributed concession land to 3,000 poor families in Kampong Cham, Kratie and Kampong Thom provinces with support from the World Bank and German development agency GTZ.

Thun Saray, president of local rights group Adhoc, said Sunday that the plan to distribute social land concessions was to be applauded, but the government should be encouraged to take further action to resolve the problem of rural landlessness.

"The government should stop giving economic concession land to private companies, and then it must implement the distribution of social concession land to more poor families," he said.

According to a 2006 Oxfam study, 24 percent of the rural population does not own land.

Fewer than expected turn out at Kandal ordination

A monk shaves the head of a young novice on Saturday.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by May Titthara
Monday, 27 April 2009

Ceremony kicks off a 10-day course in which prospective monks and nuns study Buddhist history and Cambodian culture

Kandal Province

HUNDREDS of young men and women travelled to Wat Soriya Puomeas in Kandal's Muk Kampul district Saturday to be ordained as monks and nuns at a 10-day course on Buddhist teachings, organisers said, adding, however, that the numbers were far fewer than expected.

"We will teach them how to be grateful to their parents, about the history of the Buddha, the value of Cambodian culture and about social morals," said Chhunn Noem, chief of the Cambodian Student Association based in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Chhunn Noem said the total number who made the trip, around 270, was far lower than the 500 he had anticipated.

"We only had a short time to promote this ceremony," he said. He said only about 40 women came to participate in the ceremony.

"Some of our mothers do not allow their daughters to become ordained because they think that nobody would be able to take care of the house, or they think their daughters are too busy with their studies," he said.

Chab Ny, 19, from Kampong Cham province, said he participated in the ceremony "to study about the Buddhist rules".

"I will be a monk forever because I think that 10 days is not enough for me to study," he said. Suom Heng, 46, said, "Today my son come to be ordained as a monk because he wanted to be thankful for me and his mother."

Pailin villagers 'forced' to join army, rights group claims

Neth Yoeun, 48, the father of a 17-year-old boy who left Pailin to go to Preah Vihear, said he had not been in touch with his son and did not know where he was. “He has never contacted me,” he said, adding that he wanted the military police to invervene.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Mom Kunthear and Chhran Chamroeun
Monday, 27 April 2009

Families in Pailin claim more than 30 villagers who moved to Preah Vihear for construction jobs were ‘forced’ into military service

MORE than 30 villagers from Pailin province were "forced" into joining the army in Preah Vihear province after having been told to move there to take construction jobs, said Cambodian rights group Adhoc.

The villagers were said to have been encouraged by the chief of Baysey village, Him Heoun, to travel on April 20 to Preah Vihear province, where he said they would be able to find employment as construction workers.

Him Heoun "announced to all the villagers last week that they should work in Preah Vihear and he will give them land on which they could live and farm," said Chhoun Makara, Adhoc's provincial coordinator in Pailin. "There are many people who volunteered to go with him, and when they arrived, they were forced into the army."

Chhoun Makara said the case was brought to his attention by the families of the men and women who travelled to Preah Vihear. He said he did not know how exactly the men were "forced" into military service, as he had not yet been in touch with the appropriate officials.

Nong Vanny, bureaucratic chief of research for the Military Police, told the Post on Sunday that he had received a complaint on Friday from parents who claimed that their two sons - aged 14 and 17 - "were cheated by the village chief to work as construction workers but then were forced to be soldiers at Preah Vihear".

He said he had not yet been able to verify the parents' claims.

Attempts to reach Him Heoun were unsuccessful on Sunday.

Children of incarcerated mothers to get new daycare centre

Some of the young inmates at Prey Sar prison who will soon be attending the new daycare center.

Delivering a child from behind bars

Vzeang Hiheav, 24, a female prisoner at Prey Sar’s Correctional Centre Two prison who gave birth to a baby girl on April 7, described the birth of her second child as easier than that of her first, who was born before she was incarcerated. “When I gave birth to my first child, it was very difficult because I had to find money to pay the delivery fees,” she said. “This time the prison director paid all of my expenses.” She added, “During the pregnancy, I felt better than last time when I was outside. I was provided with medicine and my health was checked every month. Vzeang Hiheav has been imprisoned at Prey Sar since September 2008 after being convicted of robbery. For the duration of her 9-month sentence, her two children will be living with her behind bars. “I really pity my new daughter because when she opens her eyes the first thing she will see is her mother in prison, and all of her neighbours are prisoners,” she said. A widow, Vzeang Hiheav was born to a mother who was a garbage collector, a job she eventually took up herself. She has never received any formal education.


The Phnom Penh Post

Written by May Titthara and Eleanor Ainge Roy
Monday, 27 April 2009

The facility, to be located near Prey Sar prison, is aimed at improving the lives of18 children under the age of 6 who, a recent human rights group report says, suffer bleak conditions

FIFTEEN metres outside the grey walls of Prey Sar prison, a new daycare centre is currently being constructed to house 18 children who are incarcerated along with their mothers.

Prison policy stipulates that children under the age of 6 are allowed to live with their mothers if officials deem such an arrangement to be in the best interest of the child. This often occurs when there is no one besides the mother to care for the child. Once they reach age 7, however, they are forced to leave, often to be cared for by family members or NGOs.

A report released in March by the rights group Licadho concluded that incarcerated children lack the "nutrition, provisions and education vital for proper development. In addition, they are subjected to physical dangers when housed with offenders who have committed serious crimes and are also at risk of mistreatment by the guards".

As officials prepare to open the new daycare centre, funded by the NGO Association Mondiale des Amis de l'Enfance (AMADE), early next month, some of the children are reluctant to leave the confines of the prison walls.

Sok Mao, 6, who was born at Prey Sar, said she is scared of living apart from her mother. Without her mother's protection, she said, the guards will likely beat her and the other children.

[Jailed children] have lost their rights even though they did no wrong.

"I don't want to go to the new centre because there is nobody there to look after me, and the prison guards will beat me," she said.

Licadho researcher Kan Sopheak said this concern was likely unfounded.

"I have never had any reports of guards beating the children - only their mothers," he said, adding that Licadho staff would monitor the progress of both the mothers and their children after the centre opens.

The centre, equipped with six full-time staffers and a shower, will offer three meals a day as well as schooling. In addition, pregnant and breastfeeding women will be able to receive two meals per day as well as vocational training in the form of sewing and embroidery classes.

"This is going to be a huge project because we will follow the progress of the mothers and their children all the way through," said AMADE President Marie-Laurence Comberti.

"When the children reach the age to be released, we will ensure they find safe homes or accommodation and facilitate visits with their mothers in prison to ensure they don't break that important relationship. When the mothers are released, we will try to make their entry back into society as smooth as possible and start their lives over again. Otherwise a terrible cycle starts where they are released, fall into poverty, commit another crime and end up back in prison."

The mothers' view
Several mothers at Prey Sar said they were eager for the centre to open.

Keo Reaksmey, 39, who was sentenced to eight years in prison for prostitution, has a 4-year-old child living with her at Prey Sar.

Now that the centre is nearly completed, Keo Reaksmey said she is petitioning to have her remaining two children brought to the prison so they can take advantage of the centre. They currently live alone with their 84-year-old grandmother and have never received any formal education.

Chat Sineang, chief of Prey Sar prison, said he believed the centre was badly needed, as children living in prison encounter an array of challenges that set them apart from children on the outside.

Living in prison, he said, "is always the last option. We are very pleased about the new centre. It will keep the children away from bad prisoners who speak rude words to them and ensure they only hear good ideas from their teachers".

He added, "It may sound strange, but I think children who have grown up in prison are actually more intelligent than children from the outside. They spend all of their time with old people who are constantly teaching them, though I am not saying this is a preferable living situation."

For her part, Comberti said, "I just want to get those children out of there."

Mi Srey Phal, another woman incarcerated at Prey Sar, said she was grateful that the centre would finally give her son the opportunity for a normal childhood. She described the centre as one of the best things that has happened to her during the four years she has been incarcerated.

"Children here lack the freedom that children from the outside take for granted," she said. "They have lost their rights even though they did no wrong."

The construction of the centre is to cost US$30,000, Comberti said, adding that funding has been secured for two years of operations. Heng Hak, director of prisons for the Ministry of Interior, said the ministry was very much in favour of the centre and planned to monitor its progress and perhaps use it as an example to be emulated elsewhere in the Kingdom.

Cambodia on track to reach 60 percent forest coverage

The sun sets over a forest in Koh Kong.

FOREST coverage

1990 – 12,946,000 ha
2000 – 11,541,000 ha
2005 – 10,447,000 ha

1990 – 766,000 ha
2000 – 456,000 ha
2005 – 322,000 ha

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Hor Hab
Monday, 27 April 2009

Despite its environmental accomplishments, the Forestry Administration says Cambodia will not rest on its laurels and will step up its conservation activities

CAMBODIA is nearing its Millennium Development Goal of maintaining 60 percent of its forest coverage by 2010, the Forestry Administration said.

Despite its apparent success, the Forestry Administration says it will ramp up both its planting and conservation efforts to help save Cambodia's forests.

From 2004 to 2008, Cambodians planted more than 6 million trees, according to the Ministry of Agriculture's annual report released earlier this month, but in the future, the Forestry Administration hopes the number will be much higher.

"We will grow and distribute 10 million trees to people throughout the country ... and encourage tree planting on 10,000 hectares of land," said Ty Sokhun, director of the Forestry Administration.

The director also said the administration was hoping to reduce household coal and wood consumption by 61 percent by introducing biodigesters to rural areas.

A biodigester is a system of closed containers made of either plastic or cement that decomposes manure into methane gas. The technology is simple, but it's also effective, a local NGO said.

The Cambodian Rural Development Team said 1 kilogram of manure creates 40 litres of gas.

Since 2005, the government, with the support of the Netherlands Development Organisation, built 3,884 biodigesters in eight provinces, said Agriculture Minister Chan Sarun, adding that they hope to increase the number to 17,500 by 2011.

The government says it has also made efforts to curb illegal logging in the Kingdom. In 2008, the government closed down 19 timber processing plants and made 225,477 hectares of forest land government property, the annual report said.

But even with official conservation efforts, Cambodia lost 29 percent of its primary tropical forest between 2000 and 2005, according to a UN Food and Agriculture Organisation survey released in 2005.

The tropical rainforests are important centres of biodiversity that house at least 862 native trees species and 775 known species of amphibians, birds, mammals and reptiles, according to research from the World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

Khmer Studies: Founding director leaves CKS

Written by Robbie Corey-Bohulet
Monday, 27 April 2009

THE CENTRE for Khmer Studies (CKS) announced last week the departure of Philippe Peycam, its founding director who for the past decade proved "instrumental in attracting funding from major international donations and private patrons" that allowed the centre to grow "from a startup to a mature institution", a press release announcing the departure stated. The CKS, with offices in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, is the only member of the Council of American Overseas Research Centres in Southeast Asia. Its projects include the CKS Library in Siem Reap, the largest public library outside the capital, as well as academic fellowships for Cambodian and international scholars. According to the press release, Peycam actively encouraged young Cambodian students to study abroad. Son Soubert, a member of Cambodia's Constitutional Council, said, "As a Cambodian, I express my sincere appreciation for his dedication to promoting a new generation of Khmer scholars.''

ADB gives $2 million for rural development

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Vong Sokheng
Monday, 27 April 2009

THE Asian Development Bank has approved a grant of US$2 million to support rural development and aid agricultural producers in Phnom Penh, Battambang, Kampot and Siem Reap, the group said last week.

The funds, released from the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction, will provide training to around 3,000 agricultural producers in post-harvest food handling, storage and processing techniques as a means of boosting rural incomes.

"We hope that the pilot program will be implemented in May and that potential agricultural producers will benefit from such skills as crop processing, marketing and packaging for the demands of the market," Sophea Mar, social sector and poverty officer with the ADB's Cambodian Resident Mission, said Wednesday.

He added that the program aimed to create a source of rural income independent of the primary garment, tourism and construction sectors.

"It is a relevant response at a critical time for the Cambodian economy," Sophea Mar said.

"I think that some of those currently unemployed from garment factories would benefit from the skills offered by our program when they return to their home provinces."

The ADB says up to 30 percent of the rural population still lives below the poverty line, while an estimated 2 million young people are unable to continue schooling or undergo vocational training because of financial constraints.

"The lack of available training, particularly in rural areas, and the country's shift towards more labour-intensive industries, such as garment factories, has left a sharp mismatch between the needs of industry and the skills of new entrants into the labour force," the organisation said in a press release on Tuesday.



The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Tracey Shelton
Monday, 27 April 2009

Children play on a tourist island transport boat that was washed up on Occheuteal beach, Sihanoukville last week. The boat was empty when the anchor broke and the vessel grounded on shore. Attempts to tow it back out to sea have so far been unsucessful.

Royal Group in talks to buy Millicom’s stake in Mobitel

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
A mobile-phone user walks past a vendor of Cellcard credit top-up cards on Sunday in Phnom Penh. Royal Group is in negotiations that could see it take complete control of Cambodia’s biggest mobile operator.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Steve Finch
Monday, 27 April 2009

Cambodian company discussing imminent acquisition of Luxumbourg-based Millicom International’s 58.4 percent stake in Mobitel Cellcard

ROYAL Group is in negotiations to buy out Luxembourg-based Millicom International Cellular's majority stake in Cambodia's largest mobile phone company, Cellcard Mobitel, a source close to the deal told the Post.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the source said on Saturday that the deal would result in a partial or complete takeover by the Royal Group - a deal that could be finalised in the next few days as both sides attempt to reach agreement over the sale price.

Millicom International owns a 95-percent stake in Millicom Holdings, the company that owns a 61.5 percent stake in Mobitel - which gives the Luxumbourg company a 58.4 percent share overall - with Royal Group in control of the remaining 38.5 percent share.

Royal Group hopes to acquire Millicom International's stake, but it remained unclear Sunday whether Millicom would retain any financial interest in Mobitel, the source said.

The source added that a Royal Group delegation travelled this month to London to discuss the buyout with Millicom.

In a report released Tuesday announcing its financial results for the first quarter, Millicom International announced that it was reconsidering its Asian investments, which include Sri Lanka and Laos, along with Cambodia.

"We have taken the decision to carry out a strategic review of our Asian assets, which could lead to a full or partial divestment of our business in the region," the company said without referring specifically to Cambodia.

We have taken the decision to carry out a strategic review of our Asian assets.

Millicom International was not immediately available for further comment on Sunday.

Following last week's announcement, Millicom International shares rose on both the Nasdaq and Nordic OMX exchanges. The stock increased to US$48.36 on the Nasdaq exchange Friday, up 3.8 percent, and climbed 4.31 percent on the OMX the same day.

In its first-quarter report, Millicom said that Mobitel had added more than 52,000 subscribers this year up to March 31, giving the company a total subscriber base of 2,172,569. This represented year-on-year growth of 16 percent, the lowest rate of the company's three Asian operations. Millicom's operations in neighbouring Laos increased 76 percent last year. The company's Asian interests recorded a 7 percent increase in profits in the first quarter to $68 million.

Mobitel is the leading provider of mobile phone services in Cambodia, with Millicom recording a 55-percent share of the total market at the end of 2008, although the market has become increasingly competitive with the introduction of new mobile phone companies this year - including Viettel of Vietnam in February - with more expected to launch in the near future.

Royal Group is understood to want to execute a more aggressive expansion plan as it looks to increase its reach into rural areas where mobile density is still low and remains only 29 percent in the whole country, according to Millicom International figures for last year. That figure is expected to increase sharply to 46 percent by 2012, the International Finance Corporation said, which concluded a $40 million loan as part of a $100 million financing package to Mobitel last month.

Pailin farmers welcome the resumption of Thai trade

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Traders at the Poipet border crossing between Cambodia and Thailand. After a six-month closure, Thais say they will resume purchases of Cambodian cassava, according to Pailin’s deputy governor.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by May Kunmakara and Thet Sambath
Monday, 27 April 2009

Provincial authorities say Thailand has agreed to renew its purchase of cassava from Cambodia by the end of April

PAILIN province's deputy governor said that Thailand will resume cassava purchases by the end of April after a delegation from the Thai Chamber of Commerce in Trat met with provincial authorities on Sunday.

Thailand stopped purchasing Cambodian cassava last November, sparking an outcry from local authorities.

"They said that they will be able to buy our cassava, but I am not sure how many tonnes they will be able to buy from us," Ieng Vuth, deputy governor of Pailin province, told the Post Sunday. "They just said they can buy from us from April 30 this year," he said.

Ieng Vuth said 6,000 to 7,000 families plant cassava in Pailin and that about 8,000 hectares need to be harvested to meet last year's demand - the equivalent of 150,000 tonnes.

"Last year we produced around 200,000 tonnes of fresh cassava, which we sold for 1.7 baht [US$0.04] per kilo. This year, dried cassava cost 2.2 baht while fresh cassava sold at .03 baht, which was too low for local farmers," he said. "Now we worry that when Thailand comes back to buy dried cassava from us again, we will not be able to produce it for them because it is rainy season."

Te Haing, who owns a 1,000-hectare cassava farm in Banteay Meanchey province, said Thursday that some Cambodian business owners have recently placed orders.

"Cambodian businessmen have bought around 50-100 tonnes of my cassava a day to send to Phnom Penh," he said, adding that he is offering .9 baht per kilogram.

"Before we had no one to buy it, and now we have many orders," Te Haing says, adding that Thai businessmen have also told him that they will be allowed to import cassava soon.

"I told other cassava farmers about this news, and they are happy to hear it," Te Haing said.

Yean Thoeun, who has a 50-hectare cassava farm in Pailin province, says the news has given him hope.

"A few months ago I was hopeless and had no money to pay workers. Now I have hope because I was told Thai authorities will allow cassava into their country again," Yean Thoeun says.

According to Thon Virak, deputy director general at the Foreign Trade Department, Cambodia produced over 2 million tonnes of cassava in 2008 and was expected to produce the same in 2009. Cambodia has two processing factories that turn dry cassava into flour, which can then be used for anything from fertilisers to skin creams. The two factories - one outside of Phnom Penh and one in Kampong Cham - can produce 1 million tonnes of dry cassava a year. However, no factories in Cambodia can handle wet cassava. Thon Virak said the price of dry cassava increased from US$75per tonne in January to US$125 per tonne in late March.

Low prices increase poverty: farmers

Written by Soeun Say
Monday, 27 April 2009

CAMBODIAN farmers say they may see themselves fall deeper into poverty in the coming years as the price of agricultural goods continues to fall with soft demand.

Nov Sear, a 54-year-old farmer from Kirivong district in Takeo province, said the price of papaya and cassava has fallen about 50 percent compared with last year.

"I'm very concerned about [dried] cassava prices because its value has dropped from 400-500 [US$0.09-$0.12] riels per kilo in 2007 to 250-300 riels per kilo now," said Nov Sear.

"If prices keep dropping like this, I will have problems supporting my family."

He said that last year he made US$1,500 per hectare, but this year he is making half that.

Ngoun Moeun, 47, said he is keeping his cassava in the soil in case prices rise.

"I don't want to harvest my cassava because the prices are 50 percent lower than last year," he said.

Ngoun Moeun said that even though prices continue to fall, he still keeps planting because he has no other source of income.

He said that he will plant another product such as papaya next year.

A report released by the World Bank this month said that Cambodia will see an additional 200,000 people pushed below the poverty line this year due to the global recession, making it the worst affected in the region.

"Cambodia is the country with the largest projected increase in the number of poor people," the report said.

Debt mounting
Chan Sophal, president of the Cambodian Economic Association, said that he believes farmers are now struggling to pay back loans because of sinking food prices.

"Farmers are facing problems because their products sell at low prices," he said.

"If they cannot earn more next year, they will have no money to plant again, and they will be living with even more difficulties."

Va Hak, 64, a farmer in Banan district, Battambang province, said the money that he earned from selling cassava, banana and corn this year has not been enough to pay for fertiliser, pesticide, labour and other expenses.

"This year I have lost about $1,500. It's not like last year when I made $3,000," he said. He said that in his village, there are a lot of cassava farmers that have left their homes to find jobs in Phnom Penh or even across the border in Thailand.

Bank deposits and loans drop

Photo by: Sovann Philong
Cambodia’s banks are feeling the pain of the global economic downturn.

Written by Nguon Sovan
Monday, 27 April 2009

Some of Cambodia’s largest banks report double-digit decline in deposits and loans for first quarter of 2009 as the global financial crisis begins to impact on Cambodia

DEPOSITS and loans fell in the first quarter of this year due to a worsening economic crisis and lower business activity, bankers told the Post at the end of last week.

"Customer deposits at the Union Commercial Bank (UCB) dropped 15 percent from US$103.75 million in the first quarter of 2008 to $87.94 million in the first quarter of this year," said Yum Sui Sang, CEO of UCB.

"Outstanding loans also dropped 9.2 percent to $60.27 million in the first quarter of this year from $66.3 million in last year's first quarter."

He said the drop had come as the global financial crisis affected his bank's customers, who are mostly foreign businessmen from China, Hong Kong and Macau working in Cambodia's garment sector.

"Businesses are suffering - especially in the garment sector and for development projects - it affects their turnover ... our bank deposits are also low," he said Wednesday.

But he added that the bank employs 161 staff and that it was not planning any layoffs.

"Despite the decline, we are still earning a profit.... We forecast a decline of around 10 percent this year and hope to see the recovery at the start of next year; however, it's dependent on the outside economy."

In Channy, president and CEO of Cambodia's largest bank by deposits, ACLEDA, said Thursday that in the first quarter of this year, deposits at his bank had grown only half as much as the same period last year.

"In the first quarter of last year, ACLEDA Bank received $74 million in deposits, which brought the total deposit amount to $416.7 million, while in this year's first quarter, we received $34.5 million, bringing total deposits to $527 million," said In Channy.

He also attributed the slow growth in deposits to the crisis. "Less business activity makes for less activity in deposits as well," he said.

He said, however, that total lending had remained comparable to last year, with the bank lending smaller loans to more customers.

"Last year, loan packages were rather big, but in the first quarter of 2009, loans were a lot smaller.
"The number of customers, however, has grown by about 50 percent over last year," said In Channy.

"In the first quarter of 2008, 7,397 loans worth $423 million were granted to customers, and in the first quarter of 2009, 13,873 loans worth $456 million were offered."

"We forecast that deposits at our bank will increase around 40 percent to more than $600 million by the end of the year," he said. "Loan portfolios will rise, with 25 percent growth of total loan portfolios expected."

Chan Kok Choy, executive director of Vattanac Bank, said Friday that during the first three months of 2009, the bank received deposits of $15.11 million, bringing the total to $167.99 million.

However, he said the bank's loans had dropped to $100 million as of March this year from $103.8 million at the end of last year.

"The drop is due to a prudent lending policy adopted by the bank in view of challenging market conditions," said Chan Kok Choy.

"We project a higher deposits position by the end of 2009 and modest growth in our loans position," said Chan Kok Choy.

Stephen Higgins, CEO of ANZ Royal, said Friday that in March 2008, the bank had around $385 million in deposits and is now up to $430 million.

"Deposits at my bank are still high because, for one thing ... customers gain a lot of comfort from the fact that our parent ANZ Banking Group is one of the strongest banks in the world," said Higgins.

He said that loans had risen from about $190 million in March 2008 to around $270 million today.
"The fact that our deposits are around $160 million greater than our loans places us in a really strong position to meet the needs of our customers," he said.

"I'm not sure whether any other bank in the market can match that."


Police Blotter: 27 April 2009

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Lim Phalla
Monday, 27 April 2009

Waiters arrested for phone theft
Two waiters at Roung Kraham restaurant located in Village 4, Commune 4, Preah Sihanouk province, were arrested by the police for allegedly stealing a customer's cellphone while he was eating dinner with his friends on Wednesday night. The cellphone belonged to Rous Piseth, male, 39, from Phnom Penh.

Van smash kills three, injures two
At least three people died and two were severely injured after the vans they were travelling in collided on National Road 5 in Thnal Bat village, Mong Russey district, Battambang province, on Friday. The identity of the two injured passengers was not known but they were taken to hospital. The deceased, including the driver, and the injured were travelling in the same van. The driver of the other van escaped and has not yet been identified.

Soldier attacks girlfriend with ax
Taing Lyheang, 18, was cut four times with an axe while she was sleeping in her house in Samraong Thmey village, Khmuonh commune, Sen Sok district, Phnom Penh, in the early hours of Saturday morning. Her alleged attacker was her partner, 40-year-old soldier Tan Srunheng who escaped following the attack. Taing Lyheang was taken to hospital by her neighbors, who said they had heard an argument between the couple earlier that evening over Tan Srunheng losing a sum of money while gambling. The couple was not married, according to villagers.

Woman, 5-year-old found murdered
The bodies of 41-year-old mother, Lorn Pok, and her 5-year-old child, Siv Chhorvy, were found in a pond in O'Tapang village, Prey Nob district, Preah Sihanouk, on Saturday morning by local villagers. Police said wounds on the bodies of both victims suggested they had been murdered. Villagers said the victim's family was very poor and that the woman was a heavy drinker who often had confrontations with her husband. Locals said she had been drinking with other men in the village the night before.

Scooter thief arrested by police
An 18-year-old man from Prek Ho commune, Takhmao in Kandal province was arrested and appeared before the courts on Friday in connection with the theft of a scooter. Police said Tin Khoeun and another man had taken the scooter of 17-year-old Sar Maly.

Who Am I? brings same-sex issues out into the open

Photo Supplied
Phoan Phoung Bopha.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Lim Seang Heng
Monday, 27 April 2009

Director Phoan Phoung Bopha hopes her surprise hit film will help eliminate discrimination against the Kingdom's mostly hidden gay community

CAMBODIA'S first-film featuring a lesbian love story has become an instant box office hit. The two-hour film Who Am I?, about a love affair between a Cambodian-American woman and a Khmer actress, attracted more than 4,000 viewers during its first week in theatres.

Phoan Phoung Bopha, who produced and directed the film, hopes that the movie will help raise awareness of discrimination against lesbians.

Born in 1955, Phoan Phoung Bopha became a novelist at the age of 17 and worked as a reporter for the Pro Chea Chun newspaper for three years.

She also worked at the Rasmey Kampuchea newspaper from 1993 to 1998 and as a co-director of the Women's Media Centre from 1997 to 2003.

She has been producing films for Rock Production on CTN since 2004.

Where did you get the idea for Who Am I? Who was your target audience?

The idea of making this film had been in my mind since 2004, when I first worked for the Cambodian Television Network.

Most of the people working in the cosmetics business are gay, although they will not tell you this straight away.

I was working with these people every day, and they told me their stories.

Love between people of the same sex is a very new topic in Cambodia - it is a topic that has not been openly discussed before.

Things were not always easy. I had to do a lot of research on whether people would watch this film or not. Through my research I discovered that many people wanted to know more about how lesbians live and love each other, especially when it comes to sexual matters.

What has been the reaction to the film?

I have heard some criticism from wives of high-ranking officials who have said that this film will provoke emotions among lesbians and only appeal to that small specific group.

My objective behind the film is to help reduce discrimination against lesbians and gay men.

I would like the people who have criticised my film to at least go and watch it before they judge it.

Lesbians and gay men are born homosexual, and watching Who am I? for two hours will not change people's personalities or sexual orientation.

I have had no negative feedback from people who have seen the film.

Is there a message behind the film?

My objective behind the film is to help reduce discrimination against lesbians and gay men, as I think it is hard for them to live in Cambodian society.

These people are often not given fair opportunities at the workplace, and they are often looked down on by people who do not take the opportunity to get to know them.

I hope that my audience gains some understanding through watching my film and contribute to reducing prejudice towards this group of people.

How did you finance the film?

I spent around US$20,000 of my own money to make this film.

I spent six months writing the script and three months filming.

The movie was filmed in some tourist sites in Cambodia, which I think will be of interest to foreigners who would like to visit this country. (The film is now available with English subtitles.)

How does Who Am I? compare to your other films?

The topic of lesbian relationships has never been explored in a Cambodian film before.

Both local and foreign media have been very interested in this film.

I think that this film will increase my popularity as a filmmaker more so than my other 19 films.

Initially, I was concerned that I would not get the licence to make this film from the Ministry of Fine Arts. I was afraid that they would think this film went against Cambodian culture.

Also, at times it was difficult to get the actresses to act like real lovers.

Do you think Cambodian families, especially parents, will change their way of thinking after watching the film?

I don't think they will change their perception of homosexuality and let their daughters or sons love and marry a same-sex person.

Cambodian people usually think same-sex love is immoral and discredits the family's reputation.

Even though my film doesn't cover everything about same-sex love, it at least shows a small part of the truth and that love between people of the same sex exists.

How many people have seen your film and will it be screened on TV?

Approximately 500 to 1,000 tickets have been sold each day at two theatres where the film is currently being screened.

I am not yet sure if the film will be screened on TV, but if it is, I am expecting that it will not be until some time in 2010.

Are you working on anything at the moment?

I am currently involved in the Rock Production, which is being screened on CTN.

I haven't been thinking about making a new film yet because film production costs a fortune.

The film industry in Cambodia is in decline, as there is not enough of a market for films here.

Television is a strong competitor to Cambodian filmmakers as TV station purchase cheap foreign films and screen pirated films.

This film could be my last film, as I am getting older. It's impossible to produce films if you don't have money.

I am now thinking of returning to my career as a novelist.

The Phnom Penh Post News In Briefs

In Brief: New water station to be launched

Written by May Kunmakara
Monday, 27 April 2009

The government and the French embassy will launch a new water supply station in Chroy Changvar district on Monday, a press release stated Friday. The station, which was financed by a 10-year loan from the French development agency AFD, draws water from the Tonle Sap, Mekong and Bassac rivers, and will supply water to over 70,000 families. According to the press release, the new station will increase supply capacity from the current 235,000 cubic metres to roughly 300,000 cubic metres a day.

In Brief: World bank aids good governance

Written by Vong Sokheng
Monday, 27 April 2009

The World Bank has committed US$25.28 million to the government to improve "good governance" in the Kingdom. Key reform areas include private sector development, natural resources management, public financial management and decentralisation and a "citizens' partnership" to make government more responsive to citizens. The Ministry of Interior is scheduled to launch the project on Wednesday at the Raffles Hotel Le Royal, which will be presided over by Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng.

In Brief: Draft laws to debated

Written by Cheang Sokha
Monday, 27 April 2009

The National Assembly is to hold a session today to debate a number of draft laws, Cheam Yeap, chairman of the Finance and Banking Commission and member of the Permanent Committee of the National Assembly told the Post Sunday. Cheam Yeap said that the permanent committee has sent draft laws on tourism, financial leasing and disabled people's rights to the whole assembly session for approval. The Assembly president, Heng Samrin, is to chair the session.

Is Torture Utilitarian?

Waterboard displayed at Genocide Museum in Cambodia. Hey, if it's good enough for the Khmer Rouge...

Religion Dispatches

By Louis A. Ruprecht
April 27, 2009

As politicians argue, and our pragmatist-in-chief tries to find an angle, we can agree that not all moral dilemmas can be reduced to a cost-benefit analysis of pleasure and pain. There are some kinds of pain a morally serious person ought never to inflict.

Last week was one helluva week in the moral life of this nation; much of importance hangs in the balance. It began on April 16, 2009, with the release of four memos by the Department of Justice. All four (one dated to August 2002, and three to May 2005) were written at the request of John Rizzo, General Counsel to the CIA. They make for strange reading.

The first memo sets the tone for the entire corpus. Abu Zubaydah, the highest ranking al-Qaeda operative in US custody when he was taken on March 27, 2002, was believed to have information he refused to divulge to CIA interrogators at Guantanamo Bay. The CIA requested permission to enter a new, “increased pressure phase” of interrogation. The CIA justified its request by noting a level of “chatter” equivalent to that perceived just prior to the 9/11 attacks, and their conviction that this prisoner had significant information he had not yet revealed.

The memo specifically addressed ten new techniques the CIA wished to apply, from grabbing and slapping the face, to physical stress and confinement, to sleep deprivation, to the odd practice of confinement followed by the introduction of an insect implied to be dangerous, to waterboarding. Yes, waterboarding; we are still arguing about waterboarding, in late April 2009.

And this was where the legalese began. Various memos suggested that if these procedures were conducted at Guantanamo, then they were not technically done in US territory and thus Article 16 of United Nations Convention Against Torture did not apply. They accepted without review the CIA’s claim that waterboarding was a technique still used in the Navy’s advanced training. They accepted without review the claim that “the CIA believes that this program is largely responsible for preventing a subsequent attack within the United States” (May 30, 2005 Memo, page 3). And they noted that the Fifth Amendment prohibition of “cruel, unusual and inhumane treatment” had been recently interpreted by the US Supreme Court to forbid any conduct that “shocks the conscience,” though this was an entirely subjective and context-specific standard, and therefore probably not relevant to the CIA’s stated concerns (in a word: to stay out of trouble).

But far and away the most bizarre attempt to justify this waterboarding technique in the memo-trail came in the first one, dated August 1, 2002. Throughout the analysis, the lawyers had been careful to discuss both the physical and the mental implications of extreme interrogation techniques. With waterboarding, they changed course. “Pain and suffering,” they concluded, “is best understood as a single concept, not as distinct concepts of ‘pain’ as distinguished from ‘suffering’” (August 1, 2002 Memo, page 11). What does this mean? To them it means the following: waterboarding, a technique that creates the sensation of drowning and generates an automatic physical response, does not create physical pain, just reflex action. And if it does not create physical pain, then it does not create mental pain. This logic beggars description.

The expressions of outrage were intense and immediate. Surely someone needed to be prosecuted for this. But who? President Obama was very clear that he wished to look forward, not backward, eager as he is to close the book on this embarrassing chapter in US foreign policy. Persons acting in good faith, believing that they were authorized to do what they did, should not be targeted. Fair enough.

Then came the distinction that worked at the Nuremberg Trials: We cannot prosecute every SS guard, but we can certainly prosecute the authors of the policies… and the authors of these memoranda.

At first the President balked at the suggestion. And with good reason. It is a dangerous precedent, a new administration looking backward in order to prosecute the questionable actions of its predecessors in a previous administration. This looks like the very politicizing of the judicial branch that properly cost Alberto Gonzalez his job.

But then the President seemed to waver on Tuesday, suggesting at a press conference that the authors of the policy could indeed be reviewed by the Department of Justice. The Senate Armed Services Committee seemed inclined to agree. And thus it began to seem as if Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and the rest might be in real trouble.

Dick Cheney, never a political wallflower, took to the attack. President Bush has been as silent and as invisible as he has been since Inauguration Day.


What is striking about the quality of this debate is that it is being conducted in strictly Utilitarian terms. And that leads to some very bizarre moral reasoning. Utilitarianism is number-crunching, but of a very peculiar kind; in its crudest forms, it seems to imply that you can measure pleasure and pain, and that by maximizing the pleasure of the greatest number of people, you may be able to justify the infliction of pain on a select few.

We see that strange logic at work in these memoranda.

First, the CIA justified waterboarding with the “ticking time bomb” scenario. Can you justify torture if you know that the prisoner possesses information about a dirty bomb that’s about to be detonated, or a second 9/11-style attack is imminent. The problem with this scenario is that it works well on television (where we now have “MI5” to go along with “24”) and in the movies, but not in real life. All the CIA could ever assure the Department of Justice was that it believed the “chatter” indicated an imminent threat, and that it believed waterboarding had deterred such attacks. The language of faith is telling here; religion is not Utilitarian, however interested in consequences it may be. Certainly “belief” ought not constitute the basis of Department of Defense or CIA policy decisions. This much we should have learned from our reliance on faulty intelligence in the lead-up to our second military invasion of Iraq.

Defenders of the policy insist that waterboarding works, that we got real (the operative word is “actionable”) intelligence we’d not have gotten any other way. Opponents of the policy argue that there is no solid evidence to suggest that this claim is true; how, after all, do we know the intelligence is good and that it would not have been achievable in another way? Others go still further, Senator John McCain chief among them. The revelation of these memoranda and of the use of such techniques is the best recruiting tool we could ever have given to al-Qaeda. Again, does waterboarding have utility or not? Does it create more pain than pleasure? These questions have pretty well defined the contours of the current debate.

Buried near the end (at page 37) of the fourth memorandum, dated May 30, 2005, is the discussion that gives the lie to the idea that this is a debate about Utility. The CIA’s use of water-boarding is nothing like that allegedly used in US military training. For starters, a CIA prisoner may be subjected to two two-hour “sessions” per day. In any given “session,” the detainee may be subjected to as many as six applications of water, lasting up to 40 seconds in duration each time. That is eight full minutes of the experience of drowning in a single day. And the technique may be applied on five separate days within a thirty-day period.

Then comes the final sentence, so bland and understated as to be easily missed. Zubaydah was subjected to the waterboard 83 times in August 2002, and a detainee described as “KSM” was subjected to the waterboard 183 times during March 2003.

Let us pause right there, to permit those statistics to take on a human face. 183 applications of the water-board in one month. If by “application” the CIA means one 40-second experience of simulated drowning, and if this were repeated twelve times in one day (the alleged limit), and if this were repeated five times in the course of a month (again, the alleged limit), then that would add up to 60 such events in a month. Yet the CIA itself admits to having performed this 183 times in a month.

Something does not add up. And it is not simply the numbers.

It is the very logic of waterboarding that unravels here. If, as seems more likely, the CIA subjected “KSM” to the waterboard six times a day for an entire month, then this adds up to the stated 180+ applications. In other words, the CIA water-boarded this inmate more times in a day than his religion requires him to pray. Put another way, we are being asked to believe that the CIA interrogators really “believed” that waterboarding session #151 was the one that was going to turn the trick, succeeding where 150 previous attempts had failed.

Protecting us from the worst in ourselves

If we have learned nothing else from the shocking photographs taken at Abu Graib, then it is this: torture is not about Utilitarian calculation; it is about humiliation. It is forbidden because men and women under the stress of combat cannot be trusted with that kind of power to dominate another soul under their command. Anti-torture regimes are about protecting us from ourselves and from one another, protecting us from what is worst in us that war so often reveals.

War can also reveal the best in us: nobility, heroism, courage, self-sacrifice, generosity under extreme duress. But such realities are blotted where they are not erased by the current revelations of CIA procedure.

Here is where many US citizens, religious and not, Christian and Muslim, across all sectors of the political spectrum, might well find a crucial moment to make common cause. And we might even find it inspiring so to find. What Utilitarianism is unable to articulate is that there are some things you would never do, not ever, because winning the fight would not be worth the degradation. The point is that not all moral dilemmas can be reduced to a cost-benefit analysis of pleasure and pain. There are some kinds of pain a morally serious person ought never to inflict.

Torture—defined as the deliberate degradation and humiliation of a person through the infliction of physical and mental pain–is simply not what we do to other human beings. It is because we understand the human being to be a creature of singular and inexhaustible moral worth—whether due to God, Nature, Providence or Philosophy—that we oppose the infliction of torture on another human being.

The “we” here is not liberal or conservative, not the religious person or the atheist. It is “we the people,” a remarkable spectrum of religious and cultural identities unified by certain constitutional principles that are not in the least Utilitarian, though of the very highest moral consequence to everyone.

Perhaps something like that is what this supremely awful week might yet enable us to see and say.

Responses to the Global Economic Crisis – Sunday, 26.4.2009

Posted on 27 April 2009.

The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 609

As the crisis is global – it makes sense to consider not only what happens, and what is done in Cambodia.

One newspaper recollected a number of important international voices on trends of the Cambodian economic and social situation: “International Economic Experts Assessed that Cambodia Is Vulnerable due to Growing Poverty” - referring to recent statements by the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the Economist Intelligence Unit. All of them come to somewhat similar - negative – predictions for the near future.

We had also mirrored voices representing the political leadership in Cambodia, dismissing these voices of warning – either accusing some of them, saying that their detailed and transparently presented data are intentionally falsified to present Cambodia in a negative way, or pointing to the special situation of Cambodia, where people who are dismissed into joblessness in the cities could easily return to their native villages and be integrated again into the rural family economy.

First of all it may be worthwhile to see that – in spite of warnings about the future – during this week there were also a number of reports about continued international economic assistance for Cambodia. It is not probable that such actions would have been taken, if the warning about negative economic and social developments would have been ill intended. In spite of such warnings, commitments to assist continue:

The German government will focus on cooperation to create hydro-electric energy and to develop small and medium enterprises – pointing into a direction of sustainability even under a situation of crisis. Another field of German cooperation aims at producing methane gas from processing garbage of the city of Phnom Penh – a similar orientation.

While Cambodia received since 1992 already around US$1 billion in loans from the Asian Development Bank, the same bank continued to provide more that US$50 million in new loans in 2008.

The European Community granted an additional amount of Euro 4 Million [approx. US$5.3 million] to Support Food-for-Work programs in Cambodia.

That there were also reports about the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, asking Korean investors to speed up their investments in Cambodia, and the Prime Minister being quoted to have said that investments by Japan do not yet meet what Cambodia wants – at a time when there are only 436 companies registered, compared to 862 one year ago - shows the urgent interest for a stronger involvement by these two economies in Cambodia - but they have their own problems. And it is surely not very attractive to increase their involvement in a country

where the Minister of Interior has to warns officials not to provide document where they faked their age, where another riverbank collapsed destroying some houses – while an order of the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology had been disregarded for weeks without enforcement by the authorities, where the administration of the capital city of Phnom Penh suspects that some officials illegally connect to the public electricity network for personal use, and
where the government has not consented that complaints about suspected corruption can be reported - without fear of retaliation – to a credible institution of the choice of the complainer and not only to a Cambodian government sanctioned institution.

And - as I am at present in Germany, and as we had two reports about German cooperation in Cambodia during the week – a quick review of some German reactions to the global economic crisis. The International Monetary Funds predicted that the German economy will shrink by 6% in 2009, more than in any other industrialized Western European country. It will be a decline which never happened during the last 80 years. The worst recession after the end of the Second World War was in 1975 with a decrease in the economy of 0.9%.

In spite of these problems, the government does not plan to organize another special economic rescue package to promote economic activities through huge investments as some other countries do. Rather social support programs may be boosted – like extended payments for reduced working hour arrangements (instead of dismissals), and the covering of social security contributions to be taken over by the state is under discussion.

As there will be general elections in September 2009, one of the two parties in the present coalition government announced their program how to adjust the taxation laws to secure sufficient income for the state. The lowest, marginal tax rate is at present 14%, which is to be lowered to 10% - which will provide benefits for about 25 million people of the lowest income group (Germany has about 82 million citizens, plus more than 6 million foreigners). On the other hand, the highest tax rate is to be raised from at present 45% to 47% - an additional burden for about 1.5% of those who have to pay taxes.

Such taxation arrangements are related to Article 14 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Germany, which states: “To own property carries obligations. It is to be used also to serve the well-being of the public.” Therefore, the present suggestions to change the taxation laws are based on the same understanding: Those members of the public who have greater resources have to exercise financial solidarity with those who have less. And Article 20 adds: “The Federal Republic of Germany is a state with a democratic and social orientation.” The public responsibility resulting from economic wealth is clearly defined as a basic element of society.

For comparison, Article 56 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia says speaks also of the “market economy”: “The Kingdom of Cambodia shall adopt the market economy system.” Any social restraint on the forces of the market is not mentioned.

In Article 16 is the only reference to the term “social” - however in a very limited sense: “The Queen of the Kingdom of Cambodia shall exercise activities that serve the social, humanitarian, religious interests, and shall assist the King with protocol and diplomatic functions.”

On the way to the Labor Day on 1 May in the coming week, it is appropriate to mention that the labor unions in Germany have an important publicly established role in society, being part of a state with a social orientation. They have contributed to the social stability and to the economic growth over the last decades, and they are again a major partner in the public discourse about the present economic predicament of Germany. To restrict their freedom of assembly or of organizing public manifestations at the occasion of the Labor Day is unthinkable; if it would be attempted, it probably would lead to a severe disruption of the social stability which continues to exist, in spite of all the economic problems.

Vietnam fabricated KRouge prison 'rules': Duch

A foreign tourist looks at portraits of victims of the Khmer Rouge regime at the Tuol Sleng genocide museum in Phnom Penh. The former Khmer Rouge prison chief told Cambodia's war crimes trial a list of 10 ruthless rules supposedly posted at his notorious jail was fabricated by Vietnamese agents.(AFP/Tang Chhin Sothy)

PHNOM PENH (AFP) – The former Khmer Rouge prison chief told Cambodia's war crimes trial a list of 10 ruthless rules supposedly posted at his notorious jail was fabricated by Vietnamese agents.

Duch -- whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav -- politely answered questions about the organisation of Tuol Sleng prison but strongly denied he created the list of orders that remains on display at the site, now a genocide museum.

"The discipline of security, which has 10 rules...was fabricated by the Vietnamese when they came in (and toppled the Khmer Rouge in 1979)," Duch told the court.

Duch, 66, said he first saw the list of orders last year, when investigators brought him to the prison in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh to re-enact his crimes.

A large board displaying the list on how to behave during interrogations, which includes an order that prisoners cannot cry when flogged or subjected to electric shocks, is still posted in the main courtyard at Tuol Sleng.

The list also tells prisoners to sit still and wait for orders, answer questions immediately without waiting for time to reflect, and warns them of further lashes or electric shocks if they fail to comply.

Duch is charged with crimes against humanity, war crimes, torture and premeditated murder over the extermination of around 15,000 people between 1975 and 1979 at Tuol Sleng and the nearby "Killing Fields".

He apologised last month when his trial started, accepting blame for overseeing the horrors of the prison.

However he has denied prosecutors' claims that he played a central role in the Khmer Rouge's iron-fisted rule, and maintains he never personally executed anyone.

He faces life in jail but the court does not have the power to impose the death penalty. Four other senior leaders from the regime are scheduled to be tried within the next year.

Many believe the UN-sponsored tribunal is the last chance to find justice for victims of the regime, which killed up to two million people through starvation, overwork, torture and execution.

The Khmer Rouge were ousted by Hanoi-backed forces in 1979, who discovered Tuol Sleng and established the facility as a museum to display the regime's crimes.

ACT Alert: ACT responds to Preah Vihear border conflict, Cambodia

Reuters AlertNet

27 Apr 2009

Source: Action by Churches Together (ACT) - Switzerland

Elisabeth Gouel


Reuters and AlertNet are not responsible for the content of this article or for any external internet sites. The views expressed are the author's alone.


Cambodia - No. 10/2009

ACT responds to Preah Vihear border conflict

Geneva, 24 April 2009

On 3rd April, fighting was re-ignited on a long-disputed section of the Thai-Cambodia border near Preah Vihear and is now escalating to the north-west province, leading to displacement of over 500 families, with numbers rising. According to the Cambodian provincial authorities, over 520 families (1,660 individuals) are currently taking shelter in a camp for displaced persons in Sa-Em village, about 20 kilometers from Preah Vihear.

These displaced persons include 277 families from Prasat village whose houses were burned to the ground, and another 243 families from Kor Mouy and Svay Chum villages, many of whom were vendors from a market burned to the ground in the initial fighting. With military movements on both sides of the border and the populations of two villages in Banteay Meanchey, Banteay Ampil District are also fleeing the fighting.

CWS staff on the ground report that their rapid assessment of the situation (as of April 13th) for the most affected displaced families reveals urgent needs for the worst affected displaced families which include emergency shelter, food, non-food relief items, hygiene promotion, latrines and health services.

Continuous rainfall in the IDP camp areas over the last few days compounds the situation for people, especially those currently living out in the open. Other are using thatch or plastic sheeting as temporary cover. The district governor has reported that due to insecurity caused by continuous conflict along the border, the daily lives of local population are being severely disrupted and their resilience to cope with this emergency weakened. 18 school-age children are without schooling, and a food shortfall is expected in about two weeks time, especially impacting on women and children.

The temple in Preah Vihear and the 800 km. (500 mile) shared border have been the source of a long-standing dispute between Cambodia and Thailand.

National and International Response to Date The following assistance by other Organizations/Departments to these border conflict IDPs is reported by CWS as follows:

� Cambodian Red Cross distribution to 520 families on 07 April 2009- 1 family received 25kg of rice, 10 packs of instant noodle, 10 cans of canned fish, 5 plates, 2 soup plates, 2 cooking pans, 5 spoons. Food relief to cover a 2 month period.

� Oxfam GB distribution to 277 families from Prasat village- plastic sheets (temporary shelter)

� Provincial Department of Health distribution of 200 mosquito nets to 200 families from Prasat Village on 04 April 2009

� Provincial Department of Social Affairs distributed 400kg of rice to those who are from Prasat Village and 100kg of rice for those who are from Kor Muoy Village

Assistance currently being planned by CWS response complements assistance already provided by other organizations and government authorities.

ACT Response

In coordination with other organizations and government authorities, including through the Provincial National Disaster Management Authority and Cambodian Red Cross, CWS has today submitted a request for approximately US $22,453 from the ACT Rapid Response Fund to support a two month response supporting 520 of the most vulnerable IDP families with food packages, kitchen sets, tents, water containers, mats, mosquito-nets as well as ceramic water filters. CWS is also in contact with ACT member Lutheran World Relief, which is not responding at this time.

Any funding indication or pledge to replenish the ACT Rapid Response Fund should be communicated to Jessie Kgoroeadira, ACT Finance Officer (


ACT is a global alliance of churches and related agencies working to save lives and support communities in emergencies worldwide. The ACT Coordinating Office is based with the World Council of Churches (WCC) and The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) in Switzerland.

Australia in controversy over Khmer Rouge trials

Australia Network News

Robert Carmichael, Phnom Penh

Australia is mixed up in a controversy surrounding the credibility of the Cambodian tribunal hearing the trials of former Khmer Rouge officials.

Allegations that Cambodian court employees paid kickbacks to senior staff of the hearings in return for their jobs have simmered for some time.

Most international donors have declined to release more funds to the tribunal until the Cambodian government resolves the issue.

But Australia has bucked the trend, announcing earlier in April that it would release funds.

Heather Ryan, a trial monitor for the Open Society Justice Initiative, told Radio Australia's Connect Asia program it is "inexplicable" why the Australian government would take such a step.

'Undermines UN'

She said it undermined the negotiating position of the UN and others committed to trying to eliminate or reduce corruption in the court and in Cambodia in general.

The Australian embassy in Phnom Penh refused to comment, saying the matter was too sensitive.

But a spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs in Canberra said the decision was based on what he called "broad progress" in the Cambodian government's efforts to address corruption concerns, and to ensure the court could continue its work.

At present, the court is hearing the case of Comrade Duch (Kaing Guek Eav), former commander of the notorious Tuol Sleng prison in Phnom Penh, who is charged with crimes against humanity.

The Foreign Affairs Department says Australia consulted with other donors and the UN before making its decision.

Refused to release

But the UN Development Program (UNDP) - which holds the money in trust - has refused Australia's request to release the funds.

UNDP country manager, Jo Scheuer, says: "We are the ones accountable for the proper use of what at the end of the day is taxpayers' money.

"We have said for the last nine months that we need to see allegations resolved and mechanisms put up before we can resume our role, and that today is still the same position."

Lawyers for some of the defendants have used the corruption issue to argue their clients will not get a fair trial.

Allegations about judges

There have been some media allegations that Cambodian judges paid kickbacks to get their positions - a potentially fatal flaw for the tribunal.

Mr Scheuer says the UNDP has seen no evidence that happened.

"From the work we have done with the court we have no information whatsoever that anything happened on the judicial side . . . of the court."