Friday, 29 January 2010

UDD plans three rallies next week

Published: 29/01/2010
via CAAI News Media

Following their rally outside army headquarters today, seeking an explanation of coup rumours, the red-shirts will next week demonstrate outside the air force HQ, Ministry of Defence and the Election Commission, core leader of the United front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) Jatuporn Promphan said on Friday afternoon.

“Today, the red-shirts wanted to ask deputy army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha whether there will be another military coup as it is being said that Gen Prayuth has been chosen to lead the coup,” Mr Jatuporn said.

On Tuesday, the red-shirts will go to air force headquarters and again seek and explanation of the rumours.

The UDD will then rally at the Defence Ministry on Wednesday, and ask how Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva managed to avoid conscription, he said.

After that the UDD will rally at the office of the Election Commission and demand a progress report on legal action against the Democrat Party, which was accused of unlawfully receiving a 258 million baht donation from TPI Polene.

UDD leaders have accused the EC of deliberately delaying the ruling in the Democrat case.

Mr Jatuporn said UDD core leaders have not yet settled on the exact date of the planned mass anti-government demonstration by the red-shirts.

The red-shirts began gathering in front of army headquarters on Rajadamnern Nok road about 10am on Friday, using a six-wheeler truck equipped with loudspeakers as a platform to call on soldiers who support democracy to come out to join their fight against a military coup.

One company of troops, including military police, was deployed at the headquarters to prevent the demonstrators entering. About 100 metropolitan and riot police were stationed outside to control the situation. Police had set up an operations centre at the nearby Rajadamnern boxing stadium.

The rally, which was set to end at 5pm, was peaceful.

Army chief Gen Anupong Paojinda and his deputy Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha were in the far South on Friday morning and were due to return to Bangkok late this afternoon.

Army spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd said at lunchtime the army was keeping a close watch on developments. Normal security measures would be implemented to deal with any unruly protesters.

Col Sansern believed the rally would continue to be peaceful.

Kwanchai Praipana, leader of the Khon Rak Udon (Love Udon People) group in Udon Thani, said the red-shirts in the province were ready to fight against a military coup.

About 300 members of the group were surrounding the red-shirt community radio station in Udon every day to protect it against seizure by state authorities, he said.

“If a coup occurs then red-shirts, each with a bottle of petrol, will immediately lay siege to provincial offices nationwide,” Mr Kwanchai said. He claimed that a group of “black warriors” were trained for the mission.

He also claimed that fugitive politician Thaksin Shinawatra plans to visit Cambodia late next month and said he that the former prime minister had told the red-shirts to be patient as he did not want any violence.

Global mindsets: Program focuses on social change

Courtesy Photo
(From left) Soo-han Yeoh, Sambo Klauth and Sovannara Moch are members of the new Global Mission Leadership a program that equips students to return to affect social change.

via CAAI News Media
Jan. 29, 2010
By Neely Guthrie

Sambo Klauth described his experiences as a Cambodian living in Waco and is humbled about learning all he can to take back to his home country. Klauth is one of three international students at Baylor pursuing a new dual-degree from Baylor and George W. Truett Theological Seminary.

Klauth, Sovonnara Moch and Soo-Han Yeoh are the first three students to participate in Global Mission Leadership. According to ONE, the school of social work publication, the program began in 2008 with funding from the Henry Luce Foundation.

GML is designed for international students and combines a master's degree in social work and a master's degree in theological studies. The interdisciplinary concept of the program equips students to return to their home country and affect social change under the banner of Christian love and care.

"I was interested in studying social work and integrate faith into my work in the future," Klauth said. "Because the more I work in NGOs, the more I realize that social work is needed in Cambodia, in my country."

Moch, also from Cambodia, said, "Every time I sit in [my mission work] class and professors share about leading a Christian life that is transformed by the love of God, we can make an impact and God can use us as a tool to impact other people's lives. So that's practical to me."

Moch is in her first year of the program and previously worked as a counselor for five years in Cambodia, helping young girls who were victims of rape. The transition has been hard because Moch said she misses her job and her family, but she is learning a lot that she can take back home.

"I want to teach social work skills and counseling to young Cambodians who go to university ... I really want to transfer whatever I have to other generations so I can serve my own people," Moch said.

Similarly, Klauth wants to put his degree to use in Cambodia by instituting child protection services.

"I think advocacy is very important in the work I'll be doing in order to change policies and laws in order to promote and create a children protection system because back home we don't have a child protection system," Klauth said. "The program is called prevention and protection ... to build capacity of local authorities, churches, NGOs and all relevant stake holders in child protection so that they know how to protect children in communities."

Klauth's goal, small according to him, is to set up social counseling centers in churches so each center has a lot of people from the community who can counsel and spread the gospel.

Yeoh's desire is to better equip churches. Yeoh came to Baylor from Malaysia but studied in Kentucky for her undergraduate degree 13 years ago. She returned to Malaysia, working for a non-profit called Malaysian Care and was very active in her church. She was given new-believers to follow-up with, and she said there were two instances in which she felt very inadequate.

"What kind of role does the church play in their lives when people are in such places?" Yeoh asked. "The people in the church felt that they could not do anything, so I felt like it shouldn't be like that. Because if you know Christ, it shouldn't be like that."

Yeoh's goal upon returning to Malaysia is to show the church how to better incorporate people that are different from them or have special needs.

"It's not so much that [the church is] not accepting, again it's a question that they don't know how to include them ... if people other than the church community can do so many wonderful things, the church community can do even more because of who we belong to and who God is."

Jennifer Smyer, the director of Global Mission Leadership, cuts to the core of the Global Mission Leadership.

"The office of Global Mission Leadership is committed to educating Christian leaders to become catalysts of holistic transformation in nations of the world," Smyer wrote on the program's Web site.

Martial arts club raising funds for Cambodian ministry

via CAAI News Media

The Winkler Ironfist Tae Kwon Do Club continues its mandate of giving back with a special fundraising event next week.

On Friday, Feb. 5, the club hits the P.W. Enns Centennial Concert Hall stage for an evening of skills demonstrations and worship music to raise funds for its Christian outreach mission in Cambodia.

In addition to showing off some of the skills of the club's members, the evening will also feature music by the Waverly Worship Band and local singing talent Jayme Giesbrecht.

Club instructor Wolfgang Schaefer said the money raised at the by-donation event will help pay for the programming and services of the Cambodian ministry, which tends to over 200 children and their families in the poverty-stricken South East Asian country.

With help from the Ironfist club members and the community at large, packages of toys, blankets, clothing, and other supplies are regularly sent to Cambodia, and distributed amongst the people who make their homes in the country's slums, Schaefer said.

The ministry also provides Bible lessons and church services, supplies food to the children who attend its events, and often helps pay for their school uniforms, so they can be allowed to attend school.

"All the kids in the club are aware that they're a part of that," Schaefer said, noting it gives the students a great sense of pride to be able to help those in need while, at the same time, honing their martial arts skills.

"The club is so much more than just a sport," he added.

CAMBODIA: Drug rehab facilities under fire

Photo: Brendan Brady/IRIN
There are conflicting views on the number of injecting drug-users in the country

via CAAI News Media

PHNOM PENH, 29 January 2010 (IRIN) - A report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) released this week describes a climate of “sadistic violence” in government-run drug rehabilitation centres in Cambodia.

“The basic approach in these centres is the same and is flawed,” Joe Amon, HRW director of health and human rights in New York, told IRIN.

“It works on the wrong assumption that what helps people with drug dependency problems is being tough, using hard work and discipline. But there’s no quick fix.”

According to Graham Shaw, a World Health Organization (WHO) technical officer based in Cambodia for issues related to drug dependence, officials running the drug centres openly admitted to visiting WHO officials 18 months ago that they did not have the skills to conduct proper drug assistance.

“The reality is that in these centres there isn’t any treatment and there isn’t rehabilitation,” he said.

The WHO reported in a publication released last year that only one in 405 people in Cambodia entered a drug treatment centre voluntarily.

Critical report

Drug users, including those in their teens and those with mental illnesses, faced beatings and arduous forced labour, while being deprived of effective treatment for their addiction, according to the HRW report released on 25 January.

HRW says the government’s approach to rehabilitation focuses on having detainees “sweat” drugs out of their system through strenuous exercise and hard labour, and prolonged exposure to the sun – methods it calls “ethically unacceptable, scientifically and medically inappropriate and of miserable quality”.

It also says officials presiding over the facilities profited by using detainees as labourers and selling blood they forced detainees to donate.

HRW says more than 2,000 people were detained in 11 of these facilities throughout the country in 2008, the vast majority involuntarily.

“The real motivations for Cambodia’s drug detention centres appear to be a combination of social control, punishment for perceived moral failure of drug use, and profit,” says the report.

Photo: Vinh Dao/IRIN
Addicted to crystal methamphetamine, 24-year-old Thom has been living on the streets of Phnom Penn for four years

Government response

But Cambodia’s government officials flatly denied allegations of violence in its facilities, noting that most of the detainees were interned at the request of their families.

Neak Yuthea, director of the department of legislation, education and rehabilitation at Cambodia’s National Authority for Combating Drugs, said the report was completely inaccurate.

“No one was forced to go there, it’s all done voluntarily,” he told IRIN. “It’s not detention. There’s no violence, rape; nothing like that.”

Government facilities used widely accepted practices of detoxification, treatment and rehabilitation for Cambodians with drug addictions, he said.

“We keep them away from drugs and treat their symptoms while they detox,” he said. “After they detox, they do things like exercise and meditation to rehabilitate.”

The HRW report coincides with a recent outcry over the government’s use of a controversial detoxification medicine, called Bong Sen, from Vietnam, on a group of drug users last month.

The government says the 17 opiate users who were given the medication for 10 days did so voluntarily.

But those who were part of the trial at the privately run “My Chance” drug treatment centre told reporters they were plucked from the street by police and forced to take the drug without being informed of its composition or effects – an allegation about which the UN has expressed concern.

If the details of a drug’s composition and efficacy are not made publicly available, administering it is a “violation of basic human rights and even qualifies as torture”, UN special rapporteur on health, Anand Grover, told IRIN from India.

HIV risk

Meanwhile, there are also warnings of a new threat to HIV prevention, as UN and rights workers predict drug users will steer clear of clean needle distribution sites for fear police will target them there for detention or drug trials.

Almost a quarter of Cambodia’s estimated 2,500 injecting drug users are HIV-positive, according to the government’s latest data.

“Any action that makes it more difficult to access these populations could be detrimental to the HIV response,” said the WHO’s Shaw.

The UN estimates that about 75,000 people in Cambodia are living with HIV/AIDS.

“There’s no reason the number [of HIV infected drug users] couldn’t double or triple over a short period if users don’t maintain access to clean needles,” Shaw warned.

via CAAI News Media

PHNOM PENH, Jan 29 (NNN-AKP) — Prime Minister Hun Sen refused on Wednesday to send Cambodian de-miners to Afghanistan and Iraq as requested by the United Nations.

The Cambodian made the remarks during a ground-breaking ceremony of the renovation of the National Road No. 62 linking from the central province of Kampong Thom and the northern province of Preah Vihear on Wednesday.

“A few days earlier, 1,000 Cambodian troops were asked to be sent to Afghanistan and the requests were made several times, but I say ?no?. If they go, there will be a problem because each day there are bombs blasting here and there and terrorism, so I do not let them go,” he said.

The Cambodian people experienced a lot in a casualty from war and land mines, he said, adding that “I do not send the Cambodian de-miners to Afghanistan and Iraq from the request of the United Nations and I do not want Cambodian sons to die in those two countries”.

In April 2006, Cambodia sent 135 soldiers to help U.N. peacekeepers clear mines in war-torn Sudan.

In early 2009, Cambodia sent several dozen troops to Chad and the Central African Republic. — NNN-AKP

Chinese linked to filling of lake

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Boeung Kak lake seen from a resident’s home on Thursday.

via CAAI News Media

Friday, 29 January 2010 15:04 Sebastian Strangio and May Titthara

Rights groups raise fresh concerns about transparency of Boeung Kak project

CHINESE companies have been closely involved in the controversial development of Phnom Penh’s Boeung Kak since its inception, according to news reports and local rights groups, who said they became aware of the companies’ role after a research group from China visited the site last week.

Pen Raingsey, manager of the land and livelihoods program at the NGO Forum, said the group, which included Chinese academics and journalists, revealed Chinese news reports confirming the deals.

“We weren’t aware that the investment in Boeung Kak was Chinese. We were surprised because our researchers tried to find the source of the funding, but weren’t aware of this,” he said.

It has long been unclear whether Shukaku Inc, the obscure local developer in charge of the 133-hectare commercial and housing project, has been backed by foreign investors.

But a series of Chinese-language news articles available online reveals a long history of Chinese involvement in the controversial project, following the signing of a US$79 million lease agreement between City Hall and Shukaku in February 2007.

In April of that year, the Kunming-based Yunnan International Economic and Technical Cooperation Corporation signed an agreement with CPP Senator Lao Meng Khin, the chairman of Shukaku, to develop Boeung Kak as a “multi-purpose living and recreation centre” called New East City, as well as a tourism “eco-garden” in Sihanoukville.

Present at the signing, according to state media, were Deputy Prime Minister Sok An and Qin Guangrong, the governor of China’s Yunnan province.

Additional Chinese news reports described the project as Yunnan’s “largest foreign investment”, putting the total cost of the project at around $1.5 billion. One said $680 million would be spent on the first construction phase, to run from 2007 to 2010, with the project to be completed in 2013.

The development at Boeung Kak – known in Chinese as wanguhu, or “10,000 Valley Lake” – has prompted continued controversy, with rights groups estimating that more than 4,000 families will be forced to make way for the project.

Housing rights activists say the 2007 lease agreement was illegal, and that many likely evictees have a legal claim to the land under the Kingdom’s 2001 Land Law.

In August 2008, Shukaku began filling the lake with sand, a process that has reclaimed large tracts of the lake’s surface, forcing some residents to move away from the site.

In January 2009, Chinese involvement in the Boeung Kak development hit a roadblock after Yunnan International’s parent company, Yunnan Copper Group, underwent restructuring and made an “orderly exit” from the project.

The Web site of the Shenzhen Jiajiahao company (left) shows Deputy Prime Minister Sok An and Phoeung Sophoan, a secretary of state in the Ministry of Land Management, meeting company officials to discuss the Boeung Kak lakeside development. The Web site of its parent company (right) shows a montage of lakeside photos and pictures of key officials.

As the filling continues, it is unclear whether other companies have moved in to fill the breach.

Qian Hai, spokesman for the Chinese Embassy, said he did not have “any information at all” about Chinese involvement in the Boeung Kak lake project and said reporters should contact Chinese news agencies.

There are strong indications, however, that Chinese companies are still interested in the project. On October 23 of last year, the Yunnan provincial government signed a funding agreement with China’s State Development Bank, securing funds for $2 billion worth of overseas investments.

According to a report in Chinese state media, the projects listed included the “integrated development projects” at Boeung Kak, as well as tourism projects in Luang Prabang, Laos, and various venues for December’s Southeast Asian Games in Vientiane. The name of the developer was not given.

The Web site of Shenzhen Jiajiahao Investment Development Co Ltd, a Guangdong-based company, suggests that company stepped up following Yunnan International’s withdrawal from the project.

The site features photos of Chen Jiansheng, the company’s general manager, posing with Sok An, Nan Sy, Cambodia’s ambassador to Brunei, and Phoeung Sophoan, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction.

According to the site, which is dated August 2009, the photos were taken after company officials delivered a “preliminary report” on the Boeung Kak lake development and another referred to as the “‘Hun Sen Park’ project”. Yu Fengguang, chairman of the Guanxi provincial branch of the State Development Bank, was also present at the meetings.

The site also states that during the visit, company officials met with Foreign Minister Hor Namhong, who pledged “active support” from the Cambodian government for the projects.

When contacted on Thursday, Phoeung Sophoan confirmed that the photos were taken in 2008 or 2009, but did not know if Shenzhen Jiajiahao was still involved in the project. He said the Chinese company suspended the project as a result of “a problem” with its local partner – presumably Shukaku Inc. “If they continue to develop, it will be good for our Boeung Kak lake development,” he added.

Be Pharom, a Boeung Kak representative, said residents had not heard much about the development recently, adding that officials had told them that “the company is keeping quiet because of the economic crisis”.

The Shenzhen office of Shenzhen Jiajiahao could not be reached by phone on Thursday.

Secretive developers
The revelation of past and possible current Chinese involvement in the project comes after Prime Minister Hun Sen again praised Beijing for its generous economic aid.

“As always, the government and people of China have supported Cambodia in development of all fields, the move to push for economic and social development that will help reduce the poverty of the Cambodian people,” he said at the inauguration of National Road 62 on Wednesday.

Critics, however, said the potential involvement of Chinese firms will only weaken the flow of information surrounding the Boeung Kak project, which residents and housing rights advocates say has been carried out largely in secret.

“We feel a bit concerned about the Chinese investment … in this area,” said Pen Raingsey from the NGO Forum. “The access of information is a real concern.”

Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Mu Sochua expressed concern that Chinese state firms had been given “carte blanche” by the Cambodian government.

“Everywhere China comes in with big projects, total support from the government and no room for the people to register their concerns. It shows what we fear most – that their rights to housing and development will not be on the agenda,” she said.

Youn Heng, deputy director of the Cambodia Investment Board’s Evaluation and Incentive Department, could not be reached on Thursday.

Sam Rainsy unveils border ‘proof’

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Sam Rainsy, who is currently in France, addresses his party at its headquarters on Sothearos Boulevard on Thursday via videoconference.

via CAAI News Media

Friday, 29 January 2010 15:04 Meas Sokchea and Sebastian Strangio

OPPOSITION leader Sam Rainsy has revealed additional evidence that he says substantiates his allegations of Vietnamese border incursions, a day after Svay Rieng provincial court handed him a two-year jail term for his involvement in the uprooting of border markers.

Speaking by live video feed from France, the Sam Rainsy Party president accused the court of convicting him at the request of Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung.

“We have enough evidence of the planting of border markers,” he said during the video press conference. “These posts are not border posts because they are 200 or 300 metres from the border. Such posts are counterfeit posts, illegal posts, invasion posts planted in Khmer farmers’ ricefields.”

The new evidence released by Sam Rainsy consisted of a detailed methodology for the creation of the maps released by the SRP on Sunday, which showed Vietnamese border markers 184, 185, 186 and 187 sitting well inside Cambodia’s legal territory as defined by French and American maps.

“If they planted the posts on our land without telling us, we have the right to pull them out,” Sam Rainsy added.

In October, Sam Rainsy joined villagers in uprooting six temporary demarcation posts near the border with Vietnam, an act Hanoi described as “perverse”. The villagers claimed the posts had been placed on their land by the Vietnamese authorities.

Sam Rainsy said that after he uprooted the markers in October, Vietnamese authorities hurried to remove other markers nearby, proving they were “worried” that word of the incursions would spread.

He also reiterated his offer to return to Cambodia to face arrest if the authorities release two local villagers imprisoned in connection with the uprooting of the border markers.

In Wednesday’s court hearing, Meas Srey, 39, and Prum Chea, 41, were sentenced to one year each in prison on charges of uprooting the posts. All three accused were also ordered to pay 55 million riels (around US$13,253) in compensation.

“This story is an international political issue,” Sam Rainsy said, adding that he would take the case to international bodies in Europe. “It will not be resolved by the court because two countries have problems. It must be resolved by the international community.”

Tith Sothea, a government adviser and member of the Council of Ministers’ Press Quick Reaction Unit, dismissed the lawmaker’s comments, saying Cambodia was not under the control of any outside power. He added that the court had tried his case in line with standard procedure.

“Sam Rainsy’s announcement that he will file a complaint to international courts is not surprising,” he said.

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Chhoeung Sarin, wife of defendant Prum Chea, weeps after being denied entry to his trial Wednesday in Svay Rieng. Heng Chivoan

But he said the opposition leader’s appeals had come too late, adding that he should have made formal complaints while he was in the country.

“If he has evidence, he should have used his rights as a people’s representative to inform National Assembly President [Heng Samrin] of his complaints,” Tith Sothea said.

But some observers said Sam Rainsy’s role in the border stunt had been consistent with the duties of an elected representative of the people.

“An MP in his case is doing his job as an MP. He went to see the people and went to solve their problems,” said Son Soubert, a member of the Constitutional Council.

“The National Assembly should support him instead of lifting his immunity, because he is just doing his job.”

In a statement issued on Thursday, the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights (CCHR) said the outcome of Wednesday’s trial was an example of the “rotten” state of Cambodia’s democracy.

A familiar pattern
The current situation recalls Sam Rainsy’s yearlong period of exile during 2005 and 2006, when he left the country to avoid prosecution on defamation charges. At that time, a Royal pardon paved the way for his return in February 2006 .

Thun Saray, president of the rights group Adhoc, said that, as in 2006, the two sides would likely reach a political settlement allowing Sam Rainsy to return from Europe and avoid prison.

“This is not the first time.... There will be a resolution of the conflict later on,” he said.

Prime Minister Hun Sen warned on January 5 that he would not request a pardon for the SRP leader, but Thun Saray said that such “deals” usually come prior to elections, when democratic legitimacy is more of an issue for the government.

“When the election happens without an opposition party, it doesn’t have much credibility,” he said. “I think both sides need each other.”

The next major poll – the commune council election – is set to take place in 2012.

Group impugns proposed drug-control law

DRUG LAW debate

Critics say elements of the draft Law on Drug Control, crafted with the cooperation and support of the UNODC, are contradictory and potentially dangerous for drug users.

The right to drug treatment

Article 67(5)
“Officers who implement drug treatment and rehabilitation measures in accordance with the right to drug treatment shall not be prosecuted for their activities.”

Compulsory drug treatment

Article 71(4)
“If a person is drug dependent to any substance as specified ... a guardian, relative or authority can refer, or arrest and refer, the person to drug treatment at a hospital, public drug treatment facility, or any drug treatment facility.”


via CAAI News Media

Friday, 29 January 2010 15:04 Irwin Loy and Chhay Channyda

Critics say current document would only increase violence and abuse in Cambodia’s criticised drug rehabilitation centres

PROPOSED legislation aimed at strengthening the Kingdom’s drug control law could also allow staffers in rehabilitation centres to commit human rights abuses with “total impunity” and give authorities sweeping powers of detention, critics warned Thursday.

Shortly after a scathing Human Rights Watch report released this week that detainees held in 11 government-run treatment centres face “sadistic violence”, critics are warning that the draft Law on Drug Control, written with support from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), would allow any abuses to continue.

Rights watchdogs have zeroed in on two articles they describe as potentially “dangerous”, including one that guarantees public access to drug treatment.

“Officers who implement drug treatment and rehabilitation measures in accordance with the right to drug treatment shall not be prosecuted for their activities,” states Article 67(5) of a February 2009 draft of the law, which was obtained by the Post.

The wording is particularly troublesome, given ongoing allegations of abuse, said Joe Amon, HRW’s director for health and human rights.

“This provision will allow drug detention staff to commit the kinds of abuses we document – beatings, rape, torture – with total impunity,” Amon said.

A separate article outlines the circumstances in which a person can be forced into treatment: “If a person is drug-dependent ... a guardian, relative or authority can ... arrest and refer the person to drug treatment.”

David Harding, international coordinator for drugs programmes at Friends International, called it “the most dangerous article in the entire law”.

“Anybody could say that somebody is a drug addict and have them interned indefinitely.”

Almost half of those detained in rehabilitation centres were arrested at the request of a relative, the HRW report said.

In response to criticism, authorities said it was necessary to outline compulsory treatment in the drug control law, which was first adopted in 1996.

“Our idea here is to help serious drug addicts get out of drugs. It is not wrong,” said Moek Dara, secretary general for the NACD.

“People who are dependent on drugs are different from normal people. If we do not push them, they do not find drug treatment themselves,” he said.

Moek Dara rejected criticism that the law would give treatment centre staff impunity.

“They will still face prosecution if they commit crimes under criminal law, like beating and using violence,” he said.

UNODC role
HRW’s Amon blamed the UNODC, which assisted in drafting the law, for shortcomings in the proposed legislation.

“The UNODC ... needs to do more to ensure that [drug treatment centres] do not operate wholly outside of Cambodian and international law,” Amon said. “The new law that has been drafted is a disgrace.”

But Harding said there were so many issues with the legislation when it was brought for public consultation last February that civil society had little time to make the case on how to plug the holes.

“I think the UN agencies have worked really hard on this,” Harding said. “There are just so many areas of concern that you can only do so much.”

As it stands now, however, Harding said the proposed law could usher in a surge in the number of people detained in detention centres.

“I think we could see a situation where there are significantly more incarcerations of people,” Harding said.

The draft Law on Drug Control is currently being discussed by the Council of Ministers, Moek Dara said. He said he expected the law would be approved “later this year”, before it makes its way to the National Assembly.

The UNODC’s East Asia representative, Gary Lewis, did not answer requests for comment Thursday.

PM points finger at corrupt army chiefs

Photo by: Pha Lina
Hun Sen speaks during the closing ceremony of a conference at the Ministry of Defence on Thursday.

via CAAI News Media

Friday, 29 January 2010 15:04 Vong Sokheng and Sam Rith

PRIME Minister Hun Sen on Thursday warned of harsh sanctions for soldiers and military commanders involved in illegal businesses, identifying several officials by name who he said were guilty of corruption.

Speaking at the conclusion of a conference on military reform, held at the Ministry of Defence, Hun Sen said even high-ranking officers were not immune from the government’s effort to expose unlawful activity, calling this effort essential to plans discussed at the conference for military reform over the next five years.

“It is time to stop every activity involving illegal business or the support of illegal business. [I] don’t care how many stars or moons you have – I will fire you, and nobody will keep corrupt commanders in their seats,” Hun Sen said. “In Cambodia, the prime minister directly controls the troops.”

Hun Sen identified several generals who said were guilty of corruption: Sum Samnang, director-general of logistics and finance at the Ministry of Defence; Chao Phirun, director-general of the military’s materials and technical services department; Ung Samkhan, commander of the Cambodian Navy; and Chhoeun Chanthan, chief of Senate President Chea Sim’s bodyguards.

The premier also acknowledged that many soldiers were involved in illegal activities including logging, land grabbing, smuggling and illegal fishing. “I declare my absolute order [to stop illegal businesses] -- otherwise military reform will not move forward,” Hun Sen said.

Following the passage of the Kingdom’s long-awaited Anticorruption Law, Hun Sen said, all government officials and politicians will be required to disclose their assets to a permanent committee to fight corruption, which will be housed at the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces headquarters in the capital’s Daun Penh district. A draft of the Anticorruption Law was approved by the Council of Ministers in December, and is likely to be passed by the National Assembly in April.

Yim Sovann, spokesman for the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP), said he was pleased to hear the prime minister address the issue of land grabbing by the armed forces.“What I am happy about is that he acknowledged past misdeeds,” Yim Sovann said, adding that the SRP’s recommendations on these issues had been ignored for years.

Thun Saray, president of local rights group Adhoc, called for Hun Sen’s recommendations to be put swiftly into action.

“His speech is very good, but we also ask for real implementation … sometimes when we take his speech to lower levels for implementation, they do not listen,” he said.

Owner of closed night market in Siem Reap petitions to reopen

Photo by: Byron Perry
Siem Reap Governor Sou Phirin said Thursday he would look into the night market row.

via CAAI News Media

Friday, 29 January 2010 15:03 Rann Reuy and Byron Perry

Siem Reap Province

THE owner of a controversial night market in Siem Reap that was shut down last week, in response to complaints that it was siphoning business from rival markets and blocking a major thoroughfare, has filed a petition signed by vendors demanding that it be allowed to reopen.

Huy Leng said the petition had been submitted to Siem Reap provincial officials as well as the Cabinet of Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday.

The Siem Reap Night Market began operating in early July in the middle of the road directly east of the route known as Pub Street.

The night market almost immediately drew criticism from the owners of the city’s two other night markets: the Angkor Night Market and the Noon Night Market.

Lim Nam, the owner of the Angkor Night Market, reiterated some of his previous criticism on Thursday, saying it was illegal to set up stalls in the middle of the street.

“I don’t oppose [Huy Leng] if he has legal permission from authorities. This is not a conflict between me and the new market owner,” he said.

“But what we have to discuss with officials is whether he can run the market in the street.”

Siem Riep Governor Sou Phirin said Thursday that he was in Phnom Penh and had not received the complaint from Huy Leng, but he urged the owners of Siem Reap’s three night markets to come to some sort of compromise. Huy Leng has said that he would agree to an arrangement in which the Siem Reap Night Market would operate only three nights per week.

“When the opposing markets filed a complaint, we had to close it because they didn’t have permission yet,” Sou Phirin said. “If they don’t agree with this closure, they can file a complaint like the other side did, and then officials will go to examine the real situation.”

Civil party reforms at KRT

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Chum Mey, a survivor of Tuol Sleng prison and a civil party during the Khmer Rouge tribunal’s first case, testifies in June.

via CAAI News Media

Friday, 29 January 2010 15:03 James O'Toole

THE Khmer Rouge tribunal will convene a plenary session next week to discuss reforms to civil party participation, including the consolidation of their courtroom representation under a single set of co-lawyers.

“Due to the high numbers of Civil Party applications received in relation to Case 002 and the complexity of the case, there is a need to streamline and consolidate Civil Party participation,” the court said in a statement on Thursday.

Case 002, described in the Thursday statement as the tribunal’s “core case”, features senior regime leaders Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary, Ieng Thirith and Khieu Samphan, as well as Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, the Tuol Sleng prison chief who was the sole accused in the court’s first case. Ninety civil parties participated for the entirety of the Duch trial, represented by four groups of lawyers.

Under the amendments up for consideration at the plenary, which begins Tuesday, civil party groups would be represented collectively by a pair of lead co-lawyers, though the court added that civil party testimony “is likely to remain a significant feature of the trial in Case 002”.

Some civil party lawyers fear that a concentration of power in the hands of the lead co-lawyers may hinder the effective representation of their clients.

The proposed rule changes, said civil party lawyer Silke Studzinsky, give the lead co-lawyers “a broad discretion and power which is not at all limited or controlled by anybody, and there is no power for the civil party lawyers… to get their voices heard.”

Trial monitors, however, said much of the civil party testimony during Case 001 was repetitive, calling for reforms that the court began considering several months ago.

“It is well known that the Trial Chamber has found the process of involving victims as civil parties to be cumbersome and that it has frequently had the unlooked-for effect of slowing the trial while not providing for the victims’ needs, which include achieving timely justice for their suffering,” trial chamber judge Silvia Cartwright told the court’s last plenary session, held in September.

Today is the deadline for civil party applications in Case 002, with the court having received 3,533 such applications as of the end of December.

American paedophile gets three more years

via CAAI News Media

Friday, 29 January 2010 15:03 Chhay Channyda

A 60-YEAR-OLD convicted American paedophile already serving a 10-year prison term now has an extra three years in jail after Phnom Penh Municipal Court found him guilty on Thursday of soliciting sex from a 16-year-old Cambodian girl.

Michael James Dodd was arrested last August in Phnom Penh’s Daun Penh district and subsequently charged with purchasing child sex in two different cases, one involving a 14-year-old Vietnamese girl and the other involving the Cambodian girl.

In the case of the Vietnamese girl, the court convicted him later that month under Article 34 of the Law on the Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation, sentencing him to 10 years in prison and ordering him to pay 20 million riels (US$4,824) in compensation.

Presiding Judge Chhay Kong said Thursday that the new three-year sentence would be in addition to Dodd’s original 10-year sentence, and that he would not be asked to compensate the Cambodian girl. As part of his sentence, Dodd is prohibited from living in Cambodia after his release.

Under the human trafficking and sexual exploitation law, a person found guilty of engaging in sexual conduct with a minor older than 15 years of age faces a sentence of between two and five years. If the victim is younger than 15 possible sentences range from seven to 15 years. Dodd received a 10-year sentence in relation to the 14-year-old and a three-year term for the 16-year-old.

Samleang Seila, country Director for the child protection NGO Action Pour Les Enfants, said, after the verdict was read, that Dodd should be forced to pay compensation to the victim.

“The three years’ imprisonment is just, but the court should seek benefits for the victim as she comes from a poor family,” he said. The victim had originally asked for $5,000 compensation.

Dodd was not present for the reading of the verdict and sentence on Thursday. His lawyer, Meng Sotheary, said he was in poor health and had recently been admitted to the Cambodian-Russian Friendship Hospital.

Ministry of Education wants more teachers

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Friday, 29 January 2010 15:03 Khouth Sophakchakrya

OFFICIALS from the Planning and Education ministries met Thursday to discuss reforms laid out in the updated National Strategic Development Plan, with education officials calling for increases in staff members and facilities to meet the Kingdom’s goal of achieving universal public education by 2015.

“To respond to the [Millenium Development Goal] of ‘Education for All’ by 2015, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport needs to hire about 5,000 new teachers at all levels and must build 1,000 new schools,” In The, spokesman for the Ministry of Education, said after the meeting at the Hotel Cambodiana.

Although 2010 will see restrictions on the hire of personnel throughout government, the ministries of health and education are exempt from these rules.

In The said new teachers were necessary because of the high number of retirees in the education sector, which he said totalled about 2,000 per year, and because of an increasing number of school-aged children.

Pich Bunthin, secretary of state for the State Secretariat of Public Functions, said that of the 3,923 government workers who will retire this year, about two-thirds are teachers or health staffers.

“In early July, we will finalise the selection of between 5,000 and 6,000 new teachers, nurses and doctors to work in the health and education sectors,” he said.

Land Fight: Two families accept cash for land

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Friday, 29 January 2010 15:03 Mom Kunthear

Land Fight

Two families facing eviction in Preah Sihanouk province’s Prey Nob district have accepted compensation from a Chinese company that acquired their land as part of an economic concession, officials and residents said. The dispute between families in Smach Den village and the Yie Chea Company turned violent at the end of a three-day standoff between villagers and company staffers earlier this week. The rights group Licadho on Wednesday said the government had brought in Royal Cambodian Armed Forces Brigade 31 to end the standoff, causing violence that led to the hospitalisation of four villagers. Ing Kim Ang said Thursday that her family had accepted a US$4,000 compensation offer. “It seems to me that our hand was forced because our land is worth more than US$10,000, but we’re afraid for our security,” she said. Village chief Kuy Sambath said the two families were the only ones in his village facing eviction, but Licadho said 116 could eventually be forced out.

Association to unite capital’s senior citizens

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Friday, 29 January 2010 15:03 Tep Nimol and Mom Kunthear

THE Ministry of Social Affairs has established Phnom Penh’s first Association for the Elderly, one of hundreds that have been set up nationwide to assist Cambodia’s senior citizens.

Sok Tho, the director of the new association, which is located in Chamkarmon district, said it had been inaugurated last week and already had 231 members.

Members of the association are required to pay dues of 2,000 riels (about US$0.50) per month, which are used to provide financial assistance to members who become sick or injured, Sok Tho said.

Dr Pay Sambo, deputy director of the retirement and pensions department at the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation, said Thursday that the ministry had established 334 similar associations in the provinces but had never before set one up in Phnom Penh.

“We wanted to establish this Association for the Elderly because it expresses that we are paying attention to the old people, not only in the province but also in the city,” he said.

Citing 2008 census figures, he said 37 percent of Cambodians were older than 55, adding that the age group was expected to grow to 62.5 percent of the population by 2050.

Khan Yun, a 68-year-old resident of Phsar Doem Thkov commune, who has joined the association, said she hoped it would provide the types of services commonly available to the elderly in the West.

“We must have associations for the elderly in our country that are the same as the Western countries, because all old people can help each other by sharing what we have, like money, with old people from poor families,” she said.

Drug dependence isn’t a moral issue

Photo by: Roberta Valerio
A police officer watches over a group of street children rounded up in Phnom Penh.

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Friday, 29 January 2010 15:02 Joe Amon

The glossy brochure from Cambodia’s national drugs authority is reassuring. Drug use causes social instability and blocks national development, it explains, but the ultimate solution is to encourage people who use drugs to seek support. Friends and family must “avoid discrimination, intolerance and violence” toward people who use drugs and help them “find the necessary services for people to stop using drugs”.

If only they could. The brochure does not mention that the Cambodian government’s principal strategy to address drug dependence is not treatment, but detention. Each year, more than 2,000 people pass through the 11 drug detention centres around the country, usually detained for three to six months. The “treatment” and “rehabilitation” these centres provide? Military drills, hard labor and forced exercise. Beatings are common. These centres offer no medically appropriate treatment, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, psychosocial support (counseling, for example) or opiate substitution therapy. As one former detainee explained, his centre was “not a rehab centre but a torture centre”.

His appraisal was borne out by Human Rights Watch’s own research, published in a new report, Skin on the Cable. Former detainees reported that they were shocked with electric batons, whipped with twisted electrical wire, regularly beaten and chained standing in the sun. Some told us of being raped by centre staff or coerced into donating their blood. Many reported swelling and numbness in their limbs – symptoms of nutritional deficiencies.

Given its stated commitment to helping people stop using drugs, why hasn’t Cambodia invested in effective drug treatment rather than detention?

One reason may be that the centres are a convenient means to hold people when police and municipal authorities “clean” the streets before national festivities or visits by high-ranking foreign officials. Drug detention centres are frequently used not just to hold those dependent upon drugs, but also street children, people with apparent mental illnesses or casual drug users.

Another explanation lies in the money these centres can generate. Although Cambodian law requires the government to offer free treatment to drug users, drug detention centres often accept fees from families to take in their relatives. It is unlikely that the family members are aware that the approach in these centres is “spare the electric baton and spoil the child”.

Ultimately, the driving factor behind Cambodia’s drug detention centres is a dangerously simplistic understanding of drug dependence: It’s considered a matter of having drugs in the body as a consequence of an individual’s moral weakness. Hence “treatment” requires locking people up, forcing them to sweat to remove drugs from their systems and beating them to strengthen their resolve to stay off drugs. As one former detainee explained, “The big boss [of the centre] said, ‘Doing exercise will make you sweat, and the addictive substance will come out through sweat.’ [Each morning] we had to do 50 to 100 push-ups. If you couldn’t do this, you were beaten.”

Cambodia is not the only country in the region to consider detention an appropriate form of drug treatment. In Thailand, since 2003, people who use drugs have been considered “patients, not criminals”. But in practice each year thousands of people needing drug treatment are held in prison for “assessment” for extended periods. Then they are put into “drug treatment” centres, often run by the Thai armed forces, where military drills are a key component of so-called “treatment”.

In China, an estimated 350,000 drug users are held for up to seven years in centres where they can be held without due process and subjected to forced labour and psychological and moral re-education. In Vietnam, between 50,000 and 60,000 people are detained in 109 detention centres for drug treatment, with sentences as long as five years.

It is easy to see drug dependence as a moral issue. But it is not. As a chronic relapsing medical condition, dependence on drugs cannot be addressed by locks and chains, push-ups or police batons. Treatment should be provided only for those who are dependent, drug dependency services should be run by healthcare professionals and not public security forces, and therapy should be tailored to the individual needs of the patient. Compulsory drug detention centres that deny effective treatment to drug users and rely upon beatings, forced labour and exercise should be closed, and voluntary, in-community treatment options should be supported. This is the only way we can guarantee the “treatment” for drug dependence is not worse than the disease.

Joe Amon is director of the Health and Human Rights Division of Human Rights Watch

Two licences voided in frequency controversy

Suong Senghuot, a leased line supervisor for WiCam, checks a line on January 21 on the corner of Monireth and Sihanouk boulevards in Phnom Penh. WiCam is one of the nine companies that has an overlapping telecoms licence.

via CAAI News Media

Friday, 29 January 2010 15:02 Ellie Dyer

Companies seek answer from Hun Sen on overlapping permits

THE permits of two Internet companies affected by the government’s issuing of overlapping radio frequency licences have been revoked, the Post has discovered.

Last week, seven of Cambodia’s leading ISPs wrote to Prime Minister Hun Sen asking for help after Star Digital TV was licensed by the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications (MPTC) to use a large chunk of the radio frequency spectrum.

The frequency had already been given to nine other companies, many of which intended to use it to launch wireless Internet services using WiMax technology. Overlapping frequencies make such technology impossible to use.

On Thursday, an industry source who declined to be named said two of the nine companies affected had received letters from the MPTC revoking their licences. The letters are reportedly dated Friday, the day after the complaint was sent to Hun Sen.

The companies were, according to the industry executive, offered no compensation and told that the decision had been made in September. It is not yet clear which businesses are affected.

New research by Internet service providers (ISPs) has also revealed that licences issued to the telecommunications industry overlapped before the latest row thrust the problem into the spotlight.

At a crisis meeting last week, eight of the nine companies affected shared details of their licences for the first time. Analysis carried out since the meeting shows that frequency licences awarded to eight companies accounted for the whole 2.5 – 2.7GHz spectrum.

This means that the ninth company, US-based Craig Wireless Systems, must have been awarded a duplicate licence.

An official from one of the ISPs affected said Monday: “It is clear Craig Wireless is overlapping with somebody. So, based on our analysis, there were already overlaps in frequency licences before Star Digital TV.”

The companies affected are Angkor Data Communication Group, Cambodia Data, Chuan Wei, CityLink, Craig Wireless Systems, Global Telecom, Sotelco, WiCam Corp and Wireless IP.

The Internet companies are concerned that a future inability to secure a dedicated frequency could jeopardise investments that might eventually entail tens of millions of dollars in infrastructure.

The companies said they would like to make a presentation to the government to “create an understanding of what is at stake”. They have expressed a belief that unless the situation is clarified, Cambodia will be unable to benefit from wireless Internet technology that they think is essential to the country’s economic development.

The ISPs have yet to receive a reply from Hun Sen’s office.

A representative from the office, when contacted by the Post, referred the issue to the MPTC.

On Thursday, MPTC Director General Mao Chakrya, declined to comment on the issue.

The issue was brought up, along with more general concerns, at a Government-Private Sector Forum meeting Thursday.

According to Hyam Bolande, vice president of Chuan Wei, an MPTC representative said the government “would respond officially later”.

The manager of Star Digital TV has been overseas for the past week and was unavailable for comment Thursday.

Oil firm agrees deal on Block A

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Friday, 29 January 2010 15:02 Steve Finch

US energy multinational Chevron has extended an agreement to explore in Offshore Block A, said a company spokesman, following months of negotiations after the previous deal expired in April.

The concession, located in the Gulf of Thailand, is widely considered to be Cambodia’s best chance of producing energy within the next few years, although production dates have frequently been pushed back – most recently to some time after 2013.

“Chevron welcomes the ongoing opportunity to evaluate the Block A resources,” Singapore-based spokesman Gareth Johnstone said late Wednesday by email.

He declined to provide further details on the new agreement, including its duration, citing “commercial reasons”.

Johnstone also declined to say when the new deal was signed. Government energy officials, including Te Duong Tara, director general of the Cambodia National Petroleum Authority, were unavailable for comment Thursday.

The new deal ends speculation that Chevron may pull out of Cambodia after both sides took close to a year to iron out details of the new deal.

Neither Chevron nor the government have revealed details about the negotiations and, in the longer term, the process required to bring the “complex Block A reservoir” online, although Johnstone told the Post in July: “Key requirements include having legal, fiscal, and regulatory frameworks in place, and were “inbuilding technical capability.”

During the talks, both sides were “in the process of evaluating several development options”, Johnstone said at the time.

Chevron says it has thus far spent US$125 million on seismic data in Block A, drilling at least 15 exploratory wells, according to company promotional material, since operations first began in 2002.

Following reports last week on Chevron’s downstream operations, which are scheduled to undergo restructuring this year, Johnstone refused to speculate on Chevron’s presence in Cambodia. Chevron subsidiary Caltex runs service stations in the Kingdom.

“It is important to understand that Chevron conducts a continual assessment of its asset portfolio to determine the optimal mix of assets and markets,” Johnstone said in Wednesday’s email. “No decisions on assets or markets have been made.”

The US energy firm is planning to shed retail outlets to concentrate on upstream activities, Bloomberg reported on January 19, without saying which markets would be affected.

Johnstone told the Post an announcement would be made in March and that “the new organisation will be in place by the third quarter of this year”, without elaborating further.

Politics not a factor in Thai trade drop: govt

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Friday, 29 January 2010 15:02 May Kunmakara

POLITICAL conflict was not behind a 22.15 percent annualised drop in bilateral trade last year between Cambodia and Thailand, the government’s director general for international trade said Thursday.

According to Thai customs statistics from the Thai Embassy’s Foreign Trade Promotion Office (FTPO), bilateral trade between the two countries plummeted from US$2.13 billion in 2008 to just $1.658 billion in 2009.

Cambodia’s exports to Thailand went down by 13.84 percent to $77.73 million, in 2009, from $90.22 million in 2008. The Kingdom’s imports from Thailand fell by 22.52 percent – to $1.580 billion from $2.040 billion.

Sok Sopheak, director general of international trade for the Ministry of Commerce, said the decline in trade was because of the global economic crisis, which has stymied world demand for goods.

“This downturn did [not] only apply to trade with Thailand but it also affected our trade with other countries,” he said.

The director added that he does not believe the diplomatic conflict between Phnom Penh and Bangkok over the presence in Cambodia of former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra – who was appointed Prime Minister Hun Sen’s economic advisor – was the key factor in the drop.

“I don’t think political conflict is the primary factor behind the decline,” he added. “People at the Thai-Cambodian border still traded with each other despite the dispute.”

Trade between the two countries had previously increased steadily from $1.7 billion in 2006, to $1.4 billion in 2007, to $2.13 billion in 2008.

Cambodia primarily exports agricultural products, secondhand garments, recyclable metal and fish to Thailand. It imports petroleum, consumer products, building materials and cosmetics.

The Kingdom’s total exports, according to a report from the National Bank of Cambodia, fell an annualised 18.2 percent in 2009 to $3.619 billion. Imports fell 17 percent to $5.208 billion.

Sok Sopheak said he hopes that the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area, which came into force on January 1, will accelerate trade among ASEAN’s nations as trade tariffs are lowered throughout Southeast Asia.

Jiranan Wongmongkol, director of the FTPO, was not available for comment Thursday.

Dealers oppose Toyota monopoly

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Friday, 29 January 2010 15:01 May Titthara

TEN Phnom Penh firms plan to write to Prime Minister Hun Sen asking for the right to import Toyotas into Cambodia, challenging the monopoly given to TTHK Co Ltd.

In March, TTHK was granted exclusive rights by the Ministry of Commerce to import new Toyotas into the Kingdom. TTHK can then sell vehicles on to smaller dealers.

Other dealers say they want to have a say in what vehicles they sell and are asking Hun Sen to grant them the right to import Toyotas from abroad.

Keo Vong Nary of Monivong 278 Car Sales, who represents the traders, said Thursday: “We plan to file a complaint to ask for intervention from Prime Minister Hun Sen to help us get the right to import the Toyota brand from the US, Germany, China, Taiwan and other countries.

“We do not want to import from Japan.”

He added that the traders hadn’t received any “new and modern” cars considered suitable by them for sale this year.

Kong Nuon, country director of TTHK Co Ltd, said the exclusivity agreement with Toyota was drawn up to ensure quality control of the vehicles.

“The reason we do not allow them to import the vehicles is because of government laws, set by the Ministry of Commerce,” he said. “Also, Toyota wants to ensure quality by controlling its products from its headquarters in Tokyo.

“Before they exported their products to Cambodia, they carried out surveys on our roads and petrol quality to understand what cars were suitable for the market.”

Secretary of State for the Ministry of Commerce Var Cheang confirmed the agreement was in place because it was Toyota’s right to do so.

“The reason our ministry gave exclusive rights to TTHK is because Toyota in Japan had provided the exclusive rights to TTHK,” he said.