Wednesday, 23 December 2009

ANALYSIS - Testing times ahead for Thai PM Abhisit

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva in Bangkok November 23, 2009. Vejjajiva may have survived longer than expected, but a year after taking office, with a political crisis still unresolved, the future of his fractious government remains uncertain. REUTERS/Kerek Wongsa/Files

(CAAI News Media)

Tue Dec 22, 2009

By Martin Petty

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva may have survived longer than expected, but a year after taking office, with a political crisis still unresolved, the future of his fractious government remains uncertain.

The charismatic, Oxford and Eton-educated premier has succeeded in lifting the country out of its first recession in 11 years, but doubts remain as to whether he has the leadership and backing of his allies to steer Thailand out of trouble.

Opinion polls suggest the public remains lukewarm about his government's performance and Thai businesses have rated it 5.3 out of 10 for its handling of the economy, which Abhisit has championed as his coalition's biggest achievement.

But what continues to be the thorn in the side for Abhisit is coup-ousted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who has orchestrated a succession of mass "red shirt" protests by his mostly rural supporters, combined with attacks from the opposition Puea Thai party he backs from exile.

A provocative alliance with neighbouring Cambodia, which has refused to extradite Thaksin to serve a prison sentence for abusing his power, has also created a diplomatic row that has embarrassed the government and appears to have handed a public relations victory to the wily billionaire.

Some analysts say that despite showing restraint in dealing with the Cambodia spat, his efforts to silence, sideline and seek the extradition of the twice-elected Thaksin could be Abhisit's undoing.

"The government is giving (Thaksin) the valuable communication space to remind people of his accomplishments which further reinforces the perception of government incompetence," Suranand Vejjajiva, a former member of Thaksin's cabinet, now a political analyst, wrote in the Bangkok Post.

"The Cambodian fiasco is another example of a one-track foreign policy, sacrificing everything for the sake of one man."

In a television interview on Monday, Abhisit admitted he had been unable to tackle the political crisis, which he said would not be solved by another election, which the "red shirts" are demanding as part of what they say is a pro-democracy push.


Many analysts say the government's problems go beyond Thaksin. Bitter rivalry remains between Abhisit's Democrat Party and Bhumjai Thai, the second-biggest partner in an uneasy military-brokered coalition fraught with bickering and internal power struggles from the outset.

Also hanging over Abhisit's head is a bloody insurgency in the country's Muslim south, a corruption scandal in a healthcare project relating to the government's $42 billion stimulus package and the possibility of Democrat Party dissolution over alleged irregularities in a $7.8 million campaign donation in 2005.

Another setback is a court suspension of 65 of 76 projects, worth an estimated $8 billion, at the Map Ta Phut industrial estate, the world's eighth-biggest petrochemicals hub, over a failure to carry out health impact assessments (HIA).

The government has been blamed for failing to set up an independent body to oversee the HIA's in line with the 2007 constitution, and some industry experts say the process could drag on as long as a year, affecting profits, GDP and dealing a big blow to investor confidence.

All these issues are likely to be highlighted next month, when Thaksin's supporters plan a big push in parliament and in the streets to unseat Abhisit, who has had to cancel numerous visits to Thaksin strongholds in the North and northeast because of fears for his personal safety.

Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political science professor at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University, said the government had failed to seize the opportunity to win the support of Thailand's rural masses and was dismissive of the grievances of the "red shirts".

Massive stimulus measures, he said, were in place only because of the global economic crisis, to boost economic revival rather than address economic disparity and marginalisation of the rural poor.
"The stimulus measures were for the wrong reason and they have not captured hearts and minds," Thitinan said.

"The government rejects the red shirts as Thaksin lackeys and that's a reason Thailand can't find peace. Because of this marginalisation, there's no reconciliation.

"This is about more than Thaksin," he added. "If he vanished tomorrow, I doubt everything would return to normal."

(Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)

Police Seeking Two Escaped Uighurs

By Kong Sothanarith, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
22 December 2009

(CAAI News Media)

The UN’s refugee agency and the European Union both condemned the forced deportation of Uighurs to China on Saturday, as police began looking for two who escaped custody.

Twenty of the Muslim Uighurs, who had reportedly fled their native Chinese province of Xinjiang following violent rioting in July, were turned back in a surprise decision by the Cambodian government ahead of the visit of a senior Chinese official.

The UNHCR had not had a time to assess their requests for asylum, prompting an outcry from the US, local rights groups and others. The group of 20 was missing two of the original asylum seekers, whom police are now searching for, officials said Tuesday.

Throughout last week, Cambodian officials said they were cooperating with UNHCR to determine the status of the asylum seekers.

Christophe Peschoux, Cambodia representative for the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a statement he was “dismayed” at the turnaround.

Cambodia belongs to the international conventions against torture and on civil and political rights, which bars the return of people who may face threats in their home countries. The credibility of Cambodia’s refugee system “is now seriously questioned,” Peschoux said.

“Critical to this process is the willingness of the Cambodian government to honor its own commitment to refugee protection, to respect the cardinal principle of non-refoulement, and withstand outside pressure from more powerful countries,” he said. “With the plane of shame that took off Saturday night, it is our freedom from want and fear that has become narrower in this part of the world.”

A statement from the Presidency of the European Union said the deportation showed a “worrying disregard” by Cambodia for its international obligations. The EU statement urged the government to review its procedures for asylum seekers and for the government of China to respect the rights of the group.

Chinese Embassy officials could not be reached for comment.

Chinese officials have said the group is wanted for crimes related to anti-Chinese rioting in July. The deportation came on the eve of a visit by Chinese Vice President Xi Jingping, who wrapped up three days of talks Tuesday.

Ministry of Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak said Cambodia had applied its own laws to the Uighurs. “Cambodian law obliges this application,” he said Tuesday. “We did not receive any pressure from any sovereign country.”

Tribunal a Symbol of Justice: Expert

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
22 December 2009

(CAAI News Media)

Defense teams for senior Khmer Rouge leaders still have the right motion for a cancellation of genocide charges brought last week, a tribunal expert said Monday.

“They have the right to file a suite to the Pre-Trial Chamber to remove the new charge,” said Hisham Mousar, chief of the Project of French Cooperation, at the Royal University of Law and Economics.

The additional genocide charge was added to those of war crimes and crimes against humanity originally brought against Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan, Ieng Sary and Ieng Thirith.

The charges were added for the alleged mass killings of Chams and Vietnamese under the Khmer Rouge. All four are in tribunal custody awaiting a joint trial, which is expected at the beginning of 2010.

The joint trial will ensure a “smooth legal procedure” for the UN-backed tribunal, which recently concluded a relatively simple trial for Kaing Kek Iev, or Duch, after more than six months, said Hisham Mousar, as a guest on “Hello VOA.”

The tribunal would not bring “100 percent” justice, he said, but it would act as a symbol of justice for future generations, with a message that atrocity crimes will be tried.

First Female Moto-taxi Driver Shines in Male-Dominated Field

By Ker Yann, VOA Khmer
Video Editor: Manilene Ek
22 December 2009

CAAI News Media)

Moto-taxi in Phnom Penh

The world of moto-taxi driving in Cambodia has traditionally been dominated by males. But one woman is bucking the trend, in a society where most women stay at home while their husbands go out to work to support the family. Thirty-seven-year-old Um Chanthon became a motodop driver nine years ago, after she divorced her husband in 2003.

She started working in the male-dominated field to support her family, including her mother, her two sons and a nephew. Each morning before work, Chanthon plays with her children and takes her son and nephew to school.

Um Chanthon: "Each morning I get up early to clean my motorbike and prepare the gears for my daily work."

Her mother helps her look after the children, and with work around the home, so that Chanthon can go out to work. Motodop is one of the most popular forms of transport in Phnom Penh, as the city does not have a bus service or fast trains.

There are taxis and Tuk Tuks, however motodop is the most popular form of transport because it is cheap and takes customers directly to their destination. With no care of men talking about her being the only female motodop driver in town, Chanthon concentrates on doing her job, taking her customers from place to place. But it's not without its challenges.

Um Chanthon: "Although I can do this work like a man, I sometimes get tired and bored from the sun's heat. I have no other job to do so I have to strive on," added Chanthon.

Her male colleagues praise her for doing what is considered in Cambodia to be men's work.

Chan Ti: "She is more courageous than us that she can do our work. I praise her heart that she can do this work to support her family after being separated from her husband."

Chanthon gets more female customers than her male counterparts, as they trust her driving skills and want to help her. They also choose her over others because she's friendly.

Von Sreyneang: "She is stronger than me because she can take more than one person, while I cannot even drive just myself properly," said one of Chanthon's customers. Some foreigners travel by moto-dop, especially those who work for NGOs in Phnom Penh, because it is easier to go from place to place and to avoid traffic jams.

Chanthon has some foreigner customers, who pay more than the locals, because she understands English.

Jim McLaughlin: "She is a very safe driver, she is very careful driver and she is very reliable and now Chanthon speaks English and so it is easy to communicate with her.”

She gets around six customers a day, which allows her to earn around 40000 riles a day ($10 U.S. dollar) on average. Her rented house on the outskirts of the city costs her $40 U.S. dollar a month. She says she's feeling the impact of the global financial crisis, as less tourists, a lucrative source of income, are visiting Cambodia.

She says there were more customers before July 2008 but there are a lot less afterward due to the world financial crisis, especially tourists. Chanthon has no plans to change her job now, but says she will when she gets older.

Telecom War Prompts Ministry Price Floor

By Ros Sothea, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
22 December 2009

(CAAI News Media)

A telecom price war that saw rates for callers plummet amid steep competition will cease, thanks to a government-directed floor that analysts say runs counter to the ideas of a free market.

An influx of companies into the country’s nascent phone market produced deep reductions in per-minute charges in recent years, with some rates offered as zero within networks.

The new policy now will not allow competitors to charge below $0.045 per minute within a network, nor $0.0595 for cross-network calls.

A government official said the price floor was the only way to stop an escalating problem, one that had already led to a dispute between the market leader, Mobitel, and a new competitor, the Russian operation Beeline. The price floor came after a series of directives failed to stop the competitive pricing.

Economic analysts said the new order will discourage investment and take away price benefits for consumers.

“To set a price is contrary to the free market, and makes consumers who used a lower price to lose benefit,” said Chan Sophal, president of the Economists Association of Cambodia.

Cambodia’s 1993 constitution says it will abide by a free market system, where buyers and sellers set prices.

The government should only intervene in pricing where people’s livings are concerned, Chan Sophal said.

The price measure could also contradict Cambodia’s investment law, which states that the government will not set prices on products or services for licensed companies, analysts said.

“Price intervention by the state is clearly contrary to the investment law,” said Ly Tay Seng, CEO of the HBS law firm and consultancy. “It will not only impact current investors, but also discourage investors who want to invest in the country.”

Telecommunications Minister So Khun rejected the criticisms, saying the state had a right to “stand as an arbitrator.”

“It is not about intervention, but to be as an arbitrator, to not let companies compete by killing each other,” he said. “They can compete on quality and coverage area.”

The new policy could not be frozen, he said, but the price might be adjusted following requests by operators. The ministry will meet with operators individually in coming months to find a better solution, he said.

Lim Sovanara, an economist for UNDP, said the time was not yet right for set prices. A price floor will benefit larger, established companies, keeping smaller one less competitive.

“If you want to mitigate the adverse impact on a certain segment of society, it is usually not the best to act on the price like this,” said Eric Sidgwick, a senior economist for the ADB. “Maybe you leave the price to go where it needs to go in the market, and you find an alternative mechanism to compensate those who are affected.”

Cambodia has more the 4 million phone users, amid a population of 14 million, a potentially lucrative tax base for the government, with much potential for expansion.

Senior officials at various smaller phone companies declined to comment, but staff members say they are preparing to set a new price in January.

China says handling with citizens deported from Cambodia its own affair


(CAAI News Media)

BEIJING, Dec. 22 (Xinhua) -- China said on Tuesday that it was the country's internal affair to deal with the citizens deported from Cambodia, who were suspected of committing criminal offences, and the outside world should not make irresponsible remarks.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu made the remarks at a regular news briefing in response to a question on Cambodia's deportation of 20 Chinese citizens of the Uygur ethnic group.

Cambodia deported the Chinese citizens according to its immigration law and China received them according to the customs, said Jiang.

The Chinese nationals illegally cross the border to break the laws both in China and Cambodia. They were also suspected of committing criminal offenses, she said.

"Any country facing such circumstances is entitled to make its own decision in accordance with its domestic laws," Jiang said.

"How to handle with these people is the internal affair of China, and the outside world shall not make irresponsible remarks," Jiang said.

"China is a country under the rule of law. Judicial authorities will deal with these people's illegal criminal activities in accordance with the law and safeguard their legitimate rights."

Commenting on whether the deportation was linked with China's assistance to Cambodia, Jiang said both countries have maintained comprehensive and cooperative partnership, and "We provide assistance to Cambodia in line with our own capacity and without any strings attached."

Editor: Fang Yang

China sentences tiger killer to 12 years in jail

A man who shot dead a rare tiger in southwestern China was sentenced to 12 years in prison and fined 85,000 dollars

(CAAI News Media)

BEIJING — A man who shot dead a rare tiger in southwestern China was sentenced to 12 years in prison and fined 580,000 yuan (85,000 dollars), state media reported Tuesday.

According to a court in Yunnan province, Kang Wannian and another man shot the creature in a nature reserve in February, Xinhua news agency said.

When the two men realised they had killed an Indochinese Tiger, which is on China's list of endangered species, they got scared and ran away, leaving the corpse behind, the report said.

The second man, Gao Zuqiao, later returned to the animal's body with six other people, skinned and dismembered the tiger, and brought the bones and flesh home to eat, according to the report.

Kang was sentenced to 12 years in jail for the illegal possession of a gun and illegally catching and killing a wild, endangered animal. Gao was jailed for four years and ordered to pay 20,000 yuan for covering up the crime.

Three others were also found guilty of covering up the crime, and put on probation for four years.

The court refused to comment when contacted by AFP.

According to the Save The Tiger Fund, a 1998 expert assessment estimated that only 736 to 1,225 Indochinese tigers were left in the wild.

The group says the animals have been severely poached in many areas, and have disappeared from some reserves in Cambodia and Thailand in the last 10 years.

China says $1.2B in aid to Cambodia not linked to SE Asian nation's deportation of 20 Uighurs

Associated Press

(CAAI News Media)

BEIJING — The Chinese government denied Tuesday that $1.2 billion in aid it gave Cambodia was linked to the Southeast Asian nation's deportation of 20 Muslims who had sought asylum after fleeing ethnic violence in China's far west.

A Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said the aid package to Cambodia has "no strings attached."

China has accused the Uighurs of being involved in ethnic rioting in July that pitted the minority group against the majority Han Chinese. Cambodia deported the Uighurs on Saturday night despite protests from the United States and the United Nations, whose refugee agency stationed people at the Phnom Penh airport in an attempt to physically stop the group's expulsion.

In statements to the U.N. refugee agency, the Uighurs said they witnessed and documented the rioting — China's worst ethnic violence in decades — and that they feared lengthy imprisonment or even the death penalty if they were returned to China.

Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, who arrived on a previously scheduled visit just hours after the Uighurs left, pledged $1.2 billion to Cambodia on Monday and also thanked the country for the deportations, a Cambodian government spokesman said.

Cambodia said it was expelling the Uighurs because they had illegally entered the country.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman defended the deportations Tuesday, called the handling of the Uighurs an "internal affair" and said there were "no strings attached" to the aid package.

"According to my knowledge, some are suspected of criminal cases," Jiang Yu told a regularly scheduled news briefing. "Public security forces will handle the relevant outlaws. Their whereabouts, I have no information to offer you."

The United States has said it was "deeply disturbed" by the deportations. State Department spokesman Gordon Duguid said the incident would affect Cambodia's relationship with the United States and its international standing.

The U.N.'s so-called special raporteur on torture, Manfred Nowak, expressed concern Tuesday the Uighurs could be abused. Nowak, an expert, said Cambodia had violated its obligations under the world body's convention against torture.

The group of Uighurs had made the journey from China's far west through to Vietnam and then Cambodia with the help of a network of missionary groups. Two Uighurs fled before the group was forced to return to China.

Overseas activist groups say Uighurs in China have been rounded up in mass detentions since the summer's violence in the Xinjiang region, where tensions have long simmered between the minority Uighurs and the majority Han Chinese.

China has handed down at least 17 death sentences — mostly to Uighurs — over the rioting.

China, Cambodia and the Uighurs

(CAAI News Media)

December 22, 2009

Just more than a year ago, Cambodia was praised by the United Nations for its work on behalf of refugees. It was one of only two nations in Southeast Asia to sign the 1951 international convention on refugees, and it opened a brand new office that seemed to suggest a new determination to protect refugees’ human rights.

That was then. Today, Cambodia has baldly violated its international commitments and put at risk the lives of 20 members of the Uighur minority — including two infants — who were forcibly deported back to China on Friday.

Poor, weak Cambodia is not the only villain in this piece. China shoulders even more blame for misusing its growing wealth and clout to force Cambodia to do its bidding. Already Cambodia’s largest foreign investor, China rewarded Cambodia on Monday with 14 deals, valued at an estimated $850 million, including help in building roads and repairing Buddhist temples.

The Uighurs, members of a Turkic-speaking Muslim minority who say the Chinese government discriminates against them, entered Cambodia about a month ago with the aid of Christian missionaries and asked for asylum. China has been cracking down on the Uighurs since the ethnic unrest in July, the worst in decades.

Beijing said that at least 197 people — mostly majority Han Chinese — were killed in that violence. Han Chinese retaliated and hundreds of Uighurs have since been detained. Several of the fugitive Uighurs told the United Nations in written statements that they had been involved in the unrest and feared lengthy jail terms or even the death penalty if they were returned to China.

Chinese authorities claimed the Uighurs were criminals but offered no proof. Such charges are often a specious excuse of repressive societies, but in any case the Uighurs had protected status while their asylum cases were being investigated by the United Nations’ refugee agency. China and Cambodia had a responsibility under international law to allow that process to be completed.

It is alarming that the United States, Europe and United Nations, despite making an effort, could not figure out a way to persuade Cambodia to do the right thing. They should make sure Cambodia pays a price for its behavior, but the focus must be on China, starting with an urgent demand for access to the 20 Uighurs to ensure that they are not mistreated. No Chinese refugee can feel safe if China is allowed to bully other countries into forcing them back to an uncertain and unjust future.

Chinese Vice President meets Cambodian King on relations

(CAAI News Media)

·Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping met Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni Tuesday.
·Xi said China attached great importance to bilateral relations with Cambodia.
·The Cambodian king thanked China for its long-term help to his country.

Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni (R) meets with visiting Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping in Phnom Penh, capital of Cambodia, Dec. 22, 2009. (Xinhua/Ma Zhanchang)

PHNOM PENH, Dec. 22 (Xinhua) -- Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping met Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni here on Tuesday to discuss bilateral relations.

Xi said China attached great importance to bilateral relations with Cambodia and was willing to enhance cooperation with the country, in a bid to push the Sino-Cambodia comprehensive cooperative partnership forward.

Cambodia had always firmly supported China on issues relating to its core and major interests, and was a good neighbor, friend and partner to China, Xi said.

It was the Chinese and Cambodian peoples' wish to further cement and develop the friendly cooperative relations, which served the fundamental interests of both countries, and was conducive to regional peace, stability and prosperity, Xi noted.

Sihamoni said China and Cambodia currently enjoyed a good relationship and had close cooperation in many fields. He believed Xi's visit would further promote friendship and cooperation between the two nations.

Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni (L, front) meets with visiting Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping (R, front) in Phnom Penh, capital of Cambodia, Dec. 22, 2009.(Xinhua/Ma Zhanchang)

The Cambodian king thanked China for its long-term help to his country, and spoke highly of China's achievements on both domestic and international issues.

Cambodia was willing to further develop the unity and friendship with China, and to see friendship growing between the two peoples.

Xi also attended the opening ceremony of the Confucius Institute in Phnom Penh on Tuesday.

Cambodia is the last leg of Xi's four-nation tour, which has also taken him to Japan, South Korea and Myanmar.

Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni (L) shakes hands with visiting Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping in Phnom Penh, capital of Cambodia, Dec. 22, 2009. (Xinhua/Ma Zhanchang)

Editor: Fang Yang

Chinese vice president meets Cambodian parliament leaders, stresses parliamentary cooperation

(CAAI News Media)

·Xi Jinping met Cambodian parliament leaders Chea Sim and Heng Samrin Tuesday.
·Both sides look to further cement parliamentary cooperation in the future.
·He hoped the two parliaments could further promote cooperation and exchange views.

Heng Samrin (R), president of Cambodian National Assembly, meets with visiting Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping in Phnom Penh, capital of Cambodia, Dec. 22, 2009.(Xinhua/Ma Zhanchang)

PHNOM PENH, Dec. 22 (Xinhua) -- Visiting Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping met Cambodian parliament leaders Chea Sim and Heng Samrin here on Tuesday, with both sides looking to further cement parliamentary cooperation in the future.

Xi said China highly valued Sino-Cambodia relations, and was willing to push mutually beneficial cooperation to bear more fruit.

Xi said the Cambodian National Assembly and the Senate had been paying great attention to bilateral relations and had been in close contact and cooperation with the Chinese National People's Congress.

Heng Samrin (R), president of Cambodian National Assembly, shakes hands with visiting Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping in Phnom Penh, capital of Cambodia, Dec. 22, 2009.(Xinhua/Ma Zhanchang)

The Assembly and the Senate had always supported China's stand on key issues relating to China's sovereignty and core interests, such as the issues of Taiwan and Tibet, which China highly appreciated, said the Chinese vice president.

He hoped the two parliaments could further promote cooperation and exchange views and experiences on state administration and legislative supervision, to contribute to the development and prosperity of the two nations.

Senate President Chea Sim said Cambodia and China had been increasing cooperation in areas such as trade, culture and tourism since the establishment of diplomatic relations more than 50 years ago. Cambodia was thankful to China's long-term support and assistance in the process of Cambodia's national reconciliation and economic and social development.

The Cambodian Senate was willing to strengthen cooperation with the Chinese National People's Congress and to push forward bilateral relations, Chea Sim said.

National Assembly President Heng Samrin said, since the establishment of bilateral ties, Cambodia had always stuck to a policy of friendship with China and was satisfied with the current development of bilateral relations.

The Cambodian National Assembly had kept close contact with the Chinese National People's Congress and was willing to work with the Chinese side to contribute to the unity, friendship, and peaceful development of the two nations, Heng Samrin said.

Both Chea Sim and Heng Samrin said Cambodia would always firmly support the one-China policy no matter what happened.

Cambodia is the last leg of Xi's four-nation tour, which has also taken him to Japan, South Korea, and Myanmar.

Editor: Fang Yang

Conference to boost investment in Cambodia

December 22, 2009

(CAAI News Media)

A conference on promoting Vietnam’s investments in Cambodia will be held in Ho Chi Minh City on December 26 as part of a joint effort to strengthen bilateral relations between the two countries.

The top level meeting with the theme “Promoting Vietnamese investments in Cambodia” will be co-chaired by Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and Cambodian counterpart Hun Sen.

Senior officials from the two countries’ ministries and State agencies will discuss with entrepreneurs about Cambodia’s latest strategies and policies for attracting foreign direct investment as well as its incentives for foreign investors, especially Vietnamese businesses.

The conference is expected to create an opportunity for agencies and investors from both countries to exchange their experiences and increase co-operation when looking for FDI.

According to statistics released by Vietnam’s Ministry of Planning and Investment, Vietnam is currently running 63 projects in Cambodia with a combined registered capital of over US$900 million. Vietnam has invested more than US$400 million in Cambodia in 2009 alone.

Cambodia is among the top three destinations for Vietnamese investors out of 50 countries and territories around the world.

Vietnamese projects in Cambodia mainly focus on forestry, agriculture, minerals, telecommunications, banking and insurance.

The conference will include the launching ceremony of the Association of Vietnamese Investors in Cambodia and a branch of the Cambodian Investors Association in Ho Chi Minh City.

HCM City hosts investment meet in Cambodia


(CAAI News Media)
HA NOI — A conference on promoting Vietnamese investment in Cambodia will be held in HCM City on Saturday, Deputy Minister of Planning and Investment Dang Huy Dong announced yesterday.

The national level conference will be presided over by Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

During the event, relevant ministries, sectors and businesses from the two nations will discuss the Cambodian investment climate, strategies on attracting foreign investment as well as its investment incentives, especially applied for Vietnamese investors.

Measures aiming to better facilitate Vietnamese enterprises in making investment in Cambodia will also be included.

Dong described the event as a good chance for enterprises to exchange experiences and foster investment co-operation. It will also witness the debut of the association for Vietnamese investors in Cambodia.

Viet Nam’s investment in Cambodia has enjoyed considerable growth, with 63 projects licensed to date and valued at US$900 million. That makes Cambodia one of the leading countries attracting investment from Viet Nam.

These projects are primarily focused on the exploration and exploitation of minerals, agriculture, forestry, banking, insurance and telecommunication. Viet Nam’s good relationship with its neighbours and a favourable geographic position gave Vietnamese investors an advantage over others, said Lai Quang Thuc, chairman of the Viet Nam-Laos-Cambodia Association for Economic Co-operation and Development. — VNS

Cambodia denies forcing drug users into 'experiment'

(CAAI News Media)

PHNOM PENH, Dec 22 (AFP) - Cambodian authorities on Tuesday denied a rights group's accusations that they forced drug addicts to participate in a "trial" of a herbal formula that is not registered in the country.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that since December 11, police have arrested 17 people from the streets and held them in a centre where they were given a course of the medication "with no indication of voluntary consent".

"Such a trial violates the rights of the forced participants and does not meet minimum scientific standards," HRW said of the course of the formula "Bong Sen", which took place on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.

Rebecca Schleifer, health and human rights advocacy director at HRW, said the "perverse experiment" was only made possible "by arbitrary detention and compelled participation".

"The use of coercive tactics to put drug users on a wholly unknown and unproven ‘cure’ for drug dependency violates the most fundamental principles of medical ethics and human rights," the group said.

Authorities in Cambodia said "Bong Sen" was not registered in the country but denied the course was a "drug trial", saying it was a programme to train Cambodian doctors in treating addictions with the herbal substance.

Neak Yuthea, director of the legislation, education, and rehabilitation department of the National Authority for Combating Drugs, said ten Vietnamese doctors helped train the Cambodians, who had no experience using the formula.

Authorities in Vietnam, where he said "Bong Sen" has been used effectively, provided the medication for the programme.

Neak Yuthea said 21 drug users from the Phnom Penh streets took part in the ten-day programme before being discharged.

"We did not arrest or force them but we persuaded them to participate in the programme voluntarily," he said.

One drug user who participated also told local media that he volunteered to participate in the programme.

Christophe Peschoux, representative for the UN High Commission for Human rights in Phnom Penh, told AFP he filed a "request to meet the individuals tested in order to establish the facts".

China denies linking Cambodia aid with Uighur case

(CAAI News Media)

22 Dec 2009
Source: Reuters

BEIJING, Dec 22 (Reuters) - China denied on Tuesday it had linked aid to Cambodia with the Southeast Asian nation's decision to deport a group of Uighurs back to China despite protests from the United Nations and the United States.

Cambodia signed 14 deals worth an estimated $850 million with China on Monday, two days after defying international pressure by expelling 20 Uighur asylum-seekers, underlining growing trade and diplomatic links. [ID:nSGE5BK02T]

Uighurs are a Turkic Muslim group native to China's far western region of Xinjiang, where ethnic rioting in July killed 197 people. Many there chafe under Chinese restrictions on their culture and religion.

A group of Uighurs were smuggled into Cambodia about a month ago and applied for asylum at the United Nations refugee office. Yet Cambodia brushed off concerns they would be mistreated if returned and deported them for immigration offences.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu declined to say where the deported Uighurs currently were, but said their case was not connected with China providing Cambodia aid.

"These accusations are groundless. These Chinese nationals' illegal boarder crossing and entry into Cambodia violated both China's Entry and Exit Law and relevant Cambodian laws," she told a regular news briefing in Beijing.

"Furthermore, they are suspected of crimes. I think any country in this situation has the right to make its own decision according to domestic laws," Jiang said.

U.S.-based Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer, reviled by Beijing as a separatist, wrote in the Wall Street Journal that Cambodia's deportation was "no doubt influenced by enormous Chinese pressure, backed by hundreds of millions of dollars in aid".

The U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights accused Cambodia of bowing to pressure and deporting the asylum seekers despite having given "strong assurances" it would be allowed to complete its investigation to determine their status.

The United States also condemned the deportations.

Jiang said such criticism was unwarranted and unwelcome.

"How to deal with these people is an internal Chinese affair which the outside world has no right to make irresponsible comments about," she said.

The deportations came as Vice-President Xi Jinping, seen as front-runner to succeed President Hu Jintao, was beginning a visit to Cambodia.

China is Cambodia's largest source of foreign direct investment, having pumped more than $4.3 billion into the impoverished nation, and also funds projects ranging from roads and irrigation to a new a parliament building.

Jiang said China attached no strings to its aid to Cambodia.

"China and Cambodia have been maintaining a comprehensive and cooperative partnership. We provide what aid we can to Cambodia, and without any conditions." (For a factbox on Cambodia-China relations: [ID:nTOE5BH04A]) (Reporting by Liu Zhen; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Paul Tait)

Landmine kills Cambodian soldier at border: commander

(CAAI News Media)

PHNOM PENH, Dec 22 (AFP) - A Cambodian soldier has died after stepping on an old landmine near an ancient border temple that has been the scene of bloody clashes with Thailand, a commander said Tuesday.

The incident happened on Monday evening near the ancient eastern staircases of the 11th century Preah Vihear temple, said Major General Srey Doek, who oversees military operations in the area.

"The soldier stepped on an old landmine and lost both of his legs. He died at a hospital due to bleeding," he said.

The border with Thailand has never been fully demarcated, in part because it is littered with landmines left over from decades of war in Cambodia.

There have been deadly skirmishes between the two countries on the disputed frontier since the ruins were granted UN World Heritage status in July 2008.

Although the World Court ruled in 1962 that the ancient Khmer temple belonged to Cambodia, the most accessible entrance to it is in northeastern Thailand.

Thailand's Thaksin leaves Cambodia: official

(CAAI News Media)


PHNOM PENH, Tues: Thailand’s fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra has left Cambodia after spending more than a week stepping up his advisory role and meeting Thai supporters, an official said Tuesday.

Thaksin, who arrived in Phnom Penh on December 13 for a second visit as an economic adviser to the Cambodian government, departed on Monday morning, said deputy cabinet minister Prak Sokhon.

“He left Cambodia yesterday at around 10 am (0300 GMT),” he said.

Officials would not disclose his destination. Thaksin, who was ousted in a 2006 coup, has based himself in Dubai and travelled widely since leaving Thailand in August last year to escape a two-year jail term for corruption.

During his stay in Cambodia, Thaksin addressed top government officials on how to boost investment, tourism and agriculture.

He also met scores of his “Red Shirt” supporters from Thailand, where he remains a hugely influential figure, witnesses and officials said.

Relations between Thailand and Cambodia, who have fought a string of deadly gunbattles on their border since last year, plunged following Thaksin’s appointment as an adviser last month. - AFP

China says handling with citizens deported from Cambodia its own affair


(CAAI News Media)

BEIJING, Dec. 22 (Xinhua) -- China said on Tuesday that it was the country's internal affair to deal with the citizens deported from Cambodia, who were suspected of committing criminal offences, and the outside world should not make irresponsible remarks.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu made the remarks at a regular news briefing in response to a question on Cambodia's deportation of 20 Chinese citizens of the Uygur ethnic group.

Cambodia deported the Chinese citizens according to its immigration law and China received them according to the customs, said Jiang.

The Chinese nationals illegally cross the border to break the laws both in China and Cambodia. They were also suspected of committing criminal offenses, she said.

"Any country facing such circumstances is entitled to make its own decision in accordance with its domestic laws," Jiang said.

"How to handle with these people is the internal affair of China, and the outside world shall not make irresponsible remarks," Jiang said.

"China is a country under the rule of law. Judicial authorities will deal with these people's illegal criminal activities in accordance with the law and safeguard their legitimate rights."

Commenting on whether the deportation was linked with China's assistance to Cambodia, Jiang said both countries have maintained comprehensive and cooperative partnership, and "We provide assistance to Cambodia in line with our own capacity and without any strings attached."

Editor: Fang Yang

Vietnam, Cambodia strengthen judicial cooperation

(CAAI News Media)


The Vietnamese and Cambodian ministers of justice have briefly discussed a draft agreement on legal aid in civil and trade matters during a visit to Cambodia by a delegation from the Vietnamese Ministry of Justice.

Vietnamese Minister Ha Hung Cuong and his counterpart, Ang Vong Vattana, held an official meeting in Phnom Penh on December 22 to exchange experiences in the field and discuss ways to boost cooperation between the two Ministries of Justice.

The agreement under discussion is expected to facilitate the settlement of disputes arising from civil and trade matters.

At the end of the meeting, the two judicial ministers signed a Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation between the two ministries in improving professional skills, legislation, and human resources training. Accordingly, the Vietnamese Ministry of Justice will help train employees of its Cambodian counterpart.

As part of the official visit to Cambodia from December 21-24, Minister Ha greeted Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, and worked with the President of the Cambodian Supreme Court, Dith Munty, and its General Prosecutor Chea Leang.

China's VP joins Deputy Prime Minister inaugurates Khong Zi institute

Tuesday, 22 December 2009 10:36 DAP-NEWS/ Ek Madra

(CAAI News Media)

PHNOM PENH- Cambodia's Deputy Prime Minister Sok An and China's Vice President Xi Jingping inaugurated a Chinese-funded Khong Chi Institute on Tuesday, a move that "contributes to the development of culture and education".

Speaking at the colorful ceremony, which attended by more than 2,000 including the government officials and students in Dangkor district, Phnom Penh, Dr. Sok An also "thanked Chinese government's assistance for Cambodia's economic and social development".

"This fruitful result reflects a good relation and cooperation which has been in place for a long period of time between the Kingdom of Cambodia and the People's Republic of China (PRC)," said Dr. Sok An, who is also Minister in charge of the Council of Ministers, told the crowd.

"The two countries have always taken the position as common basis by respecting each others' sovereignty and mutual interests and in this regard Cambodia has always been in the position of support 'One-China Policy'." he said.

China announced on Monday to offer another $1.2 billion US in grant aid and loans for Cambodia to develop her nation, whose physical infrastructures were devastated by wars, said the information minister Khieu Kahnarith.

The pledge was made on Monday in the bilateral meeting between the Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen and China’s Vice President Xi Jingping who is visiting this Southeast Asian nation this week.

Kanharith also said that the latest aid from China on Monday of $1.2 billion US making the total aid package up to $2.23 billion US including a $930 US that Cambodia received from China since 1992.

“China’s assistance enables Cambodia to strengthen her political independence as a sovereign state,” Kanharith told a news conference after the meeting at the Council of Ministers.
China, who is Cambodia’s biggest donor, said Beijing continues to assist Cambodia especially in the area of trade, agriculture and tourism—which are the country’s backbone economies, he said.

The Vice President Xi Jingping is pleased with the Cambodia’s development over the years and said Cambodia has been playing a key role in term of China-ASEAN context, said Kanharith.

Cambodia’s growth hit double digits in the period 2005- 2007.

In response, Prime Minister Hun Sen thanked Xi Jingping for his 20-22 December’s visit during which both sides also signed 14 relevant documents on bilateral cooperation.

Among those are: the exchange notes of the construction project of new office buildings for the Senate, restoration for Takeo temple, economic and technical cooperation, concessional loans for road constructions as well as the framework agreement on transport and infrastructure cooperation.

Cambodia’s infrastructures were destroyed by the civil war started in 1970s. The war was ended in 1998`, the same year Pol Pot, architecture of Khmer Rouge regime (1975- 1979) blamed for the death of an estimated 1.7 million died of starvation, execution, disease and forced labor.

China has provided Cambodia with the duty free access of 418 items for exports to China’s market.

“China wants us to export more products to their country, but to do that we need Chinese investors to come and invest in our country as well,” said Kahnarith.

China is also the Cambodia’s biggest foreign direct investment (FDI) and has invested over $1 billion US in 2007, according to the Cambodia’s investment agency report.

“We will increase our exchange visiting program to each other, so that we could learn from each others on many sectors for the benefit of both countries,” he said.

Prime Minister Hun Sen told China’s Vice President Xi Jinping in the meeting that “this visit is a proven fact that contributes to the strengthening of friendly relationship and partnership between the two countries.”

Mr. Qian Hai, of the Chinese embassy in Phnom Penh, shared Cambodia's comments.

Dr. Sok An, who greeted Xi Jingping's arrival on Sunday in Siem Reap province, the home of Angkor, saw off the delegation on Tuesday afternoon.

Heading to market


(CAAI News Media)

Tuesday, 22 December 2009 15:00 Heng Chivoan

Lout Sol prepares the head of a wild boar for sale at the local market in Battambang last week. Sol, a professional hunter, told the Post he sells the meat for around 10,000 riels per kilogram. He offered incense while praying to Buddha for another good kill.

Mud fishing


(CAAI News Media)

Monday, 21 December 2009 15:01 Heng Chivoan

After draining part of a small dam to water his rice crop in Koh Krolor district, Battambang, last week, Sdeng Sam Oeun, 50, along with his granddaughter Noy Srey Vin (left, holding a fish), catch fish squirming in the mud.

Police Blotter: 22 Dec 2009

(CAAI News Media)

Tuesday, 22 December 2009 15:01 Phak Seangly
Partying policeman shoots, kills self
A 31-year-old police officer on Sunday morning accidently shot and killed himself with his own pistol in Phnom Penh’s Chamkarmon district, witnesses said. The victim had returned to his own rented room after a party and began calling out to his neighbours while carrying his pistol. Witnesses said he removed the bullets to show that it was not loaded, pointed the gun at his head and pulled the trigger five times. On the fifth pull, the gun fired.

Con man arrested in seafood scam
A 44-year-old man accused of cheated his fellow villagers of money in Phnom Penh’s Chamkarmon district was arrested on Monday. The incident occurred on December 13 when the suspect had persuaded people to lend him US$30 to buy seafood for a top government official but pocketed the money instead. He was later found perpetrating a similar con in nearby Song Khak Rak commune but was arrested. Police said the suspect had used a government official’s name for all his scams.

Man arrested for raping sick wife
Police said a 39-year-old man was arrested Wednesday in Kandal province’s Saang district on suspicion of raping his wife. The suspect’s 40-year-old wife accused her husband of forcing her to have sex while she was suffering from a uterine disease that had required her to stop work for three months, police said. On the night of the incident, police said the victim’s drunken husband had tried to persuade her to have sex twice. When she declined, he tied her up and raped her. Police said the suspect is to be sent to provincial court.

Child Rape suspect evades arrest
Police said that a man who attempted to rape a 10-year-old girl in Phnom Penh’s Russey Keo district on Saturday had successfully evaded arrest. The victim’s family members have said that the perpetrator should pay US$3,000 in compensation when he is arrested and should be brought before the court immediately. Advocates with the local human rights group Licadho provided assistance to the victim and helped file a complaint at Phnom Penh Municipal Court.

Controversial drug trial to expand

Photo by: Irwin Loy
A man wears the logo of a Vietnamese-produced herbal drug in Phnom Penh after finishing a controversial drug detoxification trial Monday.

(CAAI News Media)

Tuesday, 22 December 2009 15:03 Chhay Channyda and Irwin Loy

AUTHORITIES will expand a controversial drug treatment programme using a little-known herbal medication, officials said Monday, following the end of a 10-day trial that has drawn outrage from rights groups and concern from UN officials.

Twenty-one people – drug users plucked from the streets in dragnets widely condemned by rights groups – were released Monday after 10 days of detoxification treatment involving a Vietnamese-manufactured herbal medication called Bong Sen.

“The 10-day programme trained our doctors to become experts to cure addicted people by using Bong Sen,” said Neak Yuthea, director of the Legislation, Education and Rehabilitation Department of the National Authority for Combating Drugs (NACD). “This treatment by using Bong Sen is very effective.”

Neak Yuthea said authorities have formed a committee, including officials from the Social Affairs and Health ministries, as well as the NACD to look at expanding the programme – likely within the capital.

“There are many interpretations about our treatment,” Neak Yuthea said. “But we did not arrest people or force them into an experiment. We cured them.”

News of plans to expand the programme was greeted with outrage by rights groups.

“If by expanding the trial they mean continuing with arbitrary arrests, then that would be outrageous,” said Mathieu Pellerin, a consultant with local rights group Licadho.

“This whole thing is already outrageous.”

The drug users had been kept at Orkas Khnom, or My Chance, a drug treatment centre on the outskirts of the city run by Phnom Penh’s Department of Social Affairs.

On Monday, they were released and driven to where officials believed they lived.

Neak Yuthea said some were going to be returned to their home villages. Others were dropped off around the capital, including in the Boeung Trabek area in a neighbourhood popular among some drug users.

One man, who asked not to be identified, told the Post he volunteered for the trial after being asked by police officers.

“They told me the treatment had been successful in Vietnam, so I thought I would try,” said the man, a heroin user for seven years.

On his chest, the man wore a gold badge, bearing the name of the drug, as well as the logo of Fataco Ban Tre, the Vietnamese company that manufactures Bong Sen and participated in the trial.

The man, clutching a copy of a certificate of completion from officials involved with the trial, as well as a group photo showing other participants and a Fataco Ban Tre official, said he believed Bong Sen had helped him.

“Before, I used drugs to forget about my family problems. I wanted to stop, but it was hard to do by myself,” he said. “The trial was good because I don’t think about taking drugs anymore. Now I just want to eat.”

But UN officials said they were worried that the treatment programme was lacking in basic follow-up supports necessary to ensure its success. It is unclear whether participants will be offered counselling, regular health checks or vocational training, for example – services that are in short supply in Cambodia.

“Detoxification is just the first part of the process,” said Graham Shaw, technical officer on drug use with the World Health Organisation in Cambodia.

“Evidence shows people will relapse several times or more before they finally kick the habit completely.”

At the moment, follow-up services are offered predominantly by a smattering of NGOs, he said.

“They’re very few and far between, even for people who are not drug users,” Shaw said.

Vietnamese cooperation
The drug trial appears to be the product of drug policy ties between Cambodia and the Vietnamese government, which has previously pledged to provide medical equipment, addiction medication and experts to build detoxification centres.

Deputy Prime Minister and NACD head Ke Kim Yan advocated for Bong Sen’s introduction in Cambodia following an August visit to Vietnam, said Neak Yuthea.

Earlier this month, officials originally asked Mith Samlanh and Korsang, two local groups that work with street drug users, to “cooperate” in the trial by encouraging their clients to participate, Neak Yuthea said. Both organisations declined.

China VP lauds govt for return of Uighurs

(CAAI News Media)

Tuesday, 22 December 2009 15:03 Cheang Sokha and Sebastian Strangio

CHINA has thanked Cambodia for deporting 20 ethnic Uighurs who travelled to the Kingdom in a bid to seek political asylum, a government official said on Monday.

The Uighurs, part of a group of 22 – two remain on the run – who fled ethnic violence in China’s restive Xinjiang province in July, were forcibly deported to China on Saturday night after being detained by Cambodian police a day earlier.

“China has thanked the government of Cambodia for assisting in sending back those people to China, because they are criminals under Chinese law,” government spokesman Khieu Kanharith told reporters after a ceremony in which Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping and senior Cambodian officials signed 14 economic aid agreements totalling US$1.2 billion.

Xi’s three-day visit has been overshadowed by a storm of protests over the deportation, which rights groups have labelled a “grave breach” of international law. A statement issued by acting US state department spokesman Gordon Daguid on Monday said the US “strongly opposed” the deportation, warning it would “affect Cambodia’s relationship with the US and its international standing”.

Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, said the deportation was clearly linked to the arrival of Xi on Sunday and the incentives promised by his visit.

Officials “want to be showing good will during the visit of the Chinese vice president”, he said, adding that the credibility of the Cambodian government is “very shaky” in the wake of the deportation.

Also Monday, UN High Commissioner for Refugees officials met with diplomats to brief them on steps the agency is taking in the aftermath of the deportation, said Andrew Mace, the British ambassador to Cambodia. Mace said UNHCR officials had also met with the Foreign Ministry on Monday morning to discuss the issue.

In a faxed statement issued Monday, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said China had received the Uighurs “in accordance with routine practice”.

“China resolutely opposes ... illegal border-crossing activities and advocates greater cooperation among the international community to work together to combat crime,” she said.


Asylum policy failed Uighurs, activists say

(CAAI News Media)

Tuesday, 22 December 2009 15:03 Sebastian Strangio

REFUGEE advocates have criticised a new sub-decree handing responsibility for asylum cases to the Ministry of Interior, two days after 20 Uighur asylum seekers were deported to China in the face of international protests.

Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, said on Sunday that the sub-decree, signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen on Thursday, transfers control of asylum-case processing from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to the ministry.

Twenty out of a group of 22 Uighurs who had applied for asylum through UNHCR last month were detained on Friday and forcibly deported to China the next day, inciting outrage among rights activists and UNHCR officials.

Cambodian officials had previously said that they were cooperating with UNHCR in processing the asylum claims.

On Sunday, Kitty McKinsey, spokeswoman for UNHCR in Asia, said the new sub-decree – transferring “full responsibility for registering refugees, processing, screening and adjudicating cases” – was the culmination of a long-standing effort to nationalise the asylum process in line with the 1951 Refugee Convention.

In an article published by UNHCR in October 2008, Cambodia – as one of just two Southeast Asian nations to have signed the 1951 Refugee Convention – was hailed as being on track to become a “refugee model” for Southeast Asia.

The article followed the signing of an agreement between UNHCR and the government that month that began the transfer of all asylum cases – except Montagnards from Vietnam – to a new Cambodian Refugee Office housed at the Department of Immigration.

The article described the change of location as “an important move – symbolic of this country’s determination to take on new responsibilities in protecting refugees’ human rights”.

Refugee advocates, however, said the deportation of the Uighurs and the events leading up to it showed the risks of transferring control of asylum cases to the government.

" It is clear that the transfer of control to the government has failed."

Rights activists familiar with the case said that on the Wednesday prior to their detention, 20 of the 22 Uighurs were rounded up and transported in UNHCR vehicles under Cambodian police escort to a site under joint government-UNHCR administration. The whereabouts of the two remaining Uighurs are unknown.

Sister Denise Coughlan, director of Jesuit Refugee Services (JRS), which was involved with the Uighur case, said she was “shocked” at how the Cambodian government’s apparent reversal after formally requesting UNHCR assistance to determine the status of the Uighur group, offering to provide a safe house while their applications were pending. “Like sheep going to the slaughter, the people went to the safe house clearly believing they were going to be protected,” she said.

Sara Colm, as senior researcher for Human Rights Watch, agreed that the deportation had challenged the optimism that the transfer of asylum cases to the government would turn Cambodia into a safe haven for refugees.

“It is clear that the transfer of control to the government has failed, and now as a result you have 20 people who are at risk of losing their lives,” she said.

She also said the drafting of the sub-decree had been secretive and closed to most of those involved in refugee issues.

“It’s been an increasingly non-transparent process,” she said. “As far as we know, none of the government’s partners in refugee resettlement and processing – aside from UNHCR – saw the sub-decree or were invited to comment on it.”

When asked on Monday whether it was possible to obtain a copy of the order, Khieu Sopheak would not comment and hung up the phone.

McKinsey said on Sunday that despite Saturday’s deportation, which she said

UNHCR had tried to prevent, the agency will continue to work closely with the government to ensure a fair process for asylum applicants.

She emphasised, however, that only states have the power to provide protection for asylum seekers.

“We work very diligently and sincerely to assist the government and provide protection, but if a state has signed the Refugee Convention, it’s up to the state itself to provide protection,” she said.

Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, agreed that UN agencies cannot substitute for states in ensuring protection. “It’s proper to put the burden on the state,” he said. “In this case, the UNHCR is doing the right thing by asking the government to do its job.”

However, Coughlan said, UNHCR involvement will continue to be an important element of Cambodia’s adherence to the convention.
“What is desirable is that

UNHCR are involved in the refugee-status-determination process, and that no matter what the sub-decree says, there is no infringement to the right to asylum in Cambodia, and that due process will be followed,” she said.