Tuesday, 28 July 2009

200 kids died in Khmer jail

Phnom Penh, 27 July: A former staff member at the main Khmer Rouge torture centre told Cambodia’s war crimes court today that up to 200 children were detained and killed at the regime’s notorious prison.

Sous Thy, 58, was testifying at the UN-backed court against prison chief Duch, who is accused of overseeing the torture and execution of around 15,000 people held at Tuol Sleng prison, known as S-21, in the late 1970s. The witness, who was assigned to register incoming prisoners, told the court 200 children were separated from their parents who were jailed at Tuol Sleng, but details of the young inmates were not recorded. Once the children entered prison all of them would be killed,” Sous Thy said. “For the (number of) children, though I am not certain, it could have been more than 100 -- up to 200 at the most,” he added. ;AFP

We Can Hear You

TTA offer health services and respite to HIV-positive Cambodians. Photograph by Pushpa Iyer.

by SarahGrime


July 27, 2009

“Can you hear me? Can you hear me, through the dark night, far away?” The voices of the children resonated in the one room schoolhouse on the outskirts of Battambang, Cambodia. Two young boys shared a lyrics sheet with me, and as I sang along to Rod Stewart, I could not help but smile from ear to ear.

We had arrived at the Tean Thor Association (TTA) about an hour before and were led around the premises by Ky Lok, the director. We crowded into a small room, largely occupied by two beds, and stood intently listening to the director. Ky Lok was explaining how HIV/AIDS patients come to stay at the clinic when I noticed that, staring at us from behind beautiful, dark brown eyes was a little girl wearing a “Merry Christmas” hat. She was staying at the clinic with her grandmother and two brothers.
I smiled at her and bent down to eye level, hoping I could get her to smile back, but she just stared at me with those big brown eyes. Ky Lok explained that she was one of the HIV patients. My heart dropped as my professor Pushpa Iyer bent down, pinching her cheeks and whispering to her that she was beautiful. I held back tears as we entered the second room of the clinic where we learned about the obstacles patients at the clinic face in accessing anti-retroviral drugs.

As we followed Ky Lok out of the room, I looked back towards the little girl’s room and saw her standing just outside the door staring at us. Pushpa and I looked at her, then at each other, and then back again. We were both thinking the same thing…we wanted to pick her up, play with her, and make her smile even if for just a few minutes.

I picked her up and lightly tossed her up into the air. She broke into a huge smile and let out a giggle and in that moment, the world was perfect. Minutes later, I rejoined the rest of the group, but this time with a different attitude. Granted, a piece of me was angry, another was saddened…but on the whole I was inspired and hopeful.

Currently, Cambodia is a post-genocide society engaged in a peacebuilding process. In Asia, Cambodia has one of the highest rates of HIV infection. According to Global Health Reporting there were an estimated 70,000 adults and 4,400 children living with HIV/AIDS by the end of 2007. The northwest region, especially the rural areas, is the most vulnerable to the spread of the infection. Cambodian society, like many other societies worldwide, shuns and isolates HIV/AIDS victims.

To combat the lack of awareness and understanding of the disease in the northwest region, TTA, is not only confronting the challenge of HIV/AIDS, but is also simultaneously building trust within society - both challenges to peacebuilding.

TTA is more specifically aiding in the social reconciliation process under the umbrella of peacebuilding. While in Cambodia, I realized that the importance of reconciliation within the peacebuilding process is multifaceted, and failure to build peace on the basis of each facet is detrimental to the success of the process.

According to an NGO worker that we met along our journey, reconciliation is close to peace if it is done in a serious manner. He felt that Cambodia has been successful, to a certain extent, in achieving a level of political reconciliation through the creation of the tribunal, but is still lacking in terms of social reconciliation. Social reconciliation, he said, touches on emotions, memories, and the future. He stressed the importance of creating a trust, defined as a “social knowledge of where we can find a comfortable place to communicate with each other,” in order to have true social reconciliation.

TTA, through its efforts to combat HIV/AIDS, is able to create this atmosphere of comfortable communication that lends itself to building a level of trust within society. Tean Thor has a unique way of opening the eyes and minds of those living in the community in order to provide a supportive atmosphere for victims of HIV/AIDS. The most striking qualities of TTA that became apparent to me as we toured its premises were its engagement of monks to remove the stigmatization associated with HIV/AIDS, provision of vocational skills, inclusion of traditional herbal remedies, improved access to anti-retroviral treatments and shelter, and its integrative school system.

The most uplifting part of the entire trip for me was the classroom. Often times, those living with HIV/AIDS are isolated from the rest of the community and feared by their own people. TTA has an integrative classroom that allows children living with the disease to obtain the same education as other children. In having a school that does not distinguish those with the disease from those without, TTA is able to break the stereotypes, reduce discrimination, and consequently create a space for trust in the community.

As I sat on the edge of the wooden bench absorbing the beautiful voices of Cambodian children, I realized just how much hope was actually in that one classroom. I was witnessing the transformation of a generation of youth that, thanks to TTA, would not be fearful of each other but would instead understand and embrace each other regardless of HIV/AIDS.

Their voices became one as they sang, “Can you hear me? Can you hear me, through the dark night, far away?” and I thought to myself, “Yes. We can hear you.” Tean Thor Association and its dedicated workers have given a voice to these children, incorporating them into the peacebuilding process and creating hope for the future of Cambodia.

Sarah's blog entry is part of a two-part series written by WIP Contributor Pushpa Iyer's students. In the coming weeks, more entries will follow. Part I, "Legacy, Responsibility, Justice and Spirituality" will contemplate how Cambodia is coping with its painful past. Part II, "Identity, Sex Trafficking, HIV/AIDS and Property Rights" will explore some of the challenges modern-day Cambodia faces. – Ed.

From Batesburg-Leesville, South Carolina, Sarah Grime received her Bachelor of Arts from Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York. She is a candidate for a Master of Arts in International Policy Studies, specializing in Human Rights and Conflict Resolution at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. Sarah extensively researched and continues to study a range of issues including immigration between the United States and Mexico, specifically the disappeared women of Ciudad Juarez, as well as HIV/AIDS worldwide. She interned for a Latino advocacy program and continues her human rights advocacy efforts in studying Latin America and East Africa at the institute.

Cambodia launches new air carrier to expand tourism


PHNOM PENH, July 27 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia on Monday launched a new national carrier Cambodia Angkor Air (CAA) with two ATR 72 planes for the first step, aimed at promoting the nation's tourism and government revenue.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said at the launching ceremony "the company will actively contribute to the improvement in the areas of transportation, trade and tourism as well as directly contributing to the job creation, which is the basis for socio-economic development in Cambodia."

Hun Sen also urged the leadership of the company "to be wise, professional and highly experienced," especially to be honest with high responsibility and commitment, teamwork and mutual understanding.

CAA is a joint venture with 51 percent owned by the government and 49 percent by Vietnam Airlines through 100 million U.S. dollars investment.

"We launched the new air carrier today with two ATR 72 planes for first step and near future we will use Airbus planes," Sok An, deputy prime minister and minister of the Council of Ministers said at the launching ceremony presided over by Prime Hun Sen and Visiting Vietnamese Deputy prime minister Truong Vinh Trong.

Cambodian side will provide the facilities including office buildings and other infrastructure for the new national airline, Sok An said, adding that Cambodia will not be responsible for any loss and debt.

The new aviation will fly with local and regional service including Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville and Siem Reap, the gateway to the world famous Angkor Wat temple, as well as to Ho Chi Minh and Bangkok, according to Sok An.

Tourism sector contributed 12 percent of GDP of the country last year, Hun Sen said, adding that the Cambodian government will support and encourage everything for the new aviation to process smoothly and to compete with other airlines. The safety for all travelers is necessary in the air service, he added.

As the symbol of launching ceremony, the Visiting Vietnamese DPM Truong Vinh Trong flew with Cambodian DPM Sok An to Siem Reap province. And another flight flew to costal province of Sihanoukville.

Cambodia's national airline Royal Air Cambodge, a joint venture with Malaysia Helicopter Services, closed down in 2001, after it lost about 20 million U.S. dollars since it began operations in 1994.

Over the past few years, Cambodia has been seeking foreign partners to re-establish its own new national airline, but was unsuccessful.

Editor: Anne Tang

Cambodian Khmer Rouge Survivor Shares his Art Skills


Not just any art class, Cambodians are gathering to learn more about the darkest chapters in the nation's 20th Century history.

Vann Nath, a well known artist and survivor of the infamous S-21 prison camp, organized a workshop to educate youth about art and the horrors of the Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970s.

[Vann Nath, S-21 Survivor]:
"I came here to share my experience as well as to remember our country's history, and to ensure that it's not lost."

During the Khmer Rouge era, operators of the S-21 prison camp brutally tortured and killed over 14,000 prisoners.

The chief jailer, better known as Duch, is the first to face trial in a U.N.-backed court and the only one to acknowledge responsibility for his actions.

The exhibition organizers hope the show will go some way in helping to provide healing for Cambodians.

[Chan Pisey, Exhibition Organizer]:
"I think it is good to have the Khmer Rouge Tribunal because it lets the victims know what has happened and why Pol Pot killed the innocent people? Of course, it cannot heal the suffering of everyone but at least 20 to 30 percent of help can be done."

Overall, an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians died of torture, execution, disease and starvation during the Khmer Rouge's rule.

The genocide from 1975 to 1979 emptied cities, forcing virtually the entire population to work in farms, notorious as killing fields.

The Number of European Tourists Declines in Siem Reap, but the Number of Asian and Local Tourists Increases – Monday, 27.7.2009

Posted on 28 July 2009
The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 623

“Siem Reap: Tourism companies serving tourists in Siem Reap, and especially tourism agencies aiming at tourists from Europe, are deeply concerned and might go bankrupt, because the number of European tourists dramatically dropped in 2009.

“However, the Siem Reap Tourism Department shows in its report that even though the number of European tourist decreased heavily, the number of Asian tourists, and especially also local tourists, rose significantly. Therefore, there is nothing to worry.

“A tourist guide who asked not to be named, who works at Indochina Tourism, a well-know tourism company, said that early in 2009, the number European tourists declined, and if compared to 2008, it declined by about 40%. This guide added that in 2008, during the rainy season, they could guide four to five groups of tourists per month, but in 2009, there were at the most only two groups.

“According to this guide, the decline in the number of European tourists might result from two factors: the global economic crisis, and the rainy season. However, this guide is not totally hopeless, as in mid-October there normally comes the season of many tourists.

“Despite such a situation, the Ministry of Tourism tries its best to find strategies to attract tourists, such as local and international tourists.

“According to the first six months’ report of 2009 of the Siem Reap Tourism Department, within the first six months of 2009, 1,195,259 tourists came to Siem Reap. This number dropped by 0.65% compared to the same period in 2008, where there had been 1,203,190 tourists.

“The report says that there were 503,028 foreign tourists. Thus, their number declined by 13.9% compared to 2008, when there had been 578,794 tourists, while the number of local tourists was 692,267, which increased by 10.86% compared to 2008 with 624,369 tourists. The number of Vietnamese tourists, however, rose significantly.

“The report adds that so far, there have been 116 hotels with 8,649 rooms, and 222 guesthouses with 2,912 rooms; 115 restaurants; 35 massage parlors where 3 are not licensed; 15 karaoke parlors where 7 are not licensed; and 140 tourism agencies. As for transportation services, there are 231 taxis, an association of 94 moto-taxis, an association of 217 boats, and 31 companies offering recreational and entertainment services.”

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.8, #2006, 26-27.7.2009
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Monday, 27 July 2009

Facilitating Japanese trade in the region

July 28, 2009

The government has been asked by Japanese investors to host a meeting with Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Burma during the upcoming Asean Economic Ministers Meeting in Bangkok.

"Thailand is considered by Japanese investors a gateway to neighbouring countries. They have a strategy of expanding trade and investment to Asean nations, in order to compensate for lower trade with other developed countries," Commerce Minister Porntiva Nakasai said yesterday.

At a meeting with Munenori Yamada, president of the Japan External Trade Organisation in Bangkok, she agreed to organise a group talk with neighbouring countries during the 41st AEM from August 12-16.

Japanese investors also reaffirmed they would continue to expand in Thailand in the belief the slump here was bottoming out.

Porntiva said that due to fears about the fast-spreading type-A (H1N1) flu, some foreign investors had cancelled visits under the Thailand Best Friend Project.

So far, only 53 high-level officers of leading import companies abroad have confirmed their travel here to conduct business matching with local partners.

The ministry hopes to attract 80 executives from abroad to participate in the Thailand Best Friends project.

The event is aimed at tightening cooperation with leading international importers, in order to raise their orders from Thailand.

It is also expected to generate up to Bt10 billion in immediate sales.

Japan-Mekong meeting in October

By Supalak Ganjanakhundee
The Nation
July 28, 2009

Foreign ministers from Japan and the Mekong basin countries of Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam would meet in Cambodia's Siem Reap in October for development cooperation, Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said yesterday.

The meeting would pave the way for a leaders' summit in November or December, he said.

Japan has taken a proactive approach in bridging the development gap between the newer and older members of Asean.

It established the Japan-Asean Integration Fund in 2006 and hosted the first Japan-Mekong ministerial meeting in Tokyo last year.

It has pledged about US$20 million (Bt690 million) for development projects in the Mekong basin.

The Siem Reap meeting would emphasise regional interconnectivity through transportation routes.

Thailand, which has many cooperation schemes with its neighbours such as the Ayeyawady-Chao Phya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy and the Emerald Triangle, would play some role in enhancing linkages, he said.

Thailand has been a donor country to its neighbours for years. It recently committed financial assistance to Cambodia's construction and renovation of Highway 68 from Kralanh to Samrong and Highway 48 from Koh Kong to Sre Ambel, Kasit added.

Council To Consider Judicial Retirements

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
27 July 2009

Cambodia is poised to taken an unprecedented step in judicial reform, with the Ministry of Justice suggesting 43 court officials older than 60 years old be retired, VOA Khmer has learned.

Ang Vong Watana, the Minister of Justice, suggested in a May letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen that the officials be replaced in order to “strengthen good governance, participate in reform of the judicial sector…as well as give opportunities to a new generation of judges and prosecutors.”

The Supreme Council of Magistracy would decide on the retirements, the minister said in his May 27 letter, recently obtained by VOA Khmer, but he asked for Hun Sen “to decide in principle” whether judges aged 60 and above could be considered for retirement.

Within two days, Hun Sen had sent back a hand-written note in the bottom of the letter saying he agreed in principle.

The letter with Hun Sen’s comments, including a list of potential retirees, was copied to Council Minister Sok An, a deputy prime minister who is the head of the Council for Legal and Judicial Reform.

The next meeting of the Supreme Council of Magistracy is set for Wednesday, when the retirements will be debated.

The nine-member Council is presided over by King Norodom Sihamoni and is comprised of eight other members from different courts, all of whom are members of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.

The 43 officials include judges, prosecutors, deputy prosecutors, court chiefs and their deputies. Four of them are members of the Supreme Council of Magistracy itself.

Only four of the officials’ names have been made public in recent days.

Ouk Vithun, prosecutor-general of the Supreme Court, would be replaced by Chea Leang, who is currently the Cambodian prosecutor for the Khmer Rouge tribunal. Hang Roraken, prosecutor-general of the Appeals Court, would be replaced by Ouk Savuth, deputy prosecutor-general of the Appeals Court. Khieu Sameth, court chief of Kandal province, would be replaced by Kong Srim, deputy prosecutor general of the Appeals Court. And Sin Dim, Preah Sihanouk provicial court chief, would be replaced by Yet Chakrya, currently prosecutor of Phnom Penh court.

Rights groups and justice monitors have said the country needs to strengthen its rule of law and establish a transparent judiciary free of corruption, bias and political pressure, as well as provide better training and salaries for judges and other court officials. And while the push to retire aging court officials is positive in a system that has not seen a major overhaul in three decades, observers say it is only a first step.

Lawyer Sok Sam Oeun, director of the Cambodian Defenders Project, an NGO giving free legal services to the poor, told VOA Khmer a good judicial system is necessary, and that one of strong quality and effectiveness would be better than a change of old officials.

“Changing the personnel is not enough, unless we establish first that it’s better for all judges, when they leave, to have a good judicial system, one that is transparent,” he said. “For example, one that controls cases strictly and is capable of preventing corruption, because if only the people change and the system remains the same, it’s not a change.”

Judges currently do not have real independence, he said, “and the issue of independence is not just focused on the involvement of powerful officials, but safety for judges should exist.”

The Supreme Council of Magistracy should be strengthened and penalties for judges should be strictly enforced, he said.

Kek Galabru, president of the rights group Licadho, which monitors law enforcement and the judiciary, said the government’s intentions to reform the judiciary are well known but have so far been unsuccessful.

A move to retire elderly judges and officials is good, but not fully adequate, she said, as the government still must pass a criminal code, an anti-corruption law and a law on judges.

“So reform of the court involves many laws,” she said. “If the government begins replacing judges and prosecutors as they reach a specific age, that’s the first step to start, but they should not stay at just the first step. They need to take further steps forward.”

The courts are not free from politics, just as many public sectors aren’t, she said.

“Everything is politics; in the military there are politics; in the police there are politics; in the military there are politics; in the university there are politics,” she said. “That’s why it’s difficult.”

More than politics, Cambodia’s courts face serious criticism of corruption, nepotism and bias, and international donors have long pushed for their reform.

Chan Saveth, deputy chief investigator for the rights group Adhoc, said the courts would see more confidence from citizens if their officials were not seen as under political pressure.

“People do not seem 100 percent confident, because the courts in Cambodia are seen as having much corruption and like to favor those who are powerful,” he said.

Court officials are not seen to help those who are weaker, or to provide justice to both sides, he said. “Even trying to show all the evidence is not enough, but [courts] try to rule on a case to let the side of a powerful person win.”

Meanwhile, the courts rely too much on police reports and other irregularities, he said, pointing out a number of other faults observed by rights organizations and other monitors.

“First, in hearings of criminal cases or misdemeanors, we see that our courts seem to lack integrity in showing evidence to charge or release,” he said. “And then it seems a case is judged based only on the influence or persuasiveness, which is not professional.”

“Second, another point we see in our courts in Cambodia that worries people, is when they file a complaint, they say without money there is no need to go to court,” he said. “On this point, the court should find a means, find a mechanism to make our own people be confidence in coming to the court to receive justice.”

“Third, we see that the court is under pressure from some of the powerful officials, and that’s why such non-independence causes no confidence and leads to impartial law enforcement,” he said.

“Fourth, we see that our court is at a weak stage, because the Cambodian government does not give a package of funding enough to court officials to allow the court the ability to investigate or the ability to reduce the negativity of corruption,” he said. “So this is the foundation point for a government that wants to reform this sector.”

Still, Chan Saveth welcomed the move to retire some judges and prosecutors, which would give an opportunity for new court officials to work. At the same time, the mass retirement of too many judges with a lot of experience could also be a concern, he said.

Nop Sophon is 63 years old, a former deputy chief for Phnom Penh Municipal Court and now a judge at the Ministry of Justice. His name is on the retirement list.

He told VOA Khmer in a phone interview July 21 that he did no object to retirement, but he also said he did not yet know about it.

“And who is to argue, who is to protest, if they let me retire?” he said. “If they look and see that I am still useful, they can keep using me here.”

Ven Yoeun, 61, who has worked as a prosecutor at Svay Rieng Provincial Court since 1979 and whose name is on the retirement list, said he would not regret retiring if that was the need of the government.

“If we still have strength, we regret, as we can extend for two or three more years,” he said. “But for me, my strength has declined because I have been sick for a year, and now I can do the work, but not fully. That’s why they’ve put me for retirement.”

Ven Yoeun said he was proud of the work he had done at the court.

“From the beginning, they selected me to be trained, and I recall that doing this job has helped find justice for society, for the nation, and I have worked here for more than 20 years,” he said. “I admire myself, am proud of myself, that we took the effort and did not make difficulties for society.”

He defended his court against corruption allegations, saying he has a headache when he does good work only to hear bad things on the radio.

“And with broadcasts on VOA and other radio, I’m personally ashamed and also I don’t feel I want to work here anymore, because if you do something they criticize, and if you do something a little bit wrong, they criticize, so that it’s like I myself do not work for the good of the nation and I feel ashamed of myself,” he said.

He appealed to new judges and prosecutors to avoid corruption and other acts that could invite criticism. Young judges and prosecutors will have less experience and less patience, which could create an “imbalance” in adjudicating, he said.

The prosecutor also said he would have no business plans in the future.

“If they let me retire, there is no business, because I was born a peasant who came to work just doing this job here since 1979 and there is no other business to continue to make a living,” he said.

On Samnang, 62, a former deputy court chief for Kampong Speu’s provincial court, who is also on the retirement list, said he had already put his name forward for resignation, in June. He is now a member of the Ratanakkiri Provincial Council, following the May 17 election.

“We had old age and understood that the government need not allow an extension, then we resigned anyway,” he said. “I had one term extension already.”

Younger jurists have “only theory” but no practice when they begin, he said, “but when they try hard, in the future they will be good as well, so it’s not a problem.”

“For me, I think that what the government has prepared is proper and great, in training the judge resources,” he said.

Many of Cambodia’s older judges have limited education, with some only finishing primary or secondary school. However, since 2005, the Royal Academy for Judicial Professions has graduated 173 people, who have been sent to work in various courts across the country.

Education opportunities are much more abundant for legal professionals today, with judges and prosecutors able to earn law degrees, including master’s and doctorate’s.

It remains to be seen whether the Council will vote to retire any court officials, despite the minister’s request. In February 2007, the Council failed to retire a single judge or prosecutor, raising questions about its ability to now retire 43.

In his letter to Hun Sen, Ang Vong Watana stressed that some jurists of retirement age had requested extensions—with some members of the Supreme Council of Magistracy agreeing—in what the minster deemed an obstacle to the work of the government.

The Council would be the body to decide on retirements, he wrote, but he warned that some members had the “intention to control the work of the Supreme Council of Magistracy” and that some were “making decisions for the interests of self, a group or individual, such as transferring jobs and penalties and so on,” under a pretext of independence or a “secret vote.”

Opposition to Change Tactics: Sam Rainsy

By Heng Reaksmey, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
27 July 2009

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy said Monday his party was changing tactics, looking to make changes beyond demonstrations and protests.

“Before, we mainly organized street demonstrations, because we had no other options to be visible,” the leader of his self-named party told VOA Khmer. “Now we can be much more constructive and effective about bringing change through other mechanisms.”

The announcement comes following a defamation trial against SRP Kampot lawmaker Mu Sochua, on Friday, and the suit of 22 military officials, also for defamation, against SRP lawmaker Ho Vann.

Both parliamentarians had their immunity suspended by the National Assembly, now dominated by the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, whose members hold 90 of 123 Assembly seats.

Sam Rainsy said his party would not be drawn onto his adversary’s “battlefield,” as this gained nothing for the opposition.

Human Rights Party President Kem Sokha, whose party has combined in an opposition coalition with the Sam Rainsy Party, said the decision for a change in tactics was up to Sam Rainsy.

The opposition must be strong in its stance when the ruling-party government puts on more pressure, he said.

Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Teacher’s Association, said the decision was up to opposition leaders, but he warned they must also think about the best interests of the people and the nation.

His association would continue to back parties that work for the public interest and would continue to watch the Sam Rainsy Party in the future.

Ruling party officials could not be reached for comment Monday, but CPP lawmaker Cheam Yiep told the Cambodia Daily newspaper he was hopeful the opposition would be committed to helping the country develop.

Under Duch, Guard Says He Lived in Fear

By Chiep Mony, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
27 July 2009

A former guard at Tuol Sleng prison told the Khmer Rouge tribunal he had suffered much and feared for his life at the prison, as other guards disappeared, in testimony that was roundly rejected by the defendant, Duch, on Monday.

Kok Sros, 59, told judges at the UN-backed court he and other guards “tried to work hard and waited for whatever would happen to us.”

Kok Sros said he worked as a security guard at Tuol Sleng, known to the Khmer Rouge as S-21, where prosecutors say 12,380 people were sent to their deaths under Duch, whose real name is Kaing Kek Iev.

“I had too much suffering while working at S-21, but we did not know where to escape,” Kok Sros said.

While on guard at the prison from 1975 to 1979, Kok Sros said he had seen many prisoners hand-cuffed in single cells and heard from other guards that some inmates had committed suicide.

Tuol Sleng was a main torture facility for perceived enemies of the ultra-Maoist revolution, and Kok Sros said some of its victims asked him to help them. He told them he could not.

Nor was the prison safe even for guards. Two of his crew of 10 disappeared from the prison, Kok Sros said, adding that their disappearances made him fearful and that he worried he himself would be killed.

Duch, whose real name is Kaing Kek Iev, rejected the testimony, saying he did not believe Kok

Sros was a guard at the prison. He said he never visited detention rooms as described by the witness.

Duch is facing charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, torture and murder for his role as prison administrator, in a trial that has been running for more than three months now.

He is the first of five jailed leaders of the regime to face trial at the joint UN-Cambodia court.


Taiwan News
Agence France-Presse

A former staff member at the main Khmer Rouge torture center told Cambodia's war crimes court yesterday that up to 200 children were detained and killed at the regime's notorious prison.
Sous Thy, 58, was testifying at the UN-backed court against prison chief Duch, who is accused of overseeing the torture and execution of around 15,000 people held at Tuol Sleng prison, known as S-21, in the late 1970s.

The witness, who was assigned to register incoming prisoners, told the court up 200 children were separated from their parents who were jailed at Tuol Sleng, but details of the young inmates were not recorded.

"I did not register their names in the list and their photographs were not taken either... The children would be separated, and once the children entered the prison they would not survive. All of them would be killed," Sous Thy said.

"For the (number of) children, according to my observation though I am not certain, it could have been more than 100 - up to 200 at the most," he added.

He told the court he was asked to "be alert 24 hours" to register incoming prisoners, who were handcuffed and blindfolded, and was also ordered to list outgoing prisoners as they were taken from Tuol Sleng to be executed.

"Only Duch had the authority to (order) anyone to be smashed," Sous Thy said.

He added that a senior cadre warned him if he made a mistake identifying a prisoner to be killed, he would be accused of being a traitor.

The 66-year-old Duch, whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav, has accepted responsibility for his role governing the jail and begged forgiveness for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

But the defendant has consistently rejected claims by prosecutors that he held a central leadership role in the Khmer Rouge, and says he never personally killed anyone.

Vietnam - Government delegation begins Cambodia visit

A delegation of the government headed by Deputy Prime Minister Truong Vinh Trong arrived in Phnom Penh on July 25, beginning a three-day working visit to Cambodia.

The same day, the delegation burnt incense at the Freedom Monument and the Monument to Vietnamese voluntary soldiers in Phnom Penh .

During the visit, Deputy PM Trong was scheduled to have talks with Vice Chairman of the Cambodian National Assembly Heng Samrin and Prime Minister Hun Sen to discuss relations and economic cooperation between the two countries.

He will attend the opening ceremony of representative office of the Bank for Investment and Development of Vietnam (BIDV) and a ceremony to set up the Cambodian national airlines – Angkor Air, a joint venture between the Vietnam Aviation Administration and the Cambodia Aviation Administration.

Human Impact on Critically Endangered Waterbird Beneficial

A white-shouldered ibis in Cambodia. Human impact on this critically endangered bird can be beneficial rather than destructive, and could even save it from extinction. (Credit: Hugh Wright)

ScienceDaily (July 26, 2009) — Human impact on one of the world's most threatened bird species can be beneficial rather than destructive - and could even save it from extinction - according to counterintuitive new findings by the University of East Anglia (UEA).

Published in the peer-reviewed journal Animal Conservation, the study by UEA conservation experts explores the exact reasons behind the decline of the critically endangered white-shouldered ibis.

The new study was carried out in Western Siem Pang Important Bird Area (IBA), northern Cambodia, where 160-200 of the birds survive – around half of the global population.

Working in partnership with BirdLife International, the researchers found that the ibis prefer to forage in open and accessible sites with low vegetation and bare soil. This is believed to be because it makes it easier to find prey, aids take-off and landing, and improves detection of approaching danger.

Traditional small-scale farming by local communities is therefore crucial to the ibis' survival because grazing livestock and burning of the forest understorey opens up these habitats making them suitable for the birds.

"Our findings show that this critically endangered species is largely dependent on the local farmers for their survival," said lead author Hugh Wright, of UEA's School of Environmental Sciences. "This is a fascinating outcome as we tend to assume that human activity always has a negative impact on the natural world."

Not all human influence is positive for the endangered ibis, however. Western Siem Pang - currently an unprotected site – is under imminent threat from large-scale development which would destroy the birds' habitats entirely, along with the local farming communities.

"The Forestry Administration in Cambodia is supportive of a proposal to make the area a protected forest and we believe that this – along with the continuation of local farming methods practiced for generation after generation – will be crucial in saving this once common species from extinction," added Hugh.

With fewer than 500 individuals remaining, mainly in Cambodia, the white-shouldered ibis has undergone the most rapid decline of all South-East Asia's large waterbirds and is now the most threatened. Once common in Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Indonesia, the precise causes behind the bird's continuing decline have until now been poorly understood, which has hindered conservation efforts.

This research was funded by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).

Influences from abroad key to Khmer culture

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 27 July 2009
Dave Perkes

Dear Editor,

I read with some concern the comments from Prime Minister Hun Sen calling for Khmer artists to refrain from using "other countries' styles" in books, films and songs ("Hun Sen decries reliance on foreign styles in the arts", July 23, 2009).

I understand the wish for Khmer culture to be encouraged and preserved. No one wants Khmer culture to disappear. Outside influences from other parts of Asia have always enhanced Khmer culture. The Hindu culture of the ancient Khmer came from the Indian subcontinent. Over the centuries, Khmer culture has been influenced by China, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand and, more recently, Europe and America. This has spread both ways, with Khmer art influencing large parts of Southeast Asia and being widely known throughout the world.

Cambodia, like many places in the region, is a microcosm of world culture. Culture is the lifeblood of any nation, and it's the influences from abroad that have shaped it. Compared to neighbouring countries, the Cambodian government and people preserve their culture and heritage well.

But what is culture? I have been told by many Khmers that the loud music at parties and weddings is part of Cambodian culture, that karaoke, Khmer rock music and television soaps are the culture of today. Modern Khmer artists and photographers have been producing very exciting and creative work blending old and new.

It may not be to everyone's taste. But today's art and entertainment will become tomorrow's heritage. Diversity should be encouraged, not derided.

What happens in modern art today will not change the wonderful culture and art of the past.

Do we want a Cambodia that is vibrant, creative and fun? Or do we want people here to live in a museum?

Dave Perkes
Siem Reap

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

The views expressed above are solely the author's and do not reflect any positions taken by The Phnom Penh Post.

DanChurchAid: Cambodian women trapped in violent marriages



According to DanChurchAid Domestic violence occurs frequently in Cambodia. And a combination of customs and culture continue to prolong violence against women. This is the conclusion in a new report from the Danish NGO on domestic violence in Cambodia, where several Cambodian women are being interviewed for the report on domestic violence.

The aim of the report is to convey an idea of the perceptions of domestic violence and resolution of domestic violence at the community level. In interviewing over 300 people in five very different communities, impressions reflecting actual realities of the different kinds of domestic violence and resolution processes that exist in these communities are presented.

The report "Out of Court Resolutions of Violence against Women" has been written as a part of the project "Ending violence against Women". The campaign began in Cambodia in 2007. The project is supported by DanChurchAid over a period of three years.

Vietnam, Cambodia to reinforce economic ties

Than Nien

Monday, July 27, 2009

Vietnamese and Cambodian leaders on Sunday hailed the relationship of friendship and solidarity between the two countries as they discussed measures to further boost bilateral economic relations.

During a three-day working visit to Cambodia beginning Saturday, Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Truong Vinh Trong held talks with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and Vice Chairman of the Cambodian National Assembly Heng Samrin Sunday.

The Cambodian leaders praised the visit by Trong saying that it would reinforce and develop solidarity and friendship between the two countries.

Trong and his entourage also paid a courtesy visit to Buddhist Supreme Patriarch Tep Vong at the Oum Naloum Pagoda, and presented hospital beds, medical equipment and computers to the Cambodian Buddhist Centre’s infirmary.

On the same day, Trong and Sen attended a ceremony to establish the Cambodian national airlines – Angkor Air, a joint-venture between Vietnam Airlines and the Cambodian Aviation Administration.

They also witnessed the awarding of a license by the Cambodian government to the Bank for Investment and Development of Vietnam (BIDV) to open a representative office, and to set up an insurance company and an investment development company in Phnom Penh.

On the occasion, BIDV presented the Cambodian Red Cross with US$800,000 for its antipoverty campaign, and 700 computer sets for needy Cambodian children.

Vietnam and Cambodia discuss further co-operation

Deputy PM Trong makes speech at ceremony to set up Cambodian national airlines – Angkor Air.

Nhan Dan
July 27, 2009

Vietnamese and Cambodian leaders have met in Phnom Penh to discuss measures to boost the bilateral economic relations.

During his three-day working visit to Cambodia, beginning on July 25, Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Truong Vinh Trong held talks with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and Vice Chairman of the Cambodian National Assembly Heng Samrin on July 26.

The Cambodian leaders applauded the visit by Deputy PM Trong, saying that the two countries’ solidarity and friendship have been further reinforced and developed.

Deputy PM Trong and his entourage also paid a courtesy visit to Buddhist Supreme Patriarch Tep Vong at the Oum Naloum Pagoda, and presented hospital beds, medical equipment and computers to the Cambodian Buddhist Centre’s infirmary.

The same day, Deputy PM Trong and Cambodian PM Hun Sen attended a ceremony to set up the Cambodian national airlines – Angkor Air, a joint venture between Vietnam Airlines and the Cambodian Aviation Administration.

They also witness the awarding of the Cambodian Government’s licence to the Bank for Investment and Development of Vietnam (BIDV) to open a representative office, and set up an insurance company and an investment development company in Phnom Penh.

On the occasion, BIDV presented the Cambodia Red Cross with US$800,000 in aid for Cambodian poor people, and 700 computer sets for Cambodian children. (VNA)

Cambodia launches national airline

AFP - Monday, July 27PHNOM PENH (AFP) - - Cambodia launched its new national airline, Cambodia Angkor Air, in a ceremony Monday, giving the southeast Asian country its first flag carrier since a previous effort folded in 2001.

It is hoped the airline, a joint venture between the government and Vietnam Airlines, will encourage tourism and promote Cambodia, Prime Minister Hun Sen said during the ceremony at Phnom Penh International Airport.

Hun Sen urged airline officials to compete hard with other carriers to "make Cambodia Angkor Air successful and ensure national revenue".

The last national carrier, Royal Air Cambodge, folded in 2001 after running up losses of 30 million dollars.

Deputy Prime Minister Sok An said Cambodia Angkor Air, which has capitalization of 100 million dollars, will officially begin flights on Tuesday, travelling to tourist hub Siem Reap and Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh City.

Sok An added that the airline was expected to boost his country's tourism sector, but "the government will be not responsible for any loss and debt".

After the opening ceremony Cambodian and Vietnamese officials flew to seaside resort Sihanoukville and Siem Reap, the gateway to the famed Angkor Wat temples.

Tourism is one of the only sources of foreign exchange for impoverished Cambodia, which is recovering from nearly three decades of conflict that ended in 1998.

The kingdom aims to lure three million tourists annually by 2010.

More than 20 foreign airlines, including Japan Airlines and Qatar Airways, currently operate direct flights to Cambodia.

Cambodia gets national carrier with Vietnam's help

Reuters - Monday, July 27

PHNOM PENH, July 27 - Cambodia launched a new national carrier on Monday, a $100 million, three-aircraft venture set up in a bid to boost the tourist sector with the help of Vietnam Airlines.

Cambodia will hold 51 percent of Cambodia Angkor Air and Vietnam Airlines the rest.

The airline will operate domestic flights from Cambodia's capital, Phnom Penh, to Siem Reap, site of the Angkor temples, the country's biggest tourist destination, and to the coastal tourist town of Sihanoukville.

"The government is investing to facilitate the company's flight operations to carry tourists for competitive fares, to attract more visitors," Prime Minister Hun Sen told a crowd at Phnom Penh International airport.

The new airline will initially operate with two ATR 72 planes and is scheduled to get an Airbus A321 in September.

It was looking to expand commercial flights to Vietnam and another neighbouring country, Laos, and hoped to increase its fleet to 10 by 2015, said Vietnam Airlines Executive Director Pham Ngoc Minh.

Vietnam and Cambodia are traditional rivals, and Vietnam's deputy prime minister, Truong Vinh Trong, said at a signing ceremony on Sunday evening that the airline was not just a rare joint investment, but a way to "improve the two Asian neighbours' bilateral relations".

Cambodia has had no national carrier since Royal Air Cambodge went bankrupt in 2001 with estimated losses of $25 million.

In 2007, Indonesia's Rajawali Group signed a deal with Cambodia to establish a flag carrier and planned to begin flights in mid-2008, but the deal was cancelled because of the global economic downturn.

Cambodia welcomed 2.2 million tourists last year.

Tourism brought in the equivalent of 13 percent of gross domestic product in 2005 to 2007, according to the International Monetary Fund.

The sector had been growing at around 18 percent a year before the global financial crisis but growth in the sector is likely to be only 5 percent this year, according to tourism officials.

The IMF has forecast that Cambodia's economy could shrink 0.5 percent this year, hurt by a drop in tourism and a slowdown in garment exports.
(Reporting by Ek Madra; Additional reporting by Nguyen Nhat Lam in Hanoi; Editing by Alan Raybould)

Thai protesters urge gov't to withdraw from Thai-Cambodian statement on Preah Vihear



BANGKOK, July 27 (Xinhua) -- A group of Thai people following up the Preah Vihear dispute rallied in front of the Government House Monday morning, calling on the government to withdraw from a joint Thai-Cambodian statement issued on June 18, 2008.

The joint statement, which supports Cambodia's unilateral listing of the ancient temple as a world heritage site, was signed by then Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama without prior consent of the parliament, according to the Bangkok Post's website.

The government should formally inform the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and the world community about the Thai withdrawal from the joint-Thai-Cambodian statement, said the group led by Walwipa Jaroonroj, an academic at the Institute of Thai Studies at Bangkok's Thammasat University.

Thailand should step up its opposition to Cambodia's unilateral registration of Preah Vihear as the world heritage site, otherwise Thailand could lose its sovereignty over the 4.6-square-kilometer border area, said the group.

The disputed area of 4.6 square kilometers along the Thai-Cambodian border has never been demarcated as the two neighboring countries have historically laid claim to the dispute-border site.

The area is located on a mountaintop on the Thai-Cambodia border, and it is easier to be accessed from Thailand.

The International Court of Justice ruled in 1962 that Preah Vihear temple belonged to Cambodia.
Editor: Anne Tang

Cambodian cops despair as road deaths rise

July 27, 2009
By Kounila Keo

Cambodian student Chhin Sothea found out the hard way that it's not enough just to take care when crossing the street in Phnom Penh - a motorcycle hit him from behind as he strolled down the pavement.

He said: "Now I keep an eye on street traffic all the time and when I get on a fast motorbike, my stomach turns."

Stories like Chhin's are common in Cambodia, a rapidly developing country where traffic deaths have more than doubled over the past five years, becoming the second-biggest killer after Aids.

Sem Panhavuth from Handicap International said: "The construction of smoother roads, an ever-increasing number of cars and motorbikes, and bold but often uneducated drivers will become a deadly mix in years to come

"42 people are killed on South Africa's roads every day."

A report by his organisation, which monitors Cambodian road safety, said the country had about 4.5 fatalities per day in 2008 and the number spiked to five a day in the first two months of 2009. By contrast, 15 353 people were killed on South Africa's roads in 2006, according to a SA Road Traffic management report - that's 42 every day.

Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen has implored drivers in recent speeches to take more care and the government is making greater efforts to bring order to chaotic roads. The capital Phnom Penh got its first five speed traps detectors in March 2009 and traffic police are now frequently seen out in force, cracking down on motorcyclists who ride without helmets or rear-view mirrors.

'Most crashes are caused by youngsters who race each other through the streets'.

Traffic police chief Tin Prasoeur says the compulsory helmet and mirror laws have helped reduce injuries.

He said: "Most of the fatal crashes are caused by youngsters who race each other through the streets. We're trying to draw attention to the dangers of not following the law or respecting their own safety."

However, few are optimistic that Cambodia's surging traffic accident toll will soon fall. Pheng Saly has been a driving instructor for nearly two decades and is seeing an increase in clients every month.

He said: "I've seen some improvement on the streets and, little by little, we hope to see a new attitude in Cambodia. But the issue is that people don't respect the traffic laws. Many don't even bother to learn the rules."

However, Phee Khorn, a motorcycle taxi driver in Phnom Penh for the past five years, said the new road rules weren't working and the problem lay with lax law enforcement.

"We see traffic police on the streets daily," he said. "They often play cat-and-mouse games by stopping bikes or cars all of a sudden, sometimes for no apparent reason.


"When police fine us for not having a helmet or rear-view mirrors, they just take money and let us go."

For his part, traffic cop San Sophorng said he was learning how little respect his occupation got as he tried to bring order to dangerous streets.

He said: "When I stop people without helmets or rear-view mirrors, I always tell them their mistakes and, you know, fine them," adding that was allowed to keep 20 percent of the money.

As he watched drivers weave, honk and jockey for position around one of Phnom Penh's bulging markets, San Sophorng said accidents were increasing because drivers didn't care about the rules.

"A lot of people don't obey the traffic laws and I can't control them all," he said, taking a short break in the shade with a few other blue uniformed policemen. "I'm getting more despondent every day." - AFP

Cambodia launches national carrier in tie-up with Vietnam Airlines+

PHNOM PENH, July 27 (AP) - (Kyodo)—Cambodia launched its new national airline Monday as a joint venture with Vietnam Airlines after its previous one went bankrupt nearly a decade ago.

Cambodia Angkor Air, in which the Cambodian government owns a 51 percent stake and Vietnam's state-owned airline holds the remainder, will fly to destinations in Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand.

To mark the launching, two of the airline's ATR 72 twin-turboprop, short-haul aircraft took off from the capital Phnom Penh, one bound for the northern town of Siem Reap and the other for the port city of Sihanoukeville on the southwestern coast.

At the launch ceremony, Prime Minister Hun Sen said the new airline will contribute to Cambodia's tourism industry, which accounts for 12 percent of the country's gross domestic product.

In 2001, Royal Air Cambodge, a joint venture with Malaysia Helicopter Services, closed down in 2001 after going bankrupt.

Rash of lawsuits sees Cambodia crack down on dissenters

The Financial Times

By Tim Johnston in Bangkok
Published: July 27 2009

Asia is no stranger to governments using the courts to muzzle their detractors, but the Cambodian government's current legal attack on its opponents is causing concern in the region.

Hang Chakra, former editor of the Khmer Machas Srok newspaper, is sharing a cell with 50 other convicts in Phnom Penh's notorious Prey Sar prison, serving a one-year sentence for articles that alleged corruption among government officials.

Moeung Sonn, head of the Khmer Cultural Civilisation Foundation, was last month sentenced to two years in jail in absentia for "disinformation" after suggesting that a new lighting system at the Angkor Wat temple complex might damage the 600-year-old buildings.

And on Friday, a court is to hand down its verdict in a case against Mu Sochua, an opposition parliamentarian accused of defamation against Hun Sen, Cambodia's prime minister.

"I'm sure I will be found guilty unless there is some magic in the air, and I don't feel that there is," she said yesterday.

"The Cambodian government is imposing its most serious crackdown on freedom of expression in recent years," Brad Adams, Asia director for Human Rights Watch, said last week.

The case against Mu Sochua, a former minister for women and veteran's affairs, is based on her allegation that Hun Sen called her "strong leg" - a cutting insult in Khmer culture - in a speech in her constituency in early April. When he declined to apologise, she called a press conference in which she alleged that not just herself, but all Cambodian women had been insulted.

That allegation provoked a counter-suit from Hun Sen. The courts threw out her case but agreed to hear Hun Sen's complaint.

Her lawyer withdrew after he came under pressure, provoking a protest from the office of the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Mu Sochua declined to find a different attorney. "I am not going to put another lawyer through that torture," she said.

If she is found guilty, she will face a fine of about $2,500 (€1,760, £1,520). More importantly, she could lose the right to sit in parliament. Some analysts say that might be Hun Sen's intention.

"The concept of pluralism hasn't got any roots in Cambodia," said David Chandler, a professor of history at Monash University in Australia. "The opposition is almost by definition disloyal."

Son Chhay, another outspoken opposition parliamentarian, says the recent crackdown is a symptom of a government that is trying to address the issues facing the country, such as corruption, land seizures and economic stagnation.

"Like many dictatorial regimes in the region, because they are unable to solve the problems, they resort to measures to control the people and shut them up," he said.

"If he allowed Mu Sochua to challenge him, other people might go down the same path," said Son Chhay.

In the early 1990s, the international community invested some $1.5bn in a UN operation to restore civil government to a country that Hun Sen, a former Khmer Rouge cadre, had run since 1985.

The opposition fears the prime minister is using his parliamentary majority - the CPP won 90 of the 123 seats in parliament in elections last year - to destroy fragile institutions that have taken years to build.

First effects of the crisis in Cambodia: the poor are getting poorer

Chom Chao (Phnom Penh, Cambodia). 10/03/2009: Workers of a garment factory who were laid off come to receive half their salaries
©John Vink/Magnum


By Laurent Le Gouanvic

Economic forecasts for 2009 in Cambodia, which were hardly optimistic, unfortunately seem to be confirmed as the months go by. As the first 2009 semester has just ended, several studies highlight that the Kingdom, which is among the poorest countries in Asia, is bearing the brunt of the economic crisis. First affected, Cambodian poor families have become poorer during the last months, much more than what neighbouring countries have experienced, according to the findings of an investigation carried out by a private society. The conclusions are even more worrying as another report, realised under the United Nations Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking, expresses concern over the increasing number of women, including former garment industry workers, who prostitute themselves to survive.

Less income for poor Phnom Penh residents
Three out of four poor households in Phnom Penh have seen their income decrease between June 2008 and June 2009, according to the results of a regional study by society Indochina Research published mid-July. The conclusions of the investigation, carried out in the Cambodian capital as well as Hanoi (Vietnam) and Vientiane (Laos) with 600 women aged 25 and more in households with monthly income of less than 300 dollars, show that Phnom Penh residents were hit by the crisis more harshly than their neighbours in the region.

During the same period, a very large majority of poor families in the Laotian capital saw their income increase (43% of those surveyed) or stagnate (32%), when that was the case only for respectively 10% and 16% of women interrogated in Phnom Penh. In Vientiane, only 26% of the poor households selected for this study experienced a decrease of their income between June 2008 and June 2009. In Vietnam, urban poor were more affected than in Laos, as 49% of them experienced an income decrease, but a relatively more significant proportion managed to maintain their income (32%) or increase them (13%). Phnom Penh poor therefore appear to have been those most affected.

Small entrepreneurs hit hard
The study, realised under Indochina Research’s I-Trak programme, also specifies that in Phnom Penh, poor households depending on a small independent activity or micro-enterprise were more vulnerable to the effects of the economic crisis: 69% of them saw their income decrease in June 2009 compared to the same time a year before, while wage earners seem to have resisted better as “only” 15% of those interrogated in the Cambodian capital have declared having less resources to provide for their household. However, for those, who are many, whose income has remained unchanged, it has become difficult to face increasing expenses.

Unfulfilled basic needs
Another worrying finding for Cambodia: while, in their great majority, those surveyed in Laos and Vietnam declared not experiencing difficulty to buy food staples, Cambodians are still many to claim they are not able to meet their basic food requirements.

However, there is reason for optimism, the summary of the study highlights: 37% of Phnom Penh residents interrogated foresee an increase of their income next year, while 41% hope to at least maintain them. Admittedly, in light of the extremely low levels of income (average GDP per year per inhabitant is slightly inferior to 600 dollars, according to official figures), few are those who can still envisage their means of subsistence decreasing… In Laos, those surveyed once again appeared much more optimistic than their Cambodian neighbours: 67% of them anticipated an income increase in 2010.

The poor countries more vulnerable
Whilst it is limited by the low size of the population sample selected, the study confirms the fears expressed in several reports published in the last months, starting with that of UNCTAD on “the least developed countries” which claims that poor countries are the most serious victims of the economic and financial crisis that broke out in developed countries and calls to rethink profoundly the development aid provided to the 49 least developed countries, including Cambodia.

From factories to brothels
Similarly, early July, the United Nations Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking provided the first conclusions of a study aimed to measure the impact of the financial crisis on human trafficking, carried out in April and May 2009 with 357 women aged 15 to 49 and working in brothels, karaoke bars and massage parlours. If it seems difficult to establish a link with certainty between the global financial crisis and the development of prostitution from those few data collected thanks to the International Labour Organization, the International Migration Organization (IOM) and the NGO World Vision, who authored the report, consider that an increasing number of women have left the industrial sector – mostly the garment industry – since the start of the crisis, due to increasingly difficult working conditions and insufficient revenues. The minimum monthly salary of a garment factory worker is currently 50 dollars, an amount that was revised shortly before the July 2008 elections and includes a so-called “living cost adjustment” six-dollar bonus.

Govt told: Scrub Preah Vihear accord

Writer: BangkokPost.com
Published: 27/07/2009

About 30 members of a network of people following up the Preah Vihear dispute on Monday morning rallied in front of Government House and called on the government to withdraw from the joint Thai-Cambodian statement of June 18 last year which supports Cambodia's unilateral listing of the temple as a world heritage site.

The joint statement was signed by then foreign minister Noppadon Pattama without prior consent of parliament.

The group, led by ML Walwipa Jaroonroj, an academic at the Institute of Thai Studies at Thammasat University, said the Democrat-led government should revoke the joint statement and formally inform the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) and the world community.

Thailand should also step up its opposition to Cambodia's unilateral registration of Preah Vihear as a world heritage site, otherwise it could lose its sovereignty over the 4.6 square kilometre border area under dispute and a 1.5 million rai of forest adjacent to Cambodia, said the group.

Cambodia Angkor Air will fly tomorrow


By Reinhard Hohler, eTN Ambassador
Jul 27, 2009

According to media sources from Phnom Penh, a signing ceremony was held on Sunday by Cambodia and Viet Nam on the establishment of the Cambodian Air Carrier, which is a joint venture between Vietnam Airlines and the National Cambodia Air Carrier, namely Cambodia Angkor Air (CAA).

"The Vietnamese side has invested a capital of US$100 million in Cambodia Angkor Air," said Mr. Sok An, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister in charge of the Council of Ministers, at the signing ceremony, which was presided over by Prime Minister Hun Sen and visiting Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Truong Vinh Trong, who is also the representative of the Prime Minister of Vietnam.

"Cambodia will have [a] 51 percent share, and the Vietnamese side controls 49 percent," Mr. Sok An said, adding that the new Cambodian airline will help to push the tourism sector in the kingdom, while the world has met with the global economic and financial crisis. The Vietnamese investment on Cambodia Angkor Air will be processed for 30 years, Mr. Sok An said.

Meanwhile, Vietnam has also invested another US$100 million to open the Bank for Development and Investment of Viet Nam in Cambodia.

These investments show the confidence from the Vietnamese side on the economic growth of Cambodia, Mr. Sok An said, adding that it is the pride of the country that they have our own national flag air carrier. He stressed that the new airline will launch the official flight tomorrow.

Prime Minister Hun Sen said at the ceremony, "I would like to urge the new Cambodia Angkor Air to strengthen the management on safety and security for all travelers."

Additionally, Dr. Thong Khong, Cambodian Tourism Minister, told reporters that tourism is one of the key sectors in the country saying, "This year we expect to have [a] two to three percent increase on this sector." For the first six month of this year, the tourism sector decreased about one percent across the country. However, in the capital of Phnom Penh, it has increased 14 to 16 percent so far.

Last year, Cambodia achieved about two million foreign tourists.

Cambodian cases intensify concern

The Financial Times

By Tim Johnston
Published: July 27 2009

Cambodia's government is under fire because of its legal attack on opponents. Hang Chakra, former editor of the Khmer Machas Srok newspaper, shares a cell with 50 other convicts in Phnom Penh's notorious Prey Sar prison, serving a one-year sentence for articles that alleged corruption among government officials.

Moeung Sonn, head of the Khmer Cultural Civilisation Foundation, was last month sentenced to two years in jail in absentia for "disinformation" after suggesting a new lighting system at the Angkor Wat temple complex might damage the 600-year-old buildings.

On Friday, a court is to hand down its verdict in a case against Mu Sochua, an opposition parliamentarian accused of defamation against Hun Sen, Cambodia's prime minister. "I'm sure I will be found guilty unless there is some magic in the air - and I don't feel that there is," she said.

"The . . . government is imposing its most serious crackdown on freedom of expression in recent years," said Brad Adams, Asia director for Human Rights Watch.

Tim Johnston, Bangkok www.ft.com/asia

Lost to the lake

Photo by: Arantxa Cedillo

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 27 July 2009
Arantxa Cedillo

Srey Na, a 27-year-old who is seven months pregnant and lives with her mother, lost her house Friday as it started to sink into Boeung Kak lake. Though many residents on this side of the lake have yet to be approached for compensation due to the lake's reclamation and development, some are speculating that they may be forced out sooner by rising waters.

Detentions decried as 'appalling'

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 27 July 2009
Vong Sokheng and Sebastian Strangio

Group says govt has failed to address concerns about policy.

A CAMPAIGN to rid the city's streets of sex workers, beggars and homeless people is subjecting increasing numbers to arbitrary arrest and "appalling abuses" at government-run social affairs centres, the rights group Licadho said Sunday.

The organisation claims dozens of people have been arbitrarily detained in Daun Penh district in nighttime sweeps by district security guards or police over the past month as part of a long-standing effort to beautify the capital.

"Once again, the government is treating poor people who live and work on the streets as though they are criminals," Licadho Director Naly Pilorge said in the statement.

In one sweep, conducted on the night of July 19, 12 adult sex workers were arrested by police near Wat Phnom and taken to a local police station, where they were locked in a bathroom, according to the statement.

Witnesses cited in the statement say the women were "kicked or beaten" by police before being fingerprinted and photographed and sent to the municipal social affairs department.

Four of those detained were HIV-positive, Licadho said, adding that they missed three days of antiretroviral drugs during the process of arrest and detention. Licadho called that interruption "potentially life-threatening".

The recent sweeps are just the latest to take place in the capital, and Licadho claims the government has done little to address concerns about the practice, particularly relating to the detention of street people at Prey Speu, a government-run "social affairs centre" in Choam Chao district.

In June 2008, Licadho President Kek Galabru sent a letter to the Ministry of Interior alerting the government to the unlawful arrest and detention of street people as well as claims of "beatings, extreme overcrowding, insufficient food ... [and] alleged rapes of female detainees" at Prey Speu.

In its 2009 global human rights report, released in May, Amnesty International said that "at least three" detainees were beaten to death at government centres in 2008.

In its response to Licadho, a copy of which has been obtained by the Post, the Ministry of Interior defended the sweeps, arguing that sex workers had "provoked public disorder and affected [the] dignity and morality of the Cambodian society".

It also said staff at Prey Speu were trained to be "conscious, professional and charitable".

Blight on the city
Daun Penh Deputy Governor Sok Penhvuth said every district in the capital had received orders to round up street people, and that sweeps took place about twice a week.

"Daun Penh district is the tourist, political and economic heart of [the city]. In order to keep the city clean ... we have to take action until there are no more street people," he said.

When contacted Sunday, Prey Speu Chief An Ly said he had no knowledge of abuses at the centre, having just recently taken the position.

Am Sam Ath, a monitor at Licadho, said the group had not seen any evidence of a government investigation at Prey Speu, adding that there was "no real policy" for giving support to street people.

"We are not against the policy of the government to keep the city beautiful and in order," he said.

"But ... the government has to respect poor people."

Others said the city's policy was ill-conceived.

"Vague and arbitrary notions of what makes a city 'beautiful' should not undermine the basic health and human rights of poor Cambodians," said Joe Amon, director of the health and human rights division at Human Rights Watch, who pointed to the treatment of HIV sufferers as a case in point.

He added: "How could a government that has received international recognition as an AIDS 'success story' care so little about the actual health and human rights of people living with, and vulnerable to, HIV infection?"

Residents ask to stay in city

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 27 July 2009
May Titthara

RESIDENTS from Group 34 in Phnom Penh's Tomnup Toek commune said they plan to protest in front of City Hall today, three days after district officials again denied their request to be relocated to the capital's Dangkor district instead of Kandal province.

"They have forced us and given us no choice," Group 34 representative Toch Sophan said Sunday. "We must live [in Phnom Penh]. Dying is better than moving to Kandal province."

Toch Sophan said the residents would submit a letter to Phnom Penh Municipality reiterating their hope not to be relocated to Ponhea Leu district in Kandal province, located about 50 kilometres from the capital.

On the night of April 15, a suspected arson burned down about 150 homes in Group 34. Since then, authorities have not allowed the families to rebuild their homes, leaving most of the community in makeshift shelters fashioned out of tarpaulins.

Municipal officials and nearly all of the Group 34 families in May agreed in principle to move the families to Dangkor district, and residents now say the government has reneged on the agreement.

Chor Heng, chief of Tomnup Toek commune, confirmed on Sunday that authorities had rejected the deal.

"We do not have the ability to provide them a plot in Dangkor because of the land price," Chor Heng said. "Now everything is stuck because people do not agree with our compensation."

Chor Heng said he did not know when the families would be evicted but blamed residents for their predicament for refusing to accept compensation.

A tense trial for Mu Sochua

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
SRP President Sam Rainsy (left) and SRP lawmaker Mu Sochua outside Phnom Penh Municipal Court Friday.

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 27 July 2009
Meas Sokchea

Heated exchanges in courtroom are accompanied by scuffles between MP's supporters and security during high-profile case.

FRIDAY'S three-hour trial of opposition member of parliament Mu Sochua provoked tension both inside and outside the courtroom, with physical altercations between the lawmaker's supporters and security officials in the hallway of Phnom Penh Municipal Court and heated rhetoric during the actual proceedings.

As she arrived at the court to answer to defamation charges filed against her by Prime Minister Hun Sen, Mu Sochua described her case as a "struggle" that affected "the soul of all strugglers who struggle for justice".

The charges stemmed from an April speech given by Hun Sen, during which he referred to an unnamed woman as cheung klang, a term meaning "strong legs" that is viewed by some as derogatory when used to describe women. The speech prompted Mu Sochua to file a defamation suit.

Hun Sen denied that he had been referring to her and countersued her for defamation, pointing to an April 23 press conference in which she made her suit public. Mu Sochua's case was thrown out, whereas the premier was allowed to proceed with his.

Once inside the courtroom, Mu Sochua accused the ruling Cambodian People's Party of depriving her of legal representation. Her lawyer, Kong Sam Onn, opted out of the case after a defamation suit and bar complaint were filed against him.

"No lawyer would dare to represent me because of the fears and the pressure," she said. "My lawyer has become the victim for representing me."

She declined to respond to questions during the hearing.

In his presentation to Judge Sem Sakola, government lawyer Ky Tech accused Mu Sochua of encouraging people to direct "discrimination and hatred" towards Hun Sen.

Deputy Prosecutor Sok Kalyan said Mu Sochua's attempt to paint Hun Sen's comments as insulting to all women was a misleading ploy to "put the blame" on the premier.

"Samdech [Hun Sen] had made the speech about one woman, not towards women in the whole country and the world," he said. "Mu Sochua said that it affected women in general, but it is not a fact."

Sem Sakola said she would deliver a verdict August 4.

SRP scuffle
Before Mu Sochua's arrival, politicians, supporters, journalists and observers gathered outside the Municipal Court building, some of them holding candles as a part of an SRP-led demonstration of solidarity with the lawmaker.

After some of the candle-holding supporters moved into the building, police tried to confiscate the candles, saying they had been instructed to do so by their superiors.

Some members of the group resisted, including SRP lawmaker Chea Poch, who said, "You are police, you should not be doing this."

The exchange led to a brief shoving match in the hallway of the courthouse, though no injuries were sustained.

Final HIV families withdraw

Horm Oun stands in front of a new home in Tuol Sambo before the Borei Keila residents were moved to the community.

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 27 July 2009
May Titthara And Christopher Shay

Many Borei Keila residents welcome the change, but evictees already in Tuol Sambo fret over shelters' vulnerability to thieves.

AUTHORITIES on Friday sent the remaining 24 families of Borei Keila's HIV community to Tuol Sambo, a village of sheet-metal houses more than 20 kilometres away.

Many of the families told the Post that they were relieved to leave Borei Keila despite their concerns about Tuol Sambo, where some landlords have refused to rent houses to them.

"I know it is really small and hot, but I can accept that because I did not pay for it. City Hall gave it to me," resident Pheak Kdey Neary said.

"For the first time, I will face a hot environment and have no clean water to use, but it's better than renting a house [in Borei Keila]."

Meanwhile, residents already living in Tuol Sambo say they are increasingly worried about their safety after thieves cut through the zinc walls of one resident's house with a knife.

"I do not feel safe here, because our houses are not strong, and we are newcomers," said resident Chheang Toma.

City Hall says it is aware of the problems at Tuol Sambo and that officials are working to improve the conditions, which Amnesty International called "grossly inadequate" in a press release this month.

"We are trying to find clean water for them," Phnom Penh's Deputy Governor Mann Chhoeun said. "They will also no longer face problems getting medicine, because we have given one house to [Centre of] Hope, which has improved the health of the village."

But Gerlinda Lucas, the deputy director of grant management at the Centre of Hope, said the centre had no plans to open a permanent clinic at Tuol Sambo, though it will continue its weekly mobile clinic service.

Concerns of cheating recur on eve of exams

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 27 July 2009
Khouth Sophak Chakrya and Tha Piseth

High school examinations to begin today as NGOs, parents decry cheating and corruption.

NEARLY 89,000 students are expected to begin their high school examinations today amid concerns from NGOs and parents that corruption on the part of monitors could once again mar the results.

Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association (CITA), told the Post on Sunday that he believed the exams would be flawed from the start, as the selection process for monitors and exam administrators had been in violation of rules outlined by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport.

For example, he said, though the regulations from the ministry prohibit deputy directors of high schools from running examination sites, some have been selected to do so.

He added: "Some of the teachers paid between US$10 and $15 to the examination committee to be an invigilator and a grader."

Un Sophanny, a teacher at Nhim Vanda Pearaing High School in Prey Veng province, said some high school teachers would likely sell answers to parents and students.

"They take money from students because they need it to pay for travelling and eating," said Chuonn Namheng, another Prey Veng teacher.

Teaching ethics
Un Sophanny said he believes it is immoral for teachers to accept bribes even though their salaries are low.

"Proctors should not take money from students, because it affects the reputation of other teachers who do respect the code of ethics of teachers," he said.

Sisowath High School student Meas Thearith, who will sit for his exams this year, said cheating and bribes had become routine at exam time.

"I heard about students who took the exam last year who looked at the books while they were taking the exam, because they gave money to teachers in class," he said.

Ministry officials could not be reached for comment on Sunday.

US funds for Mekong

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 27 July 2009
Sam Rith

THE United States announced that it would give $161 million in aid this year to lower Mekong countries, including Cambodia. The announcement came during the first-ever meeting between US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and four ASEAN foreign ministers on Thursday during the ASEAN Regional Forum in Phuket.

The money, to be split among Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam, will go towards the countries' environment, health and education sectors.

The US Embassy in Phnom Penh released a State Department statement Friday saying that the greatest part of the money - more than $138 million - will go to the health sector, in particular projects related to HIV/AIDS, pandemic flu, malaria and tuberculosis. More than $7 million will go towards environment projects, while $16 million will go towards education projects.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong said Sunday that Foreign Minister Hor Namhong had arrived back in Cambodia on Friday following the Phuket meeting. He could not provide further details on the meeting with Clinton.

Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association, said he approved of Washington's decision to give money for education, though he said new government policies rather than foreign aid were needed to improve education equality in Cambodia.

Combating highland soil erosion

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
A farmer sprays chemical fertiliser on his crops in Kandal province.

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 27 July 2009
Khouth Sophak Chakrya

Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries pushes new method to improve soil quality in erosion-afflicted areas, though high costs could prevent large-scale adoption of the practice.


THE Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries recommended last week that farmers in highland areas cultivate their crops using a new method that agricultural experts said would cut down on soil erosion and, consequently, increase crop yields. High costs, though, could prevent the technique from being adopted on a large scale in the near future.

The technique, called Direct Sowing in Mulch-based Cropping Systems (DMC), was presented by ministry officials and agriculture experts to farmers in Kampong Cham province on Wednesday.

Farmers in highland areas often struggle to afford the chemical fertilisers needed when, after years of cultivation, rainfall gradually washes the nutrient-rich topsoil of their highland farms down to lowland areas.

With the use of DMC technology, however, "farmers in highland areas can stop worrying" about soil erosion, Stephane Boulakia, a technical assistant for Project d'Appui au Developpement de l'Agriculture du Cambodge (PADAC), told a group of more than 40 cassava, soybean, corn and rice farmers in Kampong Cham's Chamkar Leu district.

Under the DMC method, farmers plant sweet grass with a sowing plantation machine that injects seeds into the ground.

After three months or so, when the grass reaches a metre in height, farmers roll it and spray it with a chemical called glyphosate, which kills the grass and begins the composting process but does not affect crops, explained Sam Sona, PADAC's chief of service for component extension in Kampong Cham.

"When the grasses die, they become compost and provide nitrogen and biomass to the soil," thereby eliminating the need to plow it at the end of the harvest, he said, adding that PADAC had imported 10 sowing plantation machines from Brazil to help farmers cultivate crops using the DMC method.

This is new technology for us, so we didn't want to take a chance and throw our traditional methods away.

Kou Phally, deputy head of planting and crop protection at the ministry, told the Post Wednesday that DMC technology would improve soil quality in highland areas that face erosion during the rainy season, and could help the soil stay healthy during the dry season.

"The sweet grasses cover the soil to keep in moisture, and also prevent erosion when rain falls," he said, adding that the compost from the sweet grasses nourishes the soil and speeds up growth.

Adopting the technique
Eang Sokhoun, 25, a villager in Lvea village, Lvea Leu commune, said Wednesday that her family had been cautious in adopting the new method.

Though they have about 7 hectares of farmland, they've farmed only 1 hectare of soybeans thus far using DMC.

"This is new technology for us, so we didn't want to take a chance and throw our traditional methods away," she said.

PADAC staff predicted an increase in yield from 1.5 to 2.5 tonnes of soybeans per hectare on her farm, though Eang Sokhoun said she was sceptical of that estimate.

She added: "With the new technology, our expenses were more than $200 for the chemical spray, fertiliser, seeds, labour, and the use of machinery.

"With the traditional method, we paid only for seeds and labour, and spent just $120."

Currently, farmers who choose the DMC method must pay PADAC for labour, seeds, fertiliser and the use of its machinery. A farmer looking to buy a small sowing plantation machine would need to pay around $2,500. Large machines cost around $10,000.