Thursday, 10 September 2009

LICADHO : Tuol Sambo a Cambodian AIDS Colony

The HIV/AIDS-affected families were sent to live in green metal sheds at Tuol Sambo (at left, above) which are starkly different from other houses in the area and elsewhere in Cambodia. Before the evicted families even arrived, local people were calling the green sheds “the AIDS village”.

At left, the crude metal sheds provided by the government to the HIV/AIDS families to live in. At right, just a few feet away, is considerably better-quality brick housing which is being built, with the assistance of an NGO, for other homeless families who are not known to be HIV/AIDS-affected.

Twenty HIV/AIDS-affected families were evicted from Borei Keila and sent to the Tuol Sambo on June 18, 2009. At Borei Keila, they had first been evicted from their homes in 2007 and then spent two years living in squalid temporary accommodation – in metal sheds (at right, above) – while the government promised to find a permanent solution for them. On June 18, they were evicted from the metal sheds to make way for a garden to be planted in front of a new Ministry of Tourism building (at left).

The government’s “solution” was to take the HIV/AIDS families to Tuol Sambo where, instead of proper housing, it had constructed similar cramped, rudimentary metal sheds for them to live in – this time permanently.

Families were dumped with their meager possessions at semi-rural Tuol Sambo, 20km from the central city, and far from their jobs, hospitals and schools.

Each family, regardless of size, was given only one room, measuring 3.5m x 4.8 m. The room above is for a family of seven, including five children.

The rooms do not meet international minimum standards for even emergency temporary housing with respect to size, fire safety and sanitation. The rooms are also extremely hot and poorly ventilated, due to the metal walls and roof and the lack of space between buildings.

Sanitation is sub-standard and toilet pipes flow out to open sewers such as this.

The construction work is shoddy, with rust and crumbling cement visible in places.

There is virtually no privacy, due to the thin metal walls between rooms which do not even reach the roof. Above (in a photo taken two months ago during construction) are the side-by-side squat toilets of adjoining rooms, now separated by a metal wall.

The rooms do not have kitchens or running water. A single well (at right) provides water for the 20 families, and for others who may be resettled here in the future. (It is feared that the government may move up to 40 more HIV/AIDS-affected families to live at Tuol Sambo.)

FM to visit area near Preah Vihear

Published: 10/09/2009

Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said on Thursday he will visit Si Sa Ket province to give morale support to Thai soldiers in the Thai-Cambodian border area this Sunday.

Mr Kasit said he would listen to their problems and hear about obstacles they face in protecting Thailand's sovereignty, and look into the encroachment issues near the disputed border around Preah Vihear temple.

"After Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva instructed me to explain the Thai-Cambodian disputed border on national television at the beginning of the week, I'm confident that most people understand the situation.

''Some people may not understand my explanation but people can have different views," the foreign minister said.

UNESCO helps preserve Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum Archives in Cambodia

10-09-2009 (Phnom Penh)

The UNESCO Office in Phnom Penh will assist the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in the preservation of the historical documentary collection from the former S-21 prison and interrogation centre. It is estimated that over 15,000 prisoners were held in this former high school by the Pol Pot regime. The collection, which has been inscribed on UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register, contains photographs, ‘confessions’ and biographical records of prisoners.

The historical photographs and documents from the site of the S-21 prison and interrogation centre of the Pol Pot regime, currently held at the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh (Cambodia), are now listed on the UNESCO Memory of the World Register. Last July the Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, announced the inscription of this collection on the Register, on the recommendation of the International Advisory Committee, which recognised its outstanding value and world significance.

The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum Archives include various documents showing the fate of over 15,000 prisoners who were held from 1975 to 1979 in the Tuol Sleng compound. The Archives include 4,186 ‘confessions’ (many extracted under torture); 6,226 biographies of prisoners; 6,147 photographic prints and negatives of prisoners, demolished buildings, research activities, mass graves and remains of victims, as well as photos of visitors.

These Archives constitute the most complete existing documentary picture of the Democratic Kampuchea prison system, a fundamental part of the regime under which about 2-3 million people (25-30% of the population) lost their lives in a period of 3 years, 8 months and 20 days.

Copies of these historical documents have already been made. However, much more needs to be done in order to preserve the collection. UNESCO’s Office in Phnom Penh will assist the Museum in the preservation of the originals in danger of destruction, mainly because of the tropical climate.

The Museum has started the digitalisation of the most significant parts of the Archives. The Tuol Sleng Museum personnel lack capacity and management skills, which is the case of many Cambodian institutions. In order to address this issue, UNESCO’s Phnom Penh Office, in collaboration with the Cambodian National Commission for UNESCO and the National Museum, is organising a workshop for Cambodian Memory of the World focal points. During this training, to be held from 14 to 17 September 2009, about 30 participants will learn how to advocate, preserve and identify the national documentary heritage. They will, subsequently, become members of a future National Memory of the World Committee.

Handwritten detainee confession © UNESCO

Democratic Kampuchea © UNESCO

Editor, Journalist Charged

Two journalists are charged with libel in Cambodia.

PHNOM PENH—A Cambodian reporter and the Irish editor of an English-language newspaper here have been charged with defamation in connection with an article about the ongoing trial of an opposition politician.

The charges against editor-in-chief of the Cambodia Daily Kevin Doyle and journalist Neou Vannarin came Wednesday, months after the report on the case of opposition Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Ho Vann.

Ho Vann is accused of defaming 22 military officers with close ties to Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Doyle said he and Neou Vannarin did nothing wrong in reporting the case.

The charges come amid concerns that the Cambodian government is using the legal system to silence the press and intimidate political opponents.

Ho Vann, whose whereabouts are unknown, is accused of libel in questioning the academic qualifications of the generals, including the two most senior members of Cambodia’s armed forces.

The Cambodia Daily is accused of repeating the alleged slander.

The court will rule on both cases Sept. 22.

Misquotation alleged

Ho Vann maintains that the Cambodia Daily article, published April 21, misquoted him.

Doyle told the court the article had correctly reported the facts.

Prosecutor Hing Bunchea told the court that Ho Vann had “hurt the reputation of defense officials who are protecting the country and affected the country’s solidarity.”

But Chea Poch, an MP from the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, said Ho Vann had acted within the boundaries of the law when he retracted his comment after the lawsuit was brought against him.

“Ho Vann has done everything in compliance with the Press Law, so he has not committed any wrongdoing. This is purely a political matter,” Chea Poch said.

Am Sam Arth, chief investigator at the local human rights group LICADHO, said it appeared that Ho Vann was being bullied by the government.

“Our observation of the court hearing is that the plaintiffs seem to only target Ho Vann, Member of Parliament from the Sam Rainsy Party,” Am Sam Arth said.

Dafamation case

The cases follow that of opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua, also of the Sam Rainsy Party, who was found guilty last month of defaming the prime minister by seeking to sue him over comments he made about her conduct during last year's election campaign.

A Cambodian appeals court also recently upheld the prison sentence of former newspaper director Hang Chakra, who was jailed for "disinformation" after he ran an article alleging high-level government corruption.

The former director of Khmer Machas Srok was sentenced June 26 to a year in jail by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court and was fined 9 million riel (about U.S. $2,250).

Hang Chakra refused during his hearing to identify sources for the article, citing protections under Cambodia’s 1995 Press Law.

He was tried under the tougher 1992 UNTAC [United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia] Criminal Code.

Hun Sen has been in power for more than two decades and won a landslide election victory in July last year.

Original reporting by To Serey for RFA’s Khmer service. Additional reporting by news agencies. Khmer service director: Sos Kem. Translated by Sum Sok Ry. Written for the Web in English by Joshua Lipes. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.

Cambodia PM ratchets up tirade against tribunal

By SOPHENG CHEANG,Associated Press Writer - Thursday, September 10

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia – Cambodia's prime minister accused foreign judges and prosecutors at the U.N.-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal of seeking to arrest new suspects as part of a plot by foreign governments to incite unrest.

Hun Sen's accusation was the latest in a series he has launched against the tribunal and its ruling last week to allow foreign prosecutors to pursue more suspects.

On Monday, Hun Sen said such action could lead to civil war. He has repeatedly spoken out against expanding the list of defendants beyond the one currently on trial _ Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, _ and four others in custody.

He elaborated Wednesday, saying foreign governments want war in Cambodia, a former French colony that was later wracked by decades of civil war.

"I know that some foreign judges and prosecutors have received orders from their governments to create problems here," Hun Sen said while inaugurating a Buddhist pagoda south of the capital. "There is no doubt that they have received advice from their government to do so."

Hun Sen did not name specific countries. The tribunal includes 12 foreign judges and two foreign prosecutors from countries including Australia, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Zambia.

"What Cambodia needs is peace," Hun Sen added. "If Cambodia has peace, they (foreign governments) are not quite happy with us _ but if Cambodia has war, they are happy because then we'll be easy to occupy."

A tribunal spokesman, Lars Olsen, said Hun Sen's comments were being verified before a comment could be issued.

Critics accuse Hun Sen of trying to limit the tribunal's scope to prevent his political allies from being indicted. Hun Sen once served as a Khmer Rouge officer and many of his main allies are also former members of the group.

On Tuesday, the tribunal's acting international co-prosecutor, William Smith of Australia, formally recommended that five more suspects be investigated for possible crimes against humanity and other offenses.

The tribunal's Cambodian co-prosecutor opposed further indictments, but the tribunal ruled last week that his international counterpart could seek them. The tribunal, created last year under an agreement reached in 2003 between Cambodia and the United Nations, employs joint teams of Cambodian and international court personnel.

The tribunal is seeking justice for the estimated 1.7 million people who died in Cambodia from execution, overwork, disease and malnutrition as a result of the ultra-communist group's radical policies while in power in 1975-79.

The Khmer Rouge took control after a bitter 1970-75 civil war, and after being ousted from power in 1979, fought an insurgency from the jungles until 1999.

The Englishman butchered in Cambodia's killing fields: The terrifying tale of the British tourist who blundered into horror of Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge

Butchered: Briton John Dewhirst suffered a violent death in a Khmer Rouge death camp in Cambodia in 1978

By Andrew Malone
10th September 2009

At an old school building in Cambodia, the startled face of John Dewhirst stares down from the wall.

A teacher from Newcastle, Dewhirst is the only British citizen with his official photograph on display.

It's a distinction his sister, Hilary, will curse until the day she dies.
Clean-shaven, his long hair neat for the cameras, Dewhirst's portrait is one of thousands pinned around the building.

They were taken by the perpetrators of one of the darkest episodes in the history of the human race.

Between 1975 and 1979, the school was renamed Tuol Sleng - Hill Of The Poisonous Trees.

The sound of children playing and laughing was replaced by screams for mercy as horror stalked the classrooms and corridors.

The communist Khmer Rouge had seized control of Cambodia and transformed the school into a 're- education centre' to hold enemies of 'agrarian socialism' (a return to the Stone Age with peasants working by hand in the fields, and all modern aspects of life outlawed).

Pol Pot, the French-educated Khmer Rouge leader, decreed a new Cambodian calendar to start again at Year Zero - a true beginning of the world in which all should live as they did at the dawn of time.

Pot, who styled himself Brother Number One, ordered that the entire population should live off the land, with no medicine and starvation rations.

Dissidents were eliminated. 'To keep you is no benefit - to destroy you no loss,' was his favoured mantra.

After driving the entire Cambodian population out of towns and cities, the Khmer Rouge separated those who could read, write or wore glasses - anyone, in fact, who betrayed signs of being educated.

They were taken to Tuol Sleng, where the classrooms were modified in anticipation of their arrival.

Desks and chairs were removed and replaced with iron bed frames, manacles and instruments of torture.

Building "A" of Tuol Sleng prison in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, was reserved for the interrogation of important prisoners of the Khmer Rouge. Its almost certain that this is where John Dewhirst would have been held and interrogated

In a chilling echo of the Nazi death camps, rooms were set aside for 'medical experiments'.
With the borders sealed, inmates were sliced open and had organs removed with no anaesthetic.

Some were drowned in tanks of water. Others were attached to intravenous pumps and every drop of blood was drained from their bodies to see how long they could survive.

Electric shocks to the genitals were routine. The most difficult prisoners were skinned alive.

Babies were held by the feet and swung headfirst against walls, smashing their skulls.

Other inmates of Tuol Sleng, also known as S-21, were taken to an infamous place that later became known as the Killing Fields, a beautiful orchard just a few miles away on the outskirts of the capital city, Phnom Penh.

There, prisoners were ordered to dig their own graves. Then, to save on bullets, they were bludgeoned to death with iron bars and chunks of wood.

Up to 17,000 perished in Tuol Sleng; across Cambodia, almost two million - a quarter of the population - died. Brother Number One brushed aside his blood-lust, saying: 'He who protests is an enemy, he who opposes is a corpse.'

So how did a Briton, on a sailing trip around the Far East with friends, become caught up in this horror?

Held captive: John Dewhirst photographed on arrival at Tuol Sleng in 1978

Only now can the full, awful truth about what really happened to John Dewhirst and his companions finally be told.

Like much that took place during the years of Cambodia's genocide, there is no happy ending to the story of the Geordie captured by Pol Pot. Indeed, his fate may have been even worse than his friends and family feared at the time.

Recently, at the historic trial of the camp commandant, Kaing Guek Eav, disturbing testimony emerged that the 26-year-old and his companions were not executed swiftly, as previously thought.

The special UN court in Cambodia heard harrowing claims that the Western sailors were taken outside and burned alive in the streets of the capital, having first endured months of torture and being forced to sign lengthy confessions about their true identities as American spies.

Cheam Soeu, 52, a guard at Tuol Sleng, told how he saw fellow Khmer Rouge torturers lead one of the foreign men out on the street at night and force him to sit on the ground.

A car tyre was put over him and set alight. 'I saw the charred torso and black burned legs [afterwards],' he said.

Pol Pot had personally given instructions that all evidence of the existence of Dewhirst and his friends was to be destroyed.

In a message to his 'fellow brothers' in the Khmer Rouge, their leader stated: 'It's better to kill an innocent by mistake than spare an enemy by mistake.'

Kaing Guek Eav, a former teacher, was in charge of Tuol Sleng. Also known as Duch, he is one of five former Khmer Rouge leaders to be tried for crimes against humanity.

A cold-blooded killer, Duch used to 'mark' the confessions of his prisoners, sending the papers back to the cells with notes in the margins suggesting improvements to grammar and sentence structure.

On trial: A verdict on chief Khmer Rouge jailer Kaing Guek Eav, also know as "Duch", is expected in early 2010. He is charegd with crimes against humanity

Every prisoner was forced to pose for photographs soon after capture.

The Khmer Rouge leadership was determined to keep an accurate record of all the 'enemies of the revolution' - and even took photos of some of their victims being tortured.

They included people caught speaking a foreign language, scavenging for food or crying for dead loved ones.

Some Khmer Rouge loyalists were killed for failing to find enough 'counter-revolutionaries' to execute.

Duch was a trusted confidant of Pol Pot, and has confirmed that the Westerners were doomed from the moment they were seized and taken to Tuol Sleng.

'I received an order from my superiors that the Westerners had to be smashed and burned to ashes,' he told the court. 'It was an absolute order from my superiors.'

This is confirmed by secret Khmer Rouge documents. 'Every prisoner who arrived at S-21 was destined for execution.

The policy at S-21 was that no prisoner could be released. Prisoners brought to S-21 by mistake were executed in order to ensure secrecy and security.'

Until the awful events of 1978, John Dewhirst had led an idyllic existence. Born in Newcastle, the family moved to Cumbria when John was 11.

A sports enthusiast and climber, he relished outdoor life and spent his boyhood roaming the Cumbrian countryside. He was keen on shooting, fishing and canoeing - yet his older sister, Hilary, says he had a sensitive side, too.

As he grew older, John developed a love of literature; he wrote poems and hoped to become a novelist.

After finishing his A-levels, and much to the pride of his father, a retired headmaster and his mother, who ran an antiques shop, John won a place to study English at Loughborough University.

After finishing his degree and his teacher training, he decided to explore the world - buying a one-way ticket to Tokyo, where he planned to work for a year teaching English, earning enough money to travel back overland to the UK.

Genocide: Cambodian men pray as a skull map is dismantled at a genocide museum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia in March 2002

A popular, laid-back individual, John became good friends with other young westerners in Tokyo.

New Zealander Kerry Hamill and Stuart Glass, a Canadian, were part of his circle of friends and the pair owned an old motorised junk called Foxy Lady.

Seeking adventure, John quit his teaching post, along with his part-time job on the Japan Times newspaper, and joined Hamill and Glass on a trip sailing round the warm waters of the Gulf of Thailand.

They planned to sell Foxy Lady in Singapore and travel on overland. Days were spent fishing and sunbathing, between steering the boat to its next destination.

Nights were spent eating fish, drinking beer and looking at the stars.

He kept in touch regularly with Hilary, writing her letters once a month.

'He was very happy and very interested in what he was experiencing of a new and different part of the world,' she says.

Then, in early 1978, disaster struck. The Foxy Lady drifted into Cambodian waters. A Khmer Rouge military launch steamed towards them.

Stuart Glass, the skipper, was shot dead immediately. Dewhirst and Hamill were seized and taken by military truck to Phnom Penh.

At the time, the full scale of the horror inside Cambodia had yet to reach the outside world.

Hilary heard that her brother had been captured only after a telephone call from the Foreign Office.

A charming and pleasant young man, she still thought John might be able to talk his way to freedom.

It was not to be. Duch, the camp commander, was determined to follow his orders to the letter. He instructed his Khmer Rouge underlings to get to work. The torture lasted a month.

John Dewhirst and Kerry Hamill endured unimaginable terror. Both wrote lengthy 'confessions'.

Under duress, the Englishman admitted that he was a CIA agent on a secret mission to sabotage the Khmer Rouge regime.

He claimed that his father had also been a CIA agent, using the cover of 'headmaster of Benton Road Secondary School', and that he had been trained in modern spying techniques at Loughborough.

Headed 'Details of my course at the Annexe CIA college in Loughborough, England,' Dewhirst writes that he was taught how to use weapons as part of his induction into the U.S foreign intelligence agency.

Mixing elements of his own life story with fiction to satisfy his captors, the Briton also claimed that there were other CIA colleges in the UK - Cardiff, Aberdeen, Portsmouth, Bristol, Leicester and Doncaster.

He said his 'handler' was a man called 'Colonel Peter Johnson', and that his university bursar was a CIA major. The confession is signed and dated 5.7.1978.

Dewhirst's thumbprint is alongside his signature. Like thousands of other victims in the former school building, which is now a memorial to the dead, the 'confession' was dictated to him by Duch and his interrogators.

John's parents both died before he was captured.

Everlasting grief: John's sister Hilary says the death of her brother has left her feeling constant pain

At home in Cumbria, 31 years on, Hilary Dewhirst did not attend Duch's trial - at which he initially pleaded guilty.

Instead, Rob Hamill, the brother of John's sailing companion Kerry, spoke for both of them, having been handed a note from Hilary to present to the court about her feelings.

Facing Duch for the first time, Hamill spoke of wanting to make his brother's killer suffer.

'I've imagined you shackled, starved and clubbed. I have imagined you being nearly drowned and having your throat cut.'

But he added: 'It was you who should bear the burden, you to suffer, not the families of the people you killed. From this day forward, I feel nothing towards you.

'To me, what you did removed you from the ranks of being human.'

That is a view shared by Hilary. Now a solicitor in Cumbria, she has not uttered John's name in more than three decades.

'I have experienced death and grief. This is different. It's everlasting,' she tells me. 'I can accept death completely. It's what happened to my brother that I can't accept.

'The fact that the torture was so extreme, lasting not half a day, but months, makes it an inhuman act. It takes the humanity of the person.

'The person my brother had been, was taken away during that torture. For a human being to do that to another human being - that's not a human act.

'I don't know how my brother died. I have heard reports of people bleeding to death and having their heads smashed from behind beside mass graves.

'I don' t know if knowing what really happened can make me feel any worse. If I feel like this after 31 years, a whole country must feel the same.'

But she also hopes that some good will come from the trial of her brother's killers.

'What happened in Cambodia isn't generally known to today's generation,' she says.

'It should be part of history lessons. People should remember what happened there.'

The Khmer Rouge was finally driven from power in 1979 after neighbouring Vietnam invaded.

What was discovered there shocked the world: the death rate was far higher than during the Nazi holocaust.

Pol Pot remained a free man, however, living with the rump of his Khmer Rouge cadres near the border with Thailand until his death in 1998.

'We need to understand the person [Duch] standing there,' adds Hilary.

'He's supposed to be full of remorse. It's an opportunity for him to be held accountable. But, personally, I can't see how it can possibly make any difference.'

Yet the trial will help ensure that what happened to John Dawson Dewhirst - proud Englishman, sports fanatic and man of letters - will never be forgotten, along with two million others slaughtered in Cambodia's Killing Fields.

Hawaii man accused of sex with Cambodian girl

HONOLULU — A Hawaii man accused of having illicit sex with a 12-year-old girl in Cambodia is being held without bond in Honolulu pending a detention hearing.

Federal prosecutors say Richard David Mitchell of Kamuela, Hawaii, was arrested by police in Cambodia in August 2008. He remained in custody until he was returned to the U.S. on Saturday, when he was arrested at Honolulu International Airport.

U.S. Attorney Edward Kubo said Tuesday that the prosecution of the 61-year-old Mitchell is part of stepped up efforts to identify and prosecute "sex tourists" who travel to Cambodia to engage in sex acts with children.

According to court documents, witnesses reported seeing Mitchell engaging in curbside sex acts with the girl in August of last year.

Kasit to visit area near temple

PM confirms no Thai land lost to Cambodia

Published: 10/09/2009

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has instructed Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya to visit a disputed border area near the Preah Vihear temple.

Mr Abhisit yesterday said a trip to the disputed area would give Mr Kasit a chance to gain first-hand information.

He said it would also allow the foreign minister to explain to residents about the government's attempts to settle the dispute with Cambodia over the 4.6 square kilometre border area.

Thailand insists the area is in Kantharalak district of Si Sa Ket, while Cambodia says it is in Preah Vihear province.

"We confirm that we can protect our territory," the prime minister said after holding talks with security authorities and Foreign Ministry officials.

Mr Abhisit also said the suggested visit would help the foreign minister's attempts to explain Thai opposition to Cambodia's registration of the ancient Hindu temple as a World Heritage site.

During yesterday's meeting at Government House, the army reaffirmed that Thai soldiers were still deployed in the disputed area, the prime minister said.

He dismissed reports that Thailand had lost sovereignty over parts of the disputed area.

Permanent secretary for foreign affairs Virasakdi Futrakul, who was present at the meeting, also denied Thailand had lost any part of the disputed land to Cambodia as claimed by some officials and academics.

The meeting also discussed a proposal to amend Article 190 of the constitution which stipulates that international agreements must have parliamentary approval.

Mr Abhisit asked the meeting to assess what implications such amendment would have on talks to settle the country's border disputes with Cambodia.

The National Anti-Corruption Commission is expected to rule on Sept 22 whether the Samak Sundaravej cabinet and some government officials, including Mr Virasakdi, violated the constitution by issuing a cabinet resolution on June 17 last year supporting Cambodia's move to register the Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage Site.

Thailand later reversed that decision.

Cambodia praises Viettel for its support


Deputy Prime Minister and Head of the Cambodian Council of Ministers, Sok An has recently highlighted activities of the army-run telecommunications company Viettel in Cambodia.

At a reception for Viettel’s deputy chairman Hoang Anh Xuan, the deputy PM stated that the installation of a cable network linking Phnom Penh to other provinces has met the demand for better communications in Cambodia.

He said that Viettel will help the Cambodian government to develop an e-government system soon, improve state management skills and reduce cumbersome administrative formalities.

Addressing the reception, Mr Xuan confirmed that Viettel will stick to Cambodia’s Investment Law to maintain their long-term cooperation. Viettel’s investment in Cambodia is not only aimed at making a profit but also to promote the traditional relationship between Vietnam and Cambodia.

Mr Xuan added that Viettel will make a greater effort to help Cambodia develop its electronic telecommunications system so that Cambodians can enjoy mobile phone services at the lowest rates.

Thong Khon reelected as Cambodia president of NOCC

September 10, 2009

Cambodia's Tourism Minister Thong Khon was reelected as president of the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia (NOCC) for its fifth mandate at a conference held at Phnom penh, local media reported on Thursday.

Officials from 16 National Sports Federations voted unanimously to allow Thong Khon to resume his presidency from 2009 to 2012 andalso voted him president of the executive committee, it reported.

Thong Khon was quoted by the Phnom Penh Post as saying during his address that the conference was arranged in accordance with Asian and Intenational Olympic Committee mandates to evaluate the work done by the NOCC over the previous three-year term.

The minister said the meeting would also "set up goals for the fifth mandate ... as well as amend the committee's charter to comply with the present situation and constitutional law of the International Olympic Committee".

Source: Xinhua

WB Officials Urges to Promote Cambodian Economy

Written by DAP NEWS -- Thursday, 10 September 2009

World Bank (WB) on Wednesday urged the promotion of the Cambod- ian economy as Cambo-dia is one of many countries in the world affected by the global downturn, according to a Wednesday WB press release.

The Second Investment Climate Assessment, published in 2009 by the World Bank and IFC, identifies priorities to significantly improve the business environment by helping to retain existing investors and attracting new ones, said Qimiao Fan, Country Manager for the World Bank in Cambodia. “This would position Cambodia well to benefit from a recovery in the global economy, and also help its small firms to develop and create jobs.”

IFC’s Resident Representative in Cambodia, Julia Brickell, noted that Cambodia is making efforts to improve some aspects of the business environment. “IFC, with support from the European Commission and other donors, is assisting the government to improve commercial dispute resolution mechanisms through the establishment of the National Arbitr- ation Center, which will be a quicker and cheaper alternative to the courts. We are assisting with the selection of arbitrators and preparing a program for training them to arbitrate commercial disputes. Effective commercial arbitration is crucial in helping businesses enforce contracts in ways that are less costly and time consuming than is currently the case,” said Brickell. Due to the press release, as a result of its reforms, Indonesia—the region’s most active reformer this year—moved up to 122 from 129 on the global ease of doing business rankings. Indonesia cut the time required to start a business by 16 days and the time to transfer a property by 17 days. The country also strengthened disclosure requirements for related-party transactions to protect investors.Singapore, a consistent reformer, is the top-ranked economy on the ease of doing business for the fourth year in a row, with New Zealand as runner-up. Singapore introduced online and computer-based services to ease business start-up, construction permits, and property transfers.

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday claimed that the Cambodian Government had decided first to discontinue the Land Management and Administration Project (LMAP), a project financed by development partner the World Bank.

“I clarify that Cambodia decide to end the partnership with World Bank in land titling as it has complicated points,” said the premier during the ceremony of the 2008 population census at Chaktomuk hall.

Hun Sen reiterated that Cambodia decided to terminate the project first, not the World Bank. “Do not act like the prestigious one which confirmed to terminate first; Cambodia terminated first,” he said.

Yim Sovann, a spokesman for the opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP), on Monday told DAP News Cambodia that he regretted the Cambodian Government’s decision to cease the World Banká project.

Following a decision by the Council of Ministers on Friday 4 September to terminate World Bank financing of the Land Management and Administration Project (LMAP), World Bank Country Director for South-East Asia, Annette Dixon, made the following statement:

“Land security and a fair, transparent approach to resolving land disputes and resettlement are among the greatest challenges facing Cambodia today. People without land or secure title to land are much more likely to be poor and stay poor,” according to the statement released on Monday.

Khmer Rouge Tribunal ‘Not Able’ to Put Other Leaders on Trial: PM

Written by DAP NEWS -- Thursday, 10 September 2009

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday claimed that Khmer Rouge Tribunal (KRT) is unable to seek charges for another 5 leaders of the brutal Democratic Kampuchea regime headed by Pol Pot.

The KRT’s international prosecutors on Tuesday said they would seek to charge another 5 leaders. By internal regulations, the proposal passed by 4 supporting votes to one opposed vote.

However, Hun Sen said the main priority for Cambodia should be peace and stability, national reconciliation and development, not more prosecutions. He said the Cambodian Government could block the prosecutions. “You cannot win as you have only two voices, but the Cambodian party has three voices. As a result, it can result in a row in the court,” Hun Sen stated. “If Cambodia is peaceful, they are not happy, but if Cambodia has a war, they will be happy as it’s easy to control, but that definitely cannot happen in Cambodia,” the premier said. “You have to proceed by internal measures and regulations, but the last result is zero.”

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday sent a strongly worded warning to anyone suggesting that other leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime be put on trial. Five high ranking former cadre are currently on trial.

“If you want to do anything, you have to prioritize safety, peace and reconciliation first; do not push one side without thinking of the other side,” the premier said during a ceremony to mark the release of data from the the 2008 population census in Chaktomuk.

Strongly warning on Monday by The premier also referred to Youk Chhang, director of the Documenta-tion Center of Cambodia (DC-CAM), who the premier said made the suggestion other leaders be charged last week. Youk Chhang denied having made any such remarks .

Youk Chhang told DAP News Cambodia that he had not week forum related to any ideas to push charging other leaders in Khmer Rough Regime to be on trial beside the 5 leaders.

The Khmer Rouge Tribunal has faced increasing criticism at home and in the international community for perceived inefficiency, incompetence, foot-dragging and corruption.

Situation Normal at Veal Intry Temple: Cambodian Military

Written by DAP NEWS -- Thursday, 10 September 2009

The situation at Veal Entry temple at the Cambodia-Thai border is still normal though tense, a high-ranking Cambodian officer said on Wednesday.

The clarification follows rumors that both nations’ soldiers stationed around Veal Intry (Eagle Field) temple were readying for battle.

“The situation is still normal in here and the soldiers stationing here are not facing off against one another,” Nak Vong, Veal Intry temple Cambo- dian commander-in-chief told DAP News Cambodia.

However, on Wednesday afternoon, nearly 10 Thai soldiers holding one piece of wire and hammer closed the road to Veal Intry temple. Cambodian soldiers intervened, according to the latest news reports from the area.

“Just a moment ago, one Thai soldier pickup came to pick up and drive those soldiers back to Thailand,” one soldier told DAP News Cambodia.

Cambodian experts on Tuesday expressed dismay over Thai claims that Cambodian officials appointed to look after Khmer temples lack skills.

Thai Arts General Department Director Kreang Krai told the Thai media that there had been some difficulties of his group in looking after Cambodia’s Preah Vihear temple for more than a year as two both sides have dug in soldiers at the border. In response, Hang Sot, Cambo-dian Preah Vihear general-director, told DAP News Cambodia on Tuesday that “this is the raising of Thailand to claim that Cambodia does not have the ability to look after all Cambo-dian temples by itself.”

He called the claims “completely groundless,” as “We can look after our selves effectively.”

The Thais, historically a relative newcomer to the Southeast Asia region after being displaced from Southern China, “do not have any ancestral any living temples to their children,” Hang Sot claimed.

Preah Vihear temple has indeed suffered damage recently—from Thai bullets and shrapnel fired during two skirmishes with Cambodia that resulting in several deaths and many injuries. The previous Thai Government supported Cambodia’s effort to inscribe Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage Site, in addition to the wealth of internationally recognized documents and maps that clearly show that the land belongs to Cambodia.

Ros Chandarabot, a Cambodian historical expert, told DAP News Cambodia that the temple is in Cambodia so “we can look after it by ourselves.”

Over 200 Thai Vendors Demonstrate at Cambodia-Thailand Border

Written by DAP NEWS -- Thursday, 10 September 2009

Over 200 Thai vendors demonstrated at Cambodia-Thailand border at Beoung Trakourn border crossing to ask for free imports and exports between Cambodia and Thailand, according to local authority said on Wednesday.

Chief of the Cambodian Beong Trakourn border crossing Nou Yath told DAP News Cambodia that “Thai people always demand we open this gate to them and another corridors as well, but both local authorities did not agree to permit this because it is illegal.”

“There were over 200 Thai vendors who demonstrated in front of the gate,” he added. He stressed that he invited the Thai district governor to discuss this case, and both sides agreed to open the gate, but “some of the vendors always try to do like this, so it is an illegal aggression towards Cambodia, although the two district governors made agreement.”

Nou Yath reported the goings on to the Banteay Meanchey governor Sar Cham Rong, who told DAP News Cambodia that “I do not know what happened at the border crossing yet.”

“The Thai side should inform us three to seven days before they [permit protests] like this,” Nou Yath added. Further inquiries from DAP News Cambodia about the case were fruitless.

Sum Chan Kea, a Banteay Meanchey local staff member of rights group Adhoc, told DAP News Cambodia that “It was maybe in case of corruption in Cambodia, such as bribes.”

Three Cambodians Disappeared in Morakot Storm in Taiwan

Written by DAP NEWS -- Thursday, 10 September 2009

Many people in Taiwan island have disappeared after the recent Morakot storm, including three Cambodian workers, the Taiwanese Government announced on Wednesday.

Ya Navuth, director of Kampuchea Human Rights Association Maintain Immigration (KHARAM), said that the Taiwanese Government had only just made the official statement.

“Our organization announced this information in public, after this storm appeared Taiwan,” Ya Navuth said.

Relatives of the victims should contact the KHARAM organization or the Taiwanese Government, he said. There are many illegal Cambo-dian immigrants working and living in Taiwan. Most enter via Vietnam and passed to the island with an arranged marriage. There are thought to be around 5,000 illegal Cambodian workers in Taiwan, he added. “They always ask us to help them when they meet a problem.”

Cambodian vice secretary of state of Ministry of Labors Um Mean told DAP News Cambodia that the kingdom cannot do very much as the workers are in Taiwan illegally.

“Thailand, Japan, Malaysia, and Korea, all Cambodian workers are legal, but for Taiwan they are wrongdoing; some of them left by relative or business contacting,” Um Mean added. KHARAM called for all relatives of the victims to contact to get more information.

The three female victims, Khat Srey Mach was born on September 09, 1976 and hold ID passport no. 0079595, Kong Srey Mom, was born on January 18, 1977 hold ID passport no. 0219467 and the last, Mol Khmao was born on September 06, 1980, hold ID passport no. 0297387.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court Adjourns Ho Vann Verdict to September 22

Written by DAP NEWS -- Thursday, 10 September 2009

Phnom Penh Municipal Court prosecutors on Wednesday ruled to delay declaring the verdict in Ho Vann’s case to September 22, 2009.

Ho Vann, Phnom Penh Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker, was sued earlier this year by Royal Cambo-dian Armed Forces (RCAF) officers after he allegedly made comments to local media NGO the Cambodia Daily about the officers’ academic degrees awarded by a Vietnamese military institute. The Cambodia Daily published the remarks in their daily newspaper.

However, 22 senior armed forces officials demand the court charging to fine CR220 million, each one filing for damages of CR10 million. The court later charged the writer of the article after it emerged Ho Vann had distanced himself from the remarks in a written letter. The parliamentarian said that the Cambodia Daily’s reporter had misquoted him. The foreign editor of the newspaper, a well-respected international journalist, insisted the court withdraw the charges against his reporter and charge him instead. He claimed to have a voice recording of Ho Vann making precisely the remarks that were published.

Ho Vann now is reportedly in the US with Mu Sochua. SRP spokesman Yim Sovann could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

Ou Virak, director of the Cambod- ian Human Rights Center, has previously suggested the court delay its hearing until the SRP lawmaker can be present. Defamation cases should not be brought against opposition party officials, he said. Prosecutors sent a letter dated August 19 recalling Ho Vann to face the court over charges of the defamation of 22 senior armed forces officials.

On the morning of June 22, 2009, the National Assembly, controlled by the majority ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) approved the suspension of Ho Vann’s parliamentary immunity.

The request for immunity suspension came from a Phnom Penh Municipal Court prosecutor via the Ministry of Justice, to pave the way for the court to bring the RCAF lawsuits.

Recently one SRP lawmaker, Mu Sochua, lost a defamation case against Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Cambodia lacks Spokespeople: Information Minister

Written by DAP NEWS -- Thursday, 10 September 2009

Information Minister and Gover-nment spokesman Khieu Kanarith on Wednesday said that Government agencies still lack spokespeople to provide information to the media.

“Actually, we have trained a lot of spokespeople but those people worked only a short time in their Government institutions before they were promoted and it made the Governmental agencies lack spokespeople again,” he said at the launch ceremony of Khmer version of the Phnom Penh Post newspaper.

Journalists working in Cambodia are often subject to an almost come-dic odyssey of unanswered phones when looking for comment from ministries or big business.

“The most important things for our journalists have to know are that they should have personal contact with and build relationships with all Governmental sources so that it will be easy to contact Governmental officials,” Khieu Kanarith said.

He also confessed that Cambodia lacks human resources and skilled people to be spokespeople. In recent months, “the Information Ministry trained about 50 spokespeople and photographers for the Government, including top Governmental officials,” he noted.

“Spokespeople are the officials who are close to the top Govern-mental officials or decision makers of their institutions that they have rights to decide on all issues involving their agencies,” he added.

Cambodian journalists often cite the Petroleum Authority of Cambodia as one of the most difficult Govern-mental agencies to get information from, though one foreign correspondent based in Phnom Penh said many sources seem unwilling to speak with foreigners.

Prizes for non-puffers

Photo by: Louise White

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 10 September 2009 15:01 TEP NIMOL

Ten former smokers receive rewards on the first "Quit smoking, Get Awarded" competition set up by the Cambodia Movement for Health Organisation on Wednesday. Two motorbikes and eight color televisions were given to some of the 588 chain smokers who stopped smoking for one month in order to compete.

Pair of reports on land rights face cynicism

Photo by: Sovan Philong
A man stands on the railway tracks near Boeung Kak lake in Phnom Penh last week. Plans to rebuild the lines have left residents in Tuol Kork and Daun Penh next in line for eviction.

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 10 September 2009 15:04 Robbie Corey-Boulet and Chhay Channyda

TWO new reports addressing land rights in Cambodia argue, as others have, that the pursuit of development has led to widespread rights violations, including forced, sometimes violent evictions.

But they also share a conciliatory message that emphasises the importance of government dialogue with affected communities and civil society.

That message has drawn scepticism from civil society and opposition figures, who on Wednesday said they doubted such an approach would amount to much in light of the government's tactics in recent land-dispute negotiations.

An overview of land disputes released today by the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee (CHRAC), a coalition of NGOs, offers "a painful look into the lives of people affected by forced evictions and intimidation".

It then positions the coalition as "a bridge to support genuine and productive dialogue between communities and policymakers".

Similarly, a report to the UN Human Rights Council, released Monday, expresses concern over the "commonplace" evictions of families who had been living in their homes for years.

The report's author, Surya Subedi, a UN envoy on human rights in Cambodia, later adds: "This is an area where I will be happy to offer my advice and seek to foster cooperation in the search for long-term solutions to this painful issue."

In interviews Wednesday, observers said this faith in dialogue might be misplaced.

CHRAC Executive Secretary Suon Sareth acknowledged that several past attempts by affected residents and civil society to engage constructively with the government had failed.

He cited a case last month in which about 300 Cambodians involved in land disputes in 19 different provinces petitioned the Council of Ministers, the Ministry of Interior and the National Authority for the Resolution of Land Disputes.

The effort was an attempt to circumvent unresponsive provincial authorities, but Phnom Penh officials also failed to respond to the villagers' petition, Suon Sareth said.

"The complaints have been ignored," he said.

Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said Wednesday that all complaints were forwarded to the ministry's inspection department. He added, as did other officials, that the government was more than willing to engage with residents affected by land disputes.

"The ministry has always welcomed complaints from people about land cases," he said.

But Yim Sovann, spokesman for the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, said he believed threats and other forms of intimidation were often conveyed under the pretense of constructive dialogue, citing as examples meetings between officials and residents of the evicted Dey Krahorm and Group 78 communities.

"I get a lot of complaints from people who say they were forced to leave there, that they were forced to take compensation," he said. "Then the government tells the media, 'Oh, the people have agreed to leave, they have agreed to take the compensation.' There are threats and intimidation behind that."

Naly Pilorge, director of the rights group Licadho, also said officials' interactions with villagers involved in land disputes were often of little benefit to the villagers themselves.

"Information about the dire situation of people and abuses committed on people related to land are often dismissed despite credible evidence," she said.

For his part, Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, said the stated goal of the UN and CHRAC to foster more good-faith government engagement might not be unrealistic given that government officials want to keep donors happy and retain voter support.

"The strongest reason for the government to be concerned," he said, "is the fact that this is the biggest issue that could undermine the ruling party."

Inquiries could sink ECCC: PM

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 10 September 2009 15:03 Vong Sokheng

PRIME Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday predicted that an attempt to charge additional suspects at the Khmer Rouge tribunal would be unsuccessful.

If the push for indictments were to go forward, he said, "the result of the trial would be zero".
"All the suspects would die, and the court would run out of money," he said.

His remarks in Takeo province came one day after the tribunal announced that acting international co-prosecutor William Smith had on Monday formally requested the investigation of five more suspects. Also Monday, Hun Sen repeated in a speech at Chaktomuk Theatre his warning that further investigations risked sparking civil unrest that could claim hundreds of thousands of lives.

On Wednesday, he delivered a message to former Khmer Rouge cadres.

"I would like to appeal to the brotherhood and sisterhood of the former Khmer Rouge to remain calm," he said. "There will not be any problems happening."

Hun Sen also said his statements about the tribunal did not amount to an attempt to influence its work.

"Please go ahead with your procedures. I will not have a say, but the thing is that you need to find a supporting force ... you need four votes," he said in an apparent reference to the Pre-Trial Chamber vote that opened the door to new investigations.

In that vote, announced last week, the five-person chamber failed to resolve a disagreement between the international co-prosecutor, who pushed for more investigations, and the national co-prosecutor, who argued against them. The chamber voted 3-2 against them.

The tribunal's internal rules held that the proposed investigations would go forward in the absence of a supermajority, or 4-1 vote.

Hun Sen's statements about the court this week have drawn concerns about political interference, including from Human Rights Watch, which said Monday that judicial considerations should be based solely on evidence.


Officers seek $53k from SRP MP

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 10 September 2009 15:02 Meas Sokchea and James O'toole

TWENTY-TWO RCAF officers who have sued Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian Ho Vann for defamation are demanding that he pay them 10 million riels (US$2,412) each, their lawyers said Wednesday at a hearing at Phnom Penh Municipal Court.

The suit stems from an April 2009 article published in The Cambodia Daily newspaper in which Ho Vann was quoted as saying that academic degrees awarded to the officers by a Vietnamese military institute were "worthless".

Ho Vann was not present at the hearing on Wednesday, but wrote in a statement read to the court that the article had misquoted him, and that after writing a clarification letter, he considered the matter resolved.

Neou Vannarin, the reporter who wrote the article and has also been charged in the case, was not present, but was represented by Sok Dara of the Cambodian Defenders Project.

Cambodia Daily Editor-in-Chief Kevin Doyle, however, appeared for questioning and said that Ho Vann had been quoted accurately, but that the interview was not recorded.

The officers' lawyers told the court that they sought compensation only from Ho Vann.
Judge Sin Visal said that a verdict would be announced September 22.

Hun Sen incites ghosts

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 10 September 2009 15:02 Vong Sokheng

PRIME Minister Hun Sen launched an attack against his political opponents Wednesday, saying "ghosts" out for the Pchum Ben festival would come to threaten their lives.

"The ghost are around them and will take them along," Hun Sen told a few hundred supporters during the inauguration of a pagoda in the Kirivong district of Takeo province.

"[The opposition leaders] want to be the prime minister, but they have never had an opportunity, and it will be impossible," Hun Sen said. "They have had no ability to work, but they are accusing us of corruption."

Yim Sovann, spokesman for the Sam Rainsy Party, said the prime minister's remarks were part of a "political campaign" aimed at strengthening his power. Human Rights Party President Kem Sokha told the Post that he wasn't interested in reacting to the speech.

Child sex trial hears evidence, conspiracy

Jacques Bernard Collinet leaves the court on Wednesday.


The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 10 September 2009 15:02 Chrann Chamroeun

A French national accused of having sex with a 16-year-old Cambodian girl will learn his fate next week after a Phnom Penh Municipal Court judge heard evidence against the 63-year-old Wednesday.

Jacques Bernard Rene Collinet stands accused of "the purchase of child prostitution". He was arrested in April at the International Guesthouse in Daun Penh district's Kandal 2 commune, after the girl's mother contacted anti-human trafficking police to accuse the man of raping her daughter.

During the four-hour hearing, Collinet denied the charges and insisted he never had sex with the girl. He said the girl told him she was actually 18 years old, by writing the number on her hand. Collinet said he met the girl near Wat Phnom - where he said he hangs out and does exercises - and she agreed to come to his guesthouse to give him a massage.

The alleged victim, however, told the court a different story. "I agreed to go with him ... to his guesthouse for a massage," she said, "but once I got into his room, he ordered me to bathe and then he put on a condom. Then he had sex with me." The girl testified Collinet gave her US$25 in total after having sex four times.

Defence lawyer Dun Vibol, however, claimed the girl was a prostitute. She is listed as a victim in three other child prostitution purchasing cases against other foreigners. "There was a conspiracy with anti-paedophile NGOs, NGO shelter centres and police to prosecute foreigners to earn money," he said.

The head of one group specialising in child sexual exploitation scoffed at the suggestion. "To accuse our organisation and police of conspiring with the victim to prosecute the man is not only untrue but an insult," said Samleang Seila, country director for Action Pour Les Enfants.

If convicted, Collinet faces up to five years in prison. The victim's mother is also asking the court to impose a fine of US$5,000 in compensation.

Land dispute: Residents fear eviction

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 10 September 2009 15:02 May Titthara

More than 100 families living near Phnom Penh International Airport say they fear being evicted from their homes if City Hall goes forward with plans to create a new park. Residents claim Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Mann Chhoeun accused them of living there illegally. "We have lived here since 1980, and we have old land titles recognised by the commune chief in 1991," said resident Teng Sa Khorn. Hem Darith, Dangkor district's deputy governor, said Wednesday that the residents' land titles are meaningless if they come from the commune. "We have never provided them [with official] land titles," Hem Darith said. Mann Chhoeun could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

Judge sued for bribery, false imprisonment

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 10 September 2009 15:02 Chrann Chamreoun and Kim Yuthana

A KAMPONG Cham woman has launched a lawsuit against a local judge, accusing the magistrate - who she claims tried to bribe her - of unlawfully keeping her son behind bars.

Ea Heang Leng, 58, a resident of Suong Khang Lech village, Suong commune, alleges the judge violated the law in detaining her son unfairly.

His imprisonment, she said, has brought pain and shame on his family.

Her son, Nguon Sok Sreng, 23, was arrested in August, months after he had allegedly attacked another person, the woman's lawyer, Kea Eav, said Wednesday.

"The event happened seven months ago, but the judge has detained the suspect ... without referring to any reasons, evidence or reports for charging him at all," he said.

Kea Eav also claims the judge demanded that the family pay US$2,000 to speed up the legal process, an allegation that is not part of the lawsuit, which was filed with the Ministry of Justice and the Supreme Council of Magistracy.

The Post reached the accused Kampong Cham province judge, Nhean Sovan, by phone this week, but he said he could not comment on the case because he was busy in a meeting.

For Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, the case is more evidence that "corruption" has turned the judiciary system into a "fish market".

"Judges, clerks and prosecutors make irresponsible decisions that are not based on clear sources or evidence," Ou Virak said.

Workers seek factory reforms

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 10 September 2009 15:01 Mom Kunthear and Kim Yuthana

PROTESTS against poor conditions in garment factories flared up on Wednesday as workers from two sites refused to work because of ongoing disputes.

More than 300 workers from the Sky High garment factory in Dangkor district took their protest, which started on August 24, to the National Assembly.

Chan Dary, one of the workers' representatives, said a letter had been sent to National Assembly President Heng Samrin asking for help.

"We continue the protest so factory owners will agree with our conditions and allow workers to return to work as normal," he said.

Grievances at Sky High include a 1,000-riel reduction in monthly wages, a lack of help for those who lose vehicles on company property and unpredictable work stoppages. If the Assembly refused to help, Chan Dary said, the workers would take legal action.

Chea Mony, president of the Free Trade Union of Cambodian Workers, urged the government to intervene. "I hope the National Assembly will receive their complaint and call the minister of labour to talk about this problem," he said.

Meanwhile, 800 workers from Whitex garment factory also took action. Mai Vathana, coordinator for the Khmer Youth Federation of Trade Unions, said workers wanted the factory owner to agree to 10 conditions such as reimbursing travel expenses for those with cars, two extra days off during the festival of Pchum Ben and two cans of milk for workers' children.

"We are helping them, but we have not had any luck yet," he said. Neither of the factories' owners could be reached for comment on Wednesday.

Govt seeks Heritage seat

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 10 September 2009 15:01 Khouth Sophakchakrya

THE government declared its first candidacy earlier this week for the World Heritage Committee following UNESCO's announcement that elections will take place from October 23-28 in Paris.

Sok An, deputy prime minister and president of the National Commission for UNESCO in Phnom Penh, said: "Within the committee, Cambodia would support the global strategy for a balanced, representative and credible World Heritage List."

Terms of office are usually six years, but Cambodia would voluntarily serve only four years if elected in order to let other state parties be part of the committee, he said at the National Museum on Monday. Meeting once a year, the committee determines World Heritage sites.

"We warmly welcome the Kingdom of Cambodia to a candidacy on the World Heritage Committee for heritage preservation, environmental protection and accommodation of local communities," said Teruo Jinnai, head of the UNESCO office in Phnom Penh.

Storms hinder search efforts

Photo by: Sovan Philong
A man stops to put on his poncho during a rainstorm Wednesday in Phnom Penh.

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 10 September 2009 15:01 Tep Nimol

THE bodies of two girls who were swept out to sea at a Preah Sihanouk province beach this weekend still have not been found, officials said Wednesday, as storms continued to sweep across Cambodia.

"The coast guard is looking for the bodies but cannot find them," said deputy police Chief Yin Binnath. "It is very difficult because it is still raining very heavily."

Meanwhile, Kampot province officials said floods have nearly receded except in two communes, Mak Prang and Kraeng, both in Teuk Chhou district, according to Sou Chea, deputy governor of Kampot province.

Ratanakkiri province's Lumphat district, along the Sre Pork River, has been reported to be seriously affected by floods, with officials forced to evacuate almost 300 families.

Lumphat district Governor Kong Srun said Chey Otdam, Ka Laeng and Seda communes have been severely flooded, with the river bursting its banks Wednesday.

Seth Vannareth, director of the Department of Meteorology at the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology, warned that the rain would continue to fall in coastal areas and the central plain area around the Tonle Sap River. "Cambodia has been affected by the low pressure of the southwestern monsoon. The meteorology department will announce later when the effects are expected to end."

Mangrove forest planted

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 10 September 2009 15:01 Khouth Sophakchakrya

The Fisheries Action Coalition Team (FACT), an environmental group, hosted a mass mangrove planting on Wednesday in Preah Sihanouk province.

Nearly 10,000 mangrove seedlings were planted in the event presided over by Nao Thouk, director general of the Fisheries Administration and governor of Preah Sihanouk province.

Om Savath, programme manager of the Fisheries Action Coalition Teams, said Wednesday that hundreds of hectares of natural mangrove forests have been destroyed in recent years through deforestation.

Ing Try, deputy director of the Fisheries Administration within the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, said mangrove forests play an important role in the survival of fish and other marine species and thus can help boost fishermen's incomes.

"Mangrove forests could directly benefit coastal fishing communities by more than US$2,000 per hectare per year," he said.

Trade with Thais falls 32pc

Vendors pass through the entrance gate to Cambodia at Poipet on the border with Thailand. Bilateral trade between the two neighbours fell 31.7 percent in the first seven months of 2009.

Thailand again blocks Cambodian rice
THAI officials have banned imports of rice into Thailand through a local checkpoint in Banteay Meanchey province following a protest by Thai farmers. Soung Moeun, the chief of O’Beichon commune, in the province’s O’Chrov district where the checkpoint is located, said farmers across the border in Thailand’s Sa Keo province asked officials “a few weeks ago” to temporarily ban imports of Cambodian rice until they could sell their own harvest. “Thai officials told us they have carried out the ban according to their people’s request," he said. “Our Cambodian rice is not allowed to be exported to Thailand.” Soung Moeun called the ban unfair and said other goods, including cassava from Cambodia and products from Thailand, were being traded as usual. At the O'Romduol checkpoint in Battambang province’s Phnom Proek district, between 10 and 20 trucks loaded with rice were still crossing into Thailand on a daily basis, said Song Sopheak, the district police chief. Banteay Meanchey province Governor Ung Oeun said he was not aware of the blockade but would investigate the issue before discussing it with Thai officials. Soung Moeun said officials on the two sides of the border met every three months at least, and often on a monthly basis, to exchange information and resolve disputes. “We have good communication with Thai officials”, he said. Officials at the Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh did not respond to calls for comment Wednesday. THET SAMBATH

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 10 September 2009 15:01 Nguon Sovan

Government blames economic crisis – not border dispute – for decline in bilateral trade between Cambodia and Thailand in the first seven months

BILATERAL trade with neighbouring Thailand fell by almost a third in the first seven months of 2009 year on year, according to official figures supplied to the Post Wednesday by the Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh.

Total trade in the first seven months between the two countries dropped 31.7 percent to US$913.58 million, the figures collated by Thai customs showed, from $1.34 billion during the same period last year.

"The crisis has lowered consumer incomes, which slows down purchasing power," said Jiranan Wongmongkol, director of the Thai Embassy's Foreign Trade Promotion Office, adding that the border dispute between Bangkok and Phnom Penh over Preah Vihear had had little impact.

She forecast that overall trade for this year between the two countries would fall about 30 percent from $2 billion in 2008.

Kingdom's exports fall
Cambodian exports to Thailand declined more sharply than the overall slide as the Kingdom maintained a large trade deficit with its more industrially developed neighbour.

Exports fell 38.5 percent to $32.41 million up to the end of July this year from $52.76 million during the same period last year in goods that primarily included agricultural produce, second-hand garments, fish and recycled metals.

Imports from Thailand were down 31.4 percent to $881.17 million from $1.29 billion last year.

Petroleum, consumer products, building materials and cosmetics made up the bulk of Cambodian imports from its neighbour.

Mao Thora, secretary of state at the Ministry of Commerce, said Wednesday that bilateral trade with other countries in the region had also fallen significantly so far this year, another reason that the Preah Vihear dispute should not be cited as a reason for the slump with Thailand.

"The downturn has not only affected Cambodia's trade with Thailand, but also with Vietnam," he told the Post Wednesday, adding that trade with all other countries would be shown to be down once official figures become available.

This month figures released by the Vietnamese Embassy in Phnom Penh showed bilateral trade with Vietnam fell 21.87 percent to $743 million in the first seven months compared with $951 million for the same period in 2008.

Mao Thora agreed with the Thai Embassy that bilateral trade between the two countries would likely not rebound in 2009.

Tourism bright light
"Neither Thailand nor Cambodia's trade has recovered yet - for Cambodia, we have just seen a slight recovery in tourism," he said.

Although revenues for Cambodia's main tourism attraction Angkor Wat were down about 20 percent in the first seven months of 2009, the Apsara Authority - the body responsible for revenue collection at the temples - told the Post this week that foreign visitor arrivals to the Kingdom rebounded in July, according to official government figures.

Although tourism arrivals fell 1.1 percent in the first half of 2009 year on year, figures released at the end of August showed, a 10 percent annualised rebound in July meant that in the first seven months of this year the sector expanded an unexpected 0.3 percent.

Analysts agree that average spend per tourist in Cambodia has declined, however, since the onset of the global economic crisis.

Business no easier, rankings reveal

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 10 September 2009 15:00 Nathan Green

CAMBODIA'S slide of six places in the World Bank's latest annual ease-of-business report released Wednesday shows it is "all the more important" for the Cambodian government to press ahead with its economic-reform agenda, the bank's senior country economist for Cambodia, Stephane Guimbert, said Wednesday.

The fall to 145th of 183 economies surveyed worldwide in the bank's Doing Business 2010 report, prepared in conjunction with the International Finance Corporation (IFC), came after the country climbed 11 places in the rankings a year earlier.

The rise was at the time attributed to the passage of the Secured Transactions Law and the Law on Bankruptcy, as well as Cambodia's success in cutting import and export delays.

The reversal suggests that the pace of business-regulation reform has slowed in Cambodia even as other countries accelerated changes to remain competitive in a global market rocked by an ongoing economic crisis, the two agencies said in a media statement accompanying the report.

A record 131 economies worldwide and 17 of 24 in East Asia and the Pacific reformed business regulations between June 2008 and May 2009, the period covered by the report.

Guimbert warned that the survey captured key parts, "but not all" of the business environment and said that Cambodia has made over the past two years a number of economic reforms that were not reflected in its ranking.

These include the launch of an automated system of customs data (ASYCUDA) in May 2008, the creation of a National Social Security Fund, responses to challenges posed by the economic crisis, and the establishment of the National Arbitration Centre to improve commercial dispute resolution.

The eight working groups of the Government-Private Sector Forum are discussing a number of additional reforms, such as simplifying trade processes, inspections and licensing, and improving the country's legal framework, Guimbert said. "All these measures are very important to improve the business environment, even though they are not all reflected in the Doing Business report."

The IFC's resident representative in Cambodia, Julia Brickell said Wednesday that the arbitration centre will be a quicker and cheaper alternative to the courts.

"Effective commercial arbitration is crucial in helping businesses enforce contracts in ways that are less costly and time-consuming than is currently the case," she said.

According to the report, it costs a business 102.7 percent of the value of the claim to enforce a commercial contract through the courts in Cambodia.

The annual survey ranks economies in 10 categories related to the time and cost for domestic companies to meet business regulations such as starting and operating a business, trading across borders and paying taxes.

Cambodia fell slightly in almost every category, the most drastic being the ease of paying taxes, where it dropped 33 places to 58th as a result of the introduction of a National Social Security Fund contribution.

Government-private sector tax committee Co-chair Edwin Vanderbruggen brushed off the result, saying the introduction of a simplified tax return and streamlined registration procedures in 2008 meant the relative difficulty of paying taxes is actually "moving in the opposite direction".

Room for improvement
However, he added that although paying tax in Cambodia is "very simple", the country has room to streamline procedures further, for example by removing the requirement for a company representative to physically submit the return for approval at the tax department before taxes can be paid.

In other countries, companies can self-assess and remit taxes straight to the treasury, Vanderbruggen said. "This is of course time that we lose in Cambodia that we don't lose in other countries."

Guimbert said Cambodia's relatively high ranking in the tax category shows that the Kingdom remains "overall a country where the tax rates are attractive for investors".

Cheam Yeap, chairman of the National Assembly's finance and banking commission, rejected Cambodia's slide in the rankings, citing a range of initiatives the government had undertaken to help businesses.

These include improved access to business loans, tax reform, tax exemptions for the agriculture sector, reductions in the time taken to register a business and efforts to find new export markets, he said.

The report showed it takes 85 days to start a business in Cambodia, compared to 41 on average across East Asia and the Pacific and 13 across Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries.

The report also showed that despite the passage of the bankruptcy law, bankruptcy proceedings have not gotten off the ground in Cambodia.


More economic research needed

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 10 September 2009 15:00 Chun Sophal

A VISITING research fellow called on the Cambodian government Wednesday to do more to boost the country's research sector for the good of its economic development.

Pou Sothearak, a senior research fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore, told a gathering of 200 researchers from local and foreign institutes in Phnom Penh that government initiatives should also include a research network to facilitate the exchange of ideas.

"If Cambodia can form a group of autonomous researchers, it will be very good for the development of the country in the future," he said. "Development based on research yields a more satisfying result."

Larry Strange, executive director of the Cambodia Development Resource Institute, said better research was needed at the national level to create effective development strategies for Cambodia.

Hang Chuon Naron, secretary general of the Ministry of Economy and Finance, said Cambodia lacks the resources to carry out research vital to the nation's economic future. He said he supports Pou Sothearak's call for a national body of researchers.

"We want to arrange a research network that will allow all of Cambodia's researchers to meet and share their experiences on poverty, agricultural policies, economics and natural resource management," he said.

In remembrance of the old colonial row houses

Photo by: Jet Odrerir
Street 108 (above) and resident Chang Lean (right) as they appear today.

I like the french stlye; There are not any other houses like it in phnom penh.

The street is shown in 1990. Chang Lean is on the far left. PHOTO SUPPLIED

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 10 September 2009 15:00 Jet Odrerir

As Phnom Penh develops and rebuilds itself, much of its colonial architecture is being replaced, but if you look closely, a few remaining traces can be found

ONE can imagine what the ad might have said 80 years ago: "For Sale: Charming two-story row house with European styling. Great views of Wat Phnom and a short walk to the soon-to-be-built train station! Avenue de la Gare and Street 51."

The style of accommodation called row housing originated in Europe in the 1600s. European colonialists introduced the style to Southeast Asia in the early 1800s as they rebuilt cities based on European styling, both in street and building design.

Row houses were originally designed to work together to appear as one grand structure. Often the windows and doors would be spaced to give the appearance of a columned building. Whereas apartments are defined as a collection of rooms inside a building, the row house was designed to be one distinct unit - ground floor to roof, facing the street.

The units share the wall that separates them, but each has its own separate infrastructure, allowing it to stand independently without requiring the support of the surrounding houses.

In Europe the main floor of a row house was typically used as the parlour, the dining room and, in the back, the kitchen.

When the row house was introduced to Asia, many owners chose to take advantage of the ground floor and turned them into noodle stalls, tailor shops and other small businesses. Thus, they are often called shop houses in this region.

In Phnom Penh, shop houses abound, but there are not many French colonial row houses left. Yet there is a beautiful collection of six row houses at 73-78 Street 108, built in 1931 in the Neo-Romanesque style.

The retail businesses on the ground floors have covered most of the street-level architecture with awnings and light boxes - though the round, arched doorways do peek out on two of them. The columns that were previously on the ground level matching the upper floor were all removed in the late 1990s to open up the doorways.

On the first floor of each two-level house there are two windows and a door - likewise all arched - leading out to a small balcony. The 18 arches run together from one end to the other looking somewhat like upside-down waves.

The top of the building has a railing bordering the pitched roofs, which are covered with terracotta, fish-scale tile. Two decorated facades above the second and fifth units display the building date as well as a lot of scrollwork. Each facade also contains three monograms.

Some of the decorative pieces on the roof have been moved from one side to the other over the years, though no one knows by whom. All of the row houses would have originally been the same colour to give the effect of being one building, but now they are each painted differently, suiting their owners' tastes.

An interesting feature of these houses is that the bathrooms and kitchens are in separate structures in the back of the lot about eight meters from the front section and are connected to the front rooms by footbridges that overlook a large courtyard.

Current resident Chang Leah recalls moving from Kandal province to Phnom Penh in 1961 after getting married. He and his wife lived nearby then on Street 136, and he can still remember how the row houses looked then.

The whole space under the footbridges was paved with cobblestones, some of which still remain.

"This was a place for people to relax in the evening. There were tables and chairs here and here," he says pointing. "Now there are more buildings here, but before it was open."

People have been adding small homes to the courtyard and even some of the footbridges since the 1980s. Chang Leah's own home is built in the courtyard.

The sturdy 70-year-old says that in the 1960s most of the ground-floor units were occupied by companies, but they were mainly offices, not retail.

Two of the units were used for storage for a shop named Paris's near Phsar Kandal - he remembers that because he was a delivery driver back then, and occasionally he picked up items there.

Chang Leah shows me a picture from 1990 when he moved in, still with dark hair, standing in front of a then-unchanged row house No 75. It lasted 60 years with no major changes to the exterior.

Srey Thida lives on the first floor of No 76. She tells of her father-in-law, Ey Chorn, who was the first to move back into the buildings following the ousting of the Khmer Rouge in 1979, as Phnom Penh was slowly coming back to life. "He came with many members of his extended family and, like everyone else at that time, just moved in and made it their house."

With no paperwork remaining, people acquired their new property by living in it.

She says that most of the units were split into separate levels in the 1980s, and that now there is only one full row house.

Ey Chorn started a new family and has now passed his units down to his children. Srey Thida has been living in No 76 since 2000 and would like to bring it back to its original condition.

"I like the French style; the outside is so beautiful," she says, somewhat wistfully. "There aren't any other houses like it in Phnom Penh."