Monday, 29 June 2009

Life of the prisoners at the S-21 was worsen then in the hell

FILE - In this July 12, 2007 file photo, Khmer Rouge death camp survivor Vann Nath talks during a press conference in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Van Nath, 63, a first suvivor from the Khmer Rouge's notorious prison told the U.N.-backed genocide tribunal in Phnom Penh Monday, June 29, 2009 that life of the prisoners at the S-21 was worsen then in the hell. He was called by the tribunal to testify against Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, is being tried by the genocide tribunal for crimes against humanity, war crimes, murder and torture.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith, File)

A woman videos a live feed of Vann Nath, a Cambodian survivor of the Khmer Rouge prison S-21 as he speaks during the trial of former Khmer Rouge chief torturer Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, on the outskirts of Phnom Penh on June 29, 2009.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

A view of the trial of former Khmer Rouge chief torturer Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, on the outskirts of Phnom Penh June 29, 2009.REUTERS/ECCC/Handout

In this handout photo released by Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, Vann Nath, center behind glass, one of the only survivors of the Khmer Rouge's main torture center testifies at the U.N.-backed court, Monday, June 29, 2009, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Vann Nath gave a long-awaited testimony Monday, weeping as he recounted the conditions at a facility where 16,000 others were tortured before execution.(AP Photo/Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia)

Cambodian children look towards the prison of four former Khmer rouge leaders as their parents attend the trial of former Khmer Rouge chief torturer Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, on the outskirts of Phnom Penh June 29, 2009.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

American students from New York University, walk outside the main gate for attending at the U.N.-backed court, Monday, June 29, 2009, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. A first survivor from the Khmer Rouge's notorious prison told the U.N.-backed genocide tribunal Monday that life of the prisoners at the S-21 was worsen then in the hell.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Cambodian children who are not allowed to enter stand outside a gate during the U.N.-backed tribunal Monday, June 29, 2009 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. A first survivor from the Khmer Rouge's notorious prison told the genocide tribunal Monday that life of the prisoners at the S-21 was worsen then in the hell.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Cambodians wait outside the main gate at the U.N.-backed tribunal Monday, June 29, 2009 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. A first survivor from the Khmer Rouge's notorious prison told the U.N.-backed genocide tribunal Monday that life of the prisoners at the S-21 was worsen then in the hell.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

People line up to attend the trial of Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, the former Khmer Rouge prison chief in Phnom Penh. Cambodia's Khmer Rouge tribunal has heard its first testimony from one of only a handful of people to survive the horrors of the regime's main prison where around 15,000 others died.(AFP/File/Tang Chhin Sothy)

Cambodian men wait in line to attend the trial of former Khmer Rouge chief torturer Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, on the outskirts of Phnom Penh on June 29, 2009.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Pol Pot paintings saved my life, S-21 survivor says

By Ek Madra
Monday, June 29, 2009

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - A survivor of the Khmer Rouge's notorious Tuol Sleng prison wept at the trial of his torturer Monday and called for justice for the 1.7 million Cambodians who died under Pol Pot's tyrannical regime.

In a harrowing account of his detention at the S-21 interrogation center, where more than 14,000 people died, artist Vann Nath said his life was only spared because chief torturer Duch liked his paintings of "Brother Number One," Pol Pot.

"I survived because Duch felt good when he walked into my workshop," Nath said in his testimony against the ailing chief of the S-21 prison, whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav.

"My suffering cannot be erased -- the memories keep haunting me," said Nath, who lost two children to Pol Pot's 1975-1979 "killing fields" reign of terror.

With no death penalty in Cambodia, Duch faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted by the joint U.N.-Cambodian tribunal on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, torture and homicide.

Duch has admitted his part in the deaths but maintains he was only following orders.

His trial is the first of five Pol Pot cadres indicted by the tribunal. The others are "Brother Number Two" Nuon Chea, former President Khieu Samphan, and ex-foreign minister Ieng Sary and his wife, all of whom have denied knowledge of the atrocities.

Pol Pot, the architect of the ultra-Maoist revolution, died in 1998 near the Thai-Cambodia border.


Nath said he was beaten, electrocuted and left on the brink of starvation by Duch and his guards. He gave a graphic account of the barbaric acts of torture, which included the removal of fingernails and simulated drowning.

"Our legs were shackled, we were so hungry we ate any insects we could grab and were beaten by the guards," said Nath, who was one of only seven people to survive the prison.

"I heard prisoners scream, I heard sounds and voices of the mothers who cried when security guards tried to take their babies away. The suffering was so bad."

Nath, who was the first Khmer Rouge survivor to appear before the tribunal, said he wanted to tell the world about the horrors of the regime and sought justice for the people who died of execution, disease, starvation and exhaustion.

"Now I have the ability to testify before this chamber. This is my privilege, this is my honor," he told the court. "I do not want anything more than justice."

(Editing by Martin Petty and Sanjeev Miglani)

Tried in absentia, Cambodian journalist immediately arrested, sent to prison

Southeast Asian Press Alliance
The editor-in-chief of the "The Khmer Machas Srok" newspaper, who had been fined and sentenced to a year's imprisonment, was arrested on the same day by the police and sent to the Prey Sar prison, near Phnom Penh, Cambodia, media reports said.

Hang Chakra was arrested at a rented house in Chamcar Samrong commune in Battambang City and was immediately sent to jail, Radio Free Asia quoted Am Sam Ath, director of investigation for the Licadho human rights group, as saying.

Hang Chakra’s lawyer, Chuong Chou-ngy, said that the sentence handed down by the Phnom Penh municipal court is very unfair for his client because the decision was made in absentia, and neither he nor his client were present during the court decision. Only the judge, the prosecutors and the government lawyer who brought the lawsuit against Hang Chakra were present.

Radio Free Asia quoted Chuon Chou-ngy: "[The court] hastened [the process] to hand out the sentence. Even without the presence of my client [Hang Chankra] and my request to delay the case, they didn’t agree to it."

"The Phnom Penh Post" last week said Hang Chakra was meted out a one-year jail term and fined him 9 million riels ($2,250) on charges of publishing false information and defamation on Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister, Sok An. The charges were based on the UNTAC criminal code rather than the more recent Press Law. Cambodian journalists groups said the former carries harsher penalties, including imprisonment.

Am Sam Ath said: "We can see that [this case] can seriously affect the rights of journalists to express their opinion."

He added that, "The Appeal court must think about Mr. Hang Chakra’s case. The information law should be considered first before the criminal code is used."

The Phnom Penh municipal court and justice ministry officials could not be reached to explain about the legality of this court decision and sentence, Radio Free Asia said.


The Southeast Asian Press Alliance ( is a coalition of press freedom advocacy groups from Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand. Established in November 1998, it is the only regional network with the specific mandate of promoting and protecting press freedom throughout Southeast Asia. SEAPA is composed of the Alliance of Independent Journalists (Indonesia), the Jakarta-based Institute for the Study of the Free Flow of Information (ISAI), the Manila-based Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, and the Thai Journalists Association. SEAPA also has partners in Malaysia, Cambodia, East Timor, and exiled Burmese media, and undertakes projects and programs for press freedom throughout the region.

For inquiries, please contact us at:, or call +662 243 5579.

Cambodian PM Agrees to Help Ease Border Tension

29 June 2009

The Thai diplomat to the United Nations believes the international community will not meddle in the dispute between Thailand and Cambodia over the Preah Vihear Temple. Meanwhile, the Cambodian Prime Minister reportedly pledges to help lessen the tension along the Thai-Cambodian border.

Speaking about his Saturday's visit to Cambodia, Deputy Prime Minister in charge of national security Suthep Thaugsuban revealed Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has assured him there will be no re-emergence of violence and tension along the border will be lessened.

Suthep said the bilateral cooperation discussed include the construction of Satum Ngam Dam and the development of natural gas fields in the overlapping areas in the Gulf of Thailand.

The Deputy Prime Minister said Thai prisoners in Cambodia will be returned to the country, following a cooperation pact reached between Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and Cambodian PM Hun Sen during Abhisit's recent visit to Cambodia.

Suthep noted that a reception in his honor was held at Hun Sen's residence instead of the Cambodian Government House as usual because his trip was an unofficial one.

Meanwhile, Thai Ambassador to the United Nations Norachit Singhasenee said the international society would view the Thai-Cambian border situation as a matter between the two countries and would leave both countries to resolve the conflict by themselves.

Norachit, however, admitted the UN is concerned about the increased tension at the Thai-Cambodian border and it wants to see reduction of troops on both sides as soon as possible.

The Thai diplomat said that Cambodia's registration of Preah Vihear Temple as a world heritage site must not have any effect on Thai sovereignty. He noted Thailand may welcome a proposal on the joint development of the area.

Norachit, however, declined to comment on Natural Resources and Environment Minister Suwit Khunkitti's efforts to protest the listing of Preah Vihear Temple as Cambodia's world heritage site at the World Heritage Committee meeting.

Eating Insects To Survive In Pol Pot Camp

SKY News

One of the few survivors of the Khmer Rouge's main torture centre has told of the horrific conditions at the facility where 16,000 others were executed. Skip related content

Vann Nath, 63, escaped death because he was an artist and took the job of painting and sculpting portraits of Cambodia's communist movement's late leader Pol Pot.

But his special status did not spare him misery. "The conditions were so inhumane and the food was so little," Vann Nath told a tribunal, tears streaming down his face.

"I even thought eating human flesh would be a good meal."

Vann Nath said he was fed twice a day, each meal consisting of three teaspoons of rice porridge. "I lost my dignity," he said. "They even gave animals more food."

The testimony came at the trial of Kaing Guek Eav - better known as Duch - who headed the S-21 prison in Phnom Penh from 1975 to 1979.

Up to 16,000 men, women and children were tortured under his command and later taken away to be killed. Only 14 people, including Vann Nath, are thought to have survived.

Duch, 66, is charged with crimes against humanity and is the first of five defendants scheduled for long-delayed trials by the UN-assisted tribunal.

He has previously testified that being sent to S-21 was tantamount to a death sentence and that he was only following orders to save his own life.

Vann Nath was imprisoned after being accused of trying to overthrow the Khmer Rouge and being an enemy of the regime - a common allegation against prisoners.

He arrived at S-21 on January 7, 1978, and was kept there until the regime collapsed about one year later.

Prisoners were kept shackled and ordered not to speak or move, Vann Nath told the court.

"We were so hungry, we would eat insects that dropped from the ceiling," he said. "We would quickly grab and eat them so we could avoid being seen by the guards."

"We ate our meals next to dead bodies, and we didn't care because we were like animals," he added.

The regime's radical policies caused the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million people nationwide by execution, overwork, disease and malnutrition.

Survivor of Khmer Rouge torture center testifies in tears

Los Angeles Times

Starving prisoners secretively ate insects, he says at prison chief's trial in Cambodia. Only seven of 16,000 inmates are thought to have survived.

The Associated Press
June 29, 2009

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia -- One of the few survivors of the Khmer Rouge's deadliest torture center gave long-awaited testimony Monday, weeping as he recounted life at the facility where 16,000 others were tortured before execution.

Vann Nath, 63, escaped execution because he was an artist and took the job of painting and sculpting portraits of the Khmer Rouge's late leader, Pol Pot. His special status did not spare him misery.

"The conditions were so inhumane and the food was so little," Vann Nath told the tribunal, tears streaming down his face. "I even thought eating human flesh would be a good meal."

Vann Nath said he was fed twice a day, each meal consisting of three teaspoons of rice porridge. Prisoners were kept shackled and ordered not to speak or move.

"We were so hungry, we would eat insects that dropped from the ceiling," Vann Nath said. "We would quickly grab and eat them so we could avoid being seen by the guards."

"We ate our meals next to dead bodies, and we didn't care because we were like animals," he added.

The testimony came at the trial of Kaing Guek Eav -- better known as Duch, who headed the S-21 prison in Phnom Penh from 1975-1979. Up to 16,000 men, women and children were tortured under his command and later taken away to be killed.

Vann Nath is thought to be one of only seven survivors of S-21, and one of three still alive today, said tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath. The other two are scheduled to testify later this week.

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

Duch, 66, sat silently and watched Vann Nath impassively as he spoke. Duch is charged with crimes against humanity and is the first of five defendants scheduled for long-delayed trials by the U.N.-assisted tribunal.

Duch has previously testified that being sent to S-21 was tantamount to a death sentence and that he was only following orders to save his own life.

Vann Nath said he was arrested Dec. 30, 1977, from his home in northwestern Battambang province where he worked as a rice farmer. He was accused of trying to overthrow the Khmer Rouge and of being an enemy of the regime -- a common accusation against prisoners. He arrived at S-21 on Jan 7, 1978, and was kept there until the regime collapsed about one year later.

Vann Nath said he was tortured at a different camp after his arrest but he was spared torture at S-21.

The court was shown a dozen paintings Vann Nath made after the fall of the regime that depicted events from S-21, some of which he says he witnessed and some related to him by others. The paintings showed executions, prison guards snatching a baby from a mother, and women being tortured by guards who set scorpions loose on their bodies.

The regime's radical policies caused the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million people nationwide by execution, overwork, disease and malnutrition.

Most prisoners were tortured into giving fanciful confessions that suited the Khmer Rouge's political outlook, though they generally had been loyal members of the group.

"What I want is something that's intangible," Vann Nath said. "I want justice for those that died."

US lifts curb on Cambodia, Laos trade

Aisa Times Online

Southeast Asia
Jun 30, 2009

By Brian McCartan

BANGKOK - The removal of Cambodia and Laos from a United States blacklist that limits government support for US companies doing business with the two countries represents the latest strategic move by Washington to counterbalance China's rising influence in mainland Southeast Asia. The new designation will open the way for more American investment in two of Southeast Asia's poorest nations, both US adversaries during the Cold War era.

President Barack Obama has determined that Cambodia and Laos have both shown commitment to open markets, including through more liberal investment laws and fewer market controls, and should no longer be considered "Marxist-Leninist" countries as defined by the 1945 Export-Import Bank Act, the White House announced on June 12.

With the trade restrictions removed, American companies can apply for financing through the Export-Import Bank of the United States for working capital guarantees, export credit insurance and loan guarantees to conduct business in Cambodia and Laos. Only six countries now remain on the US trade blacklist: Cuba, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Sudan and Syria.

With a combined population of 20 million, Cambodia and Laos do not represent an especially large or high purchasing power market for US companies. US exports to Cambodia in 2008 totaled US$154 million while those to Laos were a mere $18 million. Cambodia's exports to the US, which mostly consist of clothing and textiles, last year totaled around $2.4 billion while US-bound shipments from Laos were just $42 million. US trade with Thailand stood at $30 billion last year, and with Vietnam $15 billion.

Obama's decision was highly criticized by US-based ethnic Hmong groups, comprised of people who fled Laos after the 1975 communist takeover and claim their relatives continue to be persecuted by the authoritarian regime. Several thousand Hmong remain in a refugee camp in northern Thailand with another 158 Hmong recognized by the United Nations as refugees with real concerns for their safety if repatriated to Laos held in an immigration detention center in northeastern Thailand.

US-based Hmong activists have said that the Obama administration should first secure guarantees from the Laos government for the safety of the Hmong and investigate claims of human-rights abuses before agreeing to improved diplomatic and economic ties. The Hmong and their former Central Intelligence Agency and military allies during the Vietnam War have said the Hmong deserve better from a country they honorably served.

The US State Department's information site on Cambodia says, "In the past three years, bilateral relations between the US and Cambodia have deepened and broadened." That hasn't always been the case. When the Khmer Rouge deposed a US-propped regime in 1975, the American Embassy was evacuated and a mission was not reestablished in the country until 1991. A US embargo on trade with Cambodia ended with the normalization of economic relations in 1992 and full diplomatic relations were recommenced the following year.

A Congressional ban on direct assistance to the Cambodian government was imposed in 1997 following violent factional infighting between current Prime Minister Hun Sen and then co-prime minister Norodom Ranariddh. Further complicating US-Cambodian relations was a grenade attack that same year on a rally for opposition politician Sam Rainsy, where a US citizen was injured. A US Federal Bureau of Investigation probe that followed linked the attackers to government politicians and Hun Sen's special bodyguard unit. The congressional ban was only lifted 10 years later in 2007 and allowed for direct technical assistance.

The US sent over $57 million to Cambodia last year, scattered across programs in health, education, governance and economic development. The US State Department's website also lists as programs it supports as the fight against terrorism, reduction in HIV/AIDS, improving democratic institutions, promotion of human rights, elimination of corruption, accounting for MIAs and justice for victims of the Khmer Rouge.

Long on a diplomatic backburner, US-Laos relations have also seen a revival in recent years. Although diplomatic relations were never severed after the communist takeover in 1975, the US mission in Vientiane was downgraded and full diplomatic relations were not restored until 1992. Trade ties with Vientiane were normalized in December 2004 after congress passed the Miscellaneous Trade and Technical Corrections Act which extended non-discriminatory treatment of Lao products entering the US. The following year, a bilateral trade agreement between the two former adversaries entered into force.

Commercial countermove
The motivation behind these overtures, some analysts say, is growing US concern over the diplomatic and commercial inroads China has made the region. Since the late 1990s, China has stepped up its influence in both Cambodia and Laos. Although China is not the largest single donor to either country, its investments and aid projects are often strongly publicized, including high-profile infrastructure projects such as hydro-electric dams and roads and public projects like the main stadium for the 2009 Southeast Asia Games to be held in Vientiane.

The exact amounts of Chinese aid are difficult to discern since development assistance is often tied together with direct economic investment and loans. According to a January 2008 Congressional Research Service (CRS) report entitled "China's 'Soft Power' in Southeast Asia", the US disbursed some $55 million annually in aid to Cambodia during 2006-2007. China, which for the first time donated money through the Western-dominated Consultative Group that coordinates foreign aid to Cambodia, pledged $91.5 million in 2007.

According to the same CRS report, the US has been a small donor in Laos, with aid amounting to $4.5 million between 2005 and 2007. The US bolstered its disbursements last year, according to the US State Department statistics, with $18 million going to the removal of unexploded bombs and mines, counter-narcotics, health, education, economic development and governance. China has become increasingly important to Vientiane as a source of low-interest loans, grants, development projects, technical assistance and foreign investment.

US relations with Cambodia and Laos have been tempered by concerns lingering from the Vietnam War. In Laos, that includes issues involving the treatment of ethnic Hmong who supported the US during the war and accounting for US servicemen lost during the conflict. Laos and Cambodia, for their part, remain wary of engaging too closely with the US, which dropped thousands of tons of bombs on both countries during the 1960s and early 1970s and as unexploded ordinance continue to kill and maim innocent civilians.

Yet China has its own public image problem in both countries, including Beijing's support for the murderous Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia. In Laos, there are new fears of being swallowed up by its massive northern neighbor, a perception reinforced by the growing presence of all things Chinese ranging from imported goods to migrant workers, who, Lao officials say, do not return home once their work obligations have expired.

China has worked to counter those criticisms, including through building high-profile infrastructure and public works projects. There have also been frequent visits of Chinese cultural missions, expansion of local Chinese language courses, scholarships for study at Chinese universities, technical assistance programs and Beijing-supported study tours to China for government officials.

Some analysts sense a shift, especially in the younger generation of officials whose formative years did not take place during the Vietnam War, away from erstwhile ally Vietnam to a more pro-China stance. China's recent extensive investments in both Cambodia and Laos have convinced many that the way to prosperity comes through working with the Chinese.

China's inroads into both countries have been helped by inconsistent US attention to the region. Under the George W Bush administration, Washington was perceived by many to have downgraded its commitment to Southeast Asia while concentrating its resources on the so-called global war on terror. When America did engage with the region, it seemed to be focused primarily on counter-terrorism.

It was not lost on countries in the region that then-secretary of state Condoleezza Rice skipped the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum in 2007, or that Bush postponed the US-ASEAN summit in September 2007 and left a day early the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting later that year.

Under the Obama administration, some sense a change in course, with this month's lifting of restrictions on Cambodia and Laos. Southeast Asian nations noted with some pleasure that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's included Indonesia in her inaugural tour of Asia and were heartened by her attendance of ASEAN's opening session in Jakarta. Clinton has also announced that she will be attending the annual ASEAN foreign ministers' meeting and ASEAN Regional Forum in Phuket, Thailand, next month.

Still, Beijing is considered the primary economic patron of both Cambodia and Laos, underlined in April when it announced a "special" aid package of $39.7 million to meet "urgent needs" in Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar. The US's re-engagement in Cambodia and Laos, some say, has demonstrated a new willingness in Washington to provide both governments alternative avenues to prosperity apart from engagement with China.

At the same time, some say Obama must hedge his diplomacy to avoid upsetting its traditional regional ally, Thailand. Despite being made in 2003 a US non-NATO ally, Bangkok has shown signs of moving closer to China, especially under deposed former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Thai military officers say increased US prioritization of Cambodia, which is currently engaged with Thailand in a pitched border conflict, could push further Thai military ties with China.

Several articles have already appeared in the Thai and English language press expressing annoyance with America's move on Cambodia and Laos and dismay that Thailand as a key strategic ally was not first consulted. That's added to official consternation that began with a perceived snub by Clinton's choice of Indonesia over Thailand for her first Southeast Asia visit earlier this year.

There are still some formalities to iron out under the new relaxed trade regime and American officials have said it will be several months before loans can actually be extended to Cambodia and Laos. Whether US private companies are in a financial position to take advantage of the new designation of two of the region's more marginal economies is also in question. But Obama has now publicly stated and put money in the message that the US is keen to more strongly engage Laos and Cambodia, with the subtext of countering China's recent regional gains.

Brian McCartan is a Bangkok-based freelance journalist. He may be reached at

Teachers to get safe homes in South

Published: 29/06/2009

Work will begin immediately on building safe accommodation for teachers within school areas in the far South as part of improved security measures, Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said on Monday.

The promise followed reports that separatist militants have threatened to take the lives of another 50 women teachers in the southermost border provinces.

Their attacks have recently concentrated on teachers and their security escorts, with pregnant women being among the growing number of victims.

Mr Suthep, who is in charge of security affairs, said he had not received details of the reported threat, but there was a need for urgent action.

Officials in the southernmost provinces had been again reminded of the need to ensure teachers' safety.

"Providing safety for teachers has always been a weak point for officials in the region,'' the deputy prime minister said.

"To protect teachers from being targetted by the insurgents, especially when they are travelling to and from work, the government will build them official residences within school areas, beginning immediately."

He said security measures at schools will also be more stringent.

He said the number of teachers being murdered in the deep South was still fewer than in the past.

According to the Human Rights Watch's report on June 19, separatist militants were believed responsible for the murder of 115 teachers in the restive region.

Narathiwat Teachers' Association president Sanguan Jintarat said southern teachers' morale was in disarray.

He said many of the them, especially the women, had started to believe the spreading rumours that the militants' plan to kill 50 women teachers in the region as they raise the level of violence.

Fourth Army Region commander Lt-Gen Pichet Visaijorn and southern teachers' representatives woud meet to plan details of the new security plan, Mr Suthep said

Mr Suthep also said Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen had assured him during their meeting on Saturday that the tension around the disputed border near Preah Vihear temple would not heighten again.

They also discussed the plan to transfer Thai and and Cambodian prisoners to their respective countries.

Khmer Rouge prison survivor weeps before war crimes tribunal

Mon, 29 Jun 2009
Author : DPA

Phnom Penh - The first survivor of a notorious Khmer Rouge torture prison to appear before Cambodia's UN-backed war crimes tribunal broke into tears Monday as he recounted the brutal techniques used to extract confessions from his fellow inmates. Vann Nath, 63, who is one of a handful of survivors from S-21 prison in Phnom Penh, wept as he recalled conditions at the facility where at least 15,000 men, women and children were tortured before being sent to be murdered at the Cheong Ek "killing field."

"What happened there, these memories cannot be erased," he said. "I have tried to forget what happened but these memories haunt me."

Vann Nath's testimony came in the trial of former S-21 warden Kaing Guek Eav, known by his revolutionary name Duch, who is facing charges of crimes against humanity, premeditated murder and breeches of the Geneva Conventions, allegedly committed during the Khmer Rouge's 1975-1979 rule.

Duch, 66, has admitted guilt for his crimes and faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Vann Nath, whose famous paintings depict the horrors of the prison, told the court he was allowed to live because he was instructed to paint portraits of Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pol and other senior cadres.

"If I made the portrait attractive then I knew that I would be spared execution," he said.

A selection of Vann Nath's paintings presented to the court depicted dozens of prisoners shackled together in group cells, inmates being burned and tortured with sharp objects, and infants being torn from their mothers' arms.

Up to 2 million people died through execution, starvation or overwork during the Khmer Rouge's campaign to transform Cambodian society into an agrarian socialist utopia.

Duch is one of five former leaders facing trial before the tribunal, which was established in 2008 after a decade of negotiations between the Cambodian government and the UN.

Duch: "Do you see me as a new person?"

Kambol (Phnom Penh, Cambodia). Faced with justice, has Duch changed? The accused asked the question himself
©John Vink/ Magnum (file picture: 01-04-2009)


By Stéphanie Gée

Thursday June 25th, in one morning, the co-Prosecutors and civil party lawyers interrogated Duch on the functioning of the re-education camp of Prey Sar, also called S-24. The efficiency can be credited to a decision by the judges to limit the speaking time allocated to each party and the president’s direction of the debates. However, the examination of S-24 ended with the feeling that Duch was far from having disclosed everything on the subject.

Smashing children to prevent revenge
What was the difference between S-24 and the other cooperatives in Democratic Kampuchea?, the Cambodian co-Prosecutor asked Duch. “[They] were similar in several ways, but they differed in the sense that S-24 aimed to gather people who had committed offences while the other cooperatives were organised on the basis of class origin. Also, in S-24, most of the elements were CPK [Communisty Party of Kampuchea] fighters.” “Why were children killed?” The accused gave two reasons: “The CPK was afraid that children might take revenge otherwise” and it did not want to feed them, it would have been too costly to keep them.

A rather exonerating interrogation by the prosecution
It was then the turn of his international’s colleague to ask questions. “So, you did not decide whether they [the detainees in S-24] were going to live or die?” Duch answered, “In principle, I was responsible for the decisions, although I did not take them personally. As a matter of fact, the decision was taken by other people who were accountable to me and the party.” “You delegated your power to Hor [his deputy in S-21] and Huy [his deputy in charge of S-24] and you discovered only later that detainees [of Prey Sar] were sent to S-21, didn’t you?” “Yes, I did. It is the right interpretation.”

As for the people being sent directly from S-24 to the execution site of Choeung Ek, this was organised on the basis of decisions taken by Hor and “you only found out about it later. Is that correct?”, William Smith continued. “It is fundamentally correct,” Duch agreed. “I genuinely trusted Hor and Huy. They had never allowed anyone to escape.” “If you wanted to prevent Hor and Huy from doing something, could you do so?” “I had total authority. I could put an end to anything.” “It was absolutely impossible for you to take care of everything, wasn’t it?”, continued the co-Prosecutor, who seemed to exonerate the accused with his questions. “Yes, it was,” Duch confirmed. He acknowledged he had delegated large powers to his two deputies, as he was too occupied, particularly with the annotations on the confessions of the prisoners in S-21.

“There was a permanent order to Hor and Huy to implement this policy in Prey Sar, wasn’t there?” Duch said he did not understand the meaning of the co-Prosecutor’s question. “I just looked at the courtroom and it seems that you are not the only one.” William Smith therefore rephrased his question: was it enough to give the order only once for them to understand they had this power? The accused agreed and explained he did not need to repeat his orders.

In his conclusion, William Smith declared unexpectedly to the accused: “We appreciate your honesty and clarity.”

“I am still a policeman”
The floor went to the civil party lawyers. Answering their questions, Duch recalled that “back then, we didn’t think the CPK was going to be defeated. So, I did what I was asked to do.” Regarding his flight from Phnom Penh on January 7th 1979, he stated: “As human beings, we were not cruel enough not to recognise the crimes. But back then, we told ourselves that it was the police’s work and it had to be done. But I am still a policeman and I am responsible before History. I will tell all I remember and I will not put the blame on the government like I did in the past.”

Duch spared for his loyalty to his superiors
Alain Werner took over from his Cambodian colleague. Each civil party group was given 15 minutes. “On my Swiss watch, I have five and a half minutes left.” He recalled that during the pre-trial investigation, Duch said he had wanted to protect his brother-in-law when the latter was arrested. Finally, Nuon Chea sent him to S-21. The lawyer stated the rule required that when one person was sent to S-21, his or her family followed. Hence his question: “How do you explain that nothing happened to you when your brother-in-law was sent to S-21?” Still, Duch had an answer for everything: “In the eyes of the CPK, I was the main person in my family. If I had been arrested, none of my relatives would have been spared. But my brother-in-law was an ordinary family member.”

The co-lawyer for civil party group 1 summarised the hypothesis of the accused: “Whatever the purges, the deportations, whatever your involvement, […], nothing ever happened to you. You were untouchable because you were protected by Son Sen and Nuon Chea, who loved your zeal and the lists of enemies you provided them.” Duch did not contest. “I survived because of that. In hindsight, the important thing is that I was loyal and totally honest with them and they could see it with their own eyes. I was also monitored and followed, because they felt a part of mistrust towards me.”

“What was done was wrong”
That the individuals sent to Prey Sar may represent a danger for the regime, Duch said he believed it only “to some extent, let’s say 10%.” He did not deny the “pain and sufferings” inflicted upon these detainees. Later, he claimed he had “personally blamed one person.” “At the start of the trial, I said Pol Pot applied the political line” because he had hundreds of thousands of Cambodians behind him. “The party and its members are those responsible. It must be recognised that what was done was wrong. And for S-21 specifically, I am the one who committed the crimes and who bears the responsibility. As for the superiors, they decided a line that was wrong, but I was myself accountable to the party and I am today responsible for what was done before the Extraordinary Chambers.”

From Kang Guek Eav to Duch
When his Cambodian co-lawyer interrogated him on the limited freedom of move under Democratic Kampuchea, the accused assured it was only possible to travel “upon order,” “for a mission,” and “everyone had to follow this rule.”

“What method could one use to re-educate oneself to be a new person?”, Kar Savuth asked him. “I intended to change from an ordinary person to a communist person,” Duch stated. In 1964, during his re-education, through the CPK, he “became a new Duch [his revolutionary name], different from Kang Guek Eav, the mathematics teacher in Skuon.” Then, he explained that gradually, his emotions and awareness of the crimes started to evolve. “From 1973, I was shocked and upset by the loss of human lives. I wanted to leave. I do not want to pretend that I suffered. I am inclined to say I am responsible for the loss of these souls and I pray for them. When we met at the military court [with Kar Savuth], I could blame the government because I was a policeman. But now, here, before the ECCC, we have been through the questions of the co-Investigating Judges and now those of the Trial Chamber. Do you see me as a new person? I bow to the Cambodian people.”

When the hearings resume on Monday June 29th, S-21 survivors will finally start to testify, after nine weeks of trial. A highly anticipated moment.

Leader to invest US$150mil in new Cambodia power plant

Sean H’ng ... ‘power-purchase agreement will be inked soon.’

Monday June 29, 2009


GEORGE TOWN: Leader Universal Holdings Bhd will invest in a new power plant worth US$150mil to US$160mil in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, which is expected to commence operations in 2012.

Group managing director and chief executive officer Sean H’ng Chun Hsiang said the power-purchase agreement for the 100MW coal-fired power plant, which would replace the earlier agreement executed for the 200MW project, would be inked soon.

“We are also in talks with banks now and expect to finalise the financing for the project before the end of this year. We hope to start construction work on the plant soon,” he told StarBiz.

In February 2007, the group announced its winning bid to develop a 200MW coal-fired power plant in Sihanoukville with a local Cambodian partner on a 50:50 joint venture.

However, on Feb 1, 2009, it announced that the Cambodian government had approved to split the 200MW plant into two projects of 100MW each, allowing each original shareholder to develop its own project.

On June 11, Leader said it had formed a joint venture with Cambodian International Investment Development Group Co Ltd to develop the plant.

Leader owns 80% of the joint-venture company, which is also planning to develop another 700MW coal-fired power plant in Sihanoukville.

“This project will be progressively developed after the completion of the 100MW plant in 2012.

“The 700MW plant will be carried out in various phases, with each phase having the capacity to generate 100MW-200MW of power supply, to gradually meet the energy needs of Cambodia,” H’ng added.

Presently, the capacity of the power plants in Cambodia was around 410MW, compared with the forecast demand of 808MW by Electricite du Cambodge (the local state-owned power company), H’ng said.

“The demand is expected to increase to 1,915MW in 2015, eventually hitting 3,867MW in 2020.

“There are vast business opportunities for the power business in Cambodia. We have been building some power distribution lines there. We hope to also explore opportunities in the area of power transmission,” he added.

Leader’s first power plant, using heavy fuel oil, is located in Phnom Penh, catering to its one million population.

For the first quarter 2009, the power business contributed 8% to the group’s total revenue of RM444.7mil and 35% of its total operating profit of RM26.6mil.

On the group’s cable business, Leader’s order book as at end-March stood at about RM700mil, excluding some major recurring orders.

“Almost 40% of the group’s total revenue in the first quarter was from export orders. The group exports to over 20 countries in Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Oceania.

“We will continue to look at new opportunities in the overseas markets. The group is confident of the near-term prospects, given the implementation of the Government’s stimulus packages and also the demand arising from the implementation of the Bakun power transmission projects,” he added.

On the group’s revenue for 2009, H’ng said that although the prices of both aluminium and copper had increased recently, they were unlikely to hit the peak seen in 2008.

“Thus, we expect the group’s revenue to be correspondingly lower this year. The cost of aluminium and copper are mostly passed through to our customers.

“So although the movement of prices of aluminium and copper will impact our revenue, it will not materially impact our bottom line,” he said.

For the group’s first quarter ended March 31, revenue dropped by 31% compared with the previous corresponding quarter due to lower aluminium and copper prices.

The average London Metal Exchange price of copper was US$7,796 per tonne for the first quarter 2008 compared with US$3,428 for the first quarter of 2009. Similarly, the average price of aluminium dropped from US$2,742 per tonne in the first quarter 2008 to US$1,360 in the 2009 quarter.

Marking the party's birth


Monday, 29 June 2009

National Assembly President Heng Samrin(left), Senate President Chea Sim (centre) and Prime Minister Hun Sen release doves to celebrate the 58th anniversary of the Cambodian People's Party at the party's headquarters on Sunday morning.

Editor to appeal sentence

Written by Sam Rith and Sebastian Stragio
Monday, 29 June 2009

Hang Chakra verdict threatens press freedoms, journalists say.

An attorney for opposition-aligned newspaper editor Hang Chakra said Sunday that they would appeal a Phnom Penh Municipal Court ruling last week that found him guilty of spreading disinformation, a decision that has prompted a storm of protest from local journalists and media organisations.

In a hearing Friday, Judge Din Sivuthy found Khmer Machas Srok News editor Hang Chakra, 55, guilty under the UNTAC Criminal Code for a series of articles he published in April and May accusing officials working under Deputy Prime Minsiter Sok An of corruption. The court then sentenced him to one year in prison and fined him 9,000,000 riels (US$2,167).

"I will file the complaint to the Appeal Court as soon as possible. I will ask the [Appeal] Court to release my client," said Hang Chakra's lawyer Choung Chou Ngy.

"My client has not received any justice. The court focused mostly on punishing him rather than finding out the truth of the accusations."

Choung Chou Ngy said Hang Chakra was incarcerated at Prey Sar prison, adding that he was to meet with his client today to plan his appeal.

Meanwhile, the jailing of Hang Chakra has been roundly condemned by local journalists, who have decried the decision to prosecute defamation cases under the UNTAC Criminal Code rather than the Kingdom's more liberal 1995 Press Law.

Under the Press Law, publishing false information carries a fine of up to 5 million riels, but under the UNTAC law offenders face prison terms of between six months and three years and a fine of up to 10 million riels.

"[The courts] have never implemented the Press Law in the case of journalists.... They accuse them only of defamation, incitement or insults," said Dam Sith, the publisher and editor-in-chief of the opposition-aligned daily newspaper Moneaksekar Khmer.

Dam Sith, who was detained in Prey Sar prison for a week in June 2008 for reprinting controversial comments made by opposition leader Sam Rainsy, described the arrest and detention of Hang Chakra as a "threat" to journalists who do not toe the government's line.

Sam Rithy Doung Hak, deputy director of the Cambodian Association for the Protection of Journalists, said the Hang Chakra ruling was a case of "deja vu", drawing parallels with a similar crackdown in 2005.

"The government is taking action against whoever it considers to be its critics. It is part of the whole package of the drift towards dictatorship," he said.

Criticism from journalists
The Club of Cambodian Journalists (CCJ) and the Cambodia Watchdog Council also issued statements over the weekend slamming the court's decision.

However, government lawyer Suong Chanthan said he was pleased with the outcome and defended the court's decision to prosecute Hang Chakra under the UNTAC law, saying Hang Chakra had published many "false" articles, in addition to the two - printed on April 5 and May 2 this year - referenced in this case.

But other critics said the prosecution took place on shaky legal ground. Moeun Chhean Nariddh, director of the Cambodia Institute for Media Studies and veteran journalist, said the Press Law was clear in stating that no other law could be used to prosecute journalists.

"The Press Law must supersede the UNTAC Law," he said, though he added that the courts were vulnerable to abuse.

"The government still does not understand what freedom of press and freedom of expression are in a real democracy. The government knows it can do anything," he said.

Details of talks under wraps

Monday, 29 June 2009

Tensions remain high along Thai-Cambodian border: officials.

PRIME Minister Hun Sen met privately with a Thai deputy prime minister and minister of defence on Saturday, but both Cambodian and Thai officials remain tight-lipped about the substance of the discussions.

Hun Sen's wife, Bun Rany, cooked lunch for Suthep Thaugsuban and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon at their residence in southern Kandal province, Suthep said Saturday after returning to Thailand. Tensions have recently escalated over the UNESCO listing of an ancient temple.

Hun Sen said in advance of the meeting that he would not discuss Thailand's decision to challenge UNESCO's listing of Preah Vihear Temple as a World Heritage site.

Abhisit said earlier this month that he would contest the July 2008 inscription during the annual meeting of the World Heritage Committee in Seville, Spain.

"I will only welcome an explanation about their withdrawal from Cambodian territory," Hun Sen said on Friday.

Upon his return to Bangkok, Suthep declined to reveal details of Saturday's unofficial talks but told Thai media that the two countries should move past the tension caused by previous border clashes.

"We should let bygones be bygones, forget the nightmare of the past and look forward to a positive future for both countries," he said.

Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said he had no information about the lunch, calling it a "private meeting".

Officials said Sunday that the high-level talks had not lowered tension along the border.

"People left here ... because Thai soldiers were doing military exercises on their land," said Peuy Saroeun, the deputy governor of Anlong Veng district in Oddar Meanchey province.


Plans for new rehab centre meet with mixed response

Photo by: AFP
Students display anti-drug posters at a rally Friday marking the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking in Phnom Penh

Monday, 29 June 2009

Drug experts applaud Hun Sen's new description of drug addiction as a treatable disease, but some say a rehab centre is not the best way forward.

THE announcement Friday of government plans to construct a new drug rehabilitation centre in Kampong Speu province has received a mixed reaction, with some observers questioning that such a centre would be able provide effective treatment.

During a speech marking the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, Prime Minister Hun Sen announced plans for the centre and emphasised the need to treat and rehabilitate drug users.

"I would like to appeal to all institutions to make contributions to the construction of a drug rehabilitation centre in Kampong Speu to help the victims of illegal drugs," he said at a rally at Phnom Penh's Olympic Stadium.

After Hun Sen's speech, businessman Kith Meng handed over a donation of US$130,000 for the centre.

Anand Chaudhuri, the country head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, praised Hun Sen's speech for stressing the need to treat - not jail - drug users. He described it as "an immediate step forward" and a "milestone".

Hun Sen's speech was "a politically powerful statement that drug use and drug addiction affects users and families", Chaudhuri said, adding that the premier did not talk at all about the criminalisation of drug use.

But Chaudhuri said that many drug centres in the Kingdom still use boot camp-style detoxification methods.

Chaudhuri said he hoped that, at the new centre, addiction would be regarded as a health issue and not as a crime.

"[Drug addiction] is a treatable illness and should be in the health domain," he said, adding that there should be informed consent at the new centre, and that forced detentions should be avoided because "incarceration will get you nowhere".

Hopefully the government will learn ... that a community-based approach is more cost-effective.

Graham Shaw, a technical officer at the World Health Organisation, said Hun Sen's statements focusing on the need to treat drug users marked a positive step, but that building another drug rehabilitation centre was not the answer.

"One of the concerns that we have at the WHO is that putting people into institutions is not very effective. Relapse rates are very high," he said.

Shaw said he does not consider the country's current centres for drug users rehabilitation centres at all because "there's no real drug treatment or rehabilitation services available". He said many centres are simply "dumping grounds for undesirables".

Shaw said the Kingdom should invest in community-based treatment rather than brick-and-mortar institutions.

"It is excellent that the prime minister says Cambodia needs to provide treatment and rehabilitation.... But as with many countries, it's a learning curve," he said. "Hopefully, the government will learn quite soon that a community-based approach is more cost-effective."

Despite his mixed opinion about Hun Sen's speech, Shaw said that Cambodia's drug treatment programmes were improving.

Ratanakkiri villagers in clash over illegal timber

Written by Chrann Chamroeun
Monday, 29 June 2009

NEARLY 100 Jarai ethnic minority villagers from Ratanakkiri province's O'Yadav district clashed with local and Military Police officials Friday when authorities came to confiscate a haul of illegal timber the villagers were planning to export to Vietnam, officials said.

Local officials said that about 10 armed police officers went to the village to confiscate 15 cubic metres of timber the village had been stockpiling for about two months when the violence broke out.

"Nearly a hundred villagers carrying long knives and axes attack[ed] our police while we were preparing to lift the wood into our cars to take it to the Forestry Administration office," said district Military Police Chief Sok Min.

"The villagers fought with us and grabbed one camera and one set of handcuffs ... and attacked our two cars, which were slightly damaged," he said, adding that no one was injured in the attack.

Pen Bonnar, provincial coordinator for local rights group Adhoc, said that the villagers, from Ten Soh village in O'Yadav's Yatong commune, were angry that local authorities had turned a blind eye to powerful businessmen involved in illegal logging.

"The villagers dared to do this because they clearly see that Forestry Administration officials never crack down or arrest businessmen who smuggle timber, but crack down on them for earning a simple living," he said Sunday.

While admitting that the attack was against the law, Pen Bonnar said laws should be applied equally.

"We are calling for there to be no discrimination and for all offenders to be equal before the law," he said.

"[Businessmen] have luxurious cars and houses, [so] the villagers want to copy their bad habits and ignore the law."

He said Adhoc was investigating the case and had told the villagers not to use violence.

Kong Buntharo, director of the O'Yadav district Forestry Administration, said he did not wish to discuss the incident Sunday.

First Cambodian swine flu case brings total in Kingdom to six

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
A traveller fills out a swine flu questionnaire at Phnom Penh International Airport on Thursday.

Written by Cheang Sokha and Christopher Shay
Monday, 29 June 2009

Likelihood of outbreak 'very small at this point', says WHO official

THE Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation have confirmed two new cases of influenza A(H1N1), commonly known as swine flu, including the Kingdom's first domestic case of the virus.

Sok Touch, director of the Communicable Diseases Control Department at the ministry, said a Filipino national and a Cambodian both tested positive for H1N1 on Thursday.

The Filipino was tested for the virus after showing flulike symptoms at the Poipet border. The Cambodian national, a 19-year-old woman, had been in contact with a person in Vietnam who later tested positive for the disease. The Ministry of Health said she was tested soon after she became ill.

There have been six confirmed cases of H1N1 in Cambodia. All six patients are receiving treatment in Phnom Penh.

Mostly mild
Nima Asgari, the public health specialist at the WHO, said the chances of a widespread outbreak in the Kingdom "are very small at this point".

She said the virus was proving to be mild in the vast majority of cases, with symptoms resembling those of normal flu.

Myanmar and Laos last week confirmed their first cases of the virus, and Thailand's Health Ministry confirmed the country's first swine flu deaths after a man and a woman died last week. Official figures show that Thailand now has had more than 1,200cases.

Sentence upheld in sex abuse hearing

Written by Chrann Chamroeun
Monday, 29 June 2009

THE COURT of Appeal on Friday upheld the conviction of an Italian man who was found guilty last year of sexually abusing minors, an NGO spokesperson said Sunday.

Fabio Cencini, 43, who was not present for Friday's hearing, was arrested in February 2008 on suspicion of abusing four girls and two boys aged between 8 and 14 years old.

Preah Sihanouk provincial court sentenced him to two years in prison in August and ordered him to pay 2 million riels (US$481) to each victim, but he was released on bail after serving three months in prison, and officials say his whereabouts are now unknown.

"I feel satisfied with the [decision] to uphold the conviction ... but I feel disappointed with the decision to release him on bail after three months' imprisonment," Samleang Seila, country director of the child rights NGO Action Pour Les Enfants (APLE) told the Post Sunday.

Peng Maneth, a lawyer provided by APLE, said it was unclear whether Cencini was in possession of his passport at the time of his release.

Dispute over casino layoffs leads to union strike threat

Photo by: SAM RITH
Former NagaWorld Hotel and Casino employee Sam Molita speaks during a press conference Saturday at which unions threatened to strike if she and 13 others were not rehired by the company.

Written by Sam Rith
Monday, 29 June 2009

NagaWorld has blamed the economic crisis for 14 layoffs in February, but employees contend that the company is pushing an anti-union agenda

THE Cambodian Labour Confederation (CLC) on Saturday threatened to strike if the NagaWorld Hotel and Casino did not reinstate 14 employees who were laid off in February.

Sok Narith, the head of the hotel's 1,000-member union, which is part of the CLC, said during a press conference that union representatives had been unable to get NagaWorld executives to negotiate with them despite repeated attempts, thereby necessitating a strike threat.

"This shows that the leaders of NagaWorld are intent not to have unions' rights and freedoms in the workplace," said Sok Narith, who was among the laid-off workers.

NagaWorld executives have blamed the economic crisis for the firings, though a press release distributed Saturday by the Cambodia Tourism and Service Workers Federation (CTSWF), which participated in the press conference, said the firings resulted from a dispute over annual bonuses.

The press release went on to argue that the executives' refusal to enter into negotiations "strengthens workers' belief that the case is clearly a management tactic to destroy an officially recognised union".

Along with the CTSWF and the CLC, the hotel union took the case to the Arbitration Council Foundation, an independent body that last month refused to consider the reinstatement demand because workers accepted compensation when they were laid off.

This shows that the leaders of nagaworld are intent not to have unions’ rights...

Sok Lor, executive director of the Arbitration Council, said arbitrators ruled in favour of workers only when their contracts had been violated.

Hay Voleap, deputy manager for human resources at NagaWorld, said Sunday that NagaWorld welcomed the decision of the Arbitration Council and had no plan to reinstate the workers.

Several international unions also participated in Saturday's press conference, including the Hong Kong-based Asia Monitor Resource Centre and the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering Tobacco and Allied Workers' Association.

Sok Narith said 65 percent of NagaWorld employees were affiliated with the hotel's union, adding that he believed all would participate in the strike.

Ath Thorn, president of the CLC, said Saturday that the confederation totalled more than 60,000 workers from the garment, tourism, construction and service sectors. He also said he believed all members would participate in the strike.

Waiting for a response
The union heads did not specify how long they would wait for NagaWorld to respond to their demands. Sok Narith said the unions would wait until they received some sort of response from NagaWorld.

Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Pa Socheatvong asked in a letter Thursday for the union to postpone the press conference, a move he said would allow municipal officials "to negotiate with the company in order to solve the problem for the union".

Hay Voleap said Sunday the company had not been approached by municipal officials. Pa Socheatvong did not answer calls Sunday.

Explosions: Blast rocks Takhmao: residents

Written by Kay Kimsong
Monday, 29 June 2009


Residents in Takhmao town, Kandal province, said Sunday night they heard a series of explosions near a military base about 2 kilometres from the residence of Prime Minister Hun Sen. Touch Naruth told the Post Sunday that he was at the scene and could not comment in any detail on the matter. Sok Vannara, first deputy director of firefighters at the Ministry of Interior, said he was also at the site and could not comment. No officials reached Sunday night could confirm whether anyone was injured or killed in the blasts or detail the extent of the damage. Officials including Military Police Chief Sao Sokha and National Police spokesman Kirt Chantharith said they had no information about the explosions, which residents said lasted up to 15 minutes. Chun Sirun, governor of Kandal province, could not be reached for comment. "We were eating dinner ...when we heard the blasts. We stopped eating and drove to Takhmao town," said one villager who asked not to be named. Ka Sy, 45, a resident of Takhmao, said she heard two large blasts followed by a series of smaller ones.

Search and seize


Monday, 29 June 2009

A motorist negotiates with police after a gun was found in his vehicle during a search on Sisowath Quay. Officers searched vehicles for weapons for several hours Thursday night, during which they also scraped the tint off of some car windows. Newly appointed Traffic Police Chief Heng Chantheary declined to comment Sunday, saying he had only been in the job for three days.

UN official to seek meeting with Hun Sen to resolve Duch dispute

Written by Georgia Wilkins and Vong Sokheng
Monday, 29 June 2009

Christophe Peschoux has denied testimony that he told former Tuol Sleng prison chief Duch that he could serve a prison sentence in Belgium.

THE UN human rights representative for Cambodia said Sunday that he would request a meeting with Prime Minister Hun Sen to resolve a misunderstanding about a meeting with former Tuol Sleng prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, that occurred 10 years ago.

Hun Sen said last week during the first visit of Surya Subedi, the UN's new rights envoy, that Christophe Peschoux, country representative for the UN's Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, attempted to help the former Khmer Rouge leader escape prosecution in Cambodia and instead serve a prison sentence in Europe shortly after his 1999 arrest.

Peschoux has said the account of their meeting was incorrect. He told the Post Sunday he would meet with Om Yienteng, the head of Cambodia's Human Rights Committee, to arrange a meeting with Hun Sen to "solve" the problem directly.

"The best thing is to have a direct conversation. We have old issues to resolve," Peschoux said Sunday.

"I don't want a verbal exchange through the media, so this is the next logical step to preserve our own long-term interests," he added.

Peschoux interviewed Duch in Battambang province in May 1999 and was part of a small group of people who advocated that the former Khmer Rouge leader should be tried legitimately outside the country.

Duch, who is currently being tried at the Khmer Rouge tribunal, has testified that the UN official told him during the interview that he could serve a prison setence in Belgium.

"Peschoux made an effort to find political exile for me, but it was not realised. They asked me to be in jail in Belgium on May 3, 1999," Duch told judges at the war crimes court in April.

PM to ‘investigate' case
Though Peschoux has denied this, Hun Sen said last week that he would "not allow" Peschoux to remain in Cambodia if Duch's version of events turned out to be true.

"I will investigate this issue, and I will send the documents to the UN human rights body in Geneva," he said during a speech at Chaktomuk Theatre.

"We will not allow you [Peschoux] to stay in Cambodia quietly, and it is not a funny issue," he added.

A view from the outside

Abdul Gaffar Peang-Meth, once a resistance fighter during the 1980s, now teaches at the University of Guam

Monday, 29 June 2009

Former resistance fighter Abdul Gaffar Peang-Meth talks about his past and Cambodia's state of affairs in the post-Khmer Rouge era.

Educated in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s, Abdul Gaffar Peang-Meth returned to Cambodia in 1980 to join the Khmer People's National Liberation Front (KPNLF) - one of the three factions resisting the Vietnamese occupation during the 1980s. After unsuccessfully running for election with the Liberal Democratic Party in 1993, he returned to academic life and now teaches political science at the University of Guam. In an interview with the Post, he reflects on his time in the resistance and the current state of Cambodian politics.

Many of your old colleagues from the Khmer People's National Liberation Front (KPNLF) are still living in Cambodia today. What made you decide to leave the country permanently?
"Permanently" is an eternity, contrary to what Lord Buddha teaches: There's no such thing. Cambodians should live in Cambodia, and I respect the different reasons my ex-KPNLF colleagues have made to do so. My heart goes out to those who have no choice but to endure oppression. Whether under the Khmer monarchy, the Khmer Republic or the KPNLF, I believe unless a person is permitted and encouraged to think freely and critically, to innovate, to develop to his or her full potential, no endeavor s/he is involved in, whether commercial or political, is going to succeed. I don't see Phnom Penh's sky as hospitable to my way of thinking. Anyone can help the nation from anywhere.


From your vantage point overseas, how do you see the current trajectory of Cambodia's development?
There's no question that Cambodia today, with more roads, bridges, modern buildings, is more appealing than under the Khmer Rouge. But the rich get richer while nearly half of the population lives below the poverty level, and many live off the city's dumping grounds. The current regime's disdainful lack of good governance hurts the people most, and points to one direction: an authoritarian one-party rule legitimised by elections, which the international community had dubbed below international standard, but foreign donors let pass. How many fewer threats, how much less intimidation make the elections "more free and fair"? Does a government that sells natural resources for private gain, evicts the weak and underprivileged from their homes and land for development by the wealthy, employs lawsuits against its citizens and lifts the immunity of lawmakers whose words and opinions aren't in agreement with it, represent progress toward a more democratic future? A chief executive who holds executive, legislative, and judicial powers is a tyrant and an oppressor.

How do you perceive the role of the international community in Cambodia?
The role of the international community and the donor countries should be to ensure the implementation of the 1991 Paris Accords on Cambodia - in which the world invested $2 billion. It's their failure to implement the stipulations in the accords that has led to Cambodia's current situation. They cannot hope to build a sustainable economy and a democratic system in Cambodia by turning a blind eye to abuses of power and rampant corruption, when by so doing the current one-party rule is allowed to become further entrenched.

Do you think the Khmer Rouge tribunal - in light of corruption allegations - can bring justice to Cambodian survivors of the KR regime?
There cannot be justice, nor national reconciliation and healing, when responsibility for the brutality visited upon an estimated 1.7 million victims is assigned to only five officials while several thousand other perpetrators are walking free today. Unless the victims are satisfied that the accused have been accorded their due, the KRT is just a sham and talk of judicial corruption is a distraction. Some Cambodians have challenged the world community to establish a witness protection program to allow living witnesses to appear and talk freely and without fear.

You come from a Cham family that was closely involved in Democrat Party politics in pre-revolutionary Cambodia. How did this experience inform your political views?
My father socialised me politically beginning in my elementary school days to democratic principles and concepts. He introduced me to some figures in the Democratic Party such as Pach Chhoeun and Svay So. I read the Pracheatheptei (Democrat) newspaper, attended political campaign rallies. Personal and national experiences also shaped my political views. When my parents' financial fortunes crumbled, our house was sold to then Siem Reap governor Dap Chhuon, who allowed us to stay in the lower level of the house.

But Dap Chhuon, who was implicated in a plot with South Vietnamese officers against the royal government, was shot and killed and Lon Nol's soldiers surrounded the house, placing us under house arrest. The morning after, our residence was searched. Old copies of the Pracheatheptei and a copy of the Pracheachon (The People) newspaper in the house were confiscated, and we were instructed to read only the ruling party's Sangkum newspaper. That experience has affected me throughout my life.

What led you to support Lon Nol's Khmer Republican Regime during the early 1970s?
Being Cambodian-born of Cham descent has caused me to be particularly sensitive to the regional Vietnamisation and annexation of territories by Vietnam. When the Communist Vietnamese forces occupied some 3,500 square kilometres of Khmer soil from the northeast down to the sea in the south as sanctuary from the war with the free South Vietnamese and their American allies, Cambodia's neutrality was violated and my support for those who rose up against the Vietnamese forces on Khmer soil was natural. It may have been foolish for a Khmer David to confront the Vietnamese Goliath at a time when the Americans were looking for a way to disengage, but opting to trade national territorial sovereignty and territorial integrity because the political wind appeared to favour the Communists was not in the nation's interest. Khmers who stood opposed to the Vietnamese occupying forces espoused republican ideals. In March 1970 many who took on the republican cause, many who gave their lives in that struggle, did so not because of personal allegiance to [coup leaders] Lon Nol or [Prince] Sirik Matak, but because they believed in democratic principles.

Whatever happened to the "republican era"? Life evolves, political pendulums swing. There is no history, someone said, only interpreters of historical events. For different reasons, old supporters of republicanism have been silent. But there are young Khmers today who believe in the republican ideals, appreciate and recognise the work of those who have died for human integrity and republicanism. Some young Khmers have picked up the flag of republicanism and are moving forward. I supported the republican ideals and still do.

Why did you join the KPNLF after the fall of the Khmer Rouge?
I seek a meaningful life through serving a cause in which I believe. The KPNLF was created in 1979 to oppose the Maoist Khmer Rouge's return to power and to oblige the Vietnamese to withdraw from Khmer land. After the collapse of the Khmer Republic in 1975 and news of death and destruction by the Khmer Rouge emerged, I and a group of Khmer nationalists in America's East Coast formed an anti-Khmer Rouge committee. I wrote articles, translated articles into Khmer and English and mimeographed the bulletins for distribution. The bulletin, called Conscience, became Cambodian Appeal and after the KPNLF was proclaimed, I joined the group in the field, followed by some colleagues.


CEDAC due to ship its first batch of organic brown rice

Organic CEDAC products - including rice - are displayed in a Phnom Penh store.

Written by CHUN SOPHAL
Monday, 29 June 2009

NGO says $66,000 contract with US firm Lotus Food will see 60 tonnes of rice sold to Cambodia's largest export market

THE Cambodian Centre for Study and Development in Agriculture (CEDAC) has announced the export of its first batch of organic brown rice.

Lang Senghorng, the head of enterprise at the development NGO, said US firm Lotus Food had contracted to buy 60 tonnes of organic brown rice at US$1,100 per tonne.

"We hope this export deal will help increase knowledge of Cambodian rice, because that will help to improve our rice market," Lang Senghorng said.

The NGO, which was set up in 1997 to develop sustainable agriculture and rural development, signed a previous deal in 2007 to supply 450 tonnes of white organic Jasmine rice to German firm Richers for delivery between 2010-12. Richers will pay US$1,400 per tonne for that order.

Lang Senghorng said CEDAC's organic rice farming community has 8,000 members who grow rice on 2,500 hectares. Earlier this year it exported 15 tonnes of organic rice to Malaysia.

The rice is certified as organic by BCS Oeko-Garantie, a German certification company.

We hope this export deal will help increase knowledge of Cambodian rice.

The Kingdom produces 7 million tonnes of rice annually and is looking to formalise the trade in rice as well as increase local milling capacity to add value.

The government announced last week a deal to sell 1,500 tonnes of non-organic rice to Brunei later this year, with a view to boosting those sales in future years.

Tes Eda, the director of state-owned rice exporter Green Trade Enterprise, said his company has exported just 1,000 tonnes of non-organic rice in the six months of this year. Most of that went to France. He said rice is exported by a number of companies and blamed a lack of supply on the limited export volumes.

Location, transport to benefit Cambodia

Written by ROS DINA
Monday, 29 June 2009

A CONFERENCE to help develop logistics in the Kingdom heard that Cambodia ought to benefit in the future from its location.

The conference, hosted by the Japan External Trade Organisation (JETRO) and Cambodia Freight Forwarding Association (CAMFFA), also heard that infrastructure improvements had already benefitted the country.

Yasuo Hayashi, chairman and CEO of JETRO, told attendees that Japan was keen to expand its logistics and transportation relationships with Cambodia.

"Cambodia has not yet entered the regional transportation system, but it is at the centre of Indochina, so I believe that it will be most useful if Cambodia is accepted into the system," he said. "It will help to develop Cambodia."

His remarks were echoed by Japan's ambassador, Katsuhiro Shinohara, who praised the development of the seaport in Sihanoukville.

Teuk Reth Kamrong, Ministry of Commerce undersecretary of state, said she sought rapid infrastructure development to boost the economy and trade.

And Sin Chanthy, CAMFFA's secretary general, said having Japan as a partner was useful.

"Even though our infrastructure is not as good as others, our seaports, airports and roads have been developed," he said. "The next step is to appeal to investors to come here."

However, Hironobu Kurata, secretary general of the Japanese Business Association in Cambodia and president of Kurata Pepper, said transport remains complicated and slow for now.

Duty-free garment access bill faces opponents in US Senate

Officials and analysts in the United States suggest that the Trade Act of 2009 has little chance of being passed

Monday, 29 June 2009

Trade Act of 2009 would eliminate tariffs on Cambodian garments entering America, but might not escape committee in its current form, analysts say

ABILL that would provide a major boost to Cambodia's beleaguered garment industry is stuck in the US Senate's finance committee, and analysts fear it has little chance of seeing the light of day. However, some are optimistic that a revised, broader bill benefitting the Kingdom could yet pass under the Barack Obama administration.

"This bill is really important to Cambodia in the midst of the economic crisis," said Mean Sophea, director of the trade preferences system at the Ministry of Commerce. "Cambodia is a poor country with poor human resources and infrastructure, so access to trade is vital."

The Trade Act of 2009, which was introduced by Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, would provide duty-free access for textiles and apparel goods to 14 least developed countries (LDCs), one of which is Cambodia. When Feinstein introduced the bill, she said it would reduce poverty and improve relations with some of the world's poorest countries.

"Despite the poverty seen in these countries and the importance of the garment industry and the US market, they face some of the highest US tariffs in the world," she said in a May 21 statement. "This legislation will help these countries to compete in the US market and let their citizens know that Americans are committed to helping them realise a better future for themselves and their families."

There are a number of high-priority issues facing the US Congress ... which may take greater precedence over this bill.

Cambodia pays the highest tariffs, in percentage terms, of any US trading partner because of its dependence on garment exports. The Progressive Policy Institute (PPI), a US think tank, says Cambodia paid US$419 million in tariffs on $2.46 billion worth of goods in 2007. That works out to a 17 percent import tax, compared with an average of 1.3 percent for other countries.

"[The US tariff system towards Cambodian goods] is not fair at all," said Edward Gresser, director of the project on trade and global markets at PPI. "This is not meant to target Cambodia per se. It is the reality of the US tariff system, which singles out cheap clothes and shoes for the highest tariff rates - but I can't see how anyone could call it fair."

This is third time that a bill to cut tariffs for LDCs that include Cambodia has been introduced in Congress. The previous two attempts failed, but there was some hope that under the new administration the third effort would succeed.

A 2007 report from the Economic Institute of Cambodia estimated that permitting duty-free access to the US would boost the Kingdom's garment exports by a quarter to US$626 million. That would add 77,000 jobs to the garment industry and another 69,000 jobs in supporting industries.

"Undoubtedly, the effect of duty-free access to the US market is not limited to the industry, as it would also impact the country's overall economy. The measure would translate into a 4.6 percent" increase of real GDP growth, the report said.

But the garment sector - one of the Kingdom's four pillars of economic growth - has slumped in the past year. The Ministry of Commerce's trade preferences systems department estimates that garment exports fell 26 percent year-on-year in the first quarter to US$534.6 million.

The World Bank believes 63,000 workers have lost their jobs.

Industry players say that passing the bill is crucial to pulling the garment industry out of its depressed phase.

"As we have seen over the years with various preference programmes, designated countries receive a strong economic boost," said Nate Herman, senior director for international trade at the American Apparel and Footwear Association.

And market access gained from this bill would boost the appeal of the Kingdom as an investment-friendly destination, said Nicole Bivens Collinson, a trade negotiations lawyer with US firm Sandler, Travis and Rosenberg.

She said in an emailed statement that although the current bill is unlikely to pass, it shows that Congress is debating the issue, and that LDCs such as Cambodia could one day gain duty-free access to the US market.

"It is a very opportune time to get preferences for the LDCs, given the Democratic majority in both Congress and the administrative branches of the US government," she said.

Some lobbyists see the bill as a zero-sum game in which gains for Cambodia mean losses for others. Latin American and African nations that already enjoy preferential agreements for garments are actively working to torpedo the bill, as is the American Manufacturing Trade Action Committee (AMTAC).

Lloyd Wood, the director of membership and media outreach at AMTAC, said that textile exports from countries that have signed the Central America Free Trade Agreement are "losing market share hand over fist" to other nations, particularly China. A statement on AMTAC's Web site claimed that removing garment tariffs on Bangladeshi and Cambodian imports would cost US producers US$800 million annually.

"Cambodia and Bangladesh are already superpowers in the apparel world. Cambodia is enormously competitive in the market now," said Wood, noting that the Kingdom has 3.8 percent of the US apparel market.

And Paul Fakes, government affairs associate at the Whitaker Group - a pro-Africa development agency - said that because Bangladesh and Cambodia have already developed competitive apparel industries, neither needs further beneficial access.

"Extending preferential treatment to all LDCs would be like putting an Olympic runner in the same race as a man with a broken leg," Fakes said. "Once Africa's apparel industries develop under AGOA [the African Growth and Opportunity Act - US legislation that provides trade preferences for sub-Saharan Africa] to the point where they can be competitive on the global market, then we can talk about a level playing field and similar treatment for both regions."

It certainly seems as though the chances of the bill passing are bleak. Of the previous two bills that failed, the Trade Act of 2005 had 21 co-sponsors, while the Trade Act of 2007 had five. This bill has just one co-sponsor: Kit Bond, a Republican Senator from Missouri who does not have a seat on the Senate Finance Committee.

Low priority in Washington
US Embassy spokesman John Johnson said in an emailed statement that the administration had bigger priorities that made it difficult to predict the bill's chances.

"There are a number of high-priority issues facing the US Congress, including responding to the economic crisis and tackling health care reform, which may take greater precedence over this bill," he said.

And Kaing Monika, the external affairs manager at the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia, told the Post that the private sector here had given up lobbying for the bill.

Regardless of the outcome, said Gresser at the Progressive Policy Institute, beneficiary countries would be better off in the long run by improving their own competitive advantages.

"Ultimately the best guarantees of success are well-trained workers, efficient ports and roads, and good governance," he said.