Thursday, 21 May 2009

Commissioner of Police at Aseanapol meeting

Delegation from the Royal Brunei Police Force at the conference

Asean police chiefs pose for a group photo
Brunei Press

By Azlan Othman

The establishment of a shared database of websites related to terrorism, the establishment of a Permanent Aseanapol Secretariat, electronic-Aseanapol Database System (e-ADS), mutual assistance in criminal matters and exchange of personnel were among the matters raised at the 29th Asean Chiefs of Police (Aseanapol) Conference held in Hanoi, Vietnam from May 12-16, 2009.

The theme of the conference was "To Build up ASEAN Police Forces for ASEAN Stability and Development".

Around 300 delegates representing the police forces of the 10 Asean member countries, five dialogue countries - China, Republic of Korea, Japan, Australia and New Zealand - Interpol, Asean and different government agencies of Vietnam, including Ministries of Public Security, Justice, Foreign Affairs, Office of the President, Office of the Government, Supreme People's Court and Supreme People's Procuracy, attended the event.

Royal Brunei Police Force's delegation to the conference was headed by Pehin Datu Kerma Setia CP Dato Paduka Seri Zainuddin bin Jalani, Commissioner of Police.

The opening ceremony was held at the international convention centre on May 13. General Le Hong Anh, member of the Politburo and Minister of Public Security addressed the conference on behalf of the government of Vietnam. Police Lt General Pham Quy Ngo, Director General of General Department of Vietnam Police, Ministry of Public Security was appointed Chairman; and Lt General Sok Phal, Deputy Commissioner General of Cambodian National Police, was appointed Vice Chairman of the 29th Aseanapol Conference.

President of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam Nguyen Minh Triet also received in audience all the Asean police chiefs at the presidential palace. Accompanying the Asean police chiefs were Police Lt General Pham Quy Ngo, Director General of Genaral Department of Vietnam Police.

Also present during the audience were Aseanapol dialogue partners from Australia, China, Korea, Japan and New Zealand, as well as a representative from the Asean secretariat, as a special invited guest for the Aseanapol meeting.

The conference was held in an open and constructive atmosphere with two plenary sessions, three Commission Discussions, and two Working Group Discussions. Commission A dealt with illicit drugs trafficking, terrorism, arms smuggling, human trafficking and maritime fraud. Commission B focused on commercial crimes, bank offences, credit card fraud, cyber crime, fraudulent travel documents, and transnational fraud. Commission C discussed the establishment of a Permanent Aseanapol Secretariat, electronic-Aseanapol Database System (e-ADS), mutual assistance in criminal matters, exchange of personnel, and drafting of Joint Communiqué.

The first working group discussed the establishment of Aseanapol Secretariat and Vietnam's initiative to promote training cooperation between police academies and police training centres of Asean countries and feasibility of establishing a database of criminal records to be discussed at ADSTC meeting in Vietnam.

The second working group focused on police cooperation between Asean member countries and dialogue partners. The National Police Agency of Japan proposed to establish a shared database of websites related to terrorism with Asean Police forces and the proposal by Australian Federal Police for a workshop on Command, Control an Coordination (C3) Project as part of the Joint Asean Senior Police Officers Course (JASPOC) to be held in Vietnam with the partnership of General Department of Vietnam Police.

At the plenary sessions on May 13 and 15, delegates deliberated and adopted the Commission and Working Group Discussion reports; adopted and signed the Joint Communiqué of the 29th Aseanapol Conference. Asean Chiefs of Police collectively and significantly agreed on the following: the implementation of proposals on strengthening cooperation with dialogue partners in combating crime; signed the Terms of Reference (TOR) for the establishment of Aseanapol Secretariat and adopted the key appointments of Aseanapol Secretariat which is expected to start its operation on January 1, 2010 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

The 29th Aseanapol Conference also agreed that the 30th Aseanapol Conference next year will be held in Cambodia hosted by Cambodian National Police.


PHNOM PENH, May 21, 2009 (AFP) - Cambodia's Khmer Rouge war crimes courtwarned a lawyer who has defended some of the world's most notorious figuresThursday that he could be dismissed if he obstructs or abuses proceedings.

French lawyer Jacques Verges received the warning after a bail hearing last month for his client, the regime's head of state Khieu Samphan, in which the judges stopped Verges from raising claims about corruption at the court.

Verges had argued that claims about court staff paying kickbacks for jobs had harmed the court's authority, and also mentioned comments by Cambodian PM Hun Sen that he would rather see the tribunal fail than pursue more suspects.

The UN-backed court's warning called Verges' allegations "unsubstantiated" and his language "abusive and insulting".

"They cannot be tolerated by the pre-trial Chamber, which has a duty toensure that decorum and dignity necessary for court proceedings are preserved," said the warning.

The warning added that Verges had delayed proceedings and misused the court's resources by not contributing to the hearing after it was delayed so that he could attend.

Verges, who has acted for some of the world's most infamous figures including Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie and Venezuelan terrorist "Carlos the Jackal," is known for attempting to sow confusion in the courtroom.

A fierce anti-colonialist, Verges, who was born in Thailand, reportedlybefriended Khieu Samphan and other future Khmer Rouge leaders while at university in Paris in the 1950s.

In last month's hearing, Verges told the court when ordered not to bring up the graft claims: "I shall be silent because the head of state (Hun Sen) which hosts you has stated publicly that he wishes you to leave, making you, in amoral sense, squatters."

Verges continued that he would be brief "because it is not seemly to fire on ambulances and victims and the wounded; nor is it seemly to fire on hearses and those who are about to die."

Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot died in 1998. The trial of regime prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, is under way, but no date has been set for thetrials of Khieu Samphan or three other former senior leaders held by the court.

Up to two million people were executed or died of starvation and overwork as the 1975to 1979 Khmer Rouge regime emptied Cambodia's cities, enslavingthe population to collective farms in its bid for a communist utopia.

Duch's trial in disarray against backdrop of misunderstandings between two legal systems

Choeung Ek (Phnom Penh, Cambodia). 20/05/2009: Re-enactment of atrocities perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge, during “Hatred Day”, a ceremony initiated in 1984, stopped in 1991, and reinstated in 1999
©John Vink/ Magnum


By Stephanie Gée

On this May 20th, which celebrated Hatred Day, like every year, at the Choeung Ek mass grave site, on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, the voice of expert witness Craig Etcheson was again barely heard in the Khmer Rouge Tribunal and, already, it appears that the new schedule of proceedings outlined by the judges will not be respected. Although everybody was in place at 10.30am, when the hearing was planned to resume, it was not until 11am that the president of the court came and took his seat, alone, to announce that the hearing would not resume until early afternoon. The reason: the judges did not managed to reach a decision on the requests and objections submitted to them on the previous day. A group of villagers who had come specially to attend the morning hearing had to leave without seeing anything.

Rules of evidence
When the hearing opened at last, the president read the Chamber's decisions. The Trial Chamber granted the request by the defence to exclude as elements of evidence in the trial the statements of two deceased witnesses collected by the Documentation Centre of Cambodia (DC-Cam), as well as an interview of the accused made in May 1999 by a representative of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Christophe Peschoux, documents that were brought by the office of the co-Prosecutors. However, the Chamber accepted the latter's request that a report be subjected to examination during the hearing. As for the request made by the office of the co-Prosecutors on the previous day regarding the implementation of a method of summaries to present the documents they wish to put before the Chamber concerning the testimony of expert Craig Etcheson, the Chamber invoked the great importance of rules 87.2 and 87.3 of the Internal Rules, “fundamental for the provision and conduct of a fair trial.”

The rules state that “[A]ny decision of the Chamber shall be based only on evidence that has been put before the Chamber and subjected to examination. Where the Chamber makes its decision based on evidence from the case file, it shall ensure that such evidence has been expressly put before the parties during the hearing. Evidence from the case file is considered put before the Chamber if its content has been summarised or read out in court. The Chamber may reject a request for evidence where it finds that it is:
a) irrelevant or repetitious;
b) impossible to obtain within a reasonable time;
c) unsuitable to prove the facts it purports to prove;
d) not allowed under the law; or
e) intended to prolong proceedings or is frivolous.”

Consequently, president Nil Nonn summarised, “each document must be read or summarised in order to enable the parties and the Chamber to appreciate the value of the document; in principle, the documents summarised must be written in Khmer, one of the working languages of the tribunal and the mother tongue of the accused; also, Article 15 of the Convention against torture establishes that each State Party shall ensure that any statement which is established to have been made as a result of torture shall not be invoked as evidence in any proceedings, except against a person accused of torture as evidence that the statement was made.”

Which document?
On judge Cartwright's request, Pr. Craig Etcheson endeavoured to summarise the parts of his report, “Overview of the Hierarchy of Democratic Kampuchea”. François Roux, Duch's international co-lawyer, intervened to record his regret that he did not receive French translations of some of the annexes to the document. Shortly afterwards ensued an endless search for document reference numbers, which differ according to the languages (Khmer, English or French) in which they are issued. Judge Lavergne joined in: “When one refers to a document during the hearing, […] it is important to know which document one is talking about, to know its nature, its level of translation, to make observations regarding its admissibility, as needed...” The search resumed, microphones were turned off, and everyone had their nose buried in their files. Suddenly, Judge Lavergne exclaimed: “I think I have found one!” For his part, the U.S. expert acknowledged the difficulty of the task, as the confessions often bear multiple and different dates...

Does an expert witness' testimony have be corroborated by scores of documents?
Once again, Roux became infuriated by the quantity of documents which the co-Prosecutors wished to add to the case file. “We are in a trial in which the accused has recognised most of the facts he charged with. Could we invite the office of the co-Prosecutors to focus as a priority on the facts that are still debated and present for those facts three or four documents? […] It seems to me that if the office of the co-Prosecutors made an effort to bring us three or four relevant documents regarding the facts that are contested by the accused, we could save an enormous amount of time. As for the facts that are uncontested, if you brought two relevant documents to support your evidence, I think everybody would win, especially the victims who, I believe, are eagerly waiting to be heard.”

Judge Cartwright seemed to appreciate little the comment and asked the lawyer if he attached a different value to the testimony of the accused and the opinion of an expert relating to the facts the accused is charged with. Roux corrected her: Craig Etcheson “is not truly an expert, he belongs to the office of the co-Prosecutors. That should not be forgotten. He is the voice of the prosecution here. Let us not lose that of sight!” The judge repeated her question, still waiting for an answer. The lawyer then reiterated his reservations regarding “the necessity to bring dozens or even hundreds of documents in support of the expert's testimony. A priori, I trust the expert. […] I do not need to be brought dozens of documents by him from the start.” The judge decided: “I do not believe it is the Chamber's role to tell the co-Prosecutors or any other party which documents to use before having a chance to hear them. Fee free to point out they are repetitive or different testimonies.”

It was then the turn of international co-Prosecutor Alex Bates to interrogate the expert witness. Almost immediately, he interrogated him in a way to demonstrate the usefulness for the Chamber to be able to appreciate the reliability of the expert witness' conclusions, by ascertaining the reliability of the contents of the documents used to support his report. Then, he started reading analytical reports established in 1978, first by the U.S. government, a memorandum addressed to the United Nations describing the widespread human rights violations in Democratic Kampuchea. Then, Alex Bates read a second report, of the Norwegian government this time, which repeated, in almost the same words, what the U.S report stated...

Off-topic, the defence denounces
François Roux interrupted him, asking how it was related to the Closing Order of the co-Investigating Judges for which this Chamber is competent. “I have just heard about people being evacuated from cities, a legal system that was not functioning... All of this is entirely off-topic. […] Duch is prosecuted for facts that are specified in the Closing Order. We would like for the co-Prosecutors to focus on the facts Duch is charged with. You cannot place the responsibility of all the crimes on Duch.” The president of the Chamber deemed “relevant” some of the observations made by the defence, to the disappointment of Alex Bates. He had hoped to “establish the reason and necessity to put before the Court the documents which Craig Etcheson had used to write his report.” Also, on a note of annoyance, he said he was offended by the unceasing interruptions and objections made by the defence. “The co-Prosecutors fully understand that the defence wishes to limit the examination by the Chamber of the elements of evidence to select only a few documents. And naturally, it is in the interest of the accused that documents that incriminate him or documents of substance not be addressed. But, Your Honour, one of the roles of the court and the Chamber is undoubtedly to demonstrate that an internationalised tribunal, based in Cambodia, comprising of Cambodian and international staff, is able to conduct a fair trial on the basis of the elements of evidence, and even more importantly, that this can be done in a public manner. […] It is often heard in Cambodia that the tribunal lacks transparency and that there are very few discussions in the public about what is happening here. There are an increasing number of reports, including within the tribunal, regarding corruption issues. So, what is it we wish to achieve at the end of this process? When an expert reviews the action of the tribunal, do we want him to find a ruling based on a couple of documents, elements of evidence that were not debated sufficiently, or do we want the expert to conclude that the ruling is founded on solid evidence and corroborated sources? […] The co-Prosecutors consider that the public has the right to hear the elements of evidence upon which the sentence will be founded.”

Two conflicting legal systems: the substance of the debate?
Then criticised by some of the civil party lawyers for wanting to “dictate the means of proof that are admissible”, Roux responded: “I think that we are again coming up against an issue of method and, let's say it, of legal culture. I have already said repeatedly that we are here following a Closing Order, which itself follows a year of investigation […], to which the co-Prosecutors participated in a regular and systematic manner. And I thank them for that. It was a considerable contribution to the so-called civil law procedure since, for a year, we were able to debate among co-Investigating Judges, Prosecutors and the defence.”

The French lawyer then reiterated his wish that the Closing Order be referred to more often. “Let us listen to Mr. Craig Etcheson give an overview of what Democratic Kampuchea was, of course, and his written report is an extremely interesting element for everyone. Besides, I wish for the report to be made public as soon as possible on the tribunal's website, as soon as it has been examined during this hearing. […] But the question is, do we need to know, even through summaries, all the documents which the author of the report has used? In common law, certainly. In civil law, that is not necessary […] for the judges to be convinced beyond reasonable doubt […]. Proceeding today to the exhaustive reading of the summaries of all the documents studied by Mr. Craig Etcheson, that means time lost for this court, that means money lost for this court and for the victims. […] I would like to recall that the internal rules state that the judges must be convinced of the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt.”

For the first time, an international criminal court follows the civil law system, though associated with elements of the common law system which dominates international criminal law.

The hearing was adjourned on this comment from the president: “It was a long and busy hearing.”


Novelty in the tribunal's communication
From now on, a press conference will be held every Wednesday at 12.30pm at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC). The first was delivered by the management of the court's office of administration – Tony Kranh, acting director, and Knut Rosandhaug, his deputy. Satisfaction was expressed regarding the tribunal's good conduct of and progress in its work. It was also announced that Sean Visoth, the director of the office of administration of the ECCC, officially on unpaid leave since six months ago, will not resume his work at the court and is extending his leave. The vacancy has occurred while a graft allegations scandal marred the Cambodian side of the tribunal. Moreover, the national staff now stands at 252 employees, following a decision to downsize the staff in some sections for enhanced effectiveness and because the Supreme Court is not yet operational, it was explained. As for the court's budget, thanks to the 4.3 million dollars recently received from Japan, the Cambodian side will be able to function until late December 2009.

Day of bitter remembrance

Photo by: Tracey Shelton

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Tracey Shelton
Thursday, 21 May 2009

Students from the Royal University of Fine Arts on participate Wednesday in a dramatic re-creation of the brutalities suffered under the Khmer Rouge regime in commemoration of the national Day of Anger. About 1,000 people turned out at the Choeung Ek killing fields to mark the anniversary of the day believed to have been when the Khmer Rouge instituted forced collectivisation throughout the country.

Dim sum, in a variety of styles, tempt the palate

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Selection of dim sum at Almond Hotel’s Yi Sang Chinese Restaurant.

Dim Sum menu guide

Today there are more than 2,000 varieties of dim sum dishes, most of which come from Guangdong province in southern China and Hong Kong, although many are improvised with the most readily available ingredients by dim sum chefs outside of China. Despite the overwhelming variety of dim sum, there are a few basic dishes that remain popular favourites and appear on dim sum menus across the globe.

- Char Siu: Cantonese-style barbecued pork, slow cooked in spices until it is a rich red colour
- Char Siu Bao: Fluffy white steamed buns with a tangy filling of Cantonese-style barbecued pork
- Cheong Fun: Long, wide strips of rice paper filled with pork, shrimp, or vegetables, steamed or fried and served with sweet soy sauce.
- Egg Tart: Flaky pastry shell filled with sweet, creamy egg custard, then baked.
- Fun Co: Steamed dumplings usually filled with pork, shrimp, mushrooms, peanuts and bamboo shoots.
- Fung Jao: Chicken feet, fried marinated in black bean or oyster sauce, and then steamed. Also known as ‘Phoenix Talons’.
- Har Gao: Transparent rice paper filled with shrimp, pork, or beef, steamed or pan fried (in which case they are called potstickers).
- Jin Deui (Sesame Balls): Dough of rice flour and sugar, filled with sweet red bean paste, rolled in sesame seeds and deep-fried.
- Lo Mai Gai: Sticky rice mixed with mushrooms, Chinese sausage or chicken, wrapped in a lotus leaf and steamed.
- Siew Mai: Pork, shrimp or a combination of both wrapped in a thin yellow flour paper, often topped with fish roe.
- Shrimp Toast: Shrimp, ground to a paste and spread on small pieces of toast, then deep-fried.
- Turnip/Radish Cake: Shredded daikon radish mixed with dried shrimps, Chinese sausage, carrots or mushrooms, cut into squares and then fried.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Stephanie Mee
Thursday, 21 May 2009

Phnom Penh’s numerous Chinese restaurants bring the flavours of southern China to the capital with both traditional and innovative dishes

To some, the words dim sum conjure images of a veritable feast of exotic Asian delicacies. To others, the term invokes a pleasant weekend brunch with family and good friends. And still yet to others, dim sum brings to mind the perfect antidote to an excessive night out on the town.

Whatever image comes to mind, one thing is for certain: Phnom Penh's huge Chinese population means that tasty dim sum is usually only a stone's throw away.

Originating in Southern China, the term dim sum translates literally to "touch heart", a metaphor for small plates of food meant to re-energise travellers on the old Silk Road.

Today, dim sum has become synonymous with Chinese brunch, or Asian tapas, a culinary tradition that centres on small plates of tasty Southern Chinese fare, shared with friends or family, and washed down with plenty of Chinese tea.

Sok Mean, the Cambodian-Chinese owner of Mekong Village Restaurant, says that dim sum are traditionally served at breakfast.

"I get many Chinese and Cambodian customers who come here in the morning between 6am and 1pm to eat Hong Kong-style dim sum. Some people also order it for lunch or dinner, along with other dishes such as rice or soup."

Mekong Village employs authentic Chinese chefs to cook up dim sum favourites such as siew mai - delicately spiced, ground pork wrapped in yellow dumpling wrappers, steamed, topped with a whole shrimp and garnished with orange fish roe.

Another popular dim sum mainstay at Mekong Village are leek dumplings - thin, translucent rice papers bursting with finely chopped leeks and spring onions, fragrant minced garlic and earthy brown mushrooms, steamed and served hot.

"My wife and I eat dim sum every day and we like the classic dim sum dishes, but we also like to experiment with new styles," said Sok Mean.

Unique innovations at Mekong Village include rabbit and goldfish dumplings, a twist on the popular dim sum dish har gao.

Conventional har gao is made out of ground pork or shrimp, wrapped in a transparent rice paper and steamed.

"Dim Sum dishes can also be sweet rather than savoury," said Sok Mean. "For example, sweet egg custard tarts in the Macau style and taro paste buns are very popular as dim sum dishes as well."

Dishes at Mekong Village range from US$1.50 to US$3 a plate, and come with complimentary pickled cucumber, and sides of garlic, chilli and soy sauce. An a la carte menu of Chinese specialities such as Peking duck and tripe is also available daily.

Yi Sang Chinese Restaurant also offers dim sum daily in their elegant aquarium-lined dining room in the Almond Hotel.

Dishes at Yi Sang include rice rolls - thick sheets of rice noodles, filled with barbecued pork and cilantro, steamed and covered in sweet soy sauce, as well as deep-fried Cantonese shrimp balls, and savoury, minced shrimp and pork dumplings.

Guangzhou style
"Our dim sum cuisine is mainly Guangzhou style, from Guangdong province," said Tit Vy, manager of Yi Sang restaurant.
"This is why our menu contains a lot of traditional Chinese dishes like har gao, shrimp toast and, of course, fried chicken feet, which are very popular with Chinese and Khmer customers," he said.

...people like dim sum because the dishes are small, light and inexpensive...

With his team of Guangdong province chefs, Tit Vy also creates six new dim sum creations each week.

"Our regular dim sum menu and specials are well liked by all sorts of people; Chinese, Khmer and especially on weekends we get a lot of Western clientele who come to enjoy a relaxing brunch and great food," he said.

At US$2.50 a plate, the dishes at Yi Sang are served with sides of spicy chilli oil, chilli sauce, complimentary tea and a small dessert.

Sam Doo is another popular dim sum haunt, offering 18 fried and steamed delicacies on its special dim sum menu.

Dishes at the busy two-level restaurant include char siu bao, fluffy steamed white buns filled with tangy Cantonese barbecue pork; fun co, steamed dumplings filled with pork, shrimp, peanuts and mushrooms; and deep fried sesame rolls to name a few.

The menu also includes classic Cantonese fried meat and vegetable dishes and tasty soups. All dim sum meals are served with bottomless Chinese tea, and are good value at US$1.50 a plate.

"I think people like dim sum because the dishes are small, light and inexpensive, and they can be shared," said Sok Mean.

"This is the real Chinese way to eat fresh and delicious dim sum, together with family and friends."

Touk readies to make its mark

Photo by: Stephanie Mee
Anandi Deonarine is the new general manager and events coordinator of Touk Restaurant and bar.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Stephanie Mee
Thursday, 21 May 2009

One of the Riverside’s newest establishments promises something for everyone

One of Riverside's newest additions to the strip has undergone many transformations in a relatively short period of time, but its newest incarnation as Touk Restaurant and Bar is surely the classiest one to date.

Formerly River Strip Bar, on the corner of Street 178 and Sisowath Quay, the second-floor bar in a prime river viewing-location has evolved from a dark, dingy, little visited establishment to a bright, airy restaurant and lounge. Adorned with colourful water themed paintings and large wicker chairs with simple cream coloured cushions, the bar sports a relaxed yet sophisticated ambience.

Inspiring views
Unobstructed serene views of the Bassac and Mekong rivers can be seen from almost any seat in either of the spacious air-conditioned rooms, and conveniently placed chairs line the window ledges, offering prime vantage points to watch the sunset.

It's no wonder that the five months of renovations have transpired into such a laid-back, yet stylish locale, as the changes were made under the experienced eye of owner Srey Pich, who also co-owns Herb Café and Shadow Bar.

"I wanted to open something new on the riverfront and give it a Khmer name as my other two places have English names," said Srey Pich. "Touk means boat in Khmer, which suits this place as we are so close to the river."

The restaurant's menu is worthy of any upmarket restaurant in the capital.

Dishes include Khmer specialities such as fried ta oun fish with pickled bean and ginger, lotus root salad with pork and bacon, and steamed chicken in Chinese whiskey sauce as well as Western influenced innovations like grilled pork fillet with pineapple salsa, chicken with brandy sauce and clams stuffed with apple curry chutney.

Something for everyone
Dishes range from US$3.00 to US$11.00, and are rounded off by an extensive drink menu including fresh fruit juices, wine by the glass, enticing cocktails, and local and imported beer and spirits.

Touk means boat in khmer, which suits this place as we are so close to the river.

General manager and events co-ordinator Anandi Deonarine says that she wants to make Touk into a contemporary and comfortable venue where people can have a good time both during the day and at night.

"The place is a great space for people to have some lunch and a beer and watch the river during the day, and a place to meet up with friends for good food, good drinks and good times at night," she said.

Touk will throw their grand-opening party this Friday with free food for all, cheeky drink specials, and hoppin' tunes.

To check out the party head to the corner of Sisowath Quay and Street 178, or call 099 701 566.

Cut stops May Sopheap in the third

Photo by: Robert Starkweather
May Sopheap (left, blue shorts) comes out swinging in the third round against Um Dara at Bayon TV Sunday.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Robert Starkweather
Thursday, 21 May 2009

Um Dara scored an impressive TKO victory at Bayon TV Sunday, stopping current 67-kilogram title-holder May Sopheap with a cut to the eyebrow in the third round of their non-title fight

FEW would mistake May Sopheap's profession after looking at his face.

The 25-year-old Battambang native carries the unmistakable mug of a brawler. His eyebrows flare on both sides, shredded with scars. A dark crescent curves across his right cheek and two thin arcs, both the result of elbows, rise from the middle of his brow like horns.

On Sunday, Um Dara added to the collection, opening a thick gash across the Battambang fighter's forehead with an elbow in the second round. Referee Tes Sarin stopped the fight in the third due to excessive bleeding, awarding Kampong Cham's Um Dara a TKO victory over May Sopheap, the current title-holder at 67 kilograms.

The Sunday bout, held at Bayon TV at 69 kilograms, was a non-title fight.

With the pace quickening in the second round, and the crowd clapping in rhythm to the music, 22-year-old Um Dara came charging in for the clinch behind three right elbows.

The first two missed as May Sopheap backpedaled into the ropes, but the final one connected, slashing a 2-inch cut high on the forehead of May Sopheap.

Referee Tes Sarin immediately stepped in to take a look. After a brief inspection he sent May Sopheap to the neutral corner to visit the fight doctor, who stanched the bleeding and dispatched the boxer back to work.

By then the round was gone, and May Sopheap returned to his stool, where his corner man slathered hair grease - a less-expensive substitute for petroleum jelly - into the gash.

With blood from the cut pouring into May Sopheap's right eye, hindering his vision, Um Dara knew a stoppage was in reach. So did May Sopheap.

When the bell rang both men unloaded at a furious pace. They traded punches and kicks and elbows and crashed into the clinch, where May Sopheap pummeled the body with knees and Um Dara tried to work the cut with a glove or an elbow.

The hair grease lasted about a second, and when the blood again started to leak from May Sopheap's face, Tes Sarin sent him back to the doctor, and a sense of inevitability settled into the arena.

After the rest, Um Dara came charging forward and connected with two hard right hands that buckled May Sopheap and, for an instant, looked as if he might go down.

May Sopheap managed to hang on, but blood was everywhere. All over his face. All over the canvass. And all over Um Dara, who was blinking and wiping his face frantically when Tes Sarin stopped the action once again and sent May Sopheap back to the doctor, who asked for the stoppage.

"His blood got in my eyes," Um Dara said after the fight.

The match marked the pair's fourth meeting. Their last bout came March 29, when Um Dara, standing in for an ill Nuon Soriya, beat May Sopheap on points. Um Dara's win Sunday moves the pair even with two victories each.

The win improves Um Dara's record to 51-5 while May Sopheap drops to 48-9-2.

Um Dara fights again Sunday in the main event at CTN, where he is scheduled to face Pov Saksith from the Ministry of Interior boxing club.

Fans favourite faces champ

Lao Sinath hits the bag during a workout session Monday at the house of his trainer, Hong Suen.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Robert Starkweather
Thursday, 21 May 2009

Kao Roomchang is set to fight 60kg titlist Lao Sinath at TV5 arena Sunday

HARD-CHARGING brawler Kao Roomchang will likely face the most difficult challenge of his career Sunday when he meets 60-kilogram titlist Lao Sinath in the main event at TV5 arena.

Kao Roomchang enters the match a significant underdog, but as many other top-name fighters have discovered, his relentless attacks and sneaky power often combine for explosive knockouts.

"Kao Roomchang is a very strong fighter," said Hong Suen, Lao Sinath's trainer at the Commando 911 boxing club. "We know he is going to come right at us."

"There is no way we would take him lightly," he added.

Fighting at the announced weight of 63.5 kilograms, the bout Sunday is a non-title fight.

In his relatively brief two-year career, Battambang native Kao Roomchang has earned a reputation for flashy knockouts, making him a crowd favourite.

Two of his most memorable endings include the fourth round stoppage of hard-punching May Socheat with a spinning back kick, and the second round clubbing of Poev Vannsak with a series of thunderous elbows.

Against the sport's very best, however, Kao Roomchang (24-5-2) has met with limited success.

The two share many top-notch opponents, most notably Bheut Kham and more recently Long Sophy. Kao Roomchang went five rounds with Bheut Kham in January.

Arguably the most dominant fighter Cambodia has ever produced at 60 kilograms, Bheut Kham was returning from a long layoff and clearly not at peak condition. He coasted as much as he could through the later rounds, ultimately winning the decision on experience as much as technique despite struggling at times with Kao Roomchang's ferocious, non-stop attacks.

Kao Roomchang has faced top-ranked Long Sophy three times in as many months. While Long Sophy has walked away with the victory each time, the fights have all been decided by extremely narrow margins.

In comparison, Lao Sinath (44-3) boasts not just wins over Bheut Kham and Long Sophy, but stunning knockouts.

In their first match in August, Kampong Speu native Lao Sinath demolished Bheut Kham, scoring an 8-count in the third round and a knockout in the fourth.

In his most recent outing against Long Sophy - a title defense in March at CTN - Lao Sinath dropped Long Sophy with a straight left hand in the third round. The punch flattened Long Sophy, and he was still asleep on the canvass long after referee Sok Vichay counted ten.

Heading into Sunday's fight against Kao Roomchang, Lao Sinath's camp remain cagey about strategy.

"Sinath is the taller fighter," Hong Suen said. "So we will try to use that to our advantage." Beyond that, Hong Suen prefers to keep fight plans secret. Instead, he offers some old boxing wisdom.

"A lot of guys fight with their strength," he said, raising both arms in a body-builder pose for emphasis. "We're going to try and win with our brains."

Fights start 3:30pm Sunday at TV5 arena, Takhmao.

Koupreys hope to avenge loss to Laos in friendly Saturday

Photo by: Jacob Cawthorne
Cambodian lock Chhoeng Veasna (above right) catches the ball from a lineout against Laos (in blue) during their Asian 5 Nations regional tournament game in Savannakhet, Laos, March 28.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Ray Leos
Thursday, 21 May 2009

The Cambodian national rugby team, "the Koupreys", will attempt to end their four game losing streak when they face Laos in a friendly this Saturday at Phnom Penh's Old Stadium with kickoff is slated for 4pm.

The Koupreys suffered a heartbreaking 8-3 defeat to Laos on March 28 in the HSBC 5 Nations Regional Tournament in Savannakhet, Laos, losing to an intercepted pass in the closing seconds.

Despite the disappointment, Cambodia coach Peter Maley believes his team showed much improvement.

"Our defending was outstanding, and we really came together as a team during that match," said Australian national Maley. "Our problem was in maintaining possession and not creating enough attacking opportunities in our phase play. That's what hurt us."

However, Maley is optimistic his players will step up to the challenge of playing Laos once again.

"I've seen some good things in training this past month, and I think we'll continue to improve. We want our guys to play hard, relax, focus and play together as a team, not as individuals. If we do all that, we can win on Saturday."

Cambodia and Laos have met six times since first facing each other in 2005, with Cambodia winning the first three matches and Laos the last three.

Laos coach Ian Melhuish, who is also Australina, expects another nail biter Saturday.

"I expect another close one, probably not being decided until the final minutes. We are both very evenly matched, so anything can happen," added Melhuish. "This is such a great rivalry, and it's good for rugby development for both nations."

Melhuish's Laos team for Saturday's match will be nearly identical to the squad fielded at the HSBC 5 Nations tournament with the one notable exception being the absence of fullback William Luangrath, who will be unable to join the team due to academic commitments in the U.K.

Luangrath, who holds dual Laos-UK citizenship, has been a starter on the Laos squad for the past two years, and has been one of the linchpins of their offensive attack.

Maley announced his team selections for Saturday's match last night, and they feature a few changes from the previous Laos encounter. Most notable is the halfback position, where 20-year-old Phon Bophan gets the starting nod over veteran Pich Ratana. "Bophan has impressed me during our trainings," stated Maley. He's quick, he's got good hands, and he makes some excellent passes off rucks. This is now his chance to step up."

Generally, the Koupreys are injury-free, with the one exception being Aussie workhorse Ralph McMillan who is suffering from strained knee ligaments.

McMillan is currently listed to start at the tight head prop position, although Maley said his status could change just before kickoff.

"We'll see how he feels during warm-ups," remarked Maley. "We'll make the final decision then."

In addition to the men's match, the Cambodian and Lao women will play a 10-a-side match starting at 3pm, with Cambodian junior development matches in the under 20 and under 15 divisions kicking off the day's action at 1:30pm. Admission to all matches is free.

Kirivong fail to break clear at top of league

Kirivong Sok Sen Chey’s Him Salam (left) tries to take the ball around Spark FC defender Kheav Vibol at Olympic Stadium Wednesday. AFP

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Dan Riley
Thursday, 21 May 2009

CAMBODIAN Premier League side Kirivong Sok Sen Chey wasted a golden opportunity Wednesday to put daylight between them and the rest of the teams as they threw away an early lead to lose 2-1 to newly-promoted club Spark FC.

Having gone ahead through inform striker In Vichika after quarter-of-an-hour, Spark showed why they deserved to be given Premier league status with goals either side of the interval by African hotshot Justin Prince and local talent Meak Chhor Daravuth.

In Wednesday's early fixture, National Defence Ministry (MND) and Khemera Keila laboured to a 1-1 draw. National team star and Samdech Hun Sen Cup golden boot winner Kuoch Sokumpheak opened the scoring in the 55th minute for Khemera, but MND forward Um Kompheak equalize midway through the second half.

Kirivong now share the head the table with Preah Khan Reach, who recorded a stunning 2-0 upset over reigning champions Phnom Penh Crown, while Spark FC remain the only side unbeaten in the league and promote themselves to fourth place.

Suu Kyi allowed to speak out

Myanmar Buddhist monks pray Wednesday during a demonstration in front of the Myanmar embassy in Bangkok Wednesday. AFP

The Phnom Penh Post

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Democracy icon unexpectedly addresses diplomats at trial

YANGON - Myanmar opposition icon Aung San Suu Kyi was unexpectedly allowed to speak to diplomats at her internationally condemned trial Wednesday and expressed hope for "better days" in the future.

She smiled and looked healthy as she thanked envoys for coming to Insein prison in her first public comments since the ruling junta charged her last week with breaching her house arrest, an AFP reporter inside the court said.

"Thank you very much for coming and for your support," the 63-year-old, wearing pink Burmese traditional dress, said inside the courtroom at the end of the third day of the trial.

"I can't meet you one by one, but I hope to meet you all in better days," she added.

Aung San Suu Kyi then went for a meeting with the ambassadors of Singapore and Russia and a senior diplomat from Thailand at the so-called "guest house" inside the prison compound where she is being held.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner told the envoys that she was "well and being well treated" in prison, the Singaporean government said.

She also said that she "did not wish to use the intrusion into her home as a way to get at the Myanmar authorities" and expressed hope for "national reconciliation if all parties so wished".

The surprise move by the military regime to allow some diplomats and media access to the trial followed intense international pressure and a scathing condemnation by Myanmar's normally placid Southeast Asian neighbours.

Aung San Suu Kyi faces up to five years in jail if convicted of charges of breaching her house arrest, which stem from an incident earlier this month in which an American man, John Yettaw, swam to her lakeside house.

Authorities held the first two days of hearings behind closed doors and had turned away European diplomats on Monday, but on Wednesday said representatives from all 30 foreign embassies would be allowed in.

The regime also allowed five journalists from foreign news organisations and the same number from local organisations to report on the hearing. Details had previously emerged only in state media or through Aung San Suu Kyi's lawyers.

But diplomats said they did not have much confidence in the trial.

"I think this is a story where the conclusion is already scripted," the British ambassador to Yangon, Mark Canning, told the BBC.

"I don't have any confidence in the outcome. While the access we had today was very welcome, it doesn't change the fundamental problem."

Aung San Suu Kyi has spent 13 of the last 19 years in detention since the regime refused to recognise her party's landslide victory in the last elections to be held in Myanmar in 1990.

Thailand was picked because it holds the chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, while the Singaporean envoy is the doyen of Yangon's diplomatic corps and Russia heads the UN Security Council.

The Southeast Asian bloc, which has faced trouble with Myanmar since admitting the country in 1997, warned on Tuesday that the regime's "honour and credibility" were at stake over Aung San Suu Kyi's trial.

EU nations have said they are mulling tighter sanctions over the handling of the trial, while US President Barack Obama formally extended American sanctions last week.

The EU may also ask China to pressure Myanmar's military junta to free opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, an EU commissioner said Wednesday.

The 27-nation group, which outlaws weapons sales to Myanmar, curbs financing for its state-run companies and won't allow junta leaders to visit Europe, wants Asian powers such as China and India to pressure Myanmar's ruling generals to free Suu Kyi.

EU officials may ask their Chinese counterparts including Prime Minister Wen Jiabao to use their influence with Myanmar's junta when they meet to discuss EU-China ties in Prague.

"We have to reinforce the dialogue with Burma's neighbors," said Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the EU's external relations commissioner who will participate in the summit.

"It should at least be always a discussion point with China, with India and with others."

While relations between the EU and China have warmed since then, the reaction in Asia to Aung San Suu Kyi's trial has been muted so far, and the bloc's demands for the Chinese government to pressure Myanmar may fall on deaf ears.

"Myanmar's issue should be decided by the people of Myanmar," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu told reporters in Beijing.

"As a neighbor of Myanmar, we hope that relevant parties in Myanmar can realise reconciliation, stability and development through dialogue."

China may be more receptive to the EU's entreaties than it acknowledges publicly, and European officials believe the Chinese government can make inroads with Myanmar's leaders, said Fredrik Erixon, director of the European Centre for International Political Economy in Brussels.

"It's one of the main things that could happen at the summit," Erixon said by phone. "Her imprisonment is almost a matter of religion in Europe. This is a big issue, and it's also an issue where Europe believes they can get China to do things."

Critics say the junta has trumped up the charges to keep Aung San Suu Kyi locked up during elections due next year, and also to beat a May 27 deadline when her latest six-year period of detention expires.

The trial on Wednesday heard from only one police witness about the arrest of Yettaw, who used a pair of homemade flippers to swim across the lake before spending two days at Aung San Suu Kyi's residence.

Yettaw, a 53-year-old former US army veteran from Missouri, and two female aides who live with the opposition leader are also on trial.

Testimony halted over document row at KRT

Written by Cheang Sokha and Georgia Wilkins
Thursday, 21 May 2009

TESTIMONY at the trial of Kaing Guek Eav ground to a halt Wednesday as the defence and prosecution argued over the admissibility of documents submitted by genocide expert Craig Etcheson, who was on the stand as a witness.

Francois Roux, the international lawyer for Kaing Guek Eav, the former head of Tuol Sleng prison who is better known as Duch, rejected the additional documents as "a waste of [the court's] time".

"This, I say again, is completely useless in a civil law context," he said.

As a result of the disagreement, Etcheson was unable to continue his testimony as judges listened to arguments from the two sides.

The defence's objection was overruled, with judges saying the documents were already in the case file.

Support for Sean Visoth
At a press conference during a break in proceedings, court officials told reporters that the director of administration, Sean Visoth, was still at his post despite a six-month absence from the court amid a graft scandal.

Tony Kranh, the acting director of administration, refused to say why Sean Visoth was absent, or when he would be back.

"We don't have to talk about personal matters. Every staff member here has the right to go on leave," he said.

The official was removed from the court's payroll after his sick leave of three months rolled over, spokesman Reach Sambath said, but Sean Visoth was still in charge of administration. "You can call him what you want in the paper, but he is still the director," he said.

NGOs demand that government pass anti-corruption law

Written by Sam Rith
Thursday, 21 May 2009

But a CPP spokesman says even though the law is being worked on, a finalisation date is ‘unclear’ due to a number of obstacles

CIVIL society groups on Wednesday called on the government and the National Assembly to speed up passage of the draft Anti-corruption Law, whose progress was described by anti-corruption campaigner Sek Borisoth as the slowest-moving legislation he has seen.

Sek Borisoth, the program director of anti-corruption NGO PACT, said corruption was a pervasive problem, and politicians had first discussed the need for an anti-corruption law in 1994. The initial draft Anti-corruption Law came out in 2003 but remains to be adopted by the National Assembly.

"We continue to insist that the law on anti-corruption be finalised and approved soon," he said at a press conference on May 20 marking the first anniversary of a campaign that collected more than 1 million thumbprints and signatures demanding the law's passage.

"We are upset that we have seen no progress whatsoever in the year since we handed over the petition given by eligible Cambodian voters to representatives of the National Assembly to confirm their willingness and demand for the passage of the law on anti-corruption."

Sek Borisoth said the million-thumbprint campaign by the Coalition of Civil Society Organisations Against Corruption took place between December 2007 and April 2008. Staff from 11 of the 50 coalition members met people in 19 provinces and cities nationwide.

Hang Puthea, the executive director of coalition member Nicfec, an election monitoring group, said corruption could easily be seen in public and gave the example of traffic officers openly taking bribes.

Cheam Yeap, a lawmaker from the ruling Cambodian People's Party, said parliament had not yet received the draft law from the Council of Ministers because it was still being worked on.

Cheam Yeap said progress was slow because those involved were having trouble coming up with a suitable definition of the term "corruption". He also blamed difficulties in finding an independent and neutral person to chair the anti-corruption national council, which the law would create.

Thirdly, he said that provisions in the draft Anti-corruption Law that give the national council greater powers than prosecutors were unconstitutional. Finally, there was disagreement about the provision for a register of the assets of government officials.

"We need a law suitable to Cambodia's current development situation and one that is up to international standards," Cheam Yeap said, adding that he would urge Deputy Prime Minister Sok An at the Council of Ministers to speed up progress. And he pledged to take on board comments from civil society and rapidly approve the draft law once it was handed to the National Assembly.

But, he said, it was unclear when the draft law would be completed, and in any event, that could not happen until the Criminal Code was finished since the latter law would contain the punishments for corruption. The date for finalising that, he said, was also unclear.

No future coalition, says SRP, Funcinpec

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Meas Sokchea
Thursday, 21 May 2009

Officials from the Sam Rainsy Party and Funcinpec on Wednesday ruled out any possibility of a future coalition.

SRP spokesman Yim Sovann said his party would welcome Funcinpec but only if they embraced the opposition party's platform.

Nhek Bun Chhay, secretary general of Funcinpec, which last week announced a future merger with the Norodom Ranariddh Party, said differences in vision with the SRP precluded any possible coalition.

The SRP's outlook, Nhek Bun Chay said, is to oppose the government on everything, adding that Funcinpec would be willing to partner with the ruling Cambodian People's Party.

PM presses for bike seizures

Traffic police pull over a motorcyclist for not wearing a helmet in Phnom Penh Wednesday on Monivong Boulevard.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chun Sophal
Thursday, 21 May 2009

Hun Sen orders officials to amend road rules to allow police to impound motorbikes

POLICE could be empowered to seize and confiscate motorbikes without side mirrors under a Land Traffic Law amendment proposed by Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Drivers without helmets would also be subject to the amendment suggested in a speech Tuesday.

"I think that the best way to avoid and reduce road accidents in the future is to catch and hold onto motorbikes and stop levying fines," Hun Sen said during a speech at the Ministry of Interior.

The prime minister pressed the ministries of interior, justice, and public works and transport to cooperate closely to enforce the rules.

He added that road accidents were a serious problem that had negative effects on economic development and poverty reduction.

"Police must keep the motorbikes, and when the owners have helmets and side mirrors, they can get their motorbikes back, and I will grant the owners one litre of petrol as an encouragement for them," Hun Sen said.

A rising toll
According to the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, the first four months of 2009 saw 2,137 accidents and 579 deaths on Cambodia's roads - a 1.58 percent increase on the same period last year.

The whole of 2008 saw 1,638 road deaths, and the loss of an estimated US$200 million worth of property.

Eung Chung Huor, general director of the General Transportation Department at the Transport Ministry, said that the ministry would re-examine existing traffic legislation to identify the articles that needed to be amended.

"We think that it will take a long time to amend this law because we have to check all the articles that are being enforced before sending it to the National Assembly," he said.

The Land Traffic Law, approved by the National Assembly in 2007, authorises police to issue on-the-spot 3,000 riel fines to motorbike drivers not wearing a helmet and 4,000 riels for those lacking side mirrors.

There are more than 1 million vehicles, including around 800,000 motorbikes and 200,000 cars, on Cambodia's roads.

Tin Prasoeur, Phnom Penh traffic police chief, told the Post Tuesday that despite the passage of the law, only around half of motorcyclists wear helmets and have side mirrors.

"I think it is good that the law [will] allow police to catch the motorbikes to warn those who do not respect the law because fining them does not seem to be very effective," he said.

First KR textbook launched

Children read copies of a new Khmer Rouge history textbook distributed by DC-CAM and expected to be used in classrooms throughout the Kingdom by September

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Cheang Sokha and Georgia Wilkins
Thursday, 21 May 2009

Students at schools across the country are to receive copies of Cambodia's first textbook on the Khmer Rouge regime in a drive to boost youth awareness.

THE Documentation Centre of Cambodia (DC-Cam) on Wednesday began distributing a Khmer Rouge history textbook to over a thousand high schools and primary schools across the country.

Students at Hun Sen Ang Snuol High School were the first recipients of the book, which is the first textbook on the Khmer Rouge period to reach students.

"The purpose of distributing these books is to make students understand their history," Youk Chhang, director of DC-Cam, told students.

"This understanding will help fix the damage of their parents' hearts and the loss felt during the regime," he added.

The textbook will be introduced into the school curriculum following distribution of a teacher's guide on how best to engage students on the subject.

Until now, only four copies of A History of Democratic Kampuchea (1975-1979), by DC-Cam researcher Khamboly Dy, had been distributed to each of the country's more than 1,300 high schools.

However, additional funding from the German government this year allowed for more copies of the book to be printed, and roughly 175,000 will now be made available to students in 24 provinces.

"We want the students to know that the Khmer Rouge regime really did happen. Some students do not believe that this regime existed because it sounds so cruel, so from now on they will understand the true history of Cambodia," said Hang Chhum, director of Ang Snuol High School.

Grades 9 to 12 to be taught
Ton Sa Im, an undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Education, said that the book would be introduced to grade 9 to 12 students at the start of the next school year in September.

"There is no other regime like [the Democratic Kampuchea regime] in the world," he said.

"Studying this book will mean that students will not want to take revenge on people because they will understand society and how it affects the life of other human beings."

Clint Williamson, the US ambassador at large for war crimes who is currently in Cambodia, presented the book to each of the school's students.

"If we look at the pictures of the prisoners and guards [at S-21], many of them are the same age as you are today," he told the school.

"Many people want to forget this period, but they must not forget what happened in Cambodia," he said.

Ath Sokia, 18, a student at Ang Snuol High School, said that she had never learned about the history of the Khmer Rouge in school, but had been told by her parents.

"I am happy to study this book," she said.

Neth Sokha, a teacher at the school, said having a visual, written history helped aid the verbal history that so many in the older generation passed down.

"Young people often don't believe their parents when they tell them stories from the Khmer Rouge period. Now that it is written down, I think they will believe it."

Pol Pot artefacts attract 'ghost' bid

Written by Sam Rith
Thursday, 21 May 2009

A PHNOM Penh man has bid for a pair of Pol Pot's purported shoes and two cameras put on sale by former Tuol Sleng prison Nhem En - offering US$790,000 in imitation "ghost" money.

Nhem En had originally requested $500,000 for the items, but Pok Leak Reasey said he offered $790,000 to symbolise the fall of the Khmer Rouge in 1979. "And the reason why I've offered the money in ghost notes is because I want to say that all material remaining from the regime is worth nothing," he said.

In many parts of Asia, ghost money is used during funeral rites to offer the dead.

Pok Leak Reasey, who lost eight members of his family - including his father, grandparents, siblings and other relatives to the regime - says he has fashioned toilet seats and ashtrays in the form of Khieu Samphan and Pol Pot's faces as a way of relieving his anger.

Nhem En said he was not angry with the offer, but that he was still offering the KR artefacts with a starting price of $1 million. He added: "From now on, if any foreigner wants to meet me, I will charge them $500 per hour."

Staged killings stir victims' emotions on Day of Anger

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
At Choeung Ek on Wednesday, Chum Choy, 69, recalls witnessing her husband's death at the hands of the Khmer Rouge.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Khouth Sophak Chakrya
Thursday, 21 May 2009

Hundreds gather to watch staged dramatisations of Khmer Rouge crimes at Choeung Ek for Day of Anger remembrance ceremony.

ABOUT 1,000 people gathered at Choeung Ek killing fields Wednesday morning to watch performers stage re-enactments of Khmer Rouge crimes as part of the national Day of Anger commemoration.

Students from the Royal University of Fine Arts acted out torture and killing scenes as part of a traditional annual ceremony to commemorate those who died under the Khmer Rouge regime.

"This is to remind the world to make sure this kind of regime never happens again and that those perpetrators must be brought to justice," Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema said in a speech during the ceremony.

The performance was watched by survivors of the regime as well as about 200 Buddhist monks who attended the service.

Clad in black and wearing kramas, the actors dramatised scenes of torture, starvation, forced labour and killing, stirring emotions in many of the victims.

"No family who survived the Pol Pot era made it through without the loss of a family member," Chim Kim, 71, a villager who had travelled from her home in Dangkor district to attend the ceremony, told the Post.

"When my husband was taken away, they told me that he would just be re-educated," Chim Kim said, referring to the regime's policy of indoctrination.

"But the fact is that they killed him and accused him of being a Lon Nol commander," she said, adding that four of her children were also arrested and detained at a prison camp.

"They beat and starved them until they died," she said. "I saw them beat my children with my own eyes."

Speed trials up: governor
Kep Chuktema used the proceedings to urge the Khmer Rouge tribunal to speed up its proceedings, saying that verdicts would stop people's anger.

"We urge the Khmer Rouge tribunal to speed up the process of prosecuting suspects so that we can provide justice to the victims of the regime," he said.

Kep Chuktema added that the five former leaders detained at the war crimes court "must receive the same punishment that they gave to the victims".


‘Professional squatters' a myth: housing advocates

A family sleeps in a makeshift shelter in Group 78, where residents face a pending eviction order from City Hall.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Rights groups say accusations obscuring legitimate legal claims.

HOUSING rights advocates have dismissed recent comments made by national and municipal government officials that evictees at the centre of land disputes are often "professional squatters" who move from slum to slum and use NGOs to demand compensation from developers.

Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Mann Chhoeun told the Post earlier this week that many squatters are not legitimate residents of the neighbourhoods they claim to live in.

"There are some professional squatters in Phnom Penh, and these squatters get compensation ... and then return to grab other land in order to seek other compensation," he said Tuesday.

Last month, Foreign Minister Hor Namhong told an audience in Lowell, Massachusetts, that "the squatters always demand money. When they get the money, they go build another hut to live in, then demand money again. They are professional squatters", according to media reports.

But local rights groups say the officials' comments deflect attention from the bigger issue: ensuring fair compensation for those with legal claims.

Thun Saray, president of the Cambodian rights group Adhoc, said that the government's "professional squatters" are usually victims of inadequate relocation packages that give them little choice but to move on to places slated for development.

"When the government sends them to the outskirts, they cannot find a job," Thun Saray said. "They come back [to Phnom Penh] and try to find a place to live downtown, and then the government calls them ‘professional squatters'."

Other rights groups acknowledge that there are a few people who try to take advantage of eviction payouts, but that residents and NGOs refuse to help them.

Dan Nicholson, the coordinator of the Centre on Housing Rights Evictions' (COHRE) Asia and Pacific program, said that contrary to Mann Chhoeun's comments, communities do not depend on NGOs.

"In all of the communities we have worked with, the driving force in the defence of people's rights has been the community itself," he said.

Rachana Bunn at the Housing Rights Task Force said there might be a few opportunists, but that Mann Chhoeun and Hor Namhong's comments are meant to distract attention away from the real victims.

"To state it like this is really inappropriate," she said. "The majority of people are real victims.... And in some cases, people who have a right to compensation don't receive compensation."

Residents of the Rik Reay community facing eviction say there were a small number of eviction speculators, but they were unsuccessful.

Kong Sophea, a Rik Reay resident, said, "There were a few people who bought land and built a house in the location, thinking they would get compensation," adding that these people were "influential", but that they were unable to receive any money.

The Cambodian government is not alone in its criticisms of communities facing evictions. Hor Namhong and Mann Chhoeun's comments are similar to ones made by governments across Southeast Asia, according to Nicholson.

"Across the Asian region, it's not unusual for the government to vilify communities as professional squatters."

No one was able to mention a specific case where a "professional squatter" received compensation.

Journalists set to face Battambang court on forestry charges

Written by Chrann Chamroeun
Thursday, 21 May 2009

Four journalists detained by military police for stealing a chainsaw will face trial pending an investigation by the Forestry Administration.

FOUR journalists arrested in Battambang's Rukakiri district Sunday after being accused of stealing a chainsaw will be investigated by the Forestry Administration after a provincial court transferred their case, claiming it was outside their jurisdiction.

"To follow the court's procedures, I have transferred the case to Forestry Administration officials to investigate because it involves a forestry crime, not a robbery like military police originally charged," said Yos Chanthavirak, Battambang court chief prosecutor.

Military police officers detained the four men - all of whom held press credentials issued by the Ministry of Information - after they received a complaint from a local resident Sunday that the men drove to his house and stole a chainsaw from his property.

"After asking the four suspects, they admitted that they had stolen the chainsaw, so we charged them with robbery," said So Dy, chief of the provincial Bureau of Military Security.

According to their press cards, three of the men work for Koh Santepheap Men, a local newspaper, while the fourth is employed by another publication, Koh Ekreach.

Two suspects on the run
Yin Mengly, the provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said two of the four men escaped detention during their transfer to pretrial detention at the provincial court.

He told the Post that the Forestry Administration would investigate the case and file any complaints back to the provincial court for prosecution, but said he disagreed with the decision to reassign the case.

"This is a robbery crime, not a forestry crime," he said. "I'm disappointed."

Victim Vorn Yoeun, 25, said Wednesday that the four men drove up to his house in a white Camry and took his chainsaw without any explanation.

"I chased the men's car on my motorbike for about 3 kilometres but they didn't stop, [so] I stopped by the military police office to make a complaint."

Investigating judge Keo Chheng could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

A future in the balance

Written by Rod Brazier
Thursday, 21 May 2009

A few final reflections on the situation in Cambodia from the Asia Foundation's outgoing country director.

THE Cambodian People's Party (CPP) has consolidated its position as the dominant political force in Cambodia. Until the global financial crisis struck, political stability had led to a dramatic increase in investor interest, generating a surge in investment and economic growth.

The CPP won a resounding victory in the July 2008 national elections, elections which were recognised by the international community as free and fair. The CPP enjoys widespread support today owing to the stability and economic growth that have occurred in recent years. Outside, it's not well understood that this government is truly very popular, despite some authoritarian tendencies.

That's because Cambodia has made remarkable progress over the past 15 years. Starting from a very low base, key indicators of human welfare, such as maternal and child mortality, have improved dramatically.

The opening of the economy in the 1990s gave initial impetus to economic growth and job creation. The main drivers of growth have been the garment sector, tourism, construction in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, and public spending.

Remittances from garment factory workers to the rural country-side have been an important source of income transfer to those areas, while the very large agricultural and fisheries sectors act as buffers against economic turmoil.

All round, a very good picture for a country that was still at war with itself little more than a decade ago.

The political consolidation by the CPP over the last several years has changed the context in which Cambodia will develop over the next few years. One-party rule has replaced fractious politics. Growth and development are top priorities.

The emphasis on economic growth holds promise for increasing prosperity for ordinary Cambodians, but possibilities for re-emergence of an open pluralistic polity are greatly reduced.

In addition, the global financial crisis threatens to undermine the anti-poverty gains of recent years and to exacerbate the nascent social tensions arising from the visible gap between rich and poor.

Therefore, the main challenges for the country over the next few years will be to sustain the current pace of economic development and reduce poverty, while addressing the worst abuses arising from a system of governance that has resisted reform in the past.

I have a few scattered observations about Cambodia, gleaned from almost three years in Phnom Penh. Many of you have been here longer than I have, so forgive me if any observations are shallow.

The international community is woefully under-informed about Cambodia
Compared to the international communities in neighbouring countries, the international community here in Phnom Penh is terribly ignorant about the political economy of Cambodia.

I hasten to add that I include myself in this category. As a group - for there are very few exceptions - we know very little about the politics that matters in Cambodia. There is, of course, the noisy, quarrelsome discourse that is carried out in the headlines between the government and the opposition. Despite the high volume and frankness of the exchanges, I don't think this is where the action is politically. To me, the internal politics of the CPP are more intriguing and far more consequential, for several reasons:

· The CPP is extremely disciplined and little internal friction ever becomes apparent - at least in decipherable ways - in public. A few ripples appeared on the surface after the sudden death of Hok Lundy last November, but otherwise very little specific information about internal dissension ever becomes known outside tight circles. The workings of the CPP are especially mysterious to those of us who do not speak Khmer.

· The CPP's grip on power means that mid-term change and reform is likely to emerge from within the CPP rather than through formal competition with the other parties.

· Those of us who engage with different parts of the government see great variation from one ministry to the next - there are many opportunities to work cooperatively and fruitfully with the government on reform activities. Partners need to do their homework on who should be engaged beyond those listed on the government organagrams.

I am cautiously optimistic about Cambodia. The focus ... has shifted from winning the political contest and seizing power to governing well and staying popular by delivering infrastructure and services.

The government is not hostile towards all NGOs
Relations between the CPP and NGOs - both local and international - have been occasionally thorny. Broadly, though, relations are improving, and I see two reasons for this:

· The CPP is more confident as it ascends politically and so feels less vulnerable to criticism.

· Reform-minded officials see value in close relations with some NGOs, both as sources of feedback on performance and as providers of expertise. We see this very vividly in our interaction with the Ministry of Interior, where the appetite for cooperation seems to be insatiable. We also see it in our work with the Ministry of Women's Affairs (MOWA) on counter-trafficking. Of course, there are dinosaurs and hold-outs.

There is a general assumption that the draft NGO Law is designed to rein in NGOs. No. NGO laws are a common feature of many countries' legal landscape.

Reading the latest draft, one can't find so much that's objectionable. One clause on political activity is problematic, and the sanctions for some types of non-compliance are rather heavy, but it is still a draft. I have begged my colleagues to view it as a draft and to take up the government's offer to consult. But perceptions are stubborn, and some letters have been written that have been counter-productive. The Asia Foundation has not signed those letters because we want to enter consultations in good faith.

Inequality and under-investment in education are growing as concerns
Cambodia is probably on a very positive and well-trodden Asian path to development. In several respects, though, it is deviating in ways that could threaten long term development prospects:

· Inequality. Newly Industrialising Countries (NICs) have typically seen gini co-efficient, a numerical expression of inequality used by social scientists, narrow; it's getting wider in Cambodia. Eventual social consequences but also political and welfare concerns should be a cause for concern in this area.

· Education. Investment in education is dismal. All the latest and finest academic work shows that governments can make no better single investment than in education. Dollar for dollar investment in education brings greater benefit to a country and its people than any other. I don't see Cambodia investing enough in its people's education. Certainly, we see a hunger for personal improvement and a new generation of bright and ambitious young Cambodians seems to be emerging. But not all will be able to secure international education.

External perceptions of Cambodia are sticky
It's only a little more than a decade since Battambang was captured briefly by the Khmer Rouge. Cambodia is small, and positive developments here are seldom heard in the din of the 24-hour news cycle. This is unfortunate. A vivid demonstration of this is the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) report.

The EIU published two reports in March 2009. One was the regular Country Report about Cambodia. Nothing in that report was objectionable.

In fact it was a sober, sensible report that no one in this room would likely find controversial.

The report that has caused so much anger here is called Manning the Barricades, a 32-page report that mentions Cambodia once.

Manning the Barricades with global coverage that purports, among other claims, to rank countries by the risk of political instability. Some of the indicators included were: inequality, state history, trust in institutions, and corruption. These are reasonable.

The government erred badly in complaining so loudly about this report because the complaints brought prominence to a single mention of Cambodia on page 16 of the report that would otherwise have gone largely unnoticed. The rush by business groups and others to condemn the EIU was equally unhelpful and merely nourished an incorrect perception.

Sustaining rapid economic growth: not a straight shot
The CPP's legitimacy depends largely on maintaining rapid improvements in the quality of life. Basic, first generation economic reforms are in place, but the high-growth trajectory of recent years will hit limits imposed by rampant corruption and cronyism. Extracting continued rapid growth will require painful choices by the Cambodian leadership that will impinge on the interests of entrenched party elites. This is where the rubber will hit the road for reform: when economic growth is crimped by cronyism.

This problem is most dramatically illustrated in problems related to land issues. Foreign investors say that uncertainties over land are the single biggest concern, and often the reason that potential new investors walk away. It's worth noting that the prime minister himself has warned countless times about the dangers of continued land-grabbing. Yet it persists. Other similar pressures will emerge over time to test the government's commitment to market-led growth.

The government must reduce these vulnerabilities by fixing fundamental policy weaknesses. A key to improving economic governance will be to nurture and empower the small group of Western-educated technocrats within the Ministry of Economy and Finance, and scattered throughout other ministries and departments.

This group is more outward looking and reform-minded and is believed to have close ties to the pragmatic Prime Minister Hun Sen. We need to nurture and support these people, for they will face heavy challenges in the coming years that will determine the pace and trajectory of economic reform and development in Cambodia.

I have spent some time listing weaknesses and vulnerabilities. But we must also acknowledge the enormous strides that the Cambodian people have taken.

From civil war and unimaginable sorrow and misery just a generation ago, to a normal, developing country encountering the typical range of challenges that every other country in the region has faced. The good news is that others have shown it is possible to overcome these impediments.

But it is long, slow work and, in some respects, the early years are the easiest. I am cautiously optimistic about Cambodia. The focus of government has shifted from winning the political contest and seizing power to governing well and staying popular by delivering infrastructure and services.

This is a watershed transition that hasn't been noted enough. In the words of my friend His Excellency Roland Eng, who said five years ago: "We used to talk politics, now we talk policy."


The Asia Foundation's Cambodia country director Rod Brazier has been in Cambodia for three years. He is leaving the Kingdom shortly to take up a position with the Australian government in Canberra. On April 24, 2009, he spoke to the American Cambodian Business Council. What follows is an excerpted version of his speech to AmCham members.

A moving experience with an antique Khmer house

Darryl Collins (left) and Hok Sokol on the steps of the almost-disassembled Khmer house.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Peter Olszewski
Thursday, 21 May 2009

Having saved one old Khmer house in 2006 by moving it 300 kilometres, Darryl Collins is set to repeat the feat in Siem Reap.

SIEM Reap-based Australian art and culture historian Darryl Collins is at it again - moving house.

But unlike ordinary folk who simply move possessions and belongings, Collins moves the entire house. With the aid of Khmer architect and colleague Hok Sokol, he embarked on his first moving experience in 2006.

This was a herculean odyssey involving relocating an entire 100-year-old historic Chinese-Khmer wooden house from an island in the middle of a river in Kampong Cham - disassembling it, then carting it more than 300 kilometers to Siem Reap, where it now stands, resplendently restored.

Last month he applied for the house to be given a Southeast Asian Heritage award, an annual prize handed out by the regional UNESCO office in Bangkok each September, and is now awaiting the result.

But instead of resting on his chaise longue, Collins, together with Hok Sokol, started to move another house this week.

This house, another century-old wooden Khmer home, is not quite so grand as the Kampong Cham residence, and the moving experience is not so overwhelming.

The house is nestled beside the Siem Reap River rather than on an island, and instead of having to be carted 300 kilometres, the old house in Aranh Sakor village only has to be moved 2 kilometres.

This house is also special because, further research withstanding, it could well be Siem Reap's oldest domestic structure.

Hok Sokol said, "It's maybe just over 100 years old, and I think it's the oldest house in Siem Reap."

Collins is a tad more cautious.

"It's quite an old structure. Sokol has mentioned an age of approximately 100 years, but we can't verify that yet because we have to do more research on its history.

"I would think it would be one of the oldest domestic structures in Siem Reap. It wouldn't, of course, hold against some of the wats, but they're religious structures and are quite different."

As with the Kampong Cham residence, this house first came to the attention of Hok Sokol, who then alerted Collins to its existence and its need for preservation.

"When I was a student in 1997, my university professor had a small grant to invite four students to study the architecture of the houses in Siem Reap," Hok Sokol said.

"We travelled along the Siem River, observed the housing and buildings surrounding the area, and found that there were very interesting houses. But the owner has already modified and remodeled one of these houses. With this one, the owners recently abandoned it because they'd built a new concrete house, and decided to sell it.

Collins said he bought the house "basically to save it".

He added, "I'd known about the house for several years and Sokol and I came to see it a couple of times. It became vacant, more derelict. Its condition was fading fast."

This week, Collins has begun disassembling the house and moving it to its new nearby location where it will be stored during the rainy season and then rebuilt. He said, "We built a structure on the new site to protect the wood and it will be okay to be kept dry for one rainy season. You can't store these houses for very long, and it will have to be rebuilt as quickly as possible."