Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Is Duch’s trial set on the wrong track?

Phnom Penh (Cambodia). 28/05/2002: Vann Nath, Tuol Sleng survivor, and Suos Thy, formerly in charge of prisoner records, face-to-face during the shooting of documentary movie “S-21, the Khmer Rouge Killing Machine” of Rithy Panh
©John Vink/ Magnum


By Stéphanie Gée

The hearing on July 28th was one of those days when you came to forget who the accused is, as interrogations strayed so far from the matter being debated. It also illustrated how the debates got bogged down, as more time was devoted to (re)confirm facts already recognised by Duch than to tackle the hundred of factual elements established by the prosecution but denied by the accused – what should be at the heart of this trial. The result: too often, an all-clear for the defence while the documentation work on S-21 and its director Duch was left aside.

A difficult start
The hearing of Suos Thy, who kept the prisoner records at S-21, resumed. The president started by asking that a document be shown. Nothing came. Finally, a chart appeared on the screen. Unfortunately, it was not a document that the witness used to make or use for his work. The president dived noisily into his papers, from which he extracted the reference number of a second document… which still was not recognised by Suos Thy. The third attempt was the right one, but nothing was learnt from it.

Looking at a “list of prisoners whose interrogation was reported,” the witness specified he had not established it, as the decision pertained “to the prerogatives of the interrogation unit only.” The document succeeded on the screen, without bringing anything. “In total, and from what you know, how many prisoners were executed at Choeung Ek?” “I do not know the exact number of executions […]. I was the only person to prepare the lists, so I was unable to make a summary list every month,” said the witness, for whom it would have been impossible to remember better than the records he left behind, thirty years ago. What was Suos Thy able to observe from the prisoners’ detention conditions at S-21, the president wondered, asking in his turn the most popular question in this trial. The witness was able to note they were “skeletal.” And so on.

Repeat of the previous day
Judge Cartwright returned to the description of the S-21 routine followed by Suos Thy, as he described it the previous day, in details. She then interrogated him on the fate reserved to children. The witness repeated that he could not know where they were killed, because no list was established for children. Yes, he confirmed what he told the co-Investigating Judges, that some prisoners died of hunger and others succumbed to torture. “The lists that were found at S-21 are not exhaustive because you did not include absolutely all the names of these prisoners in those lists. Is that correct?”, the New Zealand judge asked him. “Yes, indeed. The lists at S-21 do not include everyone and the total number is therefore not known precisely. The general total may not be known, but I was sent the names of the prisoners detained at the special prison by Hor [Duch’s deputy] so that I incorporate them to the list,” he answered, appearing slightly offended he may be blamed for any inaccuracy in his past bookkeeping.

“Contact had to go through Hor”
“All S-21 documents were kept at Meng’s office, where I used to work,” the witness specified in answer to a question of judge Lavergne. He also reported he had not “seen Him Huy come to the prison” late 1978, adding that back then, “there were less prisoners arriving.” The squad ranking cadre had claimed in court on July 20th that, from mid-1978, he and others had left S-21, reassigned to work in the rice fields. Duch had discredited that detail of his story.

“What relationship did you have with the accused?” Finally, a question that led back to the heart of the trial. “Regarding the accused, we used to follow the hierarchical line. I was not contacted directly. Contact had to go through Hor because we were in different units. Instructions were communicated to Hor, who would then relay them to us.” “Did you have the opportunity to see the accused inside the buildings in the S-21 compound?” “Sometimes, I would see him go to the compound. Sometimes, he would go to the workshop where the painters worked and he would go and meet Hor. I did not know he would go inside the rooms in that building. It was not my work to keep an eye on his goings and comings.” When the Vietnamese troops arrived early 1979, Suos Thy said he did not receive any instruction to destroy certain archives.

“Everything had to go through Duch”
To the Cambodian co-Prosecutor, the witness confirmed that “in principle, for prisoners to be taken or brought, Duch, as S-21 director, had to give his authorisation. Everything had to go through him. And everything depended on his authorisation.” The co-Prosecutor later showed him the biography of Professor Phung Thon, whose widow and daughter attend the hearings daily as civil parties, and whose case has been regularly raised in the debates. Suos Thy admitted he had established that document. “Do you know what happened to that prisoner?” “Regarding the prisoners, I was not in a position to know what happened to each of them, if they died of illness or if they were taken and executed.”

Flop of the prosecution
His international colleague, Anees Ahmed, took over and sought to find out if the prisoners’ corpses were photographed. He then asked the screen to show a series of pictures of dead prisoners. The witness did not know, so the co-Prosecutor addressed the accused directly for him to confirm whether the pictures were actually taken at S-21. Duch could authenticate only those featuring bodies of cadres, he explained, which were often taken three days after the bodies had been buried and then exhumed for the photo session. He said he did not recognise anyone on the pictures on the screen. The demonstration could have been interesting if the accused had not already recognised this occasional practice. But he never denied this fact… Anees Ahmed is already the fourth international co-Prosecutor to represent the prosecution in this trial.

Kambol (Phnom Penh, Cambodia). 28/07/2009: Photos of S-21 detainees shown on the ECCC screens in Duch’s trial
©Stéphanie Gée

“You told the investigators mandated by the co-Investigating Judges that the detainees in S-21 came from all over the country. You further said this morning they came from different places, different sectors, different divisions. Can you confirm it once again for the Chamber?” Yes, Suos Thy confirmed. And repetitive questions ensued. Last attempt: “When did Vietnamese war prisoners arrive [at S-21] and how many of them?” “As I have already said, Vietnamese war prisoners arrived irregularly. […] I am not sure of their number. All I did was to make sure I had done my work by the end of the day.” “Can you tell us if there were already some in 1976, in 1977, in 1978…?” “In 1976 or 1977, there was no Vietnamese war prisoners. They arrived only when the conflict broke out.” That was a slap for the prosecution, who must prove there was from the start an armed conflict between Cambodia and Vietnam for Duch to be also prosecuted for war crimes. However, it would not be surprising if the witness had, like those who preceded him at the stand, followed the previous hearings in the trial.

Suos Thy lies
The first interrogation by a co-lawyer for civil party group 4 was pointless, while other lawyers on the same bench demanded more speaking time. The co-lawyer for group 3 fared hardly better. Then, it was the turn of the co-lawyer for group 2, who was reminded by the president it “[was] 1.50pm” and she had 15 minutes. Since Silke Studzinsky observed, on July 22nd, that her speaking time had been cut short of three minutes, judge Nil Nonn played this little – inappropriate – game with her. The lawyer asked the witness what was the longest detention period for a prisoner he was able to observe at S-21. Suos Thy answered “two months.” A brazen lie.

“Hor was very scared of Duch”
Ty Srinna, for group 1, chose to interrogate him on the S-21 staff members originating from division 703, which were gradually eliminated and replaced by newcomers. “Did you know who ordered the arrest of the chief of division 703?” “The person with the power to do so must have been at least the same level as Duch. No one else had that power.” “What did you know of the relationships between Duch and Hor?” “I am not sure. But I know that Hor was very scared of Duch.” During an interview he gave to the Documentation Centre of Cambodia (DC-Cam) on October 20th 2004, the witness said that “Nath [S-21 director before Duch] was scared of Duch” even though he was himself the director of the division. Suos Thy simply repeated what he had said about Hor and added that, generally, “subordinates were very scared of their superiors.”

What about “S-21 C”?
The defence’s turn. Kar Savuth had the witness confirm there was not a chance that a S-21 detainee be sent to Prey Sar (S-24), in order to invalidate the testimony of a civil party (Nam Mon), who came to testify before the Chamber on July 9th and 13th. The lawyer returned to the various codenames for the different S-21 units listed by the witness on the previous day. He asked him if “S-21 C” had existed, as he had only talked about “S-21 A,” “S-21 B” and “S-21 D.” Suos Thy did not know and the question was therefore asked to the accused. Duch first explained that the superior echelon only referred to “S-21” and that he had not heard of the other names at the time. His research led him to understand recently that the staff used letters after S-21 to designate its different branches. He concluded that “S-21 C” corresponded to the plantations of vegetables and stockbreeding, inherited from division 703, located in Takmau.

“At S-21, fear was my faithful companion”
“You said you never received any direct orders from Duch. Is that correct?” “That is correct.” “Did you ever meet Duch in person?” “I think it was an occasion that presented itself rarely.” When the lawyer asked him whether the Central Committee supervised S-21, the witness answered: “On this point, we are at a level far too high in relation to the function I used to have.” “Did you like your work?” “I hated my work. But could anyone object? No. So, I had to do what I was asked to do.” “During those 3 years, 8 months and 20 days, can you tell us about the fear you felt?” “During the time I worked at S-21, fear was my faithful companion because people were arrested and killed.” “Today, do you regret participating to the elimination of innocent lives?” “Today, I feel a lot of remorse and I feel pity for those people who were arrested and killed,” Suos Thy answered.

A truthful and informative testimony, according to the accused
Duch was already standing, ready to make his observations that conclude the witness’ testimony. The accused said he recognised that Suos Thy was indeed a S-21 staff member. “I do not need any document to know it, I know it because I know him.” He added the testimony “reflected appropriately the foundations of truth.” He mentioned “several incidents” he was not aware of during the functioning of S-21 but which will be “useful to the Chamber and the Cambodian people to understand better what happened at S-21.” The accused saluted Suos Thy’s honesty, without failing to recall that he was not in direct contact with him since he was the main person in charge of S-21 “and therefore the one most responsible for the crimes” that were committed there. Duch bowed to the judges before taking his seat back.

Kambol (Phnom Penh, Cambodia). 28/07/2009: Suos Thy during Duch’s trial
©Stéphanie Gée

In many ways, Suos Thy brought grist to Duch’s mill, by evoking a S-21 director who was hardly visible within the prison, and a deputy, Hor, who dealt with the daily affairs in the security centre. Since April 27th, the accused had confided in court that he was too busy by the reading of confessions and had let Hor in charge of military affairs, which encompassed arrests, interrogations and the smashing of detainees. The task of supervising was Hor’s, he said on June 16th, adding on June 25th he had delegated “large powers” to his deputies.

A briefest of statements but an unclear one
A clerk then read, on a speedy pace, the statement made to the investigators of the office of the co-Investigating Judges by a witness – a 54-year-old man named My Peng Kry – on November 29th 2007. The former Khmer Rouge combatant, who joined the struggle since 1973, became three years later a driver at S-21, assigned to this post by the chief of staff. He was then assigned to Prey Sar until the fall of Phnom Penh in 1979. One wondered what his testimony brought. Kar Savuth then requested that the witness’ declarations at the reconstruction at Tuol Sleng on February 26th 2008 be read and the accused be allowed to comment afterwards. The reading of the document was soon interrupted. There was a problem. The president: “The Chamber informs […] that the document […] concerns other witness who are still due to appear. Yet, their identity cannot be disclosed until then.” The Chamber also planned for the reading of testimonies of three witnesses already heard during the investigation, which was also postponed to a later date.

The hearing will resume on Monday August 3rd.

(translated from French by Ji-Sook Lee)

The U.N. in Cambodia

The New York Times


Published: July 28, 2009
To the Editor:

Re “Too Late for Revenge,” by Marshall Kim (Op-Ed, July 16), about Khmer Rouge trials and the role of the United Nations in Cambodia:

The trials are occurring 30 years after the end of the Pol Pot regime because United Nations member states continued for more than a decade to recognize the Khmer Rouge as Cambodia’s government and allowed them to occupy the country’s United Nations seat. The victims of the genocide were held hostage by cold-war politics, for which the world should feel enduring shame.

The trials do not constitute the entire mandate of the United Nations system in Cambodia. My own organization, Unicef, returned to Cambodia in 1979, just after the fall of Pol Pot’s regime. It devotes some $20 million a year to reduce maternal and child mortality, assure basic education and protect vulnerable children from the exploitation and abuse that are manifestations of continuing poverty.

Richard Bridle
Representative, Unicef
Phnom Penh, Cambodia, July 21, 2009

Cambodian businessman plans airport for slated tourism island

Wed, 29 Jul 2009
Author : DPA

Phnom Penh - A Cambodian developer plans to build a new airport on the country's largest island, which was leased to his company by the government in 2008, local media reported Wednesday. Kith Meng, chairman of Royal Group, told the Phnom Penh Post newspaper that bulldozers had been sent to the 7,800-hectare island to clear forest for a runway, but he declined to provide more details on the development.

He said the company also plans to construct electricity and water facilities for the island, which has been earmarked as a potential tourist destination.

Kith Meng said he recently travelled to the island with a dozen other potential investors, including casino owner Phu Kok An, who is also a senator for the ruling Cambodian People's Party.

Dried-fish entrepreneur scales back amid slump

Workers fillet fish at Chanthou Dried Fish Enterprises, preparing them for the next stage of production: the drying process.

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 29 July 2009
Soeun Say

WHEN he was studying as an undergraduate at business school, Sen Nith wanted nothing more than to be an entrepreneur.

"I dreamed of becoming a manufacturer, producing something made in Cambodia," he says. "And now my dreams have come true - my business is a success."

But it took a lot of hard work to build up Chanthou Dried Fish Enterprises, a business that buys wet fish, sun-dries and smokes them, then packages and sells them.

Like most businessmen, Sen Nith started small. He was careful to research the market meticulously, spending two years working at his in-laws' dried-fish business and another doing his own research.

He then invested US$30,000 of his own money in 1996, setting up in Phnom Penh's Stung Meanchey district with three employees.

One employee would buy the fish from fishermen on the Tonle Sap river, two would work the production line, and Sen Nith would do marketing and sales.

He now has 10 staff and pays them $45 to 65 a month plus accommodation, food and health care.

Sen Nith admits he knew very little about running a business when he started. He knows a lot more now, including just how hard and time-consuming the drying process is.

"The difficulty comes in ensuring the finished product is good quality, has a good taste, and has a long shelf life," he explains. "We still lack the technical knowledge about drying fish so that it keeps for more than a few months. So we must do more research."

He worries that demand for dried fish will not increase without the ability to keep the product safe for more than the current limit of one year when refrigerated. And he is concerned that many Cambodian people tend to prefer the imported versions to his Khmer product.

Despite those difficulties he has clients across the country - from Phnom Penh to Ratanakkiri, Kampong Cham to Kampong Chhnang. He says wealthier people enjoy dried fish as a health snack, as do Cambodian-Americans visiting the Kingdom, and other Khmers from countries such as Canada, France and Australia.

"My products are sold in shops, restaurants and local markets, with most of my clients belonging to the upper and middle classes," he says. "The lower classes tend not to buy because it is too expensive."

So how does it work? Sen Nith says his factory can process up to 600 kilograms of raw fish daily. That generates around 250 kilograms of dried fish, which sells for around 30,000 riels ($7.50) a kilogram.

His suppliers are fish farmers around the country, including from as far afield as Siem Reap.

But his customers were hit hard by the global economic crisis, which has caused business to halve since late 2008.

"In 2007 and 2008 my business was running well," he says. "I was earning at least $2,000 a month net profit. These days I earn around $800 to $1,000."

He has considered exporting, but says the time is not yet right.

"I'm unable to export dried fish at this stage because I want to improve my sales to customers here," he says. "But I would like to start exporting in say five years' time."

In the meantime his strategy for dealing with the competition is to work hard on improving the product's taste, its quality and his firm's customer service.

Sen Nith echoes the call of other SMEs by calling on the government to cut interest rates and the cost of electricity. Cutting the former would allow him to afford a loan to fund expansion when the economy picks up.

"Interest rates locally are very high. They need to come down so that SMEs have the chance to grow their businesses," says Sen Nith.

"Lower taxes and interest rates will provide SMEs with the chance to produce more and to take our products to the international market."

Relocated evictees decry site

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 29 July 2009
Christopher Shay and May Thittara

Intl AIDS groups express concern.

RESIDENTS of the Tuol Sambo relocation site, who currently live in rooms smaller than those required for emergency refugee camps, complain of stifling heat, a lack of drinking water and walls so thin that gangsters have been able to cut through them with knives.

Each 3.5-metre-by-4.5-metre room houses an entire family, and every family has at least one member with HIV/AIDS.

More than five weeks after the first eviction, over 100 international rights and HIV/AIDS organisations joined with nearly 40 health experts on Monday to condemn the government's decision to evict more than 50 families from Borei Keila's HIV community in a process that ended Friday.

In the biggest expression of international concern over the eviction, the coalition of rights groups and AIDS campaigners described the site as a "de facto AIDS colony" in a letter sent to Prime Minister Hun Sen and Health Minister Mam Bunheng.

The letter calls for the government to improve conditions at the site as well as conduct a fair screening process to determine whether recently evicted families are eligible for on-site housing at Borei Keila.

Many residents said Tuesday they had lost hope of finding a regular source of income since being evicted from Borei Keila, located near Olympic Market in central Phnom Penh.

"I used to go to the market and sell fish. Now I can only stay home," said Lay An, a 68-year-old Tuol Sambo resident. "I need to pay 20,000 riels (US$4.77) to go to Phnom Penh and back, so I can't make a profit."

The relocation site currently has no source of clean water, say residents, who add they have started collecting rainwater to drink.

Resident Suon Davy, 42, said water jugs costing 1,200 riels were prohibitively expensive.

Kong Pisey, 52, said she could make 7,000 to 8,000 riels per day collecting garbage in Phnom Penh. In Tuol Sambo, however, she said she "can do nothing" except scavenge for small fish and crustaceans in nearby rice paddies.

The letter to the premier and health minister said international organisations and health experts were "deeply disturbed" by the conditions at Tuol Sambo, which, according to the letter, "pose serious health risks, particularly to people with compromised immune systems".

Suon Davy, who is HIV-positive, said living in poorly ventilated shelters without enough food had made her family more prone to illness. Her son just returned from the hospital this week, she said, adding that she constantly worries about her own health.

"The medicine cannot treat me," she said, "because when it gets hot, the pills break."

Sara Colm, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, said "many people simply don't know about" the plight of Borei Keila residents.

"What seemed to be missing was an international expression of concern," she said in explaining the impetus for the letter, adding that she hoped it would push the government towards taking greater responsibility for evicted communities.

"There is no sense the government is taking control," Colm said.

Suon Davy said the authorities had visited Tuol Sambo only once, on the day the first residents were forcibly evicted to the site.

Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Mann Chhoeun defended the government's actions with respect to the community and said NGOs were partly to blame for conditions at the site.

"We have worked hard already to do everything for them, but some NGOs just panic," he said. "We invited some NGOs to have a meeting and asked them to pay $20 to $30 a month to help the HIV/AIDS residents. But they said they could not help because we have no plan. NGOs are good at criticising."

Mann Chhoeun vowed to give the community clean water and provide a health-care centre for the community.

Mam Bunheng declined to comment directly about the letter, saying in an interview, "We are good at managing to help people, and we have done this according to our ability."

City tight-lipped on Koh Kor

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 29 July 2009
Chhay Channyda and Katrin Redfern

ONE year after authorities closed a government-run rehabilitation centre following reports of widespread inmate abuse, municipal officials on Tuesday refused to rule out re-opening the facility, with one noting that it was undergoing "renovations".

Koh Kor rehabilitation centre, located on an island in the Bassac River, was emptied in June 2008 after reports that dozens of men, women and children held at the centre were being beaten or starved drew the attention of the UN and local NGOs.

At least two people detained at the centre died, including one boy who had attempted to swim to shore.

Before its closure, the centre housed beggars, the homeless and the mentally ill, groups of people that have also been included in a recent set of city sweeps that the rights group Licadho condemned on Sunday.

Sorn Sophal, director of the Phnom Penh Social Affairs Department, said Tuesday that he did not know the details of any plans to reopen the center because the building was currently "under renovation".

He said some of those who had been collected from the streets this year had been taken to Prey Speu rehabilitation centre in Choam Chao

In an interview with the Post Tuesday, Chea Saroeun, Koh Kor's director, said the "renovations" mentioned by Sorn Sophal involved only a repainting of the building, adding that there was no set date for a reopening.

"[I do] not know when the centre will reopen again because there are a lot of reactions," he said.

He said that the centre had temporarily reopened two months ago to house 80 beggars and homeless people, but had closed after they requested to be housed in a different centre.

"We reopened for a short period to take in 80 people ... but they did not like living there, so we closed it," he said, adding that the people had gone back to their hometowns or had been passed on to "partner organisations".

Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema on Tuesday met with municipal authorities to further address the issue of "vagrants" in the city.

The governor declined to comment on whether Koh Kor would house people caught up in future sweeps.

Sorn Sophal said the municipality was still "in discussion about how to manage those people" and would not comment further.

'Deeply concerned': groups
Rights groups warned Tuesday that the reopening of Koh Kor would constitute a huge blow to human rights.

"We would be deeply concerned if the social affairs centre at Koh Kor is reopened," said Naly Pilorge, director of the rights group Licadho, which conducted the investigation that led to the centre's closure.

"The only logical reason to put a so-called 'rehabilitation' centre on an island is if it is in fact a detention center and the authorities wish to make it harder for people to escape from it," she added.

Joe Amon, director of the health and human rights division of Human Rights Watch, said the government should "investigate past abuses of torture, ill-treatment, rape and killings that occurred in social affairs centres and hold accountable those responsible".

Duch responds to ex-staffer

Photo by: AFP
Sous Thy, who registered inmates at Tuol Sleng prison, testifies at the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Monday.

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 29 July 2009
Cheang Sokha

After witness testimony, former S-21 chief says he is 'top criminal' solely responsible for atrocities committed at Tuol Sleng prison.

IN RESPONSE to witness testimony, former Tuol Sleng prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, declared himself to be the "top criminal" responsible for atrocities committed at the secret detention facility.

"I am the top criminal responsible for all crimes committed at S-21, responsible for the lives lost at S-21," Duch said, adding that he was "committing myself firmly to be responsible solely before the law".

His statement came after the court heard further testimony from Sous Thy, 58, who said on Monday that he had been tasked with registering detainees as they arrived at the prison.

Sous Thy told the court on Tuesday that he felt regret for the people who were killed at the prison.

He also said that S-21 staff "disliked" working at the prison but obeyed orders out of fear.

"S-21 staff disliked their regime at the time, and that is the truth," Sous Thy said.

"What I did at S-21, it was under instructions from the upper echelons.... I needed to perform, and if I did not do it, I would be punished. I am really regretful and pitiful of those people who were arrested and killed."

Duch, who was called on to make observations on the witness's testimony, said Sous Thy's comments "reflected the truth", and that he admired the witness for bringing honesty to the chamber.

"I really appreciated his spirit of honesty to the chamber by speaking out the truth," he said.

Prisoners 'malnourished'
Speaking on the second day of his testimony, Sous Thy told the tribunal that the detainees at Tuol Sleng prison were starving and living in misery.

"When I would go to verify the list of prisoners inside the prison cell, I did not pay great attention to their condition, although I knew that they suffered a great deal because most of them were very thin and the majority of them were so skinny and malnourished," Sous Thy said.

"I may say there was not significant ventilation or air circulation inside the room," he added.

But Sous Thy said he had tried to focus primarily on his job, and that the bulk of his observations stemmed from the brief periods in which prisoners were herded from their cells into trucks for execution.

"I could only see that they were very weak," he said.

SRP ponders next step in PM suit

Photo by: AFP
Mu Sochua (foreground) and Sam Rainsy before Mu Sochua’s Municipal Court trial on Friday.

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 29 July 2009
Meas Sokchea and Sebastian Strangio

With the verdict in SRP lawmaker Mu Sochua's defamation case expected next week, the party appears divided over whether to engage the government in another round of legal tangles.

AS PHNOM Penh Municipal Court prepares to deliver the verdict in Prime Minister Hun Sen's defamation case against Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) lawmaker Mu Sochua, the opposition faces the dilemma of whether to keep up the fight in the event of a guilty verdict or concede defeat by paying any fines levied by the court.

While some SRP officials seem to regard the verdict, expected August 4, as a natural endpoint to Mu Sochua's legal tangle with Hun Sen, some observers say the party should maintain its opposition regardless of the outcome.

Human Rights Party (HRP) President Kem Sokha said Monday that opposition parties should continue to take strong stands even as they are pressured more and more during government crackdowns.

"We should not let ourselves get soft-hearted," he said.

"What we must do is stand on principle against corruption and human rights violations. For the rights violations against Mu Sochua, we should not cease. We must go on."

SRP spokesman Yim Sovann told the Post last Thursday that the party would settle the case by paying any fines levied against Mu Sochua, adding that, as the saying goes, prudence might be the better part of valour.

Mu Sochua had previously said she would rather go to jail than pay a fine, saying her incarceration would draw attention to oppression directed at many Cambodians.

"Mu Sochua's stance is different from the party," Yim Sovann said. "The SRP sees that the court is not independent or fair. Even if we continue our case to the top, it will lose."

In a recent interview in the online Asia Media Forum, SRP lawmaker Son Chhay said the party had no alternative but to "quiet down for a while" as the government crackdown continues.

Mu Sochua said Tuesday her stance on the issue remained the same, though she declined to elaborate.

"My stance has not changed," she said, adding, "The pursuit of justice is based on principles. Those principles cannot be negotiated."

She declined to comment on the payment of fines in advance of the verdict.

Political theatre
The SRP's candlelight vigil outside the Municipal Court before Mu Sochua's hearing Friday, an event attended by press and international observers, could be seen as an example of how Hun Sen's lawsuit might ultimately benefit the opposition. But it is unclear exactly how far the issue can be pushed before it will become a political - or personal - liability.

Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, said the party's stance should reflect what it is hoping to gain from the affair.

"If your intention is to fight the system and push for change as an advocate, you have to continue, you have to stick to a principle and not waver," he said.

"Unfortunately, there are some hardships associated with being courageous.... It will incur some painful sacrifices."

The SRP's apparent decision to wind down its fight echoes its reaction to a similar crackdown in 2005, when Sam Rainsy and lawmakers Cheam Channy and Chea Poch all faced lawsuits filed by government officials.

Cheam Channy, who was sentenced to seven years in jail on charges of attempting to form a private army, said Monday that the experience of his own case made him realise that fighting court battles was not worth the effort.

"I understand clearly that the Cambodian courts are under political pressure," he said.

He added that the current priority of the party was to help those in need rather than waging an unwinnable fight against senior officials.

Cheam Channy was released from prison in 2006 after securing a pardon from King Norodom Sihamoni.

Though many of Mu Sochua's supporters have argued that the court would likely deliver a guilty verdict because of political pressure, Hun Sen's lawyer Ky Tech dismissed the opposition's concerns about judicial independence, saying the court was operating in a transparent manner.

"Whether my case loses or wins, it will be just, since the court has conducted the case properly," he said.

Cambodian Defenders Project Executive Director Sok Sam Oeun, who noted that Mu Sochua did not speak very much during Friday's hearing,
said the SRP decision on whether to continue its legal struggle should ultimately depend on the evidence it possesses.

"[Municipal Court] was the place for her to fight the strongest, but she did not speak very much," he said.

Envoy to UK lashes out at FT coverage

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 29 July 2009
Sam Rith and Sebastian Strangio

CAMBODIA'S ambassador to the United Kingdom has again taken up his pen to fend off foreign criticism, writing to the editor of the Financial Times to protest its recent coverage of defamation lawsuits against government opponents.

"Your correspondent seems unable to distinguish between government's policies and voluntary activity conducted by some people affected by the syndrome of 'martyrdom'," Ambassador Hor Nambora wrote to Editor Lionel Barber Monday, defending the government's string of defamation suits.

The article, by FT reporter Tim Johnston, echoed previous allegations that the courts are being used to "muzzle" government critics, citing the cases of publisher Hang Chakra, lawmaker Mu Sochua and civil society figure Moeung Sonn.

Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, described the remarks as "childish", and cited earlier statements by Hor Nambora calling for donors to withdraw funding from NGO Global Witness, which has criticised government corruption.

"That's to be expected. He doesn't understand the role of government and the role of NGOs," he said.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said Hor Nambora spoke on behalf of the government, adding that freedom of expression is clearly defined in Cambodian law.

Tending their border garden

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
A member of Royal Cambodian Armed Forces Battalion 404 stands in the soldiers’ corn field at their base near the Thai border in Ta Thav village, Choam Ksan district, Preah Vihear province.

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 29 July 2009
Thet Sambath and Tracey Shelton

An RCAF battalion stationed along the front lines near Preah Vihear temple has taken to growing food to supplement what soldiers say are meagre rations.

Preah Vihear Province

OVER the past year, soldiers in one Royal Cambodian Armed Forces battalion stationed along the Thai-Cambodian border in Preah Vihear province have learned how to supplement what they describe as meagre rations provided by the government - by growing their own food.

Though they say the tension with Thailand is never far from their minds, troops belonging to RCAF Battalion 404 find time each day to tend livestock and cultivate vegetables on their base, located about 2 kilometers away from the disputed Preah Vihear temple complex.

They have raised two pigs, 49 cows, and more than 1,000 chickens at their base in Ta Thav, in Preah Vihear's Choam Ksan district. In addition, they have also grown a variety of different vegetables, including cucumbers, pumpkins, potatoes, cabbage and corn.

"We have rations from the government, but it's not enough," said Ten Navun, a first lieutenant in the battalion. "That's why we decided to make our base self-sufficient."

There are slightly fewer than 1,000 soldiers in Battalion 404, currently stationed about 100 metres from the border with Thailand. All members of the battalion are former Khmer Rouge soldiers, Ten Navun said.

Colonel Sem Yo, the commander of the battalion, said the soldiers' time with the Khmer Rouge, during which they were often isolated in the forest and forced to fend for themselves, had prepared them well for their current conditions.

"You know we are former Khmer Rouge soldiers, so we have been taught how to farm, how to plant vegetables, how to grow rice. This is what we have learned, and now we continue to practice it. We have our own crops, so we don't worry about running out of food," he said.

Though many of the soldiers have been stationed in the area for years, Ten Navun said they became particularly interested in establishing a farm there in just the past 12 months, as the conflict with Thailand over UNESCO's decision to accept Cambodia's application to list Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage site became increasingly hostile and, at times, violent.

He said the soldiers were worried that Thai soldiers would attempt to disrupt their supply lines and cut off their rations completely.

"We are planning to raise more chickens, cows, pigs and crops to have enough supplies for everyone here. This is our strategy to defend the border," he said.

He estimated that the battalion could survive for two to three months on its current food supply.

Building a permanent base
Sem Yo said he believed the base in Ta Thav could become the main RCAF base in the area, adding that he had ordered the troops to expand the camp by constructing houses and meeting halls.

Already, the camp is starting to look more settled. On a recent Monday morning, soldiers were at work planting vegetables and building houses.

Others played volleyball or card games to pass the time.

The sole woman with the all-male battalion, Than Ry, the 27-year-old wife of one of the soldiers, said she was doing her best to provide a civilising influence over the soldiers.

"They always make fun of me because I'm the only woman here, but I am happy to stay here and chat with them every day, even though there is tension at the border," said Than Ry, adding that she had been tasked with cooking for the soldiers and helping with the vegetable garden as well.

"I am not afraid of fighting by Thai and Cambodian soldiers," she said. "If there is a clash, I will hide in a trench with my husband."

One challenge that remains for the soldiers is to maintain a constant supply of fresh water. They have constructed a well near the base after receiving funding from RCAF Deputy Commander-in-Chief Hing Bun Heang, who is also the bodyguard commander for Prime Minister Hun Sen.

But because their camp is on a hilltop, the water has proved difficult to pump.

Currently, soldiers fetch water from wells at the bottom of the hill and transport it on trucks or motorbikes for 1 kilometer along the road into their camp.

Up until last month, before the road was finished, the soldiers were forced to walk up the hill while carrying their water and rice.

Officials in Phnom Penh praised the soldiers' resourcefulness, but they rejected the notion that the government was not providing them with enough food.

"The ministry has provided them with enough rations and food, but our soldiers have farmed and planted vegetables because they want to eat delicious food," said Chum Sambath, undersecretary of state for the Ministry of Defence.

"They have been trained to support themselves," he added, calling the battalion's practices part of a "military strategy".

Sok Vandeth, deputy commander of Border Police Battalion 795, who is also stationed at Ta Thav, said his battalion also tends a vegetable garden. He said it would be "impossible" to rely solely on government rations.

"We have nothing to do here but plant things for our food," he said.

Heavy downpours devastate rice harvests in Preah Vihear

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 29 July 2009
Khouth Sophak Chakrya

Official reports 520 hectares of rice seedlings lost in two-week period.

MORE than 500 hectares of rice seedlings in Preah Vihear province were devastated by flooding after two weeks of downpours in the region, local officials said Tuesday.

"Floods caused by rainfall starting two weeks ago destroyed about 70 percent of the rice seedlings on 520 hectares of land in Kulen district," said Yan Ran, chief of the Kulen district council.

He said daily rainstorms also damaged irrigation systems and destroyed more than 20 tonnes of rice seed in four of the district's six communes.

He said local authorities were planning relief for families that lost crops to the inclement weather.

"Currently, we are preparing about 20 tonnes of rice seed to provide to 350 families whose rice seedlings were destroyed by the floods," he said.

Kulen Choeung commune chief Chheng Chhoy said the heavy rainfall was just the latest misfortune to strike the region, which earlier this month experienced an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease that killed about 30 cows and buffaloes.

"During the 15 days of rainfall, about 3 hectares of my rice seedlings were destroyed by the flood," said Yun Non, 57, a villager in Kulen Choeung village who noted that two of his buffaloes had also died recently from foot-and-mouth disease.

Villager Suy Yau, 36, said his family and other villagers relied on rice cultivation to survive. He said they would dig up wild manioc tubers, as they did during shortages in 2005, to get them through the year.

King Krida, director of the provincial Department of Agriculture, said he had called on the relevant departments to provide rice seed and food to farmers in the flooded areas.

"We will provide the rice seedling so that they can plant again because it is not too late to plant rice paddies," he said.

But Chheng Chhoy said farmers will not have the chance to sow their rice paddies again because additional floods are expected in mid-August.

"This year some of the farmers in my commune will not have enough food because they won't be able to grow rice," he said.

Preah Vihear market construction begins

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 29 July 2009
Thet Sambath

CAMBODIAN soldiers in Preah Vihear province are taking the first steps towards rebuilding a market near Preah Vihear temple that was destroyed by Thai rocket fire in April.

Cut timber is currently being brought to Preah Vihear temple in pickup trucks, officials said.

Because the roads are poor, soldiers have needed to carry the timber partway to the site where the new market will soon be assembled.

"Everything is cut before it is sent to the construction site," said Hang Soth, general director of the Preah Vihear National Authority. "We will just raise the timber, connect them together and it's fixed."

Prime Minister Hun Sen earlier this month said the market should have been completed by July 19, though Hang Soth said at the time that that deadline was unrealistic.

Due to inclement weather, authorities did not want to predict when the market would be completed.

"I don't know when it will be finished because now it is the rainy season," said Sor Thavy, the deputy governor of Preah Vihear province.

Ros Heng, deputy governor of Preah Vihear's Choam Ksan district, said the market could bolster tourism when the border dispute with Thailand calms down.

"The market will serve all tourists," he said.

Hang Soth said the market would be constructed with wood, zinc and thatch, and that its style would be in keeping with that of Preah Vihear temple itself.

Angry Workers: Drawn-out fight over Naga layoffs

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 29 July 2009
Sam Rith

Angry Workers

Leaders of the Cambodian Tourism and Service Workers Federation sent a letter Monday to Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema to inform him about their plan to stage a press conference Friday in front of NagaWorld Hotel and Casino to press for the reinstatement of 14 employees who were fired in February.The union, part of the Cambodian Labour Confederation (CLC), represents 1,000 NagaWorld employees and has been threatening to strike for at least the past month. "We would like to inform you that it has been one month since leaders from the Cambodian Labour Confederation met with [Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Pa Socheatvong] to discuss the dispute, and so far we have not received any information or result," the letter reads, adding that union leaders had concluded that NagaWorld executives did not intend to reinstate the 14 employees. sam rith

Request to global AIDS fund for support pending: official

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Patients are treated at the National Centre for Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control.

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 29 July 2009
Sam Rith

Officials in charge of HIV/AIDS reduction say they are waiting to see whether a recently submitted proposal will be approved.

CAMBODIA has asked the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria for US$145 million to help reduce the prevalence of HIV/AIDS over a five-year period, according to a government official in charge of HIV/AIDS reduction.

Mean Chhivun, director of the National Centre for HIV/AIDS, Dermatology and STD (NCHADS), said Tuesday that the government on May 30 submitted its five-year proposal, which he said would be implemented between 2011 and 2015.

"Now we are waiting for an outcome," he said, adding that the government expected to hear a decision on the proposal by September.

Beatrice Bernescut, a communications officer for the Global Fund, said all eligible proposals would be evaluated by a panel in August, and that a funding decision would be made in November.

The most recent results report from the fund indicated that HIV prevalence among pregnant women had decreased from 2.9 percent in 2002 to 1.2 percent in 2006.

Mean Chhivun said those figures were incorrect, and that the percentage had fallen from 2.1 percent in 1999 to 1.1 percent in 2006.

He said roughly 60,000 Cambodians were currently living with the HIV/AIDS virus. As of June 2009, around 34,385 of them were receiving antiretroviral drugs.

He added that NCHADS would begin a nationwide HIV/AIDS prevalence survey at the end of this year.

Mean Chhivun said the government had received $45 million from the Global Fund to implement HIV/AIDS programmes from January 2009 to 2011. The Global Fund has previously provided funding for tuberculosis and malaria programmes as well.

Different funding channels
Health Minister Mam Bunheng said funding from NGOs like the Global Fund had in the past been crucial in supplementing government support for health-related initiatives.

"Besides that, Cambodia gets support from other countries through bilateral cooperation, such as with Japan, the US and others," he added.

Developers critical of revised housing prakas

According to revisions to the controversial housing prakas, developers who prove they have the necessary financing will not be required to deposit 2 percent of total costs in a government account.

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 29 July 2009
Nguon Sovan

Despite revisions to proposed law on housing development financing, developers say it will still hurt the struggling sector

PROPOSED amendments to a long-stalled prakas, or edict, on housing-development financing have drawn criticism from local developers who claim it will make it "impossible" for them to complete projects.

The proposed amendments, which Ministry of Finance Undersecretary of State Ngy Tayi said were agreed at a meeting with developers Monday, is to be sent to Finance Minister Keat Chhon for ratification.

A financial edict was meant to come into force September 30 but was stalled amid an outcry from developers, particularly those from South Korea.

Ngy Tayi told the Post following Monday's meeting that "most" developers present supported the amendments, which removed requirements on large, financially sound developers to comply with some of the more controversial aspects of the initial prakas.

These included a deposit of 2 percent of total project costs in a ministry account at the central bank and a housing development account at any commercial bank into which buyers would make down payments on units bought before construction was completed.

Under the terms of the prakas, developers would need approval from the Finance Ministry to access the accounts. At the time, Shinwoo Kim, Korean Legal Counsel at Sewha Cambodia Law Group, which represented several large Korean developers, told the Post that the requirement would make it impossible for foreign developers.

Ngy Tayi said the changes meant developers who had enough capital to complete projects would now be exempt.

"Only developers who have no capital or not enough capital, and thus have to collect money from customers to complete construction, will be required to deposit 2 percent at the central bank," he said. "When we make sure that they have enough money to construct, the licence will be issued for them."

However, Kong Vansophy, general manager of the US$1 million Dream Town development in Dangkor district, said Tuesday that the proposed modification still left local developers in a hole as they relied on sales for finance.

"For large projects from foreign investors, it may be no problem ... but for local developers like us, it is still difficult because if we borrow money from the bank [as proof of financial soundness] for the development licence, we have to pay high interest rates," he said.

Chhean Dara, manager of the $30 million Young's Commercial Centre and Resort on the Chroy Changvar pensinsula, said the proposed amendment was good for rich developers, but difficult for poor developers.

"In fact, we have money to build the shopping mall, but not 100 percent of our capital, so we have to collect some money from customers to continue construction," he said.

Ngy Tayi said the prakas needed to be signed off by Finance Minister Keat Chhon before it could take effect. "It will be issued by the end of this year, at the latest," he said.

Lee Suck, general manager of Korean developer Nuri D&C De Castle declined to comment Tuesday, as did Kim Tae Yun, assistant to the manager at Yon Woo Cambodia Co, devloper of Gold Tower 42 in Phnom Penh.

Ros Monin, managing partner at Sewha-Cambodia Law Group, said it no longer represented clients on the issue and referred inquiries to the Real Estate Developers' Association of Cambodia which said Tuesday it was not ready to comment.

Additional Reporting By Nathan Green

Kith Meng starts work on island airport

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 29 July 2009
Kay Kimsong and Steve Finch

Royal Group has unveiled plans to build an airport on Koh Rong, the Kingdom's largest island, in Preah Sihanouk province.

Company Chairman Kith Meng confirmed the development plan. But speaking from Koh Rong, a 7,800-hectare island, he said Tuesday he could not provide further details.

"I am here [on Koh Rong] to build an airport.... I brought 40 bulldozers with me to clear the land to build a road," he said.

Other than the airport, Kith Meng said the project would see construction of an electricity and water supply that islanders could sign up to. Kith Meng said he travelled to Koh Rong with a dozen local tycoons including Phu Kok An, a casino operator and senator from the ruling Cambodian People's Party.

Phu Kok An confirmed the businessmen had viewed the site and pronounced himself "quite interested" in investing.

Youn Heng, deputy director at the Cambodian Investment Board's evaluation and incentives department, said the Council for the Development of Cambodia last year granted Royal Group a 99-year concession.

"He [Kith Meng] is currently clearing the forest, and we know he plans to build an airport," said Youn Heng, adding that Royal Group also planned a resort on the island.

Mark Hanna, chief financial officer at Royal Group, told the Post last month the firm "will certainly be looking to go deeper in the transportation and logistics industries as they dovetail with and complement our existing operations".

Tourism from Vietnam rises 40 percent in first-half 2009

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 29 July 2009
Chun Sophal

Visa exemption and addition of border crossings prompted increase, says govt, as South Korean visitors drop about a third compared to same period last year

THE number of Vietnamese tourists visiting the Kingdom in the first six months of 2009 leapt 40 percent compared with the same period last year, figures released by the government Tuesday showed.

That means Vietnam has cemented its position ahead of South Korea as the Kingdom's main source of foreign visitors.

Visitor numbers from South Korea were down one-third from 160,400 in the first six months of 2008 to 106,300 in the same period this year.

The rise in the number of Vietnamese tourists follows an agreement between Cambodia and Vietnam to exempt each other's nationals from obtaining visas.

The figures come from the Ministry of Tourism's latest report, released Tuesday. It shows that 147,700 Vietnamese visited Cambodia in the first six months of the year, up from 105,200 in the same period last year.

We expect that Cambodia will also benefit from the visa exemption.

A total of 209,500 Vietnamese came to the Kingdom last year, a number that looks certain to be eclipsed this year.

The report did not release the numbers of other visitor nationalities, but Japan, the US, Australia and several EU countries typically constitute the other main sources of foreign visitors. The numbers of some, however, have declined sharply as the global economic crisis bites.

Kong Sopheareak, the director at the MOT's statistics and tourism information department, welcomed the rise.

"We hope this increase will be even greater in the future due to the removal of visa requirements for Vietnamese tourists," he said. "It has allowed cross-border transportation and the opening of [three] new border crossings."

The new border crossings are Dak Dam in Ratanakkiri province, Trapaing Srae in Kratie province, and Phnom Den in Takeo province.

Minister of Tourism Thong Khon predicted the number of Vietnamese tourists could rise to 300,000 by the end of the year and said Cambodia has built infrastructure that will facilitate increased arrivals. He said 300 tourist buses a day are crossing into Cambodia from Vietnam.

"We will keep pushing to increase the number of tourists from countries bordering Cambodia through our visa exemption policies and by opening new border crossings to compensate for the falling number of tourists from distant countries," Thong Khon said.

Ho Vandy, co-chair of the Tourism Working Group, said on Tuesday that improvements to infrastructure would enable Cambodia to lure many more Vietnamese tourists than forecast.

"We expect that Cambodia will also benefit from the visa exemption and the opening of new border crossings," he added.

More cash earmarked for auditing

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 29 July 2009
May Kunmakara

THE National Audit Authority (NAA) has signed an agreement with Danida, the Danish government's development agency, for the second stage of the national audit project.

Danida's funding of 1 million Danish krone (US$192,000) until 2011 will strengthen implementation of the first phase of the project, said Luk Nhip, the NAA's secretary general.

"The first phase isn't completely finished yet because we've only shared our auditing knowledge with some provinces," he said.

He said the aim is to enhance public auditing, to improve officials' capacities, and to create greater public knowledge about the NAA and its role.

"The second phase will strengthen public financial management, especially as regards buying auditing software and training our officials to use it," he said. "We will also improve cooperation with neighbouring countries to share auditing knowledge."

The NAA received 3 million krone from Danida in the first phase from 2007 to 2008.

New ferry terminal launches in capital

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 29 July 2009
Kay Kimsong and Ith Sothoeuth

PHNOM Penh's new ferry port officially launched on Monday with four ferries expected to transport 1,000 people and hundreds of vehicles daily between the capital and Arey-Ksat port in Kandal province's Lvea-Em district.

The ferry's port in the capital moved from its former Tonle Sap location, which has been handed over to the municipality's Naval Force unit, to its new home near Hun Sen Park.

Nhem Saran, director of the municipality's public works and transportation department, said the new location would benefit from remaining open during the annual Water Festival, which takes place at the end of the rainy season.

"The new location is much more convenient and will help to cut traffic during the Water Festival," he said.

Van Ramon, manager of the Phnom Penh-Arey Ksat Port, said the terminal cost US$150,000, and that the operator has a 10-year contract. The funds were spent mainly on infrastructure and a cargo terminal, with space set aside for motorbike taxis and tuk-tuks.

The operating company expects to earn minimum monthly revenues of $15,000.

The new ferry operation will run between 4am and midnight seven days a week and cost between 6,000 and 10,000 riels ($1.50-2.50) per vehicle, 700 riels for an individual.

Cambodian fish sauce to be exported to US

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 29 July 2009
May Kunmakara

THE nation's top brand of fish sauce is expected to be exported to the United States at the end of the year. Two containers of Kampot fish sauce will soon appear in stores in Los Angeles and San Francisco, said Chan Sitha, owner of Ngov Heng Kampot Fish Sauce factory.

Chan Sitha visited the US last month in a bid to find local distribution partners for fish sauce.

"I am working with two partners who will wholesale my products in California, and they are waiting for the first export," he said. "I [plan] to send two containers containing 1,000 cases each to test and survey the market."

Each case contains 12 bottles of 750 mL each, Chan Sitha said, adding that wholesalers will target other Asian residents in California, not only Khmer-Americans.

"And we are working to get permission from the relevant institutions to accelerate my exports," he said, adding that he had received the ministry's guideline on how to obtain Cambodia's Standard Certificate proving quality control. "The certificate will make exporting easier, so we plan to ask for that and get it soon."

The Ngov Heng factory has 40 storage tanks that daily refine 2,000 litres of fish sauce, soy sauce and chilli sauce.

Heng Heang, the president of Phnom Penh's association for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), said Cambodian industry is improving fast because many businesses are upgrading their capacity and technology.

"Some SMEs produce poor-quality products, and others produce good quality," Heng Heang said. "But we are seeing many domestic industries capable of making high-quality goods that can compete with imported products."

Mao Thora, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Commerce, said that companies wanting to export must comply with government directives and export procedures.

"[The ministry] has worked hard with development partners to facilitate exports by SMEs," Mao Thora said. "But right now we have a problem.... We lack sufficient funds for that project. However, we are still following [the ministry's policy of trade export promotion]."

Police Blotter: 29 Jul 2009

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 29 July 2009
Kong Sokun

A woman was killed on Monday by a teenager believed to be renting a room in her home in Daun Penh district for US$40 a month. Police identified the victim, whose hands and legs had been tied, as 60-year-old Kha Sopheap. Anonymous sources said the penniless teen, whose name was not revealed, had repeatedly threatened to kill the woman whenever she asked him for his rental fees.

A violent and drunken husband hacked his 20-year-old wife five times with a cleaver on Friday after she refused to coin him. The violence broke out in Banteay Meanchey province's Sisophon city. The intoxicated husband is 26 years old. The 23-year-old brother of the wife was also seriously wounded in the incident after he attempted to intervene. The perpetrator fled the scene with the cleaver in his hands.

A teenager was arrested on Sunday in connection with the smashing of a truck's mirror with a stone in Kampong Cham city. Police identified the suspect as 19-year-old Chai Meas, who resides in the city's Sambor Meas commune. The arrest was made while the perpetrator was hiding at his grandmother's home in Thbong Khmum district. After the arrest, police said the teenager confessed that he and five cronies had hurled stones at the vehicle for pleasure after returning from a gin stall at 10pm.

A 45-year-old woman was shot dead during an armed robbery Monday in Daun Penh district's Srah Chak commune. The victim was identified as Am Chandy, who lived in Tuol Kork district's Boeung Kak II commune. Witnesses said two robbers on a black Suzuki motorbike shot the woman and then made off with her black Honda Dream C100. Police have yet to release an official report on the incident, and it is unclear whether they have any suspects.

Parents of two bag-snatchers voiced concerns about the fate of their sons, who were unable to sit for national high school examinations after they were detained for snatching a woman's bag in Meanchey district Monday. Police identified the thieves as Kem Sokha, 19, and Srun Many, 16, both of whom live in Kandal's Takhmao town. After the arrest, police confiscated a US$2,000 Honda Icon belonging to Srun Many, who claimed that his father is a high-ranking official at the Ministry of Interior.

Building of Sokha in capital set for August

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 29 July 2009
Soeun Say

Construction on a new 16-story Sokha Hotel owned by Sokimex Group will begin August 1, according to the head of the company that recently won the contract to build the $100 million hotel.

Thierry Loustau-Khao, managing director of LBL International, said construction work was scheduled to be completed in 2011.

The French-Cambodian construction firm signed a contract with Sokimex to build the domestic conglomerate's third hotel on July 20.

"We are pleased and proud at having been selected after a large tender process by ... Sok Kong to build the biggest hotel in Cambodia," Loustau-Khao said.

Svay Vuthy, executive assistant to Sokimex chairman Sok Kong, said the 120,000-square-metre, 800-room "five star" hotel on Phnom Penh's Chroy Changvar Peninsular would be launched in 2012.

The hotel will also feature two conference rooms with seating capacity for 1,500 persons and parking spaces for 1,000 cars.

The hotel is situated on 6 hectares on the opposite side of the Tonle Sap river from Phnom Penh.

Sok Kong told the Post last August at the hotel's official groundbreaking that the hotel's conference facilities would be a key selling point. "It will raise Cambodia's reputation internationally."

Sokimex also operates Sokha hotels in Sihanoukville and Siem Reap.

Ground broken on first-of-its-kind development on Vietnam border

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 29 July 2009
Ith Sothoeuth

The developer behind a $20 million housing project near the Vietnam border has finally kicked off construction more than three years after the project was initially due to start.

Khmer Real Estate Co Marketing Manager Kim Heang said work began at the end of June on the Bavet commune project, 500 metres from the border.

"We have postponed it for a long time, so we don't want to waste anymore time," he said. "We expect to finish 20 [units] by the end of this year."

Delays were compounded by the onset of the global financial crisis last year and the collapse of the Kingdom's property market around the same time, which saw purchases of land and new housing fall almost to zero, Kim Heang said.

We have postponed it for a long time, so we don't want to waste anymore time.

The project was now due to be completed by June 2012, but the new economic reality had resulted in a new approach to finding buyers, he added.

Instead of targeting only the rich and high-ranking Cambodians, Khmer Real Estate was repositioning the offering to attract the middle classes. "We focus on anyone who has money to buy our land and houses," he said. "First we wanted to catch only the big fish but now are trying to catch all, even small shrimp."

The project was being marketed as the country's first housing project at the border, and the company was also planning to build a shopping centre to create business and job opportunities.

National Valuers Association of Cambodia President Sung Bonna said developments near the country's borders had good economic potential, "Every country is the same. They need development, especially at border areas," he said, adding the project was likely to attract both domestic and foreign buyers.

Foreigners are currently barred from buying property outright in Cambodia. The government has for a long time been considering a rule change to allow foreign ownership, but senior government figures have made it clear that any rule change is unlikely to apply in border areas.

Cambodia's darkest day

One of Roland Neveu’s most published photographs shows a Khmer Rouge convoy of trucks and tanks parading down Monivong Boulevard in 1975.


ROLAND Neveu began his photojournalism career in the early 1970s, after he realised his camera could be used as a passport. “I got drawn into it without planning it,” he says. “After a number of years it started to build up in my mind. I thought, I can bring a unique look at a country.” He was the first to document the plight of HIV/AIDS victims in Africa and the first Soviet prisoners of war in Afghanistan’s Mujahideen holy war. He also recorded Beirut’s siege in mid-1982, the preceding war in Lebanon until 1985, El Salvador’s civil war and the guerrilla struggle in the Philippines. In the late 1980s, the Frenchman worked as a stills photographer with Hollywood directors Oliver Stone, Brian de Palma and Ridley Scott. He co-authored TV stories on AIDS in Uganda in 1986, the Touareg rebellion in the Sahara in the 1990s, and the Kurdish refugees at the Turk-Iraq border in 1991. More recently, he also worked on the Matt Dillon movie City of Ghosts, which was shot in Cambodia.

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 29 July 2009
Georgia Wilkins

An intrepid photographer recalls capturing the advance of Khmer Rouge forces into Phnom Penh – and how his pictures told a very different story

IN the disorientation of war, photojournalist Roland Neveu admits that the meaning behind even the most pivotal events can be lost.

That is, until the dust settles and his instinct to "keep shooting" starts to recede.

For an event that now serves as a reference point for what came before and after - the Khmer Rouge driving victoriously through Phnom Penh and evacuating people from their homes - that perspective came not days, but years later. And not just for Neveu.

"It was, of course, the beginning of something else," he said in a recent interview.

Neveu, who has just re-released his book The Fall of Phnom Penh, which showcases his photographs from that day, has since travelled the world on assignments for Time and Newsweek.

But his first project, one he gave himself as an overambitious 24-year-old, was to cover the secret war in Cambodia which culminated in the fall of Phnom Penh - a story that remains one of his most sought-after.

"It wasn't symbolic at the time. At the time it was the end of a war," Neveu revealed.

"It was the end of hardship; there was a sense of relief," he added.

"It's like the end of a storm, its nice and quiet, you don't see the next storm coming."
Although it is not clear from the photographs he took on that day, Cambodia was about to enter one of the darkest chapters in its history.

The beginning of the country's tumble into tragedy looked more like a day of jubilation and relief, as smiling teenage soldiers raised their flags and guns in the air.

This perspective was caught by few photographers, as only a handful of Western journalists stayed behind after the regime took hold of the capital.

"I feel confident I can explore smaller elements in great detail," Neveu said of the hundreds of frames recorded in The Fall of Phnom Penh: 17 April 1975, reissued this year through Bangkok-based publisher Asia Horizons Books.

Though some of the original negatives were lost in transit between the Gamma Photo agency in Paris and Gamma-Liaison in New York, they were rediscovered in the 1990s when Getty Images bought Gamma-Liaison.

The return of the lost films allowed Neveu to complete the day's narrative.

Roland Neveu with Nikon, 1975. Photo Supplied

Each frame has been put together in chronological order, small fragments which form a complete picture of the day as viewed through the lens.

"It's part of my contribution to fill the gap. I don't go beyond the image. I don't try to tell a different story to the images," Neveu said.

His photographs are studiously portrayed, showing the contact sheets as well as prints, and few descriptions other than the time of day.

He says this helps him defend his role as "voyeur" - particularly when people are unsure why the photographs don't look "sad enough".

"I can't balance it with pictures of people dying because we just didn't see it at the time," he stated.

Neveu admits the photographs in The Fall of Phnom Penh will be viewed differently by Cambodians and foreigners.

He recalls meeting one Cambodian man who sought refuge in the French Embassy during the fall.
Only 14 years old at the time, the man said he had stayed on because he had thought there would be no problem.

"I like the photos because they bring back visual fragments which show that this actually happened," Neveu said.

"People can talk about it, and there is a distance created from talking about it."

Yet despite the power of his own photographs, Neveu says he is simply filling a void.

"For the Cambodians who view the photos, it does fill a gap their lives.

"They have more intimacy with the pictures; it's somehow ingrained in their brain," he claimed.
"Me? I'm detached."

Buying a touring motorbike in Vietnam

Not-so-lonely creek: trifling obstacles such as rivers shouldn’t hold up your progress too much.

Ask around if you plan to go into the remote regions of the country. there's no harm in trying your luck.

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 29 July 2009

When it comes to transportation, the motorbike reigns supreme in Southeast Asia, probably because it provides a speedy, inexpensive and durable platform for travel around the region


BY far, the best way to experience Vietnam is by motorbike. As is the case elsewhere in Southeast Asia, here, the motorbike is king. They are cheap to buy, easy to repair, and they can take you places the tour bus would never dare to go.

What's more, there are no restrictions on foreigners buying motorbikes. All you need is a passport and valid visa, and you'll receive a title of ownership and a deed of transfer.

Rentals will suffice for most, but if you plan on serious bike time, buying is more economical - you can even sell the bike before you leave and recoup most of the expense.

We know the traffic seems crazy. But once you get the hang of it, you'll learn there is a method to the madness. Travel by motorbike has its dangers, to be sure, and should be undertaken conscientiously. But the vast majority of foreigners come away from their motorbike trek with nothing but great experiences to talk about back home (and maybe a few tail-pipe burns to remember them by).

You can buy a bike almost anywhere, but bigger cities will have a better selection and be more comfortable selling to foreigners. Naturally, it's best to shop around. When you settle on a bike, insist on taking it for a spin - and to a mechanic for a once over.

Your two main considerations are whether to buy new or used, and how powerful a bike you need. New Japanese and Chinese models can be purchased for as little as US$400. They should be more reliable, but then again, you may be the one stuck working out all the kinks. And you'll take a bath on the resale value.

Photo by: Don Morgan and Stuart McDonald
What happens when things go wrong.

Tuning up
We recommend a used bike. This may seem a bit daunting, and it's a good idea to make friends with a trustworthy mechanic if you can swing it.

When you buy a bike, all you're really looking at is the engine, the shocks, the wheels and the frame. If nothing's leaking or broken, and it kicks up a throaty hum when it runs, you're off to a good start. Everything else on a bike can be fixed cheaply and easily - though be sure to factor such repairs into the price you plan to pay.

In terms of power, a 100 cc bike is fine throughout most of the country, depending on the weight you intend to carry. By the time you stack two people and two full packs on it, you'll struggle up the hills even in Dalat.

Consider a clutch
Northern Vietnam is notoriously hilly and requires at least a 115cc bike. Check out the bikes used by the guys who do the Easy Rider tours, and look for something similar. If you've never driven a clutch, consider learning - it quickly becomes second nature.

Even if you buy a bike that's been restored, be sure to take it to a mechanic anyway and put some more money into it. New tires, brake drums, batteries, starters and the like are all cheap and will give you that much more peace of mind. Finally, think about where you're going to put your stuff. We got a custom-made back rack for US$6.25.

When it comes to plotting a route, we suggest planning to see more of the country by seeing less of it. You can't see everything from Sapa to Vung Tau by motorbike in a month. Pick a region - north, central, or south, and focus on that. Alternately, many buses and trains will take on a motorbike as freight for the price of an extra ticket, so you can split a trip between two regions.

Don't plan an overly aggressive route. The whole point is to take in the scenery, to stop and explore along the way. We find more than 120 kilometres in any given day starts to feel rushed. Fortunately, in thin, compact Vietnam, there is always a good option for your next stop within that distance.

It's also worth mention that, while the 'open road' in Vietnam can be breathtakingly beautiful and provide an utterly authentic experience of the country, this is Vietnam, and not all roads are open.

Try your luck
Ask around if you plan to go into remote regions of the country, especially near the borders, but there's really no harm in just trying your luck. The worst that can happen is that the police will ask you to turn around.

Final note: Wear a helmet, bring rain gear and memorise the lyrics to "Born to be Wild" before you leave. You'll be needing them.

First five-a-side football tourney hits streets

Dignitaries and participants of the 2009 Hello Street Tournament attend a press conference in Battambang, Monday. Photo Supplied

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 29 July 2009
Sam Schweingruber

THE main road in front of the Nedyong High School in Battambang will be transformed into a sports venue Friday as part of the inaugural 2009 Hello Street Football Tournament. Games will be played over three days culminating in finals, an awards ceremony and a disco party Sunday.

A total of 38 teams are currently signed up to participate, with the possibility of more still to register. The tournament is divided into three categories - girls, under-16s and seniors - who will compete for a share of the US$1,380 total prize money donated by sponsors Hello Phone Company. So far, 10 girls teams, including two from outside of Battambang, 12 U-16 teams, and 16 senior teams have registered.

Tournament rules follow closely to international football rules, with five players per team, although matches are restricted to a single period of 25 minutes. Roughly 45 games will be played each day, with each team competing in two to three daily matches. Teams in each category will be divided into pools of five to six, of which the top two or three will advance to two further groups of three, with the group winners facing off Sunday.

In Monday's opening ceremony, presided over by Kim Norn from the Provincial Government and Lach Man from the City Council, the joint efforts of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, the Football Federation of Cambodia and local youth sports organisation Salt Academy received commendations for promoting and developing football and futsal in Battambang province through several competitions.

Salt Academy has helped to assemble all competition referees to attend basic training sessions for three days starting Monday. A total of 30 budding, young match officials were educated by experienced coaching instructors Tuy Bonhuen and Tschuen Ty, who were sent by the FFC with the intention of strengthening the human resources of the Salt Academy and football in general in the region.

Four young female players also attended the course, while several local team captains listened to the first few hours of rules explanations, hoping to gain an advantage in the competition through better understanding of the laws of the game.

Futsal is a relatively new sport in Battambang. with many youths now enjoying kickabouts on the streets. However, most players have yet to learn FIFA's official international competition rules.

Navy side try to lift off

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Following the weekend's action in Cambodian Premier League, which saw the table remain unchanged in all club standings, relegation zone companions Phouchung Neak and Post Tel Club meet each other today at 4pm at Olympic Stadium to potentially add a final twist to the twelfth round of matches. While neither team can escape the drop zone this week, a win for Phouchung could mean they swap places with Post Tel and end their residency of the bottom spot since the league started back in May.

Cambodia: Respect For Suspects' Rights

Scoop New Zealand

Tuesday, 28 July 2009
Press Release: Asian Human Rights Commission

Cambodia: Respect For Suspects' Rights Will Prevent Death In Police Custody

Five suspects in police custody are known to have died in police custody in different locations in Cambodia over the first five months of this year. There have been allegations that they suffered torture or other forms of ill-treatment. However, the police have refuted these allegations and with medical certification as proof, claimed that the suspects had committed suicide. The reference to medical certification has led to further allegations that doctors whom the authorities called in to do the autopsies were themselves under pressure not to antagonize the police and arrive at a conclusion that did not differ from what the police version. Despite the ongoing suspicion of torture or other forms of ill-treatment the authorities have refused independent investigations into the causes of those deaths.

More recently, another suspect died in police custody in Svay Rieng Province. The suspect, Thong Sary, 54, was arrested in a drunk-driving accident in which he crashed his motorcycle, killing his passenger and injuring himself. His wife, Meas Thavy, visited him and, noting the worsening of his injuries repeatedly requested the custodial officer to send her husband to hospital for treatment. The officer refused her request and instead told her to bring in a doctor to treat him in prison.

Meas Thavy could not get a doctor to treat her husband because he was a suspect and there was no letter of authorization for medical treatment from the police. Dr. Ke Ratha, deputy director of the provincial health department, and a number of his fellow doctors carried out the autopsy on Thong Sary. Dr. Ke Ratha has reportedly said that Thong Sary “died from an inflammation of the stomach or intestine caused by drinking wine without eating, his injury from the traffic accident or if someone hit him.” Dr. Ke Ratha further said that “If he was sent for treatment on time he may not have died.”

Prach Rim, the provincial police chief, has denied allegations of torture on Thong Sary; but has admitted police carelessness over the refusal to send him for medical treatment.

The Asian Human Rights Commission holds that the cause of death of this particular police custody were not due so much to the “police carelessness” as to the shortcoming of the criminal procedure pertaining to police custody. This procedure has not recognized and guaranteed the rights of suspects to medical treatment. Article 99 of the Code of Criminal procedure has left this medical treatment to the discretionary decision to the custody officer and the prosecutor. This article says, “The Royal Prosecutor or the judicial police officer may ask a doctor to examine the detained person at any time.” Furthermore, article 98 of the same code has recognized and guaranteed the rights of suspect to legal counsel only after 24 hours of arrest has expired. It says, “After a period of twenty four hours from the beginning of the police custody has expired, the detainee may request to speak with a lawyer or any other person who is selected by the detain ee, provided that the sel.

In order to avoid any future possibility of “police carelessness” and further death in police custody, the Code of Criminal procedure should be amended to recognize and guarantee the rights of suspect to medical treatment, legal counsel and communication with family. Upon the arrest, it should be mandatory for custody officer to notify suspects of all these rights. Article 98 and article 99 should be amended for the custody police officer and be supplemented as follows:

Article 98: At the beginning of that detention, the suspect has to the right to speak with a lawyer or any other person who is selected by him or her, provided that the selected person is not involved in the same offense. He or she has further the right to communicate with his or her family.

Article 99: The suspect has the right to medical treatment anytime during his or her detention.
Article 99 (a): The custody police officer shall notify the suspect of his or her rights as mentioned in article 98 and 99.

About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984

Cambodian art show casts light on Khmer Rouge horrors

Artist Vann Nath, a survivor of the Khmer Rouge's notorious Tuol Sleng prison, explains a painting to villagers during an art workshop and exhibition project titled "The Art of Survival", in Kamport province, 146 km (91 miles) west of Phnom Penh, July 25, 2009.
REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

KOMPOT, Cambodia (Reuters Life!) - Cambodian artist Vann Nath only survived the Khmer Rouge's most brutal prison because its chief torturer liked his paintings of the tyrannical leader Pol Pot.

Now, the survivor of the notorious Tuol Sleng prison is using art to educate younger generations about one of the 20th century's darkest chapters through an exhibition of paintings reflecting the horrors of the Khmer Rouge regime.

"I come here to share my experiences as well as to remember our country's history, and ensure that it's not lost," Nath told Reuters Television.

An estimated 1.7 million people died during the Khmer Rouge's four-year "killing fields" reign of terror, which ended when Vietnamese forces invaded in 1979.

Three decades on, villagers at the exhibition reflected on the horrors of the regime with paintings of skulls, bodies lined up in a room, blindfolded prisoners and people with weapons in their hands.

The exhibition showcasing the work of about 16 Cambodian artists is the second of seven in the Cambodian countryside this year.

"It is good to have the Khmer Rouge tribunal going on because it can let the victims know what has happened then, why Pol Pot killed innocent people," said Chan Pisey, an artist and co-organiser of the exhibition.

"Of course, it cannot heal the suffering of everybody but at least 20 to 30 percent of it can be done."

The exhibition comes just weeks after Nath testified against Duch, Tuol Sleng's head jailer. He told the joint United Nations-Cambodian tribunal his experience inside the S-21 prison was like "hell".

He described the squalid conditions inside the prison and said there were times he was so hungry, he was forced to eat insects, such as grasshoppers or crickets.

"When there were insects falling from the lamp, I collected them and ate them. When the security guards saw this, they asked, 'What are you eating?' So they hit me until I spit out the grasshopper or cricket from my mouth," he told the court.

But Vann Nath is confident the people responsible for the killings will be brought to justice.

"I expect the Khmer Rouge court to point to the right killers so that we know clearly whoever committed such crime gets how much punishment," he said.