Friday, 22 May 2009

Cambodia, WHO declear no confirmed A/H1N1 virus in Cambodia

PHNOM PENH, May 22 (Xinhua) -- Cambodian Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization (WHO) here on Friday issued a joint statement claiming there is no confirmed cases of Influenza A/H1N1in Cambodia.

"The ministry of Health would like to advise that as of May 22 2009, no cases of Influenza A/H1N1 virus have been confirmed in the country," the statement said.

Cambodian Health Ministry received an urgent letter Wednesday from South Korean Embassy warning that three Cambodian- Americans were on the same flight from the United States to South Korea with a passenger who was later confirmed to have Influenza A/H1N1. The three individuals subsequently flew on a separate flight to Phnom Penh on Sunday.

At the time of their arrival to Cambodia, the three passengers did not display influenza symptoms, according to the statement. The ministry officials are now seeking to locate these passengers to assess their well-being and to offer them testing.

"The Ministry of Health is working closely with all relevant authorities to continue to monitor the situation closely," it added.

The ministry also strongly advised people who has traveled from an affected area in the past seven days and has developed fever contact with the ministry.

Editor: Mo Hong'e

Khmer Rouge court's identity crisis

Asia Times Online

May 23, 2009
By Stephen Kurczy

PHNOM PENH - Slung over Nic Dunlop's shoulder on Tuesday was the same vintage Leica he used a decade ago to photograph the Khmer Rouge's former chief of secret police and publicize his whereabouts.

Dunlop was standing outside the Khmer Rouge tribunal where Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, is on trial for overseeing the notorious S-21 prison during the regime's rule in the late 1970s.

During the court's recess, Dunlop recalled his surprising discovery of Duch after a year spent showing Cambodians the solitary black-and-white photograph of him that he carried in his wallet. In 1999, the photojournalist found Duch, living under a pseudonym and working for a refugee committee near the Thai border.

"Duch picked [my camera] up and said, 'Oh, very nice, you like expensive cameras,'" Dunlop said, his Leica still slung from his shoulder. While Dunlop said he stumbled upon Duch by chance, and others say his photographer's eye helped him spot Duch, the accused has said it was God's work.

A Christian convert, Duch told the court on April 22 that Jesus Christ guided Dunlop to Samlot town. "I told Nic Dunlop, 'Christ brought you to meet me'." The remarks echoed Dunlop's account in his book The Lost Executioner, where he quotes Duch saying: "It is God's will that you are here. Now my future is in God's hands."

Soon after their meeting, Cambodian security forces arrested Duch and he has been jailed since, but Dunlop has attempted to maintain contact. He tried to send him the books On God by Norman Mailer and The Inner Life by the theologian Thomas a Kempis, along with letters and e-mails through third parties. All efforts failed and Duch never responded.

"I'm told that he's angry with me still," said Dunlop.

Dunlop remains a central figure in the quest to understand and reconcile what happened under the Khmer Rouge. He is expected to testify at Duch's trial. Along with answering questions, Dunlop is still asking them as he shifts the focus of his Leica from Duch to the legacy of the court.

A movie house in Phnom Penh on Tuesday screened a documentary Dunlop produced for al-Jazeera's People & Power television series in February. The film highlights what Dunlop considers the court's lackluster outreach efforts and its subsequent failure to become relevant to ordinary Cambodians. In it, he visits M-99, a former prison in Kompong Speu province. Duch allegedly sent prisoners to M-99 while chief of the Khmer Rouge secret police and warden of S-21, where he is thought to have overseen the torture and death of possibly 20,000 men, women and children.

In the film, Dunlop finds an old woman living near M-99 who spent three years imprisoned there, waking every morning to bury prisoners who had died in the night. She said she has never heard of the Khmer Rouge tribunal or Duch.

"Her house is less than three hours from [the courthouse] and not one official from the court had gone to investigate" the site or inform the villagers of the tribunal, Dunlop said.

The documentary was shown on the eve of Cambodia's Day of Anger, held each year on May 20 to commemorate the day in 1976 when the Khmer Rouge announced its plan to turn Cambodia into an agrarian collectivization, a decision that contributed to the deaths of some 2 million citizens from overwork and starvation.

This year's Day of Anger also coincided with distribution of the first Khmer Rouge textbook. US Ambassador at Large for War Crimes Clint Williamson and Education Ministry Secretary of State Chemteav Tum Sa Im presided over Wednesday's official presentation of 175,000 copies of A History of Democratic Kampuchea (1975-1979) to 1,321 high schools and junior high schools in all the kingdom's 24 provinces.

Despite the new textbook and three decades of Days of Anger, lack of awareness of the long-awaited Khmer Rouge tribunal remains widespread. The documentary cited a University of California study in 2008 that found 85% of Cambodians had little or no knowledge of the court. Traveling around Cambodia, Dunlop said he has found resounding support for the idea of a tribunal, but little knowledge of it. He blames international donors for failing to adequately fund outreach projects.

"I think a large burden of the responsibility to explain this process to ordinary Cambodians lies with the donors," Dunlop said Tuesday. "Only $50,000 [of the trial's $143 million budget] has been allocated to this. It doesn't add up. It should be paramount."

Tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath said by telephone that the court has heard this criticism before and is taking it into consideration, but he added that court proceedings are broadcast daily on state television to keep Cambodians informed without public affairs staff needing to visit every Cambodians' home.

"Sometimes you don't need to go from house to house, because TV goes there already," he said.

German Ambassador Frank Mann, who attended Tuesday's screening, declined to comment on Dunlop's criticisms. He did note that Germany had provided $11 million to the tribunal process, with one-third allocated to tribunal outreach conducted by various non-profit organizations, such as the Center for Social Development (CSD).

It was the CSD that was responsible for the shuttling in by bus of most of the Cambodians attending the court on Tuesday. The busload of villagers from Prey Veng province said they could not have otherwise afforded the overnight trip to Phnom Penh.

One of the villagers, Sy Siem, 66, said 12 of his family members died under the Khmer Rouge. He said he gets his news from the radio, but he found it difficult to hear the court proceedings daily.

"Not many people have the chance to visit the court and they are only familiar with the name of the tribunal, but ask where it is located and they don't know," said Nou Lon, 61. Asked to name the five suspects in detention, Nou Lon could only name three and then added that everyone knew Pol Pot - the Khmer Rouge's "Brother Number 1" who died in 1998 - was the guilty man anyway.

"When I return home I will tell people about what I saw and experienced and I will encourage people to attend the hearing," Nou Lon said. "For those who really suffered, I believe they can save money and attend the court one time."

Sy Siem and Nou Lon both walked out of the court Tuesday with free t-shirts, free transportation, and a free night's lodging at a Phnom Penh hotel courtesy of CSD. Both said they believed the tribunal is leaving a positive legacy, though Dunlop still questions the effectiveness of a court that the majority of Cambodians will never attend. Lack of awareness in the countryside, along with unresolved allegations of political interference and corruption in the court, all threaten to turn the proceedings into a sideshow.

"I'm still undecided if this is worth something or worth nothing," Dunlop said after Tuesday night's film screening. "So much is said to be done for the people of Cambodia and so little actually is. Very little actually trickles down."

German embassy denies giving Thaksin passport

By: Bangkok Post and Agencies

Published: 22/05/2009

The German embassy on Friday denied local reports that former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who is said to have six foreign passports, has been issued a German passport.

"Mr Thaksin Shinawatra does not hold a German passport," German embassy spokesman Theodor Proffe said.

Some local newspapers published stories on Friday quoting Puea Thai MP chief Chalerm Yubamrung as saying that Thaksin is passports issued by six countries, including Germany and Cambodia.

Earlier in the day, Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said Thaksin did not have a Cambodian passport..

Mr Suthep said he had spoken to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, who had assured him that Phnom Penh had not given Thaksin a passport.

Nicaragua issued Thaksin a diplomatic passport earlirthis year when he was appointed to promote the trade and investment there. He has also been issued with a passport by the government of Montenegro, in the Balkans, according to local media there and plans to buy an Adriatic island off the coast.

The former prime minister is living in exile after jumping bail and fleeing the country shortly before being sentenced to two years in jail on a charge of abuse of power while in office over his former wife's purchase of state land in the Ratchadaphisek area of Bangkok.

Cambodia searches for three US citizens exposed to Swine Flu

Posted : Fri, 22 May 2009
Author : DPA

Phnom Penh - Cambodian health authorities said Friday they were searching for three US citizens who arrived in Phnom Penh Sunday after sharing a flight from the US to South Korea with a person later diagnosed with swine flu. "The Ministry of Health received official communication from the Korean Embassy that three individuals were on the same flight from USA to Korea with a passenger who was later confirmed to have Influenza A (H1N1)," a joint Health Ministry and World Health Organization (WHO) statement said.

"The three individuals subsequently flew on a separate flight to Phnom Penh on Sunday 17 May 2009," the statement said. "At the time of their arrival to Cambodia, the three passengers did not display influenza symptoms."

Sok Touch, director of the Communicable Diseases Control Department at the Ministry of Health, said all three were US citizens and that two, a man and a woman, were believed be in the southern province of Kampot.

"We have no idea where the other person is, but we are working with provincial authorities to find this person and offer testing," he said. "But it is important to note that there are still no cases of H1N1 in Cambodia."

Sok Touch said Cambodia was prepared for an outbreak of the potentially fatal illness, which WHO statistics show has infected 11,034 people worldwide and killed 86.

Khmer PM told me no Cambodia passport for Thaksin : Suthep

File photo shows Thaksin greeted Hun Sen during an Asean summit on Sars in Bangkok.

By The Nation

Fri, May 22, 2009

Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thuagsuban on Friday said he believed Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen's statement that Cambodia did not issue passport for ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

"I met Cambodian Prime minister Hun Sen," Suthep said. "He said Thaksin didn't hold a Cambodian passport. I believe that and I didn't further investigate the claim."

Suthep was reacting to remarks by Pheu Thai MP Chalerm Yoobamrung who said Thaksin showed him the Cambodian passport among six or seven passports during their meeting last week in Dubai.

In regard to extradition proceedings to bring back Thaksin to serve his two-year jail term, he said "Just you wait and see".

Laos to determine how imprisoned Brit got pregnant

The Associated Press

VIENTIANE, Laos -- Lao authorities are investigating how a 20-year-old British woman accused of heroin smuggling became pregnant in prison, a challenge because the woman has refused to reveal the identity of the father, a government-run newspaper said Friday.

Samantha Orobator's case at first drew international attention over concerns that she could be executed by firing squad if she was found guilty. But under Lao criminal law, a pregnant woman cannot receive the death penalty.

Orobator was on her way to Australia when she was arrested at Vientiane airport Aug. 5 after police say they found 680 grams (1.5 pounds) of heroin in 68 capsules on her body. The British legal charity Reprieve claims the drugs were found in Orobator's luggage. Orabator has said she is innocent.

According to Lao authorities, Orobator initially told authorities she was pregnant by her boyfriend in England but tests carried out showed no signs of pregnancy. It was not until March 2, that she was found to be pregnant in a hospital test that was verified by a second test April 4, police said, meaning she must have gotten pregnant while in prison.

Police now say her trial will be delayed until they find out how Orobator became pregnant to ensure "the trial is fair and justice was done."

"This case is not difficult because everything is clear as she was in possession of the drug and all the evidence was on her body," Police Lt. Col. Khamphonh Sihaphancha was quoted as saying in the Vientiane Times. "The problem now is her pregnancy so we need more time to investigate."

Police did not say what their investigation would entail but they raised the possibility they would be looking into whether Orobator might have gotten pregnant by artificial insemination.

Orobator has refused to reveal how she became pregnant and her mother Jane Orobator recently said that she had not been raped by prison officials or fellow prisoners. Jane Orobator also said the father was not a Laotian prison official but she did not reveal the identity of the father nor say whether she knew who it was.

Even if she is convicted, Orobator may not spend much time in Lao jail. A deal struck between British and Laotian officials earlier this month which could allow Orobator, if convicted, to serve any jail sentence in Britain.

Laotian officials, however, could still veto her return.

Study shows hidden birdflu cases in Cambodia

The Star Online

By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Editor

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The H5N1 bird flu virus can infect people without causing noticeable symptoms, but only rarely, according to a report published on Thursday.

A survey of more than 600 people in Cambodian villages where two children died from the virus shows seven more were apparently infected, but without having known about it.

The study, published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, also suggests that people may become infected by swimming in ponds where infected birds have dabbled.

"Although these results cannot be considered to be representative without broader confirmation, they show that, in some settings, surveillance may substantially miss H5N1 virus infections," Dr. Sylvie Briand and and Dr. Keiji Fukuda of the World Health Organization wrote in a commentary.

The H5N1 avian influenza virus has been regularly causing outbreaks of disease in birds -- 250 outbreaks in February alone in Bangladesh, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Laos, Nepal and Vietnam, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.

It only rarely infects people but is often deadly when it does. WHO says it has killed 261 people out of 424 infected since 2003.

The big fear is that is could change into a form that people can pass easily to one another, sparking a pandemic. These fears have been overshadowed at least a little by the near-pandemic of much milder H1N1 swine flu that started in March.

One big question has been whether some people have been infected without knowing it. If this is the case, the fatality rate would go down. With current numbers, the fatality rate appears to be around 60 percent but if there are more than 424 infections it would make for a lower rate.

Sirenda Vong of the Institut Pasteur in Cambodia and colleagues followed up on two deaths of children from H5N1 in 2006. They interviewed villagers and took blood samples.


"Seven (1 percent) of 674 villagers tested seropositive for influenza H5N1 antibodies and did not report severe illness," they wrote. This means their bodies had at some point fought off an H5N1 infection.

Most were male, 18 or younger, and were more likely than other villagers to have reported bathing or swimming in household ponds. They all lived in wooden houses on stilts with well or pond water as the only water source for the family and none had known contact with the two children who died.

Scientists know that birds can pass influenza viruses in their droppings and ducks, especially, can foul ponds with virus-infected droppings. The virus can live in droppings or water for up to six days.

"During the study period, most participants reported repeated direct and close poultry contact, including feeding or touching poultry (73.3 percent), collecting poultry feces for manure (50.9 percent), plucking feathers of sick poultry (31.1 percent), or collecting sick and/or dead poultry with bare hands (36.8 percent)," the researchers wrote.

But, they added, the findings suggest that transmission from sick bird to human in Cambodia was rare in 2006.

The found genetic material from the H5N1 virus in specimens taken from ponds and pond plants.

"Our results also indicate that swimming or bathing in household ponds could be a risk factor for influenza H5N1 virus infection. These small ponds are common and usually serve as a water source for backyard animals and gardening,' the wrote.

"Ducks usually have access to these ponds and may deposit large amounts of feces in ponds in which children commonly bathe and play."

Overview of the Khmer Rouge regime by Craig Etcheson, whose examination is postponed sine die

Kambol (Phnom Penh, Cambodia). 26/11/2008: Curtains used for proceedings in camera, shown during a mock trial organised by the ECCC defence section for law students
©John Vink/ Magnum


By Stéphanie Gée

Yet another morning with no hearing for the audience at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal on Thursday May 21st. From the outset, the Trial Chamber announced its intention to hold a trial management meeting between the parties, to which neither the public nor the civil parties were admitted. Before lunch break, the curtains opened and the president of the court announced that the defence recognised as an expert American Craig Etcheson, who was on the stand since Monday, and did not contest his report, “Overview of the Hierarchy of Democratic Kampuchea”, which provides the basis for his testimony. On the previous days, the international co-lawyer of Duch had disturbed the substantial debate by contesting the amount of documents in connection with the expert's testimony that had been produced in the hearing as well as his current professional status...

The president concluded that “consequently, it [was] not necessary to read each annexed document,” as the international co-Prosecutor had started doing on the previous day. The Chamber considered the documents in annexes as being integral parts of the expert's report. When the debate resumed at 1.30pm, François Roux, French co-lawyer for the accused, specified the defence's position on the issue, saying he “indeed agreed to consider that all these documents come in support of the report and that these documents and report will be debated and added to the case file.”

However, Roux continued, “the defence insists on the fact that after July 2007, Craig Etcheson was directly involved in the prosecution against the accused and in these conditions, his testimony as expert must not deal with the period after July 2007” or the documents he had hold of beyond that date, when his report was written but also when Duch was indicted. He recalled that the American then already worked as an investigator with the office of the co-Prosecutors of the tribunal and was therefore a party to the trial.

Civil parties do not want to be excluded from the proceedings in camera
Following him, Silke Studzinsky, one of the lawyers for civil party group 2, took the floor to express the civil parties' complaints about their exclusion from the morning debates and their wish to participate in the proceedings in camera in the future. She argued that the accused was authorised to stay and participate to the meeting and called to the principle of fairness. After recalling that “the rights of the accused and the rights of civil parties are not identical”, Roux supported, in the name of the defence, the request of his colleague, considering that “wherever possible, civil parties must be authorised to participate to meetings, after reminding them that, as these are proceedings in camera, they have a duty of confidentiality.”

Short review of the CPK throughout its congresses
The co-Prosecutors resumed the examination of the expert witness, with questions aimed to paint a general picture of Democratic Kampuchea and its ruling structure, the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK). The national deputy co-Prosecutor invited Craig Etcheson to review the five congresses held by the party. “At the 1960 congress, about twenty people met and created an organisation they named the Workers' Party of Kampuchea. They elected a Central Committee comprising 8 to 10 individuals, which elected Tou Samouth as secretary general of the party and Nuon Chea as deputy secretary.” The first stage consisted in the implementation of a political programme. “At the 1963 congress, Tou Samouth had been assassinated in the meantime and the party elected Saloth Sar, later known as Pol Pot, as secretary while Nuon Chea remained deputy secretary of the party. Other members were added to the Central Committee as well as the Standing Committee. At the 1971 congress, they decided to change the name of the party, which became the Communist Party of Kampuchea and plans were drawn with the view to achieve national liberation. In 1976, at the fourth party congress, the CPK had seized power at the national level and had progressed well in its plans to secure State power under a dictatorship of the proletariat. It had also moved ahead in its plans to achieve a radical transformation of the Cambodian society. At the same congress, the party adopted new statutes […]. At the fifth party congress, in 1978, the party appointed zone secretaries to replace the many zone secretaries who had been purged, given the series of purges carried out in the two previous years, and that was the main activity of that congress.”

A dictatorship that speaks not its name
Shortly afterwards, Craig Etcheson commented that Democratic Kampuchea could be considered as a forced labour camp in light of the inhumane living conditions that prevailed. In terms of sanctions, “the policy decided by the higher echelon constantly changed. It was therefore not really possible to know the meaning of 'opposition to the popular State', an offence punishable by detention in a re-education camp. In this regard, the discipline exercised within the State of Democratic Kampuchea could be extremely arbitrary.”

As for the People's Representative Assembly, which was to be elected once every five years by direct suffrage and secret vote, in accordance with the Constitution of Democratic Kampuchea, it was only a façade, the expert explained. “Actually, the 250 members of the Assembly were appointed by the higher echelon of the Communist Party of Kampuchea. Unlike a regular legislative body in another State, the Assembly did not meet regularly, adopted no laws, and does not seem to have fulfilled any function apart from serving as a propaganda tool in defending the international image of Democratic Kampuchea.”

Sovereign independence to achieve a model revolution
Next, Craig Etcheson reviewed one of the founding principles promoted by the CPK, that of the “mastery of independence, which broadly defined a set of autarchy concepts. The CPK leaders considered that their revolution was unique and there was therefore no need to seek advice or draw from other previous communist revolutions. These individuals, who were CPK members, believed that the previous revolutions had failed because they had not succeeded in destroying the oppressing classes within society: the capitalists, the bourgeois and the feudal classes. Thus, Democratic Kampuchea's revolution was determined to wipe out these classes in their totality to realise a State based entirely on workers and peasants, through the total elimination of the other social classes by transforming little bourgeois into peasants and by thereby transforming society instantaneously to achieve pure communism. This concept of social transformation totally ignored the general history of communist theory, from Marx to Engels, including Lenin, Stalin, Mao and other great communist thinkers. However, the CPK leaders were convinced that, through this concept of sovereign independence, which included the severance of relations with the outside world, they could achieve a revolution and make it a model for the world.”

The concept of “purity”
Quoting Article 1 of the CPK statutes on the criteria for party membership – which states that members “must have good morals and be politically good and pure, and never have had any involvement with the enemy”, Craig Etcheson explained that this “related to a concept designated by the Khmer Rouge under the term of 'purity'.” He illustrated the concept with an example related to S-21: Duch recruited as S-21 staff young boys in the district of Kampong Tralach, Kampong Chhnang province, which has always been one of the poorest and most disadvantaged regions of central Cambodia. “In my opinion, he chose them because they originated from the poorest peasant class, which was favoured by the Khmer Rouge revolution, and because, as they came from an isolated and poor region, there was more chance they had been preserved from foreign, urban, capitalist or feudal influences. In some way, they had pure biographies. […] It was therefore about the concept of purity under the Khmer Rouge, which was related to class origins.”

Standing Committee meetings
The review of Democratic Kampuchea continued with the international deputy Prosecutor, Alex Bates, who interrogated the expert witness on the meetings of the CPK Standing Committee. If the majority of participants were Committee members, several other members, held up far away from Phnom Penh due to their responsibilities as zone secretaries, were unable to attend the meetings frequently. Khieu Samphan, although he was not a member, participated to these meetings often, according to recovered meeting minutes. “If I remember clearly, only Nuon Chea, Standing Committee member, attended the meetings more often than Khieu Samphan. Frequently, senior cadres of zones, ministries or military units were invited to the meetings of the Standing Committee to report on the situation and receive instructions from the Standing Committee.” The range of topics discussed were those usually managed by an executive body.

The training of cadres
Craig Etcheson then discussed the party training school, “an institution where party cadres were indoctrinated”, he recalled. “That is where they were taught the party line. Sessions were regularly organised for the cadres of all structures in Democratic Kampuchea, not just the central level, but also cadres of zones, sectors, districts, etc, so that each could be informed of the party line. These sessions were often conducted by Nuon Chea and/or Khieu Samphan.” At the same time, there were regular reunions organised by the party at the Olympic Stadium, which seemed to fulfil a function similar to that of the party training school but on a larger scale” and gathered as many groups of cadres as combatants, and which were attended by the whole Standing Committee, according to footage of these events.

“The most disastrous political decision” taken by the Khmer Rouge
Following a visit to the North-West of the country in August 1975, the Standing Committee concluded that numerous fields could be exploited there for rice production. Consequently, it decided that half a million people must be transferred there to be placed in agricultural cooperatives, Craig Etcheson later detailed. Shortly afterwards, people from Phnom Penh and urban centres (“the new people”) were displaced in mass to the North-West, where they found themselves in “land that was little fertile in the middle of nowhere, with no shelter, no food, no clothes or tools, and were told: you are going to grow rice. That was probably the most disastrous political decision taken under Democratic Kampuchea.” This displacement of population resulted in the death of tens of thousands of people, who died of hunger, illness or exhaustion.

Strictly vertical communications
The expert then stated that as a general rule throughout the administrative, political and military organisations of Democratic Kampuchea, communication was strictly vertical, thereby echoing statements previously made by the accused. “For instance, if two individuals in charge of adjacent sectors in separate zones had to discuss, instead of communicating directly, horizontally, the one with the other, they had to contact the chiefs of their zones and the party centre, which acted, if I may say, as a kind of telephone switchboard for the whole organisation. Thus, the party centre was the only body that knew what was happening everywhere in the country.” Craig Etcheson insisted that vertical communication excluded any horizontal communication, “considered as an act of treason”, and that the imperative was implemented even more strictly in the military organisations.

Prosecutor Alex Bates then interrogated the expert about the place of S-21 in these communication networks and the answers tended to exonerate Duch. For instance, on the military level, everything had to go through Son Sen, deputy Prime Minister for national defence, chief of staff and member of the military committee of the party centre. “Therefore, the accused had to report to the top of the CPK hierarchy, then through the intervention of Son Sen, cooperate with divisions to help and proceed to what became a large scale purge within the military.”

The examination of the witness interrupted
At 5pm, the hearing was adjourned. The president thanked Craig Etcheson for his patience. Although his examination is not over yet, another witness will take his place on Monday and Tuesday, Nayan Chanda, former Indian correspondent of the Far Eastern Economic Review and author of several books on political issues in Asia. He will be heard on the issue of the armed conflict between Cambodia and Vietnam. The judge explained the schedule cannot be reviewed, as the expert does not reside in Phnom Penh and has other commitments. The Trial Chamber invited the American to return to finish his testimony “at a later date”, with no further details...

Jacques Vergès receives second warning from Khmer Rouge Tribunal for misconduct

Kambol (Phnom Penh, Cambodia). 03/04/2009: Lawyer Jacques Vergès after the hearing of Khieu Samphan at the Pre-Trial Chamber
©John Vink/ Magnum


By Stephanie Gée

One more! The Pre-Trial Chamber of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal issued a second warning to Jacques Vergès, international co-lawyer for Khieu Samphan, the former head of State of Democratic Kampuchea, as it was made public on Thursday May 21st. The Chamber had already admonished the media savvy and boisterous French lawyer in a first warning dated from April 23rd. This time, the Chamber provided arguments for its decision in a document of 12 pages – referring in particular to jurisprudence drawn from cases tried by international courts – while the previous warning had only four pages...

In the document, the Pre-Trial Chamber listed the facts that motivated the sanction, in light of internal rule 38 regarding misconduct of a lawyer. The Chamber thus recalled that “despite the fact that the hearing of 27 February 2009 was postponed in order to allow him to participate, Mr. Vergès did not present any oral submission in relation to the Appeals or meaningfully contribute to the debates before the Pre-Trial Chamber during the hearing continued on 3 April 2009.”

It added that “[T]he participation of Mr. Vergès in the hearing was limited to a statement which was clearly outside the scope of the Appeals as well as the parameters of the right to reply. The interventions of Mr. Vergès were aimed at challenging the integrity and legitimacy of the Court in general and the Pre-Trial Chamber's judges in particular.” The Chamber pursued: “[T]he unsubstantiated allegations made by Mr. Vergès and the language he employed were abusive and insulting towards the Pre-Trial Chamber's judges. These allegations, made outside the context of the Appeals […], amount to an offensive and obstructive conduct”.

The Pre-Trial Chamber warned the lawyer that should he persist in such a conduct, it would impose sanctions pursuant to internal rule 38. Disciplinary sanctions may include the exclusion of the defender from the list of lawyers approved to appear before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), according to the rule.

Mr. Vergès' colleague, Cambodian lawyer Sa Sovan, reacted Thursday by explaining that “as a professional lawyer, receiving a warning was almost a habit” and said he had no concern for the future, as “judges do not expel lawyers.”

Doors close on Suu Kyi trial

Photo by: AFP
Protesters from the rights group Amnesty International gather outside the Chinese Foreign Ministry in Hong Kong on Thursday. The group attempted to deliver a letter, which was not accepted, to ask for justice for the people of Myanmar.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by AFP
Friday, 22 May 2009

Observers barred again after one day of access to courtroom.

YANGON - Myanmar again barred diplomats and journalists from the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi Thursday, as international pressure mounted on the military junta to drop the case against the pro-democracy icon.

The regime had unexpectedly opened up the hearing at the notorious Insein prison for just one day on Wednesday, in an apparent concession to global criticism of its treatment of the Nobel Peace Prize winner.

But it clamped down again Thursday, despite a warning from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over the "outrageous" charges against the 63-year-old and a pledge by UN chief Ban Ki-moon to visit the country.

"Only for one day were diplomats and press allowed," a Myanmar official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

About 30 members of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party, including the country's former longest-serving political prisoner, Win Tin, kept up a vigil outside the prison as the trial resumed Thursday, witnesses said.

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 when an American man, John Yettaw, swam to her lakeside house.

A smiling, healthy-looking Aung San Suu Kyi had thanked diplomats for coming to the trial on Wednesday and said she hoped to meet them again in "better days".

Authorities allowed one diplomat from each of the 30 foreign embassies in Yangon to attend the proceedings on Wednesday along with 10 journalists from local and foreign organisations.

Aung San Suu Kyi later met envoys from Thailand, Singapore and Russia, expressing hope that "it was not too late for something good to come out of this unfortunate incident", a Singapore government statement said.

State television showed footage of her talking animatedly to the diplomats and said Aung San Suu Kyi had told the envoys she was in "good health and convenient accommodation has been provided".

Medical specialists had visited her Wednesday and she was receiving daily health care at the prison, it added.

Yettaw, 53, and two political aides who live with Aung San Suu Kyi are also on trial.

The US national spent two nights at the residence in what his family have described as a well-intentioned stunt to offer support to her.

The regime has kept Aung San Suu Kyi in detention for 13 of the past 19 years. It filed the charges against her just weeks before a May 27 deadline when her latest six-year spell of detention expires.

Critics say the junta wants to keep her locked up ahead of elections planned for next year under a controversial "roadmap to democracy" that enshrines a role for the military in government.

In Washington, Clinton said the regime's treatment of Aung San Suu Kyi would automatically make the polls "illegitimate because of the way that they have treated her".

She added that it was "outrageous that they are trying her and that they continue to hold her because of her political popularity, and they intend to hold elections in 2010".

UN chief Ban said he was "deeply concerned" about the situation in Myanmar and said he would bring up the issue with junta leader Senior General Than Shwe.

"I'm going to visit Myanmar as soon as possible. Now I am very serious in discussing with (the) government of Myanmar when I could be able to visit Myanmar," he told CNN.

Leading international jurists called for the UN Security Council to follow the precedent of Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia and hold an inquiry in Myanmar, saying the regime could be guilty of crimes against humanity.

"With Burma, there has been no such action from the UN Security Council," said the report published by Harvard Law School.

Swine flu scare hits Kingdom

Written by Robert Carmichael and Cheang Sokha
Friday, 22 May 2009

Three US visitors shared flight with confirmed A(H1N1) case.

THE South Korean government issued an urgent letter Wednesday warning that three Cambodian-Americans who disembarked from an Asiana Airlines flight at Phnom Penh on Sunday shared an earlier flight with a woman who has since been confirmed with the A(H1N1) virus, also known as swine flu.

Dr Sok Touch, director of the Communicable Diseases Control Department at the Ministry of Health, said Thursday that authorities were currently looking for the three passengers.

In its letter, the Korean embassy stated: "The Embassy would like to advise the Ministry [of Health] to quarantine the passengers and take the required measures."

The initial Asiana Airlines flight - OZ217 from Seattle in the United States - terminated in Incheon, South Korea, on Sunday and passengers transited to Asiana Airlines flight OZ739, which landed in Phnom Penh the same day. A Vietnamese woman complained of feeling unwell while transiting and was hospitalised in Incheon.

The first secretary of the Korean embassy in Phnom Penh, Jin Sun-hye, told the Post the patient was the only one of 93 passengers on Flight OZ217 to remain in South Korea. She said the woman was quarantined immediately and tested. It was confirmed on Tuesday that she was infected.

"All the other passengers went to other countries, so our government has informed the embassies in those countries," she said.

"The patient is still in hospital, but I have no information on her condition."

Sok Touch said he was notified of the case on Wednesday.

"I want to stress that there is no confirmation of the disease here - we are simply following up," he said.

"The infection rate is between 20 and 30 percent, which means not all people who sit nearby an infected person will get sick."

He said the three - two men and a woman - were believed to be in Kampot.

"We are monitoring, but there is no confirmation that the people who arrived that day have the disease," Sok Touch said. "If we find them, then we will test them."

He said he did not know whether any of the other passengers on the flight had been tested or what any results might have been.

Dr Nima Asgari, a public health specialist at the World Health Organisation in Cambodia, stressed that the potential threat is "really quite low".

"As far as we know, they have no symptoms ... and are completely healthy. At this stage, we are trying to find them," he told the Post.

‘Testing is key' - WHO
Asgari said the most important aspect was to test the three.

"We can do that test in-country," he said, explaining that the Pasteur Institute in Phnom Penh can turn around the results in less than 12 hours.

In the event that they tested positive, Asgari said Calmette Hospital is the main isolation centre, but a number of other hospitals also have facilities.

"Standard government practice is to isolate them [if they test positive], and then they will be assessed," he said, adding that if they still showed no symptoms seven days after exposure to the virus, there was a "very good chance" that they were not infected.

Asgari said the WHO had donated stocks of Tamiflu - the anti-viral medication used to combat the disease - to a number of countries.

"Cambodia is one of those countries," Dr Asgari said. "So there have been donations of Tamiflu, and if they are not already here, then they will be here any day."

He added that the infection rate of between 20 percent and 30 percent was "approximately correct", based as it is on the modelling of current data.

A(H1N1) is a new flu virus that was first detected in April in Mexico. The latest WHO statistics show that it has infected 11,034 people worldwide and killed 85.


Kingdom demining team set for Sudan deployment

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Soldiers train earlier this month at the Cambodian Mine Action Centre in Kampong Speu prior to deployment next month to Sudan.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sam Rith
Friday, 22 May 2009

Group will be the fourth sent to demine in the war-torn country.

A CAMBODIAN demining team is set to depart for Sudan next month, where it will offer its services as part of a multinational UN peacekeeping force, military officials said Thursday.

Chan Dararith, deputy director of human resources of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, said 10 of the deminers were scheduled to depart the country on June 1, with the rest to follow on June 10.

The current group is the fourth to be dispatched to Sudan since 2006, he said, during which time 468 Cambodians have served as deminers in the war-torn African country.

Deminer Taing Bunkry, 42, one of the team bound for Sudan, said he was proud to participate in the UN operation and help other countries rid themselves of the danger of anti-personnel land mines.

"I am very proud that I have a chance to participate in the humanitarian demining group to help clear Sudan of mines," he told the Post Thursday.


Taing Bunkry, who has 15 years' experience in demining operations and was part of the second team of deminers sent to Sudan in 2007,
expected that he would gain additional experience from his second tour of duty in the region.

Proud service
Troops who have been on previous tours to Sudan also spoke of the value of the experience and the satisfaction of contributing overseas.

Kim Sopheap, 42, who has served as a military physician for 25 years and was part of the demining group in 2007, said she was very happy because one of her relatives has also been selected to go to Sudan as an assistant physician.

She added that she also had one son and three relatives serving as soldiers, who were now getting training as deminers and peacekeepers at the governement's Institute for Peacekeeping Forces, Mine and Explosive Remains of War Clearance.

"I am very happy to have one of my relatives go to Sudan," she said.

"And I am very happy to have my son and relatives serve as soldiers. They not only help defend the nation but can also help with the UN's humanitarian operations."

Sem Sovann Rith, who participated in the 2006 tour to Sudan, said he would be happy to participate in any future missions if appointed by RCAF authorities.

"I am always ready to go and demine in other countries," he said, adding that Cambodians - due to their own tragic experiences with land mines - were well-positioned to help out other countries.

SRP unhappy as NEC dismisses complaints over vote-buying

Written by Meas Sokchea
Friday, 22 May 2009

Opposition party says electoral body threw out its allegations despite witness statements and recordings of incriminating phone calls.

THE Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) has condemned the ruling by the National Election Committee (NEC) that rejected the opposition's claims of vote-buying ahead of last weekend's voting by commune councillors in the district, provincial and municipal elections.

The SRP had asked the NEC to investigate recordings it said it had made of phone conversations between some of its councillors and three members of the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) in which they were offering money and positions to vote CPP.


The party said it had also submitted several statements from SRP councillors saying ruling party members had tried to buy their votes.

SRP lawmaker Ho Vann said the NEC's decision was unjust and unfair, and added that the NEC did not even consider many of the opposition's complaints.

"We have witnesses whose votes they tried to buy, and who received money for their votes," Ho Vann said. "We have recordings proving they were asked, and witnesses saying they were paid - we would like to ask the NEC what it thinks those activities amount to? The NEC said that our recordings are inadmissible."

Ho Vann accused some SRP defectors of trying to bribe current SRP councillors to vote for the ruling party. He gave the example of Leng Phaly, a former member of the SRP's central committee.

He claimed Leng Phaly tried to meet SRP councillors promising those who voted CPP and later defected would get a district level position and an extra monthly salary of 100,000 riels (US$25).

‘Not true' says ex-SRP man However Leng Phaly rejected the vote-buying allegations.

"I am for the CPP in the election campaign, so I must try to persuade [councillors] to vote CPP," he said. "I explained the CPP's platform to them, but I never tried to buy votes."

The NEC secretary general, Tep Nytha, said Thursday the complaints were not reasonable since election law could not require punishment be meted out for promoting the interests of a political party.

"It is not vote-buying - it is propagandising to seek votes. The election law is special, and cannot punish anyone who talks on the phone," he said.

Tep Nytha agreed some CPP members had called the opposition, but said as the SRP had not gone to meet the CPP, any activity was limited to phone calls. And that was not enough to uphold the complaint.

Hang Puthea, the executive director of local election monitoring organisation Nicfec, said he did not know how much proof the SRP had, but said voice recordings would be insufficient.

"When rulings are handed down in disputes between the CPP and the SRP, the SRP has never won," Hang Puthea said, adding that such charges should be investigated professionally.

ECCC gives Verges 'warning'

Jacques Verges, co-defence lawyer for Khieu Samphan, at the ECCC in this file photo.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Neth Pheaktra and Georgia Wilkins
Friday, 22 May 2009

Judges call lawyer's behaviour ‘insulting', threaten sanctions.

JUDGES at the Khmer Rouge tribunal Thursday issued a public warning to international defence lawyer Jacques Verges, threatening the French attorney with sanctions if he obstructs or abuses proceedings.

"From the first time that Mr Verges appeared before the pretrial chamber ... he has refused to participate meaningfully in the hearings," said the warning.

"The pretrial chamber hereby warns Mr Jacques Verges that were his conduct to remain offensive or otherwise abusive ... the chamber would impose sanctions."

Citing a number of incidents, including not showing up to a hearing in February and comments he made to judges over allegations of corruption at the court, judges called Verges "abusive and insulting", and his actions intolerable.

"The unsubstantiated allegations made by Mr Verges and the language he employed were abusive and insulting towards the pretrial chamber's judges.... They cannot be tolerated by the pretrial chamber," it said.

Judges being unfair: defence
The warning is the second issued to ECCC defence lawyers, and as such has prompted a fierce response from the chief of the defence section, Richard Rogers, who claimed judges were failing to uphold fair standards.

"While accepting that lawyers need to act within certain boundaries ... this needs to be put into context. We are in a court in which there are widespread allegations of corruption pertaining to half of the court's staff. We are also in a court in which there are allegations that the Cambodian prosecutor is following political instructions rather than making decisions based on evidence," he told the Post.

"These are issues that go straight to the heart of the entire procedure, but yet the only people that have faced sanctions by judges are defence lawyers. We need to ask ourselves whether the judges are applying the same standards to everyone," Rogers said.

Verges, who is defending former Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan, has been given the name "devil's advocate" because of his penchant for defending the most notorious criminals.

More controversial than his clients, however, is his abrasive defence style, which has also gained notoriety as a rupturing technique.

"If ECCC judges do not have a legitimate argument [to threaten sanctions], it could be a menace and affect Khieu Samphan's defence," said Sok Som Oeun, director of the Cambodia Defenders Project.

Villagers protest land arrests at S'Ville court

Written by Chrann Chamroeun
Friday, 22 May 2009

OVER 200 villagers gathered at Preah Sihanouk provincial court Tuesday and Wednesday calling for the release of four villagers detained by the court in relation to a local land dispute.

The four men, from Stung Hav district's Tomnob Rolok commune, were detained Tuesday on accusations of incitement and violating land owned of a local businessman.

Court prosecutor Bu Bunnang told the Post that the case was handed over to investigating Judge Svay Sunh who issued a warrant to detain the four men, but did not comment further.

The four detained men, Yus Saron, Soy Sokha, Kok Bunchhoeun and Ka Sochea, were arrested after being summoned to court Tuesday for questioning about having settled and farmed land allegedly owned by businessman Chhim Hour, said Yus Saron's son, Yus Vuthy, 33.

Ke Nan, 45, a community representative, said 253 families have lived and farmed on the 60-hectare plot since 1997, when they cleared forest and occupied the site.

The dispute began in 2007, she said, when local businessman Chhim Hour claimed ownership of the land and gained recognition from the National Authority for the Resolution of Land Disputes.

Earlier this year, the authority granted plots of land to 103 families living on the land, Ke Nan said, but added that the rest have so far been given nothing.

Chan Chamroeun, a provincial investigator for local rights group Adhoc, said Thursday that the group would "intervene to call for the release of the four men and for a halt to arrests in relation to this land dispute".

UN body readies statement

The forced eviction of Phnom Penh's Dey Krahorm community in January. Evictions and land issues were the keynote of the May 11-12 UN committee review.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sebastian Strangio and Vong Sokheng
Friday, 22 May 2009

A forthcoming series of recommendations by a UN rights body is unlikely to flatter the government, but civil society groups hope it does not fall on deaf ears.

THE UN's Committee on Social, Economic and Cultural Rights (UNCESCR) is set to release its concluding observations following its review of Cambodia's rights situation in Geneva last week.

While the recommendations, expected today, are unlikely to be flattering - committee members at the May 11-12 hearing grilled the government for its lack of progress - rights groups hope the government will take them on board.

"I hope that the government will take these concluding comments seriously and make reforms to improve the situation of economic, social and cultural rights in Cambodia," said Kek Galabru, president of local rights group Licadho.

The UNCESCR monitors member states' adherence to the International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), which Cambodia ratified in 1992. But the country's first report to the body, due in 1994, was only received at the end of December.

"The government of Cambodia has ratified this international covenant," Kek Galabru said.

"Ratification means you agree to take this covenant and include everything in national law.... It is time now. It has been 17 years. There is no excuse."

Other observers predicted the UN's recommendations would include a mention of the government's decision to send their ambassador to the UN, Sun Suon, rather than a specialised delegation.

"[T]he person they sent could not answer a single question. I think that is going to get a mention by the observation," said Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights.

He added that the government's official submission to the committee, which lacked any reference to forced land evictions, would contrast sharply with that filed by civil society groups.

Skeleton crew
David Pred, country director of international rights organisation Bridges Across Borders, who was present at he hearings, said the committee saw the small delegation as a symbol of the government's dedication to fulfilling its obligations under the ICESCR.

"They were disappointed, as was I, that the government did not send policy experts from Phnom Penh to answer the Committee's questions," he said by email.

"I think an important opportunity for dialogue was missed on issues that are of profound importance to Cambodian people."

Om Yen-tieng, director of the government-run Cambodian Human Rights Committee, said the government had "its own reasons" for not sending a full delegation to Geneva, and that while he respected the UNCESCR, its view of the situation in Cambodia was not accurate.

"I think the criticisms came from individual staff who have never opened their eyes to the facts in Cambodia, but have opened their ears to make an evaluation," he said.

But on the upside, Ou Virak said, recent years had seen the government's growing respect for international opinion on issues such as human rights.

"There seems to be more attention paid now to international instruments, but we're not sure how long this pattern will continue," he said.

Koh Kong to get new zoning regulations

Written by Christopher Shay and Khouth Sophak Chakrya
Friday, 22 May 2009

KOH Kong Governor Youth Phouthoong released a comprehensive zoning and regulation plan for the Cardamom Biodiversity Corridor last week and is to explain the plan to district, commune and village authorities in workshops later this month, Lim Savann, the deputy chief of the governor's office, said Thursday.

The zoning plan aims to clarify and summarise all the development projects in the area while providing clear guidelines as to what is allowed in each zone, an adviser to Youth Phouthoong said.

The plan outlines nine different zones, from an urban and industrial zone to a zone reserved for reforestation, with each zone having different regulations.

Son Dara, deputy governor of Koh Kong, said that the zoning regulations would preserve Koh Kong's forests, which would help ensure that Koh Kong attract more tourists.

"We developed these zones to help make Koh Kong Cambodia's second-most popular tourism site behind Angkor Wat," he said, adding that "development and preservation can go together".

PM criticises opposition's poll tactics

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Vong Sokheng
Friday, 22 May 2009

SRP held members ‘hostage' during election, says Hun Sen.

PRIME Minister Hun Sen on Thursday rejected opposition claims that the Cambodian People's Party "bought" votes in Sunday's provincial, district and municipal council elections, making his own allegations that opposition leaders forced their own supporters to swear loyalty oaths prior to the poll.

"One political party made serious predictions, like family deaths, if their commune councilors' members did not vote for their party," Hun Sen told about a hundred villagers during a school inauguration in Kandal province.

"I think that the words were not appropriate behaviour because they were more serious than the criminal law, which has no death penalty."

He also blasted the opposition for allegedly taking their commune councilors "hostage" and seizing their telephones in order to monitor their communications on election day.

Nonetheless, Hun Sen said that about 352 of the SRP's 2,660 commune councilors voted for the CPP. Sunday's "indirect" election was only open to the country's 11,353 commune councilors.

But SRP spokesman Yim Sovann said there was ample evidence of vote-buying, including recordings of telephone conversations, but that the party's complaints of bribery had been denied by the National Election Committee.

He also rejected Hun Sen's claims the opposition had forced its commune councilors to take serious oaths.

"We did ask our members of the new councils to swear that they would honestly perform their work when they are holding the position," he said.

Provisional election results released Monday by the NEC showed the CPP winning about three-quarters of the votes in the election.

Thai, Cambodian generals meet at border to ease renewed tensions

An RCAF soldier holds a rocket-propelled grenade near Preah Vihear temple earlier this month.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Cheang Sokha
Friday, 22 May 2009

Officials on both sides say dialogue helped build greater ‘understanding'.

A THAI military commander on Thursday met Cambodian commanders at the conflict zone near Preah Vihear temple, with the aim of promoting cooperation and reducing tension between the two sides, a military official told the Post Thursday.

General Srey Doek, commander of Military Division 3 based at Preah Vihear, said that he met with General Anupong Paochinda, commander-in-chief of the Thai army, and discussed how to avoid future military confrontations.

"This is the first time I have met with a top Thai commander," Srey Doek told the Post. "We proposed that Thai troops stop entering the prohibited zone and he accepted."

Srey Doek said the two had agreed that troops on both sides should remain at their bases and wait for a solution between the two governments.

Cambodian and Thai defence ministers met last month but failed to reach an agreement on troop redeployments from the areas surrounding the temple and the pagoda of Keo Sekha Kirisvara.

"The visit will speed up understanding between the two sides," said Commander Yim Phim of the RCAF'S Brigade 8. "This is the only point of the meeting."

Standoff in 10th month
Troops have remained at the border for almost 10 months, following Unesco's listing of the Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage site in July last year. The last exchange of gun fire, in April, killed three Thai soldiers.

Police nab homeless, beggars: groups

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Christopher Shay And Mom Kunthear
Friday, 22 May 2009

IN the early hours of Thursday morning in Phnom Penh's Daun Penh district, 30 beggars, suspected drug users, sex workers and homeless families were rounded up and dumped at the Department of Social Affairs in Phnom Penh, according to rights groups.

"We were told they were arrested as part of the campaign to ‘clean up' the streets before the EU-ASEAN meeting of foreign ministers," said Jason Barber, an advocacy consultant at Licadho.

Most of the people have been released, but seven suspected drug users were sent to a rehabilitation centre, said Christophe Peschoux, the country representative of the UN's Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

He said that arbitrary arrests before major events used to be common, but since August of last year, the municipality had stopped the police action.

"We hope that this is not a resumption of a practice we thought belonged to the past," he said.

A Daun Penh district official on Thursday denied the street arrests had occurred.

Kings of the slate


Written by Tracey Shelton
Friday, 22 May 2009

Children shoot pool at Tonle Bassac's Group 78 community on Wednesday. The community has been embroiled in a land dispute with developer Bassac Garden City that first saw the issuance of an eviction order earlier this month followed by a community request for an injuction. The community's ultimate fate remains uncertain.

Jarai land not 'worthless'

Written by Community Legal Education Centre
Friday, 22 May 2009

Dear Editor,

The Community Legal Education Centre (CLEC) and Legal Aid of Cambodia (LAC) would like to clarify a number of statements made by Judge Thor Sarorn of the Ratanakkiri provincial court regarding the planting of trees on contested land in the province.

The judge's remarks concern the longstanding land conflict between Keat Kolney and the ethnic Jarai villagers of Kong Yu village in Ratanakkiri. Referring to the recent planting of rubber trees on land that was illegally cleared in late 2008 under the pretense of creating a "fire road" around Keat Kolney's existing rubber trees, the judge was quoted as saying, "Keat Kolney doesn't want anything besides developing useless forest into rubber trees." We would like to remind the judge that this recently cleared land in fact contained farmland and an ancient burial ground of the Kong Yu villagers. We have shared our photographic and GPS evidence with the judge to support this assertion. Far from being "useless" land, this land is hallowed land to the Jarai people. Furthermore, as such, it is subject to special protection under the 2001 Land Law.

The judge also said that the Kong Yu villagers had filed their lawsuit in early 2007 only because they had been incited by lawyers working for NGOs and foreigners. We would like to point out that our lawyers have been diligently working on this case since 2006. They have been proud to work closely with the Kong Yu villagers as they have peacefully exerted their lawful rights to complain to the court and other authorities. For the judge to describe our lawyers' work as incitement reveals a misunderstanding of both our work and of the nature of incitement itself.

All of our lawyers' work has been meticulously conducted according to Cambodian law and procedure. Furthermore, our work of supporting and defending the Jarai villagers as they assert their legal rights cannot constitute incitement because nowhere - not even in Cambodia - does assisting another to assert lawful rights constitute incitement. In other words, one cannot be incited to do something that is legal.

It was a proud day for Cambodia's justice system in January 2007 when the Jarai villagers from Kong Yu filed their complaint against such a powerful individual as Keat Kolney. It will be an even prouder day when the court actually takes actions to resolve this case according to law.

Community Legal Education Centre
Legal Aid of Cambodia
Phnom Penh

Send letters to: newsroom@phnompenhpost or P.O. Box 146, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The Post reserves the right to edit letters to a shorter length.

Ad sector defies economic downturn in first quarter

Photo by: Sovann Philong
Telecommunications has been the largest advertising growth sector in the first quarter.

Ad Spending Q1

Figures show year-on-year change in ad spending per sector across all media in Q1:
+58pc - telecommunications
+30pc - automobiles
+13pc - toiletries
-29pc - real etate
-51pc - household products

Source: DraftFCB

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Nguon Sovan
Friday, 22 May 2009

Services industries - particularly telecoms - buck general economic trend, with banking sector also spending more on advertising this year

THE advertising sector has defied the economic crunch felt elsewhere in Cambodia on the back of soaring spending by the services sector, figures from local media agencies show.

According to International Media Services Consulting Group (IMS), a massive increase in ad spending by financial services and mobile phone operators led to a year-on-year increase in television placement of around 13 percent in the first quarter of 2009.

"Although property, construction and some consumer segments have experienced decreases in spending, there have been sizeable boosts from Cambodia's highly competitive service sectors with banking and financial placement increasing by over 70 percent and telecoms by 60 percent compared to the first quarter of last year," IMS Managing Director Peang Mann said, declining to disclose absolute spending figures.

He added that newspaper placement increased 29.6 percent year-on-year with growth in revenues largely attributable to the increased frequency of English-language publications.

Figures from media agency DraftFCB also show an increase in spending across TV, print and radio. Spending was up 22 percent in the first quarter compared with a year earlier, again boosted by the services sector.

According to DraftFCB media director Kao Kvenghong, while real estate advertisements dropped 29 percent in the first three months of the year compared with the same period in 2008, and household product placements fell 51 percent, the telecommunications industry spent 58 percent more on advertising, the automobile sector 30 percent more and toiletry brands 13 percent more.

The majority of placements were handled by eight major media agencies, Kao Kvenghong said, adding that DraftFCB's revenues increased 20 percent over the first quarter.

"We have 14 international companies as customers, and of course they cut down some advertising expenses, but they still have an advertising policy and we are an accredited agent, so we have found new customers to replace the reduced spending," he said.

However, Kim Keoleakkhena, assistant account manager at Media Marketing Service Group, said advertising through the company had dropped around 40 percent over the first four months of the year after most of its small customers axed their advertising budgets and larger companies reduced their spending. "Now it is very difficult to find new customers - we have gotten few new customers since early this year."

Real estate ads drop
Kong Vansophy, general manager of the US$1 million Dream Town development in Dangkor district's Choam Chao area, said the company had stopped advertising due to the ongoing slump in real-estate sales. "We spent $8,000 on adverts last year, but since the start of the year, we have not spent even a dollar on ads," he said.

In Channy, president and CEO of ACLEDA Bank, said that the bank had increased its advertising budget 35 percent this year to $1.9 million.

"We feel safe from the crisis due to the confidence in our bank by the public," he said, citing an increase in bank deposits from $487 million at the end of last year to $581 million this month.

Soum Sambath, executive director of Cam-Paint Manufacturing, said that the economic slowdown had hit demand for paint but that the company continued to spend around $50,000 per year on ads.

"Advertising is an effective way to sell our products, so we won't cut the amount for adverts for this year," he said.

Peang Mann said IMS had continued to grow in 2009 and now represented more than 50 local, regional and international customers in Cambodia, including Colgate-Palmolive, Mega Lifesciences, Honda, Swensens, Namyang, Ciputra, Bangkok Hospital, Nissan and Asahi.

The company had also been behind a number of recent product launches including creative and media campaigns for Special Beer and Label 5 Whisky. "Despite both of these brands being new entrants into the market, they have achieved very significant sales results and are now challenging much longer established brands," Peang Mann said. "This demonstrates the power that advertising can have, even during tough economic situations."

ACLEDA facing possible ratings downgrade: Moody's

ACLEDA Bank’s head office on Monivong Boulevard in Phnom Penh. One of Cambodia’s largest banks with branches in neighbouring Laos, ACLEDA may face a downgrade on its local currency long-term deposit rating by Moody’s, the credit-risk ratings agency said Wednesday

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by George McLeod
Friday, 22 May 2009

US-based credit-risk agency says that local currency long-term deposit and issuer ratings may be lowered based on Cambodia’s financial climate

ACLEDA may face a downgrade of its local currency long-term deposit and issuer ratings, according to the US-based credit-risk agency Moody's.

The bank's current long-term deposit rating of Ba1 will be reassessed, while the financial strength rating will remain unchanged at D, it said Wednesday.

Moody's issued a statement saying that the review could lead to a "possible downgrade" of the long-term deposit rating, but that other ratings would be unaffected and "carry a stable outlook".

Moody's Singapore office was unavailable for further comment on Thursday.

ACLEDA Vice Chairman John Brinsden said that the review did not reflect weaknesses in the bank's overall position.

"This is a standard Moody's practice - it doesn't mean there will be a change in the [financial-strength] rating," he said.

He added that the review had more to do with the ability of the National Bank of Cambodia to support private banking in the face of a rapidly expanding sector, and that the rating only referred to local currency debt.

Moody's said in the statement it would "review the specific circumstances of Cambodia to determine the appropriate systemic support available for Cambodian bank ratings and the implications for ACLEDA Bank, which has been identified as being potentially affected".

ACLEDA is one of Cambodia's largest banks, with more than US$700 million in assets as of March. The company has 229 branches, and is the first Cambodian bank to have expanded to Laos.

The review of ACLEDA'S standing comes after Moody's lowered the Bank Financial Strength Rating of Korea's Kookmin Bank from C to C- on Wednesday. Kookmin opened its first branch in Phnom Penh this month.

Rubber prices up 12.8pc this year

Written by Chun Sophal
Friday, 22 May 2009

CAMBODIA'S Rubber Plantation General Department said on Thursday that Cambodian rubber prices have increased 12.8 percent since January.

Ly Phalla, director general of the department, told the Post that rubber prices had risen to US$1,600 per tonne compared to $1,419 per tonne at the beginning of the year, adding that prices were still 33 percent lower compared with the same period last year.

In May 2008, a tonne of rubber was $2,400, he said.

"We expect that rubber prices will be strong this year, ranging from $1,500 to $2,000 as China - which has a big automobile industry - needs a lot of rubber," said Ly Phalla.

Rubber-export figures for the first four months of this year are not yet available.

Late last month the rubber industry in Cambodia warned that this year rubber cultivation growth would slow by about 60 percent year-on-year due to depressed prices.

Ly Phalla predicted at the time that cultivation would increase by about 10,000 hectares in 2009, compared with 25,900 hectares growth the previous year.

Cool mountain getaway

A chimney stack is all that remains of former King Norodom Sihanouk’s summer home.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Stephanie Mee
Friday, 22 May 2009

A favourite of former King Sihanouk, Kirirom offers a respite from the city

Just two hours away from Phnom Penh, in Kampong Speu province, lies Kirirom National Park, a thickly wooded mountain retreat long sought out for its peace, solitude, nature and respite from the oppressive heat of low-lying cities and towns.

Boasting 35 hectares of protected land in the rugged Elephant Mountains, Kirirom possesses a landscape that is unique to the rest of Cambodia, with pine trees towering over the leafy slopes and cool breezes drifting across crystal lakes.

The name Kirirom means "mountain of joy", a name bestowed by former King Norodom Sihanouk, who was no stranger to the mountain's beguiling charms. During the 1960s one of the King's favourite summer getaways was his mansion at the summit.

The retreat was destroyed during the civil war, and today all that remains is the giant stone chimney, jutting into the sky. But the same incredible views that so enthralled Sihanouk are still there.

Close to the abandoned retreat is a visitor's centre, open only on weekends and managed with support from Mlup Baitong, an environmental NGO, as well the Ministry of Environment.

Vendors sell a variety of drinks and snacks next to the visitor's centre, including grilled fish, sticky rice with sweet potato and coconut, and, oddly enough, traditional Khmer remedies.

Srey Pov, a young vendor, explains: "We get all the remedies from the forest and many people come from all over Cambodia to buy them - mostly Khmer people, but also quite a lot of Chinese visitors."

The traditional remedies include large, woody tree mushrooms, boiled in water to make a tea used to cure headaches; tree bark that smells strongly of menthol, also boiled and drunk to cure fatigue; and black-and-white porcupine quills.

"The porcupine quills are for pregnant women who suffer from morning sickness and loss of appetite," says Srey Pov. "We light the quill on fire until it crumbles, and then put it in rice wine. We get many pregnant woman who come here just to receive this cure."

Just a few feet away from Srey Pov's natural remedy stand is a small nature trail leading down to the secluded lake. The walk takes about 10 minutes and trekkers are rewarded at the bottom with access to the glassy blue body of water and near total seclusion amid the tall grass and gently swaying pine trees.

Paths around the lake end up at either a cluster of small bamboo picnic huts sitting in a verdant patch of grass on the edge of the lake, or the towering stupa of Wat Chas, otherwise known as Old Wat, overlooking a bubbling stream.

One of Kirirom's most popular attractions is the Tea Farm Waterfall, known in Khmer as teuk chreus jom ka tai. Located 700 metres from the main road, the waterfall can be reached by a steep set of stone stairs built into the side of the hill. Thatch and bamboo picnic huts balance precariously on hillside, looking down onto the small waterfall, which tumbles noisily over the slick black rocks.

"There are a lot of animals out here," says Ruot Ravy, manager of Kirirom Guesthouse and Restaurant, located nearby on a ledge overlooking the nearby mountain ranges.

"The animals don't often come out in the daytime, but sometimes I see them very early in the morning or late at night," she says. "It's hard to tell what they are sometimes, but we know that there are deer, porcupine, bears and possibly even tigers in these mountains."

Guests can try their luck at animal spotting at the Kirirom Resort in one of their basic rooms for US$20 a night.

The quirky Kirirom Hillside Resort at the base of the mountain also offers accommodation ranging from $17 a night for a simple tent on the grounds to $160 for the opulent executive suite. Attractions here also include a manmade UFO structure, plastic dinosaur gardens and a turreted castle-like gate entrance.

More down-to-earth accommodations can be found at the Chambok Community-Based Ecotourism site, located at the base of the mountain, down a rich red dirt road and surrounded by fields of mango and jackfruit trees just 10 kilometres from the park's entrance.

Visitors can stay at the home of a local villager for the small fee of $3 per person per night. Meal options are available, as are guided treks to a 40-metre waterfall, ox cart rides, trips to a bat cave, bicycle rentals and traditional Khmer dance performances.

All revenues from the site go directly to the villagers, and are used in part to protect and conserve the area's natural resources. Entrance to the Chambok is $3 for foreigners and 1,000 riels for Khmers.

For more information about Chambok, or to stay overnight, contact Mlup Baitong at 023 214 409. The entrance fee to Kirirom National Park is $5 for foreigners and free for Khmers. To get there, follow National Road 4 west to Treng Trayeung town, where signs point the way to the park.

Kirirom Guesthouse and Restaurant can be reached at 012 957 700 and Kirirom Hillside Resort at 016 590 999.

Police Blotter: 22 May 2009

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Lim Phalla
Friday, 22 May 2009

One of two suspected thieves was arrested by Chroy Changvar police while they were being chased by woman, Pav Chakrya, 25, in Chraing Chamreah Pir commune, Russey Keo district, Phnom Penh, after they purportedly snatched her necklace on Tuesday along National Road 5. The captured man was identified by police as Kham Tosina, 20, from the same commune as the victim.

Sim Soviet was arrested by Chamkarmon police in Ta Thaong Guesthouse located on Sothearos Boulevard in Tonle Bassac commune, Chamkarmon district, Phnom Penh, on Monday morning on suspicion of using and dealing illegal drugs. In the raid before his arrest, police found drug paraphernalia, three small packages of white powder and a sword.

Truck, motorbike collision kills 1
One person died and another was seriously injured after a truck ran over a motorbike on National Road 1 in Chroy Ampil village, Kbal Koh commune, Kien Svay district, Kandal province, on Sunday. The deceased was identified as Pal Sida, while the injured was identified as Reach Socheat, 29. Police said the truck was driven by Hun Hak.

Four dogs were poisoned to death and two motorbikes were stolen on Sunday in Kampong Svay Kaet village, Kampong Trabaek commune and district, Prey Veng province. The owners were Duk Raksmey, 50, and Nuon Long, 43. No trace of the culprits was found.

Kratie police arrested three men on Monday morning on suspicion of killing 65-year-old Koh Lean on Sunday morning in Hann Chey Tibey village, Hann Chey commune, Chhloung district, Kratie province. The victim was killed with a sword, police said, after the victim chased the suspects with a long wooden stick. He was angry at the men because they had dumped oxen waste in front of his house. The three arrested men were identified as Chim Lido, 35, Mao Vaana, 21, and Pheap Dalath, 23.

The Phnom Penh Post News In Briefs

In Brief: Sex charges amended

Written by Chrann Chamroeun
Friday, 22 May 2009

An American national who appeared Wednesday before the Phnom Penh Municipal Court has been charged with purchasing prostitution from a minor. Mark Stephan Freitag, 60, was arrested Monday in Phnom Penh on suspicion of three counts of sex crimes against minors. But Municipal Court prosecutor Sok Kolyan on Thursday announced that all offences would be covered by a single charge under Article 34 of the Law on Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation. If convicted, Freitag faces 7 to 15 years' imprisonment.

In Brief: Rik Reay fraud

Written by Khouth Sophak Chakrya
Friday, 22 May 2009

Development company Bassac Garden City on Thursday accused residents of the Rik Reay community of cheating the firm of compensation funds from the site. Company representative Toch Samnang said that the Such Kith family, already compensated US$140,000 for seven individual houses, had falsely claimed to possess an additional five properties. The company also disputed that 54 families live at the site, claiming to have identified only 49, and will lodge a formal legal complaint to the Municipal Court.

In Brief: Abhisit to visit Cambodia

Written by Sam Rith
Friday, 22 May 2009

Cambodia's Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong confirmed Thursday that Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is to visit Cambodia on June 12-13 for the first time since taking office. He said that Abhisit will introduce himself to ASEAN member states during this visit, bringing with him Angkorian artefacts that he and Prime Minister Hun Sen officially agreed in April would be handed over to Cambodia. Abhisit had cancelled earlier visit last month due to political instability in Thailand.

In Brief: Koupreys ready for Laos

Written by RAY LEOS
Friday, 22 May 2009

PHNOM PENH - Cambodia's "Koupreys" went through a final intense training session Thursday night at their training facility in the Stung Meanchey district as they prepared for Saturday's rugby encounter against the Laos national team. "We feel good," said prop Chro Kim Seang. "Now each of us need to start thinking about what we have to do on Saturday. It will be a hard match, but I think we will be ready." The Koupreys received some good news Thursday on the condition of ailing prop Ralph McMillan. "Ralphie says he feels better, and is good to go on Saturday," stated Kouprey head coach Peter Maley. Maley also announced that center Vannak Vireak has been appointed team captain for Saturday's match at 4pm at the Old Stadium.

CPC in Talks to Buy Cambodia Oil Stake From China as Ties Warm

By Yu-huay Sun

May 22 (Bloomberg) -- CPC Corp., Taiwan’s state-owned refiner, is in talks to buy a stake in a Cambodian oil area from China and plans to “aggressively” bid for energy assets with mainland partners, company President Chu Shao-hua said.

The purchase is being negotiated with China National Offshore Oil Corp., the country’s third-biggest oil producer, from whom CPC bought a 30 percent share in a Kenyan block in December, spokeswoman Jessica Tang said. The company also plans to process more crude for China National Petroleum Corp., the parent of PetroChina Co., Chu said in an interview in Taipei.

CPC will ramp up exploration spending by 77 percent this year as part of efforts to secure supplies and meet a tenth of its petroleum needs by 2014. Warming political ties are encouraging companies in China and Taiwan to cooperate. China Mobile Ltd. agreed to buy a stake in Far EasTone Telecommunications Co. in April, the first planned investment by a state-owned mainland company in Taiwan in six decades.

China National Offshore “has a very good track record in exploration and production,” said Charles Chen, who helps manage the equivalent of $3.7 billion at JF Asset Management Co. in Taipei. “Its cooperation with CPC may help Taiwan gain oil resources in the future.”

Unlisted CPC competes with Formosa Petrochemical Corp., the island’s only publicly traded oil refiner, to sell fuels in Taiwan and in Asian markets, including China. The island imports about 99 percent of its energy needs.

‘Aggressively Pursuing’

The company may spend NT$4.6 billion ($141 million) on exploration and production this year, Chu, 61, said at CPC’s headquarters yesterday. It spent NT$2.6 billion in 2008. Current production meets 7 percent of its gas requirement and about 2.5 percent of its crude-oil needs, Chu said.

“Possible stake purchases in existing fields is an approach we’re aggressively pursuing,” Chu said. “Chinese companies are easier to communicate with than foreign ones.”

CPC and China National Offshore started a joint study in 1998 on possible cooperation in search for oil and gas in a block in the Taiwan Strait. The purchase of the block in Kenya paved the way for joint overseas exploration and the two companies renewed a 2002 agreement last year to jointly drill wells in the southern part of the Strait.

CPC may invite Chinese companies to jointly search for oil and gas in waters near the island to share costs, John Hsu, chief executive of the company’s exploration and production division, said in March.

‘Limited’ Gains

How much CPC could gain from cooperation in the near term is difficult to assess as very little information is available on the likely reserves and because exploration “requires large investments,” said Chen at JF Asset Management.

“Benefits for CPC may be limited for now, but you got to work together first and see what chances there may be in the future,” Chen said. Still, China National Offshore, “is a worthy partner.”

Relations between China and Taiwan have improved since the Kuomintang party’s Ma Ying-jeou took office in May last year as the island’s president and dropped the pro-independence stance of his predecessor, Chen Shui-bian. Ma said this week he will prioritize economic ties with China.

While China says Taiwan is part of its territory, the two have been administered separately since Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists fled the mainland in 1949 after losing to Mao Zedong’s Communists in a civil war.

Refining for China

Formerly known as Chinese Petroleum Corp., CPC was formed by the Nationalists government in Shanghai in 1946 and relocated to Taiwan after Kuomintang’s defeat.

The refiner may process as many as 3 million barrels of Sudanese oil for China National Petroleum in exchange for fees and parts of the refined products, President Chu said. This would help CPC better utilize its spare capacity as Taiwan’s fuel demand falls amid the recession, he said.

CPC first refined crude for the Chinese company in 2002 and processed another cargo last year, he said.

CPC operates three refineries with a total daily capacity of 720,000 barrels of crude and has investments in Africa, Southeast Asia, the U.S., Australia and Latin America.

To contact the reporter on the story: Yu-huay Sun in Taipei