Thursday, 17 June 2010

Mekong Countries Discuss Measures To Combat Disease

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HANOI, June 17 (Bernama) -- Medical specialists and doctors from Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, the United States and Vietnam discussed measures to prevent and control infectious diseases in the countries, in the lower Mekong River basin, according to Vietnam news agency on Thursday.

The two-day conference which kicked off on Thursday, is focusing on countries in the region cooperating on infectious diseases, the challenges and successes when implementing international health regulations (IHR) and fake and poor-quality medicines used in the treatment of infectious diseases.

In his address, Deputy Health Minister Trinh Quan Huan said that infectious diseases have a great impact on people's lives and that a number of diseases, such as cholera, which had earlier been brought under control in many countries across the region, now have recurred.

The fight against infectious diseases is a task for not only one nation but for every nations in the world, he said.

Cambodia courts inadequate to give justice to poor: U.N.

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Prak Chan Thul
Thu Jun 17, 2010

(Reuters) - Cambodia must bolster the independence of its judiciary to ensure it can provide justice for all, including the poor who often appear to have little chance of legal redress, a U.N. rights official said on Thursday.

Cambodia has for years been rebuilding its institutions after decades of conflict and turmoil, including the Khmer Rouge "Killing Fields" rule, but its judiciary remains weak and prone to interference, critics say.

Surya Subedi, United Nations Special Rapporteur for human rights in Cambodia, said he was troubled by disputes over land and, in a reference to the government's tough stand on dissent, what he described as a narrowing of political space for debate.

"I call on the Royal Government of Cambodia to introduce appropriate measures to enhance the independence and capacity of the judiciary to enable it to function as an institution capable of providing justice to all," Subedi told a news conference at the end of a 10-day fact-finding visit.

In a drive to attract foreign investment, Cambodia has awarded big concessions to companies, most from China, Vietnam and South Korea, to run mines, power plants, farms and plantations for sugar, rice and rubber.

But non-governmental groups and opposition politicians have accused the government of evicting villagers from their land without negotiation or adequate compensation to make way for some concessions.


Subedi called on the government to reform the judiciary to ensure fairness when such disputes arise.

"Many judges may have the necessary commitment to deliver justice according to law, but for many this commitment is compromised by external interference and for others the commitment is just not there," he said.

"If you are poor and weak and dispossessed of your land, you seem to have limited chance to obtain redress either through existing administrative land management systems, or through the courts."

The government denies the accusations of land-grabbing, saying evictions are lawful and compensation is more than adequate.

The government, dependent on aid from foreign allies and international organizations, has often shown impatience with criticism of its human rights record.

Subedi said he was disappointed about the cancellation of a meeting with Prime Minister Hun Sen for health reasons, but said other senior government and judicial officials whom he met had promised reform.

Subedi also referred to the case of a prominent opposition politician and former minister of women's affairs, Mu Sochua, who was sued by Hun Sen after she accused him of defamation.

"I am troubled by the ... narrowing of political space for critical debate in society, due to the disproportionate use of defamation, disinformation and incitement lawsuits against journalists, human rights activists and political opponents," he said.

Mu Sochua lost her legal battle with the prime minister but has refused to pay a $4,000 fine, saying she would prefer to go to jail.

"My position as an international lawyer, nobody should be sent to prison for exercising freedom of expression," Subedi said.

(Editing by Robert Birsel)

US returns 7 stolen ancient Cambodian sculptures

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PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — The United States returned seven sculptures from the great Angkorian era on Thursday that had been smuggled out of Cambodia.

Cambodian Buddhist monks blessed the artifacts during a handover ceremony at the port of Sihanoukville, said John Johnson, a U.S. embassy spokesman.

The sandstone sculptures were recovered by U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials during an 2008 raid in Los Angeles. They arrived in Cambodia aboard the hospital ship USNS Mercy on Tuesday, Johnson said.

The Mercy docked at the seaport for a 13-day mission to provide free medical care to Cambodians.

Johnson said the artifacts include two heads of the Buddha, a bas-relief and an engraved plinth. The items date from 1000 to 1500 when the kings of Angkor ruled over an extensive empire and produced some of the world's most magnificent temples, including the famed Angkor Wat complex.

Cambodia and the United States signed an agreement to protect Cambodia's cultural heritage in 2003.

In 2007, the U.S. government returned the sandstone sculpture of a celestial dancer, or apsara, dating from the 12th century.

Cambodia's historic monuments suffered extensive damage from natural causes and looters, especially during the wars of the last three decades.

Many priceless pieces have ended up in private collections overseas.

DAP News ; Breaking News by Soy Sopheap

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New Land Regulation to Deal Resettlement on State Land

Thursday, 17 June 2010 10:28 dap-news

CAMBODIA,PHNOM PENH,June,17,2010-The land issues is a hot issue that occurred in Cambodia after the land price is higher,” Im Chhun Lim, Minister of urbanization, land management said on Thursday.

“Now we have new regulation of resolution of temporary settlement of state land which illegally lived, “he said.

He added that the new circular on the resolution on the temporary settlements on land which has been illegally occupied in the capital, municipal and urban areas officially is effective from now on.

It focused on data collection on actual numbers of temporary settlements, identification and mapping classification of the sites of temporary settlements, households and population census in temporary settlements, solution finding, and coordinated discussion in order to identify solution policies, basic public infrastructure and services to support livelihood, and participation of stakeholder in development.

At the same time, Kep Chutema, Phnom Penh governor said that sometimes we are difficult to deal relocation of poor people in city because it intervened from many people.”Our officials sometimes committed badly through increasing the data of poor families and impacts are huge,” he said. We have to cut their intervention, he added. The meeting this morning took part from the all stakeholders related to seek land resolution and relocation of poor. Phnom Penh is core place of poor and relocation.

Cambodian Government Bans Sculpturing of Country’s Leaders for Sale, Sovenior Display

Thursday, 17 June 2010 10:18 dap-news

CAMBODIA,PHNOM PENH,June,17,2010-The Cabinet of Samdech Techo Prime Minister Hun Sen on Thursday released directives to guide all state agencies, publics and sculptors about banning the sculpturing or molding of the images of country’s leaders who are still alive for decorating the households or souvenirs.

We informed all state agencies and publics to be aware that in past, it had some places we observed that having displayed sculptures and image of country’s leaders who are still alive as sculpture.

And it also has some artists sculpturing or molding the image of countries’ leader for sale or decorating at household or as souvenirs.

“All these forms are wrong with Cambodian traditions that did not allow anybody to make the sculpture or mold for people who are still alive to do that, “he said.

According to directive, the cabinet would like to appeal to local people, state agencies, and publics to stop displaying that image or sale of those sculptures and stopped molding or sculpturing our country’s leaders from now on.

The cabinet hopes it will have good cooperation and be effectiveness for this directive.

Cleaning up at the scene

Photo by: Heng Chivoan

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Thursday, 17 June 2010 15:01 Uong Ratana

A police officer pockets a necklace from an unconscious motorbike driver before putting him into a waiting ambulance on the Cambodian-Japanese Friendship Bridge Tuesday. The man was knocked from his bike after unsuccessfully trying to overtake a car.

Property law changes in pipeline

Photo by: Pha Lina
A construction worker stands atop a structure in progress in Chamkarmon district in January.

via Khmer NZ News Media

Thursday, 17 June 2010 15:03 Soeun Say

THE government is set allow foreign citizens to own up to 80 percent of private units in co-owned buildings as part of a new sub-decree due to be approved within the next month, an official from the Land Ministry said Wednesday.

“In one week or a month’s time, the government will approve a sub-decree for an 80 [percent] limit for property that a foreigner can own,” Nun Pheany, spokeswoman for the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, told the Post.

The sub-decree is linked to the foreign property ownership law, which was passed earlier this year, she said. The law permits foreigners to own property above the ground floor of a building that is not within 30 kilometres of a border.

Despite early drafts of the law stipulating that foreigners would be able to own only 49 percent of a complex, the final law passed left the exact proportion open-ended, stating: “A sub-decree shall determine the proportion and percentage of private units that can be owned by foreigners.”
A sub-decree is generally considered easier than a law to review.

Nun Pheany said that the sub-decree is awaiting approval by the Council of Ministers. Council spokesman Phay Siphan could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

Sung Bonna, president and chief executive officer of the Bonna Realty Group, welcomed the move on Wednesday.

He said that setting a cap on foreigner ownership would take some of the uncertainty out of investing in the Kingdom’s property market.

He added that although the Cambodian real estate market has yet to recover from the fallout of the global economic crisis, there are positive signs for recovery in the Kingdom’s urban centres.

He added that so far this year, the number of real estate transactions is on the rise – which he believes is a positive sign for the industry.

“Now, it’s good time to buy and sell property in any town in Cambodia,” he said.

The foreign property ownership law is intended to “guarantee to protect rights of legal holders in apartments or condominiums for co-ownership. It also will facilitate management work of co-ownership of apartments and co-owners who live in the apartments or condominiums”.

The law has nine chapters and 24 articles and covers all types of apartments and condominiums across the country.

KRT graft report due by July

Photo by: Pha Lina
Uth Chhorn (left) poses for a photographer Tuesday during a press conference introducing the Anticorruption Council.

via Khmer NZ News Media

Thursday, 17 June 2010 15:03 Vong Sokheng

Anticorruption office cites difficulty in coordinating with UN side as reason for delay.

AN anticorruption office established last year at the Khmer Rouge tribunal will release its first public activities report by the end of this month, its top official said Wednesday.

Uth Chhorn, the tribunal’s independent counsellor (IC) who is also head of the government’s National Audit Authority, said Wednesday that delays in the release of the report – which an official originally said would be made public “in April or May” – stemmed from difficulties in coordinating with the court’s UN side.

“We have had good cooperation in the work, but there is some delay because my partners on the UN side have been busy with their work.

Therefore we have had a bit of difficulty in coordinating time for consultations on the final report,” he said.

Last August, Uth Chhorn was appointed to the newly created independent counsellor position, charged with addressing allegations of corruption and other misconduct.

In March of this year, Prom Vicheth Sophorn, deputy director of the NAA’s Audit Department 3, told the Post that the office of the IC was pursuing three anonymous complaints of corruption – two involving the national side of the court, and one involving the UN side.

One of the two national staff complaints related to the alleged wrongful termination of an employee, and the other stemmed from charges that security workers had been forced to pay a portion of their salaries to their superiors.

The complaint from the UN staff was an additional wrongful termination allegation.

Prom Vicheth Sophorn said at the time that all three investigations were “in progress”, and that the IC’s office would issue a public report detailing its activities in “April or May”.

Uth Chhorn said Wednesday that the investigation into the salary kickbacks complaint had been completed. He declined to give any details about its findings, citing the need to protect the safety of anonymous complainants.

He said he could not disclose which complaints would be included in the forthcoming report.

Corruption allegations at the tribunal date back to 2006, when Cambodian staffers first said they had been forced to pay salary kickbacks.

In November 2008, a report by a German parliamentary delegation quoted Knut Rosandhaug, the court’s deputy director of administration, as saying that corruption was “a serious problem ... which impedes on the work of the hybrid court”.

Long Panhavuth, a project officer at the Cambodia Justice Initiative, said the IC’s activities could signify improved transparency at the tribunal, and that the release of a public report could demonstrate its effectiveness.

“We won’t be able to conclude that the independent counsellor’s office will play a transparent role in fighting and stopping corruption unless we have seen the report,” he said.

UN court spokeswoman Yuko Maeda said she could not discuss the work of the IC’s office, since it operates independently of the court.

Testing of KR history expanded in schools

Photo by: Courtesy of the documentation center of Cambodia
High school students in Pursat province receive copies of A History of Democratic Kampuchea last year. This year’s national history test drew from the textbook.

via Khmer NZ News Media

Thursday, 17 June 2010 15:03 Mom Kunthear and Brooke Lewis

THE question, appearing on a history exam administered nationwide to Grade 12 students on Wednesday morning, was simple: Who were the leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime?

But for those who have been pressing for a fuller, franker presentation of the Democratic Kampuchea period in Cambodian classrooms, its inclusion marked a significant step forward.

Prior to this year, high school history tests drew from a government-approved textbook that gave short shrift to the regime and its history, omitting some of the most basic facts about it.

“The government never included the names of the leaders in their textbook,” said Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Centre of Cambodia.

Terith Chy, team leader of DC-Cam’s Victim Participation Project, said the old material likely reflected the fear that identifying high-ranking regime officials – many of whom were unknown to the general public – would compromise national reconciliation efforts.

“At least the reason they gave was national reconciliation,” he said. “They didn’t want people to hold a grudge.”

In 2007, however, DC-Cam launched A History of Democratic Kampuchea, a textbook that Youk Chhang described on Wednesday as “the core material to supplement the government’s textbook”. This year, its contents are reflected on national exams for the first time.

Five of the 14 questions on this year’s history test deal with the Khmer Rouge period. In addition to identifying regime leaders, students are asked to explain “why it is said that S-21 is a tragedy for the Cambodian people; who was behind S-21, also known as Tuol Sleng; how the administrative zones of Democratic Kampuchea were organised; and when the regime was in power”.

An Education Ministry official who wrote this year’s test, and who asked not to be named for “security” reasons, said he had tried to keep the questions simple because it is difficult even for teachers – let alone students – to come to terms with the regime.

“This subject of the Khmer Rouge regime is very difficult to teach and also to learn, because not only is it difficult for the students to understand, but also for the teachers themselves to understand,” he said.

“Some teachers don’t believe that the regime did not have markets, did not use money, killed the same nationality as themselves, that people had no food to eat, and that parents were not allowed to stay with their children.”

This is at least partially true for Ratha Sopharith, an 18-year-old student at Intratevy High School in Phnom Penh, who said Wednesday that he did not believe the Khmer Rouge were responsible for all of the atrocities attributed to them.

He was quick to add, though, that he was not a Khmer Rouge supporter, either.

“Even though I don’t believe it, I don’t follow the leaders during that time because they led the country to poverty and killed people of the same nationality,” he said.

He went on to express enthusiasm for the Khmer Rouge history unit, at one point referring to it as his favourite. Chhay Ly, a 19-year-old student at Sok An May 1 High School in Takeo province, said he, too, enjoyed the material, and that he did not find Wednesday’s exam questions difficult.

“They were very easy questions for me because I am interested in Khmer history, and I always read the Khmer history books,” he said. “I am happy and proud of myself that I have a chance to learn about the Khmer Rouge – most people all over the world are interested in this history.”

Youk Chhang said DC-Cam staffers running workshops on the teaching of the material have come away with the impression that both students and teachers are interested in it.

“The teachers feel like they know this, they can teach this, and it belongs to them,” he said. “And for Cambodian students, they love stories ... part of our tradition is oral history.”

But this does not mean the process is easy, particularly for teachers who are direct or indirect victims of the regime.

“They are still very upset because the pain they suffer is just so deep, and now we are telling them to teach this so that genocide can be prevented, so that we can work towards reconciliation,” he said. “And some teachers hold a grudge against the children of the Khmer Rouge.”

He added, though, that it is necessary for the teachers to work through this.

“The whole purpose of this teaching is to contribute to genocide prevention, to contribute to national healing and peace building,” he said. “We need to make all efforts so that the children can also contribute to this.”

Garment workers plan to strike for higher pay

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Thursday, 17 June 2010 15:03 Kim Yuthana and Ney Someta

A TRADE union representing more than 80,000 garment workers plans to hold a three-day strike next month to demand a 40 percent increase in the minimum wage, despite pleas from the Ministry of Labour that it await the outcome of pending negotiations.

In a letter sent Tuesday, Chea Mony, head of the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia (FTU), said the intent of the strike, which will run for three days starting July 13, will be to demand that the government raise the minimum wage for garment workers to “at least” US$70 per month. The current monthly minimum wage is $50.

“All the workers should raise their voices in order to achieve a reasonable salary and better conditions for work,” he said in the letter, copies of which will soon be distributed to the 86,000 garment workers the union represents.

Another aim of the strike will be to push for fair treatment of workers at the Tack Fat garment factory in Meanchey district. During a protest last month, some 87 workers there accused management of unfairly cutting their shifts after they refused to accept different positions.

The announcement came less than two weeks after the Labour Ministry urged unionists to hold off on strikes so that minimum wage negotiations could go forward. In a letter dated June 3 and addressed “to all workers”, the ministry’s Labour Advisory Committee said union members should consider staging a strike only after attempts at negotiating a new minimum wage had been exhausted.

“The Labour Advisory Committee would like to call for all workers to practise their rights properly, according to the law,” states the letter, signed by Labour Minister Vong Soth.

Ken Loo, secretary general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, said he welcomed a discussion of the issues raised by Chea Mony in his letter, expressing hope that they would “be put into consideration”.

But Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak warned that Chea Mony would face the full extent of the law if the strike led to violence. “Chea Mony will be put in a position to face the law if he does something illegal,” he said Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Chea Mony said Wednesday that he had decided to back away from a previous plan to resign as president of the FTU, announcing that he would run in elections scheduled for June 27.

Chea Mony said on May 16 that he would step down as president, citing health and other reasons. On Wednesday, however, he said FTU members had convinced him to stay on.

“I will continue to serve the workers for three more years as president of FTUWKC in response to the suggestion of workers who sent their petitions to support me,” he said. “They don’t want me to resign. They need me to help them combat factory owners who do not respect Cambodia’s labour laws and who look down on workers”.

He added that no other candidates have been nominated to oppose him in the election.

Lost court file delays KDC land row case

IN DATES KDC dispute in Kampong Chhnang

KDC International Company, headed by the wife of Minister of Industry, Mines and Energy Suy Sem, claims to have bought land that the rights groups Licadho says has been occupied since 1982.

KDC International asserts its ownership of the disputed land, saying it has struck deals with 105 families. However, Licadho says two-thirds of the families never agreed to sell the land to the private company.

Community representative Sar Song is sentenced to 10 years in prison on a charge of attempted murder. Licadho claims Sar Song was wrongly accused and punished for his activism.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court convicts village chief Toch Ly of forging residents’ thumbprints on a complaint letter, and sentences her to 16 months in prison, according to Licadho.

The remaining 64 families push for court action against a commune chief who they claim illegally sold their land. Legal manoeuvres are stalled, however, when a provincial court official reports that the case file has been lost.

via Khmer NZ News Media

Thursday, 17 June 2010 15:02 Khouth Sophakchakrya

ACASE file at the centre of a long-standing dispute between villagers and a private company headed by the wife of a government minister has been lost, an official at the Kampong Chhnang provincial court said Wednesday, sparking cries of judicial misconduct from rights workers.

Sam Chankea, coordinator for the rights group Adhoc in Kampong Chhnang, said residents of Ta Ches commune’s Lorpeang village asked him to intervene in the case after a court clerk told them the file was lost on June 4.

He said the file concerned allegations that the chief of Ta Ches commune used fake thumbprints to illegally sign over the villagers’ land – a claim the commune chief has denied.

On Wednesday, the clerk, Muong Sean, said he had tried for several weeks to locate the file, but had been unsuccessful.

“I put the file somewhere in my office, but right now I cannot find it,” he said.

The Justice Ministry released a letter in February ordering the court to investigate the allegations, Sam Chankea said. He added that, because no hearings have been held in the case since then, he suspected that the loss of the file was not an accident.

“I strongly believe that the court clerk is using this lost file as an excuse to delay or cancel this case,” he said.

The losing of the file is the latest development in a dispute pitting villagers against KDC International Company, which is headed by Chea Kheng, the wife of Minister of Industry, Mines and Energy Suy Sem.

The villagers, who originally totalled 108 families, say they have lived on the land for years. But in 2007, the company claimed the families had sold the land, and proceeded to bar them from planting crops.

Around 40 families have since struck deals with the company. The remaining 64 have claimed that they never signed over their land.

On Wednesday, Reach Seima, a representative of the 64 families, said they would protest if the loss of the file led to further delays in their case against Dy Doeun, the Ta Ches commune chief.

“If the court still does not bring our case to a hearing, we will file a complaint to the Ministry of Justice,” he said.

Other observers said Sam Chankea’s suspicions about the loss of the case file were reasonable. Mathieu Pellerin, a consultant with the rights group Licadho, said the incident marked “the latest example of misconduct and misuse of the court as a tool to intimidate the community”.

Last year, the chief of Lorpeang village, Toch Ly, was sentenced to 16 months in prison after Phnom Penh Municipal Court found her guilty of falsifying villagers’ complaint documents, Pellerin said.

In 2008, a villager was convicted of attempted murder and sentenced to 10 years in prison, in what Pellerin said was a thinly veiled punishment for the man’s activism.

“We’ve seen again and again ... the courts used as a tool to intimidate the community,” he said. “So it is not surprising at all to see the court now claims to have lost a case file, and that they can’t move forward.”

Phat Pouv Seang, a lawyer who represents KDC International Company, said Wednesday that the legal dispute is between the villagers and the commune chief and has nothing to do with the company.


City department leaves offices

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
People pack up papers and documents to move into the new festivals commision offices on Wednesday.

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Thursday, 17 June 2010 15:02 Cheang Sokha

Staff of public ceremonies committee vacate building transferred to Pheapimex

AGOVERNMENT committee charged with organising public ceremonies has begun clearing out its offices, which are located in a building that was transferred to local investment company Pheapimex in March, an official on the committee said Wednesday.

The National Committee for Organising National and International Festivals (NCONIF) was informed in March that 57 workers were to vacate their riverfront offices on Sisowath Quay following the building’s transfer to Choeung Sopheap, the head of Pheapimex.

The transfer is one in a series of transactions that have drawn the ire of government critics, who say the companies benefiting are not subject to a competitive bidding process that could ensure they pay market prices for valuable property.

The move, originally scheduled for the end of March, was pushed back so that the committee could focus on preparations for Khmer New Year and the Royal Ploughing Ceremony. Members of the committee had also asked that they be given more space than the five rooms that were offered at the General Inspectorate for the National Buddhist Education of Cambodia.

A member of the committee, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Wednesday that it had since been granted about half of the space in the Inspectorate building, and that the relocation of office equipment began late last week.

“But we still work at the old office building until the new office is completed,” he said. He said the new offices had yet to receive water and electricity connections or air conditioning.

He added that the committee had sent a letter in May to the headquarters of the Cambodian People’s Party requesting compensation, but that there had been no response.

Choeung Sopheap’s lawyer, Khiev Sebphan, said Wednesday that any problems stemming from the relocation would need to be resolved by Minister of Cults and Religions Min Khin, who arranged for the transfer of the building.

He added that he did not know what Pheapimex planned to do with either the committee’s building or the neighbouring Hotel Renakse, a French colonial structure that it also controls. Choeung Sopheap and Min Khin could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Revenge suspected as motive in killing of boy and grandparents

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Thursday, 17 June 2010 15:02 May Titthara

THE bodies of an 8-year-old boy and his two maternal grandparents were found Tuesday morning in Kampong Speu province’s Oudong district, in what police suspect is a “revenge killing”.

Khem Samon, the police chief in Oudong district, identified the victims as Vong Heng, 60; his 55-year-old wife, Sorn Srey; and Beng Theang, their 8-year-old grandson.

Beng Theang’s parents, he said, were working at their garment factory jobs in Oudong district at the time of the killing, and his sister lives and works in Phnom Penh.

“We are still investigating this case, but it doesn’t look like it was related to robbery because the perpetrators did not steal any valuable property or money or a motorbike,” Khem Samon said.

“We suspect that this is a revenge killing, but we cannot tell you the names of the suspected perpetrators. We need to conduct more research.”

San Mean, who lives in the same village as the family, said he saw two men visit the family home on Monday night.

He said one of them had previously asked to marry Beng Theang’s older sister but was rejected by her parents.

Sam Mean said he discovered the three bodies the following morning.

“We saw Vong Heng, who was dead and covered in blood on the bed under his house. His wife and grandson were in the house,” he said. “Then we reported the case to local police.”

Sem Chausok, a provincial monitor for the rights group Licadho, said he had travelled to the village to investigate the case.

But he added that he did not have enough information to speculate about a possible motive for the killings.

Police quiz Australian suspected of child abuse; no charges laid

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Thursday, 17 June 2010 15:02 Chrann Chamroeun

AN Australian tourist was released without charge by Preah Sihanouk provincial police on Wednesday, after he was called in for questioning for being suspected of committing indecent acts against several underage boys.

The 61-year-old man was asked to come to the provincial police station, where he stayed overnight for questioning, before being released.

Police summoned the man following a tip-off from child protection NGO Action Pour Les Enfants (APLE).

According to a press release issued by APLE on Wednesday, the organisation alerted authorities about the Australian after he was suspected of “sexually abusing several young boys from a poor community”.

But Be Sovanna, chief of the provincial Anti-Human Trafficking Bureau, said interrogations following the tip-off proved fruitless.

“After interrogating him from late Tuesday afternoon until Wednesday afternoon, we found no evidence of him committing indecent acts against several boys,” he said.

Chor Heng, deputy chief of the Bureau, said no complaints were filed against the man by any of the alleged victims.

“We did not arrest him, we just invited him to the station for interrogation based on our suspicions,” he said.

“We don’t have any complaints from any of the boys yet.”

Report: Most rape victims are children

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Thursday, 17 June 2010 15:02 Chhay Channyda

NEARLY 70 percent of rape cases recorded by the rights group Adhoc in the first five months of this year involved underage victims, according to figures released this week.

Out of 194 total cases, 135 involved victims who were under the age of 18 years, said Sawada Chan Krisna, the head of Adhoc’s women’s and children’s unit.

Sawada Chan Krisna said, however, that her unit had misplaced its rape statistics for April and May of 2009, making a year-to-year comparison impossible.

In the first three months of 2009, the unit recorded 81 rapes of children – 37 in January, 22 in February and 22 in March. In the same period this year, the unit recorded 86 – 22 in January, 33 in February and 31 in March. Adhoc monitors crimes in all 24 provinces.

The rights group Licadho, which monitors crimes in 12 provinces, recorded slightly fewer rapes of children in the first five months of this year: 83, compared to 87 in 2009.

Representatives of both groups said they believed public awareness of rape had increased in the past year, and that victims were more inclined to report the crime.

But they also expressed concern that, despite apparent attempts by law enforcement to prosecute more perpetrators, many cases are resolved out of court with money.

Sao Seny, a child rights monitor for Licadho, said rapes of children were more likely to occur in poor families. “Child rape mostly happens in poor families, when parents go to work and keep their children with neighbours or uncles.”

Poor families are also more likely to decide not to pursue criminal cases in exchange for compensation payments, a practice that was bemoaned by the authors of a March report from Amnesty International on sexual violence in Cambodia.

Bith Kimhong, director of Interior Ministry’s Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Department, acknowledged that such payments provide a “loophole” for perpetrators, and added: “The enforcement of the law is the only way to change their behaviour.”

Jailed journalist writes to UN envoy

Photo by: Pha Lina

UN human rights envoy Surya Subedi arrives in Phnom Penh last week for his third mission to Cambodia.

Photo by: Sovan Philong
Journalist Ros Sokhet leaves Phnom Penh Municipal Court after a hearing in October.

via Khmer NZ News Media

Thursday, 17 June 2010 15:01 Chhay Channyda

A JAILED journalist has written a letter asking the UN’s human rights envoy to intervene on his behalf and urge the Appeal Court to hear his case as soon as possible.

In November, Phnom Penh Municipal Court sentenced freelance journalist Ros Sokhet to two years in jail for sending a series of text messages to well-known commentator and news anchor Soy Sopheap.

In a five-page letter dated Tuesday, Ros Sokhet told Surya Subedi, the special rapporteur for human rights in Cambodia, that his appeal has yet to be heard in the seven months since his conviction was handed down.

“Now my case is stuck at the Appeal Court, where I have appealed since November 16 after I was quickly convicted,” he wrote in the letter.

He added that allegations that he had spread disinformation by sending disparaging text messages to Soy Sopheap were clearly “politically motivated”.

“In a democratic society I have the right and willingness to interview whoever I need to write a story about, and my interviews can be conducted through many means,” he said.

Subedi is currently on his third mission to Cambodia, which is focusing on the state of the judiciary. During his last mission, in January, Subedi went to visit Ros Sokhet at Prey Sar prison, an event the journalist described in the letter as being “very beneficial”.

Ros Sokhet’s sister, Ros Rada, said Wednesday that she delivered the letter from her brother’s cell at Prey Sar to the local office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on Tuesday evening, where it was accepted by UN officials on Subedi’s behalf.

Ouk Savuth, general prosecutor at the Appeal Court, declined to comment on Ros Sokhet’s case on Wednesday, saying the scheduling of a hearing was “in the hand of the judges”.

Judge Chuon Sunleng, deputy director of the court, said he did not know which judge was working on the case, but emphasised that the court makes an effort to hear all cases as soon as possible.

Subedi’s current mission is set to wind up with a press conference today.

A responsibility to protect?

via Khmer NZ News Media

Thursday, 17 June 2010 15:01 Will Baxter

Kingdom’s dark past could help it stem atrocities and crimes in the region, experts say

CAMBODIA should take a leading role in promoting policies to prevent genocide and other war crimes in the region, but this effort could be hindered by the strong influence of militaries in many Southeast Asian countries and a general lack of political will, said participants at a conference Wednesday.

“Cambodia is a very good country to start this process because they have experienced genocide, and the [Khmer Rouge tribunal] can serve as an example and learning experience,” said Noel Morada, executive director of the Asia-Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (R2P).

“But if there is no political will, no budget, no mandate, [this policy] is very difficult to implement.”

The centre, which is holding a two-day conference in the capital, promotes the “responsibility to protect”, a principle first agreed to by UN member states in 2005 that countries have an obligation to protect their citizens from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing. In the event that a country fails to do so, UN member states must intervene, the principle states.

“[Cambodia’s] historical experience under the Khmer Rouge and the ongoing trial should be a general starting point for the proposal of an ASEAN conference on genocide,” Morada said.

The fact that Cambodia is the only Southeast Asian country to have ratified the Rome Statute, which established the International Criminal Court (ICC), is further evidence of its ability to lead on this issue, he said.

Son Chhay, a Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker, said that the role of the military in many Southeast Asian countries could limit the success of R2P.

“Military institutions in Southeast Asian countries are an obstacle to putting in place policies that protect the people,” and atrocities have often been committed by police or soldiers with the approval of their governments, he said.

“It is no different in the case of Cambodia. A lot of crimes connected with the land-grabbing have been committed by the military,” he added.

He said that a controversial military-private sector partnership programme established by Prime Minister Hun Sen in February is an example of military overreach.

Chheang Vannarith, executive director of the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace, said the military should be trained in areas including human rights, humanitarian law and R2P.

“If the military understands these concepts ... they can be more responsible,” he said.

Chheang Vannarith said the notion of inviolable state sovereignty, which forms the traditional basis of interstate relations, poses challenges in reforming ASEAN states such as Myanmar.

“There is not much room to intervene because of sovereignty,” he said. “Even the UN cannot do anything, let alone ASEAN. What we can do is engage countries like Myanmar and form a partnership.”

But Son Chhay said that Cambodia’s tumultuous past gives it the clout needed to “raise questions” with other ASEAN countries.

“We can push Than Shwe and the junta to be more accountable,” he said.

Dengue cases drop, deaths level

via Khmer NZ News Media

Thursday, 17 June 2010 15:01 Mom Kunthear

THE total number of dengue fever cases recorded in the first five months of the year was less than half the one recorded during the same period last year, but the number of deaths held steady at seven, Health Ministry officials said Wednesday.

Ngan Chantha, director of the National Anti-Dengue Programme at the Ministry of Health, said there were 1,111 cases of dengue fever between January and May.

“During the first five months last year, there were 2,431 cases, and seven people died from dengue fever,” he said. “So if we compare, we can see that although the number of cases this year is lower, the percentage of deaths is higher than last year.”

In all of last year, there were 11,699 cases and 38 deaths recorded, with the disease most prevalent in the capital and in Kampong Cham, Kandal, Siem Reap and Banteay Meanchey provinces.

The mosquito-borne infection spreads more rapidly in June, July and August, Ngan Chantha said.

Officials plan to distribute 102 tonnes of Abate – a mosquito larvaecide – as part of this year’s anti-dengue campaign, he said.

“I suggest that all people be vigilant in trying to prevent dengue fever, because mosquitoes are everywhere and bite us any time we are careless,” he said.

By way of treatment tips, he suggested wearing long trousers and long-sleeve shirts, using Abate and seeking speedy treatment for anyone exhibiting symptoms of dengue.

Canadia Tower pencilled in as temporary bourse home

Canadia Bank's tower, as seen last year, could prove a temporary home for the new Cambodian stock exchange while its future home in Camko City is constructed. Sovan Philong

via Khmer NZ News Media

Thursday, 17 June 2010 15:00 Nguon Sovan and Soeun Say

Negotiations under way for Cambodia’s tallest building to host stock exchange

THE Cambodian Securities Exchange (CSX) could be launched in Canadia Tower at the year’s end as construction on its planned site in Phnom Penh’s Camko City has not begun, officials said Wednesday.

Negotiations are under way to secure one to two storeys in the Kingdom’s tallest building as an interim home for the bourse and are expected to wrap up within two months, CSX General Director Hong Sok Hour said.

“The decision to rent floor space from Canadia Tower is because work on the dedicated CSX building at Camko City has not yet begun. We will move into Camko when construction is completed there,” Hong Sok Hour said.

The exchange has announced it will open by the end of this year, after missing its previous self-imposed deadline in 2009.

Charles Vann, Executive Vice President of Canadia Bank, owner of the 32-storey tower, said Wednesday that a final decision on location rested with exchange officials.

“No agreement has been reached, but it is the Finance Ministry’s decision,” he said.

Neither party would comment on the proposed rental fees or the duration of the contract now under discussion.

Other prominent Phnom Penh developers have recently attempted to woo the exchange to their project site.

President of Vattanac Properties Ltd, Chhun Leang, proposed its Vattanac Capital high-rise as a future site for the CSX when construction on the US$150 million project wraps up in September 2012.

“I would request the government to consider the feasibility of choosing Vattanac Capital as the formal location of the Stock Market of Cambodia,” she said earlier this month, at an event attended by Deputy Prime Minister Sok An.

The Korean Exchange, a 45 percent stakeholder in the CSX, told the Post earlier this month that it is up to the government to decide the physical location of the exchange.

“It’s really up to the government to make the decision. Korean Exchange does not mind if it is in Camko City, Canadia Tower, or the future Vattanac Capital,” project director Inpyo Lee said.

Questions surround whether the bourse will open this year, or whether it will miss its second self-imposed deadline.

Security and Exchange Commission of Cambodia (SECC) General Director Ming Bankosal said the CSX had not yet applied for its licence to operate, or finalised the requirements for securities firms and representatives interested in operating as brokers, traders, and underwriters for the exchange.

“But it will be finalised, and officially announced soon,” he said Wednesday.

According to a prakas, or edict, on the licencing of securities firms and securities representatives, companies seeking to operate as securities underwriters must possess minimum capital of $9.52 million, whereas securities dealers need minimum $6 million in capital and brokers require $1.42 million.

Investment advisory firms will need a minimum of $96,000, and will be required to lodge $4,800 bonds with the National Bank of Cambodia.

The prakas also stipulates requirements for human resources and professional experience.

Three state-owned enterprises – Telecom Cambodia (TC), Sihanoukville Autonomous Port, and Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority (PPWSA) – have been instructed by the government to list at the opening of the exchange.

Though analysts say the PPWSA is in a fairly strong position to prepare for listing, the port has yet to receive an independent audit, and TC did so only in 2008.

An independent audit is a prerequisite set by the SECC for listing.

Police Blotter: 17 Jun 2010

via Khmer NZ News Media

Thursday, 17 June 2010 15:01 Sen David

A wife and husband found themselves in hospital after they clashed over the husband’s libidinous ways, police in Phnom Penh reported. The couple, originally from Kep province, were staying at a guesthouse in the capital’s Phnom Penh district Tuesday. But the husband soon drifted off into a cloud of ennui and decided to cure his boredom by finding a prostitute. When his wife heard about this, however, she became enraged and started arguing with her husband. The wife reported that the two exchanged blistering curses in the guesthouse, then started beating each other until they were both seriously injured. Now both have been sent to hospital.

A 58-year-old woman in Battambang is claiming innocence after she admitted to throwing rocks at a would-be assailant who tried to burst past her front gate and attack her, police said. The suspect said the victim came to fight her at her front gate. She got angry and fought back, chucking rocks at the victim. But she defended her actions, saying that the victim was the one who started the argument. However, police said that even if the victim was in the wrong, that did not give the right to the suspect to throw rocks at that person. She should instead have alerted police, they said. The case has been sent to provincial court.

A well-liked 31-year-old man is dead, having fallen down after apparently being electrocuted on a construction site in the capital Tuesday, police said. Police reported that the man died after coming into contact with faulty electric wiring, which caused him to tumble off the building. Co-workers sent him immediately to hospital, but it was too late: The man was dead. Co-workers reported that the man seemed ill when he showed up to work. They said they regretted the incident because they thought of the victim as a good and clever man.

A man is dead and two others are seriously injured following a motorbike crash in Battambang province on Monday, police said. Investigators blamed the accident on the driver of the motorbike, who they alleged was drunk following a village party. They believe the driver was speeding and crashed his hurtling vehicle into a tractor. Police appealed to citizens not to drive when intoxicated. It is very dangerous, they said. Police have held on to the motorbike for the time being.

Oz, NZ explore growth potential

Sun Chanthol (left), of the CDC, and the ADB’s Putu Kamayana, at the “Developing Cambodia” seminar Wednesday.

  • Aid: Australia donated US$100 million to Cambodia between 2006 and 2008. AusAID will provide $64.5 million from 2010 to 2011, with reducing poverty and improving health and infrastructure as priorities.
  • Ambassador: Australia’s Margaret Adamson has also served as ambassador in Warsaw, Poland.
  • Banking: Australia New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ) is partnered with the Royal Group to provide financial services throughout the Kingdom.
  • Railways: Oz logistics firm Toll Group has partnered with the Royal Group to upgrade the Kingdom’s railways, using $141.1 million in funding from the Asian Development Bank, AusAID and Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Companies (OPEC). It has a 30-year network concession.
  • Trade: Australia exported $36 million to the Kingdom last year with aluminum, wheat preparations and machinery as key products.

via Khmer NZ News Media

Thursday, 17 June 2010 15:00 Catherine James and May Kunmakara

CAMBODIA’S recovering economy presents growth opportunities for overseas firms, Australia’s Ambassador to Cambodia Margaret Adamson said Wednesday.

Speaking to a trade delegation of 12 visiting Australian and New Zealand businesses and institutions, she highlighted agriculture, infrastructure and vocational training as areas with potential.

“I invite the businesspeople of Australia and New Zealand to think about the priorities of investment in Cambodia,” she said.

Australia Trade and Investment Commissioner Maurine Lam said the delegation aimed to foster future business ties in Cambodia’s rapidly developing economy.

“All the companies are coming not only to understand business opportunities but to build long-term trade relationships for the future,” she said at a press briefing at Phnom Penh’s Intercontinental Hotel.

Pro Chancellor of the Vietnam-based Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Merilyn Liddel, told the Post that his university was interested in tapping into Cambodia’s growing middle class who could be interested in receiving an overseas education.

“We are interested in having a regional presence [in South-east Asia], not just a presence in Vietnam,” she said, referring to the two campuses the university has built in the last 10 years in Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi, which offer Australian-approved courses.

However, she said there were no plans at this stage to build a campus in Cambodia.

Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC) Vice Chairman Sun Chanthol said the Kingdom was open to attracting more foreign direct investment.

Australia exported US$36 million worth of goods to Cambodia last year, while $21 million was shipped the other way. Australia primarily exported aluminum, wheat and cereal preparations, and electrical machinery to the Kingdom, according to Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) statistics.

Meanwhile, the rice industry was a key recipient of Australia’s foreign aid to Cambodia, according to AusAID counselor Lachlan Pontifex.

Approximately AU$50 million (US$43 million) has been earmarked for the sector by 2011, he said during a presentation at the seminar which was attended by around 150 people.

He added that aid would focus on making small landholders better able to market their rice.

Cambodia, Australia, and New Zealand have pursued liberalised trade ties through the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (AANZFTA), which came into force at the beginning of the year.

As the largest free trade agreement Australia has entered, it includes commitments to eventually reduce or eliminate the majority of tariffs between the parties.

Cambodia has been given a delayed schedule for reducing tariffs compared with most signatories, pledging to remove barrier on 88 percent of tariff lines by 2024, while Australia will have removed barriers on 96.5 percent of tariff lines by 2013, according to the text of the agreement on DFAT’s website.

CDC approves $230m in agro investments from across the region

Sugarcane being transported to market by boat. Heng Chivoan

Thursday, 17 June 2010 15:00 Chun Sophal

AGRICULTURAL investments worth more than US$230 million and hailing from four Asian nations were given the green light by the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC) Tuesday, its deputy secretary general, Duy Thoy, said.

The six approved schemes – involving rubber, palm oil and sugar production and processing – are to be located in Kampong Speu, Kratie, and Mondulkiri provinces.

The proposals now require final approval from Prime Minister Hun Sen before the $234 million worth of investment can move forward, he added.

“With these projects we hope Cambodia’s agro-industry will create jobs and generate additional income for the national economy,” he said.

The largest investment comes from China, which will see $142 million pumped into two Kampong Speu sugar cane projects.

Two separate Vietnamese schemes, both for rubber plantations and processing factories in Kratie province, will total $36 million.

A Malaysian firm is planning a $26 million Kampong Speu palm oil plantation, and a $30 million joint venture with Singapore to grow rubber in Mondulkiri.

Names of the companies involved were not released.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries welcomed the CDC’s approval of the investment projects Wednesday.

Cambodian land has lots of potential for growing crops such as rubber and sugar but does not have the capital to invest by itself, Secretary of State Chan Tong Eves said.

“It is good for Cambodia if all these approval-seeking projects can be carried out and developed successfully,” the official said.

A total of 126 companies were granted land concessions for growing crops from 1993 to 2009, according to a report from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries obtained in April.

Concessions for the period totalled 1,335,724 hectares in 16 Cambodian provinces, but 41 of these companies have seen their 379,034 hectares of concessions nullified for failure to comply with contracts, it said.

Some 85 companies retain valid concessions for a total of 956,690 hectares, mostly for rubber, sugarcane, and palm oil production.

Rubbish exhibits with an aim to clean up city

Photo by: Roth Meas
Meas Sokhorn’s trash-filled romork kang is part of the exhibition that opens tonight at the French Cultural Centre.

via Khmer NZ News Media

Thursday, 17 June 2010 15:00 Roth Meas

CAMBODIA artist Meas Sokhorn, 33, uses bits of rubbish found on the streets of Phnom Penh to create environmentally aware sculptures that will be displayed at the French Cultural Center (CCF) starting tonight to raise awareness of environmental preservation issues.

Meas Sokhorn, who graduated in 2004 from the Royal University of Fine Arts with qualifications in decoration, came up with the idea while drinking coffee at a café in Phnom Penh to display works made with waste material.

On that afternoon, he observed dust being blown about as cars and motorbikes whizzed past. He used his hands to block the dirty plumes from entering his mouth, nose and coffee cup, but then a soiled plastic bag whirled in off the street, catching on his leg.

“It’s not a new story,” he said. “I’ve met the same situation many times already. But [objects like] this plastic bag seemed to inspire me to do something to change behaviour.”

Meas Sokhorn is concerned with the fact that rubbish is thrown arbitrarily on the sidewalks and empty areas of land. People don’t take the time to bundle their trash in bags, so vehicles and wind constantly blow the filth around the city. As such, the artist’s concept stems from how people’s actions affect those around them. In this case, how the constant presence of waste impacts the city’s residents, both physically and mentally, through the smells it creates and the threat of disease.

“That’s why I collect these pieces of rubbish to display. I want to use them as a mirror to reflect the activity of people in society,” Meas Sokhorn said.

The name of the exhibition, Trash Fix, reflects the notion that rubbish is not stagnant, but transitory, moving from place to place, just like the traffic that enables it to change locations. Meas Sokhorn’s message is simple: Wrap your garbage, put it in the bin and keep it all in one place where it can be collected easily.

Meas Sokhorn also noted that the amount of waste produced by restaurants is a worry. Speaking out against the practice of flippantly discarding napkins and uneaten food on the floor, he says it’s as though customers are sitting on a “dumpsite” while having a meal.

“People drop their waste on the floor under their table when they are eating, so it appears as if they are sitting on a pile of rubbish.... If we can abolish such behaviour, that will be good,” said Meas Sokhorn.

Having collected rubbish in the forms of plastic bottles, coconut shells, banana leaves, dresses, newspapers, aluminium cans, food wrappers and plastic bags over a period of time, Meas Sokhorn’s bounty eventually came to weigh over 600 kilograms. The artist refuses to wash the items, preferring instead to leave them as they were found to show the true reality of the pollution. He does, however, avoid using decomposable waste such as vegetables and other foods, so his sculptures don’t give off the smell he’d like the Penh’s residents to not have to encounter in the streets.

In one of his works, Meas Sokhorn displays bags upon bags of waste in a cart pulled by a bicycle, known in Cambodia as romork kang.

“When people see romork kang they think about [the amount of trash being produced]. In the exhibition, I hope that when people see rubbish in the cart, they will think about our environment,” he said.

Also included in the show is a water pipe and drain that Meas Sokhorn finds important as many people use this infrastructure to filter their waste, which leads to blockages and floods in parts of the city.

“I don’t want people to get ideas from this work and start using water pipes to dump their waste. Instead, I hope the exhibition will inspire them to change their attitudes. In the least to stop dropping rubbish everywhere,” he said.

Trash Fix opens tonight at 7pm at CCF (218 Street 184) and will be on show for three weeks.