Wednesday, 27 January 2010

DAP News ; Breaking News by Soy Sopheap

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PM Hun Sen Opens South Korean Culture Center

Tuesday, 26 January 2010 23:39 DAP-NEWS

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday officially opened the South Korean Culture and Trade Center located near National Assembly.

“This center will guarantee more confidence for South Korean investors to invest here and it will help us tell about ancient Khmer and South Korean traditions and culture,” Hun Sen said at opening ceremony attended by governmental officials, businesspeople and the South Korean ambassador. “It will be a model and main gate to provide information on tourism, the climate of investment of Cambodia for South Korea businesspeople and cultural ties,” he added.

South Korea investors and tourists have played a key role for economic growth, he said, expressing hopes that from the center will urge more South Korean businesses to invest in Cambodia, and will help promote tourism.

The center, officially named the Phnom Penh-Daegu Gyeongbuk Culture, Tourism, and Trade Promotion Center, cost over US$8.7 million provided by South Korea, with the Phnom Penh authorities providing a plot of land. The center is said to be “in dedication to close friendship and solidarity between the South Korea and Cambodia.” The center was proposed when former South Korean president who here in 2006 and continued by current South Korean President Lee. Cambodia and South Korea have expanded their diplomatic ties over the past few years.

Last year, Cambodia signed the ASEAN trade agreement to expand trade and investment between the two partners.

Bun Rany Launches HIV Handbook

Tuesday, 26 January 2010 23:39 DAP-NEWS

First Lady and President of the Cambodian Red Cross Bun Rany Hun Sen will preside over the launch of the Parliamentary Handbook on HIV and AIDS, a press release from the UNDP said on Tuesday.

The event will be held at the National Assembly on January 29 with the attendance of Health Minister Mam Bun Heng.

The development of the Handbook has been a joint effort undertaken by UNDP’s Legal Assistance Project (LEAP) and UNAIDS in collaboration with the Parl-iament and the National AIDS Authority.

The Prasit Project funded by USAID has also provided additional technical support for the development of the Handbook. The Parliamentary Handbook is a user-friendly resource, presenting brief and concise information that Members of Parliament need to know about the epidemic, its causes, responses, as well as parliamentarians’ roles and responsibilities, enabling a more effective response across policy, advocacy, leadership and legislative areas. The First lady is also the National Champion for the Asia Pacific leadership Forum on HIV/AIDS and Development (APLF).

UN Envoy Optimistic About Human Rights

Tuesday, 26 January 2010 23:37 DAP-NEWS

The United Nations Envoy on Human Rights in Cambodia on Tuesday said he is optimistic about the situation in Cambodia, but said there is much room for improvement.

Surya Subedi said at a press conference at United Nation Development Program main office in Phnom Penh that he had productive talks with Cam-bodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on January 19, 2010.

He said he was that the government said it will cooperate with NGOs and human rights bodies in Cambodia. However, he urged the government to pay more attention to human rights issues.

“I am very pleased with the meeting and the progress we have made this morning,” Subedi told reporters. “It was a meeting of substance; we discussed a wide range of issues, and we have made progress here for the betterment of the people of Cambodia.”

Om Yentieng, head of the government’s human rights committee, told reporters that Premier Hun Sen and Subedi agreed to cooperate. How long such cooperation lasts depends upon the UN human rights office in Cambodia, he said. Subedi spent two-weeks to assess if state institutions are properly addressing human rights violations. The issue of alleged forced land evictions was discussed with Hun Sen, he said.

Last October, Subedi told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva that freedom of speech was deteriorating in Cambodia after several government critics were convicted of defamation.

Yash Ghai, the former UN envoy, repeatedly clashed with Hun Sen’s government over human rights. Ghai had reported that many Cambodians lived in constant fear of having their land stolen by real estate developers and had no recourse because of a corrupt judiciary.

Hun Sen once described Ghai as “unfit,” saying he was sent to Cambodia to “curse” his government and calling him a “long term tourist.” The Cambodian PM never met Ghai in person.

Rainsy Trial Begins Without Defendant

Tuesday, 26 January 2010 23:37 DAP-NEWS

Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy will not be present in his trial which begins on Wednesday at the Svay Rieng Provincial Court, according to Rainsy’s lawyer.

Sam Rainsy, leader of the eponymous political party and lawmaker for Kampong Cham province, was charged by the Svay Rieng Provincial Court over the pulling up of 6 Cambodia-Vietnam border markers on October 25, 2009.

Choung Chungi, Rainsy’s lawyer, said that he is ready to defend his client. “The trial will start at 8am. For me, I do not worry at all because I have got so much information from my client, Sam Rainisy. I have to full my duty … I have prepared already,” he said. According to the lawyer, 5 villagers arrested related to the case will also be tried the same day.

Svay Rieng Police Commissioner told DAP News Cambodia police will be deployed to keep the peace during the proceedings.

Tith Sothea, government advisor, said that Sam Rainsy could be charged with another offense related to the case.

He told DAP News Cambodia that the government is considering charging him with other offenses if he still insists on the correctness of the the legal 15-page document, including internationally recognized maps, he has uploaded on the internet.

“Sam Rainsy’s remarks were very incorrect and I can say that Sam Rainsy made like this is to instigate to hide his fault,” he claimed.

The SRP has urged reconciliation. Lawmaker Chea Poch made the appeal after Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen insisted that he would not request the Cambodian King pardon Sam Rainsy if he is convicted. The premier said that he has already helped Raisny get a pardon several times.

Hun Sen opens Korea centre

Photo by: Heng Chivoan

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Wednesday, 27 January 2010 15:04 Heng Chivoan

Prime Minister Hun Sen and Kim Kwan Yung, governor of South Korea’s Gyeongsangbuk-do province, cut a ribbon officially opening the US$8.7 million Cambodia-Korea Culture, Tourism and Trade Promotion Centre in Phnom Penh on Tuesday morning.

Celebrating traditional textiles

Photo by: Byron Perry

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Wednesday, 27 January 2010 15:03 Rann Reuy

A woman weaves textiles in Siem Reap province on Tuesday. The Apsara Authority is seeking bids for the construction of a museum of traditional textiles, to be located in Siem Reap and funded by the Indian government, Nget Chhayly, deputy director of Apsara’s Finance Department, said Monday.

Rainsy sentenced to two years' jail

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Wednesday, 27 January 2010 16:28 Meas Sokchea and Sebastian Strangio


PHNOM PENH—SVAY RIENG provincial court has found opposition leader Sam Rainsy guilty of racial incitement and destroying demarcation posts on the border with Vietnam, lawyers said. In a closed-door session on Wednesday, Judge Koam Chhean sentenced the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) president to two years prison in absentia and fined him 8 million (around US$1,927), said Sam Sokong, the defense attorney of two villagers accused on similar charges.

“I cannot accept the trial today, because it did not take evidence and proof into consideration to find justice,” Sam Sokong said. “The court did not base its decision on the evidence.” He added that his clients – local villagers Meas Srey, 39, and Prom Chea, 41 – were also sentenced to one year in prison each on the charge of destroying public property. Rights activists also reported that the three were ordered to pay 55 million riels ($13,253) in compensation for the removal of the border markers.

The charges stemmed from an October 25 incident in which Sam Rainsy joined villagers in uprooting six temporary border markers in Svay Rieng’s Chantrea district. Locals claimed they were placed in their ricefields by Vietnamese authorities. Sam Rainsy is currently in France.

Long Ry, an SRP lawmaker who attended the trial, also rejected the verdict, saying the proceedings were a farce. “The decision was prepared beforehand and everything was decided in advance. The court ‘acted’ very well,” he said.

But one government official said the criticisms were misplaced, since all Cambodian judges followed due process and adhered to the law. “Everyone has different ideas, but we have one law,” said Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers. “We have to accept the judge’s decision.”

UN linked to suspect rehab site

Photo by: Roberta Valerio
A man injects drugs on the streets of Phnom Penh. A recent report from Human Rights Watch contends that government-run rehabilitation centres are both ineffective and abusive.

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Wednesday, 27 January 2010 15:05 Irwin Loy

THE UN agency responsible for advocating on behalf of children is facing questions over its involvement in a government-run drug rehabilitation centre – a facility a prominent rights watchdog says subjects detainees to violence while administering ineffective treatment.

UNICEF’s child-protection team has been providing technical support to the Youth Rehabilitation Centre in Choam Chao district for at least three years, according to an unpublished 2007 report produced by the National Authority for Combating Drugs, the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation.

A scathing report from Human Rights Watch released Monday asserts that drug users and other people sent to the Youth Rehabilitation Centre and 10 other such facilities live under threat of abuses such as physical and sexual violence and forced confinement.

Any kind of support for these centres, HRW contends, is cause for grave concern.

“These centres … operate outside of the law and without any accountability,” said Joe Amon, HRW’s director for health and human rights.

“Supporting activities in these centres risks legitimising them and could raise serious concerns about complicity with the abuses occurring within them.”

But UNICEF says the technical support it has provided to the Ministry of Social Affairs, which runs the Choam Chao centre, has been constructive.

“UNICEF has been supporting [the ministry] to ensure… the rights of those children to education, better opportunity for future employment through vocational training, recovery and reintegration and follow-up support services,” the agency said in a statement Tuesday.

The statement noted that reviews conducted in 2005, 2007 and 2008 found no evidence of “major violations”.

“No major violations were reported or documented on those reports,” UNICEF said.

The statement made a distinction between the Choam Chao facility – which it describes as “open”, or voluntary – and “closed” centres.

“UNICEF does not support the establishment of closed rehabilitation or reformatory centres for children in conflict with the law,” the statement read.

The HRW report, however, says that some people at the Choam Chao facility are held against their will. It cites interviews with former detainees to support that contention.

Former detainees interviewed by the Post also reported being sent to Choam Chao against their will as part of police street sweeps.

“They never gave a reason to us. They just didn’t want us to stay on the street,” said one former detainee, who asked that she not be named.

“They pointed at the car, and then they pushed me in.”

UNICEF’s ties to the Choam Chao facility highlight the conundrum aid groups and UN agencies face when debating whether to support official institutions that rights groups allege are havens of abuse.

“I think it’s a really difficult issue,” said Virginia Macdonald, a former consultant with the World Health Organisation (WHO) who worked in the offices of the NACD for more than two years.

Though she said she understood the argument behind HRW’s calls for the UN to urge the closure of such facilities, she added that the type of technical support provided by aid agencies could also be helpful.

“Surely it’s better for the participants that at least there’s some other organisation there that can at least witness what’s happening and hopefully improve capacity. I don’t think you can just say it’s definitely wrong for them to be in there,” she said.

During her time in Cambodia, Macdonald made visits to six rehabilitation centres named in the HRW report, she said.

“If those centres can’t provide ... healthcare, HIV treatment and testing, then you’re better off having an NGO go in and at least provide those services,” she said.

While UNICEF has chosen to get involved, other UN agencies have debated the issue and ultimately decided to hold back.

“There is no easy position to take. It’s for each agency to make the call themselves,” said Graham Shaw, the technical adviser for drug use with the WHO in Cambodia. “We do not feel support for staff at treatment centres is commensurate with a policy of advocating their closure.”

Instead of providing technical support to the centres directly, the WHO has offered to assist the Ministry of Health in the hope that ministry staff can offer health services in the controversial centres, Shaw said.

“If there were effective monitoring of people in these centres, then I think some assistance to [the centres] might be appropriate,” Shaw said. “But in their current state, providing assistance to staff working in these centres, for the WHO’s position, is very problematic.”

‘Tortured’ girl gives tearful testimony

Photo by: Photo Supplied
Meas Nary weeps as she answers to allegations that she beat her domestic servant (right) during a hearing at Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday. A verdict in the case is expected February 19. left: phA LINA; right:

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Wednesday, 27 January 2010 15:04 May Titthara and Khuon Leakhana

Former domestic servant says ‘godmother’ tied her to a ladder and beat her when she was angry

AN 11-year-old girl who officials believe was subjected to frequent beatings and other abuses while being held captive as a domestic servant faced her alleged tormentors during an emotional day of testimony in Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday.

The girl, who was discovered after police conducted a raid on a house in Phnom Penh in October, told the court of the abuse she said she suffered at the hands of the woman she knew as her “godmother”.

“My godmother beat me by using pliers, clothes hangers, a broom and whips, every time she got angry,” the girl said. “Sometimes she tied me to a ladder and beat me.”

She went on to testify that her “godmother”, Meas Nary, justified the beatings by saying that the girl had failed to adequately complete her assigned household chores

“My godmother forced me to clean the floor, water flowers, clean the kitchen and cut the grass in the villa. When she came back home, she beat me and said that I did not clean well,” the girl said.

“When she bathed me, she took cleaning material mixed with soap to clean my wounds. It hurt me, but if I cried, she beat me.”

The girl was found after police in Phnom Penh, acting on a tip from neighbours, burst into the villa where she was being held. Police and rights workers said she had been held captive and forced to work as a domestic servant since 2008.

Police have described the constant violence she endured as “torture” – beatings that left her body covered with horrific scars.

“Her whole body from her head down was covered with frightening scars and wounds from her mistreatment,” police said at the time.

Three people were arrested as a result of the raid. Meas Nary and her husband, Va Saroeun, are charged with inflicting injury on the girl and with human trafficking, Phnom Penh Municipal Court Deputy Prosecutor Hing Bunchea said. A third, Thoeung Reth, is accused of selling the girl to the couple for US$400 in 2008. She also faces human trafficking charges.

Meas Nary on Tuesday admitted to the court that she beat the girl.

“The reason I hurt her is because she was a stubborn child. I could not control my anger, so I beat her,” Meas Nary said. “I beat her because I wanted to educate her on how to be a good daughter… I love her as my own daughter.”

Thoeung Reth said she had raised the girl since she was only a toddler, after the girl’s mother asked her to look after her, promising to pay her 60,000 riels (US$14) per month.

“I have never got any money from her mother since she asked me to look after her daughter,” Thoeung Reth told the court. “She has never come back to visit.”

Thoeung Reth said she thought she was helping the girl by giving her away.

“The reason I sent [the girl] to live with Meas Nary is because I wanted her to have a bright future and get an education,” she said.

A verdict is to be announced on February 19. The girl has asked for $5,000 in compensation.

Sue Taylor, manager of the psychosocial services department of Hagar International, the NGO that has been helping to rehabilitate the girl, said Tuesday that the opportunity to testify in court was a key step in her healing process.

“She was actually really shaking. She was crying,” Taylor said. “But she was able to calm down. She was actually very confident and gave evidence. She was clear and strong. We were very proud of her.”

Prior to the hearing, staff from Hagar worked with the girl so that she would know what to expect in court, Taylor said. For example, they created a simulation of the court in which dolls were substituted for real-life judges, lawyers and witnesses.

The girl has been attending school and is living with a foster family, Taylor said.

“When this whole court process is behind her, it will close the door on this chapter of her life, and she will be able to focus on her schooling and developing,” Taylor said.

A 2004 survey by the Cambodian government and the International Labour Organisation found that there were almost 28,000 children working in domestic service in Phnom Penh alone.

UN human rights envoy says Cambodia has made progress

Photo by: Pha Lina
UN human rights envoy Surya Subedi speaks Tuesday at a press conference marking the close of his second official mission to the Kingdom. The press conference was held at the offices of the UN Development Programme in Phnom Penh.

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Wednesday, 27 January 2010 15:04 Sebastian Strangio

AT the end of his second official mission to Cambodia, the UN’s special rapporteur for human rights has sounded an optimistic note, describing as “open and candid” his discussions with senior officials.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, Surya Subedi said that although Cambodia “still falls short” of standards outlined in international rights treaties, there has been considerable progress since his last visit.

“I am encouraged by the progress made by Cambodia in a number of areas since my last visit in June 2009, and by the willingness on the part of the government to work with me to identify the problems and address them together,” he said in the statement.

Subedi said areas of progress included the strengthening of the legal framework to manage land evictions and resettlements, the adoption of an updated Penal Code and “continued efforts” to reform the prison system.

He added: “I hope that the government will move towards more inclusive, participatory and transparent decision-making processes on issues which have a direct impact on people’s human rights.”

Subedi, who held meetings with Prime Minister Hun Sen and other officials during his 12-day visit, said his mission had moved beyond the “familiarisation” phase to one in which he would offer recommendations for improving the rights situation here.

Recommendations in the statement included raising the budget for the court system in a bid to promote judicial independence and bolstering the National Assembly’s status as a forum for open debate.

Subedi noted that although officials had been “receptive” to a recommendation for a set of national guidelines on land evictions and resettlements, they did not agree to a moratorium on evictions in the interim.

“The difficulty [is] that developmental activities have to be carried on,” he said at a press conference on Tuesday.

Subedi’s statement shied away from direct criticisms of the government. In an interview with the Post on Friday, he described the journey towards full promotion of human rights as “a long one, anywhere in the world”.

“The contribution that our mission can make to the history of this nation is to mature the process and move it forward,” he said.

Hang Chhaya, executive director of the Khmer Institute for Democracy, said Subedi’s “diplomatic” style differed greatly from that of his predecessor, Yash Ghai, who had a notoriously stormy relationship with the government, adding that it could yet prove effective.

“As soon as he touches down, he is able to get a visit with the prime minister, so [the visit] could be productive,” he said.

Subedi is set to report the findings of his trip to the UN Human Rights Council in March.

Govt orders a halt to dredging in Kampot

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Wednesday, 27 January 2010 15:04 Vong Sokheng and Sebastian Strangio

AUTHORITIES have temporarily suspended three Kampot province dredging operations for sand to export, a local official confirmed on Tuesday, but confusion remains over the exact reason.

Se Da, deputy governor of Kampot’s Teuk Chhou district, said three local companies suspended their operations on January 16 on the orders of the provincial Committee on Sand.

“The [committee] ordered a halt to the sand dredging last week, and there are no longer any sand-dredging export activities,” he said, adding that the committee was examining the concession areas in order to “re-map their proper location” and ensure companies operate within legal limits.

He said he did not know when the committee – set up following Prime Minister Hun Sen’s announcement of a ban on sand export operations in May last year – would allow the companies to continue their work.

Se Da identified the firms as the Thaknin Tharith Import Export Co Ltd, the Keo Tha Company and the Theo Vorin Company. According to an October 13 letter signed by Minister of Industry Suy Sem, a copy of which has been obtained by the Post, Thaknin Tharith has a licence to operate in a 42-hectare area in Teak Chhou district’s Prek Chhar and Mak Prang communes.

Pov Son, chief of Traey Koh commune, said in November that Keo Tha, which was dredging before Hun Sen’s ban, was also given an official dispensation to continue operations in October “in order to relieve flooding in the town”.

‘Visible’ impacts
Mu Sochua, a Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker representing Kampot, said that prior to the halt, the Kampot River had been busy with large dredging boats – apparently owned by Vietnamese companies – and smaller vessels operated by local firms that ferried sand out to ships moored off the coast.

As of last weekend, she said, four large boats were moored outside the governor’s office.

She said she was concerned that it had taken so long to stop the dredging. “The environmental impact is very visible,” she said.

Try Chhoun, provincial coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, said he believed the dredging had been halted as a result of protests by the local fishing community, who say their livelihoods have been hit hard by the operations.

“I think that the government had just suspended things for a while, to calm down the anger of the protesters,” she said, adding that the companies would likely be in operation again soon.

In a January 11 letter to Lim Kean Hor, minister of water resources and chairman of the National Committee on Sand, Mu Sochua said any export operations in Kampot were in violation of the ban issued by the prime minister last year.

“According to the decision of Prime Minister Hun Sen, please can the minister confirm the impacts of the sand-dredging industry and take action to stop the operations,” it stated.

One local fisherman from Kep Thmey village in Beoung Tuk commune said her community was happy with the government’s suspension order, but feared it wouldn’t last.

“Maybe the government realised our complaints about the impact to our life here,” said Chan Dara, 49. “But we are still concerned that when the companies are allowed to continue their operations, we will encounter the same problems again and again.”

Kampot governor Khoy Khun Hour declined to comment on Tuesday.

Questions surround new incentive plan

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Wednesday, 27 January 2010 15:04 James O'Toole

Development community awaits talks with government during six-month transition period

MEMBERS of the development community are awaiting discussions with the government after last month’s announcement of abrupt changes to salary schemes for civil servants, calling continued dialogue essential during the six-month transition period that will precede the compensation reforms.

Under several different salary supplement programmes, donors had been helping the government pay civil servants, including doctors and teachers, often boosting perilously low wages to acceptable levels.

After having announced the cancellation of supplement programmes last month for “all donor-assisted as well as [government-] funded projects and programmes”, Minister of Economy and Finance Keat Chhon revised the government’s position last week in a letter to foreign ambassadors and development partners.

While targeted incentive programmes for civil servants introduced in recent years – Merit-Based Performance Incentives and Priority Mission Groups – are to remain cancelled, straightforward salary supplements will continue during the transition period.

The cancellation of the supplements, originally meant to take effect January 1, took many observers by surprise, and although they welcomed the newly announced transition period, they said much must be done to ensure that social services can continue in the long term.

“How this eventually will work out … I think that depends on the outcome of the discussions with the government and the administrative reform process,” World Health Organisation country representative Pieter Van Maaren said, adding that he looks forward to “constructive dialogue on this issue”.

In lieu of salary supplements, Keat Chhon wrote last week that the government hopes to base new compensation schemes on a principle he termed “Daily Operational Cost”.

We’re working to find some sort of solution so that services can go on.

Although Keat Chhon offered no specifics on how this principle would operate, Hang Chuon Naron, secretary general at the Ministry of Economy and Finance, said the government is working on the issue.

“It’s very new, and the government has to discuss it in the next six months,” he said. Though he declined to comment at length on how the system would work, the secretary general allowed that it could function similarly to a per-diem system.

“Instead of calculating the monthly allowance, they have to calculate the daily allowance,” he said, adding that such allowances would be calculated based on “the cost of performing daily work for people who are on [a] project”.

In a letter to the government dated December 17, the UN and other organisations requested a meeting with the government to discuss “how to mitigate the potential adverse impacts of the decision” on supplements. Van Maaren said there had been no response to this request as of Tuesday, though Keat Chhon said in his letter last week that reforms would go forward only after “an appropriate process of consultation”.

Jeroen Stol, country director for Handicap International Belgium, said he hopes the transition period prevents significant disruptions of services in the next few months. “The fact that [the cancellation] was implemented so swiftly created many, many problems for us,” he said, adding that widespread absenteeism would have occurred without the transition period.

Stol and others were unsure of why the decision – announced just weeks before it was to have gone into effect – came so abruptly. Sharon Wilkinson, country director of Care International, brushed off speculation that it had resulted from the government’s desire for greater oversight of fund distribution.

“I think the government’s got oversight…. They certainly know how we use the development funds, and they have every right to know,” she said.

Government officials have said the changes are meant to maintain equity in the compensation of civil servants, and are part of a broader process of public administration reform. Wilkinson said she recognised the importance of this process, but she cautioned that the needs of ordinary Cambodians must not be neglected as these reforms are implemented.

“It’s not going to happen overnight, so therefore we’re working to find some sort of solution so that services can go on for the most vulnerable,” she said.

Thai Yellow Shirts try to plant markers near Poipet border

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Wednesday, 27 January 2010 15:04 Cheang Sokha

SUPPORTERS of Thailand’s People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) travelled to the Thai-Cambodian border near O’Chrov district, close to Poipet, Banteay Meanchey province, on Monday in an attempt to plant border markers in an undemarcated area, provincial police commissioner Hun Hean said Tuesday.

About 90 PAD supporters, also known as the Yellow Shirts, were thwarted in their attempt to plant the markers after Thai soldiers and Cambodian villagers turned them back, Hun Hean said, adding that about 2,000 Yellow Shirts originally intended to go to the border before being stopped by troops in Thailand’s Sa Kaew province.

“They just want to make trouble along the border with Cambodia. We will not allow them to do so,” Hun Hean said, explaining that the group was protesting the demarcation efforts in progress under the auspices of the bilateral Joint Border Commission.

Var Kimhong, the government’s senior minister in charge of border affairs, said he was unconcerned by the Yellow Shirts’ demonstration.

“We don’t care about the Yellow Shirt people coming,” Var Kimhong said. “We are working with the border committee of the Thai government, not the Yellow Shirt group.”

In September, about 4,000 Yellow Shirts attempted to protest along the border near Preah Vihear temple but were stopped inside Thailand by the Thai military.

French paedophile sentenced

Photo by: Pha Lina
Claude Jean-Pierre Demeret received a three-year suspended sentence Tuesday.

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Wednesday, 27 January 2010 15:04 May Titthara and Cameron Wells

PHNOM Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday gave a three-year suspended sentence to a 60-year-old French national after finding him guilty of soliciting sex from a 16-year-old girl as well as producing and possessing child pornography.

Judges also ordered Claude Jean-Pierre Demeret to pay 1 million riels (US$240) in compensation to the victim.

Though the sentence drew an outcry from the child-protection NGO that provided a lawyer for the 16-year-old girl, Presiding Judge Chan Madina said it was warranted because of Demeret’s willingness to cooperate with the court. Chan Madina also said she accepted Demeret’s claim that he did not know the age of the victim at the time of the crime and believed she was not a minor.

“Claude Jean-Pierre Demeret confessed to having sex with the girl, but he didn’t know she was 16 years old,” Chan Madina said. “She agreed to sleep with him at Wat Phnom for $5.”

Demeret told the court on January 13 that he had not had intercourse with the victim, though he admitted to having the victim perform a sex act on him.

His defence lawyer, Chong Eav Heng, argued during the December hearing that Demeret had been the victim of entrapment by police and the child-protection NGO Action Pour Les Enfants (APLE). Chan Madina seemed to accept that argument at the time, accusing the victim of having been involved in similar schemes with four other foreigners in recent years.

Samleang Seila, APLE’s executive director, expressed his frustration with the sentence on Tuesday evening, saying it would serve to undermine the efforts of local authorities to stamp out child prostitution.

“This sentence is not acceptable to us, as the charge of pornography was not appropriate,” he said. “The pornographic images depict the girl in sexual contact with [Demeret], which shows that he had sex with an underage girl.”

He added: “This sentence is destroying the efforts of the government and the police departments. In comparison to other cases, this sentence is very light. We were advocating for no suspended sentence or release. This is not a good result.”

He said APLE was preparing to file an appeal that could be submitted as soon as Wednesday.

The victim and her family were not present when the verdict was announced in court yesterday. Chong Eav Heng declined to give a comment.

Court to investigate SRP-CPP altercation over M’kiri card game

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Wednesday, 27 January 2010 15:03 Vong Sokheng

A MEMBER of the Sam Rainsy Party was called to Mondulkiri provincial court on Tuesday for questioning in connection with a recent dispute involving himself, his nephew and a district councillor for the Cambodian People’s Party that erupted over a card game.

The incident occurred last September in Mondulkiri’s Keo Seima district when CPP district councillor Nuon Sophan allegedly attacked the nephew of SRP member Khum Khan.

“Sophan lost the betting, and my nephew, Vai Ngeang Nham, called him a ‘dog’ because he did not respect a promise we made before the game to pay up,” Khum Khan said. “Then the fight broke out.”

The fight didn’t involve me.... i am afraid, but i will go to court.

The stakes of the game were less than US$1.

“I wasn’t involved in the attack, but I was summoned to court for questioning about inciting violence,” Khum Khan said. “After questioning me, the prosecutor told me to go home and said there was no problem.”

Chhay Thi, a provincial monitor for the rights group Adhoc, said the dispute had been brought before the court because Nuon Sophan had not fulfilled a promise to pay the victim 1 million riels (US$240) in compensation as part of an out-of-court settlement.

An Samnang, an SRP district councillor who has been summoned to appear at the court next month, also denied any involvement in the fight.

“The fight didn’t involve me. I had just helped them avoid violence, and now I am accused of incitement,” he said. “I am afraid, but I will go to court after I get my lawyer.”

No charges have yet been brought in the case because judges are still conducting an investigation, Chhay Thi said.

“I hope that the court will play an independent role to provide justice for the victims,” Chhay Thi said.

Noun Saphan could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

Long Ry, an SRP lawmaker investigating the case, said he questioned why the case had been dragged out for so long, adding that he was concerned that the dispute would turn political.

“We are concerned that the court summons is a way of intimidating our councillors and interrupting them from performing their work in the district council,” he said.

Court officials could not be reached on Tuesday.

Few voters ever meet their local MPs: report

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Wednesday, 27 January 2010 15:03 Kim Yuthana

A NEW report by the election watchdog group COMFREL says that less than 4 percent of Cambodian voters have any direct contact with their local parliamentarians.

The report, issued Tuesday during a workshop in Phnom Penh, found that of 8,678 voters surveyed, only 3.5 percent had directly communicated with their representatives.

Koul Panha, executive director of COMFREL, cited enormous workloads placed on politicians and a failure by political parties to communicate effectively with voters as the chief obstacles to a closer relationship between parliamentarians and their constituents.

Political parties “fail to introduce their parliamentarians to residents, and residents are not able to contact their offices”, Koul Panha said.

Mu Sochua, a Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker representing Kampot, said she regretted not being able to spend more time with voters, but that she makes every effort to stay abreast of events in the community she represents.

“It is difficult to help people in my electorate, as I am the only opposition parliamentarian in my district, while there are five parliamentarians from the government,” she said.

The COMFREL report also found that those surveyed held strong opinions about the involvement of women in politics. Some 71.5 percent of respondents said that there should be a certain proportion of seats in parliament reserved for women, though almost two-thirds of respondents were women.

Ministry OKs building of Pailin prison

via CAAI News Media

Wednesday, 27 January 2010 15:03 Mom Kunther

THE Interior Ministry has approved the construction of a prison in Pailin province, a provincial official said Tuesday. Currently, officials must send prisoners to neighbouring Battambang.

“I don’t know when it will be built, but we are studying the construction,” said Meav Samai, deputy director of the Pailin provincial cabinet.

Meav Samai said the construction of the prison would make the processing of suspected criminals more efficient.

“It is very difficult for authorities to take the time to send suspects or perpetrators to the courts and prison in Battambang province,” he said. “We want our own prison because it’s easier for us than sending prisoners to Battambang, and it saves money as well.”
I don’t know when it will be built, but we are studying the construction.

He added that officials from the Interior Ministry’s prisons department in Phnom Penh had visited the proposed site of the facility earlier this month and approved it.

Heng Hak, the director general of the prisons department, confirmed on Tuesday that the new prison had been approved by the Interior Ministry, but he said the plan also needs the approval of Prime Minister Hun Sen before construction can begin.

Pailin was carved out of Battambang after the defection of former Khmer Rouge foreign minister Ieng Sary in 1996. In December 2008, King Norodom Sihanomi signed a Royal decree turning Pailin, Kep and Sihanoukville into provinces.

A provincial government official who asked to remain anonymous because he was not authorised to speak with a reporter said that the existing provincial criminal justice system operates poorly without a prison, and that provincial officials would need to recruit more staff to operate a new facility.

“We lack human resources and need to train more officers,” he said.

There are 25 prisons nationwide, Heng Hak said.

Kampot Cement saw sales fall 15pc in 2009

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Trucks wait in line at Kampot Cement's factory in Kampot province at the end of October. The firm saw demand fall last year but a company stakeholder said Tuesday sales were expected to pick up in 2010 as construction activity begins to recover.

We hope this year's sales will increase by 10 percent, as construction seems to be more active than before."

via CAAI News Media

Wednesday, 27 January 2010 15:03 Chun Sophal

Cambodian subsidiary of Siam Cement reports light activity in construction sector led to low demand for building materials

KAMPOT Cement Co, a joint venture with Thailand’s Siam Cement Group, said Tuesday that sales slumped 15 percent last year compared to 2008 as construction activity dropped following the onset of the economic crisis in the Kingdom.

Khaou Phallaboth, president of Cambodia’s Khaou Chuly Group, a stakeholder in the company, said that Kampot sold just 1.02 million tonnes of cement in 2009 compared to 1.2 million the previous year.

He did not give a revenue or profit figure, but the company sells cement at US$87 to $90 a tonne, which would place revenues between $88.74 million and $91.8 million.

“The fall in sales last year stemmed from bank restrictions on the disbursement of loans to trading bodies and building developers which were affected by the global financial crisis,” said Khaou Phallaboth.

According to a report by the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, in the first 10 months of last year, total investment in the construction sector dropped 19.6 percent to just $1.89 billion from $2.35 billion over the same period the previous year.

Cement imports fell even more over the first three quarters of last year, by just over 23 percent, according to figures released by Sihanoukville Autonomous Port.

The last quarter of 2008 saw construction activity nosedive in Cambodia as foreign developers pulled out, capital dried up and demand for building materials plummeted.

Thai Mengly, manager of construction projects at New World City which builds residential property in Phnom Penh, said Tuesday that construction activity at his firm was hampered in 2009 because of a backlog as buildings stalled at the end of 2008.

“We cannot compare our construction in 2009 to that of 2008 because things stagnated by the global economic crisis,” he said. He declined to give construction data for last year.

In 2009, total demand for cement in Cambodia was reportedly 2 million tonnes in total, a 20 percent drop from 2.5 million tonnes in 2008, meaning that Kampot Cement beat the decline to capture a greater share of the overall market.

Khaou Phallaboth said that Kampot Cement’s operations had not been badly affected last year, despite the slump in only its second year of operations since its January 2008 start-up.

“We hope this year’s sales will increase by 10 percent, as construction seems to be more active than before,” said Khaou Phallaboth, adding that the firm would produce about 1 million tonnes this year and import a further 200,000 tonnes from its parent in Thailand.

His prediction echoed that of Siam Cement Pcl’s President Kan Trakulhoon, who told Bloomberg Thursday that sales for the whole group would expand at least 10 percent, a projection made on rising prices for cement. Still, higher oil prices would likely raise production costs, he added.

Kampot Cement said in late October that it was holding plans to double production capacity by the end of 2012 due to falling demand last year. Khaou Phallaboth told the Post at the time that demand for cement was unlikely to start to recover until 2011 into 2012, and that Kampot Cement will stall plans for a $200 million upgrade that would have seen production capacity jump to 2 million tonnes per year.

Siam Cement holds a 90 percent stake in Kampot Cement. Khaou Chuly’s stake is scheduled to rise to 20 percent following the expansion, for which there is currently no schedule.

Acid attack suspect to face court

via CAAI News Media

Wednesday, 27 January 2010 15:03 Tep Nimol

A WOMAN accused of pouring acid on a 22-year-old man in Phnom Penh’s Prampi Makara district earlier this month is scheduled to appear in Municipal Court today for questioning.

Lim Soma was arrested after the January 4 incident but was released two days later without being charged. She has said that she used a tooth-whitening formula taken from her dental practice in the attack, a claim she says is supported by the victim’s minor injuries.

She said Tuesday that she planned to answer the court summons.

“I will appear for questioning in front of the prosecutor, but I am not afraid because I did not do anything wrong,” she said.

The court initially dropped criminal proceedings in the case in the hope that Lim Soma and the victim, Hor Tin, could reach an out-of-court compensation deal, but intervened once again after Lim Soma refused to meet Hor Tin’s demand for US$10,000.

Kea Soheang, the victim’s employer whose complaint led the case to be reopened, has failed to show up for two court summonses.

Deputy prosecutor Ek Chheng Hout said the complaint would be “cancelled” if he failed to show a third time.

Payment system delayed, says NBC

via CAAI News Media

Wednesday, 27 January 2010 15:03 Ith Sothoeuth and Rick Valenzuela

OFFICIALS at the National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) said Tuesday, at a conference in Phnom Penh, that Cambodia was in the process of transforming its electronic payment system across the country, but that the process would be delayed by a few more years.

NBC officials said they were using an interim solution: Clearing houses – branches of the central bank at the provincial level – were processing payments separately.

Srey Siyout, director of the NBC’s Exchange Management Department, told the Post that currently, payments by cheque can be cleared in only three provinces: Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Preah Sihanouk.

Also, cheques can only be cleared nearest the province where they are issued.

For example, a cheque issued in Battambang to a person in Koh Kong province requires the Koh Kong client to bring the payment to the Siem Reap NBC branch to clear, said Srey Siyout.

Improvements to this system so cheques could be cleared anywhere were scheduled to be completed by the end of this year, according to a payment system “roadmap”, she added, but NBC Director General Tal Nay Im said Tuesday that the upgrade had been delayed.

“We are now developing [the system].... We hope in the next few years we will have a full payment system,” she told the Post on the sidelines of the Banking Cambodia International 2010 conference at Phnom Penh’s Naga World hotel and casino.

She added that the development of the full system would add security to Cambodia’s overall banking system, in that cheques – which are more secure than cash – could be exchanged more easily.

Under the new system Phnom Penh would house the central clearing house for the NBC, said Srey Siyout.

The NBC is preparing the tender process for the final phase, she added, but she said she did not know which companies would bid.

As part of the process of developing Cambodia’s checking capabilities, the government, in mid-2009, standardised the appearance of the Kingdom’s cheques.

As part of the development of the new payment system, the government is drafting a National Payment System Law, a prakas, or edict, on third-party processors and a prakas on credit remittances, according to a presentation by Srey Siyout at Tuesday’s event.

Four hurt in protest over land, official says

via CAAI News Media

Wednesday, 27 January 2010 15:03 Sen David

FOUR villagers were rushed to hospital following an altercation over land in Preah Sihanouk province between staff members of the Chinese-owned Yie Chea Company and neighbouring residents, a local official said Tuesday.

Lim Sarin, chief of Prey Nub village, confirmed that more than 40 villagers were involved in a three-day protest over land that turned violent after company staff members attacked the demonstrators.

“The company fought them until they were seriously injured, and now they’ve been sent to hospital,” Lim Sarin said.

Company representatives were unavailable for comment on Tuesday.

One of the injured, 68-year-old Chong Heab, said the dispute began after the provincial government gave about 100 hectares of land, some belonging to Prey Nub villagers, to the Yie Chea Company without an offer of compensation.

“It was unfair that the company didn’t pay us any money. Instead they fought me and my son, who nearly died,” she said.

Lim Sarin said he would hold a meeting today to try to resolve the land dispute but held out little hope for success.

Police Blotter: 27 Jan 2010

Wednesday, 27 January 2010 15:03 Phak Seangly

Police detained and questioned an 18-year-old student after they found a cleaver hidden inside his briefcase on Monday in Phnom Penh’s Tuol Kork district. The student confessed to carrying the weapon, saying that he needed it for protection from a gang of students who had injured him in an attack several days ago. Police “educated” him and asked his parents to sign a contract saying they would make sure he stopped carrying weapons.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Monday sentenced a man to six years in jail after finding him guilty of attempted robbery in Phnom Penh’s Russey Keo district in January 2007. The defendant attempted to rob a taxi driver with a cleaver when he could not afford the price of a trip. The driver shouted for help, prompting police to come to the scene and arrest the 26-year-old. Police said the man had confessed to the robbery attempt.

A 26-year-old man is on the run from authorities after allegedly chopping a one-year-old girl in the leg with a cleaver on Friday night in Kampong Speu’s Kong Pisey district. According to police, the accused was drinking with the girl’s father when an argument started and he attempted to attack the mother, who was breastfeeding the victim. The mother ducked the attack, but the girl was wounded. The young victim was rushed to hospital in Phnom Penh. She suffered severe cuts to her leg.

A police officer and a bodyguard were arrested and held for one night after they allegedly shot a 23-year-old construction worker in Phnom Penh’s Dangkor district. Witnesses said the two accused men chased and shot the victim in the stomach, seriously injuring him. The two men tried to evade arrest but were ultimately caught by Military Police. After one night in custody, they paid US$125 in compensation to the victim before being released.

Clinic tackles root cause of dentistry woes

Dentist Dr Deborah Moore says Phnom Penh’s European Dental Clinic offers a local alternative to places like Bangkok, and even attracts the occasional health tourist.


via CAAI News Media

Wednesday, 27 January 2010 15:03 BENNETT MURRAY

Western practice says it is working to make sure local dental industry isn’t just pulling teeth

ALTHOUGH locals, expats and tourists alike are generally sceptical of the Kingdom’s healthcare industry, international staff at Phnom Penh’s European Dental Clinic say it has raised standards of dental care in Cambodia.

Founded in 1994 by dentist Dr Eric Le Guen and technician Philippe Guibert, the clinic was the first of its kind in Cambodia.

“Before that, everyone was going to Bangkok,” European Dental Clinic dentist Dr Deborah Moore said.

The practice provides a range of services, akin to a dental clinic in the West, including hygienist services, implants, tooth extraction, as well as orthodontics offered monthly by a visiting specialist from Bangkok.

“We offer everything, really,” said Dr Moore.

Like many quality dentists in the region, the clinic offers western services at a little over Southeast Asian prices.

A standard consultation costs US$20, while a basic cleaning service costs $40. More complicated – and expensive – procedures, such as gum surgery and root canals, are also offered by the clinic’s four staff – three dentists from France, Cambodia and the United Kingdom and one French technician.

Given the pricing, most customers are foreigners, explains Dr Moore, but a few medical tourists also drop in.

“I’ve had a few emails from people in Australia who want consultations on their visit to Cambodia,” says Dr Moore, adding though that such visits are rare.

“I think most tourists care about their teeth before they come to Cambodia,” jokes Guibert.

The volume of customers the clinic receives varies, but Guibert estimates they see about 100 per month. In addition to their Phnom Penh clinic, European Dental Clinic also operates a branch in Ho Chi Minh City.

Before starting the clinic here, Guibert explains he was working with NGOs in rural areas providing dental care to poor Cambodians, a service the clinic still provides on Saturdays.

“Sixteen years after, we still offer this service…. We’ve known Cambodia for a long time,” he says.

Among the innovations the clinic brought to dentistry in Phnom Penh was the first dental lab, which Guibert says helped set the standard.

“In Phnom Penh, you now have many clinics with dental labs. Because we were the first here, other dentists saw that and realised they needed to open labs as well,” he says.

The domestic supply of dentistry products necessary to run a clinic is surprisingly good, says Guibert, with 90 percent available over the counter in Cambodia. The remaining supplies are imported from Europe and North America.

Although most dentists working at the clinic are foreigners, Guibert explained they have regularly cooperated with local dentists to raise standards.

“When we started … we worked with the old dentists in Phnom Penh. We had lots of exchange programs,” said Guibert. “Today, the quality of Khmer dentists isn’t so bad.”

The clinic is expensive by Phnom Penh standards, but Guibert says they try to avoid out-pricing Cambodian practices, which have also benefited from professional exchanges.

In Cambodia there are just two schools of dentistry – the private International University, which offers a five-year program, and the University of Health Science, which offers a seven-year program and sees 16 dentists graduating each year.

Many of the country’s dentists, however, lack university qualifications meaning there is a large number of unqualified dentists in the Kingdom.

“The training is okay at the universities,” says Dr Moore, “but there’s no law saying dentists must have gone to the university.”

This means the provinces are a poor place to have toothache.

“In a remote area, there’s just a guy who pulls somebody’s tooth out,” says Dr Moore.

Rights abuses threaten HIV goals

via CAAI News Media

Wednesday, 27 January 2010 15:02 Joe Amon

CAMBODIA is considered one of the few success stories in the global fight against AIDS. HIV is on the decline. Over 2 percent of adults were affected in 1997. A decade later HIV prevalence is 0.8 percent.

According to UNAIDS, “Cambodia provides evidence that well-focused and sustained prevention efforts can help reverse an HIV epidemic.” Antiretroviral therapy is currently provided to around two-thirds of those who need it, up from 14 percent in 2004. Cambodia is also praised – and rightly so – for its progressive AIDS law protecting people living with HIV from discrimination. Those are impressive accomplishments.

Yet, human rights abuses against populations particularly vulnerable to HIV infection threaten the government’s success. The positive achievements of government health authorities and their partners have been outmatched in the past year by the negative actions of the police, Ministry of Social Affairs and municipal authorities.

The real casualties have been among the most marginalised of Cambodians: those caught up in street sweeps, detained, or forcibly evicted out of Phnom Penh.

People considered “undesirable” – the homeless, sex workers, drug users, street children – are regularly arrested and detained by police and Social Affairs staff in advance of national holidays or visits by foreign dignitaries. Many people living with HIV are caught up in these campaigns. In May, Human Rights Watch talked to one homeless woman who was detained by Daun Penh district police during the ASEAN-EU foreign ministers meeting. When she asked a police officer to return her confiscated HIV medicine, he replied: “You complain a lot! Jump into the truck!”

In the lead up to Phnom Penh’s annual water festival earlier this month, similar detentions took place. The deputy governor of Daun Penh district claimed that sex workers were arrested for HIV prevention purposes, explaining, “We don’t want to see the boat racers bringing diseases such as HIV/AIDS back to their wives.”

People who use drugs, and particularly those who inject, are another group at risk – both for HIV infection and police abuse. The number of people who use drugs in Cambodia is hard to determine, but it is thought to be between 10,000 and 20,000; at least one in four people who inject drugs are estimated to be HIV positive.

But instead of addressing either the issue of drug use or HIV with evidence-based measures, the mainstay of the government’s strategy has been detention.

Cambodia has established 11 drug detention “rehabilitation” centres around the country. The “treatment” they provide? Forced physical exercises, military drills and hard labour. People in detention are recognised by UNAIDS as being at a heightened risk of HIV infection, but in addition to failing to provide effective drug dependency treatment, the centres provide neither HIV prevention nor treatment. These centres should be shut down and voluntary, in-community drug dependency treatment developed.

Another example of government policies undermining health goals, and violating the HIV law, was the forced eviction of some 40 families from Borei Keila in June to a de facto AIDS colony on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.

Protests by Cambodian and international HIV and human rights groups generated scrambled visits by UNAIDS and the national AIDS authority. But the basic situation is unchanged: Those who were forced to move remain far from jobs and isolated from medical facilities and support services. Although local nongovernmental organisations have a long-term plan to improve housing conditions and begin income-generating activities, the situation for these families remains precarious.

In June 2006, the government committed itself to achieving ambitious national targets for providing universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support by 2010. Now, three years later, a UN delegation has come to Phnom Penh to review what progress has been made. The delegation should pay close attention to the government’s failure to respect, protect and fulfil the human rights of those at highest risk of HIV. The actions of the police, Ministry of Social Affairs, and municipal authorities should be particularly scrutinised.

Joe Amon is director of the Health and Human Rights division of Human Rights Watch.