Monday, 22 February 2010

CAAI Flower Festival (Bon Phka Samaki at CAAI's Temple)

Chairman of CAAI having speach

Chairman of  Cambodian Association ChristChurch  having speach

The SALA CHHAN is completed as in the picture and now CAAI has move to another project to build the VIHARA. The donation from this Flower Festival will put toward the new project of VIHARA. This Flower Festival is Joint by:  CHAO ZHOU Association of New Zealand, Auckland Cambodian Chinese Kunluck Association Inc, The Cambodian Association ChristChurch Inc, The Waikato Cambodian Association, The Waikato Cambodian Trust. Thank you all for your generiousity of supporting our community and cultural heritage. May Lord Buddha bless you all.

A Woman's Face in Opposition

Mu Sochua of Cambodia is a member of a new generation of women working their way into the political systems of countries across Asia and elsewhere. As an incumbent, she is already campaigning for the 2013 parliamentary elections. Ms. Mu Sochua in Kampot meeting with constituents.
Photo: Justin Mott for The New York Times

Ms. Mu Sochua, 55, is the most prominent woman in Cambodia's struggling political opposition. She toured the countryside by foot along the river in Kampot.
Photo: Justin Mott for The New York Times

A former minister of women's affairs, she did as much as anyone to put women's issues on the agenda of Cambodia as it emerged in the 1990s from decades of war and mass killings. But she lost her public platform when she broke with the government in 2004.
Photo: Justin Mott for The New York Times

Her signal achievement was leading the way for women into thousands of government positions; however, she says it has done little to advance women's issues in a stubbornly male-dominated society. Ms. Mu Sochua toured a salt mine in Kampot.
Photo: Justin Mott for The New York Times

As she has risen in prominence, the political stands she has taken have become a greater liability to her than gender bias has been. A Cham village in Kampot was one of Ms. Mu Sochua's stops.
Photo: Justin Mott for The New York Times

As an outspoken opponent of the prime minister, she has found, her participation taints any group, action or demonstration with the stigma of political opposition. "My voice kills the movement," she said. "Now I am the face of the opposition, a woman's face in opposition." Ms. Mu Sochua handed out campaign pamphlets in Kampot.
Photo: Justin Mott for The New York Times

During her six years as minister of women's affairs, she campaigned against child abuse, marital rape, violence against women, human trafficking and the exploitation of female workers. A taxi driver held a pamphlet about Ms. Mu Sochua while listening to her speak about local politics.
Photo: Justin Mott for The New York Times

Over the years, Ms. Mu Sochua has worked with nongovernmental groups to field thousands of candidates in local elections. Largely because of her activism, there are now 27 women in a National Assembly of 123 seats.
Photo: Justin Mott for The New York Times

VTC launches first services in Cambodia

via CAAI News Media

Monday ,Feb 22,2010

The VTC Online Cambodia, a joint venture between Vietnam Multimedia Corporation (VTC) and a Cambodian partner, on Feb. 21 launched its first services and products in the Kingdom.

Addressing the launching ceremony, Cambodian Information Minister Khieu Kanharith hailed the VTC Online Cambodia’s establishment and involvement in the country’s telecommunications system.

The company’s products are expected to meet the Cambodian people’s demands on information in culture, education, trade and banking, he said.

The minister said he hoped the new telecom service provider will contribute to enhancing mutual understanding and consolidating traditional friendship between the two countries’ people.

All products of the company will be in the Khmer language and provided for the Cambodian people from late this month, said VTC Online Cambodia’s manager Nguyen Viet Hung.

First products will programs on entertainment, education which focuses on English e-learning, and news on culture, according to the manager.

The company is expected to provide more e-services on trade, banking, sport, music and fashion this year, he said, adding that the joint venture plans to open four branches in Siem Reap, Battambang, Preah Sihanouk and Kampong Cham, generating jobs for hundreds of local residents.

Cambodia Orders To Crackdown On Unlicensed Pharmacies

via CAAI News Media

PHNOM PENH, Feb 22 (Bernama) -- All unlicensed pharmacies in Cambodia's capital Phnom Penh are urged to complete their license forms by end of this month or face closure, China's Xinhua news agency reported Monday, citing local media.

Last week, governor Kep Chuktema ordered all district governors to review the status of all pharmacies in their districts.

Citing Deputy governor Mann Chhoeun, Xinhua said that City Hall has long urged pharmacists to complete required forms before starting a pharmacy but many had failed to do so.

"It is time that they have to respect the rule of law, and we have to develop our city," he was quoted by The Cambodia Daily as saying.

Chhoeun said that there were 644 pharmacies in the capital, 116 of which had not completed the required paperwork.

According to World Health Organisation (WHO) officials, about 2.5 percent of all medicine sold in Cambodia is counterfeit or substandard, and a major challenge for the government is to inspect the thousands of unlawful medicine outlets in Cambodia, the daily said.

William Mfuko, WHO technical officer for essential medicines, was quoted as saying that the challenge lay in upgrading the unlicensed pharmacies through training, quality control and regulation rather than in cracking down, which was unlikely to work as high demand for medicine was creating the unlicensed shops.

Chinese Embassy donates 10,000 USD to Cambodian Red Cross

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PHNOM PENH, Feb. 22 (Xinhua) -- Chinese Embassy on Monday donated 10,000 U.S. dollars to Cambodian Red Cross to help its program to train young volunteers in the country.

The hand-over ceremony was held on Monday at the headquarters of Cambodian Red Cross (CRC) with the attending of He Leping, political counselor of Chinese Embassy, and Pum Chantinie, secretary general of the CRC.

Pum Chantinie said that in recent ten years, Chinese Embassy has always provided assistance to the CRC to support its relief and humanitarian activities. She, on behalf of the CRC, expressed sincere thanks to the Chinese Embassy.

He Leping expressed admiration for the success achieved by the CRC under the leadership of CRC's President Bun Rany Hun Sen.

The Cambodian Red Cross is the largest humanitarian organization in Cambodia. Today, the CRC delivers a plethora of programs including health care, and distributing information on the movement's fundamental principles and humanitarian values and disaster response and preparedness activities throughout Cambodia.

Editor: Li Xianzhi

The Law and the Environment of the Law – Sunday, 21.2.2010
via CAAI News Media

Posted on 22 February 2010
The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 652

Very often, when some international media, or some voices in Cambodia deplore what is seen as violations of human rights or just other forms of suffering of some people when their living space – they land on which they lived and the small shelter they built on it – is taken away, the justification is often to say: But it is done according to the law!

While this is sometimes open for controversial interpretations, in other cases it may be perfectly true. But this still does not mean that those who are at the weaker end of the conflict do not suffer, whether they know the law or not.

But there are obviously also cases where it is surely quite difficult for the public to understand the complexity of some legislation – and if it is not easy to understand the rules, there is a lower motivation to follow them – though this is normally wrong not to follow the law.

During the municipal annual reflection meeting looking back at 2009, the Governor of Phnom Penh proudly mentioned that as part of clean-up operations in crime prone environments, also gambling was targeted – all together 1,152 gambling sites had been intercepted. – And in the same week we report that a new casino starts to operate: US$100 million have been invested to create 6,000 jobs.

Surely both elements of this report are based on some laws. Whether the difference is easy to understand or not, is a different question.

About the same meeting of the Phnom Penh municipality it is reported: “The firm position of the Phnom Penh Municipality in 2010 is not like that in 2009; it will not allow dishonest officials to keep on committing bad activities towards the people… previously, some officials used the opportunity of their positions to extort money from the people. But now, [Mr. Kep Chuktema, the Phnom Penh Governor,] warned, saying that officials doing such bad activities will no longer be tolerated.”

During last year the law was not kept by all, as the Governor says, but nothing happened – during this year, however, the law has to be kept. What is the difference? It is the same laws – so will those who did not keep it last year be convinced to now keep it? It is not reported that those, whose money had been extorted, did get it back, nor that whose, who had used the opportunity to misuse their positions for their personal gain were punished. What is changed?

The authorities set again a deadline for illegal pharmacies to apply for licenses – that about half of the more than 2,000 pharmacies operate without a licenses, is known, exposing the public to dangers.

There were also reports about special initiatives by the Prime Minister, either to clarify some gray areas related to the use and registration of cars, or, more seriously, that past and present violations of the law by military personal, which went so far unpunished, should stop.

Some time ago, the Prime Minister had ordered to remove RCAF license plates from private cars to avoid irregularities. A member of the National Assembly from an opposition party found out: “But recently, there appear again several cars using RCAF number plates, and such number plates are used even on some foreigners’ cars and on private trucks for [private] businesses; this can be considered as an illegitimate use of state cars for business, and driving for personal pleasure.” This impression cannot be avoided when one sees who is using some cars with RCAF license plates, and where, and when. But – says the Ministry of Defense – all is now legal. Where private cars are used with military license plates, they have been “contracted” to the state. Does this lead to clarity? Why would anybody contract one’s private care to the state? Why not the other way round: If a state owned vehicle is used also for private purposes, why is it not leased to the private user for an appropriate fee, with a private license plate?

That the new emphasis on the enforcement of the new traffic law is not only leading to a better compliance with the law, becomes clear from the following report – again by a parliamentarian of an opposition party (the much larger number of parliamentarians from the government party were not reported to take such personal initiatives to strengthen the rule of law): Traffic police established check points to extort money from citizens near the Chroy Changva bridge, where police stop and “check” cars and trucks to make them pay money without giving our receipts – keeping some money for themselves, and sharing some with their next higher level superiors.

And the new, strong statements against forest crimes? “The transport of luxury wood in the Thala Barivat district of Stung Treng continues without any disturbance by the authorities.”

The UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Cambodia, Mr. Surya Prasad Subedi, reported after his second visit to the country on 26 January 2010, that he is encouraged from his positive meetings with Cambodian highest level political leader, as he saw especially progress in the strengthening of legal frameworks: “The Government has been receptive to some of the suggestions, including developing binding national guidelines on land evictions, making the law-making process more transparent by sharing draft legislation which has an impact on human rights issues with the wider community, and creating a Government and civil society forum in order to foster an environment of cooperation to strengthen democracy and human rights in the country.”

As so often in the past, it has to be repeated again and again: Not only the quality of laws, but their implementation is decisive.

Human rights body says Cambodia's drug rehab centres must close

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Phnom Penh - A prominent human rights organisation said Monday the Cambodian government should close all its 11 drug detention centres, describing them as abusive and unfit for their purpose.

The US-based Human Rights Watch added in its 98-page report that staff should be prosecuted for torture and other criminal acts.

"Individuals in these centres are not being treated or rehabilitated, they are being illegally detained and often tortured," said Joseph Amon, the director of HRW's health and human rights division. "These centres do not need to be revamped or modified; they need to be shut down."

But the government rejected that and said more were needed.

"That is a very bad recommendation. If we release those addicted people they would be harmful to society," said government spokesman Khieu Sopheak, adding that donor assistance for more centres and to improve existing centres would be welcome.

Khieu Sopheak said the government was looking into the report and would take corrective action where necessary, but said HRW, which is often critical of the Cambodian authorities, was "seeing only one tree - they do not see the jungle."

Former detainees told researchers about incidents of rape and sexual abuse, torture, beatings and the compulsory donation of blood.

The organisation concluded that "sadistic violence" was "integral" to how the centres operate, and said treatment programmes, which revolve around military drills and physical exercise designed to make detainees sweat, were "ethically unacceptable, scientifically and medically inappropriate, and of miserable quality."

"There is no evidence that forced physical exercises, forced labour and forced military drills have any therapeutic benefit whatsoever," it said. "After a number of months in the centres, individuals are declared 'cured' because drugs are no longer physically present in the body."

But Khieu Sopheak insisted physical exercise and sweating were vital.

"They need to do labour and hard work and sweating - that is one of the main ways to make drug-addicted people to become normal people," he said, adding that the authorities would investigate any allegations of abuse provided the victims came forward.

HRW said no more than 2 per cent of almost 2,000 detainees who passed through drug dependency centres in 2008 were there voluntarily, and said the government should switch to voluntary, community-based drug dependency treatment programmes that match international standards.

The report said the country's drug detention centres are run by a "haphazard collection" of government authorities, including the military police, civilian police, the Social Affairs Ministry and local authorities

Malaria deaths and infections in Cambodia rose sharply in 2009

via CAAI News Media

Posted : Mon, 22 Feb 2010 G
By : dpa

Phnom Penh - Cambodia's leading health official for malaria said Monday the disease killed one-third more people last year than in 2008. Dr Duong Socheat, who heads the national malaria centre, said 279 people died from the mosquito-transmitted disease last year in Cambodia, up from 209.

He said the number infected by the parasite was up 38 per cent from 58,000 to around 80,000.

The figures mark a reversal in the country's trend of declining infections and deaths from malaria since 2000, and increase the risk it will miss its 2015 target for reducing malaria fatalities under its UN Millennium Development Goal (MDG).

Duong Socheat blamed the rise in part on the early arrival of rains, as well as increased population movement into high-risk forested areas. He said delays in getting infected people to health centres also played a role.

"Another reason was the late distribution of mosquito nets," he said. "They arrived very late in May after the rains had already started."

He said colleagues in Thailand had reported a similar rise in malaria cases.

Cambodia's MDG target for malaria fatalities is 0.1 per cent by 2015, meaning that no more than one person in every 1,000 infected with the parasite would die. The roadmap target for 2010 is 0.2 per cent.

But the new figures show last year's fatality rate was 0.35 per cent.

Duong Socheat said he hoped the MDG target for malaria would be met, adding that to do so would require more funding and health products.

"We are trying our best to meet this MDG goal, but as you know the economic crisis has caused problems for the region so this has contributed to this problem as well," he said.

"But if we can secure the funds and we have good [coordination] from central areas to the peripheral areas, then I think we can meet it," Duong Socheat said.

The rise in infections and deaths follows reports last year that health workers had found tolerance in western Cambodia to the key artemisinin drugs treatment.

That discovery worried experts since artemisinin remains the main combination therapy to combat malaria, and a resistant strain could have significant public health consequences.

However, Duong Socheat said last year's higher death toll was not due to artemisinin resistance. He said artemisinin resistance means the body takes longer to rid itself of the malaria parasite, but does not of itself contribute to a higher death rate.

Cambodian King leaves for China

via CAAI News Media

February 22, 2010

Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni left here on Monday for Beijing, China to visit his father and mother who have routine medical checkup and rest in Beijing.

He was seen off at the Phnom Penh International Airport by Senate President Chea Sim, National Assembly President Heng Samrin, Prime Minister Hun Sen, and other government officials, royal family members as well as Chinese Ambassador to Cambodia Zhang Jinfeng.

During his stay in China, Sihamoni will also visit Fujian, China's eastern province, according to the Royal Palace.

According to the Constitution of the Kingdom, at the absence of the King, President of the Senate Chea Sim will assume the duty as acting Head of State.

Thailand may deport 1.3M migrants
via CAAI News Media
Posted 02/22/2010

MANILA, Philippines—A large number of migrant workers from Myanmar, Cambodia, and Laos face the threat of deportation from Thailand if the government goes ahead with its nationality verification process, an independent United Nations human rights expert warned last week.

In January, the Thai Cabinet passed a resolution allowing for a two-year extension of work permits for approximately 1.3 million migrants provided that they were willing to submit biographical information to their home governments prior to 28 February 2010.

However, migrants who fail to do so by this deadline risk deportation after the 28 February deadline.

Jorge Bustamante, the UN expert on the human rights of migrants, noted in a news release that carrying out the verification process in its current form places many documented and undocumented migrant workers at risk after 28 February.

“I am disappointed that that the government of Thailand has not responded to my letters expressing calls for restraint,” said the expert, who reports to the Geneva-based Human Rights Council.

“I reiterate my earlier messages to the Government to reconsider its actions and decisions, and to abide by international instruments,” he added. “If pursued, the threats of mass expulsion will result in unprecedented human suffering and will definitely breach fundamental human rights obligations.”

Bustamante called on Thailand to respect the principle of “non-refoulement,” noting that among the groups who may potentially be deported are some who may be in need international protection and should not be returned to the country of origin.

Like all UN human rights experts, Bustamante works in an independent and unpaid capacity.

Cambodian Golf Courses Aim To Hit Tourists

Phnom Penh - Cambodia's efforts to attract high-end tourists by developing a world class golfing scene in the space of just a few years appears to have paid off, with a major regional golf tour company preparing to showcase the courses in Europe.

via CAAI News Media

PR Log (Press Release) – Feb 21, 2010 – Phnom Penh - Cambodia's efforts to attract high-end tourists by developing a world class golfing scene in the space of just a few years appears to have paid off, with a major regional golf tour company preparing to showcase the courses in Europe.

Golfasian, which is based in Thailand, said it would promote Cambodia alongside neighbouring Thailand and Vietnam at the International Golf Travel Market in Marbella, Spain from November 11-14.

Cambodia will be marketed as an exciting new regional golf destination at the event, billed as the world's premier golf travel expo and credited with making or breaking emerging hot destinations, it said.

At last year's event, neighbouring Vietnam won the International Association of Golf Tour Operators' World's Best Up-and-Coming Golf Destination award and has since reaped plenty in golfing tourism dollars. Cambodia is in the midst of a tourism boom and is keen to earn similar recognition in the lucrative golf tourism market.

"Golf holidays in Cambodia are a new introduction, yet pioneering golfers are finding it a fascinating country in which to play a few rounds," Golfasian says on its website.

"Cambodia doubled its number of luxury golf courses last year to four and hopes to have eight by 2010 in a bid to lure more high-end tourism from the fast-growing sport in Asia."

Golfing legend Nick Faldo's company designed a PGA-standard course in Siem Reap, the country's tourist hub about 300 kilometres north of the capital, where golfers are offered the chance to tour the world-famous Angkor Wat temple complex between rounds.

And Arnold Palmer Design Company, named after its famous founder, is currently building a 36-hole course for a new billion-dollar five-star resort in Bokor, 200 kilometres south of the capital.

Crusader Rowing Upstream in Cambodia

Justin Mott for The New York Times
Incumbent Mu Sochua, 55, is already campaigning for the 2013 parliamentary election.

via CAAI News Media

Published: February 21, 2010

MAK PRAING, CAMBODIA — “I’m going to get my votes!” cried Mu Sochua as she stepped into a slender rowboat, holding one side for balance. “One by one.”

She was crossing a small river here in southern Cambodia on a recent stop in her never-ending campaign for re-election to Parliament, introducing herself to rural constituents who may never have seen her face.

The most prominent woman in Cambodia’s struggling political opposition, Mu Sochua, 55, is campaigning now, three years before the next election, because she is almost entirely excluded from government-controlled newspapers and television.

“Only 35 percent of voters know who won the last election,” she said.

She has no time to lose.

Ms. Mu Sochua is a member of a new generation of women who are working their way into the political systems of countries across Asia and elsewhere, from local councils to national assemblies and cabinet positions.

A former minister of women’s affairs, she did as much as anyone to put women’s issues on the agenda of Cambodia as it emerged in the 1990s from decades of war and mass killings. But she lost her public platform in 2004 when she broke with the government, and she is now finding it as difficult to promote her ideas as it is to simply gain attention as a candidate.

She says her signal achievement, leading the way for women into thousands of government positions, has done little to advance women’s issues in a stubbornly male-dominated society.

And like dissidents and opposition figures in many countries, she has found herself with a new burden: battling for her own rights. As she has risen in prominence, the political stands she has taken have become a greater liability to her than gender bias has been.

Most recently, she has been caught in a bizarre tit-for-tat exchange of defamation suits with the country’s domineering prime minister, Hun Sen, in which, to no one’s surprise, she was the loser.

It started last April here in Kampot Province, her constituency, when Mr. Hun Sen referred to her with the phrase “cheung klang,” or “strong legs,” an insulting term for a woman in Cambodia.

She sued him for defamation; he stripped her of her parliamentary immunity and sued her back. Her suit was dismissed in the politically docile courts. In August she was convicted of defaming the prime minister and fined 16.5 million riel, or about $4,000, which she has refused to pay.

“Now I live with the uncertainty about whether I’m going to go to jail,” she said in a recent interview. “I’m not going to pay the fine. Paying the fine is saying to all Cambodian women, ‘What are you worth? A man can call you anything he wants, and there is nothing you can do.”’

This gesture is one of the few ways she has left to champion the rights of women, the central passion of her public life.

As an outspoken opponent of the prime minister, she has found, her participation taints any group, action or demonstration with the stigma of political opposition.

“My voice kills the movement,” she said. “It’s my failure. Now I am the face of the opposition, a woman’s face in opposition. Women say, ‘We believe in you. We admire you. But we can’t be with you because the movement will die.”’

During her six years as minister of women’s affairs, Ms. Mu Sochua campaigned against child abuse, marital rape, violence against women, human trafficking and the exploitation of female workers. She helped draft the country’s law against domestic violence.

In part because of her work, she said, “People are aware about gender. It’s a new Cambodian word: ‘gen-de.’ People are aware that women have rights.”

But where political empowerment of women is concerned, she said, quantity has not produced quality, and prominence has not translated into progress for a women’s agenda.

Over the years, Ms. Mu Sochua has worked with nongovernmental groups to field thousands of candidates in local elections. Largely because of her activism, there are now 27 women in a National Assembly of 123 seats.

But 21 of these are members of the governing Cambodian People’s Party — window dressing, she said — and have little impact, following the party line like their male counterparts.

“They don’t speak out,” she said. “It’s hard to talk about this — I don’t want to antagonize women — but if women suffer from our silence, we are responsible. What are we doing to make their lives better?

“This is where women can hurt women. They are in politics, but they are part of the problem by keeping silent.”

Cambodia is still a traditional society in which women are expected to behave demurely and subordinate themselves to men. Schooled in the United States, Ms. Mu Sochua said she had to keep an eye on her own Westernized ideas and behavior, to be “careful I don’t push things too far.”

The daughter of a well-to-do merchant in Phnom Penh, she was sent to study in the West at the age of 12, ending up at the University of California, Berkeley, where she earned a master’s degree in social work and thrived on the culture of outspokenness of the 1970s.

“When I hit San Francisco, I knew that that was my city,” she said. “I began to shine. I let my hair grow. I looked like a hippie.”

She met her future husband, an American, when both were assisting Cambodian refugees on the Thai border after the fall of the murderous Khmer Rouge regime in 1979. Since 1989 they have lived together in Cambodia, where he works for the United Nations. They have three grown children living in the United States and Britain.

“I have to be very, very careful about what I bring from the West, to promote women’s rights within the context of a society that is led by men,” she said. “In the Cambodian context, it’s women’s lib. It’s feminism. It’s challenging the culture, challenging the men.”

She has this in mind as she walks through the villages of her constituency, a woman with power but a woman nonetheless. “I walk into a cafe, and I have to think twice, how to be polite to the men,” she said. “I have to ask if I can enter. This is their turf. I am a woman, and I should be sitting in one of these little shops and selling things.”

And so she paused the other day at the stoop of a little cafe here in this riverside village, an open-fronted noodle shop where men sat in the midday heat on red plastic chairs.

She had succeeded in halting a sand-dredging project that was eroding riverbanks here, and she wanted the men to know that she had been working on their behalf.

“I came here to inform you that you got a result from the government,” she told the men, showing them a legal document. “I want to inform you that you have a voice. If you see something wrong, you can stand up and speak about it.”

Asked afterward what it was like to have a woman fighting his battles, Mol Sa, 37, a fisherman, said, “She speaks up for us, so I don’t think she’s any different from a man. Maybe a different lady couldn’t do it, but she can do it because she is strong and not afraid.”

Fear was a theme as Ms. Mu Sochua moved through the countryside here. At another village, where cracks were appearing in the sandy embankment, a widow named Pal Nas, 78, said the big dredging boats had scared her.

“I’m afraid that if I speak out, they will come after me,” she said. “In the Khmer Rouge time, they killed all the men. When night comes, I don’t have a man to protect me. It’s more difficult if you are a woman alone.”

Mr. Hun Sen’s party holds power throughout most of rural Cambodia, and Ms. Mu Sochua said that party agents kept an eye on her as she campaigned.

Before she boarded the little boat to cross the river, a man on a motorcycle took photographs of her and her companions with a cellphone, then drove away.

Across the river, a farmer greeted her warmly, climbing a tree to pick ripe guavas for her.

“I voted for you,” he said as he handed her the fruit. “But don’t tell anyone.”

Verdict in ‘torture’ case

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Thoeung Reth crouches outside Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Friday. Judges sentenced her to five years in prison for selling a girl to a couple who brutally abused her for months before authorities intervened last October. Meas Nary, seated behind Thoeung Reth on the left, received a 20-year term.

via CAAI News Media

Monday, 22 February 2010 15:04 Chhay Channyda and Irwin Loy

AN 11-year-old girl who was abused for months after being sold into domestic servitude can begin the long road to rehabilitation after her tormenters were sentenced to lengthy prison terms, an official with the organisation overseeing the girl’s recovery said Sunday.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Friday sentenced Meas Nary to 20 years in prison – the maximum under human trafficking laws – for her role in detaining and abusing the girl. The woman’s husband, Var Savoeun, received a 10-year term, and the girl’s “grandmother”, Thoeung Reth, who raised the girl from a young age before giving her to the couple, was sentenced to five years in prison on trafficking charges.

The end, for now, of what was an important but arduous court process for the girl should allow her to close the door on a traumatic part of her life, said Sue Taylor, manager of the psychosocial services department at the NGO Hagar International.

“She doesn’t have to talk about this again in front of everyone,” Taylor said. “It’s a big relief for her to have this all finished. She can start the process of rehabilitation, which we couldn’t do until the court process is finished.”

Friday’s verdict was also a validation of the girl’s suffering, Taylor said.

“The judge believed her, which was very important for her,” she said.

Authorities said the girl had been held captive since 2008, when she was sold into domestic servitude by Thoeung Reth, who told the court she believed she was giving the girl a better life. It wasn’t until October 2009 that police, acting on a tip from a neighbour, freed the girl from a house in Sen Sok district.

They found her body covered with scars, leading police to describe her abuse as “torture”.

In testimony last month, the girl told the court that Meas Nary beat her with pliers, clothes hangers, brooms and whips when she got angry.

On Friday, Judge Chan Madina said it was imperative that Meas Nary face a lengthy prison term for her actions.

“The acts of Meas Nary were inhuman and very cruel,” said the judge, who also awarded the girl 20 million riels (US$4,788) in compensation.

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
The 11-year-old victim in a notorious child abuse and trafficking case is comforted as she looks at one of the defendants in her trial, the verdict for which was handed down Friday at Phnom Penh Municipal Court.

‘Everyone is watching’
Rights groups praised the court’s decision. The lengthy sentencing, said Chan Soveth, a monitor for local rights group Adhoc, “fits with the Cambodian government’s attention to combat human trafficking and torture of underage children.

“This is also a message to tell the international community that buying and selling children to become servants is illegal,” he said. “This is a severe case that everyone is watching.”

The three convicted people have the option of appealing the decision.

The case put a public spotlight on the issue of internal trafficking in the Kingdom. Observers say the closed-door nature of the domestic labour industry makes it difficult for victims of abuse to escape or be discovered.

In 2004, a survey by the Cambodian government and the International Labour Organisation found that there were almost 28,000 children in the capital alone who were working in domestic service.

Khmer Krom ID denied

Photo by: Sovan Philong
Kim Soun, 50, sweeps outside her one-room apartment, where she and her husband have sheltered Khmer Krom returnees from Thailand awaiting ID papers from the Cambodian government.

IN DATES: Khmer Krom seek ID in Cambodia

December 5, 2009
A group of 24 Khmer Krom asylum seekers are deported from Thailand as illegal immigrants. A week later, the group sends letters to the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and the Ministry of Interior requesting identification cards and other assistance.

December 28, 2009
The UNHCR rejects the group’s request for refugee status, citing a sub-decree handing responsibility for asylum applications over to the government. Three days later, five members of the group leave for Thailand in a second bid for asylum.

January 13, 2010
District police visit the group of Khmer Krom to gather information, raising hopes that the deportees will receive identification cards and legal recognition.

January 25, 2010
Boeung Tumpun police official Tep Bora says the information collected by district police has been sent to district authorities. He later acknowledges that the information collected in January is incomplete.

February 17, 2010
Tep Bora says that information about the Khmer Krom group has again been sent to district officials. The group’s request for identification cards is rejected the following day.

vis CAAI News Media

Monday, 22 February 2010 15:04 Cameron Wells and Tharum Bun

Group of 22 faces bleak future as NGO assistance nears end

A GROUP of Khmer Krom asylum seekers who say they are fleeing persecution in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta region have been formally denied identification cards by police officials, several representatives said Sunday, casting further doubt over the options that will be available to them when NGO-provided assistance runs out at the end of the month.

The Khmer Krom, many of whom were deported from Thailand in December after a failed asylum bid, were told Thursday by Meanchey district police that they lacked sufficient documentation to obtain identification cards, said group representative Thach Soong.

He said police also informed them that their request had been denied because they were not recognised as permanent residents of Boeung Tumpun commune, where they have been staying for two and a half months. Commune officials were also present at the meeting, Thach Soong said.

“They told me that we do not have a permanent place to live, so they can’t provide us with the requested ID cards and other legal documents,” he said.

The asylum seekers and those acting on their behalf have noted that identification cards are necessary if members of the group want to access hospitals, find jobs, enrol in schools and rent houses.

Meanchey district police could not be reached for comment on Sunday, and police in Boeung Tumpun commune could not confirm that the request for identification cards had been denied.

But Thach Thach, president of the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Federation (KKF), provided a video recording of the Thursday meeting, during which at least five unidentified officials could be seen explaining the decision to a group of at least three Khmer Krom.

“According to the law of the Ministry of Interior, we cannot issue the ID cards or [family] books for you, because you do not have a specific address. If we issue the ID card for you, the owner of the house might be confused that you now own the house,” one police officer says in the video.

When one of the Khmer Krom asks again about ID cards, the officer responds: “No, we cannot issue the cards because you’ve lived in the house for two months, and you might stay at a different house another month.”

The original 24 asylum seekers were deported from Thailand on December 5. Since then, five have returned to Thailand out of frustration at the sluggish processing of their requests. Three other Khmer Krom have been deported by Thai authorities and have since joined the group in Boeung Tumpun, where they have been receiving food and shelter from the rights group Licadho.

Licadho has said that its support of the group will cease at the end of February, and Thach Soong said he fears the group will be left homeless and starving. “We will face difficulties. We live in fear, not knowing where to go,” he said. “I appeal to Licadho and the [UN High Commissioner for Refugees] to continue to help with our sheltering and food, so that we can wait for the authorities to solve the issue.”

Am Sam Ath, technical superviser for the rights group Licadho, said staff members there had not yet discussed whether they could afford to continue to provide assistance.

“Any NGOs have their limits to provide assistance,” he said. “We’ll discuss this on Monday, what we can do about their shelter and food.”

He said authorities should have provided the group with the necessary documentation to process the ID cards, rather than demand that they provide credentials they don’t have. Many of the deportees have said that they lost their documentation when they fled Vietnam.

Thach Thach of the KKF called Thursday’s decision “sad”, adding that he questioned the reasoning given by the police.

“How can you have a permanent address [in Cambodia] when you lived in Vietnam?” he said.

He said the UNHCR should reassume responsibility for processing the refugees, after a sub-decree ratified by Prime Minister Hun Sen in December declared the handling of asylum seekers solely a government responsibility.

“It is tough for Khmer Krom,” he said. “They are Vietnamese, but the Cambodian government says they are Khmer. The sub-decree is too much.”

Meanwhile, Ang Chanrith, an independent analyst who is the former executive director of the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Human Rights Organisation, said he was not surprised by the decision, and that he believed the police were carrying out government orders.

“I [knew] that local authorities would not provide the ID cards for them because they are listening to their bosses or superiors,” he said.

KKrom raised in Geneva
Government officials have previously said that the constitution grants all Khmer Krom the right to live in Cambodia, and that they do not face discrimination. This assertion was repeated by a five-person delegation attending a session of the UN committee on the elimination of racial discrimination that took up the issue of the Khmer Krom in Geneva last week.

In written responses to questions posed by the committee, the Cambodia delegation said, “In principle, Khmer Kampuchea Krom are recognised as Cambodian citizens without any discrimination.”

The responses also noted that in order to obtain ID cards, Khmer Krom must have a permanent address in Cambodia and be able to present a birth certificate, a family book and “any verdict from the court to recognise that he/she was born by parents with Khmer nationality”.

In lieu of such a verdict, the Khmer Krom could also present a “Royal Decree on the recognition of Khmer nationality” or “any evidence which shows that he/she was born by parents having Khmer nationality”, according to the responses.

Thach Thach, who was present at the session, said he would like for all Khmer Krom to receive automatic dual citizenship, meaning they would be free to travel between Cambodia and Vietnam.

Govt to protest Thai court

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Monday, 22 February 2010 15:04 Tep Nimol

CAMBODIAN officials say they will file a complaint with Thailand’s Surin provincial court after it sentenced six Cambodians to prison terms on Friday for illegal logging.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong said Sunday that each of the six was sentenced to two years and three months in prison.

Cambodia’s plan to dispatch a team of legal advisers to Thailand on Friday were upset at the last minute when the provincial court said the trial had been rescheduled; however, the court then proceeded with the hearing after all, Koy Koung said.

“The Thai court told Cambodia that the six people had requested that they not be defended by lawyers, but we did not believe the Thai court. The Thai court has violated the legal procedure because in such a criminal case, there must be lawyers to defend the suspects,” Koy Kuong said.

On January 25, seven residents of O’Smach commune’s Akphivat village in Oddar Meanchey province reportedly crossed the Thai-Cambodian border to collect rattan.

I am concerned about my wife and my baby, who may have to be born in prison.

Six members of the group, two of whom were pregnant, were subsequently arrested by Thai soldiers and detained in the pending trial.

Officials in Bangkok said Sunday that they did not have any information on the case and declined to comment. Officials at the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh could not be reached for comment.

Koy Kuong accused the court of deliberately passing false information in order to prevent Cambodian involvement in the villagers’ defence.

According to Thai law, Koy Kuong added, the villagers should not have received a jail sentence of more than 40 days.

“We are upset and we will file a complaint to Surin provincial court to reexamine the case,” he said.

Yam Pith, 32, the husband of Seung Kuok, a member of the imprisoned group who is three months pregnant, said that the sentence was excessive.

“I was shocked when my wife told me over the phone that she had been sentenced to two years and three months in prison – she was only looking for rattan,” Yam Pith said. “I am concerned about my wife and my baby, who may have to be born in prison.”

Na Rein, Banteay Meanchey provincial coordinator for local rights group Adhoc, said relatives of the imprisoned villagers plann to file complaints through his organisation this week.

Srey Naren, Adhoc’s provincial coordinator for Oddar Meanchey, said last month that the villagers had been collecting rattan in an undemarcated area along the border at the time of their arrest.

They had travelled there many times before without incident, he added.

“Thai soldiers have never arrested them there before, and we don’t know why they did this time,” he said, adding that Thai soldiers had been behaving “cruelly” towards Cambodian villagers in recent months.

There have been numerous incidents along the Thai-Cambodian border related to illegal logging and gathering firewood in recent months.

Since September, at least seven Cambodians have been shot and killed by Thai troops while logging illegally in Thai territory near the border with Oddar Meanchey province, government officials and rights workers say.

Nanh Sovan, chief of the Cambodian-Thai border communication team at O’Smach International Border Crossing, said he planned to meet with Thai officials on Wednesday to seek the release of the three prisoners convicted on Friday, including the two pregnant women, though a request for this was denied last week.

Observers hail Takeo court ruling

Photo by: Sovan Philong
Radio Free Asia reporter Sok Serey, pictured Sunday, was acquitted of disinformation charges in Takeo provincial court on Friday.

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Monday, 22 February 2010 15:04 Sebastian Strangio and Chhay Channyda

LOCAL and international organisations have welcomed the acquittal of a Radio Free Asia reporter and four rights activists by Takeo provincial court on Friday, saying the ruling could set an important precedent for future defamation and disinformation cases.

In a statement issued on Friday, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Cambodia hailed the ruling of the court as a step forward in the struggle for freedom of expression.

“The Court’s decision is a significant step towards the protection of the right of human rights defenders and journalists to freely and peacefully express themselves on matters of public interest, without fear of reprisals,” the statement said.

On Friday, the court acquitted rights activists Cheab Chiev and Khoem Sarum, Radio Free Asia journalist Sok Serey and two Cham community representatives, Ny San and Seb Sein, on charges of disinformation. Ny San was found guilty of destruction of property and sentenced to five months in prison.

The five were first charged in September last year under the 1992 UNTAC Criminal Code, following a radio interview the previous December that discussed a dispute between Cham community leader Rim Math and 206 members of his mosque in Takeo’s Kampong Youl village.

The OHCHR praised the fact that the court’s ruling was based explicitly on the lack of any malicious intent on the part of the accused, saying it could act as a precedent for future cases.

“The Office encourages magistrates to draw inspiration from this ruling in their interpretation and application of the law, in order to limit restrictions on freedom of expression in compliance with Cambodia’s human rights treaty obligations,” it concluded.

Moeun Chhean Nariddh, director of the Cambodian Institute for Media Studies, said that before deciding to convict in such cases, judges need to conclude not only that the accused peddled false information, but that this was done with malicious intent.

“As human beings [journalists] can make mistakes, but they do not necessarily have any malicious intent,” he said.

According to some observers, the issue of intent has never directly been addressed in previous defamation and disinformation cases, making the Takeo case a “very significant” step forward.

“This could be a tool for advocates of free speech to use in future court cases,” said Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights.

In light of the spate of lawsuits filed against journalists and government critics in 2009, however, Moeun Chhean Nariddh said the leniency of the ruling was likely linked to the fact that Sok Serey worked for Radio Free Asia, a US-backed media outlet.

“It would make the courts of Cambodia look bad if they put a journalist working for a US-funded radio station in jail,” he said, though he added that the ruling was nonetheless a “good sign” for press freedom in Cambodia.

Ek Kandara, lawyer for the plaintiff Rim Math, said on Friday that his client would not appeal the verdict, describing the trial as “fair and just”.

Damning report
The issue of Cambodian media freedom was also raised in a report released by the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders on Friday. The report claims the jailing of Khmer Machas Srok publisher Hang Chakra in July last year broke a pledge made by Prime Minister Hun Sen in 2006 that journalists would no longer be jailed for what they wrote.

“The jailing of several opposition journalists has cruelly shown that the promise has not been kept. It has been compounded by judicial harassment of government opponents and the journalists who interview them,” the 11-page report stated.

“The international community has strongly condemned these reversals and there is still time for Hun Sen’s government to make lasting improvements to respect for press freedom.”

Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, rejected the accusation that the prime minister had “broken his promise” to the nation, saying the government generally welcomed criticism.

“The law gives journalists the right to express themselves,” Phay Siphan said. He added, though, that reporters should be “fair” and avoid making personal insults. “Journalists have to be professional and adhere to a code of conduct,” he said.

Suspect held in rape and murder of guard

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Monday, 22 February 2010 15:04 Chrann Chamroeun

A 31-YEAR-OLD man was arrested on Saturday night in connection with the rape and murder of a female security guard in Russey Keo district.

The body of the security guard, Yim Srey Mon, was found naked, bound and gagged about 300 metres from a sewer in Toul Sangke commune on Thursday night by Russey Keo district police.

Phan Sahuth, deputy police chief of Russey Keo district, said the arrested man had not yet been charged, but that he had confessed to raping and murdering the woman near the Meng Ta garment factory, where she worked.

He said that the suspect, after leaving a party where he had been drinking with friends, chased after Yim Srey Mon while she was on her way home.

“It was a very brutal killing, and we worked very hard, investigating day and night, to hunt down the suspect in this killing,” he said.

He said the suspect was being held at the police station and was set to appear in court today.

“The man is now being held temporarily at our police station and will be sent to Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Monday [today],” he said.

Police Blotter: 22 Feb 2010

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Monday, 22 February 2010 15:02 Phak Seangly

A 26-year-old man from Banteay Meanchey’s Poipet town was arrested after he beat his mother in the face with a rock when she couldn’t provide drinking money in small denominations, police said. The incident occurred on Wednesday, when the man asked his mother, who is 45, for money before heading out to buy some wine. His mother promised to give him the money, but she did not have any small notes. The man then beat her with the rock, causing her severe injuries, police said. Neighbours said the man, who works as a day labourer in Thailand, caused problems and picked fights with his mother whenever he drank. He has been sent to provincial police headquarters for questioning.

An 18-year-old high school student on Friday was caught and beaten by a crowd after snatching a necklace off the neck of a 20-year-old university student who was driving on her motorbike in Phnom Penh’s Prampi Makara district, police said. When the victim began screaming for help, a mob descended on the man and began pummelling him, police said, adding that they would have killed him had police not intervened. A second man who assisted in the snatching managed to escape from the scene with the necklace. The arrested man has been questioned and sent to Phnom Penh Municipal Court.

Police in Phnom Penh’s Chamkarmon district detained a man on Wednesday for carrying illegal drugs. The 25-year-old confessed that he had purchased the confiscated drugs from a 48-year-old man for US$10, and that he planned to resell them for between $15 and $20. The 48-year-old man said he had purchased the drugs from a girl near Preah Kossamak Hospital, an area of the city that police said was popular with with drug users.

Two men looking to buy sex were ambushed on Wednesday night in a scheme that apparently involved their prostitutes, police said. The men, aged 30 and 28, were driving two prostitutes to a guesthouse to have sex with them when the women abruptly jumped off their motorbikes. Shortly thereafter, a group of eight men appeared from the side of the road and beat the two men badly before stealing their money and mobile phones. The two victims were sent to a private clinic. Police say they have since arrested all eight men as well as the prostitutes involved in the attack.

UN envoy warns of mass deportations

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Monday, 22 February 2010 15:04 James O'Toole

THOUSANDS of Cambodians working as migrant labourers in Thailand may face abrupt deportation in the coming weeks, the UN’s special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants said Thursday.

February 28 is the deadline set by Thailand for migrant workers to register for nationality verification through their home governments, extending their work permits. Those who fail to register will be subject to deportation, a policy UN rapporteur Jorge Bustamente sharply criticised.

“If pursued, the threats of mass expulsion will result in unprecedented human suffering and will definitely breach fundamental human rights obligations,” Bustamente said in a statement Thursday.

Though international concern has focused primarily on Myanmar migrants, Cambodians may also constitute a significant percentage of the deportees, said Andy Hall, director of Thailand’s Migrant Justice Programme.

As of February 8, some 70,047 Cambodian migrants had completed the nationality verification process, according to Thailand’s Ministry of Labour. Many thousands more – both documented and undocumented – had yet to register, Hall said.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong said the Cambodian government had sent a working group to Thailand to assist in the process.

“This is normal for the internal affairs of Thailand because they’re implementing immigration law,” he said.

Chawanon Intharakomansut, secretary to the Thai foreign minister, said nationality verification was a well-publicised aspect of Thailand’s labour law, and that it had been going “very well”. “We’ve got cooperation from all the countries” involved, Chawanon said.

Hall said awareness of the policy was limited, and that even migrants who knew of the process were constrained by the brokers’ fees required to secure verification. Thailand, he said, should recognise the benefits of having migrants and adopt a more conciliatory approach.

“The economy is incredibly dependent on these people,” he said. “If they did go ahead with [deportations], it would be very concerning.”

Embassy official visits prisoner

Photo by: Pha Lina
Suphap Vong Pakna appears at the Military Court in Phnom Penh on February 12.

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Monday, 22 February 2010 15:04 Vong Sokheng

THAI embassy officials paid a visit on Friday to a Thai national recently convicted of planting land mines on the Cambodian side of the border, a Ministry of Defence spokesman said.

“We allowed one Thai embassy official to visit a Thai prisoner,” said spokesman Chhum Socheat.

“It’s a normal visit, about 30 minutes, and the Thai official just provided some gifts such as noodles and fruits to the prisoner.”

Suphap Vong Pakna was sentenced to 20 years in prison this month after the Military Court in Phnom Penh found him guilty of laying mines in Oddar Meanchey province. Suphap claimed Thai soldiers paid him to plant the mines.

Sam Sokong, the man’s court-appointed Cambodian lawyer, said he knew nothing of the visit but planned to meet with Suphap Friday to discuss a possible appeal.

Three Thais injured in multiple mine blasts

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Monday, 22 February 2010 15:03 Khouth Sophakchakrya

LAND mine blasts have injured three Thai nationals accused of illegal logging along the disputed border area in Preah Vihear province, authorities said Sunday.

The explosions occurred last Wednesday when the three men stepped on separate land mines, said Ministry of Defence spokesman Chhum Socheat.

In one incident, one man had part of his lower leg blown off, while the two others were also seriously injured, he said.

“We saved them from the dangerous place and sent them to their country for treatment,” Chhum Socheat said, adding that a chainsaw found with the group was confiscated and destroyed.

Chhum Socheat said the land mines were old, having been planted during conflict some decades ago.

In 2008, two Thai soldiers were severely injured after stepping on land mines that Thai authorities said were freshly laid. However, Cambodia said the land mines were not newly planted. The situation remains unresolved.

Any new deployment of land mines would be a breach of the Ottawa Treaty banning the use of the deadly weapons, which Cambodia and Thailand have both ratified.

Over 2008 and 2009, Preah Vihear ranked fourth among provinces for total casualties of land mines and explosive remnants of war (ERW), according to a report last month from the Cambodia Mine/ERW Victim Information System.