Saturday, 5 December 2009

The Prime Minister Said that to Summon More Khmer Rouge Leaders for Questioning Is Fatal – Friday, 4.12.2009

Posted on 5 December 2009
The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 641

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

“The Prime Minister said, ‘Some do take the opportunity to use the Khmer Rouge court again and again… it is a fatal case. I do not interfere in the court affairs, but the court did not put off the war [with the Khmer Rouge]; and be careful, in case the court creates war and division in the society again…’

“This statement was made by Prime Minister Hun Sen again on 3 December 2009 during the 27th International Day of Disabled Persons in Phnom Penh, in relation to the intention of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal to summon more people to testify.

“On 30 November 2009, the lawyer of a Khmer Rouge leader demanded that the investigating judges of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal question Prime Minister Hun Sen and some government officials, for having politically interfered in the affairs of this court. But yesterday, the head of the government, Mr. Hun Sen, stated that he does not interfere in the court affairs, but he just pointed to intentions to destroy the peace, which could hardly be recovered by summoning more former Khmer Rough leaders for questioning. This kind of an expression of concern is considered by a foreign defense lawyer of a former Khmer Rouge leader to be a criminal offense.

“Nuon Chea’s defense lawyer mentioned Prime Minister Hun Sen’s words, saying in September 2009, that the Prime Minister stated that he himself fled from the communist regime in 1977, adding that witnesses do not need to testify at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal.

“Nuon Chea’s defense lawyer, Mr. Michael Pestman, said to the news agency AFP and was quoted by the Phnom Penh Post, for their publication on 30 November 2009, as saying, ‘Mr. Hun Sen really told all summoned witnesses that they do not need to cooperate with the tribunal. That means he committed a criminal offense and it seriously affects the legal investigations of this court.’

“A similar suggestion, which AFP had received, mentioned the words of government officials they had used in October 2009 that the six parliamentarians and high ranking officials of the government, summoned by this court, do not need to testify.

“Mr. Pestman added, ‘Mr. Hun Sen’s statement is affecting the hearings to seek justice for our clients, because those government officials are direct witnesses whom we need for this process.’ He added, ‘At least, these words can weaken the legitimacy of the court.’

‘Yesterday morning, Mr. Hun Sen did not exactly refer to any Khmer or foreign lawyers, prosecutors, or judges, but stressed that this measure intends just to provoke turmoil in Cambodia.

“Mr. Hun Sen said, ‘They try to create turmoil in order to exploit the benefits for themselves.’

“After the celebration of the International Day of Disabled Persons yesterday, Mr. Hun Sen said, ‘From 1993 till now, when Khieu Samphan, Nuon Chea, and other leaders of the Khmer Rouge cabinet arrived back, we considered this as the stage where the political and military organizations of the Khmer Rouge had been dissolved.’

“Mr. Hun Sen added that he would rather let the Khmer Rouge Tribunal fail, than would he let it to create a new war in Cambodia. He stated, ‘A hearing is just a hearing, but the peace must be kept also, and national unity must be maintained. You must balance these. Do not play with them, it can be fatal; and 100,000 to 200,000 people would die if there would be war again; who will then call the Khmer Rouge, or go to call them back from the forest again? I am old now. When I went to call the brothers and sisters [the former Khmer Rouge people] back from the forest, I was not yet 50 years old… I would rather let the court fail, but I will not let war break out. I want to say this clearly to the people. If the court fails, let it be.’

“Mr. Hun Sen is the 7th person who was to be summoned to testify.

“Even though Mr. Hun Sen is worried about the breaking out of war again because of the summons for more former Khmer Rouge leaders, the former prime minister of the People’s Republic of Kampuchea in the 1980s, Mr. Pen Sovann, supports the Khmer Rouge Tribunal to summon more former Khmer Rouge leaders to testify, who are now high ranking officials of the Cambodian People’s Party.

“On 8 October 2009, Mr. Pen Sovann told Khmer Machas Srok related to this case that the Khmer Rouge Tribunal is an independent and professional court which can provide justice to Khmer citizens who are victims of the Khmer Rouge. He said, ‘Nobody who was involved in the past Khmer Rouge history, no politician, should interfere in this court, because this court is independent… I support this court as it has its rights, its independence, and its role.’

“Prime Minister Hun Sen frequently warned that there will be instability if this court continues to summon more former Khmer Rouge leaders for questioning. But Mr. Pen Sovann claimed that there will not be any instability. He went on to say, ‘I think that this could not happen. It is only the personal opinion of Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen; he wants to protect persons of the former the Khmer Rouge Regime.’

“The four top former Khmer Rouge leaders, who are at present already being detained, are the former head of state, Mr. Khieu Samphan; the former president of the National Assembly, Mr. Nuon Chea; the former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Ieng Sary; and the former Minister of Social Affairs, Ms. Ieng Thirith; in addiion, there is also the former S-21 (Tuol Sleng) prison chief Duch, who was a middle level leader, who was brought first to the hearings.

“On 7 October 2009, the French investigating judge, Mr. Marcel Lemonde, and also a co-judge of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, summoned six high ranking officials of the Cambodian People’s Party to give testimony. Those six officials are the president of the Senate and of the Cambodian People’s Party, Mr. Chea Sim; the honorary president of the Cambodian People’s Party and president of the National Assembly, Mr. Heng Samrin; the Minister of Economy and Finance, Mr. Keat Chhon; the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Mr. Hor Namhong; and two other senators, Mr. Sim Ka and Mr. Ouk Bunchhoeun. Mr. Hun Sen is the 7th person of the Cambodian People’s Party who was summoned for questioning and to testify.”

Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.3, #546, 4.12.2009
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Friday, 4 December 2009

Chinese Uighurs Seeking Asylum in Cambodia: Reports

By Men Kimseng, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
04 December 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Twenty-two members of a Chinese minority group who reportedly witnessed violent protests against the Chinese administration in July are now in Cambodia seeking asylum, according to US media reports.

The Washington Post on Thursday quoted Omar Kanat, vice president for the World Uyghur Congress, saying that the 22 people, three of them children, arrived in Cambodia over the past several weeks.

A reliable source confirmed to VOA Khmer on Thursday that the 22 Uighurs are now in Cambodia and in good condition.

Uighurs protesters confronted with police in China

Cambodian government officials contacted Thursday said they have not been informed of the case.

“I’ve heard that Washingtonhas run this story,” national police spokesman Keat Chantharith said Thursday. “People have asked me too. I am not aware of it. I have received no information.”“People have asked me about the case too and said the Washington Post has run the story. I checked with several people, but received no answers,” said Koy Kuong, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Koy Kuong, however, said that it is still too early to say whether Cambodia will hand the refugees over if they are in Cambodia and

China requests their return.Turkic Uighurs are mostly Muslim ethnic group from the far western province of Xinjiang, where for years separatists have waged a campaign against the Chinese government in the resource-rich region.

In early July protesters led violent demonstrations in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang.

New UN Prosecutor Faces Tough Challenges

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
04 December 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

The UN’s new prosecutor for the Khmer Rouge tribunal faces at least two challenges as he begins work at the court, observers of the hybrid court say.

For starters, Andrew Carley, a British prosecutor appointed to the UN side of the court this week, will have to work side by side with his counterpart, Chea Leang, to ensure adequate prosecution of four senior Khmer Rouge leaders currently in detention, said Long Panhavuth, a project officer for the Open Society Justice Institute, which oversees the tribunal.

“Both prosecutors have to unanimously agree and join shoulders to execute [the case], to ensure that the investigation in Case No. 002 is completed, good, adequate and with independence guaranteed,” he said.

Tribunal judges have said the end of this year they will conclude their investigation of the four leaders, Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan, Ieng Sary and Ieng Thirith, in a case that promises to be more complicated that the trial of Kaing Kek Iev, or Duch, which wrapped up last week.

Carley, who has not yet arrived, will also have to face the question of further indictments, a position promoted by his predecessor, Robert Petit, who left earlier this year.

The question of further indictments beyond the five cadre now in custody divided the prosecution office, with judge Chea Leang maintaining the same position of Prime Minister Hun Sen, that the current caseload is enough and that further arrests could lead to instability.

Hun Sen reiterated this warning Thursday, saying he would prefer to see the court fail than have the country “fall into war.”

A coalition of civil society groups said Friday they were not concerned that proceedings of the Khmer Rouge tribunal have the potential of igniting civil war in Cambodia.

Government Must Curb Rights Abuse: Advocate

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
04 December 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

If the government doesn’t move to curb persecution of human rights defenders, it can be implicated in rights abuses, a Cambodian advocate said Thursday.

Rights groups in the country have faced a high number of threats this year, said Ou Virak, executive director of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, as a guest on “Hello VOA.”

“So in this case, we look in every corner,” he said. “One, we look at policy and legality, because the state has policies and laws of protection. Two, we see about punishment, and then in any case that the state is aware [of abuses] but does not take the effort to find justice, that mans the state is participating in human rights violations.”

People are “still in fear,” he said, because of physical threats of violence and legal threats.

“We see that all these threats are contrasting the principle of human rights that we declared to recognized, but we do not maintain,” he said. “That’s what’s important.”

In 2009, at least 168 rights workers faced persecution, arrest or detention, according to figures from rights organizations, he said.

Meanwhile, the UN Human Rights Commission is reviewing Cambodia’s rights efforts in Geneva as part of mandatory review process.

Ou Virak said he expected the government to act on good recommendations from the Human Rights Council.

Phay Siphan, a spokesman for the Council of Ministers, denied allegations of government complicity in rights abuses. The government has worked to reform the rule of law and judiciary, he said.

“We have the constitution and law, and especially we know that we defend human rights and the value of human beings,” he said.

Ou Virak said Thursday the government had failed to protect the rights of people, especially in land-grabs.

Alleged Thai Spy Denied Release on Bail

By Heng Reaksmey, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
04 December 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)
Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Friday ruled it would continue the detention of a Thai citizen accused of espionage, denying a written request he be released on bail.

Siwarak Chothipong, 31, was arrested on Nov. 12, after allegedly leaking a flight schedule of Prime Minister Hun Sen and his newly appointed economic adviser, ousted Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra, to Thai officials in Phnom Penh.

Siwarak was charged with spying, a crime that carries a sentence of up to 15 years. He did not appear at his hearing Friday.

Thai officials have called the charges “malicious” and claim Sirawak was framed.

Siwarak, an employee of the Thai-owner Cambodia Air Traffic Services, which handles Cambodia’s flight traffic, has become a focal point in a diplomatic row between the two neighbors.

The disagreement over Thaksin’s appointment as Hun Sen’s economic adviser has led to the ejection of diplomats from the capitals of each country and the annulment of development loans.

Thaksin is wanted in Thailand on corruption charges, following his ouster in a bloodless coup in 2006.

Hun Sen said he would not honor Thai requests to extradite Thaksin, whose case he said was political, angering Bangkok and increasing the diplomatic tension between the two countries, which have troops amassed on each side of a contested border in Preah Vihear province.

Thai held on Cambodian spy charges cancels bail bid

04 December 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

PHNOM PENH: A Thai national held in Cambodia on spying charges, relating to a visit by fugitive former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra, withdrew his request for bail on Friday.

Siwarak Chothipong, 31, an employee at the Cambodia Air Traffic Service, was arrested on charges of supplying details of Thaksin's flight schedule to his country's embassy when the tycoon visited Phnom Penh last month.

In a letter read in court, Siwarak, who did not appear for the bail hearing, said the "bail request is no longer necessary" because his trial had been scheduled for Tuesday.

Judge Ke Sakhan of Phnom Penh Municipal court granted the request.

Siwarak's arrest deepened a diplomatic crisis over Cambodia's appointment of Thaksin as an economic adviser and its refusal to extradite the ousted premier to Bangkok.

Cambodia expelled the first secretary of Thailand's embassy in Phnom Penh after alleging that Siwarak had passed information to the diplomat. Thailand reciprocated hours later.

Both countries earlier also withdrew their respective ambassadors in the dispute over Thaksin's appointment.

All Thai air traffic control staff were suspended from the Thai-owned civil aviation company that oversees Cambodian air space, after a Cambodian government official was appointed temporary caretaker of the firm.

Thaksin was toppled in a coup in 2006 and is living abroad to avoid a two-year jail term for corruption, but has stirred up protests in his homeland.

Angered by his presence in Cambodia, Thailand put all talks and cooperation programmes on hold and tore up an oil and gas exploration deal signed during Thaksin's time in power.

Tensions were already high following a series of deadly military clashes over disputed territory near an 11th century temple on the two countries' border.

Cambodia allows foreigners to own property

Fri, Dec 04, 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA (AFP) - The Cambodian government on Friday approved a draft law allowing foreign ownership of buildings such as apartments and office buildings to boost economic growth, the country's cabinet said.

The draft law approved in a meeting chaired by premier Hun Sen was aimed at "attracting investors, facilitating the growth of real estate market, and pushing the development", a cabinet statement said.

But Information Minister and government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said foreigners will be permitted to own only buildings and apartments, not the land beneath them.

"We will allow foreigners to have ownership of buildings from the first floor up," he told AFP.

The draft law is expected to be approved by Cambodia's parliament and senate, and then will be promulgated by King Norodom Sihamoni.

The move comes after the private sector in recent years urged the government to allow foreign ownership of properties such as apartments or factories, saying a liberalised real estate market would spur the economy.

Under the current rules, foreign property investments can only be made through the name of a Cambodian national, and many are unwilling to risk losing their assets to potentially unscrupulous local partners.

The cash-strapped country's investment law was amended in 2005 to allow foreign ownership of buildings, but the legislation had yet to be implemented and the initiative floundered.

Despite current restrictions, billion-dollar skyscraper projects and sprawling satellite cities promising to radically alter Phnom Penh have bloomed over the past few years.

But many projects have been halted or slowed down as Cambodia has been buffeted by the world financial crisis after several years of double-digit growth fuelled mainly by tourism and garment exports.

The International Monetary Fund in September predicted Cambodia's economy will contract 2.75 percent this year amid the slowdown.

Relationship between Thai, Cambodian militaries remains good: Thai minister


(Posted by CAAI News Media)

BANGKOK, Dec. 4 (Xinhua) -- The relationship of the Thai and Cambodian militaries has remained good, Thai Defense Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan said Friday.

The diplomatic tension has not affected the bilateral cooperation between the Thai and Cambodian militaries along the border, Thai News Agency quoted General Prawit as saying.

"At the army level, after talking to Cambodian Defense Minister Tea Banh, we have agreed we will always cooperate as Defense Minister Tea understands every matter, no problem," General Prawit said.

The Thai and Cambodian defense ministers met on Nov. 27 in Thailand during a meeting of the Thai-Cambodian General Border Committee (GBC).

During the GBC meeting, the two sides have agreed that they will not use force to deal with the border matter.

The diplomatic problem has occurred after Cambodia has appointed ousted former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra as an economic advisor to Cambodia's government and Prime Minister Hun Sen from Nov. 4.

A day after the appointment, the Cambodian government announced the recall of its ambassador to Thailand in a move to respond to the Thai government's recall of its ambassador to Cambodia.

Editor: Han Jingjing

Cambodia needs 10 more years to clear all land mines


(Posted by CAAI News Media)

PHNOM PENH, Dec. 4 (Xinhua)-- Cambodia has officially requested donor community to extend another 10 years to clear land mines covering the country, said a government official.

Leng Sochea, deputy secretary general of the Cambodia Mine Action Authority said Friday that Cambodia made a request to extend another 10 years to clear all land mines in Cambodia at the summit on a mine-free world, which is being held this week in Cartagena, Colombia.

He said that Cambodia, as a signatory to Ottawa Mine Ban Treaty, was originally planning to clear all anti-personnel mines by the end of this year, but it becomes unrealistic and needs to adjust the timeline.

However, he said, the Cambodian government's commitment to clear all mines within the next 10 years will again depend on donors' community and Cambodia needs a total of 330 million U.S. dollars.

Casualties caused by land mines are still a worrisome fact for many Cambodians living in northwestern parts of the country, even though the number of casualties has declined year by year.

Cambodia recorded a total casualty of up to 4,320 by mines in1996, but the number fell to 271 in 2008.

Civil war had lasted for nearly three decades in the country since late 1960s.

Editor: Han Jingjing

KKF participate in the Universal Periodic Review on Cambodia

Friday, 04 December 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

The Universal Periodic Review for Cambodia yields disappointing results as no attention is dedicated to indigenous or minority rights.

On 1st December, Cambodia faced examination of their human rights situation under the sixth session of the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR). A delegation from UNPO Member the Khmer Kampuchea-Krom Federation (KKF) attended Cambodia’s review session in Geneva. M Thhai Makarar from the Khmer Kampuchea-Krom Federation Youth Committee said he was ‘disappointed’ by the outcome of the review. He stated that although H.E. Mr. Sun Suon, the Permanent Representative of Cambodia spoke for an hour, the problems facing indigenous and minority peoples were not raised on this crucial international stage.

During the interactive dialogue, questions were put to Cambodia by state representatives expressing concern about land grabbing, freedom of expression, lack of an independent of the juridical system and the immunity of the opposition party. There was controversy however since the list of speakers on Cambodia was cut due to time constraints, which will impact negatively on the scope of the recommendations which will be taken into account in the Report of the Working Group.

The Khmer Kampuchea Krom were mentioned specifically three times in the Joint Stakeholders Submission - the collective contributions from non-governmental organizations on human rights concerns which should be considered during the review process. The report mentions the difficulties faced by the Khmer Kampuchea Krom in obtaining citizenship including the resulting insecurity, the denial of right to vote and inability to occupy property or own land. The Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization is quoted in the report recommending that Cambodia should acknowledge the indigenous status of the Khmer Kampuchea Krom and end the forceful repatriation of Khmer refugees from Cambodia to neighbouring countries.

Instead of addressing these pertinent issues and recommendations, the Permanent Representative of Cambodia claimed that the Cambodian Government had ‘achieved a great deal to develop their country.’ UNPO considers it unfortunate that Cambodia neglected to address substantial human rights concerns and failed to respond to constructive recommendations concerning the indigenous status of the Khmer Kampuchea Krom.

Despite being procedurally ineligible to address the Human Rights Council during the review, KKF representatives were able to raise their concerns with the Assistant to the Special Rapporteur on Indigenous People. KKF delegates met with Ms Lydie Vendre at a side event in the Palais Wilson to discuss the widespread violation of religious and cultural rights, repression of the freedom of expression, concern for refugees in Thailand and the confiscation of the ancestral land as the case of M Vinh Ba.

At another meeting, Sam Rainsy, the President of the opposition Party in Cambodia along with NGOs such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) discussed how to put into place procedures to ensure that the Cambodian Government follow recommendations with the ultimate aim of encouraging Cambodia to represent a strong democratic country. The KKF delegation also lobbied countries including Switzerland, Germany and United States of America to assist them to raise their concerns with Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand.

The adoption of Cambodia’s report was due to take place yesterday (Thursday 3rd December) and UNPO anticipates the publication of the ‘Outcome Report’ which will be adopted at a plenary session of the Human Rights Council.

A podcast of Cambodia’s UPR can be watched here

Cambodian pepper farmers set to gain from 'champagne' status (Feature)

By Robert Carmichael Dec 4, 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Kampong Trach, Cambodia - On a small plot of earth 10 kilometres outside a dusty provincial town in southern Cambodia, farmer Nuon Yan tends his crop.

Like most farmers in Cambodia, Nuon Yan grows rice. But today he is tending his other crop: Kampot pepper. The final product - spicy black peppercorns that enliven dishes across the world - will soon become the first Cambodian product to benefit from Geographical Indicator (GI) status.

GI is more familiar as a concept than a phrase, and most famously with champagne: Only sparkling wine grown in a certain region of France which conforms to the quality standard set by its members may be called champagne. The advantage for growers is a better price; consumers benefit knowing that they are getting a quality product.

Cambodia's farmers are a key pillar of the country's economy, and widespread rural poverty means better prices for their crops are essential. UN figures show agriculture employs more than half of the 8-million-strong labour force and generates one-third of the kingdom's gross domestic product.

Kampot pepper, which is named after Nuon Yan's home province near the border with Vietnam, has an excellent name regionally and is highly regarded by some chefs in Europe. But a good name is not enough: in a world of imitations, protecting that name is critical.

Var Roth San is director of the intellectual property department at Cambodia's Ministry of Commerce. He says attaining GI status typically boosts the value of a product by at least 20 per cent.

'We want to create jobs, and we want the poor to get more money from their jobs in the rural areas,' he said. 'GI is one thing that will help the poor.'

Nuon Yan is a member of the newly formed Kampot Pepper Producers' Association, which will market and promote his crop.

It is a cooperative of more than 100 farmers, along with a handful of middlemen. It will ensure the Kampot pepper its members grow comes only from certain areas and meets quality standards. By early 2010, only the pepper produced by its members will be able to use the name.

Jean-Marie Brun, an advisor at the French agricultural non-governmental organisation GRET, said members of the World Trade Organisation are obliged to protect GI-status products. Once a product earns the name and is registered, it can easily be protected.

GRET was involved in the establishment of the cooperative, whose members defined the geographical growing area and quality standards.

'The stakeholders decided on the delimitation of the area, how it should be produced, and the quality criteria for Kampot pepper,' Brun said.

Kampot pepper is not the only Cambodian product in the running. Others vying for GI status include regionally produced palm sugar, honey, silk and possibly even durian fruit.

Brun says the main benefit for the small-scale farmers who comprise the bulk of the cooperative is financial. The current gate price for black pepper is 2.5 dollars per kilogram, but that should double once the GI status is confirmed.

By the time Kampot pepper gets to Europe, where it will be sold in packets of 20 to 50 grams, it can retail at an equivalent of 100 euros (150 dollars) per kilogram.

'Importers of Kampot pepper in Europe know it has a name and they are willing to pay a higher price for that,' Brun explained. The extra profit will allow for increased marketing expenditures.

Protection of the brand rests initially with the association, whose simple office is based in a shady grove outside Kampong Trach town in Kampot province. This is picture-postcard Cambodia: green rice fields, sugar palm trees and karst hills, with wooden carts drawn by white oxen along dirt roads.

The vice-president of the association, En Trou, is a farmer with 150 pepper vines, each providing 1 kilogram of peppercorns per year. En Trou said the total output of the members this year will be 14 tons, but he predicts that will double over the next five years.

En Trou said members have in the past encountered difficulties trying to sell their crops for a decent price, but is optimistic that GI status for Kampot pepper will help.

Four kilometres from the association's office along a series of ever-narrowing dirt tracks, Nuon Yan keeps an eye on his 300 pepper vines. He earned 400 dollars from his crop last year, but aims to double that next year. So what will he do with the extra cash?

'I will put some in the bank, and I will use the rest to buy more pepper vines,' he said.

The vines take three years to mature, so it is no short-term measure. But for Nuon Yan the benefits from ensuring his pepper meets the GI requirements make it worthwhile to invest more time and money on growing Kampot pepper for the kitchens of Europe.