Saturday, 18 July 2009

Murder, Torture. Duch on Trial

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Cambodian Films

Accused of mass murder and horrific torture, Duch (aka Kaing Guek Eav) - the Chief of Tuol Sleng (aka S21), the notorious Khmer Rouge interrogation centre - is now on trial in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

KMF is making weekly televised summaries of the trial week, broadcast at peak time on CTN, Cambodia's most watched TV chanel.

This is the 1st part of the trial's 9th week.

More to be posted soon.

All with English subtitles.

(Series funded by the British Embassy, Phnom Penh.)

Guard describes prisoners stripped, beaten to death

Friday, July 17, 2009

PHNOM PENH – A senior Khmer Rouge prison guard has told a war crimes tribunal he was forced to send thousands of prisoners to an execution site.

At that location, he said, they were then killed and their bodies dumped into mass graves.

Him Huy (54), a guard at Phnom Penh’s notorious S-21 prison, said he was ordered by Pol Pot’s chief jailor to transport prisoners to a rice field where they were stripped naked and beaten to death with clubs. “All prisoners were blindfolded so they did not know where they were taken and their hands were tied up to prevent them from contesting us,” Huy told the joint United Nations-Cambodian tribunal.

“They were asked to sit on the edge of the pits and they were struck with stick on their necks,” he said, his voice breaking as he gave his harrowing account of the Choeung Ek executions.

“Their throats were slashed before we removed their handcuffs and clothes, and they were thrown into the pits.” Him was testifying against S-21 chief Duch, whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav, the first of the five indicted former Khmer Rouge cadres to face trial.

Duch faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, torture and murder.

Him said he saw the charred bodies of four westerners on a pile of burning tyres a few blocks away from S-21, where he said about 100 children were detained inside a compound with their mothers.

All were later executed.

“No one could dare to do anything without Duch’s approval,” Him added, as Duch listened.

Choeung Ek, 17km (11 miles) south of Phnom Penh, is now a memorial to the horrors of the Khmer Rouges 1975-1979 “Killing Fields” reign of terror, when 1.7 million Cambodians were killed.

The burial site, one of 343 across the country, is covered with 129 graves, with the skulls of about 5,000 Cambodians on display in a stupa.

Duch, who has been detained since 1999, wept as he prayed before the skulls of his victims during a visit to Choeung Ek in February last year.

The tribunal has also indicted second-in-command Nuon Chea, former president Khieu Samphan and ex-foreign minister Ieng Sary and his wife, both lifelong friends of Pol Pot.

Duch has admitted involvement in the killings of 14,000 at the S-21 prison, but says he was only following orders. The others facing trial have denied knowledge of the atrocities, while “Brother Number One” Pol Pot, the architect of the revolution, died in 1998 near the Thai-Cambodia border. – (Reuter)

Finland donates $2,7 million to Cambodian poverty reduction

ScandAsia.Finland News

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) announced Wednesday that Cambodia will receive a US$3.45 million technical assistance grant from Finland and other donors aimed at boosting the skills and incomes of people living in and around the Tonle Sap basin. The money is to be used to help low-income groups in the area to diversify their vocational skills with the help of training programmes, demonstrations on modern farming techniques and Internet-based communication facilities.

"The technical assistance will help diversify and improve the incomes of small land holders, marginal farmers and poor households in the Tonle Sap basin by increasing their access to good agricultural practices, technologies and information," Giap Minh Bui, rural development economist in ADB's Southeast Asia Department, said in a statement released Wednesday.

The Finnish government is donating $2.7 million to the project. The money will be used in four provinces around the lake - Banteay Meanchey, Kampong Cham, Kampong Thom and Siem Reap. ADB has stated, that the project will include a pilot communication project using Internet linked e-kiosks to provide up-to-date information on agricultural practices to be passed on to locals.

Created 2009-07-17

LICADHO - Beyond the Watchdog

Part 1

Part 2

A peep into the challenges human rights workers face in Cambodia. This movie was produced in April 2008 as one part of a full-day presentation of LICADHO's work in Cambodia. LICADHO (The Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights) is popularly referred to as 'Cambodias leading human rights watchdog'. More information on

Group 78 community representative Khen Sok Roath talks to Amnesty


Around 80 families living in Group 78 in Phnom Penh have received a final eviction notice to dismantle their homes or face Military Police "implementation" of the forced eviction. These people have legal title over the land and are at risk of forcible eviction. Call on the Cambodian authorities to end the forced eviction of Group 78 residents.

Madsen: 'Swine flu virus began life in lab'


The number of confirmed cases of swine flu has topped over a hundred thousand, with the World Health Organization calling the pandemic 'unstoppable', and suggesting mass vaccination.

Thai drug maker guarantees vaccine safety amid A/H1N1 flu outbreak in Asia-Pacific region


HONG KONG, July 17 (Xinhua) -- As the A/H1N1 flu continued to plague the Asia-Pacific region, Thailand's state-run drug manufacturer guaranteed the safety of its vaccine for A/H1N1 flu, amid growing concerns there would be limited time to test it.

Bangkok Post online Friday quoted Government Pharmaceutical Organization (GPO) chairman Vichai Chokewiwat as saying that the nasal-spray vaccine against the new flu virus would meet global standards with the close supervision of the World Health Organization (WHO).

The WHO-sponsored production of the vaccine will begin next month after the GPO's receipt of the seed virus and 350 eggs from Germany to grow the vaccine.

"If things go as planned, we will have the Thai-made spray vaccine by the end of this year," he said, adding that Bangkok will sell 10 percent of the total production of 10 million doses to the WHO at a low price.

Vichai made the assurance amid growing concerns about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine due to its rushed production.

According to Vichai, the vaccine development team plans to conduct trials on 430 volunteers of different age groups.

The clinical test on humans, which takes 120 days, will be closely supervised by the Public Health Ministry's Ethical Review Committee for Research in Human Subjects.

The newly made vaccines will also be submitted for the Food and Drugs Administration's approval before being introduced to the public.

The government will provide the vaccine to about five million people for free.

In Hong Kong SAR, 88 new cases of influenza A/H1N1 were confirmed, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 1,640 in the city.

The new cases involve 43 males and 45 females, aged between 5 and 64 years, said the department. The newly confirmed cases included an outbreak of six people from a residential workshop for the physically and mentally disabled in Eastern District, including four workshop attendees, two residents and a staff member.

The neighboring Macao SAR also reported eight new cases Friday, bringing the total number of such cases to 102, passing the 100 threshold.

Some 20 patients who tested positive for the A/H1N1 flu virus were still receiving medical treatments at local hospitals, while 80 patients have recovered and have been discharged from the hospitals.

Myanmar's flu tally rose to four when a 22-year-old woman has been confirmed with the infection, the official newspaper New Light of Myanmar reported Friday.

The authorities continue to take preventive measures against the possible spread of the global human flu pandemic, advising all private clinics in the country to report or transfer all flu-suspected patients, who returned from abroad, to local state-run hospitals or health departments for increased surveillance.

The Vietnamese Ministry of Health confirmed 18 more influenza A/H1N1 cases, bringing the country's tally to 338.

The ministry said there is a high possibility of the spread of flu A/H1N1 virus in schools and communities in the coming time. Therefore, it urged people coming to Vietnam from affected areas to observe self-quarantine and limit their contacts with other people within seven days from the time of entering the country.

Cambodia confirmed new flu cases on foreign tourists Friday.

A four-member American family (a man and three women) were confirmed the positive test of A /H1N1 flu in Cambodia.

A 22 year-old Irish man was also confirmed positive in the test of A/H1N1 virus in Cambodia, a Cambodian health official said late Friday.

"We always found the most case on the foreign travelers into the country, and we are still investigating the case for local people because foreign travelers walked many places in the country," he said. "They have rights to walk anywhere they like but when they were confirmed the positive test of the flu. They need to be treated," he stressed.

Editor: Yan

American family confirmed influenza A /H1N1 in Cambodia

People's Daily Online

July 17, 2009

A four-member American family (a man and three women) were confirmed the positive test of A /H1N1flu in Cambodia, a Cambodian health official said on Friday.

"The family traveled from the U.S. to Cambodia in July 7 and they were confirmed positive test by our doctors on Thursday," said Ly Sovan, deputy director of communicable disease control of Health Ministry, adding that "they are being treated at main hospital in Phnom Penh and so far they are getting better."

Ly Sovan said that up to now, Cambodia has 14 cases of infecting A/H1N1 virus and the latest cases are the four members of American family.


TV chef gives those volunteering abroad in Cambodia food preview

17 Jul 2009

The BBC last night broadcasted the first installment of a series of TV shows examining the food culture of Asia.

Offering a taster for those planning a gap year in Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia or Thailand, TV chef Rick Stein will journey to these areas on the show to explore the exotic cuisine available on the continent.

Cambodia was the first destination visited by Stein, who looked at the indigenous Kampot pepper, a product that he described as having great depth of flavour and aroma.

Also featured in the programme were beef dish Lok Lak, handmade noodles and freshwater shrimp, supplies of which the chef highlighted could be under threat due to plans to build dams along the Mekong River.

Rick Stein’s Far East Odyssey screens on BBC2 on Thursdays from 8pm and takes in Sri Lanka and Bali on August 13th before ending in Bangladesh on August 20th.

Cambodian security forces forcibly evict 60 low-income families


17 July 2009

Sixty low-income families in central Phnom Penh, Cambodia were forcibly evicted from their homes by security forces on Thursday and Friday.

The families dismantled their homes after three years of government harassment and intimidation, with no choice but to accept inadequate compensation rather than have their homes demolished.

"Amnesty International strongly condemns this forced eviction and the deeply flawed process that led to it," said Brittis Edman, Amnesty International's Cambodia researcher.

Before dawn on Friday, at least 70 security forces, some armed with guns and electronic batons, moved in and blocked off the area known as Group 78 where four remaining families were holding out. Human rights workers and journalists were monitoring the situation. Dozens of hired workers demolished what was left of the dismantled houses. Within hours, the resisting families had agreed to leave.

The families in Group 78 had been living under the threat of forced evictions for three years, with the Cambodian authorities following none of the safeguards required under international law.

"Group 78 was clearly cut off from due process and denied justice. The Municipality of Phnom Penh made no attempts to properly consult with the affected community or explore any feasible alternative to eviction," said Brittis Edman. "This makes a mockery of the government's obligations to protect the right to housing."

The Municipality issued a final eviction notice to Group 78 in April 2009 and, in a series of subsequent meetings, officials, including Phnom Penh's deputy governor, warned the community that the police and military police would demolish their homes if they did not accept the compensation on offer. The community had also received information that up to 700 security forces had been mobilized for the eviction.

Group 78 residents started moving into the area on the riverfront in 1983 and have applied for formal land titles several times since 2006, but the authorities have ignored their applications in spite of official documentation proving strong ownership claims.

The final eviction order was issued by the Municipality, which has no mandate under national law to issue such a document, and without the judicial overview required under the 2001 Land Law. It was issued despite the fact that a local Commission has yet to determine who owns the disputed land. The options for alternative accommodation and compensation offered by the Municipality were inadequate.

Under international law, including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural rights (ICESCR), Cambodia is prohibited from carrying out forced evictions, and must protect people from forced evictions.

The Cambodian Government has consistently failed to guarantee the right to adequate housing and protect its population against forced evictions. In 2008 alone, Amnesty International received reports about 27 forced evictions, affecting an estimated 23,000 people. Amnesty International is repeating its calls on the government to end forced evictions and introduce a moratorium on all mass evictions until the legal framework protects human rights.

As part of its Demand Dignity campaign, launched in May 2009, Amnesty International has called on the Cambodian Government to end forced evictions and introduce a moratorium on all mass evictions until the legal framework protects human rights.

The organization also called on governments globally to take all necessary measures, including the adoption of laws and policies that comply with international human rights law, to prohibit and prevent forced evictions.
Read More:

Hundreds left homeless in Cambodia after forced eviction (News, 27 January 2009)
Security forces in Cambodia forcibly evict 300 families (News, 20 November 2008)
Law used against housing activists in Cambodia (News, 26 September 2008)
Cambodia: Lake filling must not lead to forced evictions (Press release, 27 August 2008)Cambodia burns homes of the poor (Report, 11 February 2008)

How To Treat Allergic Rhinitis

By Nuch Sarita, VOA Khmer
17 July 2009

Allergic rhinitis and post-nasal drip can be treated, but patients should know the best way to do it, a doctor said Thursday.

Antihistamines are used to treat both conditions, but picking the right one is important, said Taing Tek Hong, as a guest on “Hello VOA.”

Sedating antihistamines, such as Benadryl and Clemastine, can work, he said. But these should be avoided in patients who need to drive or use dangerous equipment. Alternatives include non-sedating medicines like Zyrtec or Claritin. Most of these are found over the counter.

Decongestant sprays quickly reduce swelling of nasal tissues by shrinking the blood vessels, the doctor said. They improve breathing and drainage over the short term. The most common decongestant is Sudafed, an oral decongestant that temporarily reduce swelling of sinus and nasal tissues.

Montelukast, or Singulair, can be used by patients who do not wish to use nasal sprays or who have co-existing asthma, Taing Tek Hong said.

Nasonex is the only prescription nasal spray clinically proven to help prevent most seasonal nasal allergy symptoms in adults and children, he said.

It helps treat nasal allergy symptoms caused by dust mites, pet dander and tree and grass pollen.

Other treatments include immunotherapy, such as a weekly injection of a solution containing allergens that increases gradually, reducing the sensitivity to the allergen.

Surgery can help in complicated conditions, such as chronic sinusitis, severe septal deviation causing an obstruction, nasal polyps or other anatomical abnormalities, Taing Tek Hong said.

A caller from Kampong Cham province asked how a food allergy might be treated.

While many people assume they have an allergy after they experience a reaction to food, the doctor said, such allergies are rare. However, food intolerance can affect nearly everyone at some time, he said.

US Aid ‘Fits’ Cambodian Needs: Officials

By Men Kimseng, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
17 July 2009

With questions arising over the focus of US developmental assistance, officials and analysts say US involvement in Cambodia can help the country stay on a democratic path and respect human rights.

Oxfam America issued a report in June saying US assistance in Cambodia needed clarity of purpose and guarantees it was reaching those it was meant to help.

The report comes amid improving bilateral relations between the two, with the US lifting of a ban on direct aid in 2007 and the recent removal of Cambodia from a US list of Marxist-Leninist countries.

Cambodia says the aid has come with clear objectives that match the government’s development priorities, especially in the social sector.

“US aid has so far fit with what Cambodia wants,” Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said by phone last week. “For example, assistance in the health sector that the US focuses on is in infectious diseases, maternal health, and, recently, the flu.”

Oxfam acknowledged a positive impact from US aid in protecting citizens’ rights through legal advocacy, improving income and active participation in community work. But the report also highlighted doubts over a policy shift, with civil society concerned that democracy and human rights were no longer a US priority.

“Cambodia still has problems related to the respect for human rights and democracy,” Yeng Virak, executive director of Community Legal Education Centre, told VOA Khmer in a phone interview. “We think it is still a priority…and we need support from America.”

US assistance to Cambodia averaged $41.55 million between 2002 and 2007, with its focus mainly on health, especially in HIV and AIDS treatment and prevention. Some of the money went to strengthening the rule of law, human rights, good governance and civil society.

“We’ve had a long history of working on specific areas with the government and civil society, and in general we try to seek a coordinated approach,” US Embassy spokesman John Johnson told VOA Khmer recently. “And so on all the issues that come up, whether human rights or rule of law, we work in cooperation with the Royal Government of Cambodia and with our partners in civil society and the NGO community.”

Hang Chhuon Naron, secretary-general of the Ministry of Finance, said most US development is executed by civil society.

“There is still confusion, that once the US improves its relations with Cambodia, it will stay away from civil society,” he said. “This is impossible.”

Development needs remain: post-war Cambodia is plagued by corruption, repressed freedoms, impunity and exploitation.

The country must improve if its leaders expect outside support to continue, said Sam Rainsy, the head of the opposition, whose officials often point out to donors where their money is being spent.

“US policy is very broad,” Sam Rainsy said. “It has helped civil society, and now it has extended its assistance to strengthen better management of our country.”

“If we don’t improve, [the US] won’t help,” he said. On the other hand, “unless it provides assistance, it won’t have access to improving what it deems bad activities within the government.”

Film Commission to Aid Ailing Industry

By Pich Samnang, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
17 July 2009

The Cambodian Film Commission officially launched Thursday in what local and international filmmakers say could help save the country’s flagging film industry.

Staffed by experienced local and foreign filmmakers, the CFC will train Cambodian professionals in film production and seek to attract more foreign companies to shoot movies in the country.

“The goal is to attract more productions in Cambodia and to be the gate for foreigners,” CFC Executive Director Cedric Eloy said.

Many filmmakers in America, Australia and Europe were previously reluctant to shoot in Cambodia because the country did not make it easy for them to do so, Elroy said. Foreign filmmakers have to go through several ministries and authorities before they are granted shooting permits, he said.

Cambodia’s film industry reached its peak during the 1960s under the leadership of former king Norodom Sihanouk, who directed and starred in myriad films. Although film productions re-emerged a decade ago, the industry has seen a sharp decline for the past few years.

Minister of Culture and Fine Arts Him Chem said at the inauguration Thursday Cambodia welcomed foreign filmmakers.

“Cambodia is a destination for foreign film productions,” he said, adding that the presence of more professional cameras capturing Cambodia could mean the salvation of dying Cambodian films.

Rithy Panh, an internationally recognized filmmaker and director of the Bophana Audiovisual Center, a partner of the CFC, said Thursday that Cambodian film would not die out.

“The CFC will be a training group to make Cambodian films stronger,” he said.

Cambodia Readies for Disability Law

By Ros Sothea, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
17 July 2009

King Norodom Sihamoni recently approved a historic law for the disabled, which seeks to improve their lives and promote their rights.

The 60-article law, signed July 3, aims to provide annual financial support for people with serious disabilities, including the elderly, while providing training for people who wish to seek jobs.

In Phnom Penh, the law went into effect Friday, while in all other provinces and municipalities it goes into effect July 22.

The law calls for jail sentences up to five years and fines up to 10 million riel, or $2,500, for those who intentionally abandon the disabled or exploit them.

“This is the first disability law to be implemented in Cambodia’s history,” Sem Sokha, secretary of state at the Ministry of Social Affairs, told VOA Khmer. “I believe it is a very important law for promoting the lives of disabled people and protecting them.”

Three decades of war have given Cambodia more than half a million people with disabilities, creating a large disadvantaged group that faces discrimination in employment, health and education.

This year’s law is the result of heavy lobbying by non-governmental groups since 1996.

“It’s great to have the law signed,” said 45-year-old Yous Pisey, who lost both legs to a landmine 21 years ago and had lived in a Phnom Penh pagoda and sewn scarves until the global financial crisis put her out of work.

“I hope that from now on the government will take a good care of us and search for people with disabilities, like me, to promote our livings by providing an actual career,” she said in a recent interview.

Not everyone is optimistic.

“I don’t think a law can help all people with disabilities,” said one woman who was nine months pregnant with one disabled leg. “I don’t believe this is so.”

Whether or not it helps everyone, the law will help promote the lives of some through education, training and job centers, said Lash Urike, coordinator for Handicap International France.

Ngin Saorath, executive director of Cambodia’s Organization, said his group plans to monitor the implementation of the law closely to ensure people with disabilities benefit from it.

Donors Call on Halt to Evictions

By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
17 July 2009

Six foreign governments, the UN and major international development institutions called on the government to put an end to forced evictions Friday, as workers began dismantling a neighborhood of shanties in the capital.

Some 88 families are being evicted from the Group 78 area, near the National Assembly building in Phnom Penh’s Chamkarmon district, to make way for development.

This week’s eviction was only the latest to oust impoverished residents from a capital city that has seen skyrocketing land values.

“We cannot say whether we agree or not, but we have to get compensation of $20,000 for our living,” Uk Sophear, a resident of the Group 78, said. “This is our last choice.”

“We have much sorrow, and we are very disappointed in the compensation, because our land is bigger than others’,” he said.

In a letter Friday, the embassies of Austria, Bulgaria, Germany, United Kingdom, United States and Denmark, along with the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and other donors called on the government “to stop forced evictions from disputed areas in Phnom Penh and elsewhere in the country until a fair and transparent mechanism for resolving land disputes is put in place and a comprehensive resettlement policy is developed.”