Tuesday, 2 February 2010

The fire fighters take part in an emergency exercise at a military air base in Phnom Penh

Photo by DAP News

Fire fighters extinguish a blaze during an emergency exercise at a military air base in Phnom Penh February 2, 2010. The Cambodian National Committee for Management Disaster and Societe Concessionaire des Aeroports (SCA) organized the fourth full scale airport emergency exercise to improve the airport community's ability to face a major crisis. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Cambodian rescuers carry a mock casualty during an emergency exercise at a military air base in Phnom Penh February 2, 2010. The Cambodian National Committee for Management Disaster and Societe Concessionaire des Aeroports (SCA) organized the fourth full scale airport emergency exercise to improve the airport community's ability to face a major crisis. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Cambodian rescuers carry a mock casualty during an emergency exercise at a military air base in Phnom Penh February 2, 2010. The Cambodian National Committee for Management Disaster and Societe Concessionaire des Aeroports (SCA) organized the fourth full scale airport emergency exercise to improve the airport community's ability to face a major crisis. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

People simulating casualties take part in an emergency exercise at a military air base in Phnom Penh February 2, 2010. The Cambodian National Committee for Management Disaster and Societe Concessionaire des Aeroports (SCA) organized the fourth full scale airport emergency exercise to improve the airport community's ability to face a major crisis. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

An officer from Cambodia's anti-terrorism unit stands guard as fire fighters take part in an emergency exercise at a military air base in Phnom Penh February 2, 2010. The Cambodian National Committee for Management Disaster and Societe Concessionaire des Aeroports (SCA) organized the fourth full scale airport emergency exercise to improve the airport community's ability to face a major crisis. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Cambodian odyssey

Victoria Parker.

via CAAI News Media

02 Feb 10

PADDINGTON mum Victoria Parker will attempt to cycle across Cambodia later this year to support children affected by war.

The full-time communications director, who had little previous cycling experience, said that initially, the 350km trek was ``slightly daunting’’.

``It was a decision where you make a commitment and have no idea how you’re going to complete it,’’ she said,

``Sometimes when you make that commitment though, things start to happen that help you along the way.’’

Ms Parker said when a number of westside businesses offered their assistance, the path became clear.

Snap Fitness Milton owners Jake Henley and Rebecca Roussos will donate money from open day events directly to the Cambodian Cycling Challenge, as well as applying their fitness expertise to Victoria’s training.

Darren Boman of Brisbane Boutique Bikes has provided a Banshee mountain bike for the single mum to train on and Batlow Apples have provided 3000 apples for distribution throughout Cambodia.

The cycling journey, of 12 days including stopovers at orphanages, begins in May.

To help Victoria raise funds visit http://www.effortforothers.com/.

Vietnamese community in Cambodia boosts solidarity

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The Association of Overseas Vietnamese in Cambodia has set up good relations with local authorities and won trust of the Vietnamese community in the country.

The assessment was made at a conference on Jan. 30 to review the association’s operation over the past two years and work out its plan for this year.

So far, the association has 19 chapters across Cambodia . It also set up the Association of Overseas Vietnamese Enterprises in Cambodia , which is operating effectively and has generated numerous jobs for overseas Vietnamese.

The association has organised 46 establishments to teach Vietnamese language for children and raised fund to help poor families of the community.

It plans to increase the number of chapters to 21 in the near future to coordinate closer with local authorities and create favourable conditions for the Vietnamese community.

The Cambodian detention centres 'torturing kids'

Authorities are accused of taking children off the streets and delivering them to detention centres. (AFP : Rob Elliott)

via CAAI News Media

By Conor Duffy in Bangkok for PM

New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) has released a scathing report accusing Cambodian authorities of locking up and torturing thousands of people a year in drug detention centres.

The human rights group says many of the detainees are children and that they suffer abuses such as rape and electric shocks.

HRW has also accused UNICEF of involvement in one of the detention centres, saying one of the organisation's vehicles has been used to transport children to the drug treatment centre.

HRW says there are 11 drug detention centres scattered across Cambodia and that more than 2,000 people are detained inside each year.

The organisation has been trying to peer inside the jail cells for more than a year and has now released a detailed report.

NRW New York-based director Joe Amon says the group has spoken with more than 50 recently released detainees who suffered violence he describes as sadistic.

"We found a pretty uniform set of abuses being reported across all of the centres where we talked to people," he said.

"People reported being beaten, being whipped with electrical cables. There were reports of being raped or witnessing other rapes and also the use of electric shock."

Mr Amon says many of those imprisoned are children and that the centres breach Cambodian and international law.

"There were two different ways in which people ended up in the centres. One was through street sweeps, where the police would detain people and bring them to the centres and drop them off," he said.

"In those cases there was no formal charge, there was no lawyer, there was no judge, there was no process for appeal.

"And the second main way was through family members who would pay the police to arrest their loved ones, their children or spouses or brothers."

UNICEF implicated

UNICEF has been working closely with the Cambodian government at one of the detention centres.

A Cambodian newspaper has published a photograph which it says shows a UNICEF van being used to transport illegally detained children to a detention centre.

Mr Amon has called on UNICEF to denounce the centres.

"The van very clearly says 'provided with the support of UNICEF and the European Union' and there was another picture also which wasn't published, but which I saw that said 'in support of child friendly justice'," he said.

"The idea that these centres are child friendly justice is really outrageous. These centres are abusive and they're torturing kids."

A European Union spokesman said he was concerned at any use of EU assets in illegal activities and has called for an immediate investigation.

Richard Bridle, the UNICEF representative in Cambodia, says his organisation has put questions to the Cambodian Social Justice Ministry over the use of the van.

"We are also concerned if a vehicle was provided partly with UNICEF funding," he said.

"The main source of funding actually came from the European Union delegation here, so the vehicle doesn't belong to us, it belongs to the government; we're looking into the terms in which it was transferred."

However Mr Bridle has resisted the calls from HRW to close the prisons down because he says it would lead to children being locked up in adult prisons.

"What would worry me about shutting down this centre is that then the only alternative that's left is closed detention and we have seen period round-ups by the police of street children," he said.

Mr Bridle told ABC Radio's PM that he would not be surprised if abuses were occurring in the drug detention centres, but that HRW's call to close the centres down immediately is simplistic.

"I understand where Human Rights Watch is coming from. I understand it is an advocacy organisation and that from our point of view it tends to see things in black and white," he said.

"We have much more difficult calls to make here with regards to the best interest of all children who come into conflict with the law."

Similar drug detention centres exist in many other Asian countries and it may be an argument that plays out across the region.

Jail Sentence a ‘Cover Up’: Sam Rainsy

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
via CAAI News Media

A day after receiving a two-year prison sentence in absentia, opposition leader Sam Rainsy accused Cambodian leaders of conspiring with Vietnamto put political pressure on him.

Sam Rainsy was found guilty of racial incitement and destruction of property for leading a group of villagers to uproot markers along the Vietnamese border at Svay Rieng province in October. He is now in self-imposed exile in France.

“I can declare that the accusations against me are just a pretext,” Sam Rainsy said Thursday, as a guest on “Hello VOA.”

“Indeed, they want to cover up the activities of foreigners, meaning that the powerful rulers today seem to associate with foreigners and let foreigners be right and let the Khmer be wrong,” he said, in a reference to Vietnam.

Border issues between Cambodia and its neighbors, especially Thailand and Vietnam, are political flashpoints for many Cambodians, who fear they are losing Cambodian soil to encroachment on both sides.

Sam Rainsy said Thursday he was not guilty of uprooting border markers because the markers that were knocked down in October were 280 meters inside the legal Cambodian border. He urged a review of the border using high-tech equipment.

Villagers at the time said they feared the markers were allowing Vietnamese encroachment into their rice fields.

Phay Siphan, a spokesman for the Council of Ministers, said Cambodia’s border committee had been working to make the borders clear, not to lose Cambodian land.

Rights Group Urges Review of Drug Detentions

By Heng Reaksmey, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
via CAAI News Media

A leading rights group has urged the United Nations to reconsider its support of government drug rehabilitation centers, following allegations of abuse.

“UN officials agree that these centers are illegal and abusive,” Joe Amon, health and human rights director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement. “Now Unicef and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime need to make clear to the Cambodian government that the centers should be shut down.”

A new Human Rights Watch report alleges that government rehab centers forcibly detain suspected drug addicts, who are “often forced to work at hard manual labor or exercise as a means of ‘treatment.’”

Anand Chaudhuri, project coordinator for the UN Office on Drugs and Crime in Cambodia, said treatment could not be effective in an environment of detention.

“You cannot detain somebody and say that it is treatment,” he said. “We have to have some evidence, and we have to give the choice. Then only it works.”

Khieu Samon, deputy director of the Ministry of Interior’s traffic and crime department, said Monday the report by Human Rights Watch was “not true.”

“The drug center is not a place to detain or commit abuse to drug users,” he said. “Normally, we receive the request from drug users and the parents of drug users to cure the child in the center.”

Tribunal Undecided on Use of New Film

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
via CAAI News Media

Khmer Rouge tribunal officials have not decided whether they will use testimony given by a senior regime leader to a journalist and producer of an award-winning documentary film.

In “Enemies of the People,” which last week won the Sundance Film Festival’s Special Jury Prize, Khmer Rouge ideologue Nuon Chea explains his involvement in the regime, elaborating on the alleged atrocities that have since put him under detention at the tribunal facing charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Nuon Chea, now 83, gave a series of interviews over a period of years to journalist Thet Sambath before he was arrested in September 2007 and held by the tribunal.

In the film, Nuon Chea admits he and Pol Pot decided they would kill anyone deemed an “enemy of the people,” that is the Khmer Rouge regime.

“If we kept them [alive], the nation would be dead,” he says in the film.

Nuon Chea is now awaiting trial for alleged crimes he committed as Pol Pot’s deputy, in conjunction with four other jailed regime cadre.

Lars Olsen, a spokesman for the tribunal, said the court would not disclose steps it may take in an investigation, including whether the film could be used as evidence.

However, Thet Sambath and co-producer Rob Lemkin said they had received a request from the UN-backed court for a copy of the film.

Son Arun, a defense lawyer for Nuon Chea, said he was aware of the film but had not seen it.

“It’s not a concern that [the film] would create additional charges against my client,” he said.

Fragrant flowers at high-level opening

Photo by: Heng Chivoan

via CAAI News Media

Tuesday, 02 February 2010 15:00 Heng Chivoan

Prime Minister Hun Sen and Foreign Minister Hor Namhong (right) throw jasmine flowers at the opening ceremony of Wat Sovan Munny in Kandal province on Monday. Members of the business community were also in attendance, including Suy Sophan, owner of the Phanimex development company and Choeung Sopheap, owner of Pheapimex investment company.

Rubber prices up 7 pct as demand soars: Cambodian gov't

via CAAI News Media

02/01/2010 09:42 PM ET

PHNOM PENH, Feb 01, 2010 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- Rising demand in January pushed higher the price of rubber in Cambodia, up by 200 U.S. dollars a ton or seven percent higher, local media reported on Tuesday, citing Cambodia's Agriculture Ministry.

Ly Phalla, the ministry's general director for rubber, was quoted by the Cambodia Daily as saying that the price of rubber currently stands at 3,000 U.S. dollars per ton, up from 2,800 U.S. dollars in early January.

"I hope the price of rubber will continue to increase since there is more demand," he said, attributing the rise in sales to an economic recovery in international markets. Phalla also said that a lack of supply in the region was contributing to the higher prices, which fluctuated broadly as the global economy floundered in 2008.

But Phalla said he did not know how much rubber Cambodia currently produces.

Rubber prices hit a record high of 3,500 U.S. dollars per ton in July 2008 during the food crisis, before shrinking to about 900 U.S. dollars per ton early last year.

There are around 108,000 hectares of land under rubber cultivation now and the government plans to increase this area to 150,000 hectares by 2015.

Vietnamese rubber companies also plan to cultivate 100,000 hectares of rubber in Cambodia by 2012 on land concession.


DAP News ; Breaking News by Soy Sopheap

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Mondulkiri Hotel Uses Cambodian Flag to Clean Chairs

Tuesday, 02 February 2010 02:59 DAP-NEWS

A high class hotel in Mondulkiri province is using Cambodian flags to clean chairs and cover bird houses, alleged by one DAP Newspaper reader who sent a letter along with pictures.

“I spent time in Mondulkiri province on January 18, 2010. I stayed at this hotel, which is a high class hotel in the province. But, it was surprising I saw Cambodian flag being torn completely and used to clean the chairs and used to cover on bird houses as shown in the pictures,” the letter said.

Soley, the hotel manager, denied the allegations.

“I will ask my subordinators, but I think this does not happen,” she told DAP News Cambodia.

Rous Chandarabot, a government official, said that he was regretful if the hotel acted like this.

“The authority has to take action against this activity as it is very serious as it does not only shame to our nation, but also it shames our ancestors, culture and history,” he told DAP News Cambodia.

“The governments always take actions against these kind of acts,” he said.

Cambodian Deputy Prime Minster Hor Namhong recently condemned a foreign company printing shoes emblazoned with the Cambodian flag.

Gov`t Overseas Trips Should be Reduced: PM

Tuesday, 02 February 2010 02:58 DAP-NEWS

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday suggested all ministers should reduce oversea trips and visits to save the national budget.

“Ministers should stop their many overseas trips and instead stay in the country more to save the budget and to help do their duty in the country,” said the premier during an inauguration ceremony at Champous Kaek Pagoda, Kean Svay District, Kandal Province. The PM plane tickets are now more expensive.

A Cambodian opposition party lawmaker cautiously backed the PM’s words.

“Missions overseas are positive for diplomatic relationships with other countries, but those ministers have oversea trips by bringing their relatives ... which destroys the nation`s budgets,” Chea Poch told DAP News Cambodia on Monday afternoon.

Chan Savet, an Adhoc investigator, said that the PM wanted help save the national budget, which is a positive step.

“All ministers should spend their own money by not using the national budget which it is to help the country, as most of them have much money,” he added.

Mushrooms Reduce Poverty: KOICA

Tuesday, 02 February 2010 02:57 DAP-NEWS

A KOICA representative claimed on Monday that planting mushrooms helps Cambodians to raise their living standards.

Mushrooms provide vitamins and protein gradient, Sun Sungil said in Kampong Cham province.

One villager told DAP News Cambodia that she earned US$50 after two months for mushrooms that fetched around CR8,000 a kilo at market, she added.

Sun Sungil said that KOICA has cooperated with National Prek Leap Agricultural School on the project.

KOICA has provided training courses to the poor to diversify incomesin vegetable growing, mushroom processing, chicken and pig husbandry and small scale fish farming.

Swedish Delegates Hear Cambodian Progress in the Field of Reforms

Tuesday, 02 February 2010 02:57 Ek Madra

Jan Knutsson, Directo r General for the International Development Cooperat- ion at the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, informed Chan Tani, Secretary of State of the Office of the Council of Ministers, on Monday that “My visit to Cambodia is discuss the continued the bilateral cooperation, which is very important for our delegates to see the real progress in Cambodia.”

The talks were focused on the a number of key issues, which included the topics of anti-corruption, the improving service delivery, enhance pay and emp-loyment as developing capacity of the government civil servants through more trainings.

In response, Chan Tani told Knutsson that Cambodia, after the Paris Peace Agreement in 1991, has achieved national reconciliations through elections and paved the way for integrations of the armed forces of the four involved parties. But for the interests of the effectiveness of works as well as reducing poverty, Cambodia has to reform in the areas of fighting corruption, demobilization of armed forces as well as administration.

He also told Knutsson that Cambodia must improve in reforming for which contributes the nation to move on the right track of sustainable development and reducing poverty.

Also recalled the vision of Prime Minister Hun Sen who said that “we must reform for surviving, if not we die.”

Chan Tani informed the delegation, who is visiting Cambodia from January 31 to February 2, that: “the anti-corruption draft law is now sent to the National Assembly and is waiting for adopting.”

Knutsson thanked Cambodian side for sharing the information for which he was pleased with the anti-corruption draft law which has been contributed of inputs from the national and international legal experts such as the United Nations for the Development Programme (UNDP), Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), and also the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

The anti-corruption draft law was approved by the session of the cabinet meeting on December, 11 last year, which was chaired by Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Also, in the meeting Paul Pidou, deputy secretary general of the Council for Administrative Reform (CAR), told the delegation that Cambodia has been achieved in a number of reforms and continued to further reforms in the areas of public administration as well as the capacity building of the government civil servants so that they could serving people better.

The government will have other prioritized plans set for the 2009- 2013 which includes the improving of delivery of public service and accountability for serving people better, he said.

Knutsson, in response, thanked Cambodian side for sharing information for the Swedish delegates to better understand the real progress in the said reforms and that Swedish to continue its support the bilateral cooperation with Cambodia.

Sweden has diplomatic ties with Cambodia since April 27, 1991. Cambodia appointed Hor Nambora on April 8, 2004 as Cambodian ambassador, whose diplomatic residence in London, to Sweden.

Swedish Lennart Linner—who was appointed on April 4, 2008 as ambassador, who diplomatic residence in Bangkok, to Cambodia—handed over his credential letter to His Majesty King Norodom Sihamoni. On the economic relations: Cambodia exported products to Sweden worth more than US $17 million for 2008. Cambodia imported goods from Sweden was recorded of more than US$4 million.

Cambodia received US$262 million in aid from Sweden for the period 1992- 2008. Sweden pledged in December last year of another US$98 million in aid for Cambodia for 2009– 2011.

Education NGO draws criticism

Photo Supplied
Cambodia Project CEO Jean-Michel Tijerina (centre) visits a school in Takeo province. CPI has made in-kind donations to existing schools in Cambodia, but has so far failed to build its own.

via CAAI News Media

Tuesday, 02 February 2010 15:04 Brooke Lewis

Donor fund mismanagement, opaque finances alleged by former staff members

A NEW York-based education NGO that began operating in Cambodia last year has seen its projects delayed amid a spate of resignations by disgruntled staffers, who charge that its finances are opaque and its goals unrealistic – allegations echoed by partner organisations.

The Cambodia Project, inc (CPI), which was founded in 2006 and became fully operational in 2008, was designed to expand access to secondary education in rural Cambodia, and founder Jean-Michel Tijerina said in an interview last year that construction on its first school would begin this past December.

Its model called for modern schools that would become financially self-sustaining with the help of related businesses, some of which would be staffed by students.

A design featured on CPI’s Web site includes 28 classrooms; soccer, tennis and basketball facilities; a library and auditorium; a dormitory and an on-site health clinic for students and teachers. CPI has previously declined to say how much the schools would cost.

Staff members who have recently left CPI say that the organisation did not have either the experience or finances to implement the model, with some going so far as to say that its projects were being misrepresented in an attempt to elicit more donations.

Teal Nipp, who started at CPI as public relations manager in November 2008, said that, upon arriving in Phnom Penh to serve as operations director last June, she discovered that no funding had been allocated to on-the-ground projects, and that she was the only in-country staffer.

“Money donated to CPI was spent quite frivolously as donations came in,” she said. “CPI had no form of oversight or system of governance.” Nipp resigned in September 2009.

Another former employee, Hemant Mohapatra, began working for CPI in September 2008 and became its development director in July 2009 before leaving in August. In an email, he said he resigned because there was no treasurer or executive committee overseeing CPI’s finances, and that long-term plans had not been thoroughly researched. He added that he was concerned that CPI’s finances were not transparent.

“I don’t believe the breakup of donations [versus] expenses was public knowledge,” he said.

“Part of the problem was that no one was asking the right questions for a long time. There certainly needs to be a pro-active approach by the current management to keep financial matters completely transparent. As a nonprofit, CPI depends entirely on donations, and it is imperative that it be made public where the money is going and why.”

Nipp also expressed concerns over how funding was raised, saying that by the time she resigned, CPI’s plans seemed to be designed with an eye towards “whatever would make the project look like it was accomplishing what it was advertising in New York”.

“Donations were solicited with campaigns that I felt did not represent what CPI was actually able to accomplish in Cambodia, as I was the only employee working in Cambodia at this time,” she said.

Partner NGOs severed ties
Concerns about CPI have been raised not only by former staffers.

The head of a local NGO who spoke on the condition that both he and his organisation remain anonymous, said he began collaborating with CPI on a proposed school project, but severed ties in August 2008 when it became clear that CPI’s goals were not executable.

CPI “decided they wanted to build not one, but three schools, which we thought was an irresponsible and unrealistic goal, given that they had no previous experience in secondary education or track record as an NGO”, he said. “We urged them to start with a pilot school, learn from the experience, and then build on that experience. When they disregarded this advice, we decided to pull out of the partnership.”

By that point, the NGO had spent a year developing a proposal for a secondary school in Kampot, and the NGO head said CPI has since been using his organisation’s work in seeking donations. “They ended up using the proposal that we gave them as a basis for fundraising,” he said.“We believe they did secure some funding on this basis, but it was not clear what they were using it for, except frequent travel to Cambodia, and presumably, salaries for their New York-based staff.”

He went on to say that CPI failed to honour an oral agreement to compensate his organisation for the time and resources it had invested in the project, and that CPI was generally vague about its financial situation.

“We were initially led to believe that [CPI] had the funding lined up for the school project, which in fact they did not,” he said. “It became increasingly clear that we were misled about their financial position, and we developed serious misgivings about their judgment and their capacity.”

Tijerina said via email that the global economic downturn had prevented CPI from meeting its goal of beginning construction on its first school this past December. He also said that about 20 percent of CPI’s staff left in the middle of 2009, many of them citing frustration over the lack of funding to support the projects they wanted to implement.

“It is true that the summer did not go as we had initially planned, mainly due to an unfortunate, but inescapable downturn in funding. Forced to slow our pacing somewhat, we did lose some team members who had hoped to travel to Cambodia to build our first school and were dissatisfied with the delays.”

CPI had pledged to build three schools by 2012 that would become financially sustainable and be “handed back to the community” by 2015. One component of its model involved affluent students paying fees that would subsidise tuition for students who couldn’t otherwise afford it. The schools would also raise money through related businesses, such as growing local produce for export.

Tijerina defended the feasibility of these goals but declined to say whether three schools would be built by 2012.

“I strongly disagree that the objectives pursued by The Cambodia Project are ‘unrealistic and irresponsible’. Our overall goal of providing quality secondary education in Cambodia remains intact,” he said.

Though he conceded that some objectives CPI had cited while requesting funds had not always been met, he denied that money had been spent irresponsibly.

“We have used a general appeal for funds in the past where we did not reach our goals, and we will be more focused and cautious in the future in doing so,” he said.

“It would be wrong to state that any of our donations have gone to frivolous or unnecessary actions.”

Leng Theavy, education capacity-building officer for the NGO Education Partnership, a networking organisation for Cambodian education NGOs, said she was in the process of completing a report gauging the impact of the economic downturn on education NGOs, and that few had reported being seriously affected.

“I went to interview some NGOs and asked about how the financial crisis affected their projects, but they said they weren’t really affected and were still able to carry out their programmes,” she said.

Mondulkiri villagers to testify over alleged threat

via CAAI News Media

Tuesday, 02 February 2010 15:03 Chhay Channyda

FOUR ethnic Phnong villagers have been summoned to appear at Mondulkiri provincial court on Thursday to testify against a military official who allegedly threatened to shoot them after the villagers detained nine Vietnamese loggers on January 13.

Provincial prosecutor Im Sophan said the summons – dated January 26 – requested the presence of villagers Khan Channy, Yot Pok, Khveuk Krong and Chas Ngeh.

Khan Channy, 24, said Monday that she expected the court to find justice for her and the others, adding that they were afraid of reprisals from military police. “I heard that [the defendant] wanted to exact revenge, but we also heard that he went into hiding,” she said.

The summons stems from a complaint filed by local rights group Adhoc with the Court of Appeal on behalf of the villagers against a military official identified only as “Prem”.

A separate complaint is pending against prosecutor Im Sophan.

According to the complaints, two groups of villagers accosted two separate bands of Vietnamese loggers in Cambodian territory last month. The first group of villagers detained five loggers, and the second group, which was allegedly accompanied by Im Sophan, detained four, villagers say.

According to villagers, when military police officers, including “Prem”, came to see the prisoners, they said the villagers had no right to make arrests and threatened to shoot them.

The Vietnamese men were released late Wednesday, allegedly at the orders of Im Sophan and the military police, a move that dismayed the villagers.

Chhay Thy, provincial monitor for Adhoc, said that although his organisation was still investigating Im Sophan, it had yet to send the complaint against him to the Justice Ministry because the prosecutor had promised villagers that he would handle the complaint against the military official in exchange for his complaint being dropped.

Im Sophan denied the accusations against him, saying he saw no one in the forest on January 13.

Sam Rainsy declares border victory

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
SRP members and journalists listen to Sam Rainsy speak via video link at the party’s Phnom Penh headquarters on Monday

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Tuesday, 02 February 2010 15:03 Meas Sokchea

OPPOSITION leader Sam Rainsy has claimed victory in reversing what he says are a series of Vietnamese border incursions in Svay Rieng province, six days after he was sentenced to two years jail for uprooting border demarcation posts.

Speaking by video link from Paris to supporters at the Sam Rainsy Party headquarters on Monday, Sam Rainsy said his symbolic act had drawn attention to the eastern border and forced Vietnam into withdrawing three other border posts in the vicinity. “We are very lucky we have had a victory in forcing Vietnam to withdraw from Cambodia,” he said.

“This is the first time in history that the yuon have withdrawn from Cambodia,” he added, using the racist epithet for the Vietnamese.

Sam Rainsy said also that he will soon embark upon a tour of those countries that were signatories to the 1991 Paris Peace Accords to file complaints about the incursions. The tour is set to begin with a visit to the United Kingdom next week.

The SRP says its claims are substantiated by a series of maps it released last month showing border markers 184, 185, 186 and 187 sitting hundreds of metres inside Cambodia’s legal territory as defined on French- and American-drawn maps.

“The east is more dangerous than the west, because we have all joined forces against Thailand.… But the government has done nothing about the yuon,” Sam Rainsy said.

Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, dismissed Sam Rainsy’s comments, saying the evidence was based on inaccurate Google Earth maps.

“Sam Rainsy’s evidence is not true. If Sam Rainsy says it is true evidence, we want him to bring it to show us,” he said.

KRT urged to address admissibility of civil party claims

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Tuesday, 02 February 2010 15:03 James O'Toole

THE BELATED release of information on the scope of the investigation in the Khmer Rouge tribunal’s second case has caused discontent among civil party applicants uncertain about the admissibility of their claims, the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee (CHRAC) said in a statement released Monday, ahead of today’s opening of the court’s seventh plenary session.

“Late and insufficient information about the court’s scope of investigation and related admissibility policies will likely lead in the coming months to a large number of civil parties not being admitted to participate in Case 002,” CHRAC said, arguing that victim participation must be at the forefront of the concerns of the plenary.

The court announced the scope of investigation in its second case – the crime sites and situations being investigated for evidence of charges laid thus far – in November. Victims of the Khmer Rouge who suffered as a result of crimes committed at sites outside the scope of the investigation cannot be admitted as civil parties, though anyone is eligible to submit complaints and information to the court’s Victims’ Unit.

UN court spokesman Lars Olsen said the tribunal had to strike a balance “between maintaining the confidentiality of the investigation and informing potential victims of their rights to participate as civil parties”.

CHRAC lauded the court for its expansion of the responsibilities of the Victims’ Unit, though the group also registered concern about the proposed appointment of lead co-lawyers who would speak in court on behalf of all civil parties, warning the court not to limit the role of civil parties “beyond what is necessary to ensure efficiency at trial”.

Decisions on the admissibility of civil party applications will be announced in September at the latest, provided the court stays on schedule, Olsen said.

Thais charge five men with illegal logging

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Tuesday, 02 February 2010 15:03 Tep Nimol and Chhay Channyda

LOGGERS from Oddar Meanchey’s O’Smach commune arrested for crossing the border have been charged in a Thai court and are awaiting trial, officials said Monday, one day after a funeral was held for a member of their party who is missing and presumed dead.

Chhoeun Roun, 21, of O’Smach, did not return from a January 24 logging expedition during which he and five other men were allegedly fired upon by Thai troops. The rest of the party were detained and have been charged with illegal border-crossing, invading forest land and environmental damage, villagers and officials said.

Authorities have warned them about the prohibited areas, but they don't listen."

Srey Naren, provincial coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, said that after checking prisons and hospitals near the border in Thailand’s Surin province, villagers concluded that Chhoeun Roun had died. A search of the site where Thai soldiers allegedly fired on Chhoeun Roun’s party uncovered a pool of blood, which Srey Naren said was further evidence that Chhoeun Roun had been killed.

Chan Tha, who hails from the same village as the loggers, said residents there were afraid that the group had already been found guilty of the charges against them.

But Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong said that the loggers were still in pretrial detention and had not appeared in court yet.

“The Thai court did not open the trial yet, they just detained them as they are awaiting trial,” he said. “Cambodian consular officials are on their way to help them, following legal procedures.”

Koy Kuong went on to say that the Thai authorities did not have enough proof to convict the villagers of causing environmental damage, adding that their trial is likely to begin within the next 40 days.

O’Smach commune chief Phem Sam Ath said many residents in the area are migrant workers, and that logging is the only work available to them.

“Authorities have warned them about the prohibited areas, but they don’t listen,” he said.

In September, a Thai court sentenced 16 villagers to prison with terms ranging from six to nine years on charges of illegally entering the country and destroying forests. Cambodian officials launched an appeal on behalf of those villagers in October.

New cash crops and old threats prompt loggers to think again

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Tuesday, 02 February 2010 15:03 Khouth Sophakchakrya

FOLLOWING a series of cross-border incidents in which Thai soldiers allegedly shot and killed Cambodian illegal loggers, authorities in Oddar Meanchey province’s Trapaing Prasat district have coupled tougher policing with a cash-crop programme in an attempt to stanch the flow of migrants over the border, the Trapaing Prasat district governor said on Monday.

The scale of the logging and the persistence of Trapaing Prasat’s loggers, however, was underscored by a crackdown last Thursday in the district’s Osvay commune, in which 200 would-be loggers were arrested before they could cross into Thailand.

Vann Kosal, Trapaing Prasat district governor, said the success of the cash-crop initiative, which encourages villagers to grow corn, cassava, soybeans and bananas as alternative sources of income, was due in part to stricter policing on the border and the deterrent effect of the recent shootings.

“The people here have begun taking into account the serious risks of illegal logging,” he said.

Legal harvest
In recent months, Thai border troops have been accused of fatally shooting at least seven loggers crossing the border in Trapaing Prasat district, prompting a January crackdown order from the Ministry of Interior.

Pich Sokhin, governor of Oddar Meanchey province, said that the new measures were less effective at stopping lawbreakers from other provinces, citing the recent mass arrest in Osvay.

“None of them were from my province,” Pich Sokin said.

Men Morn, deputy chief of Bak Anloung commune, said that commune residents have responded enthusiastically to the cash-crop programme.

“The villagers are farming again. Now they’re busy harvesting soybeans and sesame,” he said.

Phal Sokhorn, a resident of Bak Anloung commune’s Sre La-o village, said that any inclination he may have had to cross the border illegally was dispelled last month when his father-in-law was killed and his younger brother seriously injured by Thai soldiers.

“Whether we end up rich or poor, we will struggle to cultivate rice fields and plant cash crops on our farmland rather than logging across the border,” he said.

“But it would help if the government could develop a market for our produce.”

Military, local police square off

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Tuesday, 02 February 2010 15:02 May Titthara

A POLICE officer from Stung Treng province has filed a complaint against two military policemen and a forestry official, saying he was shot at because he was mistaken for an illegal logger.

Theam Muon, an officer from Stung Treng province, said he was driving to neighbouring Ratanakkiri province Saturday night when he was fired upon.

They “tried to chase my car and shot at the car four times”, Theam Muon said.

“I asked them why they shot at my car. They said they were looking for expensive wood because they suspected I was a logger.”

Theam Muon wants the court to pursue charges of attempted murder and attempted robbery against the trio.

“They pointed a gun to my head,” he said.

However, one of the military police officers named in the complaint rebutted Theam Muon’s allegations.

Cheang Kimse, who is based in O’Pong Moan village, said he never fired his weapon.

“I did not shoot into the car. We needed to check their car because loggers always use modern cars for logging at night,” he said.

Cheang Kimse said it was he who had been mistreated.

“I asked to check the car, but they said they are police and that they don’t need to have their car checked,” he said. “Then they pushed my chest.”

Provincial police chief Nguon Koeurn could not be reached for comment.

FOWL PLAY: Takeo orders destruction of ducks

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Tuesday, 02 February 2010 15:02 Khouth Sophak Chakrya and Kim Yuthana

The Takeo province Agriculture Office has ordered the farmers of domesticated ducks across the province to incinerate their birds and temporarily suspended the sale of the animals’ meat until the results tests for the H5N1 virus (also known as bird flu), come back from Phnom Penh this week following mass deaths of the fowl. Nhib Sron, director of the Takeo agriculture office, said that since the middle of January, about 50,000 ducks in the province’s Koh Andeth district had contracted an unknown illness, and that there were signs the disease had reached some communes in neighbouring Tramkak district. “We haven’t identified the virus or other agent causing these deaths, but we sent some of the dead animals to a Phnom Penh laboratory for analysis,” Nhib Sron said. Thai Ly, Takeo province’s chief officer of domesticated animals, said that 16,442 ducks had died since the outbreak began, and that roughly 31,000 more have fallen sick.

Inquest reopened in backpacker's killing

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Tuesday, 02 February 2010 15:02 Sebastian Strangio

AN AUSTRALIAN state government is set to reopen its official inquest into the 1994 killing by the Khmer Rouge of backpacker David Wilson, after a top-secret file on the case was handed to the Coroners Court of Victoria, according to Australian media reports.

The Age newspaper reported on Sunday that the file, from Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs, is believed to include details about negotiations conducted by Cambodian officials in a bid to secure Wilson’s release.

Wilson, 29, was kidnapped in July 1994 along with Briton Mark Slater and Frenchman Jean-Michel Braquet in a Khmer Rouge attack on a train in which 13 Cambodians were killed. The three were slain at a remote camp in Kampot province in September after negotiations broke down.

According to the reports, the estimated 600 documents contained in the file may also raise questions about whether the government of Australian then-prime minister Paul Keating could have done more to prevent Wilson’s death.

In particular, The Age reported, Wilson’s family thinks the files could show the Australian government did nothing to dissuade Cambodian troops from shelling Phnom Voar, the Khmer Rouge stronghold where the hostages were being held, an act that is believed to have led directly to their killings.

It also refers to an aborted plan by Australian businessman Ron Walker to deliver a ransom payment of US$50,000 in gold ingots to the kidnappers. The plan was not revealed in the subsequent government inquest.

The news comes a week after a lawyer for Chhouk Rin, the Khmer Rouge commander serving a life sentence for the three killings, announced he would seek a Royal pardon on grounds of ill health. Two other lower-level Khmer Rouge figures – Nuon Paet and his now-deceased former provincial commander, Sam Bith – also received life sentences for the killings.

Govt vows to end 'drug parties'

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Tuesday, 02 February 2010 15:02 Chrann Chamroeun

IN an effort to combat what officials say is a growing trend of teenagers renting rooms to hold “drug parties”, Daun Penh district Governor Sok Sambath warned guesthouse owners on Monday that failure to stop such gatherings would result in their businesses being shut down.

“As district governor, I will take strict measures against any guesthouse in my territory that rents out rooms to teenagers for the purpose of using drugs,” Sok Sambath announced.

The announcement follows a Friday night raid on the Sim Chhae Kim guesthouse in Srak Chork commune, also known as the Boeung Kak “lakeside” area, where Yim Socheat, former Daun Penh district governor and current head of the Phnom Penh municipal Anti-Drug Bureau, said that many of the offending guesthouses were located.

Yim Socheat said six men and nine women found at the guesthouse were taken to police headquarters for interrogation and counselling.

Move to check acid sales lauded

Photo by: Uy Nousereimony
Bottles of car battery acid are displayed for sale in an auto and motorbike supply store on Monivong Boulevard in Boeung Keng Kang I commune on Monday.

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Tuesday, 02 February 2010 15:02 Mom Kunthear

ADVOCATES are urging the government to legislate for stiff punishments against the perpetrators of acid attacks and to strictly regulate the sale of acid, as officials consider reforms aimed at cutting down on the violent assaults that have spiked in the last two months.

Observers were buoyed this week with news that government officials will convene a committee to address the issue, marking an apparent shift from previous public statements.

Am Sam Ath, technical supervisor for the rights group Licadho, said acid attacks should be treated as serious crimes as part of any new legislation.

“There should be a strong law and strong sentences for perpetrators,” he said.

“I think that when the law is approved, people who plan to use acid will stop and reconsider.”

‘Positive step’The government should find a way to keep track of those who distribute acid and establish guidelines for its sale, said Ziad Samman, programme coordinator for the Cambodian Acid Survivors Charity.

“If someone says, ‘I want to buy some acid’, somebody should be asking, ‘What are you going to use it for?’ These are small things we could do,” Samman said. “It’s a question of how do you make people more accountable.”

Samman called the government’s move a “positive step”.

“I think it’s a formal recognition that this is an important issue,” he said.

Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said the ministry plans to establish a committee to crack down on acid attacks and look at creating an “acid law” to punish perpetrators.

“I think we should create a law to manage both acid sellers and buyers,” he said.

Fewer families split by war seek help

Photo by: Roth Meas
Chan Sophan shows photos of her reunion with her son.

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Tuesday, 02 February 2010 15:02 Roth Meas

Requests to find lost relatives dwindle as Cambodian Red Cross programme enters 22nd year

AS she sat among some photographs scattered on a mat in her Takhmao flat, Chan Sophan, 68, seemed pleased to recall the day they were taken: October 9, 2004. At 9:30 that morning she had been reunited with her son after 31 years of separation – an event she once though would never be possible.

In 1973, as fighting escalated between the US-backed Lon Nol regime and the insurgent Khmer Rouge, Chan Sophan and her husband, a government soldier from Prey Veng, parted with their son voluntarily, opting to send him out of the country rather than subject him to the hardships of war.

Because she and her husband were too poor to send him abroad themselves, they turned him over to a man who promised to take him to France, where he would be adopted by a well-to-do family.

“We were so poor, and there was no one who could help us, not even in Phnom Penh,” she said in a recent interview.

“I heard that they could take my son to France, so I decided to take a risk and hand him over to the man so that he would have a better future.”

As it happened, the middleman proved true to his word, and Sophal was adopted by a French couple who promptly changed his name to Jean Charles.

He did not begin to ask questions about his Cambodian parents until he was 14-years-old, and he did not actively search for them until he took a trip to Cambodia in 2004.

By that point, Chan Sophan had long ago given up hope of ever seeing him again.

“Even as early as when I gave my son away, I thought that I never expected that he would come back to look for me,” she said.

Jean Charles, too, grew discouraged as all initial efforts to locate his parents proved fruitless. Then a taxi driver suggested that he contact the Cambodian Red Cross, which he said ran a programme for people in his situation.

Since 1988 that programme, Restoring Family Links (RFL), has been reuniting relatives separated before and during the Khmer Rouge regime.

In its first year, it researched eight cases involving eight missing people. Four of them were found alive.

at the Red Cross
The Restoring Family Links programme launched in 1988 with eight cases. The programme’s success peaked in 1992 with over 2,000 positive cases, and results, along with requests, have gradually declined since then, falling to just two in 2009.
Source: Cambodian Red Cross JON TURNER

The next year, the number of cases skyrocketed to 528. A total of 226 people were found alive, and RFL was also able to provide information about the deaths of many of the others. This upward trend continued through 1992, when RFL helped to find 2,071 people in 1,588 cases.

Since then, however, demand for the programme has gradually declined. Last year saw 47 new cases, only two of which led to successful searches.

But Bruce Eshaya Chauvin, a regional medical delegate for the International Committee of the Red Cross, which has collaborated with RFL on search efforts, said he expected requests to keep filtering in, albeit at a slower pace.

“In the war, most people lost at least some links with their family, and even 30 years later they have no information,” he said.

Conducting a search
RFL relies on two methods when going about searches: tracing missing people by visiting their home villages, and sending out public appeals through the media.

Try Eav Heng, the head of the programme, said many people will instinctively return to their home villages, though he noted that this does not apply to everyone, notably former Khmer Rouge cadres who have opted to remain in former strongholds in the northwest.

Before visiting a village, he added, RFL consults databases of people who died in refugee camps along the Thai border, as well as those who were sent to the Cheoung Ek killing fields.

Media appeals, which Try Eav Heng said are generally less successful, are carried out in partnership with six television stations and one FM radio station.

In Jean Charles’s case, the programme prepared an appeal that was broadcast on TVK. It aired over the summer, and Chan Sophan contacted the CRC shortly afterwards. By mid-October, RFL had arranged for mother and son to finally meet at the CRC’s headquarters.

Though Jean Charles speaks very little Khmer, a factor that hindered the pair’s ability to communicate, Chan Sophan, whose husband died at the hands of the Khmer Rouge, said the tearful reunion had provided some semblance of long-awaited closure after the difficult regime years.

She and her son have stayed in touch sporadically in the intervening six years, while he continues to live in France.

Meanwhile, Try Eav Heng said RFL continues to open new case files, having received three requests already this year.

Meanchey families told to move houses off pavement

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Tuesday, 02 February 2010 15:02 May Titthara

ROUGHLY 200 families in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district have been told to tear down parts of their houses that officials say are encroaching on a public pavement, district Governor Kuch Chamroeun said Monday.

Kuch Chamroeun said officials had told the families that they wanted to widen carriageways to ease congestion on two heavily trafficked streets: Veng Sreng Boulevard and Choeung Ek Street.

“I want to remove buildings on the pavement because people took over the pavement to construct their houses, and if we do not prevent this our road will become narrow and more congested with traffic,” he said.

“Our authorities came today to spray red paint on their walls to mark the areas of their houses that must be torn down because they are encroaching on boundaries we have already marked.”

Veng Sreng Boulevard forms part of a route to Phnom Penh International Airport, and Choeung Ek Street is the only road leading to the “killing fields” tourism site.

Seang Phaly, 45, who said she has been living on Choeung Ek Street for five years, said she had not been told when her house was being constructed that it would encroach on a public pavement.

“I built this house about five years ago, and nobody told me I was building on a pavement,” she said.

“The authorities have not told us when the parts of our houses should be torn down, but they said it would happen as soon as possible.”

She said authorities on Monday sprayed red paint over parts of her house that stretched about 4 metres back from the road.

“I don’t dare act against the authorities, because if I do they will come and destroy my house completely. If we agree to tear down a bit of our house, we will still be left with somewhere to live,” she said.

Her neighbour, 38-year-old Chuon Somaly, also said he would comply with the order.

“I disagree with their accusation that I am living on the pavement, but in my experience villagers never win when they go against the authorities,” he said.

“I regret losing my property, but I will tear it down by myself because the authorities are never careful with our property.”

Unions push again for higher factory wages

Workers make clothes last year at a Phnom Penh garment factory. Unions are seeking higher wages, but factories say the industry remains subdued.

I think that [garment factories] may consider an increase in wages of $5 to $6 instead."

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Tuesday, 02 February 2010 15:01 Soeun Say

Owners of small factories say they aren’t included in discussions

REPRESENTATIVES from garment unions will meet with industry leaders and the government Monday in a bid to raise minimum salaries in the sector, the president of Cambodian Unions Federation (CUF) said.

The CUF wants factory owners to raise minimum salaries from US$50 a month to $93 in order to provide workers with a better standard of living, according to President Chuon Mum Thol. The issue will be discussed at a labour consultation meeting next week.

Chuon Mum Thol explained: “According to our research, $93 per month is enough to provide good living conditions and pay for food, house for rent, electricity and water.”

But other union officials questioned whether such a large wage increase is achievable when the sector has been hit hard by the economic crisis.

Chea Mony, president of Free Trade Union, who will not attend the meeting, said: “I do not think they [the garment factory representatives] will agree to increase salaries from US$50 to $93 because their business is still being affected by the economic situation.

“I think that they may consider an increase in wages of $5 to $6 instead,” he added.

The worldwide slump in demand has had a direct affect on Cambodia’s garment sector. The Kingdom’s revenues from garment exports dropped to $716.2 million last year, a 23.8 percent slide compared to 2008.

Production centres throughout Cambodia have closed, putting tens of thousands out of work. Last year, according to the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training, 93 garment factories closed, causing 38,190 workers to lose their jobs. Another 60 factories suspended production, leaving 30,000 people without work.

In December, Cambodia was estimated to have 516 garment and footwear factories, which employed about 358,660 workers. The Post called 10 major garment factories on Monday, but no one was available for comment at any of them.

Van Sou Ieng, president of the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia (GMAC), said Monday that he was in a meeting.

Representatives from smaller garment factories told the Post they have not been invited to the meeting. A spokeswoman for Fortune Garment and Woolen Knitting said she had not heard about the session.

Sat Navy, director of Navy Garment, said: “The government hasn’t called us about the meeting, but I don’t think it is possible to [raise pay] at a small garment factory like this.”

Meanwhile Oum Mean, secretary of state at the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training, said that even if owners refuse to raise the minimum wage, meetings to discuss the issue will be held “again and again” in the future.