Monday, 10 August 2009

AsiaPac to treat million HIV patients by 2011: UNAIDS

The Asia Pacific region is on target to treat a million HIV-positive people with antiretroviral drugs within the next two years, Prasanda Rao, UN AIDS regional director has said.
(AFP/Sonny Tumbelaka)

NUSA DUA, Indonesia (AFP) – The Asia Pacific region is on target to treat a million HIV-positive people with antiretroviral drugs within the next two years, a UN body said on Monday.

Around 565,000 people in the region are already receiving treatment, UNAIDS regional director Prasada Rao said, adding he was "confident" of getting the medicine to another half-a-million people by 2011.

"We're half-way through. There are still about 500,000 more who need to be covered by antiretroviral treatment (before we) reach the universal access target," he told reporters on the sidelines of the ninth International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific (ICAAP) in Bali, Indonesia.

An estimated five million Asians are living with HIV, many of them in Thailand, Cambodia, the Philippines and Indonesia, according to a UN report released last year.

"At any one point, 20 percent (of the people living with HIV) would be needing treatment," he said.

The one-million figure means "the region will be able to achieve something substantial in terms of putting people on treatment" even though "new infections continue to occur", he said.

"I'm very confident we will be able to achieve it... because more money is coming from global funding and better programming by countries," he added.

Rao told reporters that up to 80 percent of HIV-positive people in Thailand, Cambodia and Laos were receiving treatment, but some other countries were only managing to reach 10 to 15 percent.

Delegates from 65 nations are attending the meeting, which runs until Thursday, to discuss topics ranging from HIV risks among migrant workers to the impact of the financial crisis on those with the disease.

Decreasing Freedom in Cambodia

By Kimberly Curtis
Monday, August 10. 2009

Cambodia has never been known as a haven for free speech and political dissent, but several recent developments in the country have observers even more concerned about the shrinking space for political expression.

Last week, a Cambodian court found an outspoken opposition MP guilty of defamation for filing her own defamation suit against Prime Minister Hun Sen. The case has been a high profile one for months in the Southeast Asian country and has polarized the public, but observers claim that the conviction of Mu Sochua is proof of a growing crackdown on dissent by the Cambodian government.

The case arose out of a speech Sen made in April in Kampot province, the province that Sochua represents in parliament and one of the provinces that has seen forcible evictions by the army for their land. Although Sochua was not mentioned by name, comments that Sen made deriding and insulting the province’s parliamentary representation were clearly aimed at her. Sochua responded by doing the unthinkable - she filed a defamation suit against the Prime Minister for his comments. The case was immediately rejected by the courts, but Sen fired back by filing his own defamation suit against Sochua for filing against him. The courts upheld his suit and last Tuesday, handed down a ruling in Sen’s favor against Sochua and fined her $4000.

The result was not surprising in a country where the government has a long history with interfering with the courts. But it is also just the most recent development in the government’s mission to silence criticism. There have been numerous lawsuits filed against prominent opposition members, journalists, and human rights activists in recent months that seem aimed at intimidating dissent. The charges usually involve libel or disinformation, and the cases always end with conviction. Some of the targets have been jailed, some have fled the country to avoid jail, and some have capitulated and abandoned their critical positions to swear allegiance to the ruling party in order to avoid the courts.

This trend is not new, but continues without consequences from the international community. The government is even suspected of interfering with the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, the hybrid tribunal set up by the UN to try people for grave crimes committed during the Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970s. But all the international community does is weakly protest such interference before allowing it to continue. The same appears to be happening regarding the domestic courts, where the rule of law is actually the rule of Sen’s law.

Opposition parties are now divided about what to do. Continuing to criticize government policies is a losing battle that some seem keen to give up, while others feel that it is their duty as political representatives, activists, and journalists to keep fighting that battle, especially because of the growing pressures on dissent. It is likely that in the future, Sochua’s trial will be seen as a turning point for the Cambodian opposition, but at this moment it is unclear what that future will be.

Former Khmer Rouge guard describes dumping corpses at Cambodia's Killing Fields

Monday, August 10th, 2009

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia - A former Khmer Rouge prison guard told a court Monday he was taken to Cambodia's notorious Killing Fields one afternoon 30 years ago and ordered to dump corpses into a mass grave.

Chhun Phal, 47, said he did not count how many dead bodies he handled, but it took him and 11 other guards two hours to dispose of them.

"I was asked to bury the bodies," he said softly. "I managed to only fill one pit with dead bodies."

The guards then dug two more pits to add to the hundreds of mass graves at Choeung Ek, more commonly known as the Killing Fields, on the outskirts of the capital, Phnom Penh, where thousands of the Khmer Rouge's victims were killed and their bodies dumped.

Chhun Phal's testimony came at the trial of Kaing Guek Eav - better known as Duch - who headed the notorious S-21 prison in Phnom Penh. Up to 16,000 people were tortured under Duch's command and later taken to the Killing Fields during the Khmer Rouge's 1975-1979 rule. Only a handful survived.

Duch is being tried by the genocide tribunal for crimes against humanity, war crimes, murder and torture. An estimated 1.7 million Cambodians died under the communist Khmer Rouge regime.

Duch (pronounced DOIK) is the first senior Khmer Rouge figure to face trial and the only one to acknowledge responsibility for his actions. He is the first of five defendants scheduled for long-delayed trials, and his trial, which started in March, is expected to wrap up by the end of the year.

Judges asked Duch (pronounced DOIK) if he recalled Chhun Phal and had anything to add to his testimony.

Duch, 66, said he remembered Chhun Phal was about 15 when he assigned him to S-21. Duch said he chose him because he was young and came from a peasant family that was regarded as faithful to the Khmer Rouge.

"He fit my criteria," Duch told the court. "I did not want anyone who was already trained or educated. I selected people I could train psychologically and politically."

Senior leaders Khieu Samphan, Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary and Ieng Sary's wife, Ieng Thirith, are detained and are likely to face trial in the next year or two.

Cambodia to set up first National Arbitration Center

People's Daily Online

August 10, 2009

Cambodia's first National Arbitration Center will be set up aimed at resolving business disputes and enhancing the confidence of private sectors doing business here, according to a press release from IFC on Monday.

IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, and Cambodia's Ministry of Commerce on Monday signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to implement a three-year project to set up a National Arbitration Center to resolve business disputes and bolster confidence in the commercial system.

The National Arbitration Center will be the first commercial arbitration body in Cambodia offering the business community an alternative commercial dispute resolution mechanism to the courts and enabling businesses to resolve their disputes quickly, inexpensively, fairly, and with certainty. It thus promises to enhance the private sector's comfort level with engaging in business transactions.

IFC will support the establishment and operation of the center for the first three years, in collaboration with the Asian Development Bank and other partners. The support will include advisory services to the Secretariat of the Inception and Selection Commission in selecting and training an initial group of arbitrators, establishing procedures, and supporting the center's initial operations.

"The government has worked hard to create the legal framework for alternative dispute resolution by passing the commercial arbitration legislation in 2006 and recently issuing a sub-decree on the operations of the National Arbitration Center," said Cham Prasidh, senior minister and minister of commerce, speaking at the signing ceremony. "We are committed to supporting its development, and I believe it will be an effective mechanism for resolving commercial disputes."

Trang Nguyen, head of IFC Advisory Services in the Mekong, said, "IFC is pleased to work with the Ministry of Commerce and the private sector on this important initiative. As the Cambodian economy grows and there are more commercial transactions, a streamlined dispute resolution mechanism gives the private sector more comfort to engage in business transactions."

Source: Xinhua

David Chandler: “Obedience plays into the horror of it all”

Kambol (Phnom Penh, Cambodia). 06/08/2009: Bags belonging to Sieam Reap residents who left their village at midnight to arrive on time for Duch’s trial, which has known records of attendance
©John Vink/ Magnum


By Stéphanie Gée

Thursday August 6th saw the highly anticipated hearing of U.S. professor David Chandler, one of the leading experts on Cambodia’s recent history and author, among others, of “Brother Number One” (1992) and “Voices from S-21” (1999). In addition to highlighting the characteristics of S-21, the “anteroom to death” where prisoners were all bound to be executed, the 76-year-old expert shed a bold light on the human dimension of the accused, by choosing to stress the vulnerability of the man who may be led to commit “crimes of obedience” rather than giving any credit to the idea of absolute evil. He thus agreed with the thesis defended by Duch, who says he was an “actor and hostage of this criminal regime.” However, there was a huge regret mixed with an incomprehension: why did the judges decide to hear this important witness over one day only, when the analysis of the heart of the case neared its end, while other witnesses with less significance were summoned over one or two days of trial?

The “Last Plan”
After a short presentation on the research publications made by David Chandler, mostly those focusing on Democratic Kampuchea, judge Cartwright reviewed various points raised in his book on S-21. She asked him on what he based his conclusion that the accused was the author of the “Last Plan,” a document written in 1978 and seeking to demonstrate that the confessions collected for two years pointed out to a large conspiracy involving the United States, USSR, Taiwan and Vietnam, he specified in his book. The professor, who has never met the accused, said he recalled seeing that the text in Duch’s handwriting.

S-21, a “total institution”
David Chandler applied to S-21 the concept of “total institution” – elaborated by U.S. sociologist Erving Goffman, he recalled – which designates an isolated place which “follows its own rules” to continue working. He listed other characteristics defining this security centre: secrecy at the very heart of the administration, its hierarchical nature and the imposition of harsh discipline by the accused.

“You described [the accused] in this manner: as the man in charge of S-21, Duch worked hard to control every aspect of its operations, his experiences and instincts from teaching were helpful: he was used to keeping records, finding answers to problems, earning respect and disciplining groups of people. […]. Duch often frightened workers at the prison. […] Further on [in your book], you say that as a mathematician, he enjoyed rationally-pleasing models…” The New Zealand judge carried out her interrogation, her nose in David Chandler’s book, simply asking him, with often closed questions, to confirm what he had written.

The role of archives at S-21
Questioned on the archives at S-21, “more extensive and detailed” than in other parts of the Santebal apparatus, the American detailed the objectives of such a procedure: it seemed to him that one purpose was “to demonstrate to the party leadership that S-21 was a thoroughly responsible, efficient, modern and productive body inside the government, inside a country where conditions were in many places […] completely chaotic from day to day. Another purpose was to demonstrate the professionalism of the defendant and his colleagues. Another was to inform the top leadership in as much details as possible whether and in what way its suspicions were justified for certain prisoners and to uncover strings of traitors […] that would give information to the leadership it could then use for its own purposes. And finally, this is speculation […], one purpose of assembling this mighty archives was that it might serve as a source for a triumphant and triumphal history of the Communist Party of Kampuchea [CPK] […]. They were trying their very best to do a good job […] and they trying very conscientiously to serve what they perceived as the needs of the party leadership which changed course from year to year, month to month and even from day to day.”

Confessions which authenticity could not be contested
Judge Lavergne continued: “The accused informed us on several occasions that he did not trust the authenticity of the confessions extracted at S-21, he did not consider them as reflecting the truth. Are you able to tell us if, either on the part of the accused or maybe also Democratic Kampuchea leaders, there was either blindness, some kind of cynicism or some kind of, I don’t know, paranoia? Were there things like that in the operation of S-21 and on the part of its leaders?” In David Chandler’s view, the explanation of the accused was “accurate.” He explained that if he had said that to the Democratic Kampuchea leaders, “his position [at S-21] and his life might have been in danger. So therefore, the confessions and the whole machinery of producing confessions were allowed to run on steadily, in some sense regardless of the accuracy or usefulness of a good deal of the information. […] But these confessions were allowed to go forward largely, I think, to serve and satisfy the need on the part of senior members of the regime [who claimed that] these sorts of things were taking place.” He later insisted that the interrogation work was S-21’s principal raison d’etre.

Conspiracy, confession, execution
The expert explained to the co-Prosecutors that S-21 was established because, particularly from mid-1976, the regime leaders were convinced that “nests of traitors existed inside the communist party.” Therefore, there was a need for a full-scale interrogation facility needed to be established to work on these suspicions in order to produce clear information for these leaders, to verify whether conspiracy activities existed or were being planned. Returning to the specificity of the centre directed by Duch, the professor noted that “by their confessions, [the prisoners] were in a process of re-educating themselves, rebuilding themselves into better citizens for having admitted what they had done, but they were re-educating themselves… in order to be killed. And that to me doesn’t make any sense.”

Did the accused have a choice?
International co-Prosecutor William Smith asked him if, in his opinion, the accused had a choice in the implementation of the CPK policy at S-21, and if he could have minimised the sufferings and killings at S-21. “I can’t believe that these actions can go unnoticed just because there is a context that can explain them. On the other hand, there is the idea that people had a free choice to disobey what they saw as the ruling context of Democratic Kampuchea […]. But once that context started to move forward, maybe they didn’t have that choice. The choices were made very early. […] I am reluctant to say this because I have never been in any kind of situation where I would have been in danger by refusing to do something. But I can’t help but think that the people who inflicted this terrible damage on everybody knew what they were doing, and almost worse, did not seem to suffer themselves from what was happening. It didn’t seem to lead them to lose sleep, […] to lessen their enthusiasm for coming back to work the next day.”

Kambol (Phnom Penh, Cambodia). 06/08/2009: David P. Chandler, researcher specialised in the Khmer Rouge, during his testimony before the ECCC
©John Vink/ Magnum

David Chandler admitted that Duch was quite happy that some confessions could have been extracted without resorting to torture. And if that could have been generalised, the accused claimed “he would have been a happier administration of the prison.” “But I can’t see from the documentary evidence how that very deep remorse came from his knowledge of the day-to-day activities of the prison or what we could call excesses that shine through a lot of the confessions or testimonials of survivors.”

An enthusiastic and proud administrator of S-21
David Chandler explained that Duch did respond to the leaders’ expectations and executed their orders – otherwise, he would have been in danger – but he also sought to please them. “He was an enthusiastic and proud administrator of S-21 who worked out techniques and organisational methodology from scratch. There were no precedents for this kind of place. […] [Duch] was innovating, improving all the time. And I think he was doing not only what his superiors thought was a reasonably good job or he would have known and been dismissed, but also what he himself thought was […] an excellent job. I think he wanted to excel in this job and in other things earlier in his career: he wanted to excel as a student, he wanted to excel as an apprentice revolutionary, and throughout his professional life. I think he was interested in not just serving those above him but to serve them with enthusiasm and skill, so that he could be proud of himself.” However, the expert concluded, the accused was not the sole initiator or monitor of what was happening at S-21, although, in his opinion, “not much escaped his attention” and he was given considerable leeway in how to proceed.

The dark side of man
The witness specified a little later he wanted to suggest in his book that “under certain conditions, almost anyone could be led to perform activities of this kind. […] once their behaviour was routinised and once these people were not punished but permitted to go further and further […], [the staff of S-21] […] operated generally with more enthusiasm rather than less. Why this is true, I’m not sure. But it is a dark side to all of us.”

A regime in which everyone was caught up…
David Chandler suggested that the regime carried a “self-insurance” that it would fall. “This kind of absolute confidence that they [the Democratic Kampuchea leaders] were on the right track was very dangerous. No one was given time to ask questions, to hesitate. There was no chance to contradict. So, the regime became like a waterfall in which everyone was caught up.”

No generalised sexual crimes at S-21
When Silke Studzinsky, for civil party group 2, raised the issue of sexual crimes committed at S-21, which were mentioned in some confessions, the witness seized the chance to observe that if there were such abuses, there was no evidence proving they were not generalised. Moreover, those were “punished,” “with re-education at Prey Sar, or even death if the person concerned confessed his acts.”

The smashing of detainees was part of Duch’s mandate
For the defence, Kar Savuth asked him if, during his research, he discovered whether the accused ever ordered the execution of prisoners without having received the order from his superiors first. David Chandler answered that no such superior echelon orders survived, if they did exist. “If they had survived, it would have made the work of this tribunal much easier!” Duch’s mandate at S-21, he pursued, was to see to it that everyone who entered the prison left it for execution. So, he did not have to “seek higher authority to supervise a system in which […] everybody got killed” and to give the green light to “smash” since it was part of his mandate.

The regrets of the accused did not lead him to desert, at the fall of the regime
François Roux, Duch’s international co-lawyer, took over. “Since this morning, no one has raised the fact the accused is pleading guilty and admits his responsibility. Do you consider that the accused’s recognition of his responsibility is of service to history?” “That’s an easy question. I think yes, indeed. I was extremely moved and impressed by that admission of responsibility, which seems to me pretty unique in surviving actors of that administration.” The witness did however not go any further. A few questions later, he stressed that “the awareness that the regime was criminal came in 1978 [to Duch], when he said he began to get disillusioned […]. He was also frightened because the final outbursts of the regime seemed extremely arbitrary. […] The statements of Pol Pot made absolutely no sense. […] In the closing six months [of the regime], there is a documented series of regrets on the part of the defendant, but these did not extend to – and I am not being accusatory – his deserting the movement in 1979 and 1980. He continued being a revolutionary.”

About the leaders’ paranoia
What about the paranoia that had taken hold of the Khmer Rouge leaders? “The paranoia started at the centre and spread down through the ranks.” “In this whole atmosphere of 1978, there was an attempt to diminish the extent of the cruelties which the regime was noted for and to try and balance the boat as it was headed for disaster. But the paranoia of the leadership continued to have no bounds because if indeed, the most dangerous enemies were those that were invisible, that can never stop because you can’t see them.”

The “Last Plan” was not Duch’s work
Suddenly, the lawyer informed him: “I regret that neither the co-Prosecutors or the civil party lawyers warned you about the difficulties regarding one item of evidence in the case file.” In his book, David Chandler attributed the document entitled the “Last Plan” to Duch, but François Roux reported that the co-Prosecutors recognised this text had not been written by the accused, but by Pon [important interrogator at S-21], and Duch confirmed his and Pon’s handwritings looked similar. The French lawyer insisted that the prosecution should have communicated this information to the witness.

Crimes of obedience
Then, welcoming his courage in addressing the “crimes of obedience” at the end of his book on S-21, François Roux invited him to explain Milgram’s experiment, which aimed to determine an individual’s level of obedience to an authority considered to be legitimate, which he evoked in his book. Volunteers recruited through advertisement were asked to send electric charges of increasing voltage to candidates – actually actors – as they answered questions increasingly wrong. “70% of the volunteers obeyed the commands to increase the voltage past the danger level,” David Chandler reminded, despite the screams heard on the other side of the wall by those pretending to receive electric shocks. In this mise en scene staged unbeknownst to the volunteers, the orders were given by a professor wearing a white coat who represented authority. The conclusions of this experiment carried out in the United States in the early 1960s and since repeated in other countries have never been questioned. David Chandler drew a parallel with “the culture of S-21 and Democratic Kampuchea, where the people who gave the orders were accustomed to giving them and the people who received the orders were accustomed to obeying. There was no culture in Cambodia of questioning commands by someone who is in authority […]. So, I used this experiment to show how, in a situation like S-21, obedience plays into the horror of it all,” the expert said, before carefully adding: “I don’t think it explains everything, but I think it is useful to see to what extent people like us have built into ourselves the fact that if the man in charge says it is ok, then it must be ok. Then it feeds into the culture of S-21.” François Roux nuanced in his turn: “To understand does not mean to justify.”

Perpetrating evil, within anyone’s reach
Finally, François Roux finished his interrogation with what he considered “the fundamental question,” that is the last sentence in David Chandler’s book: “To find the source of the evil that was enacted at S-21 on a daily basis, we need to look no further than ourselves.” The witness did not let himself get trapped. While he maintained the sentence, he also specified that it was “not placed in the conclusion for the purposes of a judicial process.” But, he continued, it related to one’s capacity to do good or evil, which did not excuse in any way the person who perpetrates evil. “I did not like hearing other people say ‘look at those people, they are evil.’ What I wanted to tell them was who knows what they would do if they found themselves in such a situation?”

Ho Chi Minh’s head, for lack of Nixon
The accused was very deferential with the professor and expressed to him the respect he had for his work. Duch accepted the witness’ observation that the picture of a Ho Chi Minh headed dog – which prisoners were made to bow to – was not an idea of the CPK, but resulted from his own initiative. “I think that is an accurate observation. I know it was not right to do that. But back then, I did not manage to find a picture of Richard Nixon…”, Duch explained, prompting amused smiles in the room. On July 27th, he had contested in court a declaration that the renowned professor had attributed to him in his book and claimed he was ready to answer questions in due time, during the expert’s hearing. That did not happen.

From Bizot to Chandler
David Chandler’s testimony echoed that of François Bizot who was held hostage by Duch and had explained to the Chamber, on April 8th, that he had discovered the man behind the monster in Duch – something the French ethnologist had found most terrifying precisely. But there was one difference. While the former arrived to that conclusion through analysis and intellectual construction, the latter experienced it in his flesh.

Kambol (Phnom Penh, Cambodia). 06/08/2009: Several buses packed with Siem Reap residents left their village at midnight to be able to attend the trial at the ECCC in the morning
©John Vink/ Magnum

Associations talk over increasing Vietnam-Cambodia ties


A delegation from the Vietnam-Cambodia Friendship Association (VCFA) has met with its counterpart to strengthen friendship relations between the two countries during its working visit to Cambodia from August 6-10.

During the talks, VCFA President Vu Mao and Cambodian Permanent Deputy Prime Minister Men Sam An, who is also President of the Cambodia-Vietnam Friendship Association, informed each other of their respective associations’ performance.

They expressed hope to promote cooperation between the two associations in encouraging greater exchanges of investment and people-to-people activities in order to further understand each country’s economic and socio-cultural environment.

The Vietnamese delegation also had a meeting with officers of the Cambodian Development Council to explore the business climate in the country, met with Cambodian Ministry of Education and Youth Association, and visited Vietnamese communities in the provinces of Pursat, Battambang and Siem Reap. VOVNews/VNA

Son of Cambodian opposition MP shot dead in capital

Mon, 08/10/2009

Phnom Penh - The son of an opposition parliamentarian was shot dead late Sunday in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh.

Yont Thauron, 25, the son of Yont Tharo, a member of parliament for the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP), was shot while returning from a wedding after the vehicle in which he was travelling was involved in a minor traffic accident.

Veteran SRP politician Son Chhay said the party is concerned the killing could have a political dimension.

"In the past, opposition members have been easy targets for (criminal acts)," he said.

But the city's police chief, Touch Narath, flatly rejected any suggestion of political overtones.

Touch Narath told the German Press Agency dpa that the killing stemmed from a minor traffic accident between Yont Thauron's car and a motorbike. He said police have identified the suspect and are working to arrest him.

Son Chhay said the party would discuss the events surrounding the killing before deciding later on Monday whether politics might have played a part.

Three other people were injured in the shooting. (dpa)

Montebello Regional Library hosts book talk with author Navy Phim


The Asian Pacific Resource Center at the Montebello Regional Library, 1550 W. Beverly Blvd., is sponsoring a book talk at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday.

The book being discussed is "Reflections of a Khmer Soul" and author Navy Phim will join in the discussion.

Phim was born in Cambodia in 1975, the year that the Khmer Rouge took over the country. Four years later she fled with her family to Thailand, then immigrated to the United States in 1984.

The event is free and open to the public.

For more information call (323) 722-6551.

Send submissions for "Around Whittier" to

Loan disbursements on an uptick

The Kampot/Kep branch of ACLEDA bank is shown in June.

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 10 August 2009
Nguon Sovan

Cambodia’s major banks say loan disbursements rose in July after a months-long standstill in the sector, and the upwards trend – ‘likely to grow’ – bodes well for the second half of the year

Loan disbursements for Cambodia's major banks rose in July following flat sector performance in the first half of the year, officials said last week.

In Channy, president and CEO of ACLEDA bank, said Wednesday that the bank's loan disbursements in July increased 2.6 percent over last month's numbers.

"We saw that in July the demand for loans was high, rising US$12 million to $458 million for the year," he said. "This trend is likely to grow because of the farming season. People borrow money to invest in their crops."

He added that the bank's reduction of loan interest rates by 2 percent - to between 12 and 16 percent in June - also helped boost disbursement numbers.

"For the rest of the year, I predict that loan disbursements are likely to increase an additional $100 million," In Channy said.

The spike in disbursements coincided with a 26-percent rise in deposits, which hit $637 million in July, In Channy said, and followed months where loan levels had flatlined.

Collateral still vital
However, loan criteria have remained the same.

"Collateral for loans is still strict. On trade loans, we require collateral - land or buildings - or we cannot lend," In Channy said.

Yum Sui Sang, CEO of Union Commercial Bank, said Friday that concern over the global financial slump had begun to ease, and that loan demand was rising.

"The bank's loan disbursements increased 8.5 percent to $62.6 million in July, up from $57.3 million in June, while deposits rose 14 percent to $103.67 million this month from $89.09 million last month," he said.

Yum Sui Sang said loan disbursements were still low compared to deposits, but that the bank had no plans to lower criteria to boost loan numbers.

"Property used as collateral for loans is a must because at the moment, we must be extremely careful about offering loans to good customers," he said.

Stephen Higgins, CEO of ANZ Royal Bank, said by email Thursday that the bank does not disclose monthly numbers. "However, talking generally, we have a strong pipeline of new deals, so we are optimistic about the second half of this year," he wrote.

"We aren't really changing our criteria. Our main focus is on the strength of the customer's cash flows, and this has always been the case," he added.

Tal Nay Im, director general of the National Bank of Cambodia, said Thursday that disbursements had risen but did not cite specific figures.

"[Lending] may be tending to grow in the second half of this year," she said but declined to offer a reason.

Outstanding loans by microlenders down

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 10 August 2009
Chun Sophal

THE Cambodian Microfinance Association last week reported outstanding loans have dropped 2.7 percent, or US$11.9 million, in the second quarter of this year compared with first quarter results.

"Outstanding loans dropped to $426.1 million at the end of the second quarter from $438 million in the first quarter, stated the CMA report released Thursday, noting that the number of borrowers remained stable at 1.03 million.

The report also noted, however, that non-performing, or at-risk, loans had risen 1.75 percent to 3.39 percent during the same period.

Hout Ieng Tong, president of CMA, said on Friday that the report's data was compiled from 18 MFI institutions as well as from micro-finance loans issued by ACLEDA bank.

"The decline is due to a drop in business activity and reluctance to invest in the wake of the global financial slump," he said, adding that further declines of up to 4 percent could be expected in the third quarter.

He said the fourth quarter would likely see a rebound of about 5 percent coinciding with the end of the rice harvest.

Paul Luchtenburg, CEO of micro-lender AMK, said Friday the lender's outstanding loans were down 6 percent to nearly $22 million at the end of the second quarter compared with first quarter loans but that he expected a bump in coming months.

"We hope that in the second half of the year we will be able to disburse an additional $3 million to $4 million," he said.

Dicing with the devil's advocate

Defender of the hated: controversial lawyer Jacques Verges Photo Supplied

Verges is depicted as a pompous, arrogant sociopath with delusions of grandeur ... enjoying the limelight.

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 10 August 2009
Diane James

A documentary screened recently at Meta House examines the dubious life and times of the lawyer set to defend the former Khmer Rouge head of state

IT can be hard to find a good lawyer sometimes. Or, indeed, any lawyer at all.

Just ask local lawmakers Mu Sochua and Kong Sam Onn, who have both appeared unrepresented before Cambodia's courts on defamation charges.

Nobody wanted to speak on their behalf at these politically charged trials, not even human rights lawyers or legal aid NGOs.
Khieu Samphan doesn't have this problem.

The former Khmer Rouge head of state is charged with crimes against humanity and is soon to face the ECCC.

There, he will have access to the best lawyers money can buy.

Khieu Samphan will be defended by the notorious French lawyer Jacques Verges, the subject of Barbet Schroeder's 2008 documentary Terror's Advocate, which was screened at Meta House recently.

If you're ever charged with terrorism, crimes against humanity, genocide or other violent, barbaric crimes, Jacques Verges is your go-to man.

Schroeder's film paints a detailed portrait of a man driven by fervent political passions and an arrogant disregard for polite courtroom discourse.

His "rupture defence" strategy has been hugely successful in freeing or obtaining dramatically reduced sentences for mass murderers all around the world.

The strategy usually involves Verges' rejecting the premise of the case and the right of the court to judge the defendant, accusing the host country or other political actors of culpability for the same crimes.

He openly taunts judges, mocks the legal process and often uses the international media to build political support for freeing his clients.

Verges first gained international notoriety during the 1959 trial of Djamila Bouhired, an Algerian terrorist bomber.

Bouhired was a beautiful young woman who captured the public's imagination and inspired a generation of Islamic terrorists.

Verges was then a young lawyer with outspoken sympathies for Algeria's liberation movement, and he fell for his client.

Bouhired was facing a death sentence at her trial when they met.

Verges managed to reframe the trial, positioning Bouhired brilliantly as a victim of torture at the hands of the French and a martyr for anti-colonial causes everywhere.

He made sure that "the revolution was present in the courtroom", stage-managing the media and orchestrating uproar from the international community in response to her sentence.

Verges is set to defend former Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan. AFP

Bouhired was ultimately freed.
In Terror's Advocate, Barbet Schroeder explores Verges's past as a young, half-Vietnamese man filled with bitter memories of colonial oppression in Vietnam and French Algiers.

His student activist days in Paris evolved into a burgeoning international legal career as he became heavily involved with freedom fighters and liberation movements around the world, defending Palestinian bombers, African dictators and French protesters.

His most famous clients were mass murderers such as Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie ("The Butcher of Lyon"), Slobodan Milosevic and the Venezuelan terrorist called "Carlos the Jackal".

The film focuses heavily on some of the individual cases handled by Verges and gives only a tantalising glimpse of the man and his relationships with his clients.

His disappearance from 1970 to 1978 is still unexplained, with many assuming he spent this time with Pol Pot, whom he knew in the 1950s, although the Khmer Rouge leader denied it.

The most intriguing aspect of the film is the lawyer's justification of his involvement with murderers and dictators.

Verges is depicted as a pompous, arrogant sociopath with delusions of grandeur, sitting in his regal study, puffing on a huge cigar and clearly enjoying the limelight.

He has written books about himself and performed in a one-man play about his life and work.

A master of media manipulation, he insists his associations were purely professional, yet he admits to having a strong identification with the political aims of many of his clients.

Already at the ECCC, his few appearances have stirred up controversy.

Unlike Duch's current trial, in which the accused has accepted responsibility for many of the horrors that occurred under his command, Jacques Verges looks set to refute all charges against Khieu Samphan.

He has already declared that there was no genocide in Cambodia, and that the numbers of dead during the Khmer Rouge period are grossly exaggerated.

He is, as usual, attempting to reposition the case within the broader context of US embargoes, the Vietnam War and repeated bombings of Cambodia in order to minimise Khieu Samphan's personal responsibility.

His "rupture defence" is under way.

In Terror's Advocate, Verges appears to live in a strange, moral vacuum in which he only comprehends the political struggle of those who are oppressed.

He seemingly has little grasp of the horror wrought on society and the personal devastation caused by the loss of innocent lives at the hands of those he defends.

When asked whether he would have taken on the case for the ultimate war criminal - Hitler - he reveals much about himself and his philosophy: "I'd even defend Bush. But only if he pleaded guilty."

Doeurt Sai: Vietnamese teach Cambodians how to score

'Old master' Muth Ron kicks a shuttlecock from behind his head during a playing session at Phnom Penh's riverside Saturday.

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 10 August 2009 '
Dom Field

Cambodia’s premier shuttlecock kickers, or doeurt sai players, receive a visit from their Vietnamese counterparts who teach them a new way to keep score

Top Vietnamese female shuttlecock-kicker Kim Anh, 25, plays an expert shot at Phnom Penh’s riverside Saturday.

Players kick the shuttle from behind their backs with swift strokes, connecting with the soles of their shoes and lofting it high in the air back to their teammates standing opposite. A point is awarded for any kick, but the team gains two for a kick through a large loop made from their outstretched arms, and three for the more difficult shot through a loop made with a single arm and the body. The team is deducted a single point for failing to return the shuttle.

Ros Kimsreng explained that the Cambodian players are benefiting from the sharing of techniques with the visitors, and plan a visit to Ho Chi Minh City in October to take part in a 'friendship match'.

Watching these masters of the game at the weekend was a real treat, especially the chance to view the techniques of one of the 'old masters', 63-year-old Muth Ron, a man who has dedicated his life to the sport.

Having entertained King Sihanouk with his playing in the past, he is a leading authority on the game and its history. Muth Ron, or Om Ron as he is affectionately known, also makes the highest-quality shuttles in Cambodia, beautifully handcrafted from four duck feathers, weighted by recycled plastic discs. Top players will always use his shuttles over cheaper, all-plastic varieties, although many admit the old type made from the scales of the Siamese giant carp - now illegal to use - were better for feel and durability. A genuine Muth Ron shuttle can be purchased at the riverside for 5,000 riels (US$1.18) each.

Muth Ron explained the key to good doeurt sai-playing is a relaxed style, comparing the actions to flowing movements of modern dance or boxing. The various kicks and poses have names derived from the ancient world; imagery referring to dragons swinging their tales, warriors drawing their swords and elephants turning their necks all appear in the descriptions of the more impressive moves.

The game is played in practically every park in the capital, and on many of the nation's streets, but the highest standard can be found on display on Phnom Penh's riverside, near the Royal Palace on Saturday evenings, or at Wat Phnom on Sunday mornings. Mot Ron is almost always there, as are other impressive CSA members, and they welcome an audience. When asked whether the CSA had any intention of forging links with Western federations, Ros Kimsreng insisted that doeurt sai is about having fun, with the association's primary aim to "preserve our traditional game".

The CSA invites member of the public to participate in their daily training sessions between 8am and 2pm at the badminton hall in the Olympic Stadium grounds, but warns that due to work commitments, all the top players are not always there. With popularity growing from the obvious aesthetic appeal of the sport that tests both agility and skill, the CSA is confident of receiving sponsorship to help promote the sport across the Kingdom, and beyond.

Photos by Nick Sells (

Kirivong smash BBU 6-2 to end recent slump in the CPL

Bewildered Build Bright United keeper Chhim Rotha (left) looks on as Kirivong Sok Sen Chey’s new Vietnamese striker Vin Nhek Troeung (right) celebrates after completing his hat trick in their Cambodian Premier League game Saturday.

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 10 August 2009
Andy Brouwer

Cambodian Premeir League team Kirivong Sok Sen Chey knock six past Build Bright United Saturday, while Naga Corp push past lowly Phouchung Neak 3-1

KIRIVONG Sok Sen Chey were in no mood to lie down and let Build Bright United (BBU) perpetuate a recent poor run of form, and the Takeo-based team came out gunning for a victory in Sunday's CPL encounter. Reversing recent trends, they were two goals to the good in the first half-hour, and went on to completely overwhelm their opponents after the half-time interval.

Mid-season signing and Vietnamese import Vin Nhek Troeung was the star of the 6-2 demolition, netting a hat trick and looking a lively handful for the BBU defence all afternoon.

Kirivong skipper Ly Ravy opened the scoring on 25 minutes and Vin Nhek Troeung took his time before coolly rolling the ball home five minutes later, after breaking free down the middle.

BBU had their moments with Prum Puthsethy hitting the crossbar early on and Oum Chandara firing wide after creating a scoring opportunity with an outrageous shimmy.

After the break, Vin Nhek Troeung and his strike partner Julius Chukwumeka ran the BBU defence ragged. They led them a merry dance for the third goal on 70 minutes, before Chukwumeka finished with aplomb. Five minutes later, Chukwumeka's edge-of-the-box free kick was too hot to hold for BBU keeper Chhim Rotha, and Vin Nhek Troeung gleefully snapped up the rebound.

The Vietnamese marksman was there again, three minutes later, to accept a pass from Ouk Thorn and finish with ease to claim his first hat trick and Kirivong's fifth.

BBU refused to lie down and roll over, however, and in the last two minutes they netted a quick-fire double through Augustine Ogbemi, though there was still time for Kirivong substitutue Mim Sophal to run from the centre circle and finish with cool precision.

Naga Corp 3 - 1 Phouchung Neak
In Sunday's second installment, Naga Corp faced bottom of the pile Phouchung Neak. In fact, it was the no-hopers who carved out the better opportunities early on through Heng Sokly and Wilson Mene.

Naga eventually had their moments, with Pich Sina's close range volley rebounding off an upright, and teammate Pok Chanthan ballooning an effort over the crossbar when it seemed easier to score.

Moments before halftime, Phouchung changed their goalkeeper, and within three minutes of the restart were made to reflect on their decision. Yemi Oyewole squirmed his way into the box before a tackle took the ball out wide to Chin , who spotted substitute keeper Thai Sineth off his line and chipped him with sublime accuracy.

Wilson Mene did everything right except executing a scoring finish, as Phouchung Neak pressed for an equaliser, while teammate Yaum Saromthan screwed his shot wide when equally well-placed.

They were made to pay for those glaring misses on 80 minutes, with a headed goal from Naga substitute Kop Isa from a Kim Chanbunrith in swinging corner.

A couple of minutes later, Phouchung Neak finally troubled the scoreboard, when Wilson Mene took advantage of a Naga defence that had gone AWOL at a corner. With the CPL's bottom team smelling a hint of a comeback, Naga put them firmly in their place on 88 minutes when sub Soeung Monyroath's stab towards goal was turned over his own goal line by Tuy Sam as he backpedalled.

Photos by Nick Sells (

PKR reclaim their throne

Photo by: TEP PHANY
Preah Khan Reach’s Olisa Onyemerea shoots at goal during the match against Post Tel.

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 10 August 2009
Andy Brouwer

Preah Khan Reach thump Post Tel 4-1 Sunday to climb back atop the CPL

THE importance of the foreign contingent of players in the Cambodian Premier League (CPL) was vividly illustrated in Saturday's only game at the Olympic Stadium. It was Preah Khan Reach (PKR)'s chance to go back to the top of the table, and they seized it with both hands courtesy of their three African dynamos, who claimed the goals and dominated the action. Post Tel were no pushovers, but they had no answer to the strength and power of Nigerian trio Michael Ekene, Olisa Onyemerea and Zila Seidu.

Ikenwa opened the floodgates on 19 minutes when he headed in Samel Nasa's corner unopposed, in a sign of things to come.

The hothouse conditions affected both teams as the game slowed to a snail's pace, with a couple of long-range efforts from Post Tel causing little concern. Offensively, PKR looked capable of scoring at will, but they had to wait for their second goal, which finally arrived on the stroke of halftime. Onyemerea delivered a precise pass through the middle to Ekene, who took it in his stride and easily beat the keeper with his finish.

Paying for missed chances
Post Tel made a fist of it at the start of the second half; Amarachi Onyeahiri and Gafar Durosinmi should have done better with their gilt-edged opportunities.

Instead it was PKR who found the target on 64 minutes, when dominant centre half Zila Seidu moving upfield for a Samel Nasa corner, planting his header firmly through a static Post Tel defence.

With substitutions disrupting the flow and the afternoon sun taking its toll, the game was petering out until a frantic last couple of minutes. Ekene robbed defender Mam Visann and lashed a fourth goal high into the roof of the net. Post Tel's Henri Bitga then converted a penalty to give the game's 4-1 scoreline a modicum of respectability.

With this result, PKR reclaim their top spot from Phnom Penh Crown, who can go ahead once more with a win against Khemara Keila this coming Wednesday.

Police blotter: 10 Aug 2009

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 10 August 2009
Lim Phalla


Yoeun Nhork, 49, was slashed15 times with a machete and died instantly on the scene while he was cutting grass on his farm in Tuol Tnaot village, in Kandal province's Koki commune on Thursday. The suspect, who was said to be mentally ill, told the police that the victim was a witch. However, he was still arrested by the police.


A big brothel located at Chong Kaosou bus stop in Siem Reap town was raided by provincial police on Wednesday afternoon. Four family members, 55-year-old Mao Vath, her 63-year-old husband Te Sam An, her daughter Te Srey Mom and 31-year-old brothel manager Smean Meith, were arrested, and 11 prostitutes were taken to the provincial department of social affairs to be educated and trained with skills.


A 50-year-old Thai man, Sumsak Phimphou Sakham, was stabbed dead by his drug-addicted Cambodian wife, Chea Mom, 38, while he was sleeping. The incident happened on Wednesday evening in Kbal Spean village, in Banteay Meanchey province's Poipet commune. According to witnesses, the suspect, who was then arrested by the police, was under the influence of drugs and could not control herself.


Phin Vath, 38, living in Trapaing Russei village in Prey Veng province, was attacked with a knife and a wooden stick and fainted instantly. He was attacked by a couple in Preah Sdach district's Kbampuk village on Tuesday for claiming that the ladder of their house was broken and very dangerous. The victim was taken to Svay Rieng hospital, and the couple, who said they were angry with the victim for looking down on their poor family, was taken to the police station.


Six monks were arrested on Wednesday by Battambang after they removed their robes and went on a drinking spree, during which they attacked two people with sticks and knives in Wat Rokar village, Our Mal commune.

The Phnom Penh Post News in Brief

In Brief: U19s lose all three ties

Monday, 10 August 2009

HO CHI MINH CITY – Cambodian U19s concluded a disappointing tournament in Vietnam, losing 3-0 to Australia Saturday. The boys had endured two previous losses in their group, 3-0 to Thailand last Tuesday, and 3-1 to Singapore Thursday, with Prak Monyoudom the only Cambodian on the scoresheet. Other results in the groups set up semifinals tonight in Ho Chi Minh City, featuring Thailand against Malaysia and Vietnam against Australia.

In Brief: Asean cooperation

Monday, 10 August
Chun Sophal

The Cambodian-ASEAN Civil Society Organisation said Saturday that it would like to expand cooperation among member states to facilitate greater exchanges in social, cultural, technological and political development. "We hope that the organisation will help Cambodia reach its full potential technologically and economically in order to put it on a more common footing with its fellow ASEAN members," said Som Aun, president of Cambodian-ASEAN Civil Society Organisation.

In Brief: MFI transparency

Monday, 10 August 2009
Nguon Sovan

Some 25 leaders from Cambodian microfinance institutions along with nongovernmental organisation micro-lenders met on Friday at the Cambodiana Hotel in Phnom Penh for a workshop on transparent pricing in the sector. "Cambodia has a very high degree of transparency pricing. Interest rates in Cambodia are very competitive and reasonably transparent when compared to other microfinance institutions around the world," Waterfield said. "We will go to the most difficult countries and use Cambodia as an example for them," he added.

Visa exemptions costly but worth it: officials

Tourists visit the Angkor Wat temple complex outside Siem Reap in this file photo. AFP

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 10 August 2009
Chun Sophal

Despite costing millions, extra tourism aids economy, govt says

Tourism officials last week announced the loss of more US$14 million in revenue generated by tourists from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations since January 2008, when the government adopted a visa-exemption agreement with five member-states.

According to a report by the Ministry of Tourism, Cambodia honoured 278,842 visa exemptions in the first half of this year from travellers from Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Vietnam and Laos, which resulted in a loss of $5.5 million in revenues.

The report added that last year revenues declined by $8.6 million after visa exemptions totaling 431,426 were issued to tourists from the same countries.

Minister of Tourism Thong Khon said Sunday that Cambodia would extend the visa-exemption programme to four additional ASEAN member-states despite the loss of revenue.

"We realise that our visa-exemption programme for travellers from ASEAN countries results in lower national revenues, but we will continue it because increased arrivals can boost economic growth Kingdom-wide and will create many jobs for Cambodians," Thong Khon said.

He added that visa exemptions would be extended to all ASEAN countries by 2015.

"Next year, we will implement visa exemptions for Thailand, followed later by Indonesia, Brunei and Myanmar," Thong Khon said.

Ho Vandy, co-chair of the Government-Private Sector Tourism Working Group, said Sunday that the visa-exemption programme could help woo more tourists from

ASEAN nations, adding that the number of Vietnamese tourists rose 40 percent last year following the establishment of the visa exemption.

"I think the [programme] provides a positive sign for tourism providers to increase their service competitiveness in order to lure more tourists [to Cambodia]," Ho Vandy said.Some 552,461 tourists from nine ASEAN countries visited Cambodia, according to Ministry of Tourism data.

Cambodia agreed to its first visa-exemption programme with Malaysia in the late 1990s, adding the Philippines, Singapore, Laos and Vietnam in subsequent years.

The Ministry of Tourism estimates that under the visa-exemption programme, at least 1 million tourists from nine ASEAN countries will travel to Cambodia between 2010 and 2011.

Prime Minister Hun Sen said last week that the Kingdom could expect to lose as much as $20 million in revenue each year if the country implemented visa exemptions with all ASEAN member-states.

PM urges graduates to boost farm production

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 10 August 2009
Khouth Sophak Chakrya

PRIME Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday told Build Bright University graduates to devise new methods to boost the productivity of rice farmers.

He also praised farmers for cultivating as much arable land as possible, despite floods in some provinces and droughts in others.

Speaking at a graduation ceremony held at the National Institute for Education in Phnom Penh, the premier pointed to a July 31 report from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries that indicated that rice farmers had successfully cultivated 64 percent of arable land slated for rice nationwide.

"This figure showed that the speed of our paddy cultivation is better than last year," he said, although he did not provide any figures from the previous year.

Rithi Kun, deputy director of the ministry's Agriculture Department, said he could not provide data on how much arable land had been cultivated by this point last year. He did say more than 2 million hectares had been cultivated this year.

HIV/AIDS crisis looming among gay men: report

Photo by: Sovan Philong
Transgender sex workers wait for customers near Wat Phnom

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 10 August 2009
Nathan Green

Failure to earmark sufficient funds for HIV/AIDS prevention among men who have sex with men is a 'crime against humanity', sparked by bias, that could have fatal consequences, experts say.

Bali, Indonesia

THE government's failure to provide adequate HIV/AIDS prevention for men who have sex with men (MSM) could plunge Cambodia's gay community into an epidemic tantamount to "genocide", experts have warned.

Out of almost US$4 billion invested in Asia over the past five years, less than $100 million has been allocated to the MSM community, according to Dr Sawarup Sarkar of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. "There's a whole political and social bias against this population," he told the Post.

The Commission on AIDS in Asia has estimated that Cambodia needs to spend $500,000 per year on prevention efforts in order to reach 80 percent of the most at-risk portion of its gay community, but the country spent nothing last year, Sarkar said.

"Cambodia is the highest-invested country in the region, with almost $5 per capita [allocated by donors for HIV-prevention efforts], but there is zero allocation to the MSM population," he said. "We are not funding enough the most at-risk communities."

by: Sovan Philong
Bin Samnang speaks about efforts to educate gay men in Battambang province about the risks of HIV/AIDS.
Teaching MSM about AIDS in Battambang

IN SEVEN years as an outreach coordinator for the Battambang-based NGO Men's Health Social Services (MHSS), Bin Samnang has met eight gay men who later died from AIDS.

"Everybody is afraid of AIDS, and so am I," said the 30-year-old, who is gay himself. "That is why we are trying to educate people about it."

Bin Samnang said he began wearing women's clothes as a teenager in 1996. Shortly thereafter, he decided to leave home to live in an apartment with a group of gay friends, all of whom, he said, were attempting to escape derision from their families and neighbours.

He became sexually active after he started dancing for street bands in 1997.

"I was happy when I could go out dancing," he said. "I started to go out a lot with my group, and we started to have lots of sexual partners."

But he did not learn about the importance of wearing condoms to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS until he took the job with MHSS in 2002.

As a result of his experiences in the field, Bin Samnang has committed himself to educating other gay men in Battambang about the threat of HIV/AIDS.

He said recently that he believed outreach efforts to gay men in the province had been effective.

"Almost all gays use a condom when they have sex," he said.

"They know now about the threats because they have been educated by other gays. Only very few gays now say they do not use condoms."

He acknowledged, though, that some men still do not believe they can contract HIV/AIDS by having sex with other men.

"Education about reproductive health has been scattered in Battambang, so we don't know for sure how many gays have been educated in the province," he said.


Shivananda Khan, chairman of the Asia Pacific Coalition on Male Sexual Health (APCOM), said the failure of national governments to allocate resources to their MSM and transgender communities constitutes "a crime against humanity".

Addressing a forum on HIV in gay communities in Bali, Indonesia, at the International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific, Khan said: "194 MSM and transgender people are getting infected with HIV every day. With the level of services and with the level of coverage, what hope do they have in terms of accessing treatment, care, support or even prevention? That is not only shocking, it is shameful: It is a form almost of genocide. It is a crime against humanity.

"The only way we can win this battle is if we work together and stand shoulder to shoulder to address the crisis so this genocide stops. We have the technology and the evidence to stop it, and enough is enough. What we are dealing with is a crisis in human lives."

Although the HIV prevalence rate among MSM in Cambodia is lower than in neighbouring Thailand and Myanmar, the country is nearing a crucial tipping point, the UN has warned.

New infections could rapidly spiral out of control unless the government does more to educate the community about how to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, according to UNAIDS, the UN's joint programme on AIDS and HIV.

"Asia and the Pacific is on the brink of a large increase in new infections among MSMs if risk behaviours of low condom use and many concurrent male partners stay at current levels," JVR Prasada Rao, Asia and the Pacific regional director for UNAIDS, told the forum.

"The [Commission on AIDS in Asia] has predicted that if business as usual continues, by 2020, men who have sex with men and transgenders will be the largest segment of infected people in Asia."

Frits Van Griensven, chief of behavioural research at the US Centre for Disease Control, said the Cambodian government must "act now" to avert catastrophe. "If you are late acting, it will be too late, and the prevalence will be too difficult to bring down," he told the forum.

Prevention efforts should also address the social challenges facing MSM and transgender people, said Griensven, citing links between binge drinking, drug use, a history of coercive sex, suicidal thoughts and social isolation with failure to use condoms during sex.

"We shouldn't be targeting HIV in isolation, but in the context of the social conditions people live in," he said.

Funding should be allocated to peer education, treatment of non-HIV sexually transmitted infections, distribution of condoms and lubricants, and advocacy to decriminalise the community and remove the stigma surrounding MSM, said Global Fund's Sarkar.

He said the people most at risk, which represent up to 25 percent of the MSM community, are male sex workers and transgender people, who are most likely to have receptive sex. People who frequent cruising spots are also considered high-risk.

The latest statistics suggest that 8.7 percent of MSM in Phnom Penh are HIV-positive. The study, which dates from 2007, estimates prevalence among the transgender community to be as high as 17 percent. HIV prevalence among people ages 15-49 in Cambodia stood at 0.9 percent, or 67,200 people, in 2007. This was down from 1.2 percent in 2003, UNAIDS figures show.

One of the most alarming trends in the epidemiological data is the high rate of infection among the youngest segments of the MSM and
transgender communities. A recent study in Thailand followed 1,000 HIV-negative MSM for three years. During that time, 20 percent contracted
HIV. Among those aged between 18 and 22, the infection rate was 30 percent.

The Commission on AIDS in Asia estimated that $3 billion was needed every year in Asia to reach 80 percent of positive people, 80 percent of people at high risk of contracting HIV and 80 percent of affected families. However, just $1 billion was available last year from major public sources, leaving a $2 billion shortfall.

Programmes targeting MSM required $300 million per year, it said, but only $20 million to $40 million was spent, mostly from the Global Fund.

The government could not be reached for comment on Sunday.

Nathan Green, who has been reporting from Bali since last Monday, travelled to Indonesia on a UNAIDS-funded trip.

Heng Pov called to testify in union case

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 10 August 2009
Chrann Chamroeun

THE brother of Chea Vichea, the labour leader whose death prompted two controversial convictions in 2005, has called for a jailed murderer to appear as a witness in the retrial of the case.

Chea Mony, the victim's younger brother, told Cambodia Express News that he sent a letter to the Court of Appeal asking that former national police chief Heng Pov be summoned as a witness in the August 17 retrial of the men convicted of killing Chea Vichea: 24-year-old Born Samnang and 36-year-old Sok Sam Oeun.

Heng Pov was arrested and convicted of a variety of charges, including murder, in 2006.

Though the defendants in Chea Vichea's case were convicted in 2005, the verdict was highly criticised by local and international organisations that felt that the men were innocent scapegoats. The victim's family turned down the court-ordered compensation from the accused in protest of the verdict.

While Heng Pov supported the verdict as police chief, he admitted after his arrest that he did not believe the men were guilty. No witnesses were called to testify, and no forensic evidence was presented in court.

Appeal Court Deputy President Chuon Sunleng said Sunday that he had yet to see Chea Mony's letter, but that he would consider the request.

"I've never heard of a convicted criminal being called as a witness, but I will read the letter and take it into consideration," he said.

Though they were originally sentenced to 20 years in prison, the Supreme Court ordered the provisional release of Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun on December 31, pending new investigations.

EU condemns govt crackdown

Photo by: Sovan Philong


THE violent scenes that followed the verdict in Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Mu Sochua’s defamation on Tuesday are a testament to the government’s hostility to democracy and freedom of expression, the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights (CCHR) said, describing the day of the conviction as “another dark day for justice and democracy in Cambodia”. “The CCHR regrets the verdict and condemns the manner in which the police handled a peaceful procession,” the group said in a statement Friday, noting several instances of violence against civil society members, opposition politicians and bystanders. Protestor Seng Hok Chher said that he was kicked by police before being detained and held by authorities for around an hour. “They kicked me when I ran to break up the clashes. They saw me as Sam Rainsy’s bodyguard, [and] I was arrested,” he said.


The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 10 August 2009
Sebastian Strangio

THE European Commission has strongly condemned the government's recent legal offensive against outspoken critics, warning it could lead to a severe narrowing of the democratic space in Cambodia.

During a meeting with foreign ministry officials, three EU representatives said a recent string of defamation and disinformation cases against opposition figures and journalists could have "serious consequences for civil society's willingness to engage in democratic debate".

According to a classified terms of reference approved by the EU's 27 member states prior to the Friday meeting, EU representatives tabled concerns about "the use of criminal defamation and disinformation charges, including severe penalties imposed by the courts, to target those in civil society who raise minor criticisms of government policy".

The document, a copy of which has been obtained by the Post, also called attention to the government's "disregard" for protections of freedom of speech for elected representatives and the bringing of criminal charges against journalists "over articles critical of government policy".

Step by step
EU officials said they stopped short of threatening a withdrawal of financial support, saying that using development aid to punish or reward the government was "not a constructive way" to manage their relationship.

"It's not a matter of turning on and off taps in relation to good behaviour by the government," said British ambassador Andrew Mace, who represented the EU at the meeting.

But Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Centre of Human Rights, said that the threat of an aid withdrawal, whether or not it was made explicit, would be in the minds of government officials following the meeting.

He said that the government needed Western support for legitimacy, and that the EU's "unusually" strong position would keep officials guessing.


"I think that the EU is making a very clear statement to the Cambodian government," he said. "If I were [Prime Minister] Hun Sen I would be very concerned."

Mace said the atmosphere at the meeting was "frank and constructive", part of an ongoing process of dialogue between the EU and the government.

"They listened to our concerns and told us their view very openly," he said.

"They certainly expressed their intention to ensure that they were meeting their international human rights obligations. Though we didn't agree on everything, I think it took place in a friendly, constructive spirit."

He added: "We'll continue to raise our concerns when we have them. We have discussed these issues over a long period of time with the government."

Ouch Borith, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who represented the government at the meeting, could not be reached for comment Sunday.

When contacted Sunday, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong did not wish to comment but said the ministry would be releasing a statement "responding to the EU's concerns" today.

The meeting, which also involved German Ambassador Frank Marcus Mann and Rafael Dochao-Moreno, head of the delegation of the European Commission, came following the conviction of Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Mu Sochua on defamation charges Tuesday.

The aftermath of the hearing at Phnom Penh Municipal Court, which ordered Mu Sochua to pay 16.5 million riels (US$3,937) in fines and compensation for defaming Hun Sen, has also drawn fire from rights groups, who claim police used excessive force in their attempts to prevent SRP parliamentarians and supporters from marching through the city.

Opposition calls for US action on visa 'stress'

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 10 August 2009
Meas Sokchea

VISA officials at the United States Embassy in Phnom Penh have made life difficult for Cambodian visa applicants, according to a Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker, who has requested an explanation from officials.

In a letter to Ambassador Carol Rodley dated Friday, SRP parliamentarian Son Chhay said many Cambodian visa applicants have endured "humiliation and great stress" at the hands of visa officers, who he claimed have rejected many genuine applications.

"[There have been] numerous complaints about consular officers at the Visa Service Section lacking clear ethical and professional guidelines, resulting in officers abusing their position of power, mishandling applications, treating Cambodians disrespectfully and misjudging what were often genuine applicants, at interviews, for fake applicants," the letter said.

He cited the case of an old woman who three times was denied approval for a visa to travel to the US to visit a daughter scheduled to undergo a serious operation, as well as students who were "shouted at and accused of being liars" when they tried to obtain travel documents.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said he was "not aware" of any concerns relating to the issuing of US visas. The US Embassy had not responded to requests for comment as of press time.


'Just a series of ghastly screw-ups'

Photo by: Sebastian Strangio
Historian David Chandler speaks with reporters outside the ECCC after testifying on Thursday.

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 10 August 2009
James O'Toole

Following his testimony Thursday at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, one of the foremost historians of Cambodia weighs in on S-21, Duch's machinery of death, and the significance of the trials.

DAVID Chandler is a scholar who has written extensively on Cambodian history and the Khmer Rouge regime. Last Thursday, he was called to the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), where he drew on his years of research in testifying as an expert witness. Chandler spoke to reporters afterward about his work, his experience at the court, and the significance of the tribunal in today's Cambodia. Watch the video interview

FOR decades, David Chandler has been among the world's most meticulous chroniclers of Cambodian history. On Thursday, he took his place within it.

Chandler, a 76-year-old professor from Australia's Monash University, was called to testify at Cambodia's war crimes tribunal in the case of Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, the commandant of the infamous S-21 detention facility.

Originally from the United States, Chandler first became interested in Cambodia when he traveled to Phnom Penh in 1960 as an American diplomat.

He subsequently wrote several books about Cambodia, including The Tragedy of Cambodian History, Brother Number One, the first full-length biography of Pol Pot and Voices from S-21, a history of Duch's prison.

Chandler called his day in court "a unique experience", adding that he had "only seen these things in movies and TV".

I've had so much time with these people, and you get inside them...

He was brought in as an expert witness to assess Duch, S-21 and the facility's larger significance within the Khmer Rouge regime.

Asked to assess the significance of the tribunal for Cambodia today, Chandler was cautiously optimistic that the court is increasing the historical awareness of the Cambodian population.

"Having [former Khmer Rouge leaders] confront people who have things to say to them is something that's never happened before.

"So, that lifts up the level of information, and it gives the defendants a chance to speak for themselves, and [Duch] of course made the rare move of admitting he was responsible for what happened. So, if that filters out to the people, then this would be quite interesting.... I think any addition to knowledge is better than naught," he said.

Chandler had never met Duch himself before Thursday, though he formed a firm impression of the S-21 boss through years of research and interviews.

No moral villain
Voices from S-21 documents a litany of shocking torture techniques employed by Duch and his subordinates, yet Chandler was reluctant to cast Duch as simply an amoral villain.

"The thing to avoid ... is just pointing a figure at people that I had no idea why they were behaving this way. I've never been in any physical danger in my life - a couple operations, but I've never been in any war, I've never been in a closed situation like these people ... so you can't get really hasty with a lot of blame. I mean, you can say 'this is terrible', but you can't say 'that's a bad person, I'm not a bad person'," Chandler said.

In response at the end of the day's proceedings, Duch praised Chandler effusively, telling the professor he had "great virtue as a good researcher".

Chandler called Duch's praise "fawning", though he understood the pathologies from which it sprang. "He felt he had to do it because I'm older, I'm higher, he was locked in that syndrome. I mean I was gratified, it was nice, but I wanted to tell him 'back off, it's OK'."

Though Chandler said there has been much that he has learned since he wrote his last book, he won't be writing anything further about the Khmer Rouge era.

'Repellent' and 'stupid'
"I really want to say 'au revior, Khmer Rouge'... I've had so much time with these people and you get inside them, and they're so repellent, and they're so stupid.

"A story I tell is, I was writing this book ... I was upstairs in my study in the house we had then, and my wife was downstairs reading something,
drafts I'd written, and she said, 'They're so stupid!' Word came up the stairs. And I said 'Well, I know, but I've got a contract to write a book; it can't be just 'they're so stupid, here's my book!'

"But it was spot-on, I mean, everything they did made no sense, either moral or logical, it was just a series of ghastly screw-ups. So that's true, I don't want to stay around these people too much longer."

Shoring up the foundations

Photo by: Sovan Philong
Old versus new: Crumbling modernist architecture from the country’s 1960s heyday meets a contemporary eyesore.

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 10 August 2009
Khouth Sophak Chakrya

Veteran architect Vann Molyvann says Cambodian engineers working abroad should return home to help improve engineering education and development.

Though Cambodia has 180 engineers who have been certified by the ASEAN Federation of Engineering Organisations (AFEO), Vann Molyvann, the Kingdom's most famous architect, says there is much to be done to bring Cambodian engineering up to international standards.

"The shortage of facilities, materials, and especially well-experienced professors are the main problem for Cambodian students who want to become engineers," he told the Post on Sunday.

Vann Molyvann was at the forefront of the New Khmer Architecture movement that flourished under the patronage of then-Prince Norodom Sihanouk in the 1950s and 1960s.

He is responsible for many of Phnom Penh's most iconic structures, including Independence Monument and the National Sports Complex. Now 82 years old, he has worked abroad for much of his professional life, but resettled permanently in Cambodia in 1993.

Of 1,230 engineering graduates who took the AFEO exam this year, only 180 were certified, according to Prak Min, secretary general of the Board of Engineers, Cambodia (BEC). At a meeting on Thursday of the BEC, Deputy Prime Minister Sok An urged the group to train more engineers who meet AFEO requirements.

Prak Min said that Cambodian engineers compare favourably with those of other countries in the region, though he acknowledged that there is more work to be done.

Punching above its weight
Cambodia has more AFEO-certified architects than Laos or Myanmar, a number similar to Malaysia's, he said. Education and training issues, however, remain a challenge.

"Most of our students who graduate from engineering programmes need at least five to seven years of work experience before they can meet professional standards, but right now we have a shortage of jobs for them," Prak Min said.

He added that engineering students particularly need to improve their computer skills and their international language abilities, citing English and French in particular.

Civil society groups, Vann Molyvann argued, may play a role in reinvigorating Cambodian engineering.

Prior to the Khmer Rouge era, Cambodian students often took advantage of scholarships or government aid to study abroad - Vann Molyvann himself studied architecture in France.

But although increased international experience is one element that may improve the skills of Cambodian engineers, Vann Molyvann emphasised that domestic improvements, including the construction of new universities and the improvement of existing ones, would do the greatest good for the largest number of students. International donors, he said, should focus on these domestic projects as they work to address the education gap.

The architect added that Cambodia's turbulent past few decades have held back the development of engineering programmes.

Many of the Kingdom's most skilled professionals fled the country while the Khmer Rouge devastated most of the best Cambodian universities and training institutes, he said.

"In this situation, I call for all the Cambodian engineers who have fled abroad to please return to Cambodia to develop the craft and teach the people of the next generation to be skillful engineers like them," he said.

Adhoc worker urged to apologise

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 10 August 2009
Chrann Chamroeun

THE judge presiding in the case of Pen Bonnar, the rights worker from Ratanakkiri province who is facing charges of incitement of terrorism, said the court is unlikely to pursue the case if the provincial coordinator for the rights group Adhoc issues an apology.

"Normally, the court will be considerate and understanding about lifting charges in these cases when the suspects are not stubborn," Judge Thor Saron told the Post on Sunday.

"But they must be humble and acknowledge their faults."

Pen Bonnar was charged with incitement by Ratanakkiri provincial police in connection with a protest over a land dispute in November 2007. He has since been removed from Ratanakkiri by Adhoc, but he vowed to fight the charges against him.

"I will not be humble because I am innocent, and I will try to pursue legal action against Judge Thor Saron to the Supreme Council of Magistracy ... for the insensitive charges against me," Pen Bonnar said. He called the charges against him "a threat to freedom of expression".

Although Pen Bonnar said he believes it was Thor Saron who initiated the charges against him, the judge said that they originated with provincial police.

"We have not yet made any decision about the charges against him," Thor Saron said.

"The court is now waiting for the suspect's lawyer to propose a resolution or make a request to the court, which we will make a decision about later."

On Sunday, the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) issued a press release stating its concern that Pen Bonnar's case "represents evidence of a practice in Cambodia whereby the threat of legal charges is used to silence the voices of human rights activists and to curtail freedom of expression."

Property Rights for the Urban Poor in Cambodia

The Wip Talk

by ChristineRobinson

It was two in the morning when we first heard the loudspeakers. My friend was annoyed thinking the noise was coming from people partying late, but we later learned something very different was happening. I got up early that morning to eat breakfast before a long day at the Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng. Walking downstairs, I saw about a hundred people outside our hotel in Phnom Penh including press, local police, and the Cambodian military.

The Dey Krahorn eviction underway in Phnom Penh. Photograph by Sarah Grime.

I rushed outside and found a member of my group. He explained that the slum down the street, Dey Krahorn, was being forcefully evacuated by the military and police. A barrier kept us from getting too close, and a green fence had been put up along the perimeter. We saw trucks coming out of the slum carrying what I thought was junk, but later realized were whatever possessions the people could salvage from their houses.

We stopped to talk to Kevin Knight, who works in a different slum with an NGO. He told us that the development company 7NG, along with the ruling party in Cambodia, the Cambodian Peoples’ Party (CPP), were responsible for the evictions. Dey Krahorn was located in a prime location in downtown Phnom Penh and worth an estimated US$44 million.

Kevin explained that the 150 families living in the slum had been negotiating with 7NG in the weeks prior to the evictions. The company offered each family US$20,000 or an apartment in a resettlement site named Cham Chao, located at least 16 kilometers from the center of Phnom Penh.

At first this seemed like a reasonable offer, but what I failed to realize is that the residents of the slum had livelihoods, access to water and education, and other things that the city center offered. The majority of people living in Dey Krahorn made a living as street vendors, so if forced into a location with a reduced population they would lose their incomes.

The truth of what was happening just a few hundred yards away was finally settling in. Why was all of this happening here, I wondered, and why now? I learned that because of all of the foreign investment in the area (including our hotel), land prices had dramatically increased. According to the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO), slum evictions are not a new phenomenon in Cambodia. The country is suffering from a classic case of the rich getting richer while the poor get poorer.

According to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Cambodia, “The eviction was carried out in the middle of the night, with bulldozers, tear gas, rubber bullets, batons, and workers equipped with sticks and axes contracted to demolish the houses… The residents were thrown onto the street to watch their homes being destroyed.” A friend of Kevin’s who had been inside the slum when the eviction started described a woman collapsing in front of her house and bulldozers that continued to plow into her, sending her to the hospital with injuries.

After speaking with Kevin and other foreigners in the area, I realized how much the past really does influence the present. In order to understand what is happening in present day Cambodia, it is necessary to look to history, especially the period immediately following the Khmer Rouge.

When the Khmer Rouge came into power they wanted to make everyone in the society equal, which meant destroying money, books, private possessions, and land titles. During the period from 1975-1979, the cities of Cambodia were cleared out as the people were made to live and work in rural areas. After the fall of the Khmer Rouge in 1979, the people came flooding back into the cities. Since all of the land titles had been destroyed, people grabbed whatever they could, and the cities, especially Phnom Penh, became home to thousands of “squatters”.

Not everyone I spoke with explained the situation in the same manner. Some were sympathetic to the residents of Dey Krahorm, while others believed the government and 7NG were taking the required actions for the city to further “develop”. I was told by several people that the majority of the residents in Dey Krahorn had legal rights to their land. Some families were “squatting” illegally, but according to the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE), around 140 families living in Dey Krahorn had been there since the 1980s and were given rights to the land under the Cambodian Land Law (2001). Not only do the residents meet all of the preceding requirements, they have documentation to prove it.

According to Amnesty International, Cambodia is a state party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and “has an obligation to protect the population against forced evictions… [the evictions at Dey Krahorn] show all too clearly how little respect Cambodian authorities have for these requirements”. Another person added that while the residents had been living in Dey Krahorn for years, the land was owned by the government so it was free to be taken at any time.

Regardless of the exact legal situation of the slums in Phnom Penh, it’s clear that Cambodia’s land title situation is in peril. A quick search for the land laws of Cambodia reveals relentless confusion in the period following the Khmer Rouge. We are only just starting to see the severe affects of the land laws today, as foreign investment and rapid growth in Phnom Penh cause once worthless land to become a precious commodity.

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