Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Al Jazeera English: Cambodia opposition 'silenced' - 04 Aug 09


A Cambodian court has convicted Mu Suh-Kwor, an opposition MP for defaming Hun Sen, the prime minister.

Her case is the latest in a series of lawsuits and arrests against opposition voices.

Steve Chao reports.

Court fines Cambodian opposition member 16.5 million riel for slander+

PHNOM PENH, Aug. 4 (AP) - (Kyodo)—A Cambodian court ordered an opposition lawmaker Tuesday to pay 16,500,000 riel ($4,000) after she was convicted of defamation in a case brought against her by Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Sem Sakola, presiding judge at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, ordered Mu Sochua to pay 8,500,000 riel for defamation and 8,000,000 riel as compensation to Hun Sen as plaintiff.

The hearing against Mu Sochua was held July 24 but the verdict was not delivered until Tuesday morning.

Mu Sochua called it "unjust."

Her parliamentary immunity was lifted in late June to allow the charge to go forward in court.

She had lodged a defamation suit against Hun Sen in April, alleging he made degrading remarks about her in a speech.

Hun Sen countersued.

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court dismissed her lawsuit June 10 but continued Hun Sen's claim, a move slammed by the opposition Sam Rainsy Party as trending "toward a dictatorial regime" and "jeopardizing democracy" in Cambodia.

On Monday, the Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission issued a statement criticizing the Cambodian judicial system as unfair and politically biased.

The commission said Mu Sochua had not received a fair trial in July and the proceedings were aimed at ending her political career.

"Considering the flaw in the justice system and the scheme to end the political activities of the opposition Member of Parliament, the Asian Human Rights Commission holds that Mu Sochua is denied her rights to a fair trial by an independent, competent and impartial tribunal duly established by law," it said in a statement.

The group also said almost all the prosecutors and judges in the court were affiliated with Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party.

Khieu Kanharith, minister of information and government spokesman, called the statement "groundless."

Online nationalism stirs Southeast Asia

By Mong Palatino
Column: Peripheries
Published: August 04, 2009

Manila, Philippines — The Internet is increasingly being used by many Southeast Asians for various nationalist campaigns. Even government leaders are maximizing cyberspace to promote unity and patriotism in their countries.

This trend is encouraging since it gives ordinary citizens the chance to express a sense of belonging to their larger communities. However, there are also ultra-nationalist online initiatives which prevent the formation of regional solidarity in Southeast Asia.

Perhaps the most controversial website in Indochina today is ilovethailand.org. This website was created by Thailand’s Prime Minister to uplift the country's international reputation. The website also aims to unite and inspire Thais, many of whom are already disgruntled with the squabbles between the country’s major political forces. But the website has sparked controversy because it claims that parts of Cambodia are Thailand’s “lost territory.”

Cambodia and Thailand have been disputing the ownership of the ancient Preah Vihear Temple for several decades already. This territorial dispute has led to several violent skirmishes between the border patrols of the two neighboring countries.

Many bloggers have expressed disappointment that the Thai government has chosen to unite the country by provoking conflict with other nations in the region. They believe netizens should not advance this wrong version of nationalism.

As expected, the Cambodian government has filed a diplomatic protest over the creation of this website. It also led to the formation of a pro-Cambodia website: ilovekhmer.org. This website aims to expose the false statements which are allegedly found in ilovethailand.org.

Both websites, ilovethailand.org and ilovekhmer.org, have become very popular web portals in Thailand and Cambodia. While it is positive that the two countries have brought their border dispute into the cyber arena, it is unfortunate that this virtual war has also fueled racist sentiments in the two countries.

The Malaysian prime minister is another leader who has seen the potential of using the Internet to achieve unity in society. Aside from blogging and tweeting his everyday activities, Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak has launched 1Malaysia.com.my to serve as an “interactive platform” between the leader and his constituents. “1Malaysia: People first, performance now” is the campaign slogan of the prime minister.

Meanwhile, pro-democracy activists in Malaysia have launched their own cyber campaign with the theme “1BlackMalaysia: Democracy first, elections now.” They believe the new leader has undermined the democratic institutions of Malaysia. Early this month, the group set up Facebook and blog pages encouraging Malaysians to create and upload “Where is democracy?” placards in the web.

Indonesia has proven that a national tragedy can unite netizens. Hours after the deadly blasts hit Jakarta last month, Indonesian twitterrers started sending “We're not afraid” tweets. For several days, the #indonesiaunite hashtag became the most active trending topic on Twitter. Users of Plurk and Facebook changed their avatars by adopting the red and white symbols of Indonesia’s flag. Local bloggers discovered the convenience of using microblogging sites to inspire people to action. Analysts were impressed that apolitical young Indonesians joined other concerned Indonesians in condemning the Jakarta terror attacks.

Filipino plurkers collected donations for Mindanao flood victims through paypal early this year. To show support for the ailing former president of the country, Twitter users added yellow twibbons in their profile pictures. Online petitions against the proposal to amend the country’s 1987 Constitution gathered hundreds of thousands of signatures and supporters, especially on Facebook.

Filipino activists have been successful in launching virtual campaigns that have further damaged the credibility of the incumbent president. A high-ranking government official once noted that the president has lost the media battle in cyberspace.

There is a vigorous campaign and lobby effort to push for more Internet freedom in Vietnam. Web campaigns showing support for Myanmar’s opposition icon Aung San Suu Kyi are numerous. Brunei bloggers have organized various fundraising activities for the benefit of sports teams, students and environmental groups.

The cause of nationalism is a popular but controversial theme on the Internet. Politicians and anti-government groups in Southeast Asia have been consistent and persistent in maximizing the Internet to advance nationalistic activities. This web phenomenon is positive in so far as it expands and improves the political participation of ordinary citizens. But it is counter-productive when it produces racism and xenophopia.

It is also distasteful when politicians use the web to hide their misdeeds by launching pseudo-nationalist advocacies. The Internet remains a great tool and platform for sincere individuals and groups to promote serious topics like nationalism. Netizens in the region should not allow bigots and tyrants to bastardize and defeat the radical potential of the worldwide web.


(Mong Palatino is a politician and activist from the Philippines. He is a Member of the Philippine Parliament representing the youth sector. He is Southeast Asia editor of Global Voices Online. He blogs at www.mongpalatino.com. ©Copyright Mong Palatino.)

There Are More Than 220,000 Clients of Sex Services in Cambodia – Tuesday, 4.08.2009

Posted on 4 August 2009
The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 624

“Phnom Penh: Expert AIDS officials in Cambodia said that there are about 220,000 people who buy sex services in Cambodia, corresponding to 6% of the male population between the ages of 15 and 49.

“The deputy director of the National AIDS Authority of Cambodia, Mr. Tea Phalla, said during a training course to educate ‘Friends Educate Friends’ teachers on 3 August 2009 at the Ministry of Interior, ‘According to the observation of sex services in Cambodia, there are 220,000 clients of these services, corresponding to 6% of the male population between the ages of 15 and 49.

“Mr. Tea Phalla added, ‘In the last ten years, AIDS prevention has been a success, because police helped with this task.’ He went on to say that people selling sex services are afraid of the police, promoting the policy of the Royal Government of Cambodia to practice 100% condom use.

“He added that 14% of 400,000 men have girlfriends and sex partners besides their wives. ‘According to another observation, there are about 20,000 men seeking sex services each night in Cambodia at present.’

“Mr. Tea Phalla continued to say, ‘20% of the prostitutes use drugs, and it is hard to educate women who sell sex services not to use drugs.’

“The director of the AIDS Secretariat of the Ministry of Interior, Mr. Pen Vibol, said during the training, ‘Condom use increased after the ‘Friends Educate Friends’ program had been created. We are proud of our efforts.’

“Mr. Pen Vibol added, ‘AIDS is still a hot and worrying problem in Cambodia; as for AIDS prevalence in Cambodia, compared with neighboring countries in Southeast Asia, Cambodia has a higher rate.’

“The deputy director of Family Health International in Cambodia (FHI), Mr. Song Ngak, said, ‘FHI wants to see also that educational activities to prevent AIDS are included into the training school of national police of Cambodia.’

“He added that AIDS reached Cambodia in 1990s, in 1991 there were people confirmed to have HIV, more people which had been infected with AIDS were found in 1993, and the highest rate of AIDS infection occurred in 1996 and 1997.

“He added that people who died of AIDS from 1998 to 2002 did not receive treatment services as Cambodia did not have such possibilities at that time.

“Mr. Song Ngak continued to say that, ‘In 2007, approx. 3.1% of national police were infected with AIDS.’

“The head of the Medicine Management Office and director of the AIDS Program of the Ministry of Interior, Mr. Hy Samet, said, ‘The AIDS Secretariat of the Ministry of Interior trains ‘Friends Educate Friends’ teachers to have skills in educating about AIDS and about sexually transmitted diseases, and to promote the health of the national police forces, in order to contribute to reduce HIV and AIDS infections in Cambodia.’

“Mr. Hy Samet stated that the ‘Friends Educate Friends’ training course will take five days, with 26 trainees, from seven provinces and cities.”

Deum Ampil, Vol.3, #253, 4.8.2009
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Cambodian lawmaker found guilty of defaming PM

Tue Aug 4, 2009

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - A Cambodian court ordered an opposition lawmaker to pay $4,100 in damages on Tuesday for defaming Prime Minister Hun Sen, provoking fresh concerns the government is using the judiciary to suppress its detractors.

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court ruled that Mu Sochua of the Sam Rainsy Party had defamed the long-serving premier when she tried to sue him over comments he made about her conduct during last year's election campaign.

Critics said the ruling reflected Hun Sen's determination to use the courts to muzzle the opposition.

"That was not justice in the courtroom. It was totally political," Sochua told reporters, who were banned from attending the court session.

"I will continue to fight until I get justice. Today, the court could have been a light for justice. The judge gave us darkness instead."

Sochua, who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005 for her work against the trafficking of women in Cambodia, and another lawmaker, Ho Vann, were stripped of their legal immunity last month and lost their seats in parliament as a result.

Vann is accused of spreading false information and faces three years in prison.

Newspaper editor Hang Chkra is serving a one-year sentence in Phnom Penh for writing about alleged government corruption. An opposition activist, Moeung Sonn, fled the country in June after being given a two-year sentence for questioning a lighting system at the famed Angkor Wat temple complex, the country's biggest tourism draw.

Another opposition newspaper shut down after 10 years of publishing to avoid government legal action.

Sara Colm of New York-based Human Rights Watch told Reuters on Tuesday: "This is the most serious crackdown on freedom of expression in years. The space for opposition media and peaceful dissent is rapidly shrinking."

"These lawsuits are a clear attempt to harass the opposition and prevent members of parliament from exercising free expression."

Colm urged donors, who provided nearly $1 billion in aid last year, to make the government aware of their concerns.

"Donors -- particularly those who have funded judicial and legal reform -- need to take a firm stand," she said.

Human Rights Watch also called for an end to using the judiciary as a tool to silence government critics.

Sam Rainsy, leader of the country's largest opposition party which carries his name, said the court ruling had drawn attention to Hun Sen's attempts to intimidate his opponents.

"It may be a judicial defeat, but it is a moral and political victory for us as the opposition," he said.

Hun Sen, a former Khmer Rouge guerrilla, criticised rights groups and foreign diplomats last month for interfering in Cambodia's affairs after they voiced concern about the removal of lawmakers' parliamentary immunity.

He has dominated Cambodian politics for more than two decades and won a landslide election victory in July last year.

Cambodian MP guilty of defamation

Mu Suh-Kwor was stripped of her legal immunity and lost her seat in parliament [EPA]

Al Jazeera

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

A Cambodian court has ordered an opposition member of parliament to pay $4,100 in damages after finding her guilty of defaming the country's prime minister.

A municipal court in the capital Phnom Penh ruled on Tuesday that Mu Suh-Kwor of the Sam Rainsy Party had defamed Hun Sen when she tried to sue him over comments he allegedly made about her conduct during last year's election campaign.

Critics have said the ruling reflected Hun Sen's determination to use Cambodia's courts to silence opposition critics.

"That was not justice in the courtroom. It was totally political," Suh-Kwor told reporters, who were banned from attending the court session.

"I will continue to fight until I get justice. Today, the court could have been a light for justice. The judge gave us darkness instead."

In early April, Hun Sen referred to an unnamed politician as a "strong leg," a term seen by some in Cambodia as offensive to women.

Mu Suh-Kwor has said the speech referred to her. She also denounced his remarks in another speech.

The court rejected her lawsuit in June, saying that it was groundless, but it moved ahead with the prime minister's countersuit.

Suh-Kwor, who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005 for her work against the trafficking of women in Cambodia, and Ho Vann, another politician, were stripped of their legal immunity last month and lost their seats in parliament.

Vann is accused of spreading false information and faces three years in prison.

Hun Sen has said rights groups are interfering in Cambodia's affairs [GALLO/GETTY]

Government crackdown

Suh-Kwor's case is the latest in a series of lawsuits and arrests targeting opposition voices.

Hang Chkra, a newspaper editor is serving a one-year sentence in Phnom Penh for writing about alleged government corruption.

In June Moeung Sonn, an opposition activist, fled the country after being given a two-year sentence for questioning a lighting system at the Angkor Wat temple complex, the country's biggest tourism drawcard.

Another opposition newspaper shut down after 10 years of publishing to avoid government legal action.

In June, the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in
Cambodia and the New York-based Human Rights Watch criticised the lawsuits against the politicians.

In a statement, the UN said the lawsuits undermined the constitutional freedom of opinion and expression.

Human Rights Watch said that Hun Sen had "a long history of trying to muzzle Cambodia's political opposition and undermine the independence of the legal profession".

Last month, the prime minister, a former Khmer Rouge fighter, criticised rights groups and foreign diplomats for interfering in Cambodia's internal affairs after they voiced concern about the removal of Suh-Kwor and Vann's parliamentary immunity.

Hun Sen has dominated Cambodian politics for more than two decades and won a landslide election in July last year.

Is Duch’s trial making small steps forward or has it come to a standstill?

Phnom Penh (Cambodia). 04/03/2002: Cell numbers in former Khmer Rouge detention centre S-21
©John Vink/Magnum


By Stéphanie Gée

The hearing on Monday August 3rd hardly contributed to enlighten the tribunal. The first witness to appear left the feeling of a complete loss of time due to the thinness of his testimony. One failed to understand why some witnesses were called to the stand when they had nothing to say and why the prosecution, who suggested their names, did not attempt to demonstrate the interest in calling them to testify. The former S-21 staff member who succeeded him proved to have a better memory and was subjected to many questions which were thought to have been exhausted already… As for the accused, he relished noting the contradictions in their statements and gladly made reservations, in the lack of evidence proving they belonged to the staff under his direction.

A witness with limited memory and knowledge
Sek Dân, a 48-year-old dark-skinned farmer, was unable to sit still on his chair. He writhed with nervousness, ill-at-ease. The president informed him of his rights and duties, but the new witness struggled to understand what they meant. Khmer Rouge militia men conscripted him in his village while he was still only a child, he explained in response to the judge’s initial questions. Sent to a children’s brigade near Phnom Penh after a short training, he “hauled soil.” He was not good at remembering dates. He said he was sent in 1978 to S-21, where he joined the caregivers and was assigned the task of distributing medication, mostly to prisoners, “under the supervision of an adult.” There were no girls in his team.

As for the accused, he only saw him from time to time and from a distance. “[Duch] was the big boss then and I did not dare to look at him in the eye.” The detainees he was led to care for essentially suffered from diarrhoea, fever, and bore wounds and bruises on their back and limbs, he reported, adding that “some of them no longer had any nails.” As for the medication he administered them, he failed to give any precise information: “medication for diarrhoea for those who had diarrhoea, medication to heal wounds…” He specified that their peculiarity was that they usually had a “rabbit dropping” shape and were black. He had no idea what they were made of but claimed these remedies were produced “locally,” only since 1975. What about their efficiency? “Some were efficient, others were not. Once, I ingested a handful of them because I was so hungry, but it had absolutely no effect on me…”

Based on the screams he heard at night and the information he heard from the prisoners he treated, Sek Dân found out very quickly that their wounds originated in torture sessions they were subjected to. “During the time I worked at S-21, many prisoners – hundreds probably – died of illness. […] We, the children in the medical staff and the doctors, were asked to take the bodies away and bury them close to the building […].” As for suicides, he was aware of that of his team leader, Yoeun, who hung himself, fearing a fate similar to that of his predecessor Paov, who was arrested on the same allegations: an injection error that had resulted in the death of a detainee. He had realised, without receiving any instruction saying so, that his mission was not to heal but “to keep the detainees alive only for the duration of the interrogation” because they would gradually “disappear.”

Duch’s suspicions
“Do you recognise the accused today?”, judge Lavergne asked him. “I see him in the courtroom,” the witness answered, prompting a little smile from Duch. “Are you still scared of him today?” “I am much older today and I am no longer afraid of him.” Duch smiled again. As for him, did he recognise the witness? No, he did not and he expressed doubt that he could have been a member of S-21 medical staff. He noted the inconsistencies in his story, chronological ones in particular. “His memory is often mistaken. Let me give examples of it. He said he was now 48 years old, which means he was born in 1961. Yet, to judge Thou Mony, he said he arrived at S-21 when he was 11 years old and he repeated that to judge Lavergne…” The accused concluded: “I would like new documents relative to S-21 staff to be found. Then, I could finally make up my mind on whether Sek Dân was a staff member or not. Maybe the co-Prosecutors can help us on this point…”

The prosecution in fault
Turn of the prosecution, who suggested this witness but failed to present any document proving his past functions at S-21, as for the previous witnesses they submitted to the Chamber. Yet, there exist, among others, surviving lists of certain units of S-21 staff but it seemed that the co-Prosecutors had not deemed it useful to use them…

Kambol (Phnom Penh, Cambodia). 03/08/2009: Sek Dân, lost and unsettled by questions and ill-at-ease in his role as a witness, during Duch’s trial
©Stéphanie Gée

The Cambodian co-Prosecutor came very quickly to one of his team’s favourite exercises: showing on the screen a photograph of Tuol Sleng today and inviting the witness to indicate on it the places he mentioned in his testimony. Once again, the witness got lost in this exercise. It may be useful to show first pictures of S-21 taken in 1979, which do exist, rather than presenting immediately a contemporary view of the site, somewhat transformed now. The co-Prosecutor was convinced his approach was right and said so, a tad emphatically: “We would like the witness to confirm this is the building where he used to work. For the purposes of the minutes and for future generations, it is important to mark this building, so we know if building ‘C’ was the one where the witness used to work.” Silence. Sek Dân did not react. The president intervened: “Co-Prosecutor, could you give us a hard copy of this photograph? The Chamber itself is struggling to follow you, not to say anything about the witness or the public.” Sek Dân’s lawyer confirmed. And Nil Nonn added, to make sure his remark was understood: “Please keep in mind that the witness has a limited knowledge… […] If your question goes beyond his understanding, we are going to lose time.” The co-Prosecutor was allowed to go next to the witness to help him make sense of the photograph. Then, to the surprise of all, he talked in a low voice with the witness. The president put an end to the procedural breach: “Co-Prosecutor, you cannot converse privately with the witness. You must simply indicate and explain things to the witness publicly, so that the Chamber and the public understand what you are explaining. Otherwise, one will have the impression you are influencing the witness.” The co-Prosecutor turned the microphone on.

The civil party lawyers were quick as, indeed, this witness’ interrogation brought hardly anything to the debates.

A witness who does not understand his rights and duties
Floor to the defence. One did no understand why the witness eluded some of Kar Savuth’s questions with “I do not wish to answer” while it was about returning to technical points of his story which, under no circumstances, incriminated him. But nobody intervened. Sek Dân was probably intimidated and struggling to understand what was going on, preferring to protect himself with a misunderstood right to remain silent rather than to repeat he did not understand the questions or did not know how to answer them.

Next was François Roux, Duch’s international co-lawyer, who also sought to highlight the contradictions in the witness’ story. Following the accused, he returned to the seeming inaccuracy in his birth date, which led to believe he was actually 14 and not 11 in 1975. “I am not very good at mathematics. I would prefer not to answer,” Sek Dân apologised awkwardly. After a second similar response, the French lawyer reminded him he could refuse to questions that may incriminate him, “but not other questions.” The witness then admitted he did not understand the question. The president also intervened, as didactically as possible, so that Sek Dân distinguished between the questions which he can refuse to answer and those he must answer truthfully. The witness struggled and made no secret of it. Nil Nonn then invited the witness’ counsel to clarify things for his client.

The defence doubts the veracity of the testimony
The lawyer resumed and sought to re-establish a consistent factual chronology. But the witness maintained his statement. In answer to his questions, Sek Dân said he recalled Paov was killed the year he arrived at S-21, that is early 1978, and his next group leader, Yoeun, hang himself before the Vietnamese troops arrived.

Again invited to talk, Duch maintained scepticism in relation to the statement he heard. He was careful to highlight first that Sek Dân was a farmer’s son with “limited” memory and education, before justifying his position: Paov was executed before 1978, he claimed forcefully. If Yoeun had killed himself, as the director of S-21, he would have known about it, which was not the case… “This testimony is plausible overall, but the points I raised make me doubt the veracity of the witness’ statements.” His hand on his heart, the witness confirmed he had worked at S-21 and added: “Those who were with me can prove it,” like a former guard named “Mith.” He was thanked for his statement. Half a day was lost.

New witness
Before the next witness entered the room, François Roux observed an “abnormality:” there was no French translation of his statement to the co-Investigating Judges while an English translation was made… since October 2007.

Kambol (Phnom Penh, Cambodia). 03/08/2009: Lak Mieung, a witness more at ease… in an oversized jacket
©Stéphanie Gée

Lak Mieung, a 52-year-old farmer, took his seat. He was recruited as a member of the militia in his commune in 1974 before becoming a soldier. Shortly after April 1975, he was sent to the technical military school of Takhmau, before being assigned to a unit as guard. Then, he worked at the main prison in the police headquarters in Phnom Penh, until the prison was moved to Tuol Sleng. After arriving at S-21, he became a guard on duty outside the cells and buildings, within the compound, according to a system of shifts, before being appointed as a typist to record the prisoners’ confessions and then, late 1978, an interrogator. The witness’ dark jacket hung off him and looked identical to that worn by Sek Dân and the other former S-21 staff members who succeeded before him at the stand. He visibly looked more relaxed than his predecessor and even dared to cast a glance to the side of the accused.

Used-up usual questions
In response to judge Ya Sokhan’s questions, he claimed he had seen Vietnamese prisoners “in great numbers,” maybe between 100 and 200, who arrived by trucks at S-21 “in late 1978” and for most, locked in collective cells in the North building. The judge did not fail to ask him how the prisoners were set in the cells, what clothes they wore, whether they had to request the guard’s authorisation to stand up, what food rations they received, how they washed, etc. Questions already heard dozens of times.

How one becomes an interrogator
Lak Mieung explained he did not learn interrogation techniques in a manual, but with an experienced interrogator who supervised him. He had to observe how the latter proceeded to extract confessions from prisoners and identify their networks. Under his supervision, he interrogated a dozen prisoners, then three or four on his own, before Phnom Penh was captured by the Vietnamese. But he said he did not remember the names of those he had to make confess. Also, he was not aware of the existence of teams assigned to the “hot,” “cold” or “chewing” methods. The witness said he only met Duch at the dining hall and the political school.

Duch’s phone calls
“I would receive the order to interrogate a prisoner by writing. It was my team leader, […] [who changed] at various periods, who transmitted me the order. I would receive a instruction letter and I would go and get the person in his cell and interrogate him.” The letter was signed by the team leader, but it did not have the name of the person who had written the text, Lak Mieung specified. When he had finished with an interrogation, Hor, Duch’s deputy, would come and ask him his findings. Then, he would present his interrogation report to his team leader, but never to the accused, because “you had to go through the chain of command.” No, he never received any annotated document asking him to continue an interrogation. Once he had reported a prisoner’s confessions to his supervisors, if any uncertainties remained, Duch would eventually call him directly on the phone to ask him further questions. “It happened,” the witness claimed, saying he was certain he could clearly recognise the voice of the accused at the time. Beyond the interrogation stage, Lak Mieung knew nothing about what happened to the prisoners, he claimed.

Violence against detainees, on Hor’s instigation
“Were the interrogators empowered to torture or did they have to request authorisation?”, the judge asked. “Violence against detainees was not authorised for ordinary interrogators like myself. We could possibly insult or threaten the prisoner, but we were forbidden from mistreating him physically.” Instructions received from the unit chief. “What if, for instance, a detainee did not give full confessions and torture was used against him. Who gave the order?”, Ya Sokhan continued. “In such cases, it was Hor who would personally come and see us and order us to take a stick [to hit the detainee].” As for Duch, he never exhorted him to resort to torture against any detainee, Lak Mieung declared. However, “during studying sessions, we were taught how to use torture during interrogations.” “Duch gave us these trainings, but he was not the one who ordered us to use torture in specific cases. He told us to start by talking about politics to obtain the confessions we sought. […] Most often, it was Hor who resorted to torture.” Aside from branches and electroshocks, Lak Mieung said he did not see other instruments or techniques or torture.

Lak Mieung says he recognised Sek Dân
As for the medical staff, he did not note any female member, but remembered seeing Sek Dân, who testified in the morning. He recognised his face, saying he had kept the memory of “teenage” members, and not children, in that team. “I knew [Sek Dân] well because we were in the same training.” Judge Lavergne then asked him if he remembered noting, in the interrogation rooms, any instructions posted on the walls. Lak Mieung said he did not. “What I learned, I learned it from other interrogators.”

Duch “hesitates to confirm”
Did the accused recognise Lak Mieung as a former S-21 staff member? Duch “hesitated to confirm.” If nothing in this witness’ testimony incriminated him directly, he expressed his rejection that some people sought to associate themselves with S-21, a “criminal mechanism,” and claimed they were part of it when it was not the case. He listed some details in the witness’ testimony that arose his “suspicions,” in particular his claim he used to call him to talk with him about prisoners’ interrogations, a “very strange thing.” The accused hoped to be able to shed light on this witness and added that if Lak Mieung could remember the names of the people he had interrogated, it would things easier.

(translated from French by Ji-Sook Lee)

Desperate plea

Photo by: Heng Chivoan

The Phnom Penh Post

Tuesday, 04 August 2009

Heng Chivoan

Representatives from 108 families meet with publisher Soy Sopheap in front of Deum Ampil newspaper office on Monday after travelling from Poipet to protest losing their land to a developer. The company was awarded the land after claiming only 14 families lived in the area, not 108. Soy Sopheap agreed to travel to the village and meet with company officials next Monday.

Pageant's organiser to comply

Photo by: Gorm K Gaare / MISS LANDMINE 2009
Miss Landmine contestant Song Kosal, who represents Phnom Penh, said she supports the event as a means of empowering the victims of mines.

The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 04 August 2009
Sebastian Strangio and Sam Rith

But Miss Landmine planner says shutdown order a 'blow' to disabled

THE organiser of the Miss Landmine beauty pageant has condemned a government order shutting down the event, describing the decision as a "blow" for disabled rights in the Kingdom.

In meetings Monday at the Ministry of Social Affairs, officials rejected a last-ditch bid by organisers to reach a compromise over the staging of the controversial event, which features female victims of land mines.

"I believe it is a blow, not only for disabled rights, but also for the self-esteem of the women taking part and the self-esteem of disabled people across the country," organiser Morten Traavik said after the meeting.

"The message that they're getting out of [the ban] is that they should not present themselves as anything but the traditional notion of how a disabled person should appear: as objects of our condescending pity."

In a letter dated Friday, the Ministry of Social Affairs ordered that organisers of the pageant cease their activities immediately in order to protect the "honour and dignity" of the women taking part.

Traavik, an artist from Norway, said that for the well-being of the Cambodians taking part in the event, he would comply with the ministry's request, but he said the event's Web site will continue to operate despite the prospect of legal action by the government.

The decision to ban the event was a surprise, Traavik said, given that the project had previously received the support of anti-land mine groups and the ministries of both Social Affairs and Women's Affairs.

Twenty land-mine victims from across the country were set to take part in the Miss Landmine pageant, which was scheduled to open with a photo exhibition of the contestants on Friday.

This was to be followed by an Internet voting campaign to select the winner, who would have been awarded prize money and a prosthetic limb at a crowning ceremony in December.

The ministry's decision to ban the Miss Landmine event has reopened a debate about the merits of the contest, first held in Angola in 2007.

Song Kosal, a contestant representing Phnom Penh, said those involved in the pageant had opted to participate voluntarily, and that it was a great disappointment to hear that the event had been banned.

"Even though the contest is titled Miss Landmine, it offers us the chance to have the same rights as other people and also informs the whole world about the importance of eliminating land mines," she said.

Degrading contest
But others said the ban would not affect the progress of disability rights in Cambodia. Ngin Saorath, executive director of the Cambodian Disabled People's Organisation, which has supported Miss Landmine, said the government's main concerns were related to culture, not disability issues.

"This is to do with culture," he said, adding that the passage of a Disabilities Law last month demonstrated the government's dedication to the issue.


"We are working closely with the Ministry of Social Affairs in order to address the position of people with disabilities. I don't think [the ban] will effect [that]."

Kek Pung, president of the rights group Licadho, said that the government was right to ban the event, saying the organisers should have found a different way of conveying their message.

"I think that this is an issue of strategy and message. You can find a lot more methods of raising issues of land mines," she said.

Event organisers had the right intentions, she added, but she argued that a beauty pageant might wind up making the participants feel "sorry" for themselves.

Heng Ratana, director general of the Cambodian Mine Action Centre, agreed, saying that the contest was degrading for the participants, and that organising such an event was "unfair" to Cambodian culture.

He added that the efforts of organising that campaign should be channeled into providing training and other support to the disabled.

The government has long been hostile to beauty pageants. In September 2006, Prime Minister Hun Sen issued a ban on such events, saying the money could better be used to "help farmers" and to "solve more important issues".

Traavik said that despite the government's ban, the international coverage of the event would ensure that it continues to challenge ingrained attitudes about the disabled.

"Even if the Cambodian authorities are opposed to showing the pictures in Cambodia, they will still raise a lot of important issues and discussions," he said. "The idea is already out there."

An official at the Ministry of Social Affairs, who declined to be named, said that the ministry stood by the announcement issued Sunday.

Fair Sochua ruling doubted

The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 04 August 2009
Meas Sokchea

Ahead of today's ruling on Prime Minister Hun Sen's defamation suit against opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua, a prominent rights groups said it was doubtful Phnom Penh Municipal Court could pass fair judgement on a case that legal observers say has come to define government interference in the judiciary.

In a statement Monday, the Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission said that due to the current state of the courts, a verdict in favour of Hun Sen was largely a foregone conclusion.

"Executive control of the court is an established fact, and it is known that the court lacks independence," the group said.

It added that "almost all prosecutors and judges" were affiliated with the ruling Cambodian People's Party, saying that any verdict against Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Mu Sochua would "not carry any authority" in a proper court of law.

Mu Sochua told the Post that she saw her case as a test for the independence of Cambodia's court system.

"Tomorrow, the court has an opportunity to show its independence. If the court decides against me, the court is not independent," she said Monday.

The SRP and Human Rights Party say that they have prepared a joint statement but will wait for today's verdict before criticising the courts.

"We will issue a joint statement, [but] its contents will be different depending on the verdict," HRP spokesman Yem Ponharith said.

But Prime Minister Hun Sen's lawyer Ky Tech, who is prosecuting the case, said that if the SRP and Mu Sochua complain about a guilty verdict, they are themselves preventing the court from being independent.

"Normally, everyone says the court is not independent when he loses a case," he said. "But if he wins, he says the court is independent."

Hun Sen sued Mu Sochua for defamation after she filed her own defamation suit against him, claiming he insulted her during a speech in Kampot province in early April.

Dozens fall victim to Korea job scam

The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 04 August 2009
Mom Kunthear and Chrann Chamroeun

MORE than two dozen people from Kampong Cham's Chamkar Leu district say they were duped into handing over as much as US$1,700 a person to unscrupulous brokers promising to send them to lucrative jobs in Korea.

"They said we could leave Cambodia for Korea on July 28, but on that date, they broke their promise," said Sreng Mom, 45, who said he paid $1,700 to get work in Korea. "We all trusted them as neighbours, but actually they cheated us."

Twenty-six people - eight women and 18 men - have filed a complaint to the anti-human trafficking NGO Legal Support for Women and Children (LSCW) and asked the NGO to help get their money back.

"We are preparing documents for the people now to sue the scammers and make them pay people back," said Uth Boren, a trainee at LSCW in Kampong Cham, adding that more than 10 families have already received some money from two accused false brokers.

Uth Boren said her organisation spends time educating people about the dangers of fake brokers, but that her warnings often go ignored until it is too late.

"I always tell them about the tricks and tell them not to trust other people too easily, but they don't pay attention to what we tell them," she said. "At first, when they were cheated, they said, 'We don't think we are cheated' ... but we still help them."

To make payments to the brokers, villagers had to sell their rice fields and cows, said Bun Kuntha, the deputy governor of Chamkar Leu district.

Cheng Heang, the Kampong Cham provincial Labour Department director, said he sympathised with those who lost money.

"I feel terribly sorry for my people who were cheated by the [fake brokers].... These liars must be punished," he said.

NEC's annual updates to voter rolls due in October

The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 04 August 2009
Vong Sokeng

The National Election Committee is scheduled to conduct its annual voter registration update, including the registration of new voters and the update of voter lists, this October. But civil society groups say the NEC effort will do little to contain irregularities that have marred Cambodian elections in recent years.

Tep Nytha, secretary general of the NEC, said commune councillors will be in charge of conducting voter registration among their own constituents from October 1 to October 20, before submitting their information to the NEC for processing. Commune councillors are also responsible for updating voter lists, adding new residents and removing those that have died, moved away or are listed more than once.

The NEC plans to hire temporary staff, Tep Nytha added, to enter the voter information into a computerised database the committee hopes will be finished by December.

Koul Panha, executive director of Comfrel, said Monday that the NEC "lacks the political will" to pursue thorough reforms.

Officials reject Thai border market claim

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
The market at the foot of disputed Preah Vihear temple, after being destroyed by Thai rocket fire during border clashes in April

The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 04 August 2009
Cheang Sokha

Government disputes Thai argument that planned market reconstruction violates bilateral agreements.

CAMBODIAN officials have rejected Thai government claims that the reconstruction of a market at the foot of Preah Vihear temple violates a border agreement signed by the two countries, saying the project has nothing to do with the continuing standoff over contested territory.

Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, said that the reconstruction of the market - which Cambodia says was destroyed by Thai rocket fire during border clashes in April - was merely intended to provide housing to 319 vendor families made homeless by the incident.

"Thailand's claims are groundless," he said Monday.

"They are only trying to disturb Cambodia."

On Thursday, Thailand's border communication office wrote to its Cambodian counterpart, claiming that the construction of new stalls at the market violated a memorandum of understanding on border demarcation signed between the two countries in 2000.

"The border communication team of Region 1 would like to inform you that the above action is in violation of the joint MoU on inspection and border demarcation," the letter stated.

Cambodia and Thailand have never fully demarcated their 805-kilometre shared border.

Photo by: Vandy Rattana
The market as it was prior to the incident.

Under construction
Sar Thavy, Preah Vihear deputy governor and a member of the market construction commission, said Monday that several stalls had already been rebuilt, and that the all construction activities were taking place on Cambodian soil.

"We have to rebuild those stalls because [the market] has been on that site for many years," he said.

"If Thailand complains about our reconstruction, it is their problem."

He added that construction workers were hurriedly building stands in an attempt to finish the project as soon as possible.

In May, Cambodia officially requested US$2.1 million in compensation for the damage at the market, but so far there has been no response from Bangkok.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said that Thailand had not yet sent a formal diplomatic note protesting the reconstruction, but added that Foreign Minister Hor Namhong was set to leave for Bangkok today for a meeting of the Joint Border Commission, set up to negotiate border issues.

Var Kimhong, Cambodia's top border negotiator, could not be reached for comment Monday

Explosives to scare off pesky wild elephants

The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 04 August 2009
Khouth Sophak Chakrya

A PROJECT launched last week in Mondulkiri province is training villagers to use explosive devices made of bamboo and basalt to scare wild elephants away from their farmland.

The project, led by the Forestry Administration and the conservation group Fauna and Flora International, comes amid increasing reports from villagers that wild elephants have ventured onto their property and destroyed their crops.

Chheang Nak, the Forestry Administration official leading the project, said Fauna and Flora was providing the explosive devices, which are made by placing explosive basalt inside a stick of bamboo, adding water and lighting an attached fuse made of silk.

The fuse sticks out of the bamboo by 5-10 centimetres, giving the villagers plenty of time to throw the device in the general direction of the targeted elephant, he said.

"It can be loud enough to scare the wild elephants, but it won't kill them," he said.

Cheak Chheung, the chief of Mondulkiri's Sre Khtum commune, located in Keo Seima district, said wild elephants had destroyed up to 5 hectares of farmland between July 15 and July 27. He said the commune, made up predominantly of Phnong minority villagers, had never before had a problem with elephants damaging farmland.

Several villagers interviewed by the Post expressed concern that wild elephants would continue to "attack" their crops.

Phuo Hignuok, 36, a villager in the commune's Om An village, said in late July that his two small rice fields were devastated by two wild elephants.

"One of the two elephants was very vicious," he said. "It tried to attack our rice field three days in a row and destroyed 3 hectares of rice paddy."

Another villager, Tresh Huo, 57, said two wild elephants "attacked" his farm for three consecutive days beginning on July 25, destroying his single-hectare banana and sugarcane plantation.

He added: "They didn't just destroy the cash crops. They also destroyed my cottage."

Invasion of "gentle animals"
Chear Vireak, the project leader for Fauna and Flora, said the destruction of farmland by wild elephants, though new to Sre Khtum commune, was not new to the province, adding that similar projects had been implemented in Mondulkiri as recently as last year.

He said wild elephants generally ventured out from the jungle towards sparse forests near villages beginning in early June, and that they would go back to the jungle in February.

"They always eat the cash crops and the rice of the villagers when they cross from the jungle to the area near the villages," he said.

He described wild elephants as "gentle animals that are as shy as humans", though he noted that they can become "vicious when they need to breed" in November and December. Citing official estimates, he said there were 300 wild elephants in Mondulkiri province.

Medical abortion drugs set for Cambodian registration

Abortion drug facts

Mifepristone is also known as RU-486 after the French company Roussel Uclaf that first developed it. Misoprostol was first approved to treat gastric ulcers, but in Brazil in the late 1980s, women discovered it could be used to induce an abortion.

The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 04 August 2009
Christopher Shay and Mom Kunthear

Many hope the imminent introduction of medical abortion drugs will save women's lives by providing a safe alternative to black-market abortion pills.

FIVE years ago, a young woman found herself needing to terminate an unexpected pregnancy. Shy and fearful of hospitals, she instead turned to an unlicensed pharmacist who prescribed unidentified pills.

"After I took the tablets, a few days later I lost a lot of blood, and I hurt very much in my stomach," Pheap, now 32, told the Post. "I could not do anything because I was very tired and had to sleep all the time."

Concerned for her health, Pheap's landlady took her to an unregistered clinic where she received a surgical abortion. There were no complications, and she made a full recovery, but other women in Cambodia haven't been so lucky.

Although Cambodia legalised abortion in 1997, tens of thousands of women still opt for unsafe surgical procedures at unregulated clinics or black-market pills.

A 2008 study published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (BJOG) estimated that in 2005 almost 32,000 women in Cambodia were treated at government facilities for abortion-related complications. Forty-two percent of the cases were severe.

In a bid to make safe abortions more accessible, the Department of Drugs and Food is set to register the drugs mifepristone and misoprostol, said John Naponick, who works with the government as director of the Reduction in Maternal Mortality Project.

The move would allow pills that can terminate pregnancy to be legally imported into the country and is being heralded as a step towards improving access to safe abortions.

"Although abortion is legal, that is not the same as accessible," said Tamara Fetters, a senior researcher at the nonprofit women's group Ipas and primary author of the 2008 BJOG study on abortion-related complications. "Many parts of the country still have limited or no access to safe abortion."

I did not have someone to discuss it with ... I was like a crazy person.

The secrecy and shame surrounding the issue, Fetters said, leads many women to seek help outside the formal health sector. "Abortion is a stigmatised service," she said. "Women who seek abortions are often chastised. They may do it without the knowledge or support of their families."

Sovan Rasmey, 33, underwent an unlicensed abortion two years ago, not realising the procedure was legal. She said could not speak to anyone about it without risking the scorn of her community.

"I went to do it by myself, and, until now, I have kept it a secret," she said. "I did not have someone to discuss it with because I did not want anyone to know. I was like a crazy person."

Women forced to resort to illegal procedures may be risking their lives, Fetters warned. "Drugs are purchased from pharmacists and from drug sellers in markets, so women are largely at the mercy of these vendors and their local knowledge," she said. Though some of the drugs may be effective, other substances "could cause toxicity or haemorrhage that can be life-threatening".

Naponick at Maternal Mortality Project said many Chinese-made abortion medications are dangerous for the simple reason that few people in Cambodia can read the instructions.

"All over Cambodia, there are all kinds of products up for sale," he said. "If the whole package is in Chinese, I don't think anyone will be able to read the expiration date."

Naponick said the societal benefits from the introduction of legal abortion drugs will spread into the informal sector. "If we have a product on the market which is legitimate with instructions that people can read, I would think the situation would be a lot better.... Having a safe, reliable, genuine product in the country is something that we've wanted to have for a long time."

Cambodia has among the highest rates of maternal mortality in the region, according to the 2005 Cambodia Demographic and Health Survey - the most recent data on maternal health. At 472 deaths for every 100,000 live births, it is 10 times higher than Thailand's.

The exact number of deaths caused by unsafe abortions is unknown, said Joan Venghaus, a technical adviser to Marie Stopes International. "A lot of what we are hearing about backstreet abortions is anecdotal.... We don't even know how many people are accessing them," she said.

The World Health Organisation estimates that about 13 percent of global pregnancy deaths are caused by unsafe abortions.

Additional reporting by Eleanor Ainge Roy

Gold Heist: Bandits rob vendors in Siem Reap

The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 04 August 2009
Chrann Chamroeun


Police are searching for four men suspected of robbing two gold vendors in Siem Reap town's Svay Dangkum commune on Friday. Siem Reap deputy district police chief Mak Sam On told the Post that bandits armed with guns robbed Song Sopheap and Reach Kunthea as they returned from Loeu Thom Thmey market, making off with US$9,000, 45 million riels ($10,737) and 60 damlung (2.25kg) of gold and platinum. "It tends to be difficult to search for gunmen as they are not residents here," he said Monday, adding that the couple were the first gold vendors to be robbed in Siem Reap for several years. "However, we are now investigating and will try our best ... to hunt for the men, as we have some means of identifying the suspects." Mak Sam On added that Reach Kunthea was "seriously injured" in her struggles with the robbers.

Families clear-cut jungle near popular Beng Melea temple

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
The moss-covered ruins of the Beng Melea temple complex sit in a pile. The temple is a popular tourist site.

The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 04 August 2009
Khouth Sophak Chakrya

Apsara Authority warns community against logging, but residents say they need more farmland to feed their families and earn a living.

ABOUT 20 families have cleared the jungle in the conservation area next to Beng Mealea, an Angkorian-era temple complex about 50 kilometres from Angkor Wat that has become a popular tourist site, officials told the Post.

"They've clear-cut about 6 hectares of forest to expand their farmland," said Sam Sau, the deputy governor of Svay Leu district in Siem Reap province.

The Apsara Authority, the body in charge of preserving the temple complex, said they have warned the families that if they log any more of the protected forest, they would be arrested.

"At the moment, we have just educated them," said Soeung Kong, the deputy director general of the Apsara Authority. "But if they do not stop their illegal cutting of forest land ... we will file a complaint."

According to a Royal decree from 2000, the forest is under the control of the Apsara Authority.

But residents from the Beng Mealea commune say they need to cut the forest to have farmland to feed their families, as the community has outgrown their meagre farms.

"They have a shortage of land that they can use for agriculture," said Hun Hatt, chief of Beng Mealea commune, adding that the villagers wanted to plant bananas and pineapples.

Resident Vann Mach, 52, said, "I need the farmland to share with my children after they are married."

Sentences upheld by Appeal Court in '07 paedophilia case

The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 04 August 2009
Chrann Chamroeun

Cambodia's Appeal Court on Monday refused to reduce the prison sentences handed down two years ago against defendents convicted of operating one of the Kingdom's most brutal paedophilia rings.

The two Germans and three Vietnamese had hoped their sentences would be reduced under new anti-trafficking legislation that has resulted in several sex offenders' prison terms being slashed.

Following a massive August 2006 police raid on the house of reputed mastermind Karl Heinz Henning, then 61, the five were sentenced in 2007 for their roles in trafficking and abusing underage Vietnamese girls.

At Henning's house, police seized vast amounts of sadomasochistic child pornography - primarily images and footage of Henning and other older Western men whipping and raping bound children.

Also during the raid, authorities rescued four Vietnamese girls found naked in the house and confiscated pornographic videocassettes and VCDs, together with film production equipment. The girls were aged 10, 11, 13 and 14 at the time.

The Appeal Court upheld a Phnom Penh Municipal Court conviction from 2007 but changed some articles in accordance with the new law.

Reading the verdict, presiding Judge Chaem Vicharit said: "We upheld Phnom Penh Court's 2007 conviction, but we changed to the new law under Article 15 about the act of selling with intent, Article 28 about procurement with regard to child prostitution and Article 34 about the purchase of child prostitution."

German national Thomas Sigwart Eugen Baron von Engelhardt, 44, was jailed for 12 years. Karl Heinz Henning, also German, was sentenced to 28 years. Two Vietnamese women and one Vietnamese man were jailed for between 15 and 20 years.

Peng Maneth, a lawyer with Action Pour Les Enfants - the anti-paedophile NGO involved in the 2006 raid that prompted the charges - praised the verdict but said the victims should have been compensated.

"We welcome the Appeal Court's decision to uphold the lower court's conviction, but we feel terribly sorry that the five offenders have not been ordered to pay compensation for victims," he said.

Govt to broker deal in Takeo market dispute

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Tonloab market vendors protest in front of Hun Sen’s house on Sunday.

The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 04 August 2009
May Titthara

Officials from Hun Sen's office instruct vendors to cease protests in return for new negotiations.

VENDORS from Takeo province who travelled to the Kandal province home of Prime Minister Hun Sen on Saturday to protest a dispute with a market owner were heading home Monday after meeting with officials from Hun Sen's office who promised to solve the problem.

The vendors had previously worked at Tonloab market in Takeo's Prea Bat Chonchum commune, Kirivong district, about 13 kilometres from the Vietnamese border. They claim that the owner of the market told them to leave their stalls while they underwent maintenance work, only to put them up for sale at a higher price when they returned.

Bun Theng, one of around 130 vendors who arrived in Phnom Penh on Saturday, said that representatives of Hun Sen had promised to broker a meeting with the Takeo provincial governor to settle the issue. "We would not have left if they had not made that promise," he said.

Protesters set up in front of Hun Sen's Takhmao residence in Kandal province after walking the 30 kilometres from Takeo to Kandal when provincial authorities confiscated seven vans the vendors had rented for the trip, they said.

Govt to handle negotiations
Lim Leang Se, deputy chief of Hun Sen's Cabinet, claimed that the government would handle negotiations between the market owner, local officials and the displaced merchants, and that the dispute has now been resolved.

"The people agreed to go back home because we settled their problem," he said. "We are giving the rights back to them so they can sell at their old places."

Some protesters, however, remained sceptical.

"I don't believe [the government] 100 percent yet. I think they just encouraged us to go back home because it looked bad to have us protesting in front of the prime minister's house," said Nhen Pros, one of the vendors. "How can we sell at the same place if they've constructed new shops already?"

Kirivong district Governor Tek Songlim was accused last week of threatening one of the vendors' representatives at gunpoint, attempting to dissuade the group from travelling to Kandal. On Monday, the governor said his office had sent a letter to the vendors informing them that that they can return to their old location once construction is finished.

Tonloab market owner Ung Rithea could not be reached for comment Monday.

Police Blotter: 4 Aug 2009

The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 04 August 2009
Kong Sokun

A heavily intoxicated two-star general smashed wine glasses and plates against the floor and fired his gun two times into the ceiling at Boeung Meas restaurant in Russei Keo district on Friday at around 10:30pm. The general began his drunken tantrum after a female server refused to pour wine into his glass and the restaurant's owner declined to express warm hospitality towards the general upon his arrival. After firing two bullets from his handgun, the military official, whose name and address were not disclosed, fled the scene with in a black Mercedes SUV that lacked licence plates. He drove so recklessly that he hit a parked car in the restaurant lot, but this mishap did not stop the drunken general's attempt to escape, eyewitnesses said. After the incident, authorities reached the restaurant but did not dare make any inquiries.

A man was arrested by police in Kandal province's Ang Snuol district for strangling his former girlfriend, a garment worker who stopped loving him and turned her eyes to a new man. The violence broke out in the district's Kambaul commune at around 8:30pm on Friday. Police identified the love-stricken man as 21-year-old Lun Taiv and the victim as Chhoeun Leakna. After the arrest, the man confessed to police that he had attempted to end Chhoeun Leakna's life and then kill himself to end the pain of unrequited love.

Siem Reap provincial police raided the Angkor Monorom Guesthouse on Sunday in Siem Reap city, detaining the couple who own the facility along with 10 females suspected of providing sex and massage services to customers. Um Amara, Siem Reap provincial deputy police chief, said the crackdown was launched following orders from Prime Minister Hun Sen. Police identified the owners as 58-year-old Soum Leng and his wife, 42-year-old Hay Sok Dalen. The couple denied that their guesthouse had provided sex services to customers.

A man was rushed to a private hospital in Phnom Penh after he was stabbed several times by his crony, who was attempting to rob him of his modern motorbike. The incident took place on Thursday in Dangkor district. Police identified the victim as Yen Vath, a 29-year-old construction worker living in a rented house in the district's Choam Chao commune. The perpetrator remains at large.

Former child medic says S-21 prisoners had torture wounds

The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 04 August 2009
Georgia Wilkins

Latest witness in the trial of S-21 chief Duch claims he treated detainees with 'torn' ears and missing fingernails to allow interrogation.

A WITNESS claiming to be a former child medic at Tuol Sleng prison told Cambodia's war crimes court Monday that he treated people with apparent torture wounds, including torn ears and missing fingernails.

Sek Dorn, who said he first came to the prison in 1978, said his primary form of treatment involved giving sick detainees "rabbit pellets", a homemade medicine that he said would only keep prisoners alive for a short period of time.

"The medicine would be enough to keep them alive until they were interrogated, that was all," he said.

"Normally, after such treatment, the people I gave the medicine to disappeared."

Sek Dorn was called to testify against his former boss, Tuol Sleng prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, who is on trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

He said he at times became so hungry at the prison that he ate the "rabbit pellets" and other types of medicine himself.

"Some of them had a sweet taste, and some of them were bitter," he said.

Asked to provide observations on Sek Dorn's testimony, Duch said the inconsistency between his stated birth year and the age at which he said he entered the prison made him "suspicious".


"He said that he is now 48 years old, so it was the year 1961 that he was born, but he said he came to S-21 when he was 11 years old," Duch said. "It is likely he was sent to S-21; however, the testimony provided by him has contradictory timelines."

Also Monday, the court heard from witness Lach Mien, who said he was a former guard and interrogator at the prison.

Lach Mien told the court he knew a staff member had been purged when he noticed one disappear and, shortly thereafter, saw a body covered in a blanket brought out of the prison. His testimony is to continue today.

Pol Pot: US asked Sweden to hold KR trial

The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 04 August 2009
Sebastian Strangio


The US government approached Sweden as a possible location for a trial of Pol Pot just days before his death in April 1998, according to documents recently declassified by the Swedish government. The documents, reviewed on the country's national Sveriges Radio, show that "representatives from American authorities" approached personnel with Sweden's Foreign Ministry to discuss a secret plan to bring Pol Pot to trial in Sweden or in a third country. Sweden's Ministry of Justice rejected the American plan, saying it would have required the country to file a request to have Pol Pot extradited from Cambodia. A second plan, to have Sweden hold Pol Pot until a trial could be arranged in a third country, was also rejected on the grounds it would have involved an illegal detention, in violation of Swedish law. The documents also reportedly cited Justice Ministry concerns that the vast amount of time that had elapsed since the crimes, as well as the geographical distance between Sweden and Cambodia, meant that the evidence presented against Pol Pot would be too vague.

Rail freight falls 15pc in first half, operator says

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
A locomotive passes a residential area of Phnom Penh. Royal Railways of Cambodia said freight volumes were down 15 percent in the first half

The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 04 August 2009
Nguon Sovan

Royal Railways of Cambodia blames weak construction sector, line upgrades and Thai border dispute for decreased volume

ROYAL Railways of Cambodia said Monday that freight volumes were down 15 percent in the first six months of 2009 over the same period last year.

It blamed the fall on the global economic crisis that has damaged the construction industry, as well as delays caused by upgrades to the rail network.

"Transport volumes have dropped to about 99,000 tonnes in the first half of this year from 116,500 in the same period last year," RRC Director General Sokhom Pheakavanmony said.

He said revenues for the six month period have not yet been calculated.

Sokhom Pheakavanmony said the Kingdom has two railroad lines. One runs from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville in the south. The other goes from Phnom Penh west to Battambang, and from there to Sisophon on the Thai border.

He said the bulk of freight is comprised of cement, other construction materials and petroleum.

"We have seen a remarkable decline in the transportation of construction materials due to the downturn in that sector," he said. "Upgrading the railroads has disturbed train traffic, as has the border issue with Thailand, which cut the quantity of goods shipped through Poipet checkpoint."
RRC trains transported 233,000 tonnes of freight last year, generating revenues of around US$1.5 million.

Upgrading the railroads has disturbed train traffic, as has the border issue.

Cambodia's rail network was built in 1929 and was last upgraded in the 1960s. Three decades of conflict destroyed or damaged much of the system.

Under a $73 million reconstruction plan, the Asian Development Bank has loaned part of the money to refurbish 594 kilometres of line. A further 48 kilometres of destroyed track will be replaced. The government and other international partners are also contributing funds.

The line from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville can carry 15 tonnes of freight, but after the upgrade it will be able to take 20 tonnes of freight at an average speed of up to 50 kph. That part of the project will include building a spur to Sihanoukville port.

The Phnom Penh-to-Battambang railway will be able to take 15 tonnes after refurbishing.

Work began in March 2008 to replace railway sleepers. The project is expected to finish by early 2011.

Earlier this year the government awarded a 30-year contract to Australian firm Toll Holdings to operate the railways and rail freight. Under the deal, Toll will have a 55-percent stake in the venture. Local partner Royal Group will hold the rest.

Toll said this year that the agreement is conditional on confirmation of a $145 million investment by the international community. The money will be used to upgrade the network and construct an intermodal facility in Phnom Penh.

Siem Reap hotels still being built

The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 04 August 2009
Chun Sophal

SIEM Reap continues to add hotel rooms despite a 13-percent drop in tourist numbers in the first six months of the year.

Ghov Seng Kak, acting president of the provincial tourism department, said 17 hotels are under construction. When completed they will add 2,700 rooms to capacity - an increase of around one-third - and employ 3,000 local staff, he said.

He predicts that the number of hotel rooms will not exceed long-term demand since the province - home to Angkor Wat - has strong tourism appeal.

"I believe that between August and March 2010, Siem Reap will receive more tourists than in the previous [eight] months because it is the reason tourists come [to Cambodia]," he said.

Provincial Governor Sou Phirin said Monday there are no obstacles to further development of Siem Reap's hotel sector, although he declined to state how much money is being spent on construction.

He said current construction must continue and maintains that investors are confident the global economic problems will abate.

"So I hope that more hotels will be constructed ... and more Cambodian people will get jobs at them," he said.

Figures from the provincial tourism department show the province has 116 hotels totalling more than 8,000 rooms. It received 503,000 visitors in the first six months of the year, compared with 578,700 in the same period last year.

Luu Meng, president of the Cambodian Hotel Association, said Monday that hotel owners have not shut down in the face of the global slowdown, but have mainly cut working hours.

Chocolate company to set up in Cambodia

The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 04 August 2009
Ith Sothoeuth

BELGIUM'S Grand-Place chocolate company announced on Monday that it will open a sales office in Phnom Penh to import chocolate.

The firm, a business-to-business operation, is looking to sell 35 tonnes in the first year, it said.

Adrien Restle, managing director of the company's Cambodia office, said the company saw an opening after researching the Cambodian market.

"We undertook some surveys in Cambodia, and there is no service like that ... so we decided to be the first to develop the chocolate market here and help people improve their technique," he said at a an official launch in Phnom Penh Monday.

Initially the firm will import chocolates from its factory in Vietnam, but Restle said he hopes to start production in the Kingdom in the future.

The firm sells 3,500 tonnes of chocolate worldwide each year.

Telecom law delayed over finance proviso

Photo by: Sovan Philong
Mobile-phone vendors sell phones and SIM cards on a street in Phnom Penh.

We are now waiting for the final decision from the Council of Ministers.

The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 04 August 2009
Ith Sothoeuth and Steve Finch

Authorities say Ministry of Finance objected to telecom regulator’s role as financial watchdog

THE Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications on Monday chalked up delays in the implementation of a long-awaited telecom law to disagreements over the handling of finances from the sector, citing a draft of the legislation published earlier this year.

Article 8 of a draft of the law published on June 5 states that the future telecommunications regulator - which would be created as part of new legislation - would be "autonomous in checking and controlling ... financially in installing, operating, supplying and using network and telecommunications services".

However, La Narath, a secretary of state at the ministry, said the Ministry of Economy and Finance had objected to the wording - the disagreement, he added, had been resolved after a meeting between both ministries.

"We just deleted the word 'financially' ... only this one word; besides that, [the draft] was OK," he said. "We are now waiting for the final decision from the Council of Ministers."

Council spokesman Phay Siphan said in June that consultations with various ministries were being held "to make sure the law is in harmony with relevant ministries".

He was unavailable for further comment Monday on the progress of the legislation. The Ministry of Economy and Finance was also unavailable.

Regulatory powers
Minister of Posts and Telecommunications So Khun said Monday that as a result of governmental discussions in the past two months, the telecom regulator would still have supervision of the industry except with regard to financial matters.

"[Regulators] will still have autonomy, but there are some points that come under the authority of the Ministry of Finance due to financial law," he said, adding that auditors from the Ministry of Finance would also audit the telecom regulator's spending.

So Khun said that mobile-phone operators would have to share signal towers according to the new regulations instead of erecting separate towers, as has happened in the past.

"Companies can rent towers from their owners, meaning they share the tower," he said.

Hello's chief executive officer, Simon Perkins, told the Post last week that the clause on infrastructure-sharing "doesn't bother us".

Mobitel, the leading mobile provider by active users, which said this year that it planned to invest US$350 million in infrastructure as part of a three-year rural expansion plan, declined to comment on the draft law on Monday.

Mark Hanna, chief financial officer of Royal Group, which owns a 38.5 percent stake in Mobitel, said the company had only recently seen the draft law.

Mobile companies operating in the Kingdom recently told the Post they had been concerned by unclear provisions in the draft legislation that had outlined limitations on foreign ownership, set at 49 percent, but had since been informed by So Khun that such articles related to company land ownership only.

"There is no limitation on foreign ownership. If someone holds a 100 percent share [in a mobile-phone company in Cambodia], he is the owner," So Khun said Monday.

The majority of Cambodia's mobile operators are owned by foreign entities, including Mobitel, which is 58.4 percent owned by Millicom International SA; Viettel, which is operated by the Vietnamese military; and Hello, in which Kuala Lumpur-based Axiata holds the majority stake.

Millicom to split assets in Asia ahead of sale

The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 04 August 2009
Steve Finch

Stakes in Cambodia, Laos and Sri Lanka to be separated before sales due by Q1 of next year

MILLICOM International SA, the Luxembourg-based company that holds a 58.4 percent stake in Cambodian mobile-phone operator Mobitel, said Monday it will likely split its Asian assets ahead of a proposed sale this year.

"We expect the Asian countries to now be sold separately," said Perregrine Riviere, Millicom's head of external relations.

Riviere declined to comment further on the process, which it said last month had been outsourced to Goldman Sachs, except to say that there have been "multiple expressions of interest".

Millicom previously said it expected the sale of its Cambodian, Laotian and Sri Lankan assets would be finalised by the first quarter of 2010.

Malaysia's Axiata, which runs Cambodian mobile-phone provider Hello, and Royal Group, which holds a 38.5 percent stake in Mobitel, are reported to be among a host of bidders for the Cambodian asset.

Muhammad Akhtar Zaman, who owns the remaining 3.1-percent share in Mobitel, said he will sell his stake.
"I will follow Millicom [International] on this," he said Monday.

Zaman also holds a 4-percent stake in Millicom Lao, according to Millicom reports.

Local at-risk youths aim for competition abroad

At home on the field: A player from The Cambodia Daily team tries to break away from a yellow-shirted defender from team Hathakasekor in Sunday’s game at Boeung Keng Kang High School.

The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 04 August 2009
Nora Lindstrom

Despite hard odds against them, a team of Cambodians is training to compete in the Homeless World Cup – training a local NGO says helps them stay focused

It's early Saturday morning, and the sun is already scorching hot. Yet the dozen young men running after the ball on a small enclosed pitch at Boeung Keng Kang High School seem not to care.

Their focus is solely on improving their football skills and training for tomorrow's game. The heat, and all else, is inconsequential.

The youngsters are part of a football programme run by Australian NGO Happy Football Cambodia Australia (HFCA). Since its establishment in 2005, HFCA has been reaching out to disadvantaged youth in Cambodia through football.

Chao Vibol, the organisation's country manager, said football had a positive effect on poor and homeless children.

"This programme makes the children use their time in a good way, make new friends, improve their football skills and cut down bad behaviour, such as fighting, stealing and taking drugs," Chao Vibol said.

HFCA partners with three local organisations to organise regular training sessions with professional coaches for around 70 vulnerable children.

Recently, the weekend sessions have a gained a new sense of urgency, as the team prepares for the 2009 Homeless World Cup in Milan this September.

Inspiration through football
This year the organisation intends to send a group of players to the international event for the second time.

Last year, five players travelled to Melbourne to play in what organisers of the World Cup described as an event aimed at energising people who were homeless to change their own lives.

And although the team did not return with the trophy last year, HFCA Chairman Paraic Grogan said via email that the players had returned richer for the experience.

"The impact of taking part ... is massive not only on the players but also on their families, their community and the organisations," Grogan wrote.

According to Riverkids, one of HFCA's local partners organisations, participating in the World Cup helped with the teenagers' recovery by giving them something to aim for.

I don't think they’ll actually win the trophy, but they can win some experience.

"It helps them to strive for a better future - for themselves, their families and their friends," the organisation stated in report after last year's event.

This year, HFCA plans to send a team of six players to Milan to join 500 players from 48 countries in competing for the trophy.

According to coach Jimmy Campbell, the team is unlikely to win this year.

"But it depends on what you call winning," Campbell said.

"I don't think they'll actually win the trophy, but they can win some experience, they can make new friends, and have an experience that very few people from Cambodia are able to have.

"They will win something, but unfortunately I don't think it will be the World Cup."

Funding still pending
This year's team consists of Nam Sophal, Chan Rithy, Kung Theara, Men Monira, Chan Pheakdey and Kang Viet. Most of the lanky boys are in their late teens.

Chao Vibol explained that they all came from poor backgrounds and that most had received little formal education.

Despite being the oldest in the team, Kang Viet, 20, is only in grade 3. He said playing football made him happy, and he was looking forward to travelling to Milan for the World Cup.

Chan Pheakday, 16, an orphan who used to work at the Stung Meanchey dumpsite, said he, too, enjoyed playing the beautiful game.

"I have made many friends, it keeps me healthy, and it means I am spending the 'right' time," he said. Presumably, spending the "right time" means it keeps him out of trouble.

Team members described the opportunity to travel to Milan to take part in the World Cup as "surprising" and "unexpected".

"I will try, try, try 100 percent to become more skilled and get stronger before we go," Nam Sophal,19, said, though he said he, like his coaches, thought his team's chances of winning were slim.

Funding still needed
However, travel plans for the team are still pending.

According to Grogan, HFCA is still looking for sponsorship to cover the cost of flights, Italian visas, travel insurance and living allowances.

Though Campbell is not letting financial worries get in the way of training, he says more funds are urgently needed.

"We really need some help to get the kids sent to Milan," Campbell said.

Whether or not the organisation manages to raise the funds, the regular training sessions have already had a positive effect on the squad.

"I think they're working a lot harder than when we first started around six to seven months ago," Campbell said.

Back then they were very happy to do the easiest thing.... Now they are doing a lot more physical exercise and body conditioning."

The 2009 Homeless World Cup in Milan will take place September 6 to 13.

For more information see www.homelessworldcup.org and www.hfcaustralia.org.

Unstoppable Kao Roomchang

Photo by: Robert Starkweather
Kao Roomchang (right, red shorts) gets awarded the points decision over Van Chanvey Sunday at CTN to move a step closer to the lightweight title.

The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 04 August 2009
Robert Starkweather

Bloodletting begins early Sunday at CTN as Kao Roomchang scores an upset decision victory over Van Chanvey in their first lightweight tournament bout

KAO Roomchang survived an early cut and a brutal third round to score an upset decision victory over Van Chanvey Sunday at the CTN boxing arena.

With Kao Roomchang against the ropes late in the second round, Van Chanvey landed a right elbow that opened a thick cut over Kao Roomchang's left eye.

Kao Roomchang came exploding back in the third round, igniting one of the most vicious rounds of boxing in recent memory, and the two fighters stood toe-to-toe, trading elbows nearly every second of the round.

The match came as part of an eight-man tournament to determine a challenger for the 60-kilogram title. Among the toughest men on the roster, Kao Roomchang and Van Chanvey had never before faced each other, and their meeting was one of the most heavily anticipated bouts of the competition.

Fight fans turned out in record numbers, and CTN took the rare move of opening the station's second parking lot, which was packed long before opening bell.

A slight favorite heading into the bout, 23-year-old Van Chanvey held the rare possibility of beating Kao Roomchang, 21. Or so it seemed.

Yet now, with Van Chanvey and Vung Noy defeated, the only real challenge left to Kao Roomchang's first-place finish is Long Sophy, currently the top-ranked contender, with the two set to meet October 11 on the final day of round-robin competition.

Kao Roomchang has beaten Long Sophy before, a fact of which he is well aware. Barring anything extraordinary, Kao Roomchang stated, nothing should prevent him from claiming first prize.

The winner of the tournament will face current 60-kilogram champion Lao Sinath for a shot at the lightweight title. Kao Roomchang has also beaten Lao Sinath before, in May, when the two met in a non-title bout.

A native of Battambang, Kao Roomchang trains in Anlong Veng, where he serves as a soldier with Brigade 43. Heading into Sunday's match, he knew well the danger that Van Chanvey posed. Before the fight, Kao Roomchang stood at center ring and whispered a very long prayer.

As the bout began, both fighters worked patiently, seemingly aware of the incredible violence to come, and in no rush to speed its arrival.

Kao Roomchang and Van Chanvey, also from Battambang, have known each other for years, and the pair smiled warmly and touched gloves several times during the first round.

Combinations came more frequently in the second round, and kicks landed with more force, but both fighters stayed disciplined until just seconds before the end of the round, when a flurry of punches and elbows left Kao Roomchang bleeding from a gash above his left eye.

Referee Sok Vichay, his jawline decorated with the tattoos of a soldier, mopped up the blood.

When the bell rang to open the third round, Kao Roomchang exploded with a three-punch combination and at least as many elbows, driving Van Chanvey backward into the ropes.

In a furious exchange in the corner, Kao Roomchang landed another elbow that split Van Chanvey's right eyebrow and buckled his knees, as Van Chanvey answered back with elbows from every direction.

The two did not stop until the bell rang. Van Chanvey looked the better of the pair afterwards, but down the stretch, Kao Roomchang kept busier and continued to press the action.

Using his height and reach advantage, Kao Roomchang kept Van Chanvey on the outside and scored with punches, with neither fighter showing much appetite to revisit the bruising battles of the inside.

Van Chanvey looked disappointed in the outcome, but to his brother and cornerman, Van Chanvait, the decision came as little surprise.
"We lost," he said.

In the second of two lightweight tournament fights Sunday, Vung Noy scored a TKO victory over Bheut Bunthoeun with a knee in the fourth round.

Van Chanvey and Kao Roomchang return to the ring August 16, when Van Chanvey faces Vung Noy and Kao Roomchang faces Bheut Bunthoeun.

The lightweight tournament continues until November.