Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Khmer Rouge victims gather to mark 'Day of Anger'

Cambodian students read a textbook about the hardline Khmer Rouge at the Hun Sen Ang Snuol high school in Kandal province, some 25 kms west of Phnom Penh. Cambodians staged a re-enactment of Khmer Rouge crimes at a notorious "killing field" Wednesday as the country marked its annual "Day of Anger" for those who died under the regime.(AFP/Suy Se)

Cambodian fine arts school students take part in a performance to mark the annual 'Day of Anger' at the Choeung Ek killing fields memorial near Phnom Penh. Cambodians staged a re-enactment of Khmer Rouge crimes at a notorious "killing field" Wednesday as the country marked its annual "Day of Anger" for those who died under the regime.(AFP/Tang Chhin Sothy)

Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuk Tema (L) and lawmaker from the Cambodian People's Party, Chea Soth (R), pray in front of a stupa displaying skulls during a ceremony marking the annual 'Day of Anger' at the Choeung Ek killing fields memorial near Phnom Penh.(AFP/Tang Chhin Sothy)

Cambodian people pray in front a stupa displaying skulls at the Choeung Ek killing fields memorial to mark the annual 'Day of Anger' near Phnom Penh. Cambodians staged a re-enactment of Khmer Rouge crimes at a notorious "killing field" Wednesday as the country marked its annual "Day of Anger" for those who died under the regime.(AFP/Tang Chhin Sothy)

Cambodian Buddhist monks watch a performance based on the Khmer Rouge regime during a Remembrance Day ceremony in Choeung Ek, a "Killing Fields" site located 17km (11 miles) south of Phnom Penh, May 20, 2009. Thousands of Cambodians including 500 monks gathered at the site to remember those who perished during the radical communist group's 1975-79 regime.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)
Chum touch, 69, weeps as she prays near the memorial stupa filled with more than 8,000 skulls of victims of the Khmer Rouge on display at Choeung Ek, a "killing fields" site located on the outskirts of Phnom Penh during a "remembrance of Day" ceremony on 20 May 2009. Thousands of Cambodians including 500 monks gathered at the site to remember those who perished during the radical communist group's 1975-79 regime. Atotal of 129 mass grave were found at Choeung Ek after the Khmer Rouge were driven from power when Vietnamese troops invaded Phnom Penh in early January 1979.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA SOCIETY)

Cambodian villager pray at the memorial stupa filled with more than 8,000 skulls of victims of the Khmer Rouge on display at Choeung Ek, a "killing fields" site located on the outskirts of Phnom Penh during a "remembrance of Day" ceremony on 20 May 2009. Thousands of Cambodians including 500 monks gathered at the site to remember those who perished during the radical communist group's 1975-79 regime. Atotal of 129 mass grave were found at Choeung Ek after the Khmer Rouge were driven from power when Vietnamese troops invaded Phnom Penh in early January 1979.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA SOCIETY)

Cambodian Buddhist monks watch a performance based on the Khmer Rouge regime during a Remembrance Day ceremony in Choeung Ek, a "Killing Fields" site located 17km (11 miles) south of Phnom Penh, May 20, 2009. Cambodians and monks gathered at the site to remember those who perished during the communist group's 1975-79 regime.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA ANNIVERSARY CONFLICT)

Cambodian Buddhist monks watch a performance based on the Khmer Rouge regime during a Remembrance Day ceremony in Choeung Ek, a "Killing Fields" site located 17km (11 miles) south of Phnom Penh, May 20, 2009. Cambodians and monks gathered at the site to remember those who perished during the communist group's 1975-79 regime.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA ANNIVERSARY CONFLICT)

Cambodians take part in a performance based on the Khmer Rouge regime during a Remembrance Day ceremony in Choeung Ek, a "Killing Fields" site located 17km (11 miles) south of Phnom Penh, May 20, 2009. Cambodians and monks gathered at the site to remember those who perished during the communist group's 1975-79 regime.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA ANNIVERSARY CONFLICT)

Cambodians take part in a performance based on the Khmer Rouge regime during a Remembrance Day ceremony in Choeung Ek, a "Killing Fields" site located 17km (11 miles) south of Phnom Penh, May 20, 2009. Cambodians and monks gathered at the site to remember those who perished during the communist group's 1975-79 regime.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA ANNIVERSARY CONFLICT)

'Day of Anger' in Cambodia

Cambodian students (left) take part in a performance to mark the annual 'Day of Anger' at the Choeung Ek killing fields memorial near Phnom Penh. Thousands of people gathered to commemorate the millions of people who died from starvation, overwork or execution during the 1975-79 rule of the Khmer Rouge. -- PHOTO: AFP

May 20, 2009

CHOEUNG EK (Cambodia) - CAMBODIANS marked the annual 'Day of Anger' Wednesday to remember victims of the Khmer Rouge terror as the regime's top torturer was tried by a UN-backed genocide tribunal.

About 2,000 Cambodians, including hundreds of Buddhist monks, gathered at Choeung Ek, a former Khmer Rouge 'killing field' dotted with mass graves about nine miles (15km) south of Phnom Penh.

Some 40 students re-enacted the torture and executions inflicted by the ultra-communists under whose mid-1970s rule about 1.7 million people perished.

Performers wore black uniforms, the standard attire of the Maoist-inspired movement. Some acted as executioners, swinging bamboo sticks at the heads of victims whose arms were bound behind their backs.

The performance was staged just yards away from a memorial filled with victims' skulls and mass graves where thousands of the executed were buried.

Relatives of the victims expressed hope that some of the surviving Khmer Rouge leaders would finally be punished by the ongoing tribunal.

Now being tried is Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, who commanded the notorious S-21 prison in Phnom Penh from where as many as 16,000 men, women and children are believed to have been tortured before being sent to Choeung Ek for execution.

Duch (pronounced Doik) is the first senior Khmer Rouge figure to face trial, and the only one to acknowledge responsibility for his actions. Senior leaders Khieu Samphan, Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary and Ieng Sary's wife, who are all detained, are likely to be tried in the next year or two.

'Why is the court taking so long to prosecute these leaders?' asked Tat Seang Lay, 47, whose two brothers were killed by the Khmer Rouge. 'I want to see justice. I wish the court could end up its trial process within the next few months.' A 50-year-old man, Chhiv Neth, who lost three brothers and his father during Khmer Rouge rule, said the leaders must be heavily punished.

'They are more cruel than tigers. They killed their own people like butchers kill animals,' he said, looking at the mass graves he believes holds one of his brothers executed at Choeung Ek. -- AP

1st textbook on KRouge

May 20, 2009

ANG SNUOL (Cambodia) - CAMBODIA on Wednesday officially unveiled its first textbook about the murderous Khmer Rouge regime, with officials handing out thousands of copies to students and teachers.

More than 1,000 pupils joined their teachers for a ceremony at Hun Sen Ang Snuol High School, a few miles from the UN-backed court set up to try top Khmer Rouge leaders who ruled the country in the late 1970s.

'You will all understand the size of the hurt and cruelty that happened in the regime,' said deputy minister of education Tun Sa Im in a speech. 'Before, some young people and even some foreigners did not believe that the genocidal event happened in Cambodia.'

The hardline regime killed up to 2 million people during its 1975-9 rule, and enslaved the Cambodian population in vast collective farms in an attempt to forge a communist utopia.
Very little has been taught up to now about the Khmer Rouge, largely because the topic is sensitive among political groups and other high-profile people who were once involved with the genocidal movement.

'I know some things about the Khmer Rouge from my parents. They told me the regime was very cruel. But I don't know deeply about the regime,' said 18-year-old student Voeun Makara.

But United States ambassador-at-large for war crimes Clint Williamson said its legacy must be remembered.

About 500,000 copies of the textbook will be distributed to more than 1,000 schools across the country.

The ceremony coincided with Cambodia's annual 'Day of Anger' when Khmer Rouge crimes are reenacted at one of the famous killing fields outside the capital.

The UN-backed war crimes tribunal, established in 2006 after nearly a decade of haggling, is currently trying former prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch. He is one of five top surviving Khmer Rouge leaders being held for trial on charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes. -- AFP

Read also:

Formby woman visits Cambodia after raising £3,000 for landmine charity MAG

May 20 2009
by Nick Moreton

Formby Times

A WOMAN from Formby, who raised more than £3,000 for charity, travelled to Cambodia to see the results of her efforts.

Anna Cotsworth raised the money for the Mines Advisory Group, a charity which clears war zones of the remnants of battle for the benefit of communities worldwide.

The 27-year-old travelled to Cambodia to take part in the charity’s “Challenge Cambodia” project.

The challenge started with a two day trek up and around Kulen Mountani in Siem Reap Province, with the whole group making it to their destination, despite the high temperatures and humidity.

The next part of the challenge took the form of a four-day trek to a remote village to build two houses for families which have suffered due to landmines, the legacy of years of civil war in Cambodia.

Anna, a project worker at Barclays in Northwich and former pupil at Range High, said: “I read about it in a magazine and just decided to do it.

“I raised about £3,000 for the Mines Advisory Group, which not only paid for the houses and toilets to be built, but will help save countless lives and limbs across the world as the charity use it to continue clearing the deadly remnants of war.

“Just going out there and seeing the people you are meant to be helping is great – it’s nice to see what the money you’ve raised is being spent on and seeing how it benefits people.

“The poverty, malnutrition and quality of life that is the norm for thousands of people in Cambodia was both shocking and humbling, and it was a privilege for me to be able to go there and help in what little way I could, especially to work beside the villagers and to learn so much from them.

“Doing something like that again would be quite an effort, but I would love for it to happen.

“A huge thank you goes to everyone who got involved in fundraising events and provided sponsorship for this worthwhile cause.”

Boots take first steps on journey to Cambodia

Wednesday May 20 2009

OVER 1,000 pairs of football boots and shoes of various design and size left Castleisland at midday on Wednesday at the start of a marathon trek to Cambodia.

The footwear was packed into plastic crates and wrapped in cellophane for the cross-country trip which is expected to take up to 40 days.

The appeal for old or abandoned boots was launched on this page on the issue of March 11. The response was immediate, rapid and sustained. It left the organisers, Catherine Brosnan from Castleisland and her accomplice, Catherine Keane from Ballybunion, searching for superlatives to reflect their amazement and gratitude at the outpouring of generosity. Donations of boots and shoes came in abundance from the locality here and from throughout Kerry in general.

Over 50 per cent of the consignment is new stock from shops. Families, who didn't have old boots to hand, went out and bought the gear to donate.

There was a meitheál atmosphere in Cahernard on Wednesday morning as a small army of friends and neighbours helped the women to load Tralee native, Michael Connolly's Garryowen Transport artic with the crated leather, buckles, laces and studs.

There was no waste in this operation. Boots that came in soiled were washed and disrobed of their laces and these, in turn, were washed and bleached. The inside of the boots were dusted with Bread Soda to rid them of any lingering odours. Those beyond help had their cogs removed and packed as spares with the rest of the consignment.

The Brosnan's involvement in the venture centres on the fact that their daughter, Niamh is a volunteer with a 'Street Children' programme in Cambodia and she put out the appeal last March after working on the ground there. Niamh provided us with some background on the conditions which made her look west for help:

"Cambodia today remains one of the poorest countries in Asia, and for that matter, in the world. The political turmoil of the last three decades and resulting disruption of economic and social stability has left many Khmers without a functioning support network or a permanent source of income. As a result, many families exist below the poverty line, with little access to money, food, education and healthcare.

"Garbage kids" collect rubbish, sometimes at the age of four or five and this is sold for about 30c per day, this helps the family with food and shelter money. Older children are either sent out for prostitution or sold for a single payment. The average family lives in a 3 x 3m hut, with no running water or sanitation. The children have no prior education, and most of their parents have not been educated," Niamh explained.

Niamh spent her time in Cambodia with the Indochina Starfish Foundation (ISF), which is a non-profit NGO organization and she offers some insights on the programmes she's involved with: "ISF offer the children an 'Education for Food' and a 'Soccer Programme'. If the children attend ISF prep school, they will get education and food on a daily basis, for some children this is the only meal they get each day, and some of the children go back to collecting rubbish from the dumps after school. The parents get a monthly food package to off set the loss of income the child could earn on the streets, while attending school. This is the incentive to keep the children at ISF.

The Soccer Programme reaches a wider audience and currently supports 1,200 children throughout Cambodia. This comprises of 18 different charities representing local orphanages, Rescue Centres for abused and abandoned children, NGO's and disadvantaged families. The physical and mental benefits of the programme to these children cannot be described in words. From the time they put on their team football jerseys, they are joyous children who are happy and proud to be part of something bigger. While they kick and chase the ball around the pitch they are no longer Street, Abused, Abandoned or Garbage Children, just children - these titles are left on the side line. This is a priceless gift. The transformation of emotions cannot be described. However, it is a privilege and joy to watch. They now possess a little pride and self esteem which is a totally new experience to them," said Niamh.

Ms. Brosnan saw first hand the benefits the project is bringing to the children and committed to helping out by sourcing used football boots for the children. And she emphasises an awareness of the times we're going through here: "In times of recession, we are not asking for financial donations, we are just asking for your old boots which can change the life of a 'Street Kid' without costing you money," Niamh urged.

We'll have a record of the response to the consignment in the near future. If you helped in any way you may well feel justified in taking a bow for a job well done.

Khmer Rouge victims mark 'Day of Anger'

Sydney Morning Herald

Sopheng Cheang
May 20, 2009

Cambodians marked the annual Day of Anger to remember victims of the Khmer Rouge terror as the regime's top torturer was tried by a UN-backed genocide tribunal.

About 2,000 Cambodians, including hundreds of Buddhist monks, gathered at Choeung Ek, a former Khmer Rouge "killing field" dotted with mass graves about 15km south of Phnom Penh.

Forty students re-enacted the torture and executions inflicted by the regime under whose mid-1970s rule about 1.7 million people perished.

Performers wore black uniforms, the standard attire of the Maoist-inspired movement. Some acted as executioners, swinging bamboo sticks at the heads of victims whose arms were bound behind their backs.

The performance was staged just metres away from a memorial filled with victims' skulls and mass graves where thousands of the executed were buried.

Relatives of the victims expressed hope that some of the surviving Khmer Rouge leaders would finally be punished by the ongoing tribunal.

Now being tried is Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, who commanded the notorious S-21 prison in Phnom Penh from where as many as 16,000 men, women and children are believed to have been tortured before being sent to Choeung Ek for execution.

Duch is the first senior Khmer Rouge figure to face trial, and the only one to acknowledge responsibility for his actions.

Senior leaders Khieu Samphan, Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary and Ieng Sary's wife, who are all detained, are likely to be tried in the next year or two.

Myanmar Presses Case Against Pro-Democracy Leader

Nyein Chan Naing/European Pressphoto Agency
A Buddhist monk passed a police roadblock on Monday near Insein prison in Yangon, Myanmar. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was taken to the prison on Thursday.

The New York Times

Published: May 19, 2009

BANGKOK — As protests grew around the world, the trial of Myanmar’s pro-democracy leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, continued for a second day Tuesday, with the government pursuing charges that could transform her house arrest into the harsher conditions of a prison term.

Hundreds of police officers, some in full riot gear, blocked roads leading to Insein Prison, where the trial is being held, and a small number of protesters gathered in the street outside a ring of barbed wire, according to reports from the scene by news agencies and exile groups.

Analysts say the case against Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi, 63, is intended as a legal pretext for extending her house arrest, which would otherwise expire later this month. Myanmar plans to hold a general election early next year to cement the control of the military under a nominally civilian administration.

Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi is charged with receiving an unauthorized visitor after an intrusion by an American, John Yettaw, who swam across a lake two weeks ago and entered the compound where she has been held under house arrest for 13 of the past 19 years.

Her lawyers say that she had no role in his intrusion and asked him to leave, but that she let him stay the night when he complained of exhaustion and leg cramps. Her two housekeepers are on trial with her on similar charges, which could bring prison terms of up to five years.

Mr. Yettaw, who is also a defendant in the trial, faces up to six years in prison for breaking security and immigration laws.

In Washington, a State Department spokesman, Ian Kelly, said the charges against Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi were unjustified and demanded her release, along with that of an estimated 2,100 other political prisoners. Last week, in response to her arrest, the United States extended harsh economic sanctions against the ruling military junta, although the American government had said it was reviewing the effectiveness of this policy.

Other condemnation came from around the world, including from the United Nations and the European Union. Breaching a low-key policy of “constructive engagement,” Myanmar’s Southeast Asian neighbors issued a statement late Monday expressing “grave concern” over Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi’s arrest and saying “the honor and credibility” of the Myanmar government were at stake.

The statement, issued by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or Asean, read: “The Government of the Union of Myanmar, as a responsible member of Asean, has the responsibility to protect and promote human rights. It is therefore called upon to provide timely and adequate medical care to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi as well as to accord her humane treatment with dignity.”

The members of Asean are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Also on Monday, nine Nobel Peace Prize laureates condemned the arrest of Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi, who won the prize in 1991. “We are outraged by the deplorable actions of the military junta against Suu Kyi and strongly encourage challenging this obvious harassment of our fellow Nobel laureate,” the prize winners said in a statement.

Discontent of Roux, Duch's co-lawyer: debates disrupted and finical prosecutors scathed

Kambol (Phnom Penh, Cambodia). 19/05/2009: Public consulting information leaflets on the ECCC, during the 17th day of hearing at Duch's trial©John Vink/ Magnum

By Stéphanie Gée

Expert witness Craig Etcheson, called to testify at Duch's trial regarding the implementation of the policy of the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK) at the S-21 detention centre, only had little say in court on Tuesday May 19th. The defence complained they were “taken by surprise” that the investigator with the office of the co-Prosecutors of the court moved away from the topics planned for his testimony. The intervention fazed the judges of the Trial Chamber, who suspended the hearing for three hours to examine the issue.

The role of S-21 in the purges
At the start of the day, responding to questions from New Zealand judge Silvia Cartwright, American expert Craig Etcheson had time to confirm, in light of the many documents he compiled and studied, that the Angkar had carried out widespread purges in the military. He specified that part of the military personnel who were purged, accused of plotting against the regime, were sent to S-21 and several documents from the period illustrated that division commanders were not only aware of the existence of the centre directed by Duch, but were also actively sending prisoners to S-21.

A similar situation was observed in government ministries, where civil servants were no less spared by purges, to such an extent that, the academic recalled, some ministries complained about the difficulty to carry out their responsibilities because so many of their staff were seized by security forces. Craig Etcheson thus confirmed the specificity of S-21, which “received detainees from virtually every unit of organisation in Democratic Kampuchea across the entire country.” To illustrate his point, the expert started to give examples, quoting handwritten notes by Duch or a report made by the accused himself in 1977, drawn from the case file. He would not go any further, as François Roux, Duch's international co-lawyer, intervened because he had “a small problem.”

Defence denounces an off-topic testimony
The French lawyer explained his disappointment. He recalled that in its order, the Chamber had announced that Craig Etcheson's testimony would deal with the military structure of Democratic Kampuchea, the political and government structure of the Khmer Rouge regime, the configuration of the regime's communication network, as well as its policy and ideology. He added that the expert was leaving the framework of his report on the general organisation of the regime, “Overview of the Hierarchy of Democratic Kampuchea”, established in July 2007 and transmitted to parties by the office of the co-Prosecutors. Roux called for a return to the themes announced, especially since, as he later recalled, historian David Chandler is expected to come and testify in court more specifically about S-21.

International co-Prosecutor, Alex Bates, retorted that the questions asked by the judges to Craig Etcheson were “adequate” and “appropriate”, even when they concerned S-21. He highlighted that the witness spent most of his career studying documents relating to the Khmer Rouge regime and to S-21, in particular during the last three years.”

François Roux was not satisfied with these arguments. He added that he was not seeking to question Craig Etcheson's great expertise, but criticised that the expert “arrive with a list of new documents” and comment the work of the co-investigating judges. The defence cannot prepare without being duly informed, he argued. “That is called 'surprising the defence' and that is not correct. [...] That is not the framework initially planned.” For his part, Alex Bates ensured that the points addressed by the expert were added to the file and were therefore not new elements. He then denied any responsibility: “In the civil law system, we, the co-Prosecutors, have no control over the substance of the expert's testimony. It is up to the Chamber to interrogate him.”

Roux did not let go. For him, it would have been fair that Craig Etcheson make a complementary report, submitted to the Chamber and the parties, and referring to the new documents he quoted. The international co-Prosecutor considered the argument of the defence fallacious because, he repeated, the documents in question were added to the file. Duch's lawyer, who had the final word, insisted: he is uneasy today because, “nearly two years after his report was submitted, the same expert, knowing of the investigation against Duch, provides specifications to his report, which may be conducive to ascertaining the truth, but should have been the object of a complementary report. As we are speaking, things are not clear...”

Objection of the defence dismissed
It is 10.45am, time for the break. When the audience comes back to the room half an hour later, the court announces that the hearing is adjourned until 2pm – it will actually resume at 2.30pm – when the judges return with their decision, which dismisses the objection of the defence: “The Trial Chamber is not bound by the indications given to the parties regarding the scope of the testimony or a report established by the expert. [...] When he answers the Chamber's questions, the expert is not bound by his written testimony or his previous report. An expert is thereby not obliged to submit a written complementary report.” As for the general rule that documents must be available in the three working languages of the court [Khmer, English and French] to be put before the court, the Chamber announces that it will accept references to documents available only in Khmer and another working language of the court, arguing that all parties as well as the Trial Chamber include Khmer speakers, that the court's translation resources are limited whilst the case file comprises many documents, and finally, that the court has the obligation to conduct the trial in a fair manner within a reasonable time. However, there is one exception: when no preliminary notice was given regarding the reference to a document. Moreover, all translations will be accepted by the Chamber, unless objections are made regarding the accuracy of the translation or inconsistencies between the different versions of the text. The Chamber also recalls the parties that any document must be read or summarised to consider that it was put before the court.

S-21, the power's death machine
The hearings resume. Craig Etcheson comments two charts established from combined lists of prisoners in S-21, proving, yet again, that purges affected all zones of Democratic Kampuchea, and in particular the North-West, the East (with very brutal purges at the second quarter of 1978) and the former North zone, renamed central zone. The presentation of the charts irritates Roux. “We have spoken for weeks, months even, with the office of the co-Prosecutors to establish a list of the facts acknowledged by the accused. Don't you think it would have been worthwhile to present these documents to the defence, instead of waiting for the day of the trial? That is not my idea of adversarial principle.”

When judge Cartwright asks him to compare S-21 with the other detention centres, Pr. Craig Etcheson deems that, a priori, only the centre directed by Duch received such a diversity of prisoners of different origins, while the other security offices were empowered to proceed to arrests only within their own areas of operations. In contrast, S-21's area of operations was nationwide. Another specificity of the centre was that it received prisoners who had the highest ranks in the hierarchy. As an illustration, the expert said that “in his own statement to the co-investigating judges, the accused person has said that only S-21 had the authority to interrogate members of the Central Committee and of the Standing Committee of the CPK.” Moreover, a look at the list of prisoners in S-21 shows that leading cadres from the zone, sector and district echelons, along with ranking military leaders and ranking leaders of government ministries almost invariably ended up at S-21 when they were purged, he added. He also specified that there was no evidence to suggest this was the case with any other security office in the country. Finally, according to the expert, it appeared that only Duch had direct, personal, daily reporting relationship with Son Sen and Nuon Chea, unlike the heads of other security offices in Democratic Kampuchea.

“For the speed and efficiency of the trial”, Alex Bates, speaking for the office of the co-Prosecutors, then suggested that any party wishing to rely on documents submit an index of those documents which contains a written summary of each of those documents, and that an oral summary of each type of document be then made in court.

François Roux: “I have a dream...”
François Roux has a dream, “that within international criminal courts, prosecutors stop flooding us with totally useless documents. I have been in international criminal jurisdictions for almost ten years and it is always the same thing: hundreds of documents that are totally useless and burden the courts and translation pools because the prosecutors have set no hierarchy, from the important to the secondary. And we are yet again in that debate. When you realise the scope of the documents the prosecutors would like to add in support of Mr. Etcheson's report, it gives one vertigo. Do we really need all those documents when we have an expert who is supposed to have worked on those issues and provide us with his expertise? [...] It is a very bad habit that has spread in international courts and that bears a great responsibility in the unacceptable delays in the trials before international tribunals. In my legal culture, I was taught three things: to be clear, distinct and precise.” The lawyer had already raised this concern previously during the trial.

Referring to rule 85 on the conduct of hearing, François Roux recalled that “[I]n consultation with the other judges, the President [of the court] may exclude any proceedings that unnecessarily delay the trial, and are not conducive to ascertaining the truth.” And he called the co-Prosecutors to sort their 148 documents, in connection with the testimony of the expert witness. He wondered that they needed to add to the case file 200 press articles, some of which are “useless and necessarily repetitive” to illustrate the armed conflict with Vietnam. “Frankly, do you need 200 news articles to know there was an armed conflict between Cambodia and Vietnam?” The lawyer asked the judges to “use the rule in Article 85 to request that the office of the co-Prosecutors make a selection and not flood the debates under scores of documents.”

After taking a minute for all parties to cool down, Alex Bates explained he was precisely seeking to establish a principle to make a synthesis of the documents and claimed that the expert himself had already made a selection of the documents. “Our responsibility is to prove the guilt of the accused, that is what falls on us as co-Prosecutors,” he retorted.

To conclude the day's debates, François Roux hammered his point: “What is most important for us today in this trial? To distribute, comment scores of documents, or have the opportunity to give the floor to victims and civil parties? You must make a choice.”

The hearing will resume tomorrow, later than usual, at 10.30am, as these questions, the president of the court explained, have a vital importance and must be debated.


Pol Pot, almighty leader?
Pol Pot himself had no power to release anyone, Duch claimed during the trial. Craig Etcheson prefers to take this claim with caution. In light of the way the CPK Standing Committee worked, following the principles of collectivism, communism and democratic centralism, it is true that policy decisions were discussed and decided with everyone. But the American also deems that “Pol Pot, as secretary of the party and as a politician, was a very persuasive individual. So, it is difficult for me to imagine that if he wished for someone to be released from S-21, he could not somehow arrange for that to happen.” Moreover, he stresses that documents newly received from the Documentation Centre of Cambodia (DC-Cam) indicate that there were several cases of releases from S-21, or even more than the accused has recognised until then.

The organisation of Democratic Kampuchea analysed by expert Craig Etcheson

Kambol (Phnom Penh, Cambodia). 18/05/2009: The court buildings, located 20 kilometres from the centre of Phnom Penh, on the 16th day of hearing at Duch's trial. 
©John Vink/ Magnum

By Stéphanie Gée

After two weeks of suspension, the trial of the former director of S-21, Duch, resumed with difficulty on Monday May 18th, with delay and bungles in the versions of the documents to be distributed for reading, concerning the positions of the defence team in relation to the chapters of the closing order relating to the implementation of the policy of the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK) in the Phnom Penh detention and torture centre. By the end of the day, U.S. expert Craig Etcheson, investigator with the office of the co-Prosecutors of the court, started testifying on the structure of Democratic Kampuchea, which he has studied closely.

An almighty Permanent Committee

The word “smash”, dear to the Khmer Rouge propaganda even before 1975, has often been used in the debates. As the fifth week of trial started, Duch insisted on clarifying the meaning given to this word. “The word 'resolve' was used before and was replaced by 'smash' under Son Sen. It is not a word I chose... What it meant was to arrest someone secretly, interrogate that person using torture, then execute him or her secretly without his or her family knowing. [...] The word meant that under no circumstances could a person who had to be smashed be released and that it was not about following a judicial process. Back then, there were no laws or courts and the Standing Committee [of the CPK] concentrated in its sole hands the three powers [legislative, executive and judicial].” 

The role of confessions
Duch declared during the investigation that “the contents of confessions [was] the most important task for S-21.” He acknowledged during the hearing that some of them were quoted in the two official journals (Revolutionary Flag and Revolutionary Youth) or, upon order from a higher echelon, were recorded to be broadcast during political meetings or on the waves of the propaganda radio, the Voice of Democratic Kampuchea. For the most part, they were confessions of Vietnamese prisoners, broadcast in their entirety, and Cambodian prisoners considered as important, for whom only extracts were used. The goal, Duch recalled, was to disclose the names of the traitors to the party. However, the role of S-21 was not to determine if the detainees were actually traitors, because the simple fact they were arrested and transferred to this centre were enough to establish their guilt. In confessions sometimes as thick as several hundreds of pages, prisoners were, under duress, required to write a political autobiography, confess their alleged crimes and alleged membership of intelligence agencies (CIA, KGB or bodies of the Vietnamese Communist Party), and accuse other alleged enemies of the revolution. The accused recognised they were documents written with political ends and serving as excuses for the elimination of those who represented obstacles. Lists of enemies were therefore established on the basis of those forced denunciations. 

Confessions exploited in the context of a power struggle

If a name was mentioned several times in confessions, that person was arrested. But the accused specified that the rule varied on a case by case basis. As an example, he said that “the name of Ta Mok [member of the CPK Standing Committee of the Central Committee] appeared in confessions, but the Standing Committee decided not to take any steps against him.”

Although Duch claims today that he quickly became sceptical as to the veracity of the confessions, he argues that back then, he did not have anything to assess them and distinguish true from false, and adds that by annotating the confessions, he only sought to make the task of his superiors easier and allow them to save time. For Duch, whether or not they followed what was written in the confessions collected in S-21 depended on the good will of the regime leaders. He thus reports words from Pol Pot, recorded in the minutes of a meeting on October 9th 1975: "Police is one thing, but, here, it is up to us to decide who we arrest." 

Judge Lavergne then asks him if, beyond his doubts, he believes that the confessions could also have been used to serve an absolute fight for power within the CPK by some persons. Duch acknowledges it. According to his own analysis, two men faced each other: Pol Pot and Ta Mok, with the latter ordering the arrest and sentence of Brother no. 1 in 1997 on the basis of confessions-accusations. The accused also noted that Ta Mok, powerful secretary of the South-West zone, had never sent anybody to S-21, except for only two individuals, who originally did not belong to his network and came from the city.
Kambol (Phnom Penh, Cambodia). 18/05/2009: Media room during the 16th day of hearing at Duch's trial at the ECCC. 
©John Vink/ Magnum

Outline of a power hierarchy under Democratic Kampuchea

In the middle of the afternoon, academic Craig Etcheson, author, among others, of The Rise and Demise of Democratic Kampuchea, published 25 years ago, started to outline the hierarchy in Democratic Kampuchea and the CPK, which “Central Committee was, in theory, the most powerful organ of Democratic Kampuchea.” According to the statutes of the party, the CPK was to convene a congress every four years – the first took place in 1960 and the fifth in 1978 – as well as ordinary meetings every six months, which frequency was not respected in practice, the court investigator explained. The executive body of the Central Committee was the Standing Committee, also known under the name “Angkar Leu”. It was directed by a secretary, Pol Pot (deceased in 1998), and a deputy secretary, Nuon Chea. Ieng Sary, Vorn Vet (executed in 1978), Sao Phim (committed suicide in 1978), Ta Mok (deceased in 2006) and Ros Nhim (executed in 1978) were members of the Standing Committee, while Son Sen (executed in 1997) and Kung Sophal (executed in 1978) were alternate members. Later, Son Sen was to be promoted as full member of the Standing Committee.

The Standing Committee, Pr. Craig Etcheson continued, using charts he prepared, ruled over the zones (initially six of them) that made up the country. Each was governed by a committee comprising of a secretary appointed by the Standing Committee, who then appointed a deputy in charge of security issues, and a member in charge of economics. The zones were themselves further subdivided into entities named “sectors”, which number varied from one zone to another, and were also governed by a similar triumvirate. As for sectors, they were subdivided into districts, also directed by a triumvirate. Then came communes, managed by a CPK branch committee, the lowest level of the hierarchy, and under them, villages or rather cooperatives, mobile brigades, etc. “The creation of zones and sectors was an administrative novelty started under Democratic Kampuchea,” noted the American, who acknowledged, in agreement with Duch, that the 1976 statutes of the CPK would have been a “confidential” document, as “the party placed a very high value on secrecy.”

Each zone and sector committee commanded military units of regiment size, which were simple militias (“chlop”) at the district level. “All echelons were constantly exhorted by the Standing Committee to take action on internal security.” The expert quoted an extract from a May 1978 issue of the journal Revolutionary Flag: “We must see as key the duties of attacking the domestic enemy, […] every party level must therefore adopt the role of leading the army and the people to attack all such enemies, sweep them cleanly away, sweep, and sweep, and sweep, again and again, ceaselessly, so that our party forces are pure, our leading forces at every level and every sphere are clean at all times.”

As for the creation of S-21, while the accused declared to the co-investigating judges that the ordered emanated from Son Sen and the secretary of Division 703 in August 1975, given the principles of democratic centralism and collectivism described in the CPK statutes, Craig Etcheson deems likely that Son Sen would not have acted of his own authority, but more likely pursuant an order of the Standing Committee.

However, according to the U.S. researcher, Duch's direct superior from March 1976 to September 1977 (thereafter, Duch was to be under the direct orders of Nuon Chea) was in interlocking positions of authority in the government, the party and the military, as he was deputy Prime Minister for national defence, member of the CPK Standing Committee, and finally, chief of staff in the revolutionary army. However, he underlines that Son Sen's real authority flowed from his position within the CPK.
The trial resumes tomorrow morning.


Small reshuffling at the tribunal

A press release of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) indicates, on Monday May 18th, that Reach Sambath, until then press officer, is promoted chief of Public Affairs, responsible for all media relations and provision of public information on the workings of the ECCC, taking over from Helen Jarvis. The latter, involved in the establishment of the ECCC since 1999, is redeployed to head the Victims Unit, following the resignation of Keat Bophal from that position. It is specified that a “of other positions are in the process of being filled to strengthen the functions of the Unit with regard to processing of complaints and civil party applications; assisting and supporting Civil Parties, including with legal representation; and preparing recommendations on probable grouping of civil parties for Case 002.”

Hun Sen issues car plate ultimatum

Photo by: Sovann Philong
Traffic police on Mao Tse-tung Boulevard flag down vehicles Tuesday as they check for illegal RCAF and police number plates. Prime Minister Hun Sen has given drivers two weeks to give up the plates or risk losing their vehicles.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sam Rith
Wednesday, 20 May 2009

PRIME Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday issued a warning to drivers displaying unauthorised military number plates on their vehicles, saying that those who refuse to take them off will be taken off the road.

During a speech at the Ministry of Interior, Hun Sen ordered ministers to take action after he noticed that drivers were still flouting his recent ban on the use of RCAF and police plates by unauthorised vehicles.

"[Why are you] still ignoring this and using RCAF and police plates? Why don't you listen?" Hun Sen asked.

He said he had ordered the ministers of interior and defence to establish a deadline for drivers to get rid of their illegal licence plates, saying any cars still bearing unauthorised tags would be confiscated by the state.

Illegal tags
Luy Thhin, director of the Ministry of Interior's Traffic Office, said Tuesday that his police officers would continue removing police plates on the
street, as they have done since Hun Sen's first announcement on April 30.

"We are going to remove police plates from cars on the roads [today] unless we get new orders from the top," he said, adding that since the beginning of the month his office had confiscated 34 sets of police plates - 12 from cars in the street and 22 from individuals who voluntarily handed in their plates to his office.

Tat Sreng, director of Phnom Penh's Vehicle Registration Office, said that so far the owners of 400 cars bearing RCAF plates and 150 with police plates had visited the office to register for civilian plates.

ASEAN speaks out on Suu Kyi

Photo by: AFP
A group of Filipino protesters rallies in front of Myanmar's embassy in Manila on Tuesday.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Vong Sokheng and Neth Pheaktra
Wednesday, 20 May 2009

BANGKOK - The Association of Southeast Asian Nations Tuesday expressed "grave concern" but ruled out sanctions in its first official reaction to the trial of Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The regional bloc, which rarely speaks out on the domestic political issues of its 10 members, issued a statement through current chair Thailand to urge the immediate release of the detained Nobel Peace laureate.

"Thailand, as the ASEAN Chair, expresses grave concern about recent developments relating to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, given her fragile health," said the statement, issued five days after the charges against her were first filed.

It also reiterated its demand for Myanmar to free Aung San Suu Kyi, who heard evidence from police on the second day of her trial for breaching her house arrest over an incident in which an American man, John Yettaw, swam to her lakeside home.

"With the eyes of the international community on Myanmar at present, the honour and the credibility of the Government of the Union of Myanmar are at stake," it added.

But Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva later said that the bloc - which has been widely criticised for failing to take its most troublesome member to task - would not react with sanctions.

"This latest incident has triggered concern from the international community," Abhisit said.

"We want the current situation to ease off, but as members of ASEAN we have to work together constructively to solve this problem," he added.

"We hope that Myanmar will consider ASEAN members as friends. The attitude of ASEAN members is unchanged, unlike those countries far away. We have no plan to follow their stance," he said.

US President Barack Obama formally extended sanctions against Myanmar on Friday, while EU nations are mulling an increase in sanctions against the regime, which has ruled Myanmar since 1962.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, however, called Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya at the weekend "to support Thailand's earlier statement that the trial should be transparent", an aide to Kasit said.

ASEAN anger
Individual ASEAN nations have issued much stronger statements about Aung San Suu Kyi's plight in recent days, with the Philippines describing the charges as "trumped up" and Indonesia calling them "arbitrary".

Meanwhile, Cambodian opposition lawmaker Son Chhay urged Prime Minister Hun Sen to engage Myanmar through diplomatic channels "to push the military leaders to stop interfering with democracy and to immediately release Aung San Suu Kyi and other politicians", according to a letter he said was sent to government leaders Tuesday.

"Cambodia's government cannot defend the junta because of its abuses against democrats," the letter said.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said Tuesday the government had yet to receive Son Chhay's letter.

He had said a day earlier that the government hoped Aung San Suu Kyi would escape conviction "because she has been punished already".

Aung San Suu Kyi's current six-year period of detention is due to expire on May 27, but Yettaw's visit has apparently provided the ruling generals with an excuse to consider extending her detention past polls due in 2010.

She has been under house arrest or in jail for 13 of the last 19 years.

Myanmar's junta is apparently rushing Aung San Suu Kyi's trial, a party spokesman said Tuesday as police told the court how they arrested Yettaw.

Five witnesses gave evidence to the closed-door trial at the notorious Insein prison, including four police officers who said they had arrested Yettaw after he spent two days at her lakeside house.

"It indicates that they are trying to finish as soon as possible" by calling many witnesses, Nyan Win, the spokesman for Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy, told reporters.

Nyan Win said the prosecution was expected to call 22 witnesses, all but one of them policemen.

The senior officer who filed the original complaint against Aung San Suu Kyi testified on Monday.

Around 100 party members gathered outside the prison on Tuesday, including former political prisoner Win Tin.


No leads in child killings: police

Written by Chrann Chamroeun
Wednesday, 20 May 2009

PHNOM Penh's top police officer said Tuesday he had taken personal charge of the savage killings of the teenage daughters and young nephew of a senior government official, as authorities admitted that they had no leads in the case.

Municipal Police Chief Touch Naruth told the Post that while police had no suspects, they were putting in every effort to track down who are believed to be two men who tortured and then bludgeoned to death the youngsters in their home on Sunday.

The attackers also assaulted the girls' mother and stole the equivalent of US$24,000 in cash, along with jewellery and a Toyota Rav4.

"We are actively investigating this case to hunt down the suspects, and we have fingerprinted the abandoned Rav4," he said. "I vow we will not give up our hunt for those who perpetrated this extremely brutal act. They will not escape punishment."

The girls, aged 15 and 17, were the daughters of Tep Darong, president of the Royal Academy for Judicial Professions. His academy was spotlighted in a news report earlier this month over allegations that it that took tens of thousands of dollars from students wanting to be appointed as judges.

Commune police Chief Khim Vanna said speculation that the killings were motivated by revenge was now dismissed, adding that Tep Darong had told police that the media report was untrue.

"There is nothing to shed light on who the suspects are," he told the Post. "[But] it is now very hard to see this case as a revenge case - even though the perpetrators killed the victims after the robbery."

SRP hails new seats, vows to cooperate

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Meas Sokchea
Wednesday, 20 May 2009

THE opposition Sam Rainsy Party in a statement released on Tuesday expressed satisfaction over the results of Sunday's provincial, district and municipal council elections, and pledged that its new councilors will cooperate with CPP officials to work for the betterment of the Cambodian people.

Provisional election results released Monday by the National Election Committee (NEC) show the CPP winning about three-quarters of the vote on the new councils.

In addition to its cooperation, the SRP vowed to use its presence at lower levels of government to bring local voices into the process.

"All [SRP] officials have promised to fulfill their obligations as councilors in every way and ensure that they will honour the responsibilities given to them," the party's statement said.

"It is a chance to serve all people, oppose every abuse and provide proper services for the people." The statement added that the election would help dilute the total control exercised by the ruling party at lower levels of government.

SRP spokesman Yim Sovann said Tuesday that the party had gained at least 578 seats across the country in Sunday's poll.

But senior CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap dismissed the SRP statement, saying it was motivated by "pride".

He also rejected the claim that the CPP held a monopoly of control at the district and provincial levels, saying all elected parties bore some responsibility for government policy.

"We are part of a ruling coalition, and the SRP also has seats in parliament, so [it] cannot deny responsibility," he said. "They have participated in the making of laws as well."

Macabre ceremony to mark annual day of rememberance

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Neth Pheaktra and Georgia Wilkins
Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Traditional re-enactments of Khmer Rouge torture to be performed at a ceremony for the May 20 Day of Anger at Choeung Ek.

GOVERNMENT officials and Khmer Rouge victims are to gather at the Choeung Ek killing fields today to commemorate the launch, 33 years ago, of the regime's brutal policy of collectivisation.

Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema is to speak during the morning ceremony, and as part of a yearly tradition, performers will re-enact some of the methods used by cadres to execute and torture overworked prisoners.

This year's "Day of Anger" (tivea choang kamheung) is the first to overlap with proceedings at the Khmer Rouge tribunal, and as the trial of S-21 prison chief Kaing Guek Eav continues this week, observers say the day of remembrance will have a deeper resonance.

"It takes at least three historical steps for Cambodia to reach a full sense of forgiveness and reconciliation," Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Centre for Cambodia (DC-Cam), said Tuesday.

"After January 7, 1979, Cambodia thought it was hate and anger that made her strong. In fact, it was all she had to fight the Khmer Rouge, and it was the only means she could express to the world the suffering she had been through during the Khmer Rouge time," he said.

"But now Cambodia realises that a prosecution with the support from the United Nations is needed to allow her to fully forgive the Khmer Rouge, and that she will then be ready to reconcile with her broken nation," he said.

Municipal authorities as well as some provincial authorities commemorate the day in areas where Khmer Rouge killing fields remain visible.

But Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, told the Post it was not necessarily about "getting angry".

"May 20 isn't meant for vengeance. It's meant for remembering the atrocities perpetrated during the Khmer Rouge regime, a regime that massacred its own people," he said.

"We commemorate this national day so that we, the Cambodian people, will never forget the genocide committed by the Pol Pot regime, and to prevent genocide from ever happening again in our country or elsewhere in the world," he said.

Mann Chhoeun, Phnom Penh deputy governor, said Anger Day this year would have a different feel, with the materialisation of an active war crimes tribunal.

"The Phnom Penh Municipality commemorates Anger Day every year to remember the atrocities and sufferings that occurred during the Khmer Rouge regime," he said.

"We also pay respect to the victims who died and appeal for justice. And we are starting to see that justice already, with the beginning of the ECCC's judgment of former Khmer Rouge leaders," Mann Chhoeun said.

Although the ceremony has been criticised for being a state-sponsored event, Youk Chhang said that it didn't need to be a political day.

"It is history. We cannot change, rewrite or modify it, but accept it, learn from it and move on."

Textbooks to be distributed
DC-Cam is to also begin handing out Khmer Rouge history textbooks today as part of a drive to supply more than 1,000 high schools with a text on the regime.

The US ambassador-at-large for war crimes, Clint Williamson, who arrived Monday in Phnom Penh, is to attend the textbook launch at Hun Sen Ang Snoul High School.

Purges were widespread, specialist tells KR tribunal

Photo by: AFP
Kaing Guek Eav, or Duch, appears at his trial at the KR tribunal in this file photo.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Cheang Sokha
Wednesday, 20 May 2009

On his second day of testimony, Khmer Rouge specialist Craig Etcheson details purges at all levels of regime.

AN American genocide expert told the UN-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal Tuesday that purges of the Khmer Rouge's own government and military officials was "widespread".

Craig Etcheson, who is currently an investigator with the co-prosecutors and an expert in the regime's structure, said purges occurred at all

"There were widespread purges throughout Democratic Kampuchea ... the revolutionary army of Kampuchea," Etcheson told the court. "Some purged military personnel were executed within their own unit of organisation; others were sent to force labour camps or S-21."

Etcheson, who is the author of The Rise and Demise of Democratic Kampuchea, is the first foreign expert called for testimony about the regime's treatment of prisoners at S-21, the prison camp directed by Kaing Guek Eav, known as Duch.

He told the court that more than 1,000 cadres from the eastern zone and more than 1,000 from the northwest zone were sent to S-21 during the purges. More than 1,400 people from at least four of the regime's ministries were also arrested and sent to S-21.

"There were widespread arrests throughout all of the government's ministries. The purging was quite extensive," he said, adding that S-21 received detainees from virtually every unit of organisation across the country.

During the hearing, defence council Francois Roux objected to a report used in Etcheson's testimony that described the military and communications networks.

"In the report, there are only a few words about S-21.... Now, the expert witness is giving us a specific analysis of S-21. So we are no longer accepting any context here," Roux argued.

But the objection was rejected by the tribunal judges after a three-hour recess.

Ke Kim Yan takes reins of drug bureau

Written by Sam Rith and Christoper Shay
Wednesday, 20 May 2009

General Ke Kim Yan, former commander-in-chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, was officially named Tuesday as head of the National Authority for Combating Drugs (NACD) in a move that Prime Minister Hun Sen said signalled the government's renewed focus on eliminating Cambodia's drugs trade.

Hun Sen urged authorities from all levels at an announcement ceremony to crack down on drug distribution "immediately", saying that drug deals had too often been ignored.

"Even though the distribution and sale of drugs is on a small scale, it causes anarchy and insecurity in society," he said.

Son Chhay, a Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker, said Ke Kim Yan was stepping into a difficult job, but that his influence in the army could make him particularly effective at stamping out the cross-border drug trade.

He said drugs smuggling relied on the support of a few high-ranking army officials.

"He knows the officials under his command, and if there are any soldiers involved in the drug business, he can take measures to combat trafficking," Son Chhay said.

Anand Chaudhuri, head of the UN Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Cambodia, said that over the years the drugs authority had worked closely with UNODC and notched a number of successes, but that the drug trade remained a problem.

"[Drug trafficking] is an increasingly complex problem, but the drug police have been increasingly tracking and monitoring it," he said.

Between 2000 and 2009, the NACD arrested 3,531 people and collected 2,693,407 amphetamine pills, 105 kilograms of heroin and 14 tonnes of dried marijuana, according to the authority's data.

Graham Shaw, a technical adviser at the WHO, said drugs trafficking remains a critical issue.

"From a public health perspective, the law enforcement approach has failed everywhere else in the world. Why would it be any different in Cambodia?"

Officials refuse Rik Reay demands

A girl plays in the sand pumped under her family home by Bassac Garden City on Tuesday in the Rik Reay community in Phnom Penh.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Khouth Sophak Chakrya And Christopher Shay
Wednesday, 20 May 2009

One meeting is cancelled, while a second fails to provide solution to ongoing land dispute.

AFTER one aborted meeting and another unsuccessful one, residents of the Rik Reay community remain no closer to resolving conflicts with local developer Bassac Garden City.

In January, the government told the community's 219 families to vacate the site to make way for a new development and has offered them two compensation options: US$10,000 and a house in Dangkor district, or on-site housing.

About three quarters of the community agreed to the government's terms, but 54 families are still holding out for more money, residents say.

The Tonle Bassac commune chief, Khan Rith, said he invited the 14 families from Rik Reay who are demanding between US$35,000 and US$150,000 for their houses to a meeting on Tuesday morning.

"But they brought their lawyer," Khan Rith said, "It shows they don't have confidence in the authorities."

He added: "They made the meeting room chaotic and noisy, so I cancelled the meeting," he said.

But he gave a different reason for cancelling the meeting to Rik Reay residents, the community's lawyer said.

"[Khan Rith] decided to cancel the meeting because he said he was afraid one of us would bomb the meeting room," said Jin Savat, a lawyer from the Community Legal Education Centre who is representing Rik Reay residents.

A lawyer was allowed to attend an afternoon meeting with a second group of Rik Reay families. But residents went home disappointed after Bassac Garden City refused to discuss money and instead demanded that five families be removed from the compensation list, residents said.

Former child soldier's demining efforts finally gain recognition

A member of the CSHD demining team uses a metal detector to scan for land mines, in sharp contrast to the way Akira (inset) used to locate mines with no equipment other than a stick or knife.

A lengthy and dangerous task ahead

BETWEEN 4 million and 6 million mines, 6 million to 7 million cluster bombs and countless unexploded ordnances (UXOs) are estimated to remain in Cambodian soil, according to data from the Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority. Since demining began in 1992, licensed deminers have cleared 829,325 anti-personnel mines, 20,542 anti-tank mines, and 1,791,373 UXOs. These figures do not include over 50,000 mines and UXO's cleared by Akira prior to receiving his demining licence. By the end of April this year, 493,488,595 square metres of land had been cleared. Although formal research has not been conducted, it is estimated that a further 700 square kilometres remain contaminated.

Between 2000 and 2008, 6,144 casualties and fatalities occurred in Cambodia due to landmines or UXO explosions. In its Integrated Work Plan for 2009, the Cambodian Mine Action Centre estimates that it will clear more than 35 million square metres of landmine and UXO fields by year's end. The group's plan further states that as many as 132,000 UXOs will be safely extracted and disposed of.


The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Tracey Shelton
Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Anlong Veng

As the sun rises between the trees, Akira, president of the Cambodian Self Help Demining (CSHD) team, begins his morning by setting a stick of TNT next to a land mine.

The mine lies within a 4-hectare minefield his team is clearing in Anlong Veng.

Local military, police and authorities are notified of the impending explosion. As the rest of the team stop work to take cover, Akira, wiping sweat from under his thick protective clothing, helmet and face shield, counts down. A boom rings out, the ground shakes and debris flies into the air as the land mine is destroyed.

"Before, it would only take me a minute to defuse and remove a mine," Akira says, referring to his former gung-ho method of clearing mines with nothing but a stick and a knife. "I would collect the detonators in my pocket and make a fire at the end of the day to burn explosives from the mines I collected.... When I cleared the old way, I could wear a sarong and sandals. But now we must follow NGO procedures."

For more than 10 years, Akira was famous throughout Cambodia for his controversial demining methods. Although opposed by government authorities and other demining groups for not following international safety standards, Akira, a former child soldier with the Khmer Rouge, became a local hero, clearing the countryside of more than 50,000 mines, many of which he had once laid.

Fifteen families are farming that land right now. A year ago that land was killing them.

Earlier this year, with the help of supporters both here and abroad, Akira gained the equipment and training needed to meet international standards and obtained a licence for him and his team to demine, creating the first Cambodian-run demining organisation.

"Now we have much support, so there is no more trouble," Akira said, after relating stories of being arrested for his work and the land mine museum he opened in Siem Reap in 1997 being closed down periodically and its contents confiscated.

"At that time, I liked to demine alone in the jungle or with my wife. I didn't have the equipment to start an NGO, but I knew how to lay and I knew how to defuse. All kinds of land mines and bombs I know how to make safe, and I have cleared many, many thousands until now."

BACTAC country director Peter Ferguson, who helped Akira prepare for demining accreditation, said many changes were required.

"The way he used to work was to go into the field, find mines, render them safe and remove them, often bringing them back for display at the museum," he said. "In humanitarian demining, you can't operate that way. Particularly with land mines, they cannot be moved. You locate them and destroy them in place."

But after the necessary equipment was donated and training completed, field reports on Akira's methods were excellent, Ferguson said.

Along with his new accreditation has come respect from those who once opposed him.

Two years ago, the Cambodian Mine Action Authority (CMAA) certified the contents of Akira's land mine museum in Siem Reap safe - the first time in the world such a museum has been opened to the public.

In an email, CMAA said they welcomed Akira and his team's help in clearing contaminated land.

"Akira should be commended for his hard work in educating the greater public about the dangers of land mines," the statement read.

With their workday over and dusk approaching, the CSHD team settles into hammocks around a campfire, boiling their jungle soup of wild fruit and animal innards. Akira tells how he lost his entire family in the late '70s - all but one aunt, a Khmer Rouge solider, who took him in.

Unsure of his birth date, Akira estimates he was between 10 and 13 when he became a soldier for the Khmer Rouge, learning about warfare and weaponry. Later, joining the Vietnamese army, Akira says his job was to control the K5 mine belt that stretched along the Thai border, planting new mines and training others to do the same.

"I never knew anything but war," he said. "It was normal. When the UN came, I met many people from many different places. They explained that in the rest of the world, it is different. They explained about poor and rich, war and peace. It changed my ideas."

He became passionate about seeing his country free from war and the remnants of war, particularly the land mines he had helped lay.
Bill Morse, president of the Land Mine Relief Fund, an American NGO he established to support Akira's work, said when he first met Akira in 2003 he was "amazed by how much one person could do".

As one of many who helped Akira establish CSHD, Morse proudly spoke of the 3-hectare minefield in Siem Reap province the team completed clearing last month. "Fifteen families are farming that land right now. A year ago, that land was killing them," he said. Despite the major achievements of CSHD this year, the team received a devastating loss last month with the death of Akira's wife of nine years, Bou Senghourt, due to prenatal complications.

Having defused more than 1,000 landmines by hand, the genial mother of three was a key part of CSHD and an inspiration to many.

Richard Fitoussi, director of the Cambodian Landmine Museum Relief Fund, which has been supporting Akira's work since 2002, described her as Akira's right-hand man in the field. "The vision she shared with Akira was of Cambodians clearing for Cambodians, and she extended that to include women," he said. "I have no doubt she was the inspiration for the several women that have joined the demining team."

Back in the minefield in Anlong Veng, Akira explained how people and livestock had been killed in the area for years. While widening the road last year, a work truck hit an anti-tank mine, killing all on board.

Feel the chi


Written by Rick Valenzuela
Wednesday, 20 May 2009

A man practises tai chi early Tuesday morning at Olympic Stadium in Phnom Penh. The low-impact exercise is said to strengthen and stretch muscles, relax the mind and improve balance, among other things. Each morning, hundreds of people converge on Olympic Stadium to begin their day with a variety of different exercise routines, from yoga and tai chi to walking and jogging.

Chevron deal still unresolved as crisis impacts exploration

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
A petrol station close to Phnom Penh's Central Market. The conclusion of negotiations on Chevron's new operating licence for Block A and energy exploration have been delayed.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Ros Dina and Steve Finch
Wednesday, 20 May 2009

No reason given for delay in negotiations on deal that had been due for renewal last month, with govt still confident Cambodia will pump oil by 2013 at the latest.

CAMBODIA is still to come to an agreement with Chevron over an extension to the American oil giant's licence agreement to explore offshore Block A, the company said Tuesday, with the government adding that the economic crisis had affected exploration activities.

Gareth Johnstone, Chevron's Asia-Pacific media adviser based in Singapore, said Tuesday that negotiations were ongoing, despite the previous agreement having expired in April.

"Chevron is in discussion with the Royal Government of Cambodia to extend the licence agreement for Block A," said Johnstone without elaborating on when the negotiations might be concluded.

Chevron has already located up to six sources of oil in the 278-square-kilometre Block A in the Gulf of Thailand, Cheam Yeap, head of the Economy, Finance and Banking Committee of the National Assembly said Tuesday. The economic crisis had caused oil exploration to stagnate, but only for a short time, with activity returning to normal, he added.

Joe Geagea, managing director of Chevron's Asia South Business Unit, told reporters Thursday in Bangkok that Cambodia and Chevron remained committed to getting the Kingdom's energy deposits to market, despite low oil prices and the economic downturn.

"The question is, How do you do it in a way that meets our interests and their interests? And that's where we are continuing to have a dialogue," Bloomberg reported him as saying.

Chevron previously said that fixed contractual agreements meant that when oil prices dropped there was little cost flexibility to maintain a certain level of profit, meaning that extraction had slowed in a number of its global concessions.

It is not known whether government fees included in a future agreement are a reason for the delay in negotiations in the case of Cambodia.

"For commercial and contractual reasons, we cannot release any information about these discussions," Johnstone said.

Cheam Yeap told the Post that he planned to request that the government draft three laws related to the future realisation of the Kingdom's energy reserves - on oil control, oil tax and tax benefits within the energy industry - in a bid to better manage resources.

London-based Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative had been invited to conduct up to four workshops to share experience on energy-resource management, he added.

"We want Cambodia to be blessed by its oil resources and not to be cursed ... like Nigeria, Chad, Venezuela, Panama and some other African countries which had been poor before they had oil and have stayed poor after oil," Cheam Yeap said.

Cambodia was still on course to pump oil from between 2011 and 2013, he added.

Cheam Yeap said that other countries remained interested in Cambodia's oil deposits, namely Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Indonesia and neighbouring Southeast Asian nations.

There remained few major obstacles to further exploration of Cambodian energy reserves, he said, despite the continuing offshore demarcation dispute with Thailand.

Cambodia has designated licences for offshore blocks covering 37,000 square kilometres, with a further 27,000 square kilometres still in dispute.

Imports inspector ends contract

A lorry moves containers at Phnom Penh's dry port in this file photo. French company BIVAC has finished its contract with Cambodia. The government determined it now has sufficient capacity to undertake pre-shipment inspections.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Kay Kimsong
Wednesday, 20 May 2009

French company BIVAC set to leave Cambodia after finishing customs operations in the Kingdom at the end of April, as Government says it has acquired necessary expertise.

THE government will not renew its contract with BIVAC, the French company contracted in April 2006 to undertake pre-shipment inspections on goods imported from ASEAN nations.

Kun Nhem, the Customs and Excise deputy director general, told the Post on Tuesday the government now has qualified staff that can do the job.

"The contract is finished and as of May 1 importers should not pay fees to BIVAC," he said. "The contract ended officially on April 30. We are now qualified to check the original prices of goods in the country of origin for all shipments."

Pre-shipment inspection is the practice of employing specialised private firms to check the price, quantity and quality of goods ordered from another country.

Kun Nhem said the Kingdom had outsourced its pre-shipment inspection role longer than any other ASEAN nation inspector, and noted that import-tax revenues for May were unchanged compared with those months for which BIVAC was responsible.

"Having BIVAC is the same as not having BIVAC," he concluded.

Kun Nhem said that under the BIVAC system, importers paid a fee to the company for the service, and BIVAC's agents in the nations from where goods were shipped would check the shipment.

"Now without BIVAC the importers are happy because they don't have to incur this fee," he said, adding that the service added to the price paid by consumers.

An office worker at BIVAC's Cambodia office confirmed that the firm ceased pre-inspection work on May 1.

Without BIVAC the importers are happy ... they don't have to incur this fee.

She said BIVAC charged importers US$250 for a 40-foot container, and $200 for a 20-foot container, with a maximum charge of $500. She referred all other questions to her managers, but the Post was unable to contact them.

Chan Sophal, the president of the Cambodian Economic Association, said cutting out BIVAC would benefit importers, and agreed that local officials were technically able to take over the PSI role.

"Whether they have the will to do it is another matter," he said.

Chan Sophal said the government should take other measures to ensure that revenue from customs fees ended up in the Treasury. He said low salaries paid to Customs officials resulted in some keeping revenues for themselves.

"With the economic downturn, the government should look at cutting spending - such as spending on companies like BIVAC," he said. "And corrupt customs officials take more money for their own pockets than they hand to the nation."

He said officials should stop taking advantage of their positions and should realise the revenue is needed to develop the country in a time of economic crisis.

Tyre importer Kong Nuon, the chairman of the Kong Nuon Import and Export Company, said the termination of BIVAC's contract had made the import process easier and cheaper.

90pc of Kampot pepper harvest remains unsold, says industry

Written by Nguon Sovan
Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Geographical indication status also likely delayed until September.

NINETY percent of this year's Kampot pepper harvest remains unsold due to the global financial crisis, but industry spokesmen say they expect overseas sales to recover when the province's renowned pepper gains geographical indication status - an international trademark under global trade regulations.

Nguon Lay, president of the Kampot Pepper Association, said Tuesday that during this year's harvest - from January to May - just 0.8 tonnes out of 12 tonnes harvested have been purchased for export to the overseas market, compared with last year, when all 8 tonnes harvested were sold.

Therefore, while the harvest had increased 50 percent on last year, demand has dropped significantly.

He said that despite the drop in purchase orders, the association - which represents 111 Kampot pepper farmers and two pepper companies - had no plan to lower the price of the pepper.

"We have maintained pepper prices at US$10 per kilogram for the best quality white pepper, $8 for red pepper and $5 for black pepper," he said, adding that the pepper could be safely stored for many years thus reducing the problem of lacking demand.

Nguon Lay also predicted overseas sales and prices would increase when Kampot pepper gains geographic indication (GI) status under the World Trade Organisation's Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights.

The indication will register Kampot pepper as an international trademark - like French Champagne - preventing its use by other pepper producers.

We have maintained pepper prices at US$10 per kilogram for the best quality.

Unlike a traditional trademark, a geographic indication emphasises the origins of the product, as well as unique features, including its appearance, colour, flavour, physical or chemical characteristics, or specific production process, thereby distinguishing it as a brand on the international market.

"We hope that when Kampot pepper gains GI status, it will sell well on the international market and the prices will increase," he said.

Officials say they were hoping Kampot pepper to gain geographic indication status by the end of the month but that it was delayed until September because a draft law on the Protection of Geographical Indication Products had still to be passed - a condition under WTO regulations.

"Kampot pepper will possibly be registered as a geographical indication product in September ... because there's a lot still to be done," said Mao Thora, secretary of state at the Ministry of Commerce.

Prak Sereyvath, managing director of the Cambodian Centre for Study and Development in Agriculture (CEDAC), and a national consultant for the Protection of Geographical Indication Project at the Commerce Ministry, said that the GI draft law had yet to be approved by the Council of Ministers and the National Assembly.

But he said a prakas, or edict, from Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh, to be issued next month, would be used as a temporary replacement until the law is passed.

"When the prakas is issued, the Kampot Pepper Association will submit Kampot pepper for GI status, and it will probably be registered in September this year," he confirmed.