Monday, 7 September 2009

Cambodia pulls plug on World Bank land dispute plan

PHNOM PENH, Sept 7 (Reuters) - Cambodia said on Monday it had pulled out of a World Bank project aimed at settling land disputes, raising further concern about forced evictions in the impoverished Southeast Asian country.

Prime Minister Hun Sen said the World Bank's administrative procedures were too complicated and Cambodia no longer wished to be part of the project.

"We decided to end the partnership with the World Bank," Hun Sen said during a meeting devoted to the annual census report.

"And the remaining money...they can take it back," he said, adding that terms of the arrangement were "very complicated".

Land ownership is a controversial issue in Cambodia, where legal documents were destroyed and state institutions collapsed under the Khmer Rouge regime of the 1970s and the civil war that followed.

A period of unprecedented growth since 2004 has boosted land prices, particularly in the capital Phnom Penh, leading to a spike in the number of evictions and triggering fierce criticism of the government by aid donors.

The World Bank joined other donors in July to ask the government to halt the evictions and the problem was raised again during a visit by its vice-president for East Asia and the Pacific Region, James Adams.

The scheme had provided $24.3 million for land management and administration projects over the last seven years, during which 1.1 million title deeds were issued.

The World Bank and rights groups said the termination of the deal, decided last week but not announced until Monday, would compound the problem of land-grabbing in Cambodia and hobble campaigns to eradicate poverty.

"The government wants to have the right to evict people and sell the land to companies, forcing people to sell for only small compensation," said Ou Vireak of the US-funded Cambodia Centre for Human Rights.

"It is a sad day for Cambodia, for the poor, and for the victims of the land grabbing."

(Reporting by Ek Madra; Editing by Martin Petty and Ron Popeski)

Cambodia provides land for retired armed forces: PM

PHNOM PENH, Sept. 7 (Xinhua) -- Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said Monday the government will provide land for families of retired armed forces including military police, police, and solders for planting agricultural corps.

"It will be a big system of social safety and welfare for retired armed forces and we want to transfer the non production forces to the production forces because they have land for planting agricultural crops to survive as pension," he said at the ceremony of releasing the final result of 2008 population census.

"With the land, those armed forces will not be fallen into poor after they retried from the positions," he said, adding that we need at least 30,000 or 40,000 hectares of land for those armed forces.

"Those plots of lands will come from the economic concession land which private side did not follow the contract and were taken back by government to be transferred into social concession land for armed forces," Hun Sen said, adding that Ministry of Economy and Finance will organize the project with the legal regulations.

Khieu Kanarith, government spokesman and information minister said that the retired armed forces will not be allowed to sell, transfer or rented those land but they have to plant agricultural crops for their living conditions.

The soldier families will get a plot of land about a hectare or two hectares.

Editor: Bi Mingxin

Is Every Khmer Citizen Equal Before the Law? – Sunday, 6.9.2009

Posted on 7 September 2009
The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 628

Well, Article 31 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia speaks very clearly:

- “The Kingdom of Cambodia shall recognize and respect human rights as stipulated in the United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration of human Rights, the covenants and conventions related to human rights, women’s and children’s rights.

- Every Khmer citizen shall be equal before the law, enjoying the same rights, freedom and fulfilling the same obligations regardless of race, color, sex, language, religious belief, political tendency, birth origin, social status, wealth or other position.”

While talking to a number of people about the case of a person who spent four years –without having been presented to a judge for sentencing! – in prison, supposedly “by mistake” because the legal bureaucracy had forgotten about this person, accused of having stolen a second hand mobile phone worth US$15.-, I did not find anybody who thought that a rich person, or a person with higher level social and political connections, would have been in prison for four years in a similar situation. And this is the second, similar case within a month. The media report again and again – over the years – that many people in general do not believe that the courts bring justice equally to all.

It is a stark contrast to have, during the same week, the report that a former high ranking police officer, accused to have been behind an acid attack, is absolved from prosecution by a court, for insufficient evidence. She threatened the victim and her family members, who taped the threatening phone calls before the crime happened.

There is always the desperate hope that crude injustice will not happen again, or will happen less. The Minister of Justice admonished the courts not to give too harsh sentences. And this week, a prosecutor of the Supreme Court started to questioned the Kandal Court for illegally detaining a person for four years who is accused of a petty crime only. Will those responsible for the misconduct of justice be punished? Will the innocent victims of these events even get a financial compensation for the time they were jailed against the law?

This week, the president of the Cambodian People’s Party, who is also the president of the Senate, also called for moderation when applying the law against those who are economically week in society – pointing out that they have the power to vote!

On 18.1.2008, last year, The Mirror had carried a report saying that the President of the National Assembly signed a letter, asking for the suspension of pumping sand to fill the Boeng Kak Lake – and The Mirror carried an aerial picture showing the lake when it was still larger than now – a natural basin for floodwater, a place of recreation, a counterbalance to the urbanized areas. Many big cities in the world would be happy to have such a lake in their midst.

Now also the President of the Senate referred to the Boeng Kak Lake, reminded commune, district, and municipal governors and councillors to remember that the citizens are voters, while implementing the law. He said that “what is important is that proper solutions are offered to the residents, otherwise it will affect the members of our party, accusing them of disregarding the difficulties of the citizens.”

Such concerns were were hardly heard by other representatives of the state and of Phnom Penh city. And he added a reference to the implementation of new obligations required by the traffic law, saying, “Sometimes, the poor people have little money to afford to buy a motorbike to work as moto-taxi drivers, and sometimes, even our civil servants encounter difficulties and take their free time to work as moto-taxi drivers, to find additional income to support their family’s living. They face another difficulty when their motorbikes are confiscated to pay taxes… there has to be a practical understanding for our people and for our fellow civil servants who face difficulties in their livelihood.”

This was not a call to disregard and to not implement the traffic law – but law enforcement too has to be done in a balanced way, considering all participants in road traffic. Throughout the city, one can see police forces stopping motorcycle drivers who do not wear safety helmets, or who do not have rear-view mirrors on their vehicles. And while they are busily educating the poorer participants traveling on the roads, big cars without license plates – so they have also not paid taxes – pass by without getting attention, or being stopped, or getting confiscated as may happen to a motorcycle driver whose owner has not paid the license tax. There was not one day for months – when I travel around town on a moto-taxi – that I did not see several big cars without license plates.

This week, we mirrored that in May 2009, 132 people died in traffic accidents, and 442 people were seriously injured – the number of deaths countrywide had increased by 35% compared to the same period in 2008. And it was reported that in Phnom Penh, 67% of traffic accidents that happened during daytime were due to over-speed driving. Are those who cause many of these high speed accidents the same who are targeted by the campaign to fix rear-view mirrors to their motorcycles? The equality before the law needs also to be applied when enforcing the traffic laws equally – “regardless of sex, social status, wealth, or other position.”

JBC border talks to be discussed in the parliament this month

By The Nation
Mon, September 7, 2009

The Parliament is expected to consider the negotiation frameworks for the Thai-Cambodian Joint Commission on Demarcation for Land Boundary (JBC) within this month, Thai Foreign Ministry said Monday.

Last week, the parliament approved the framework for negotiation of Thailand-Cambodia General Border Commission (GBC) to provide security and order in the border area.

The JBC, a responsive mechanism for boundary demarcation is under the Foreign Ministry while the GBC, which takes care of general security along the border, is under the Defense Ministry.

It was widely misunderstood in many media which reported last week that the JBC had been approved by the parliament.

Democrat MP Kraisak Choonhavan told Cambodian media, Phnom Penh Post, last week that the national assembly approved solutions to technical and other issues surrounding the border demarcation.

"A majority of parliamentarians approved the reports of the Cambodian-Thai Joint Boundary Commission this morning (September 2)," Kraisak was quoted by the Post as referring to the bilateral body that has met three times since November.

Thai foreign ministry spokesman Thani Tongpakdi said the ministry is still waiting for the parliament's consideration on the issues.

Cambodia seeks to attract more foreign investments

Cham Prasidh, Cambodia's Senior Minister and Minister of Commerce
By Channel NewsAsia's IndoChina Bureau Chief Anasuya Sanyal

Posted: 07 September 2009

PHNOM PENH: Cambodia is open for business, despite global economic uncertainty and a negative growth forecast. For foreign investors in the country, the downturn could be a moment of opportunity.

Cambodia has not been spared by the economic crisis - exports have dropped by 23 per cent and the construction industry has slowed almost to a standstill. But it will take another quarter to determine any negative long-term economic effects.

The country's Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh is confident that demand will pick up again, especially in the hard-hit garment sector. He explained why the country is a perfect springboard to foreign markets.

"Cambodia is a less developed country. We enjoy market preferences larger than our neighbouring countries which are developing countries. It means that products that you can produce in Cambodia go to Europe duty free and quota free," he said.

Fund manager Doug Clayton dispels some common misperceptions regarding investing in Cambodia.

He said: "Many investors think Cambodia's an unstable place, but personally I think it's one of the most stable countries in Southeast Asia because it has had the same government for over two decades and is unlikely to change over the next ten years."

A 15 per cent corporate tax rate and various government incentives have made CEOs like Johnny Ong of Singapore's HLH confident of its success. The company is expected to put US$40 million into its corn agribusiness over the next few years.

HLH said it can import expensive farm equipment and seed stock from abroad tax free. Local labour is easily available and there is plenty of land to lease – 7 million hectares over the whole country.

- CNA/so

A matter of civil rights

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 07 September 2009
Olivia Jaimee

Dear Editor,

The government has no business imposing its will on citizens' freedom of movement. This would definitely be an infringement of civil rights. My question to the governor is where, exactly, is Cambodia headed right now?

Firstly, not too long ago, a senior official voiced their concern about the scantily clad Cambodian women pictured in a certain magazine. Almost immediately, all copies were removed from the shops and the magazine office was shut down.

Secondly, the recent banning of the Miss Landmine pageant also has me scratching my head. Now, a curfew on underage girls? Whatever's next?

Democracy in Cambodia is slowly and surely buckling under pressure from the elite few and their "Yes, Sir!" cronies. This trend threatens to roll Cambodia back to its darkest day in recent history.

Olivia Jaimee
Phnom Penh

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

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

Cambodia upholds pill sentence

Johanne Vinter Axelsen, 55, has had her sentence upheld in Cambodia.
7. sep 2009

Cambodian court has upheld a verdict on a Danish woman for having sent headache pills to the United States.

A Cambodian court has upheld a 15-year sentence on a Danish woman for having sent headache pills to the United States, despite police having destroyed most of the evidence.

Johanne Vinter Axelsen, 55, was sentenced in January on charges of having sent the pills, which included codein, to her son who was starting a business in the U.S.

"Immediately after the appeal court's decision, she was pulled into a car and taken to continue her sentence at Correctional Centre 2 in Phnom Penh," says her lawyer Henrik Hasseris Olesen.

In handing down its decision, the Appeals Court did not take Nielsen's claim that she was unaware that it was illegal to send pills out of the country into account.

"In January she was sentenced for having sent 28 envelopes with pills to the United States. The charge is now that she sent 58 envelopes. And at least one of them was sent before she arrived in the country," Olesen says, adding that the police had told the court that all but one of the envelopes that were evidence in the case had been destroyed.

Supreme Court
Axelsen's Cambodian lawyer is now trying to appeal the case to the Cambodian Supreme Court and her Danish lawyer is seeking help from the Danish Foreign MInistry to improve her conditions.

According to her lawyer, Axelsen currently spends 23 hours of each day with 45 other prisoners in a cell measuring 60 square metres.

Edited by Julian Isherwood

CU freshman raising money to help build school in Cambodia

Heather Starbuck touched by trip she made in high school

By Melanie Asmar,
Posted: 09/06/2009

University of Colorado freshman Heather Starbuck poses for a portrait while wearing a shirt she designed for Operation Lyhou, a project she founded to raise funds to build a school in rural Cambodia. ( Will Morgan )

Several things about Heather Starbuck's trip to Cambodia last year made an impression on her. The heat. The cockroaches that crunched under her feet when she walked down the hallway of her hotel. The way the kids at the school she visited immediately caught on to "The Macarena."

The kids surprised the University of Colorado freshman in other ways, too.

As she was saying goodbye on her last day, a particularly outgoing 13-year-old boy named Lyhou approached her. He was one of the poorest in the school, she said; he wore the same shirt, green-and-white striped with a sassy saying -- "I Do What I Want" -- printed in English across the front, almost every day.

That day, he took off his sunglasses and gave them to her as a keepsake.

"They were probably his only personal possession," she said. "He had nothing but he was so generous."

Starbuck has started a campaign in Lyhou's name to raise money to build another school in Cambodia.

The 18-year-old launched Operation Lyhou (pronounced Lee-how) this past summer with the goal of raising $13,000. To reach her goal, Starbuck is selling trendy T-shirts emblazoned with a sketched peace sign for $19.99 each.

So far, she said, she's raised $526.

Starbuck is working with an organization called American Assistance for Cambodia, which has helped build more than 400 elementary and middle schools in rural Cambodia since 1999. Through the organization, World Bank will match Starbuck's $13,000. The money will pay for the construction of a modest school and other amenities, including teachers, computers and solar panels, she said.

"The kids there love school," she said, adding that they often came early or stayed late and showed up on weekends to use the computers.

"It's amazing to see how much they took advantage of it," she said -- especially coming from the United States, "where school is seen as such a drag."

Starbuck traveled to Cambodia as a high school junior. Her school, the private Overlake School in Redmond, Wash., had raised the money to build a primary school in the town of Pailin, Cambodia, several years earlier, a project profiled in a New York Times column about the problem of sex trafficking in Cambodia and the positive effects of education.

Every two years, students from Overlake return to Pailin to make improvements and volunteer there, teaching English, dental hygiene and other subjects for two-and-a-half weeks.

Starbuck ended up on the trip by chance. She was new to Overlake and halfway through her junior year, hadn't chosen an activity for the school's "project week." Someone dropped out of the coveted Cambodia trip at the last minute and she snagged a spot, not knowing what to expect. At the time, she said, she was bitter, "an angry high school kid who thought school was boring."

Visiting Pailin changed that.

"I was feeling really down," she said, "but it made me realize there are so many better things you could be doing than feeling bad for yourself. Somewhere in the world, someone has it worse."

The trip inspired Starbuck to intern with two nonprofit groups -- a microfinancing organization called Global Partnerships and the aid agency Mercy Corps -- and eventually apply to CU, where she's studying international affairs.

She said she chose CU partly because the school is ranked the No. 5 all-time producer of Peace Corps volunteers, a path she's considering pursuing after graduation.

Starbuck keeps in touch with Lyhou, who's now 14 and in high school. At first, she said, the e-mails they sent were simple: "How's the weather? Did you go to school today?"

But in the year and a half since she last saw him, Lyhou's English has improved. In one of his last messages, he asked what she sees as a very important question: "How's college?"

Lyhou told her he wants come to the United States to study.

"He seems to have really big goals," Starbuck said.

So does she.

Cambodia: An Obligation To Protect Human Rights

SCOOP New Zealand
Monday, 7 September 2009

Press Release: Asian Human Rights Commission

Cambodia: The State Has An Obligation To Protect Human Rights Defenders

Unlike many other countries, Cambodia is bound to international human rights obligations, including one towards its citizens who wish to participate in the promotion of human rights. Thus, under the Paris Peace Agreements of 1991 that ended the conflict in that country, “Cambodia undertakes”, among other things, “to support the right of all (its) citizens to undertake activities that would promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

Since the conclusion of those agreements many such citizens have formed various NGOs with the purpose of doing precisely that work. Nowadays, there are several thousand NGOs that have registered but only a fraction of them are actually operational.

In reality, the Cambodian government has not honoured this particular international obligation as the registration of NGOs is a lengthy and complicated business, and requires the approval of officials at many levels of administration from the commune, district and provincial levels to many units higher up in the Ministry of Interior.

As to human rights defenders themselves, who are invariably affiliated to such NGOs, they not only have little support and protection from the government but also have at times received threats and intimidation from its agents. More often than not these agents have restricted their activities. The general attitude of the government is simply not particularly favourable to their work when NGOs and human rights defenders are invariably critical of the human rights situation in the country, an assessment which the government does not like at all.

Human rights defenders and their NGOs working closely with the grassroots people, have come to know the real situation and have been able to make interventions to help victims of human rights abuses. They have also been able to bring their cases to the attention of the relevant public authorities. It has now become a routine in the country that whenever people have some troubles related to human rights violations, the first thing they do is to call for help from the NGOs and inform sympathetic media so that they can highlight their cases. NGOs and human rights defenders have become part of the country’s social landscape.

For their respective part, the government has set up its own human rights committee, and the National Assembly (Lower House) and the Senate (Upper House) have likewise their respective human rights committees. Alleged victims of human rights violations have resort to these public institutions, invariably with the help from human rights defenders. But the effectiveness of these committees is debatable when, at times, they are not so keen to receive complaints from victims and fail to keep them informed of the progress of their investigations.

Recently, the government has shown more hostility to NGOs and human rights defenders. When reconfirmed in office after the July 2008 elections, Prime Minister Hun Sen prioritised the law on NGOs as one of the first three laws his government set out to enact, the other laws being the penal code and anti-corruption law. On both pieces of legislation the government has made frequent promises to enact. The reason behind the enactment of the NGO law was said to prevent the funding of NGOs by terrorist organisations. In September, 2008 Hun Sen asserted: “We have a concern that sometimes under so and so NGO, financial assistance has been provided for terrorist activities, take for instance the Al Um Quran under which Ham Bali hid himself in Cambodia.” But what has been forgotten was that the anti-Terrorism Law of 2007 (Chapter 11 on funding and aid for terrorism) has already adequately addressed this issue.

In March 2009, in response to a critical assessment of the human rights situation in Cambodia by the US State Department, Hun Sen accused NGOs of giving “misleading information” to the report and lashed out at them saying that, “human rights NGOs are working only for salaries; if they didn’t criticize the government, they would be out of work; they would also have to close their doors if there were no assistance from abroad.” He further asserted that in order to get money, “they have therefore to endeavour to fabricate stories to prove that the government has a poor human rights record.” The US and its various foundations are a major source of funding for Cambodian NGOs.

This year the NGO bashing has reached the mass media sympathizing with the government when TV channels have aired comedies to paint bad pictures, not only of donors but also the NGOs themselves. Representatives of donors were shown as being more concerned with womanizing than with evaluating the work of NGOs while NGOs were shown as being busy producing reports critical of the government to submit to their donors. Recently, the government’s hostility has gone as far seeing local and international NGOs and even international agencies, when critical of the human rights situation in Cambodia, as working for the opposition.

Human rights defenders have therefore not been secure in their work. In 2008, ADHOC, a leading human rights NGO reported 63 cases of threats of various forms, including arrests, against hundreds of defenders. These defenders comprised in majority, community representatives advocating the protection of their lands, human rights activists and trade unionists.

According to ADHOC, such threats were “an unprecedented phenomenon” and they had happened in almost every province and municipality. ADHOC asserted that public authorities took no action against the perpetrators and the judiciary seems to have connived with these threats. It said that, “In particular, threats against human rights defenders on the part of some judges and prosecutors became close to (being) systematic, and the Supreme Council of Magistracy (in charge of nominating and disciplining judges and prosecutors) and the Ministry of Justice failed to take disciplinary measures against judges and prosecutors committing such abuses.”

Very recently, apparently under pressure from powerful persons interested in the exploitation of the resources that are supposed to belong to the indigenous people in the area, according to the country’s land law, a judge recommended to ADHOC to remove from a member of its staff from Rattanakiri province. Pen Bonnar, is a human rights defender well known for his defence of the rights of the indigenous people against the encroachment of their local land and forests by the rich and powerful. That judge intimated that if Pen Bonnar was no longer under his jurisdiction he was not have to conduct the investigation into the charges of defamation, disinformation and incitement against him. ADHOC obliged and assigned Pen Bonnar to work in Phnom Penh.

By making obstacles to the work of human rights defenders and their respective NGOs, the Cambodian government has not only defied its own undertaking under the Paris Peace Agreements but also the country’s Constitution. Article 31 of this Constitution says, inter alia, that “The Kingdom of Cambodia shall recognize and respect human rights as stipulated in the United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human rights, the covenants and conventions related to human rights, women’s and children’s rights.” The same Constitution, under its Article 35, guarantees its citizens’ “the right to participate actively in the political, economic, social and cultural life of the nation.”

The government’s NGO bashing and obstructions have affected the citizens’ constitutional right “to establish associations” (Art. 42). It has also violated their right mentioned above to participate in the political, economic, social and cultural rights of the country.

By working against NGOs and human rights defenders, the Cambodian government has also violated the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, which the UN General Assembly adopted with its Resolution 53/144 dated 9 December 1998. This Declaration should have been more widely known and complied with, especially among government officials dealing with human rights defenders, as the field Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Phnom Penh widely disseminated it in the local language (Khmer) since 2006.

The work and activities of NGOs and human rights defenders is in conformity with this Declaration to promote and protect universally recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms. However, the Cambodian government should do its part and fulfil more of its responsibilities. In particular, it should provide protection to all human rights defenders as stipulated under Art 12 (2) of the Declaration:

"2. The State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration.”
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) strongly urges the Cambodian government to honour all its international human rights obligations, and in particular, to support the right of all its citizens, human rights defenders and NGOs to undertake activities that promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms in Cambodia. The government and its agents must provide adequate protection to all human rights defenders.

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

PAD Network Urges Govt to Clarify Preah Vihear Land Dispute

7 September 2009

Members of the People's Alliance for Democracy in Ubon Ratchathani Province have come out to urge the government to clarify the alleged loss of sovereignty over the disputed 4.6-square kilometer area in the vicinity of Preah Vihear Temple to Cambodia.

Supporters of the People's Alliance for Democracy, or PAD, in Ubon Ratchathani issued a statement, acknowledging their support for the group led by Weera Somkwamkid in travelling to the disputed 4.6-square kilometer area on the Thai and-Cambodian border on August 28.

Weera's group claimed the government's negligence has allowed Cambodian troops, monks and people to take control of the area.

The group claimed evidence indicated that Thailand has obviously lost its right over the disputed area to Cambodia and that the Thai government remains inactive and appears to be supporting Cambodia's actions.

In this regard, they have called on the government to assign the Defence Ministry to take action over encroachment on the area in order to preserve the country's sovereignty. The government has also been asked to urgently clarify the issue to the public.

PAD coordinator for Ubon Ratchathani, Thatsanee Bunprasit, said the group has organized the Tonkla Prachatipatai', or Sprouts of Democracy, program to explain key political and democratic issues to high-school and university students nationwide. She added installation of ASTV satellite dishes in the province is also part of the program.

Cambodia terminates land titling program with World Bank

Monday, September 07, 2009

PHNOM PENH, Sep. 7, 2009 (Xinhua News Agency) -- Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen announced Monday his country has terminated the land titling program with World Bank before the original schedule, which was planned to end at late this year.

"They has put more complicated conditions on us over land titling program," Hun Sen said at the ceremony of releasing the final result of 2008 population census at Chak Tuk Mok Theater Hall in Phnom Penh.

He ordered Keat Chhon, deputy prime minister and minister of economy and finance, to tell World Bank partner about that termination. He also blamed the World Bank for always wanting "to play the role as big brother on other development projects with partners in Cambodia."

"The World Bank plans to suspend the project, but now we tell them first that we have to terminate that project," He said.

The World Bank has supported Cambodian land titling program, namely Land Management and Administration program (LMAP), with the budget amount of 24.5 million U.S. dollars. It has cooperated with Ministry of Land Management and Urban Planning and Construction and handed over one million land titles for local people so far, according to the World Bank's review.

Hun Sen also said that the project plans to end at late this year, so now "we have to do it with our own budget as we have done it before."

"We have shared the findings of the review with the (Cambodian) government but could not reach an agreement on whether LMAP's social and environmental safeguards should apply in some of the disputed urban areas," Wordl Bank country director Annette Dixon was quoted as saying by local English language newspaper the Cambodia Daily.

(Source: iStockAnalyst )

KRouge trials may ignite war

Mr Hun Sen made his speech less than a week after the court said it could open investigations against more members of the government which killed up to two million people. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

The Straits Times

Sep 7, 2009

PHNOM PENH - CAMBODIAN premier Hun Sen on Monday renewed strong warnings his country could be plunged back into civil war if the UN-backed Khmer Rouge court tried more suspects from the late 1970s movement.

Mr Hun Sen, himself a former low level commander in the communist regime, made his speech less than a week after the court said it could open investigations against more members of the government which killed up to two million people.

'If you tried (more suspects) without taking national unification and peace into consideration and if war re-occurred, killing between 200,000 and 300,000 people more, who would be responsible for it?' the premier told a ceremony.

'I have achieved this work (peace), I will not allow anybody to destroy it.... The value of peace here is very big,' Mr Hun Sen said, lamenting that Cambodia had already been drenched 'by blood and tears'.

'So anybody, please don't cause more trouble,' he added.

The prime minister in a speech in March made similar assertions that further prosecutions at the Khmer Rouge court could destabilise Cambodia, saying that he would prefer the court failed than indict more suspects.

But critics have said there is no risk of renewed fighting since the country's civil war ended in 1998, and have accused the administration of trying to protect former regime members now in government.

The tribunal was created in 2006 to try leading members of the 1975-1979 regime and five former leaders are currently being held on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The court's long-awaited first trial of Kaing Guek Eav, better known by the alias Duch, is under way and he has accepted responsibility for overseeing the execution of more than 15,000 people at the regime's main prison.

After Duch's trial, the court plans to prosecute former Khmer Rouge ideologue Nuon Chea, head of state Khieu Samphan, foreign minister Ieng Sary and his wife, minister of social affairs Ieng Thirith.

Led by Pol Pot, who died in 1998, the Khmer Rouge emptied Cambodia's cities in a bid to forge an agrarian utopia, resulting in the deaths of up to two million people from starvation, overwork and torture. -- AFP

Cambodian PM's warning over new KRouge trials

Remains of the victims of the Khmer Rouge regime's "Killing Fields" in Choeung Ek near Phnom Penh

PHNOM PENH — Cambodian premier Hun Sen on Monday renewed strong warnings his country could be plunged back into civil war if the UN-backed Khmer Rouge court tried more suspects from the late 1970s movement.

Hun Sen, himself a former low level commander in the communist regime, made his speech less than a week after the court said it could open investigations against more members of the government which killed up to two million people.

"If you tried (more suspects) without taking national unification and peace into consideration and if war re-occurred, killing between 200,000 and 300,000 people more, who would be responsible for it?" the premier told a ceremony.

"I have achieved this work (peace), I will not allow anybody to destroy it.... The value of peace here is very big," Hun Sen said, lamenting that Cambodia had already been drenched "by blood and tears".

"So anybody, please don't cause more trouble," he added.

The prime minister in a speech in March made similar assertions that further prosecutions at the Khmer Rouge court could destabilise Cambodia, saying that he would prefer the court failed than indict more suspects.

But critics have said there is no risk of renewed fighting since the country's civil war ended in 1998, and have accused the administration of trying to protect former regime members now in government.

The tribunal was created in 2006 to try leading members of the 1975-1979 regime and five former leaders are currently being held on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The court's long-awaited first trial of Kaing Guek Eav, better known by the alias Duch, is under way and he has accepted responsibility for overseeing the execution of more than 15,000 people at the regime's main prison.

After Duch's trial, the court plans to prosecute former Khmer Rouge ideologue Nuon Chea, head of state Khieu Samphan, foreign minister Ieng Sary and his wife, minister of social affairs Ieng Thirith.

Led by Pol Pot, who died in 1998, the Khmer Rouge emptied Cambodia's cities in a bid to forge an agrarian utopia, resulting in the deaths of up to two million people from starvation, overwork and torture.

Civil parties boycotting the trial while judges are divided and tense up

Phnom Penh (Cambodia). 31/08/2009: Emotional prayer during a “pilgrimage” by civil parties to S-21
©John Vink/ Magnum


By Stéphanie Gée

The judges’ decision on Thursday August 27th not to allow civil party lawyers to have a say in the last topic in the trial regarding the character of the accused was a pill hard to swallow for the victims and relatives of victims, who openly said so from Monday August 31st. Why question their participation as civil parties, only a few days from the end of Duch’s trial? The turnaround bitterly tasted of betrayal and it was twofold: in addition to being an insult to the victims, who have fought for years to have a full role in an international criminal law in construction, it brought into the courtroom an ideologically-tainted clash between common law and civil law and sowed division among the international judges. On the eve of the plenary session, the common law proponents, patently hostile to any opening, successfully won over their Cambodian colleagues, despite their civil law background.

Civil parties’ boycott of the hearings
On Monday August 31st, the hearing at Duch’s trial started with the sight of civil parties’ empty seats. They had come to the tribunal but stopped outside. On the parking lot. Twenty-eight men and women solemnly denounced the breach of their rights and the double standard in the treatment of the accused and the victims. At the forefront were Chum Mey, Chum Sirath and Phung-Guth Sunthary, who all testified before the Chamber. A press conference without ceremony, where the tribunal’s representatives, including the Victims’ Unit officers, were conspicuous by their absence.

From the outset, they reminded what they considered an initial aberration: that the defence counsel be remunerated by the tribunal, but not their lawyers. They were offended by a discrepancy between their rights – “the accused has the right to say anything about the victims, but when we want to respond to him, the president interrupts us.” Very quickly, they expressed their “consternation” and their incomprehension regarding the decision of August 27th, which “reduces [their defenders] to silence” and reflected, in their view, an inequality of arms between the victims and the accused they have observed since the trial started. They announced they would not go back to the seats they were allocated in the courtroom as long as the Trial Chamber did not backtrack and restore their full rights as parties to the trial.

“We are not asking for a favour, only equal treatment with the accused,” Chum Sirath hammered. “Our concern is about not having access to the truth. But to know the truth, we need to understand not only the actions of the accused, but also his intentions,” the civil party explained, before lamenting such a “discriminatory” decision that prevented civil parties from interrogating experts and character witnesses. The 28 notified the court in writing about the reasons for their action.

No courtroom, a pilgrimage instead
In one movement, the group moved and boarded the bus they chartered themselves to start a moving pilgrimage – first, to S-21, where they or their relatives lived through hell, then to the killing fields at Choeung Ek to honour the souls of those who were sacrificed by an insane Khmer Rouge regime.

At S-21, Bou Meng was waiting for the group. Chum Mey, another S-21 survivor, led the impromptu procession through the rooms of the genocide museum with determination, dignity and grief. They quickly found themselves faced with the dozens of photographs of prisoners covering the walls, a gloomy legacy of this killing machine. Spontaneously, each and everyone started looking for their relatives, crying out their names, in a harrowing call to the deceased. Under the predatory eye of photographers and cameramen, they broke down the one after the other. It was for each of those portraits they fought to see the trial happen at last.

“The civil parties are suffering. Where are human rights? The accused may have lost his authority, but not for a second did he lose his rights. He is a criminal in the history of mankind. We, the civil parties, are here for truth and justice. We have supported the civil parties’ participation to this trial and we have accepted the rules of democracy. But in my view, these rules of democracy are a double-edged sword, because civil parties suffer. Sometimes, we’d prefer to be accused because he is so much better-off,” mocked a grave Mrs Phung-Guth Sunthary.

“Must we eat the rice raw?”
As for him, Chum Mey shared his fear to see his hopes doused. “Every day, since the start, I have come to attend the trial and I want it to be an exemplary trial. The judges have placed wood under the pot to cook the rice. But now, they take the wood out of the fire and we are supposed to eat the rice raw? Why did they silence our lawyers, the plaintive? Why are we deprived of the right to speak and respond to the defence?” However, he did not want to “abandon” the tribunal yet and hoped it would reconsider its decision. “I aspire to justice, but I can see that the rice is not cooked.” Earlier, on the parking lot, he explained he wanted to “know history so he could tell it to [his] children.” He said: “If we were not meant to participate, they should have told us from the start!”

The climax of this distressing walk took place in the Tuol Sleng room where an altar had been set up. They collected themselves and lit a forest of incense sticks, which curls of smoke took their messages away to their disappeared relatives.

The lawyers’ lobbying in the courtroom
Meanwhile, at 9am, as the hearing started, Alain Werner, co-lawyer for civil party group 1, drew the judges’ attention to the situation and soberly informed them of the boycott decided by the civil parties. In the afternoon, once the office of the co-Prosecutors interrogated the experts mandated by the tribunal to establish a psychological report on Duch, the Swiss lawyer again intervened. He reminded that French psychologist Françoise Sironi-Guilbaud had begun her statement in the morning “by speaking directly to the victims [to pay them tribute] and she did it again this afternoon.” Yet, Alain Werner stressed, “as you know, the victims are not present here, for the first time since the trial’s start, to listen to this expert, contrary to other experts.” “At the very least, we ask that the two experts be explained why they are testifying in the civil parties’ absence and why their lawyers cannot ask them questions.” Put in an awkward situation, the judges consulted one another. Jean-Marc Lavergne, only dissenting judge in the decision of August 27th, did not join these discussions. Finally, president Nil Nonn, who now seemed to form a pair with his neighbour Sylvia Cartwright, announced that the Chamber “had no obligation” to take such a step. He added peremptorily: “The decision was made. It is clear and the rationale for the decision will be made public in due time.” On September 6th, it had still not been publicised. But for now, one thought, the case was closed.

Christine Martineau, recently arrived for civil party group 2, then launched into the battle herself. “In this trial, it is important that the experts know why the civil parties are not here. That the court has no obligation to explain it, we of course understand it. But if the civil parties are not here, it is because they consider that one of their rights was taken away from them. Yet, they are parties to the trial and they clearly want to express their discontent regarding their exclusion from this very important day for them, because it is also one of the civil parties’ roles to understand the character of the accused and ask him questions. I believe it was important that the experts be at least informed of what is going on. We are not in a rupture trial.” And indeed, the defence counsel themselves had not opposed the opportunity for civil parties to interrogate the expert psychologists. The president was slightly annoyed and repeated the court’s position, before hurriedly giving the floor to Duch’s lawyers, whose turn it was to interrogate the psychologists.

Offensive after offensive
The next day, Tuesday September 1st, the civil party lawyers continued to hold the line with their clients. Christine Martineau started, as the first character witness was testifying. “The Chamber knows that the civil parties who are boycotting the hearing have asked their lawyers to be present so the witnesses summoned – to whom their lawyers cannot ask questions – be informed of these civil parties’ absence. I would like to ask you the chance to say one word on the reason for their absence in the courtroom yet today.” The president seemed to little appreciate the request and explained he had already explained the situation the previous day. Responding immediately, the lawyer had the time to say “for the attention of those who did not know,” that to be aware of the civil parties’ statement in which they detail the reasons for their boycott, “one only had to read the morning press.”

At the next character witness, it was Alain Werner who spoke. “We, civil party lawyers, ask the Chamber to explain why the civil parties are not here, because they do not understand the decision preventing their lawyers from asking questions to this witness.” Nil Nonn started to become irritated. “It is a repetitious statement! Are you a repetitious person? We will not allow this issue to be raised again,” the president stated, unnerved.

The third character witness appeared and it was Cambodian lawyer Kim Mengkhy who bravely took the plunge: “In the name of the civil party counsels, we have asked the Trial Chamber to inform the character witnesses of the civil parties’ rights to ask them questions. But on the basis of the decision made by the Chamber…” His microphone was turned off. Nil Nonn could take no more. “The Chamber does not wish to add anything to the response you have already been given. We will no longer give you the floor to make observations or requests as long as character witnesses take the stand.” Indeed, they no longer had the floor. But the message was out.

Crystallisation of the clash between common law and civil law
Judge Lavergne dissented from the other judges in the decision of August 27th limiting the role of civil parties. This profound divergence among the red-robed magistrates was again marked by the French judge during the hearing on September 2nd, when Duch’s interrogation on his character resumed. Following the president, judge Cartwright – who comes from a common law system in which civil parties do not exist – spoke. As a preliminary to her questions to the accused, she declared with insistence: “Mr Kaing Guek Eav, these questions we ask you on your character aim to highlight relevant information to take into account in case you were deemed guilty of the crimes you are charged with, to determine the sentence. Are you fully aware of that?”

The French judge reacted swiftly and requested the floor. “If I may, I believe there is – you have realised it – a dissenting opinion on these issues of questioning on the character of the accused. It seems important to me to say that as far as I am concerned, the interrogation on the accused’s character is not limited to the issue of sentencing, but it aims to contribute to a debate in the search for truth and to know who the accused is. This question – who the accused is – may then allow an understanding of the motivations and an understanding of the facts he is charged with.”

Two different ways to approach law? In a dense, tight and substantially pertinent interrogation, Sylvia Cartwright, as if unbeknownst to her, seemed to prove her French colleague’s case: most of her questions did not address directly the character of the accused, but the facts themselves. For the trial, the questions’ interest was obvious. But to justify the civil parties’ exclusion from this questioning, nothing could probably have deepened further the victims’ bitterness.

Civil parties’ participation: solutions to be imagined, according to François Roux
Indeed, the handling of civil parties – whose status is difficult to prove and who are expected to join in high numbers in the next trials – often appears to be a puzzle. However, François Roux, Duch’s co-lawyer and long-time advocate of the presence of civil parties in international criminal jurisdictions, believed there were avenues of reflection to be explored. In an interview on Monday August 31st, the French lawyer thus suggested the creation of “a public victims’ defence office, following the same model and given the same resources as a defence office in some countries.” The idea, he continued, was to confer “an exclusive competency” to the chief of such an office in the representation of victims before this tribunal. “The chief of that office would be an experienced and qualified lawyer, who must come from the civil law system, know and practiced in the civil parties system for at least ten years, and who would be remunerated by the tribunal as a civil servant.”

For François Roux, all that has already been accomplished in this area cannot be simply erased. “I consider that the victims’ access to international criminal tribunals is an unstopping movement. It is in motion. It is normal we still need to find methods to make it work in satisfying conditions. But you must not stop this movement and rather prove creative in the search for concrete solutions that allow both victims’ access while preserving the fundamental balance in a criminal trial, that is: a prosecutor who accuses and an accused who defends himself.”

Waiting for the judges’ decisions
The plenary session opening on Monday September 7th is expected to yield decisions heavy in consequences for the participation of civil parties to the next trials before the Khmer Rouge tribunal. On the agenda for discussions, the ECCC website announces propositions relating to a modification of the current model of participation of victims to upcoming trials.

Will the ECCC international judges – the majority of whom at least come from common law – prefer giving up before the challenge or seek to innovate? The atmosphere of rigid confrontation that settled since the August 27th decision bodes ill for the opening debates. Yet, judges have a lot to lose: the support of the victims who have waited for thirty years to be heard and to see justice given, and who were made to believe they would be fully parties to these trials.

Duch’s trial: one week in pictures

Kambol (Phnom Penh, Cambodia). 31/08/2009: Civil parties organised a press conference in front of the court building to announce their boycott of the hearings, following the limitations they were imposed by the ECCC
©John Vink/Magnum


By John Vink / Magnum

Exceptionally, Ka-set was unable last week to publish its daily report on the hearings in Duch’s trial for reasons beyond our control. Please accept our apologies. These reports will be published at a later date on Ka-set’s website. But for now, please enjoy a selection of captured moments from the August 31st to September 2nd week with these photographs by John Vink.

Monday August 31st
Phnom Penh (Cambodia). 31/08/2009: Civil party identifying her brothers at Tuol Sleng
©John Vink/ Magnum

Phnom Penh (Cambodia). 31/08/2009: Emotional prayer by civil parties at Tuol Sleng
©John Vink/ Magnum

Tuesday 1st September

Kambol (Phnom Penh, Cambodia). 01/09/2009: Screen in the ECCC media room on Day 68 in the trial of Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch
©John Vink/ Magnum

Kambol (Phnom Penh, Cambodia). 01/09/2009: The accused Duch on Day 68 of his trial, listening to psychiatric experts
©John Vink/ Magnum

Kambol (Phnom Penh, Cambodia). 01/09/2009: Alain Werner, civil party lawyer during a recess. The seats of 28 civil parties remained empty.
©John Vink/ Magnum

Wednesday 2nd September

Kambol (Phnom Penh, Cambodia). 02/09/2009: Day 69 in Duch’s trial at the ECCC
©John Vink/ Magnum

Cambodia: Phnom Penh In Pole Position

There is only one round of the regular league season remaining...

Sep 7, 2009

The loss suffered by Preah Khan Reach FC has given the edge to Phnom Penh Crown FC to finish the preliminary round of the Cambodia Premier League (CPL) 2009 at the top of the standings.

Going into round 17, the penultimate matchday, Preah Khan Reach FC conceded a 3-1 loss to Khemara Keila FC to stay on 36 points as against Phnom Penh Crown’s 38 points.

Phnom Penh have also played a match less.

Khemara took the lead in the 17th minute through Samuth Dalin before Loch Rathan added the second goal of the game two minutes after the restart.

And while Kao Diry did pull a goal back for Preah Khan Reach in the 63rd minute, Khemara drove in the final nail in the match with their third and final goal of the game off O. A. Olatunde in injury time.

With the win, Khemara have picked up 35 points from the full 18 matches they have played in the preliminary round of the CPL while Naga Corp FC are almost certain to finish fourth.

Naga Corp have amassed 30 points from 17 games.

Only the top four teams at the end of the preliminary round of the CPL will take part in the next round that will decide the champions.

Pensions shortfall delays retirement of 2,000 soldiers

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Sok Pol, 46, waits for customers in Central Market on Sunday. After five years of service in the Cambodian army, Sok Pol says he received no compension when he lost his right leg from a land mine and must now sell books to support his family.

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 07 September 2009
Cheang Sokha and Tracey Shelton

System straining despite premier's urging: ministry.

A FUNDING shortage has kept more than 2,000 Cambodian soldiers in uniform beyond the retirement age of 60, a Defence Ministry spokesman said Sunday.

The delayed retirements are the latest symptom of a pension system that officials say has long been plagued by a lack of resources and administrative inefficiencies.

Defence Ministry spokesman Chhum Socheat said Sunday that there was nothing his ministry could do to address the problem beyond keeping a list of those who were set to retire.

"We have already prepared their names, but we cannot let them retire because we do not have the budget," he said.

His comments came four days after Prime Minister Hun Sen called on officials to expand the social safety net for veterans. Speaking at a Council of Ministers plenary session, the premier told Finance Minister Keat Chhon to direct more money to the pensions, though he specified neither an amount nor a timeline for the request, according to a statement released after the meeting.

Hong Sreysambath, deputy director of the Veterans Affairs Department at the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation, said the department was making payments for 100,000 disabled and retired soldiers and families of deceased. Including relatives, the payments are currently supporting 600,000 people at a cost of US$12 million per year.

A 2004 article in the Cambodia Development Review, published by the Cambodia Development Resource Institute, found that 471,252 people were entitled to government transfers from Veterans Affairs. The total expenditure in 2003, according to the report, was $13.7 million, translating to an average of $29 per beneficiary per year.

According to the Veterans Affairs figures, more pensioners are now vying for less money. The results of a survey released last week by Handicap International suggest this has contributed to an even less efficient system.

The survey, which focused on land mine survivors, pointed to the pension system as "an area of least improvement", citing problems including "delayed payments, bribery and the selling of entitlements in times of need".

Ny Chakrya, head of monitoring for the rights group Adhoc, said Sunday that he approved of the government's plan to expand the safety net for soldiers but stressed the need to cut down on corruption and delays.

"This policy should serve as an incentive for military officers who have devoted their lives to the nation," Ny Chakrya said. "They need assistance when they retire."


Ex-soldiers say system neglects wounded vets

THE shortcomings of the pension system have been felt acutely by Teng Teung, 50, a former soldier who lost his right leg in a land mine explosion in Koh Kong in 1985. The native of Kandal said he was slated to receive 80,000 riels (US$19) from the provincial social affairs office each month, but that the money often came every three months instead.

"I receive the money, but it is very late," he said Sunday in Phnom Penh, where he begs for food. He said the payments were not enough to support him and his nine children.

Sok Pol said he lost a leg and a large part of his left foot from a land mine. He sells books about the Khmer Rouge era in in Central Market to provide for his family and cover the medical expenses for the large hole that remains in his foot. He said the pension system does not compensate even for injuries sustained while in service.

Working alongside him, Pring Chut, 46, said he has received no money for his 11 years of service in the military. He said he lost his left leg to a mine in 1989, and has since turned to selling travel and history books and hand-painted gift cards. A sign he carried Sunday read: "Buy a book to help me [have] a better life. Help me feed my family and send my kids to school."

Feeding the dead

Photo by: AFP

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 07 September 2009

Cambodian women pray while offering food for dead loved ones during the first day of the Pchum Ben festival in Phnom Penh early Sunday morning. Rituals during the 15-day festival include prayers and offerings to ancestors, pagoda visits and the preparation of meals for local monks.

Gambling on fish puts bettors in hot water

Photo by: Heng Chivoan

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 07 September 2009
Heng Chivoan

Municipal police broke up a fish-fighting and -betting ring in Chamkarmon district on Saturday, arresting 23 people and confiscating 72 fish. In a typical fight, two Siamese fighting fish - native to the rice paddies of Cambodia - are placed in one jar, prompting a mutual attack. The victor is declared when one retreats to the jar's perimeter, the other in hot pursuit. The activity becomes illegal when the owners of the fish bet on the outcome. Municipal Police Chief Touch Naruth said the 23 men were briefly re-educated and then released. "It is not as serious as card-playing, but it is still gambling," he said.

Scavengers dining out on NGO's tab

Photo by: Jonathan Eames

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 07 September 2009
Tracey Shelton

White-rumped and slender-billed vultures feed at a vulture "restaurant" in northern Cambodia. These eateries are part of a Wildlife Conservation Society project that provides a safe food source to the endangered birds while aiding the monitoring of vulture populations. As Saturday marked the first International Vulture Awareness Day, Cambodia recorded an increase in vulture numbers despite their rapid decline elsewhere. Cambodia remains one of the last strongholds for several critically endangered vulture species.

Spreading of A(H1N1) reported in Cambodia

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Airport workers screen passengers for signs of A(H1N1) as they arrive at Phnom Penh’s airport.

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 07 September 2009
Sam Rith

The Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation announced last week that the country is now facing local transmission of the influenza A(H1N1) virus, commonly known as swine flu.

A joint statement released last week said five new cases were discovered to have been contracted within the country.

"Five Cambodians were confirmed as having contracted the virus locally with no history of travel or contact with travellers," the statement read.

As of August 31, the number of laboratory-confirmed cases of swine flu in Cambodia had risen to 31.

Sok Touch, director of the Anti-communicable Disease Department at the Ministry of Health, said Sunday that the ministry will release an updated number of laboratory-confirmed H1N1 cases every week on Friday.

He confirmed that the number of people affected by the swine flu virus has remained the same, and that no one has died.

The ministry has also requested that members of the public stay at home if they develop flu-like symptoms and call the Ministry of Health hotline for further advice and guidance at 012 488 981 or 089 669 567.

The statement added that further measures were needed.

"In an effort to slow down the spread of the disease in Cambodia, individuals who test positive for new influenza A(H1N1) will be requested to undergo treatment and isolation either at home or at a hospital for seven days from onset of symptoms," it said.

Ironworks site a 'goldmine'

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 07 September 2009
Mom Kunthear

Finding may shed light on Angkorian manufacturing practices.

The discovery of ancient ironworks last week at Khav village in Siem Reap's Chi-kreng district may provide valuable insight into early iron production during the Angkorian era between the 11th and 13th centuries, as well as additional details of the ancient Kouy people who inhabited the region at that time and whose descendants live there today, Apsara Authority officials said Sunday.

Seung Kong, vice director general of Apsara Authority - the government body tasked with administering Cambodia's Angkor Wat temple complex and surrounding historic sites - said archaeologists found the site by accident while excavating last week but haven't precisely dated their discovery.

"We have collected ancient works such as pots, cooking utensils and smelting tools used to stoke the fires used to melt iron ore," he said, adding that researchers hope to finish excavating the site and create a model of the iron-manufacturing complex for further study.

The discovery represents a historic first for the Kingdom. "It is the first time we have found such a site in Cambodia, though we have studied several in Thailand near the Cambodian border," Seung Kong said.

The site could help archaeologists better understand how raw materials were processed during the Angkorian period. It might also help them discover additional sites in the area and elsewhere. Study of the site is still in its early stages, but early signs indicate that it may have been an important centre for the manufacturing of not only domestic items but also arms. "The iron ore smelted at this site could have been used to manufacture weapons such as swords and javelins," Seung Kong said.

The discovery also gives researchers hope that other ancient treasures lay in store, and Apsara intends to work hard to find them, Seung Kong said. Im Sokrithy, an archaeologist with the Apsara Authority, said Sunday that artefacts collected so far indicate the site specialised in the production of household goods such as axes, knives and chisels used by the ancient Kouy people.

"This site could have belonged to the Kouy, who made all these iron items, but we cannot be certain of that yet. We need to conduct further study and catalogue all the artifacts," he said. Researchers believe Khav commune was home to at least five such ironworks, but some may be unrecoverable.

Member of SRP killed in shooting

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 07 September 2009
Kim Yuthana

Police say attack was not politically motivated.

AUTHORITIES in Kampong Thom province say they are hunting for a man suspected of shooting and killing an opposition party activist.

The victim was identified as Choch Huth, 45, a Sam Rainsy Party member from Chamkar Leu commune, Stoung district, Kampong Thom province.

The victim's son-in-law, 23-year-old Chu Song, said Sunday that his father-in-law was shot to death during a family dinner last Thursday.

Officials say that the shooting was not politically motivated.

"We think that this killing is not related to a political issue," Stoung district deputy police Chief Van Sophan said Sunday. "It's an individual conflict."

He said the suspect accused the victim of being a "sorcerer". Witchcraft-related killings have been occasionally reported in Cambodia and have been condemned by the government.

Van Sophan said police have already identified the suspect but declined to name the alleged killer.

Duk Dot, chief of Kor village in Stoung district, echoed the police message. "Now we are cooperating with local authorities to identify the perpetrator and bring him to trial," he said. "However, the case is not a political act."

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy strongly condemned the shooting, urging swift justice for the perpetrator. He said that previous killings of SRP activists have remained unresolved.

"In many cases, the authorities have never found and brought the perpetrators to trial," the SRP leader said Sunday. "That makes for a code of impunity in this country."

Activists face threat from govt: report

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 07 September 2009
James O'toole and Chrann Chamroeun

Human rights activists are increasingly at risk of intimidation and persecution by the Cambodian government, the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) warned in a statement released Friday.

The AHRC, a Hong Kong-based monitoring group, said that activists have "not been secure in their work" of late, citing in particular the case of Pen Bonnar, the former Ratanakkiri provincial coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, who was removed from his post when faced with charges of incitement stemming from a 2007 land dispute.

Though local rights groups agreed that government lawsuits have threatened their activities of late, they said the ruling party's offensive against its critics has gone beyond the civil society community.

"Maybe a few years ago it was just the opposition or just land activists, but now it's against everyone," said Naly Pilorge, director of the rights group Licadho, pointing also to cases against workers, union leaders and members of the media.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan dismissed the AHRC statement and declined to discuss it at length. "I'm not making a comment on that statement for two reasons: It's useless, and it does not reflect the truth in Cambodia," he said.

The AHRC cited a report from Adhoc stating that there were 63 cases of government intimidation or prosecution of rights workers in 2008, and added that the situation has worsened this year.

However, it is impossible to gauge the extent of the crackdown using official statistics, argued Cambodian Centre for Human Rights president Ou Virak. "You see a lot of high-profile cases, but then there are a lot of unreported cases of intimidation," he said, noting that these informal threats are especially common in more rural communities.

Ou Virak added that it is difficult to predict when this crackdown will subside: "It's not based on a stated policy.... It's sometimes based [only] on the tempers of a few people."

Govt calls for training of dentists

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 07 September 2009
Khouth Sophakchakrya

THE Council of Ministers has approved a sub-decree intended to encourage dentists to undergo professional training, though it does not call for any penalties to be levied against dentists who refuse to do so.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said he believed the sub-decree, passed Friday, would "make the people have more confidence in our dentists".

Hem Chhin, an undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Health, said Sunday that there were 372 trained dentists in the Kingdom, but that only 200 or so were practising. As a result, the vast majority of the Kingdom's 1,124 dental clinics are staffed by dentists who have not received formal training, he said.

He said the ministry had decided not to push for penalties for untrained dentists because such a move might prevent people living in remote rural areas from receiving any dental treatment at all.

Kek Galabru, president of the rights group Licadho, said she believed the sub-decree should be coupled with a means of enforcement, ideally penalties.

"We need all the nurses and doctors and dentists to follow their professional roles," she said.

Officer shoots rampaging farmer

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 07 September 2009
Chrann Chamroeun

A MAN from Chhouk district's Prich Village was shot twice - including once in the groin area - by a policeman after allegedly trying to attack the officer with a long knife.

Chey Vanak, a 24-year-old farmer, is being treated for his injuries at Kampot provincial hospital following the altercation Friday.

Kampot provincial deputy police Chief Chiv Sameth said a Boeung Nimol commune policeman opened fire after the man, who was visibly drunk, chased the officer with a long knife, a tool commonly used to cut banana trees and grass. Police were originally called to the scene by the man's father-in-law and wife, he added.

The victim's father-in-law, 55-year-old Nov Lith, confirmed Sunday that the family had agreed to "end the dispute" by accepting a US$1,000 payment from the police.

More protests over motor tax

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 07 September 2009
May Titthara

ONGOING confusion over the government's proposed reduction of the costs and fines associated with vehicle registration drove about 500 people in the Thma Koul district of Battambang back out into the streets on Saturday after a series of protests last week.

Residents say they were told the fees were being reduced, but they are still being charged as much as US$100 when they try to register their motorbikes.

"We want a clear answer [from the government] about how much money we will have to pay for the motor tax because we think the current costs are too high," Lim Kuong, a Thma Koul resident, said Sunday.

"We want to pay the fees, but the authorities have not given us a clear answer, and they continue to confiscate our motorbikes."

Prime Minister Hun Sen announced in June that he wanted officials in every province to collect all appropriate fees and taxes in accordance with the Land Traffic Law. Thousands of motorbikes have been confiscated since, according to government data.

Bunn Tha, a district police officer in Thma Koul, insisted the government has reduced prices, but he said individuals were continuing to charge higher prices. "People are protesting because they were cheated by outside people. Authorities have dropped fees from $250 to $100 and then to $60, depending on the type of motorbike, but there is still misunderstanding," he said.

Thma Koul district police chief, Yem Vichet, said the problem was beyond the scope of local police. "It is not our obligation to settle this dispute. It is a matter for the General Department of Customs and Excise Department," he said.

Srey Sreang, head of the General Department of Customs and Excise in Battambang, could not be reached for comment on Sunday.

But Thma Koul district Governor Sam Neng said the issue had already been settled, and that fees had been reduced last month, adding that there has been some confusion on the part of residents who paid fees but could not retrieve their motorbikes.

"Now people can take their bikes any time. We haven't had a chance to process every bike, so owners can pick them up now and return later to pay the fees. We have returned about 200 motorbikes so far," he said.

Testing fee irks drivers

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 07 September 2009
Tep Nimol

THE training may be free, but the cost of taking the test for a soon-to-be-mandatory motorbike driver's licence is anything but.

Starting in 2012, police will be authorised to penalise motorbike drivers who don't have licences. And although the government has encouraged free-of-charge training, some drivers say they can't afford to take the costly tests.

Phear Dara said he took a free training course at NCX Company (Honda), a motorbike training school in the capital. But when he finished the course, the school demanded a fee of 15,000 riels plus US$10 for an application form, he said.

"We failed to take the test because we do not have the money," Phear Dara said Sunday.

His situation is not unique. A manager at the training school, who declined to be named, confirmed that the company conducts free training but charges for licence tests because the state requires payment.

He said that "hundreds of trainees" have taken the free course but not sat for the test because "they did not have money to pay".

Keo Sarin, chief of overland transport at the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, said the fees were "cheap" compared to those in neighbouring Vietnam.

"Ten dollars can save drivers from accidents and provide them with legal knowledge," he said.

US gives military gear

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 07 September 2009
Chhay Channyda and Thet Sambath

THE US formally handed over excess military equipment worth about US$6.5 million, including thousands of Kevlar helmets, field packs and camouflage uniforms, among other items, a statement from the US Embassy announced on Friday.

The equipment exchange, held during a ceremony at the Ministry of Defence, was conducted through the US Foreign Military Exchange programme, the statement said.

Sum Samnang, general director of the Defence Ministry's finance and logistics department, praised the mutual cooperation between the two countries. "Even though it is small assistance, it is good for us, and they are filling a shortage," he said.

In a separate statement on Friday, the US Embassy announced a bilateral agreement that will see a $31.6 million donation "to support Cambodian priorities in health and education", the statement said.

Beeline follows 'Boom' with zero-cents tariff

Beeline credit top-up cards are displayed on sale at a mobile phone store in Phnom Penh.

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 07 September 2009
Ith Sothoeuth

Following months of price-dumping allegations led by Mobitel, Russian-owned operator launches more aggressive price plan

MOBILE operator Beeline has launched an aggressive new pricing plan from today in which customers will only be charged for the first minute of any calls they make of up to 15 minutes' duration within the Beeline network.

Under the "Super Zero" plan, the per-minute charge will kick in again after 15 minutes, while calls across networks will be charged at US$0.06 per minute, compared with $0.05 per minute at all times on all networks on the controversial "Boom" plan, Beeline Commercial Director Benoin Janin told a press conference Friday.

SIM cards will be available for just $0.05 under a promotion running until December 31, though the Super Zero tariff will continue for already-qualified users indefinitely, or until the company changes its pricing policy.

The new pricing policy had been planned as part of the company's expansion strategy - Beeline will extend coverage to eight new provinces this month - General Director Gael Campan told the Post last week, but it comes amid an ongoing feud with market leader Cellcard Mobitel over pricing and connectivity across networks.

Campan said Friday that the new pricing structure was "more aggressive" than the Boom plan at the heart of the Mobitel dispute. Under the Boom plan, calls within and across networks were charged at $0.05 per minute, below the $0.0595 cost that industry officials say networks incur for one-minute domestic calls to other networks.

Mobitel and other operators say the Boom policy amounted to price dumping, and Beeline has in turn accused Mobitel of blocking calls from its service to Mobitel subscribers.

Mark Hanna, chief financial controller of Royal Group, which has a stake in Mobitel, told the Post last week that technicians were still working to connect Beeline to Mobitel, but added that it was unlikely to finish the job while the pricing dispute continued.

Campan said Friday he hoped to resolve the dispute, but added that the connectivity issue would not help Mobitel in the long run.

"It is a very fragmented market right now, and nobody has the majority of subscribers," he said.

"Mobitel is not the biggest part of the market; the majority of subscribers are with the other operators. We want to work with them as much as possible, and if Mobitel does not want to give their subscribers access to Beeline customers, it's their problem, not ours."

Beeline announced last week that Takeo, Kampong Chhnang, Kampong Speu, Kompong Thom, Banteay Meanchey, Pursat, Kampot and Prey Veng provinces would be connected to its network one by one between September 2 and September 24.

Campan said the expansion of coverage to 18 provinces, which together account for 64 percent of the country's population, combined with the new pricing policy would remove any more "excuses" people might have for not joining Beeline. "We are adding benefits for customers by reducing the within-network tariff and encouraging them to bring more of their families to join us," he said.

Cambodia Technical Director Rodrigo Araujo said the company was sharing towers with other operators, which he said was "a completely new approach for Cambodia".

The network equipment, provided by Huawei of China, contains batteries to keep services running even in the event of electricity outages.

Beeline is owned by Sotelco, the local subsidiary of Russian telco Vimpelcom Group.

Govt waits on 13 dam feasibility studies

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 07 September 2009
Chun Sophal

THE government is still waiting on the outcomes of feasibility studies on 13 hydroelectric dams, the construction of which it hopes will allow Cambodia to become a net energy exporter by 2020.

Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy Director General Victor Zona said the 13 potential dams, located mostly in the west and northeast of Cambodia, could produce a combined 2,000 megawatts (MW) of electricity.

The studies have been approved since 2005, and one - the 420MW Sesan Krom II dam to be built by Vietnam Electricity on Stung Treng province's Sesan River - was expected to be approved for construction next year, Zona said.

Zona said he hoped all 13 dams would be approved and construction completed by 2020 for "consumption and sale".

The government has already approved the construction of seven hydroelectric dams, which are expected to be completed between 2010 and 2015 and will produce almost 1,000MW of electricity.

Zona said a ministry study found that Cambodia will need to produce 3,000MW of electricity by 2020 to meet local needs. With the 20 dams online, the Kingdom would have capacity to produce 5,000MW from hydroelectricity, coal and gas, meaning it would be able to export 40 percent of its total production each year.

According to the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology's National Water Resources Policy, Cambodia has the potential to develop about 10,000 megawatts of hydroelectric power, 50 percent from main rivers, 40 percent from tributaries and 10 percent from coastal areas.

Investing means sounding out markets

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 07 September 2009
Trevor Keidan

THE market sentiment is accompanied by a distinct sound, according to one particular American financial expert, and lately that sound might just be laid-back ballads.

According to Phil Maymin, an assistant professor of finance and risk engineering at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University, there is a direct correlation between the volatility of the stock markets and the type of music people like.

Surprisingly enough, at times of high volatility (as has been the case since the start of the downturn), people tend to like soothing music. During periods of low volatility, they prefer heavier music with a more frenetic beat.

Maymin came up with his findings by comparing data marking the standard deviation of the returns of the S&P 500 to the music people listened to during the years 1958 to 2007.

The November 2008 report predicted that people would be listening to less volatile music as a result of the ensuing volatility.

Although Maymin's study provides an interesting aside, the Volatility Index - the ticker symbol for the Chicago Boards Options Exchange (CBOE) - is the main instrument for measuring market ups and downs by tracking volatility S&P 500 index options. It is often referred to as the stock market's fear gauge, and the higher its value the more volatile the market is perceived to be.

Last month the VIX - which tends to rise as investors try to protect themselves against increasing risk by buying options - rose 17 percent during the course of a day's trade, and lately the VIX has been trading in the mid-to-late 20s. Its 52-week high is 89.53, whereas its 52-week low is 19.22.

Volatility breeds uncertainty, and there are those who are reluctant to put money away for their future.

However, now there is a chance to capitalise on this market volatility by investing in structured notes directly linked to the VIX.

Such notes give investors the chance to profit by putting money in a particular segment of the market, and also minimise the potential loss.

If the price on a certain date - a predetermined quarterly date - for each of the first three quarters is equal to or higher than the price at launch, then it will pay out the investment plus a percentage return.

As always, such structured products - even those that specialise in volatile markets - allow an investor to make gains up to a certain amount while at the same time limiting the level of loss.

So, for those with an appetite for the current market volatility, such an investment might be the way forward during a time when little is certain.

For those of us with weaker constitutions, it's probably a time to try to forget about the severe ups and downs that have dominated in recent weeks.

Just keep playing that relaxing music.

Trevor Keidan is managing director of
Infinity Financial Solutions. Should you
wish to contact Trevor send an
email to