Saturday, 27 March 2010

New exhibits opening at WheatonArts, Winterthur put focus on the past

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By Gloucester County Times
March 26, 2010, 3:11PM

By Kristie Rearick

Works from Cambodian master artist Chamroeun Yin will be on display through Oct. 20 at the WheatonArts Down Jersey Folklife Center in Millville. The artist, who has lived in the U.S. for nearly 30 years, will showcase costumes, accessories and masks in the exhibition, “Cambodian Traditions: Weddings and Court Dances.”

“Yin is a dancer, traditional costume maker, mask maker and a teacher in Cambodian crafts and court dances,” said Iveta Pirgova, Down Jersey Folklife Center director and curator of this exhibition. “All of the items on display are made by him.”

The exhibit puts Khmer classical dance in the spotlight, she said, an art form that was oppressed by the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia.

An Aspara Crown, used in Khmer classical court dance, is shown above. At right, below, Cambodian master artist Chamroeun Yin wears an intricate dance costume.

“It’s a tradition that goes back more than a thousand years to the Khmer empire. During this time the king created the Royal Ballet as an intermediary between the monarchy and spiritual realm,” Pirgova said.

There is a lot of symbolism involved in the dance. Its graceful gestures and beautiful costumes represent the Khmer culture, Pirgova said.

“The dance conveys sacred, social and aesthetic messages through movement, rhythm, gestures, poses and elaborate costumes,” she said.

Yin came to America as a refugee as part of the Khmer Classical Dance Troupe which toured the country in the early ’80s. Today, he lives in Philadelphia where he works as an artist in several media. He makes traditional wedding costumes, male and female dance costumes and teaches Khmer court dance and mask-making to young people.

His goal is to keep these Khmer traditions alive.

The Cambodian wedding, one of these traditions, takes at least two nights, Pirgova said. Ceremonies begin on Friday afternoon and end on Saturday evening with a reception. The costumes worn by the bride and groom change from ceremony to ceremony.

“They know very well which costume is appropriate for each part of the wedding ceremony,” she said. “Visitors to the exhibit will see different costumes for the wedding reception, sashes with intricate beadwork on golden lamé, hair pieces and other accessories.”

Family workshops are planned to coincide with the exhibit.

Photos courtesy of John Gallagher

In “Cambodian Beadwork on Fabric,” offered April 25, visitors will learn to create flower and diamond designs with gold glass beads and sequins and place them on a small purse; participants can learn the basics of the “Cambodian Court Dance” at a workshop planned for Sept. 19; and a performance demonstration of the court dances by the artist will be held during the Festival of Fine Craft at WheatonArts on Oct. 3.

If you go:
“Cambodian Traditions: Weddings and Court Dances” comes to the Down Jersey Folklife Center at WheatonArts at 1501 Glasstown Road in Millville from Wednesday, April 1 through Oct. 20. WheatonArts is open Tuesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., April through December. The exhibit is included in the price of admission. Adults, $10; seniors and students, $7, children 5 and under are free. For more information call (856) 825-6800, (800) 998-4552 or visit

Mikkel Hass Gave 8.000 $ to Get Johanne Out of Jail

Mikkel Hass is a Danish real life hero. He has twice shown that when Danes abroad are facing injustice, he is willing to put his money where other people just support with their words.

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Danish diplomacy at its best was not enough to bring Johanne Vinther Axelsen home to Denmark from the prison in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she was rotting away for sending over-the-counter-medicine out of the country by postal mail.

Last minute, Danish pensioner Mikkel Hass stepped in and donated the 40.000 Danish kroner in cash that the court in Phnom Penh demanded for her release. Mikkel Hass just hopes more Danes would follow his example when countrymen are in trouble abroad.

The 8,000 dollars was the fine, which Johanne Axelsen had to pay before the transfer procedure negotiated between Denmark and Cambodia, could proceed.

Mikkel Hass had early on been in contact with Johanne's lawyers Henrik Hasseris Olesen to ask if there wasn't anything that could be done to help the poor Danish woman back to her freedom in Denmark. At that time he was told, that there was a stumbling block as the court demanded that Johanne paid a fine of 20.000 dollars to accept her release. At that time, Mikkel Hass had suggested that a few good people could join hands and find this amount.

"Then on February 10, I was called up by Henrik Hasseris Olesen, who told me that the amount was now down to 8.000 US$. My answered was that in that case he could count on me to transfer the full amount overnight to the bank account in Phnom Penh," Mikkel Hass says.

Henrik Hasseris Olesen, who has been helping Johanne Axelsen for free, was speechless, Mikkel Hass adds.

The whole affair was handled in deepest secrecy. So secret was the transfer, that when Johanne Axelsen on Thursday morning at 6.30 landed in Copenhagen Airport, she was received only by Henrik Hasseris Olesen and Mikkel Hass.

It is part of the Danish deal with the authorities in Cambodia, that Joahnne Axelsen will have to be tried and sentenced at a Danish court for her crime in Cambodia, but it is understood that she will only be sentenced the two years she has already served in the prison in Phnom Penh, which means she will immediately be released.

Next, she will need to get her pension back. While in prison in Cambodia, the Danish authorities stopped paying her pension.

"This is normal procedure in Denmark, where it may make sense, but if you are in a prison in a third world country this is a disaster," Mikkel Hass comments.

"The 8.000 dollars is an interest free loan," he says.

"If Johanne can, she is supposed top pay me back, if she cannot find the money, well, then it's a gift."

"The main thing is, that she is free!"

Mikkel Hass thinks it is a shame that not more Danes are willing to help other Danes facing injustice outside Denmark. Four years ago, Mikkel also paid a major amount to help the release against bail of another Dane, James Christensen, who had been sentenced to10 years in prison for setting fire to his neighbors farmhouse. The appeals court in October last year cleared James Christensen of all accusations against him. However, the public prosecutor appealed his case to and consequently James Christensen is now awaiting the outcome of that appeal. This will take three to five years and during that time, James Christensen is confined to stay inside Thailand.

"I think more Danes should show empathy when other Danes are in suffering under unfair circumstances abroad,” Mikkel Hass says.

"If you have some money and your have the choice between buying that boat you may have dreamed of or make a real difference in another persons life – what do you choose? My choice is clear," Mikkel Hass says.

The Ministry of Commerce Announced It Earned Riel 129,949 Million – Friday, 26.3.2010

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Posted on 27 March 2010
The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 657

“The Minister of Commerce, Mr. Cham Prasidh, said that in 2009, the Ministry was able to earn Riel 129,949,000,000 [approx. US$31 million] for the nation.

“Mr. Cham Prasidh said during a meeting of the Ministry of Commerce on 24 March 2010 that the income came only from public services that the Ministry provides to private companies.

“The services operated by the Ministry to get income include the registration of commercial operations and of commercial trademarks, the provision of certificates to certify the origin of products, and the checking of product quality, especially for food products for export and import, and for products sold at local markets.

“According to a report on the work in 2009 and on setting goals for 2010, 3,116 trademarks were registered in 2009, where only 698 were trademarks of local companies. Also, in 2009, the Ministry registered commercial operations for 2,045 companies which declined by about 26.5%, compared to 2008. Among those companies, only 39 companies were new companies, a drop by 2.5%.

“The same report added that though the registration of commercial operations declined, foreign investors from Vietnam, Korean, China, Malaysia, and Singapore significantly continue to trust the economic conditions and the political stability in Cambodia.

“The same source continued to say that the registration of export permits, based on the conditions and the origin of the products, covered 243 factories and 26 shoes factories. Those factories employ 320,834 workers who earned about US$27 million as monthly salaries.

“The exports to the United States of America amounted to about US$1.518 billion, which dropped by approximately US$471 million. The exports to Canada were US$198 million, declining by US$4.9 million compared with 2008. The exports to the European Union amounted to US$655 million, a drop by about 18%.

“Exports to other countries also declined. The exports to the American continent, excluding the United States of America and Canada, were about US$34 million, a downturn by about US$11 million. The exports to Europe, excluding the European Union countries, were about US$33 million, a decline by around 23%.

“The report adds that most products that Cambodia exported were garments and other textile products, shoes, rice, handicrafts, beer, and agricultural products, such as pepper.”

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5160, 26.3.2010
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Friday, 26 March 2010

An American Dream as Realized by a Cambodian Ballet Dancer

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by Todd Eberle
March 26, 2010

Anne Bass, the New York City socialite known for her philanthropic endeavors in the ballet world, visited Cambodia on a World Monuments Fund trip in 2000. In Angkor Wat she saw a group of teenagers present a native dance and couldn't shake the performance of one of the boys from her memory. Dancing Across Borders is the Cinderella-esque documentary film Bass made about her efforts to sponsor the teenager, Sokvannara Sar (also known as "Sy," pronounced "See"), to come to the United States to learn ballet. In the process, Sy realizes the American Dream he didn't even know he had until his and Anne's paths crossed. Bass was as unacquainted with filmmaking as Sy was with ballet (he had never seen so much as an image of a ballet dancer before), and the film is even more compelling when you realize it's about two debuts, both on and off camera. In it, two new movie stars are born: Sy, who possesses matinee-idol looks, and his ballet teacher-to-the-stars, Olga Kostritsky (Mikhail Baryshnikov and Jock Soto are but two of her former pupils).

Anne Bass and Sokvannara "Sy" Sar.

Sy and his ballet coach, Olga Kostritsky.

Artist Julian Lethbridge and Sy.

It's not entirely clear from the film if Bass's dream for Sy has become his own, but watching his development, from being incapable of speaking English (let alone spelling "ballet") to becoming a world-class ballet dancer, in just a few years is a powerful story. When he appears at the famous Varna Dance Festival, in Bulgaria, it's moving to see him dance solo for the first time in the context of historical footage of Nureyev and Barishnikov, both of whom made their debuts in Varna.

Bass premiered the film at S.V.A. last night for two theaters full of friends and threw a party (the likes of which only she does) afterward at the Cedar Lake Studios, which Robert Isabell's office transformed into a Balinese world.

After touring nine film festivals, Dancing Across Borders starts its New York City run at the Quad today. It will premiere in Los Angeles on April 13.

China and Cambodia grow closer

China's Vice-Premier Hui Liangyu

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China’s Vice-Premier Hui Liangyu flew out of Phnom Penh last week after a three-day trip to Cambodia to promote an increasingly warm bilateral relationship.

In the past few years, China has become the largest foreign investor in Cambodia, with more than six billion US dollars (4.5 billion euros) approved since 2006. Beijing is also a generous donor, having granted around two billion dollars in aid over the same period.

China is the kind of friend Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen openly appreciates, since its money comes with no human rights or governance strings attached – unlike that of other donor countries, which gave hundreds of millions of dollars to the Cambodian government last year.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen

But as China and much-smaller Cambodia draw closer – at least financially –some are questioning what Phnom Penh might be getting into.

Good governance, transparency and environment at risk

Chea Vannath, an independent political analyst in Phnom Penh, pointed out good governance, transparency and the environment as being especially at risk.

When it comes to transparency and corruption, Cambodia sits near the bottom of Transparency International's corruption index of 180 countries. China is 79th, around halfway up the ladder.

"Do we need China with that score to be our grade teacher for good governance? Cambodia needs good democratic governance and to have sustainable economic progress," she said.

However, Cheang Vanarith, who heads a local research body called the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace, thought that China’s influence was broadly positive.

"We need China in terms of socio-economic development in Cambodia. Chinese financial assistance – grants, loans – to Cambodia is playing a significant role in poverty reduction and building infrastructure."

China providing cash for roads and dams

Cambodia emerged around 10 years ago from decades of civil strife with its infrastructure shattered. Donor money has helped to rebuild some of that. China is providing plenty of cash for roads and investment projects such as hydropower dams.

Its assistance is welcome, but the small-print of those infrastructure deals has come in for scrutiny – from the opposition, from civil society, even from the International Monetary Fund.

The opposition party says the deals for the dams – which are funded by China, and which will be built and operated by Chinese firms on a 30-year basis – are not transparent, and riddled with corruption.

China not necessarily a good teacher

For its part, the IMF is concerned that Phnom Penh’s blanket guarantee to buy all the power produced by the dams could prove unaffordable, and might even jeopardize the country’s fight against poverty.

Cambodian children wave Chinese flags

Chea Vannath said that apart from its infrastructure needs, Cambodia also needed to continue rebuilding its institutions of democratic governance. She worried that China was not a good teacher when it came to human rights and governance.

"With the money come a lack of transparency and a lack of democratic governance – not just governance, but democratic governance – the participation of people in state affairs. That concerns us. Yes, it concerns me."

It concerns others too. But those concerns were not voiced publicly by the Chinese or Cambodian officials, so one could perhaps assume they do not share them. Possibly their interests lie elsewhere.

Author:Robert Carmichael
Editor: Anne Thomas

The Cambodian Nightmare and the American Dream

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Nil Samorn can't go home again. He's an American now, for better and worse.

By Kitry Krause

"I don't know why they didn't kill me," says Nil Samorn. In 1975, he and a number of other low-ranking officers in the Cambodian army were trucked by armed Khmer Rouge guerrillas to a fortified temple in the jungle of northwest Cambodia. While others around him were brutally executed, he waited.

Samorn had quit school to enlist in the army in 1970, shortly after Prince Sihanouk, who had ruled Cambodia since the French put him in power in 1941, was overthrown by the U.S.-backed Lon Nol. The right-wing general soon widened the growing civil war between the government troops and the communist Khmer Rouge, who had quickly gained Sihanouk as their nominal head. Lon Nol doubled the number of the republic's troops by drafting young men and boys, who were driven into battle knowing little more than where the triggers on their rifles were. Their officers were often inept, and many pocketed U.S. funds intended for supplies. More than a million people, in a country of only seven million, died in this war before the Khmer Rouge won in 1975.

Samorn had enlisted because he hoped to be--and was--assigned to the unit in which his father was a lieutenant. "He felt like he could protect me, and I felt like I could be protected by him," Samorn says. He eventually became an officer in the propaganda branch, which was so disorganized that the soldiers often invented work for themselves. Samorn had always liked theater, dance, and music, so he studied and promoted Cambodian culture. When his unit was finally forced to surrender, its senior officers made a list for the Khmer Rouge of all those under their command. "The high-rank officers were under pressure. They didn't know that something terrible would happen," says Samorn. "They thought that they were usable, and they thought that the Khmer Rouge new government would need them to work." The last time he saw him, his father was being driven away in a truck by the Khmer Rouge.

Samorn and thousands of other soldiers were first marched at gunpoint to a large field. There they waited, building shelters and foraging for food, while the Khmer Rouge decided what to do with them. Three months later Samorn was trucked to the temple prison, where he was told he would have to wait until higher-ups gave the order to send him to a reeducation camp. For several days he waited. One night his uncle stole into the temple. "When he first heard that I was there, he didn't even want to come see me," says Samorn. "He just felt-- He was afraid. He and I were like twins. We used to sleep together in the same room, we went to school together, we did almost everything together. And many important things we never decided without each other. And then when I met him, he was very, very strange. He didn't smile. It was completely different from what I expected. I thought 'Oh, when we met the first time, we would be very, very happy because we were separated for a long time.' He just told me 'I don't know why you are here, but nobody can do anything now. Everybody, if they're put in this place, they will be killed the next day.' That just scared me more. I was just 21. He just warned me like that, and then he left." But the next day Samorn and some 20 other men who held the same military rank were released and given permission to search for their families. Samorn assumes the Khmer Rouge simply made a mistake, for many men of his rank were killed in other prisons.

Samorn found his uncle, who told him where his mother was working. Samorn then set out to find her. "The first time when I came to meet her, she didn't believe it. I came to meet her at dusk--in Cambodia, it's almost dark. Nobody in my family--my brothers, my sisters--they didn't believe that I was alive." He laughs softly. "And they thought that I was a ghost when I came." But Samorn knew that staying with his mother put her in danger and went back to where his uncle was working. His uncle managed to keep Samorn out of the way of the Khmer Rouge for a while, but soon the two of them, along with three friends from the temple prison who joined them, were assigned to one of the "mobile teams." They worked wherever they were told, digging irrigation ditches and building dikes, doing the heaviest work there was.

Most of the people of Cambodia--young and old--were forced to work all day every day in the rice fields. They were part of a state plan to modernize the country quickly, a project that was to be paid for through a huge increase in the production of rice--rice that the people were rarely allowed to eat, rice that was often shipped to China, the major supporter of the Khmer Rouge, to pay for weapons.

Anyone who has seen The Killing Fields has some idea of the sadistic brutality of the Khmer Rouge under Pol Pot. But Haing Ngor, who played Dith Pran in the film, writes in his biography that he complained that director Roland Joffe wasn't making the Khmer Rouge look anywhere near as bad as they had been. Joffe told him that if he showed the Khmer Rouge the way they really were, no one would go to the film.

The Khmer Rouge were responsible for the deaths of an estimated two million Cambodians. They died of exhaustion, of exposure, of starvation, of disease. They were tortured, shot, disemboweled, and hacked to death with hoes. The ethnic minorities--the Vietnamese, the Muslim Cham, the Chinese--were some of the first to be killed or driven out of the country by the intensely nationalistic Khmer Rouge. The educated and those who had worked for the government were next. Soon no one was safe; the Khmer Rouge purged many of their own. Only a few people had managed to flee across the border to Thailand in the first few months after the Khmer Rouge took power. Those who remained have seen the unimaginable.

Samorn is now 34 and has lived in the United States for the past eight years. He has learned English, has a car and an apartment, recently opened a video store, and works to help those in his community who came after him--all of these outward signs that he is settling in. Yet the unfathomable cruelty of his years under the Khmer Rouge remains at the center of his life, wrapped by a continual longing for the things that were best about his homeland. Samorn is a quiet, gracious man, and he tells me his story--sometimes with great difficulty--because he believes it may help other families in his community. There are 5,000 Cambodian refugees now living in Chicago, most of whose lives continue to be shaped by what they have endured and lost.

Local libraries donate opportunity to Cambodian students

Kim Sin, an employee of University of Minnesota-Rochester, recently received more than 1,000 books for a school he's helped create in his native Cambodia.
Elliot Mann/Post-Bulletin

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By Elliot Mann
The Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

Rochester resident Kim Sin closes his eyes and daydreams.

He remembers seeing the children in his native Cambodia, sifting through trash looking for a meal.

But he envisions a place where those children can make a decent living and learn English, doing so with books donated by people in southeastern Minnesota.

The dream isn't too far from the mark.

Sin, 33, and several friends have created a school in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, that teaches English to about 200 people, from young children to 20-year-olds. He sends $800 a month to the school, as do others. The school has been in operation for about four years and recently received a donation for furniture and bookcases from University of Minnesota-Rochester staff.

But when Sin, who works in the UMR information technology department, showed his co-workers pictures of the school, they saw that more work needs to be done.

"When he showed us a picture of the library, the bookshelf was empty," UMR librarian Mary Beth Sancomb-Moran said.

So Sancomb-Moran used her contacts through Southeastern Libraries Cooperating, a group that fosters collaboration with more than 130 libraries, to find books the school could use.

The group came up with more than 1,000 books to send to the school, Cambodian Family Organization.

"It shows that we don't have to give money to make a difference," Sin said.

He got involved in creating the school while visiting Cambodia with Rochester Community and Technical College students. Sin still takes Rochester students to the country his family fled in because of war and some students have returned to the school and taught for several months at a time.

Sin, who came to Rochester in July 1983, when he was 6, said his vision is to have American students be ambassadors to the Cambodian students.

But while the books will eventually serve the roughly 200 students at the school, the story isn't complete. Sin has to find a way to transport the books to Cambodia. He's looking for a partner to help pay the estimated $2,000 shipping cost. He's optimistic the books will reach their intended destination.

"I think the best thing to help these kids is to give them an education," Sin said.

Books, But Difficulties Teaching Khmer Rouge Era

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By Soeung Sophat, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
26 March 2010

Khmer Rouge history is a sensitive subject in Cambodia, though the ongoing Khmer Rouge trials and recent inclusion of more comprehensive teaching materials in the national secondary curriculum have helped.

But while it took many years to get a textbook into the nation’s classrooms, the authors say the real challenges have just begun.

Dy Khamboly, a senior researcher with the Documentation Center of Cambodia, is the author of “A History of Democratic Kampuchea (1975-1979),” a book published in 2007 and slated for use in a national genocide education project.

In an interview with VOA Khmer, he said for the project to be effective requires more than good textbooks and a carefully planned curriculum.

“I hope that the teachers as well as the students, their surviving parents, or any survivor from the Khmer Rouge era will all participate” in the educational process, he said recently. “Genocide education about Democratic Kampuchea cannot be achieved by any one person or institution, but requires everyone’s participation: the government, civil society, teachers, students, as well as parents who are survivors of the Khmer Rouge regime.”

The Khmer Rouge trial process has gone on for years now, but comprehensive teaching and discussion of the regime’s history have remained socially and politically sensitive.

Only recently has the government, with the help of the Documentation Center, been open to the idea of more comprehensive genocide education.

The Documentation Center has embarked on a long-term genocide education project that involves writing, publishing, teacher training, teaching and evaluation.

The project aims to publish another 700,000 textbooks for an anticipated 1 million 9th- to 12th-grade students. It is also nearing the completion of its training phase with the opening of the last phase to take place in Siem Reap on March 27.

A total 230 new trainers will instruct 1,627 teachers nationwide to use a teacher and student books for “A History of Democratic Kampuchea,” which was published jointly by the Ministry of Education and the Documentation Center.

Chea Phala, a Cambodian-American in Lowell, Massachusetts, is the co-author of the guide. She told VOA Khmer the book was carefully reviewed because methodology is crucial in teaching about genocide.

“It is a very tough subject, and we have to be very sensitive when we teach and when we deal with students and their families,” she said. “So we tried to think of ways to introduce the subject without traumatizing our audience, our students, and we did it in a manner that would build interest in students in learning about the subject and give them a safe place for discussion and opportunities to discuss different topics and different issues regarding the genocide.”

Dy Khamboly said the emotional sensitivity of the subject can be problematic for teachers. ​

“Because some teachers are themselves survivors, it is possible that they might take what they are teaching personally, instead of teaching it professionally,” he said. “Therefore, this training will help teachers teach in a scientific, professional way, and not from personal emotions.”

Despite the difficulties, Chea Phala said it is not only the students who are learning, but also the teachers, most of whom were born after the Khmer Rouge, as well as the parents and other survivors who lack a holistic view of what was happening to them.

And it is especially timely now that the tribunal is underway, prompting families and society to discuss about the subject more willingly and openly.

Dy Khamboly agreed, noting that the project will serve a long-term social goal. Cambodians must learn from their past to rebuild their nation and create a better future, he said.

“Our objectives are that students understand and can think critically about the events that occurred during the Khmer Rouge period and use this [knowledge] as a foundation in their daily lives, in rebuilding the country, in preventing the reoccurrence of genocide, and in helping their parents reconcile,” he said. “So the idea of retribution and revenge will not exist in the minds of the younger generations of Cambodians.”

Land Demonstrators Briefly Close Main Road

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By Heng Reaksmey, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
26 March 2010

Hundreds of villagers stopped traffic on National Route 4 Friday as they continued a sustained demonstration in a land dispute with a powerful government official.

The 500 villagers are protesting a court decision to detain two men accused of burning the temporary offices of the Phnom Penh Sugar Company, which is owned by Cambodian People’s Party Senator Ly Yong Phat.

Villagers, who clashed with police twice as they demonstrated outside the provincial court this week, say the company has pushed them off their land and have demanded the court release their representatives, Yu Tho and Khim Rithy.

The demonstration moved to the highway Friday, blocking traffic for at least two hours, said Am Sam Ath, head of the investigation unit for the rights group Licadho.

“We blocked the road today because we want to pressure the provincial court to release two people,” said Luy Houch, a 42-year-old protester.

Tribunal Must Set Up ‘Lead Lawyers’: Monitor

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By Kong Sothanarith, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
26 March 2010

The UN-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal must work quickly to establish lead lawyers for civil parties, to ensure proper citizen participation as the court moves toward its second trial of aging regime leaders, a court observer said Friday.

New rules for the court mandate that groups of civil parties be represented by two lead lawyers, instead of by individual attorneys for each group. But the tribunal has yet to establish who the lead lawyers will be.

With a trial for aging leaders expected in 2011, the lead lawyers will need time to map out a strategy, said Long Panhavuth, a tribunal monitor for the independent Open Society Justice Initiative.

“It is worthwhile to put it in place as quickly as possible,” he said. “If the creation of the lead lawyers is late, this will impact their work representing all the civil parties.”

Helen Jarvis, head of the Victims Unit for the tribunal, said the court would begin recruitment efforts before the Khmer New Year, in April.

“We expect that they could start in July this year,” she said.

The number of civil party complaints in the tribunal’s second case has risen to 4,001, but only around 1,300 have representation, Jarvis said.

Civil parties without lawyers lose the right to appeal if they are dismissed by investigating judges.

“This is an urgent need, that the civil party complainants have lawyers before the closing order,” Long Panhavuth said. “The internal rules say that the [tribunal] has to pay for a lawyer for them if they cannot find one.”

Jarvis said the court recognized the issue as “very important,” and she expects all complainants to have lawyers by the end of April.

Civil parties are currently represented by 41 lawyers, 27 of them foreign, from the US, France and Germany.

Cholera Suspected in Six Kratie Deaths

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By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
26 March 2010

At least six villagers have died and dozens fallen ill from severe diarrhea and vomiting in a suspected cholera outbreak in Kratie province, authorities said Friday.

The outbreak occurred in two villages of Chet Borey district, a remote area far from the provincial capital, said Choung Seang Hak, chief of Kratie provincial police.

At least 53 people were being treated at the provincial hospital while “several dozen” others were being treated in their villages, Sanday, Treap and Village 105, in Thmei commune, he said.

Ou Pilay, chief of the provincial hospital, said six people died from serious diarrhea and vomiting suspected from cholera, causing worries of an epidemic.

“The patients have the conditions of chest pressure, difficulty breathing, and have indigestion” caused by dirty drinking water, he said. A lack of hygiene and high temperatures also contributed, he said.

Villagers were treated with anti-bacterial medication, and the conditions of some have improved, he said.

Around 20 medical officers and several dozen civil servants, police and military police are staying in the villages to investigate the cause of the outbreak, the officials said. Six ambulances were also on standby in the villages.

Authorities are searching the homes of villagers for signs of the disease and have urged anyone sick to seek out the medical teams.

Choung Seang Hak said the “cholera epidemic” was now under control and no further deaths were reported.

Heartwarming "Dancing" docu takes no artistic leaps

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Frank Scheck
Thu Mar 25, 2010

NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - Talk about having a guardian angel.

Sokvannara Sar was a 16-year-old dancer in his native Cambodia when socialite and arts patroness Anne Bass happened to see him performing at a temple in Angkor Wat. Enraptured by the young man's talent, she later tracked him down and offered to sponsor him on a trip to New York to audition for the prestigious School of American Ballet.

"Dancing Across Borders," the debut film by Bass, documents the resulting story. The First Run Features release opens Friday.

Despite the fact that she served on the school's board, they turned down the young dancer, who had precious little experience with conventional ballet. So Bass hired legendary ballet teacher Olga Kostritzky to give him a crash course. Within months, he was accepted by SAB, from which he graduated five years later. He won an apprenticeship with Seattle's prestigious Pacific Northwest Ballet, where he joined the corps de ballet. He also managed to compete in and reach the semifinals of the world-famous International Ballet Competition in Varna, Bulgaria.

A dramatic story, to be sure, but not exactly grippingly told by its first-time filmmaker, who initially began videotaping her subject so that she could keep his relatives back home apprised of his progress. The resulting mixture of performance footage and interviews with the young man and the people involved in his story -- including such renowned dance-world figures as Jock Soto and Peter Boal -- is best appreciated as a heartwarming true-life tale rather than as a serious examination of the cross-cultural issues that are inevitably raised.

Sar is indeed a charismatic camera subject as well as a compelling performer, and the film undoubtedly will be appreciated by dance aficionados. But it's hard not to wish that his story had been told by a more experienced, not to mention objective, filmmaker.

King-Father of Cambodia donates to drought-hit Chinese provinces

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BEIJING, Mar 26, 2010 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- King-Father Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia on Friday personally donated 50,000 U.S. dollars to China to support relief efforts in drought-stricken provinces.

Sihanouk expressed solace to China's southwestern provinces which were hit by the severe drought in a letter to Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.

Dong Thap, Cambodia’s provinces tighten co-operation

March 26, 2010

The Mekong delta province of Dong Thap and Cambodia ’s Prayveng province have signed a co-operation agreement on border security and development, agriculture, trade and health care for 2010.

Last year, the co-operation between the two provincial authorities proved to be effective in maintaining order along the border, enhancing the fight against crimes and smuggling and facilitating the flow of people and goods across the border.

The two sides have conducted joint border patrols to protect territorial sovereignty and border landmarks in the spirit of solidarity, friendship and mutual assistance.

Dong Thap has also transferred rice cultivation techniques to Prayveng and provided medical checks-up and treatment to more than 5,000 Cambodian patients.

The province has assisted in the building of electricity transmission lines from Vietnam to Prayveng and a 28.3 km road section connecting the Bon Tia Chac Cray bordergate and the Highway 1 in Prayveng’s Sa Dach district which is expected to be completed on September 30, 2010.

In the meantime, Prayveng has helped the K91 searching team of Dong Thap to find 145 sets of remains of Vietnamese volunteer soldiers who died on battlefields in Cambodia during the wartime. (VNA)

Frenzied Cambodian mob kills motorcycle thieves with bamboo sticks

Picture by DAP (Deum Ampil News)

Angry Cambodian villagers attack three alleged bandits

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A furious village mob beat to death two suspected motorcycle robbers with bamboo sticks after dragging them away from terrified police.

The men were among three being held for allegedly stealing a motorcycle from two sisters, who were riding it when attackers hit them over the head with pistols.

The women were in a critical condition in hospital in the district of Dangkor.

The group of about 400 villagers was so out of control that police got scared, police chief Maj. Bonn Sam Ath admitted.

He said: "The villagers threatened to attack us if we refused to hand over the suspects to them.

"We had no choice. They would have beaten us too if we protected the suspects."

Word spread through the village that police had detained suspects, prompting a crowd led by relatives of the victims to await their arrival near the police station, said Bonn Sam Ath, adding that police initially tried to protect the suspects.

The third suspected robber survived by pretending he was dead, he said. Police do not plan to press charges because they do not know which members of the mob were responsible for the murders, he added.

Mob killings are not uncommon in rural Cambodia, where police are often seen as corrupt and villagers take justice into their own hands.

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Johanne Vinther Axelsen. Photo:

The Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs tells that the Danish citizen Johanne Vinther Axelsen arrived in Denmark Thursday the 25th of March.

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs the Danish Ministry of Justice have negotiated a deal with the Cambodian authorities, which led to the release of the Danish citizen.

Johanne Vinther Axelsen was in September sentenced 15 years in prison for having sent more than 10,000 painkillers containing codeine to the United States. She claimed in court that she did not know it was illegal to send the pills. But that did the Cambodian court disregard, when they sentenced her 15 years in prison.

Dancer's leap from Cambodia to NY

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Posted: March 26, 2010

In 2000, on a trip to Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Anne Bass, a Manhattan socialite and patron of dance, discovered Sy Sar, a 16-year-old boy performing with a traditional dance group.

Impressed by his natural ability, she brought him to New York, where she placed him in the care of instructor Olga Kostritzky at the School of American Ballet.

Now, in her first film, "Dancing Across Borders," Bass recounts Sar's 10-year road to success as a dancer.

Inspiring but not inspired, the documentary concentrates on the young man's transition from native dance to Western ballet (there are seemingly endless shots of him practicing in a New York studio) but gives short shrift to how he adapted to an alien culture.

It would have been nice to learn as much about Sar the man as about Sar the dancer.

Cambodia New National Airline
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The Cambodian government has signed an agreement with Indonesian companies last Friday which will see the development of a Cambodian national airline called the National Flag Carrier.

PR Log (Press Release) – Mar 26, 2010 – The Cambodian government has signed an agreement with Indonesian companies last Friday which will see the development of a Cambodian national airline called the National Flag Carrier.

Petter Sondakh, the CEO for Rajawali Group, has stated that the company invested in Cambodia because of the tourism boom the country is currently experiencing. "Today we signed the MOU to establish the National Flag Carrier with PT Rajawali Group and PT Ancora International company, which are joint ventures from Indonesia," Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok An told reporters after signing the memorandum of understanding in Phnom Penh. "This is our pride and victory that we have had our own national airline." The new carrier is expected to commence operations in six months, with Sok An revealing that the Cambodian government will hold a 51 percent stake in the airline and will receive 30 per cent of the profits.

The airline’s board chairman will be appointed by the Cambodian government and the General Manager and CEO will be selected by the investing companies, added Sok An.

DAP News ; Breaking News by Soy Sopheap

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Japan Provides US$180,000 to Local Authorities

Friday, 26 March 2010 02:58 DAP-NEWS

Under Japan’s Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security Projects, an economic cooperation framework, the Japanese government has agreed to provide a total of US$185,010 to three organizations in Cambodia, a press release from the Japanese embassy said on Thursday.

The grant contracts were signed today between Ambassador Extraord- inary and Plenipotentiary of Japan to Cambodia Koroki Masafumi and representatives of the organizations.

A bridge in Teuk Phos District, Kam- pong Chhnang Province will receive US$84,336; the Cheap Commune Council in Teuk Phos District, Kampong Chhnang Province will construct a concrete bridge for the replacement of an old and rotten wooden bridge, which has been repaired several times by the commune council. The new concrete bridge will provide community access throughout the year and around 5,000 villagers are expected to benefit.

The second project to receive funds is Improving Mother and Child Health in Kampong Thom Referral Hospital, which will get US$23,426. The Provincial Health Department will use the money to improve mother and child health (MCH) facilities, and construct one post-delivery ward and roofs for the MCH Education space in Kampong Thom Referral Hospital. “This project will provide appropriate care after delivery to mothers and infants and MCH education to mothers and their families. Approximately 63,000 people in the region will be able to access and utilize public MCH service,” said the embassy statement.

A third Project to construct a Science and Mathematics Laboratory in Prey Veng Provincial Teacher Training Center is allocated US$77,248. The Prey Veng Provincial Teacher Training Center will construct a science and mathematics laboratory for 326 trainees, who will be primary school teachers in Prey Veng province. Approximately 180,000 students in Prey Veng province are expected to receive improved education from the teachers. In addition, the laboratory will be also used for lecturer training in JICA technical cooperation projects.

Japan’s Kusanone Grant Assistance started in Cambodia in 1991 in order to support Cambodia’s reconstruction and development efforts at the grassroots level. The assistance is aimed at protecting vulnerable individuals from such poverty and misfortunes that directly threaten their lives, livelihood and dignity, as well as at promoting self-reliance of local communities. Since 1991, the government of Japan has provided over US$44.7 million for local authorities and non-governmental orga -nizations to implement 439 projects throughout the country.

Rainsy: VN Border Markers Cost Cambodian Land

Friday, 26 March 2010 02:57 DAP-NEWS

Cambodian Opposition Party Leader Sam Rainsy on Thursday maintained that border markers around Kosh Kbal Kandal village, Samrong Commune, Chantrea District, Svay Rieng province is within the internationally recognized Cambodia -Vietnam border, a claim that suggests Cambodia has lost land to Vietnam.

Speaking via video link from France, he claimed that border markers 184, 185, 186, 187 and others are located between 300 to 500 meters in Cambodian territory.

The accusation was strongly rejected by Cambodian Government officials. Tith Sothea said that Sam Rainsy’s allegations are just an old, oft-repeated story, but said that the Cambodian Govern-ment will still take action against him.

“If Sam Rainsy have enough map documents, he should bring to the court in the upcoming days,” Tith Sothea told DAP News Cambodia. “All his words are useless.”

Var Kimhong, the head of the Cambodian Border Committee, could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

Sam Rainsy yesterday called on the Cambodian Government to release two villagers imprisoned by the Svay Rieng Provincial Court for pulling out border markers with Rainsy on October 25, 2009. Sam Rainsy was sentenced to two years in jail and fined nearly 60 million riel in the same case.

Hun Sen to Attend Thai Summit Despite Row over Thaksin

Friday, 26 March 2010 02:55 DAP-NEWS

BANGKOK- Cambodian leader Hun Sen will attend an April summit in Thailand, officials said Thursday, his first visit since the neighbours downgraded ties in a row over former premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

Thailand and Cambodia, which have a history of rocky relations, recalled their ambassadors in November after Hun Sen appointed Thaksin as an economic adviser and then refused Thai requests to extradite him.

Thaksin is living abroad to avoid a jail term for corruption in his home country, but continues to rally his red-shirted supporters who have mounted mass rallies in Bangkok this month.

Thai officials said Hun Sen had nevertheless agreed to attend the first Mekong River summit, involving Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam, in the resort town of Hua Hin south of Bangkok on April 5.

“We received a letter of confirmation that Prime Minister Hun Sen accepted an invitation to attend the Mekong River Commission summit,” a official at the Water Resources Department told AFP.

Cambodian cabinet spokesman Phay Siphan confirmed the trip, but said it would focus purely on the Mekong issue and said there were “no plans at all” for a bilateral meeting between the Cambo-dian and Thai leaders.

“He’s (Hun Sen) not prejudiced against Thailand at all. He’s not interfering at all in Thailand’s internal political problems,” he told AFP.

The Thai official said the leaders of all four countries would attend the summit, which will address a severe drought that has lowered levels on the important waterway.

Cambodia and Thailand have been locked in nationalist tensions and a troop standoff at their disputed border since July 2008, when clashes erupted near the ancient Preah Vihear temple.

Hun Sen openly criticised his Thai counterpart, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, during one of Thaksin’s recent visits to Cambodia, and made a high-profile visit to the temple, dressed in full combat uniform.

Thailand summit ready for PM Hun Sen

The Thai government will provide special security measures for Cambo-dian Prime Minister Hun Sen during his visit to the first Mekong River conference to be held on April 4-5 in Hua Hin, Thailand said Thai Defense Minister Prawit Wongsuwon on Thursday.

If the Thai Internal Security Act was to be used, it would be imposed only in the vicinity around the meeting venue so that daily life would not be affected, Gen Prawit was quoted as saying by the Bangkok Post.

The minister called for a halt to protests outside the summit.

Gen. Prawit said he would consult with commanders of the Thai armed forces about security measures to be used and he would be in Hua Hin to receive the Cambodian prime minister and oversee security.

Koy Kuong, Cambodian Foreign Ministry spokesman, said the Thai government is right to take security measures for PM Hun Sen’s visit. The Thai government must also provide security measures for other members who will attend the meeting, he added.

Four countries will attend; Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Thailand.

Peaceful Demonstration Law Workshop

Friday, 26 March 2010 02:55 DAP-NEWS

The Ministry of Interior will host a workshop on Cambodia’s new Peaceful Demonstration Law, a statement from event sponsors said on Thursday.

The workshop will apparently educate key stakeholders about the law, and bring together government officials and civil society to discuss what demonstrators must do to comply with the law and how government officials should apply the law.

The March 29 event at the Sunway Hotel will see the attendance of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Ministry of Interior Sar Kheng and Flynn Fuller, mission director of USAID, as keynote speakers.

Passed into law in December of 2009, the law is designed to ensure freedom of expression of Cambodian citizens through peaceful demonstration.

The event is being co-sponsored by the US Agency for International Devel-opment (USAID) and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNOHCHR), with support from the East-West Management Institute (EWMI).

New deadline for pharmacies

Photo by: Uy Nou Sereimony

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Friday, 26 March 2010 15:04 Khoun Leakhana

A customer buys medicine at a licenced pharmacy in Dangkor district on Thursday. After saying earlier this year that all unlicenced pharmacies would face closure if they failed to register by the end of February, Sok Sokun, director of Phnom Penh’s Health Department, said Thursday that nine remaining unregistered pharmacies would have one more month to comply with the licence requirement.

Police, villagers clash in Kampong Speu

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Protesters gather at a checkpoint set up some 30 kilometres from Kampong Speu provincial court on Thursday. They were making their way to the courthouse to join an ongoing demonstration against the arrest of two community representatives in connection with a land dispute involving a Cambodian People’s Party senator

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Friday, 26 March 2010 15:05 May Titthara and Will Baxter

Kampong Speu Province

ABOUT 10 people were injured on Thursday morning when police attacked a convoy of protesters travelling from Kampong Speu’s Thpong district to the provincial court, where they planned to join an ongoing demonstration against the arrest of two community representatives in connection with a land row involving a Cambodian People’s Party senator, rights workers and villagers said.

The police attacked the convoy with batons, disabled one mini-tractor by cutting its drive belt and, for the second day in a row, set up checkpoints to impede the villagers’ progress, rights groups said.

One villager, Try Kea, 29, said he was beaten by police who tried to knock him off one of the convoy’s six mini-tractors.

“The police tried to knock me off my mini-tractor while I was driving, but I was lucky because another villager pulled me back,” he said. He added that some members of the convoy had brought food and cooking utensils with them, but said police had tried to confiscate these items to prevent the villagers from camping out in front of the courthouse, where hundreds of protesters remained late Thursday evening.

The two detained representatives, Khem Vuthy, 30, and You Tho, 62, were arrested Wednesday morning after being questioned at the court.

Judge Keo Mony said after the session that the pair had been charged with “persuading the villagers to protest, inciting them to commit arson, destroying company property and uniting together”. The charges stemmed from their alleged involvement in a protest last week during which offices of the Phnom Penh Sugar Company were burned to the ground.

The company, owned by Cambodian People’s Party senator Ly Yong Phat, has been granted a 9,000-hectare land concession in Omlaing commune. In a statement released last night, three rights groups said the concession could be in violation of Article 59 of the Land Law, which limits concessions to 10,000 hectares.

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Police attempt to stop Thpong district residents travelling to Kampong Speu provincial court Thursday to protest the arrest of two representatives over a land dispute.

The concession is immediately adjacent to another 10,000-hectare concession owned by the Kampong Speu Sugar Company, the ownership of which, according to the statement, has not been made public.

The statement suggests that the companies have the same ownership, noting that they have enlisted the same representative in dealing with villagers, who fear their land will be affected by the concessions.

The statement – from Licadho, the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights and the Community Legal Education Centre – condemns what it describes as “attempts to intimidate the villagers” on the part of the police, as well as the court’s decision to arrest Khem Vuthy and You Tho.

“The bogus charges against the two community representatives constitute yet another instance of Cambodia’s rich and powerful using the judicial system as a tool of enrichment and weapon of intimidation,” the statement reads.

The three rights groups also say that Ly Yong Phat’s “involvement in controversial and often violent land evictions is well-documented”, citing recent cases in Koh Kong and Oddar Meanchey provinces in which hundreds of families have lost their land to companies owned by the CPP senator.

Ly Yong Phat said Thursday that Khem Vuthy and You Tho could be released if they agreed to sign a contract with the provincial court stating that they would stop inciting villagers to protest.

He also said the use of Royal Cambodian Armed Forces Battalion 313 – to which he is giving financial support under a controversial new military-private sector partnership programme – to guard the concession was necessary in light of last week’s fire.

Property swaps linked to Pheapimex

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Military police officials remove staff and furniture from the Hotel Renakse in January 2009 as a dispute over its management escalated.

via CAAI News Media

Friday, 26 March 2010 15:05 cheang Sokha and James O’toole

THE owner of local investment company Pheapimex has been given control of the property that holds Phnom Penh’s shuttered Hotel Renakse, adjacent to a government building that is also slated to be taken over by Pheapimex next month.

The Renakse was the scene of controversy in January last year, when local police entered the compound and evicted guests, staff members and manager Kem Chantha from the premises. Government officials said the building had fallen into a dangerous state of disrepair, but Kem Chantha has sought to block her eviction, and her appeal is pending before the Supreme Court.

Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) lawyer Khiev Sebphan, who has represented the government in the Renakse dispute, said Thursday that Choeung Sopheap, owner of Pheapimex and wife of CPP senator Lao Meng Khin, is set to develop the Renakse property following the conclusion of the case. The Phnom Penh Appeal Court ruled against Kem Chantha in January.

“The Renakse case between Ms Choeung Sopheap, who received permission from the CPP to renovate the hotel, and Ms Kem Chantha is now in the hands of the Supreme Court,” Khiev Sebphan said.

“I do not have the details of Choeung Sopheap’s development plans for the site, but the Phnom Penh Municipal Court has issued a permission letter that gives Ms Choeung Sopheap the right to renovate the Renakse.”

Chong Eav Heng, the, lawyer for Kem Chantha, declined to comment at length, but confirmed that Choeung Sopheap was party to the dispute.

“I have full documents in hand about this case between my client and Ms Choeung Sopheap, but I do not want to make any comment that could affect the parties,” he said.

The Renakse, on Daun Penh district’s Sothearos Boulevard, sits adjacent to the National Committee for Organising National and International Festivals (NCONIF). Officials at the committee were informed in a letter last week from Khiev Sebphan that they must leave their offices by the end of this month, and that control of their building had been transferred to Choeung Sopheap, also known as Yeay Phu.

“If you do not follow this notification, the lawyer will make a report to the CPP office to pursue further measures,” the letter read.

Kem Chantha has repeatedly charged that her eviction was unlawful, and Community Legal Education Centre executive director Yeng Virak said Wednesday that the transfer of the NCONIF building to Pheapimex violates the Kingdom’s 2001 Land Law. This law states that state public properties, including government buildings, may not be transferred to private hands unless they “lose their public interest use”.

Sung Bonna, president of Bonna Realty Group, said he did not believe the government had done anything illegal, though he noted that if the two properties were linked by one developer, it could significantly increase their overall worth.

“This location is a great location, and this property, if it is combined together, that is the best value,” he said.

Khiev Sebphan said he did not know whether the properties would be combined in one development.

“The Renakse and the offices of the National Committee for Organising National and International Festivals will be owned by Ms Choeung Sopheap, but she has not yet started developing them because the [Renakse] case is still in court and officials at the committee have not yet moved to a new location,” he said.

Choeung Sopheap and Lao Meng Khin could not be reached for comment, and Ministry of Land Management spokeswoman Nun Theary did not respond to a request for comment.

Cambodian Centre for Human Rights president Ou Virak said the pair of riverside deals provide a glimpse of the “underlying power structure” of Cambodia, as the government is likely losing money in transferring the NCONIF building to Pheapimex rather than selling it on the open market.

“In a sense, the government is getting a bad deal out of this,” he said.

“It says a lot about how the ruling party runs the country. It’s actually run by the ruling party, not by the government.”

Yeng Virak said the transfer of the committee building was just one of many instances in which state public property had been transferred unlawfully to private hands. Though he was unsure of the legality of the Renakse handover, he called on the government to pass a law on land transfers to bring order to the process.

“If it is state public property, you cannot just transfer arbitrarily,” he said.

Ou Virak agreed, emphasising the need for transparency in the Kingdom’s land management.

“The people need to know that they’re getting peanuts out of all this,” he said.

Kingdom fails refugees: HRW

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Friday, 26 March 2010 15:05 Cheang Sokha and Brooke Lewis

ASYLUM regulations adopted by the government last year are in breach of the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, to which Cambodia is a party, the group Human Rights Watch asserted in an open letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen on Thursday.

The letter is critical of the deportation of 20 Uighur asylum seekers in December – which came two days after the regulations were signed by Hun Sen – and calls for the government to bring its policies in line with international law.

“Cambodia’s new regulations allow the government far too much leeway to deny refugee status and to forcibly return people who fear persecution,” Bill Frelick, HRW’s refugee policy director, said in press statement also released Thursday.

Accompanying the letter is a point-by-point analysis of Cambodia’s Sub-decree on Procedures for Examination, Recognition, and Provision of Refugee or Asylum Status for Aliens that outlines concerns related to 15 articles, many of which, HRW contends, contravene the UN convention.

“The sub-decree provides Cambodian authorities numerous and overlapping bases for refusal of refugee status or removal with insufficient safeguards to protect against the wrongful removal of people with protection concerns,” the rights group says in its analysis, which places particular emphasis on the sub-decree’s definition of a refugee as someone who faces a “serious” fear of persecution.

“By specifying serious persecution, the sub-decree suggests that less-than-serious persecution could be grounds for denying refugee status, thus creating a higher standard for refugee status than the Convention requires,” the analysis states.

The HRW analysis is yet another example of international criticism of both the new refugee regulations and the Uighur deportation. Rights groups have claimed that the deportees – who are believed to have witnessed clashes between Chinese security forces and Uighur demonstrators in Xinjiang province last summer – were likely to face torture and possible execution upon their return to China.

Two days after the Uighurs were deported, China and Cambodia inked aid agreements worth US$1.2 billion, sparking speculation from some commentators that last-minute changes to the sub-decree – which strengthened the government’s power to deport asylum-seekers – had been rushed through in a bid to please Beijing.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said Thursday that he had not yet had time to read the HRW letter in detail, and that legal experts would be consulted on the analysis. He said the refugee sub-decree had been formulated “within the framework of the national sovereignty of Cambodia”.

Despite the point-by-point analysis, Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said the HRW letter had failed to specify which articles of the sub-decree needed amending. “They are a big organisation, but they do not know how to make such a statement,” he said. “They failed to mention which points require the amendment from the government.”