Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Stanford student sings in Cambodian dharma song tradition


As part of his senior thesis, Religious Studies major Trent Walker produced the first ever full-scale study of the Cambodian dharma song tradition.

During the course of his research, Trent learned how to sing religious texts in the complex musical style called smutr.

In Memory of Prum Ut (Khmer)
In Memory of Prum Ut


Dharma Song Offered in Memory of Master Prum Ut (1945-2009)

Seven-syllable meter

I raise these hands up to you,
Teacher, guru, of this song,
This melody, sung so long
Ago, before the Bo tree.

In your kind home you taught me
To chant Pali reverently,
Treat books with care, so gently,
And to daily humbly pray.

To the Three Jewels, our teachers
And all creatures, till the day
You and I must fade away,
Die and decay, chasing peace.

Trent Walker, Stanford, California 2009-2010

Thais detained by Cambodia expected to go home in 3 days: FM

via Khmer NZ

August 24, 2010

Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya on Tuesday said he hoped the three Thais detained by Cambodia would be released within three days, local media said.

The three villagers-Sanong Wongcharoen, Lim Puangpet and Lan Sapsri in northeast province of Surin were arrested on Wednesday by Cambodia soldiers while gathering fruit and hunting in the forest along the border.

On Sunday, Surin governor Rapee Pongbuppakit said that the three are being detained in a Siem Reap jail in Cambodia and Thai authorities are trying to rescue them.

It is expected that the three Thais will return to Thailand in less than three days, Matichon online quoted Kasit as saying.

"We believe that bilateral relations return to normalcy will help solve all disputes between the two countries," he said.

Kasit made the remarks one day after the Cambodian authorities announced the resignation of former fugitive Thai former PM Thaksin Shinawatra as economic adviser to the government and Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Shortly after the announcement, Thailand decided to send its ambassador to Cambodia back to Phnom Penh on Tuesday.

Thaksin was toppled from power in 2006 and he has lived in self- exile in foreign countries since then to avoid a two-year jail term for corruption.

Cambodia and Thailand has had border dispute since the Preah Vihear Temple was registered as World Heritage Site in July 2008.

Since then, several rounds of clashes have occurred between the two countries and caused some deaths and injuries from both sides.

Source: Xinhua

Website launch for Asia’s first environmentally planned resort island

via Khmer NZ

Andrew Batt
Aug 24, 2010
Asia’s first environmentally planned resort island – Koh Rong in Cambodia – has launched its official website at www.kohrong.com.kh

The development of Koh Rong is pioneering high-end tourism on Cambodia’s idyllic coastline with planning now advancing to the very highest standards of ecological sustainability.

International business magazine Forbes recently recognised three pristine Cambodian beaches, including Koh Rong, in its ranking of Asia’s Best Beaches. The island is located just 20 kilometres from Sihanoukville on the south coast of Cambodia and the pristine white sand beaches of Koh Rong are surrounded by turquoise water.

Behind the visionary plan for the island is one of Cambodia’s largest business, property and infrastructure conglomerates, The Royal Group. Headed by prominent tycoons Kith Meng, The Royal Group has been granted a 99-year lease by the Cambodian government to develop the island.

A team of leading international consultants has started realising the vision with a Master Plan designed by MAP Architects of Hong Kong, in consultation with world renowned environmental and airport consultants Scott Wilson.

Leading international property firm CB Richard Ellis is advisor and sole agent driving the marketing campaign targeting international tourism infrastructure developers and operators.

Cambodia picks Korea’s DMB for mobile broadcast

via Khmer NZ


Cambodia adopted the digital multimedia broadcasting service, invented and developed by South Korea, as the nation’s standard mobile broadcasting method on Tuesday.

The Korea Communications Commission said Cambodia plans to commercialize the DMB service, which is currently being tested, by the end of this year.

Such details were announced following a meeting with KCC vice chairwoman Lee Kyung-ja and her Cambodian counterpart in Cambodia.

The country’s telecommunications and broadcasting regulator has been providing the DMB service for Cambodia’s public broadcasting station TVK since the nation was picked among some developing countries in a state support project which started last year.

The two countries pledged to work more closely on future IT matters by signing the agreement.

The KCC also expects business opportunities to further widen for local companies which produce and sell electronic devices and subparts as the DMB service fully launches overseas.

The information and technology infrastructure in Cambodia -- a country with a population of 15 million -- has been destroyed mainly due to political instability. The rates of households with fixed-line services and the Internet were at a low 0.37 percent and 0.53 percent, respectively, and the portion of people with mobile communication devices was 38 percent in 2009, according to KCC officials.

By Cho Ji-hyun (sharon@heraldm.com)

ASEAN completes economic milestone

via Khmer NZ

August, 24 2010

DA NANG — This city is prepared for several ASEAN ministerial meetings on economics that start today and run until Saturday.

Ministry of Industry and Trade official Le Quang Lan said officials had prepared for the 42nd ASEAN Economic Ministers' Meeting, the fourth ASEAN Economic Community Council Meeting and other related meetings.

The gathering of economic ministers is considered the most important annual event in the ASEAN economic calendar. The Vietnamese Minister of Industry and Trade, Vu Huy Hoang, will be chair.

Ministers from ASEAN and its eight dialogue partners - China, South Korea, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, India, the European Union and Russia - will participate.

They will discuss strategies to promote economic co-operation leading up to the establishment of an ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) by 2015.

"Themed AEC: A Community for Dynamic and Sustainable Growth, the 42nd meeting confirms ASEAN's commitment towards economic growth and a balanced, stable and sustainable development," said Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Nguyen Cam Tu.

"This year is a milestone in the process of realising the community," he said.

Tu was referring to several core and significant agreements that will come into force. These include an agreement on the ASEAN trade in goods, the ASEAN Comprehensive Investment Agreement - and the seventh package under the ASEAN framework agreement on services.

The bloc will also implement many important co-operation programmes, such as ASEAN Single Window, Trade Facilitation Work Programme and measures to enhance the participation of the private sector in regional integration.

At this week's meetings, economic ministers from ASEAN and dialogue partners will assess the implementation of free-trade agreements and ways to promote new trade arrangements.

It will also be the first time ASEAN nations and Russia will talk at ministerial level to promote economics and investment.

Viet Nam has proposed talks with the private sector in regional policy making and the first consultations among the economic ministers of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Viet Nam to discuss narrowing development gaps between them and other ASEAN nations. — VNS

Southeast-Asian "common market" to eclipse China

via Khmer NZ

Posted: Tuesday, August 24, 2010

China's position as the world's manufacturing power house could be eclipsed by a "common market" of Southeast Asian nations by 2015, experts predict.

A new Wall Street Journal report paints a rosy picture for manufacturing output in Southeast Asia, a region of nearly 600 million people.

According to the report, the average factory worker in Vietnam made about $136 a month in 2009, in Indonesia, $129 a month, both of which are well below the $413 a month earned in China.

"Leaders in the region are pressing ahead with plans to stitch together the patchwork of nations into a common market and production platform by 2015," the report claims. "If fully realised, the project will include fewer restrictions on the movement of skilled labour from country to country and streamlined customs procedures."

A number of infrastructure projects - some funded by the Asian Development Bank - are producing trade conduits, with improved highway connections across Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam and Laos, according to the WSJ.

"China sort of pushed everyone aside for 15 years" as investors flocked there for cheap labour, Frederic Neumann, senior Asia economist for HSBC in Hong Kong told the newspaper.

But he added that that China's move up the value chain comes with increasing costs and so "opens up room again for other countries to jump in at the lower end of the scale."

The Wall Street Journal noted that around 20% of large US and European firms surveyed recently by Credit Suisse said it would be easy to move the sourcing of goods from China to other countries. However around 90% said moving out of China would be very costly.

Picture by: Emile Bremmer

Thailand, Cambodia to normalize relations

via Khmer NZ

Published: Aug. 24, 2010

BANGKOK, Aug. 24 (UPI) -- Tensions eased between Thailand and neighboring Cambodia after the exiled fugitive former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra resigned as an economic adviser to Phnom Phen.

Thailand will send back to the Cambodian capital its ambassador, Prasas Prasasvinitchai.

He was summoned back to Thailand in November soon after the Cambodian government of Hun Sen controversially appointed Thaksin, who is a wanted man in Thailand for using his office for personal gain.

"I believe that the normalized relations with the reinstatement of the ambassadors will clear the way for the two countries to more easily resolve all problems," Thailand's Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said.

Thailand's Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said Thaksin's resignation satisfied a Thai condition that he doesn't play a role in the Cambodian government before bilateral ties return to normal. "I would like to thank the Cambodian government for the intention to move forward our relations," he said.

Cambodia also has said it will send back its ambassador, You Aye, to the Thai capital Bangkok, ending the tit-for-tat diplomatic dispute that effectively froze relations between the two countries.

But the Cambodian and Thai governments, as well as Thaksin's lawyer, deny reports that Thaksin was forced to resign as a first step by both countries to normalize relations.

A statement by the Cambodian government said that Thaksin had stepped down "because of personal difficulties" that stopped him from completely fulfilling his role. "The Cambodian government accepts the request by His Excellency Thaksin Shinawatra, with thanks to the contributions that he has made to the Cambodian economy," a statement said.

Thaksin's legal adviser, Noppadon Pattama, said Thaksin's resignation "was voluntary to benefit ties between the two countries," he said. It was Thaksin's intention to quit as an adviser because his overseas business engagements left him no time to work for the Cambodian government, he said.

Cambodian government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said Thaksin's resignation wasn't connected to the Thai-Cambodian border dispute. Thaksin resigned because he was "busy with a lot of work."

Relations between the two countries dipped dramatically immediately after Cambodia announced the appointment of Thaksin. On hearing of the appointment, Thailand's Cabinet threatened to tear up a 2001 memorandum of understanding to end a sensitive maritime boundary dispute in the Gulf of Thailand.

Resolution of the dispute is for the betterment of both countries as it would allow an ordered exploitation of suspected large amounts of natural gas and oil reserves on the ocean floor.

But a much more sensitive issue is a long-simmering land boundary dispute about 300 miles northeast of Bangkok. The military of both countries periodically face each other in the Preah Vihear mountains around an 11th-century Hindu temple of the same name on land, which both countries claim as their territory.

The international court of justice ruled in 1962 that the temple was on Cambodian land. But the only access to the mountaintop building is on the Thai side, which Thai troops sealed off last summer.

Around 2,000 troops from both sides are stationed across from each other on border patrol. Cross-border incidents occasionally flare up, such as in October 2008 when two Cambodian troops died and seven Thai troops were wounded in a gun battle lasting an hour.

The diplomatic row deepened after Thailand formally requested the extradition of Thaksin under an extradition treaty signed by both countries. But the Cambodian government said Phnom Phen cannot send Thaksin to Thailand because they believe his conviction in 2008 was political and not criminal.

Thaksin, 60, was ousted from his job as Thailand's's prime minister by a military coup in 2006 and soon after received a 2-year prison sentence for tax fraud. He fled in 2008 rather than serve his sentence, leaving an estimated $2 billion in frozen assets.

The Thai government continues to seek Thaksin whose whereabouts often are unknown. He is wanted most recently for allegedly helping organize the major street protests that continually crippled parts of central Bangkok from February to May, which eventually left 90 people dead and some 2,000 injured.

He has denied the terrorism charges against him and has said he called for peace by the protesters during the demonstrations.

Diplomatic relations resuming

via Khmer NZ

Published: 24/08/2010

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has ordered the release of three Thai men arrested last week for entering Cambodian territory illegally to hunt and forage, the foreign minister's secretary Chavanond Intarakomalyasut confirmed on Tuesday.

Cambodian soldiers last Wednesday arrested three villagers from Surin - Sanong Wongcharoen, Lim Puangpet and Lan Sapsri - on charges of illegal entry and possessing firearms.

Mr Chavanond said Hun Sen has ordered the Siem Reap governor to release them. They were expected to be freed in two to three days after documentation is complete, he said.

Mr Chavanond said Thai-Cambodian relations were expected to improve now that fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra has resigned as an economic adviser to Phnom Penh.

This would lead to improved cooperation and an easing of tension along the border, he said.

PM's deputy secretary-general and acting government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said there should not be any problems with the release of the three villagers and also said bilateral relations should gradually improve.

"Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is looking to hold talks with his Cambodian counterpart Hun Sen on international stages before meeting him at the Asem [Asia-Europe Meeting] in Belgium in October," Mr Panitan said.

PM Abhisit (right) converses with Cambodian PM Hun Sen at the Mekong River Commission’s summit in Hua Hin in April, 2010.

He said the two leaders could meet at the Asean-US Summit next month.

He said the Thai ambassador to Cambodia, Prasas Prasasvinitchai, had gone back to Phnom Penh, but the Cambodian envoy might take a couple of days to return to Bangkok.

The Foreign Ministry will explain its view on whether the resignation of fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinwatra as Cambodia's economic adviser has any hidden agenda, he said.

"We [the government] still want Thaksin to return and face the judicial process in Thailand, as it could lead to national reconciliation," Mr Panitan said.

Asked why Cambodia was attempting to establish a positive relationship after it had continually criticised Thailand, he said Thai-Cambodian ties had improved steadily over the past few weeks and both countries had agreed on more issues.

"International countries also want the two countries to hold talks on the bilateral level," he said.

Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban, in charge of security affairs, said he would like to thank Prime Minister Hun Sen for announcing Thaksin's resignation.

"I thank all sides for trying to improve Thai-Cambodian ties. I believe both countries can now discuss the border situation more smoothly," Mr Suthep said.

Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said the Thai-Cambodian tensions should ease and the two countries would be able to hold talks to resolve the border dispute around Preah Vihear temple.

Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya

"All issues between Thailand and Cambodia should improve as both countries already cooperate in many areas," he said.

National Security Council secretary-general Thawil Pliensri said ties should be more positive following the reinstatement of ambassadors.

"The problems between the two countries will certainly be alleviated," Mr Thawil said.

Supreme Commander Songkitti Chakkrabat said the Thai-Cambodian rift should narrow down now that Thaksin had resigned.

"Thailand and Cambodia are neighbours and have positive ties.

"Conflicts may occur but they will not weaken our relations. Instead our relations will be strengthened," Gen Songkitti said.

DAP News. Breaking News by Soy Sopheap

via Khmer NZ

Statement of Press and Quick Reaction Unit

Tuesday, 24 August 2010 10:06 DAP NEWS

Cambodia to Send Ambassador Back to Bangkok on Wednesday : Spokesman

Tuesday, 24 August 2010 01:28 DAP NEWS / VIBOL

CAMBODIA, PHNOM PENH, AUGUST 24, 2010-The Cambodian foreign ministry announced on Monday that the Cambodian government will send ambassador back to Bangkok On Wednesday (25 August) after Thai side announced it will send its ambassador back to Phnom Penh on Tuesday (24 August).

“ Cambodia will send the ambassador back on Wednesday and Thai side will send its ambassador tomorrow,” koy Khoung, spokesman for foreign ministry said.

The two countries mended its diplomatic relation after former Thai PM Thaksin on Monday resigned from the position of economic advisor to Cambodian government. Dr. Thaksin said himself that he could not resume “fully implement” his position because he has own difficulties.

On Monday 23 of August, 2010 is the day that Cambodia and Thailand mended the diplomatic ties and it is a good for two peoples to resume relation equally after Thailand terminated the relation in 2009 and Thailand recalled its ambassador back to the country when Cambodia had appointed former Thai PM as economic advisor.

At that time, Cambodia told Thailand back. Why you sent its troop to invade area near 11th Khmer Preah Vihear temple. Who ordered those troops to occupy that location? Thai troops fired a local market in front of the temple.

Now, the next step, both sides will look for the time to go to the area to measure and reach to plant border markers. Thai people will get benefits from the tourists to see Preah Vihear temple.

The opposition of management plan of Preah Vihear temple from Thailand will continue or what.

ASEAN will not lose hope. The reputation of ASEAN will go on and the good image for bilateral deal between Cambodia and Thailand will show the model for other countries. The two countries could not move to locate other places. But now they need to live peacefully. People love each other.

On July 15, 2008, Thai troops invade Cambodia through secret map. Thailand should use international treaty in 1904 with Cambodia to deal border. Thailand has to stop talking about that opposition of management plan of Preah Vihear. if not so, it resumes the conflict. Go to measure it is better.

Cambodian Gov’t Thanked Former PM Thai Thaksin

Monday, 23 August 2010 11:36 DAP NEWS / VIBOL

CAMBODIA, PHNOM PENH, AUGUST 23, 2010-The Cambodian government on Monday announced that former PM Thai Thaksin Shinawatra has resigned from position as economic advisor and advisor to the government. PM Hun Sen accepted that resignation requirement from Mr. Thaksin and PM Hun Sen asked Cambodian King Norodom to terminate Mr. Thaksin’s position.

In the government’s statement today said that Former PM Thai Thaksin had contributed his brilliant ideas, views and valued experiences to help promote the competitive fields for Cambodia such as trade, investment, agriculture, and tourism.

Dr. Thaksin also helped attract many investors from foreign countries to address on those potential fields in the country.

“The Cambodian government would like to say thank for Dr. Thaksin that had contributed his ideas to boost Cambodian’s economic development,” the letter from the government said.

Dr. Thaksin said that he had personal matters and difficulties in fully implementing that role. I personally asked to resign, the letter said.

Cambodia and Thailand planned to mend their diplomatic ties after the bilateral relationship has soured when Thai troops had encroached Cambodia’s sovereignty near 11th Khmer Preah Vihear temple on July 15, 2008 a week after Cambodia successfully registered the temple as world heritage site with world heritage committee.

The latest development, PM Hun Sen asked the international communities including ASEAN community and UN to mediate for dealing border issues.

PM Hun Sen also asked SG UN Ban to help mediate after PM Thai Abhisit had threatened to use military forces to invade that area. Large scale armed conflict would occur if it does not have the deal, PM Hun Sen said in the letter to the international communities.

Thailand allegedly accused Cambodia of putting hands in internal affairs when Cambodia appointed former Thai PM Thaksin as economic advisor to PM Hun Sen and advisor of government but Cambodia refused that word. Cambodia urged Thailand to open eyes to see background of the conflict occurred because Thai troops invaded Cambodia’s territory near Preah Vihear temple.

Other matters that sparked the conflicts, current Thai Foreign Minister Kasit used to say bad words to look down on Cambodian PM Hun Sen while Kasit was in Yellow T-shirt Group and head of demonstrators who led the group to occupy the Sovanna Phoum Airport and blocked the airport. Kasit used to call PM Hun Sen “gentle man has heart of strong man,” and Kasit used to say. He will use the PM Hun Sen’s blood to wash his foot. Those words that PM Hun Sen could not accept and those words led to create some parts of dark sphere for the relations.

PM Hun Sen always threw the words back to Kasit. PM Hun Sen considered former PM Thaksin as immortal friend. PM Hun Sen always reviewed that he has known Dr. Thaksin for so long. So even Dr. Thaksin toppled through military coup in Bangkok but Dr. Thaksin is still his friend. “We know friend in difficulty situation,” PM Hun Sen said, adding the case of Dr. Thaksin is the same. Latest stance of Cambodia said that unless Thai side ratified the border deal that border committee talked for three times in the past years, The bilateral relation could resume.

Delivering justice

Photo by: Heng Chivoan

via Khmer NZ

Tuesday, 24 August 2010 15:00 Uong Ratana

Students crowd around a van in Phnom Penh yesterday as employees of the Khmer Rouge tribunal hand out the court’s newly published version of last month’s verdict against former Tuol Sleng prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch.

Police clash with lakeside villagers

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
The face of defiance
A protester stares down riot police near the home of Prime Minister Hun Sen in Phnom Penh yesterday. The row was over Boeung Kak lake floodwaters.

via Khmer NZ

Tuesday, 24 August 2010 15:03 Sun Mesa and Chhay Channyda

POLICE thwarted a proposed meeting of about 500 Boeung Kak lake residents yesterday and later used shields and electric batons to break up a protest by around 200 of the group who moved on to protest outside of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s house.

Boeung Kak resident Soung Sophoan said the villagers were forced into an impromptu demonstration after Srak Chak commune authorities prevented a scheduled meeting at the nearby National Institute of Education. Police and villagers were involved in minor clashes as the protest moved towards the premier’s house near the Independence Monument.

“We planned to have a peaceful consultation at the National Institute of Education, but Srah Chak commune chief Chay Thirith banned it and told us to do it at the Red Cross Hospital,” he said. “But the hospital was closed, so we did the protest here.”

He said people were not protesting against anyone in particular, but highlighting the fact that they “need a solution from the government because people’s houses are being flooded higher and higher”.

Villagers have linked the rising waters to the filling of the lake for a controversial 133-hectare real estate development. Rights groups estimate more than 4,000 families will eventually make way for the project.

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Residents from the Boeung Kak lakeside area protect a village representative from the grasp of local authorities during protests on Suramarit Boulevard yesterday.
In a statement yesterday, the Housing Rights Task Force slammed the disruption of the meeting, which it said had been intended as a forum to discuss residents’ demands that they not be forced out of their homes and receive adequate housing in return for relocation.

“HRTF calls for the authorities to investigate the incident as a violation of people’s rights to assembly, as well to respect people’s rights as enshrined in the Cambodian constitution,” the statement said.

Sia Phearum, secretariat director of the HRTF, said yesterday that the disruption of the meeting “was entirely unjustified”.

“The authorities need to respect human rights including the freedom to assembly,” he said.

When contacted yesterday, Chhay Thirith denied allegations that he had stopped the proposed meeting from being held. “I did not know about the problem because this morning I was at a drug conference,” he said.

Phnom Penh police chief Touch Naruth denied that police were deployed to forcibly remove lakeside residents from the park in front of Hun Sen’s home.

“Police were deployed to protect public order,” he said. “Before we resorted to violence, we requested that they move their protest to Wat Botum.”

He said that human rights groups should not make their accusations about the police action based on testimony from “bad people”.

Adviser Thaksin quits

Photo by: AFP
Thaksin Shinawatra

via Khmer NZ

Tuesday, 24 August 2010 15:03 Cheang Sokha

Full diplomatic relations with Thais to be restored

FUGITIVE former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra has resigned as economic adviser to the Cambodian government, officials said yesterday, bringing a quiet end to a diplomatic drama that plunged relations between the two countries to their lowest point in years.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said Thaksin – who was ousted in a 2006 coup and fled Thailand in 2008 to avoid a jail term for graft – quit for “personal” reasons.

“This is his right, and we cannot reject it,” Koy Kuong said, though Thaksin remained the “eternal friend” of Prime Minister Hun Sen. Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith said Thaksin had resigned because he had “a lot of his own work” to do.

Thaksin, a sworn enemy of Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his government, has been trotting the globe since going into self-imposed exile. He is believed to be spending most of his time in Dubai, though he made several high-profile visits to Cambodia late last year following his appointment in October, lecturing government officials on economics and directing criticism at Abhisit.

When Thailand recalled its ambassador to Cambodia in protest against the appointment, Cambodia responded in kind and rejected Bangkok’s request for Thaksin’s extradition.

Thani Thongphakdi, deputy spokesman of the Thai Foreign Ministry, said yesterday that Thaksin’s resignation was cause for a resumption of full diplomatic ties.

“The Thai foreign minister is very pleased to learn that the Cambodian government has released a statement [saying] Thaksin Shinawatra has resigned from his position in Cambodia,” he said.

“As a consequence, the Thai foreign minister has instructed the Thai ambassador to return to Cambodia [today], because the developments that led to the recall of the ambassador are no longer necessary.

“He believes the relations between both sides will strengthen.”

Koy Kuong said Cambodian Ambassador You Ay would be restored to her post in Bangkok tomorrow.

Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a fellow at Singapore’s Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, said the resignation was likely a bid by the exiled Thaksin to keep his name in the headlines at home, after this year’s violent series of antigovernment protests took place without him.

“People talk less and less about Thaksin,” Pavin said. “I think he realises that he has been marginalised in Thai politics.”

Koy Kuong said Thaksin’s resignation was “not linked” to the long-simmering border dispute between Thailand and Cambodia that flared up this month following the conclusion of a UNESCO World Heritage Committee meeting in Brazil , at which Cambodian officials submitted a management plan for Preah Vihear temple.

The resumption of diplomatic ties, however, would likely be a positive step towards resolving the disagreement, said Hang Chhaya, executive director of the Khmer Institute for Democracy. “Diplomacy had been happening through the media,” he said. “It’s up to the two countries now to work this out using diplomatic relations.”


Thai officials seek release of jailed men

via Khmer NZ

Tuesday, 24 August 2010 15:02 Cheang Sokha

THAILAND has moved to secure the release of three Thai men being held in Siem Reap on charges of illegal entry and illegal use of firearms, border officials said.

Touch Ra, deputy chief of the Thai-Cambodian Border Relations Office at the Choam border checkpoint, said he had received a letter from authorities in Thailand’s Surin province yesterday, requesting a compromise to release the three men, who were in detention at Siem Reap provincial prison.

“They asked for a compromise on these men’s case and I will forward this letter to Siem Reap tomorrow [Tuesday],” Touch Ra said. However, he said he could not take action without proper authorisation.

On Wednesday, authorities in Oddar Meanchey province arrested Sanong Wongcharoen, 36, Lim Puangpet, 39, and Lan Sapsri, 53, all from Surin’s Sangkhla district, confiscating homemade guns, lights and batteries. They were sent to Siem Reap provincial court on Friday and were charged with illegal entry and the illegal use of weapons. Touch Ra said that the men were detained about 500 metres inside the Cambodian border.

The Bangkok Post reported on Sunday that Surin provincial governor Rapee Phongbuphakij would negotiate with Cambodian officials yesterday for the men’s release.

Chea Morn, the commander of Royal Cambodian Armed Forces Military Region 4, said yesterday that he had not received any request for negotiations from the Thai side.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said that anyone who entered another country had to respect the laws of that country, and that the court would decide the fate of the three men. Ty Soveinthal, deputy prosecutor at Siem Reap provincial court, declined to comment on the case.

In an unrelated case, Koy Kuong said that San Mony Phet, 27, a native from Battambang province arrested during Red Shirt protests that rocked Bangkok in May, remained in custody in Thailand.

He said the Cambodian embassy in Bangkok had provided him with legal representation for his upcoming trial.

Road blocked over dispute

Photo by: May Tithara
Chheang Kimsruon, a representative of the Phnom Penh Sugar Company (right, in floral hat), negotiates with protesting villagers yesterday as a police officer watches.

via Khmer NZ

Tuesday, 24 August 2010 15:02 May Titthara

Kampong Speu province

AROUND 300 villagers embroiled in a land dispute with a sugar company owned by a prominent senator blocked National Road 52 in Kampong Speu province yesterday in an effort to prevent the company’s employees from tearing down villagers’ homes.

“We blocked the road because we wanted the company’s staff to come out and negotiate with villagers,” said Suon Sokunthear, a 38-year-old villager from Omlaing commune, in Thpong district.

He said that employees of the Phnom Penh Sugar Company, owned by Cambodian People’s Party Senator Ly Yong Phat, had recently demolished the homes of three families in O’Thmar Chruok village.

Company employees and soldiers from Royal Cambodian Armed Forces Battalion 313, which is paid to provide security for the senator’s company, attempted to raze additional homes yesterday morning, prompting the villagers to block National Road 52 with farm machinery and bed frames, he added.

Mon Sarin, 26, said that soldiers from Battalion 313 accused her on Sunday of living on company land and ordered her to dismantle her home. The soldiers returned yesterday with an excavator and attempted to demolish her house, she said.

“I have been living on my land since 2000, but the company just arrived in this area recently,” she said. “Because the company’s staff wanted to tear down my home, my villagers decided to block the road.”

About 50 local police, military police, and soldiers armed with guns and electric batons were on site to provide security for the company’s staff during the villagers’ protest, she said.

A total of 11 villages in Omlaing commune – home to more than 2,000 families – have been affected by a 9,000-hectare concession granted to the Phnom Penh Sugar Company, which lies adjacent to a 10,000-hectare concession registered in the name of Ly Yong Phat’s wife, Kim Heang.

Allegations ‘untrue’Tuon Song, Thpong district governor, denied allegations yesterday that Ly Yong Phat’s company had destroyed villagers’ homes, and said that the company had only cleared land “sold” to them.

“The company did not buy the land where the villagers are living, they have only bought empty land, and they only clear land that they have purchased,” he said.

He said that the company was in possession of proper land titles.

Chhean Kimsruon, a representative for the Phnom Penh Sugar Company, told villagers during yesterday’s protest that the company “had done no wrong”.

“I bought the land legally,” and villagers had threatened to burn down the company’s office yesterday, she said.

Frustrated by the senator’s apparent land-grab, Omlaing villagers torched a makeshift office owned by the company in March.

Ouch Leng, a land programme officer for the rights group Adhoc, said that villagers had been forced to block the road because “they had no other choice”.

“To find a resolution, the villagers had to block the road because they wanted to negotiate with the company’s staff,” he said, and it was the fourth time Omlaing villagers had blocked the road. “The company has not respected their promises to the villagers.”

Prince warns royalist merger could lead to loss of seats

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Prince Norodom Ranariddh greets well-wishers upon his arrival at Phnom Penh International Airport in September 2008.

via Khmer NZ

Tuesday, 24 August 2010 15:02 Meas Sokchea

RETIRED royalist heavyweight Prince Norodom Ranariddh has written to the leaders of the Nationalist Party, cautioning them that a planned merger with royalist rival Funcinpec could see both parties stripped of their government posts.

In a letter dated yesterday, Prince Ranariddh said that according to advice from the Constitutional Council, Article 36 of the Law on Political Parties could pose a problem for the two parties’ plans.

The article states that parties may merge according to their internal rules, but that the Ministry of Interior would “eliminate” the old parties from the party register after the merger.

In his letter, Ranariddh implied that it remains unclear whether the two parties’ current posts – which include four seats in the National Assembly and other government posts – would be transferred to a new party in the event of a merger.

“I am worried about the explanation of the Constitutional Council about Article 36, stating that the Ministry of Interior must cancel the names of political parties that merge,” Ranariddh said. He added that he did not oppose the merger, but that as a “respecter of the law and a democrat”, the Constitutional Council’s advice should be heeded.

NP lawmakers wrote to the Constitutional Council on July 9 to ask about the legal ramifications of the merger, receiving a reply earlier this month.

“I wish to see all members finish their mandate,” he added. “Based on the explanation of the Constitutional Council, I see that the Nationalist Party cannot merge into a single political party.”

Prince Ranariddh has close connections to both parties, having led Funcinpec to victory in the 1993 elections before resigning the leadership in acrimony in 2006 and forming the Norodom Ranariddh Party, renamed the NP earlier this year. In May, the two parties announced that they were beginning the move towards reunification, which they plan to finalise prior to elections in 2012 and 2013.

NP spokesman Pen Sangha said yesterday that Prince Ranariddh’s letter did not indicate he opposed the merger, but was an expression of concern about the retention of royalist seats in parliament and at the sub-national level.

“This shows that the Prince has taken care of all former NRP members that were elected. The prince’s idea is that we avoid having our elected members lose [their posts],” he said.

Funcinpec president Keo Puth Reaksmey agreed, but said that the merger was still in its early stages and had not yet been formalised.

Factory mystery: Fainting workers back on job

via Khmer NZ

Tuesday, 24 August 2010 15:02 Kaing Menghun

Factory mystery

THE M&V Garment Factory in Kampong Chhnang province will reopen its doors today after its operations were suspended after the fainting of nearly 200 of its workers over the weekend.

“The factory will reopen [Tuesday],” said Choub Samol, a union representative who works at the factory. “If any workers are in a good health condition, they can resume their job [Monday]. If they are still weak, the factory will not allow them to go to work, but will not deduct their salary.”

Officials from the Kampong Chhang Department of Labour and Vocational Training say they had looked into the case, but dismissed earlier claims that chemicals were responsible for the fainting spells. “The workers fainted because they were afraid when the electricity was cut off. There were no chemicals,” said Pao Sitha, the department’s director.

Choub Samol said the factory’s workers and union representatives made traditional Buddhist offerings in front of the factory yesterday because the workers were “afraid that they had done something wrong to the spirits who protect the factory”.

Law firm blazes a new trail

Photo by: Pha Lina
The Daun Penh district office of the Samreth Law Group, which describes itself as Cambodia’s first public-interest law firm. Lawyers from the firm said they did not wish to be photographed for this story.

via Khmer NZ

Tuesday, 24 August 2010 15:02 Phil Jacobson

THEY provide legal aid, but they are not an NGO. They accept paid work, but they do not work for profit.

The Samreth Law Group, Cambodia’s first public interest law firm, is a new feature of the local NGO landscape, pioneering a funding model for legal advocacy that lawyers say could reduce the sector’s dependence on donor funds.

On the surface, Samreth is a private firm and does much of its work for private clients. But instead of pursuing the profit motive, funding from the private practice is reinvested in public interest legal advocacy.

“We want to show other lawyers in Cambodia that even though we are a private law firm, we can still help the poor community,” said Ith Mathoura, a managing lawyer at the firm, which was founded in 2008.

Because the Cambodian government does not provide legal aid, that role is filled by a handful of NGOs, which depend on international donor agencies – such as USAID and AusAID – to fund their operations.

Earlier this year, two of Cambodia’s largest legal aid organisations – the Cambodian Defenders Project and Legal Aid of Cambodia – were forced to tighten their belts after donors slashed their budgets.

The donors “changed their strategy”, said LAC’s Executive Director Run Saray. “There was nothing we could do.”

Though Samreth is not as large as CDP or LAC, in some important ways it is fundamentally different. Whereas those groups were established to provide legal aid for those accused of general criminal acts, Samreth’s public interest work usually focuses on high-profile land disputes, fuelled by a new model for legal aid funding that that could prove more sustainable than reliance on donor funds.

Ly Ping, a senior lawyer at Samreth, said the firm uses a sliding pay-scale fee structure that takes into account its clients’ ability to pay, meaning that they often work pro bono.

Though Samreth does receive some donor funding and is happy to get it, the firm makes enough on its own that it could soldier on if that funding disappeared.

“Without funds, we can still make this happen,” Ly Ping said.

Both CDP and LAC have flirted with paid work in the past, but neither made it a permanent fixture. Both organisations adhere strictly to the policy that their lawyers are legal aid lawyers only and are not to take on private cases.

Modest origins
Samreth was founded in 2008 by Ith Mathoura, Ly Ping and Sao Kagney, who knew each other from their time at the Lawyer Training Centre, the two-year programme that precedes membership in the Cambodian Bar Association.

In the two years since, the firm has taken on an additional three lawyers.

Their monthly salaries are capped at several hundred dollars and fluctuate depending on how much money the organisation brings in. Though they don’t make as much as they could in a purely private practice, their salaries have always been sufficient.

“It’s about commitment,” Ly Ping said. “We want to help. It is an obligation, it is the common sense of human beings. The money is enough.”

On the public interest side, Samreth takes on one or two time-intensive, high-profile cases a year. Those operations are supported through services such as consultation, research and training, some private case work, some of which are supplemented by donor funds on a case-by-case basis, he said.

In public interest work, the firm looks for anything in which their involvement can support the cause of justice, Ly Ping said.

They recently represented some sellers at Boeung Chhouk Market in Battambang province, who had been accused of defamation by a contractor with whom they were having a dispute.

At the moment, lawyers are donating their time to a land dispute involving 26 families in Kampot province who are at odds with a rich woman from Phnom Penh, Ly Ping said.

An alternative model?
Part of the group’s motivation for starting Samreth was the deficiency they saw in the institutional structure of most NGOs.

CDP and LAC exist specifically for legal aid and are run by lawyers, but for other NGOs, legal aid is usually just one part of what they do. In a mixed institution, Ly Ping said, lawyers can be subject to the legal decisions of non-lawyers, and the institutional structure may compromise client-lawyer confidentiality.

But Samreth’s funding structure comes with challenges of its own.

The biggest issue for the firm is the potential for conflict among the private interests they depend on and the public interests they serve.

Because working on high-profile land dispute cases can put them up against powerful interests, the firm must ensure that it treads carefully in order to preserve the flow of private work it depends on.

“So, the strategy of case selection is important,” Ly Ping said. “We try to take medium-level cases, ones that are not too big.”

Despite some early success, one observer said, it remains to be seen whether Samreth’s model can serve as a viable alternative to that which preceded it.

“It’s way too early to tell,” said Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights.

“I think legal aid could be privatised somewhat, but Samreth hasn’t been playing a key role in the legal aid field yet,” he said.

“The real question is always the bigger picture. Are you going to be able to change the judiciary in the long term?”

Bassac residents testify in land row

via Khmer NZ

Tuesday, 24 August 2010 15:01 Chhay Channyda

THREE residents of a disputed block of land in Chamkarmon district were questioned in Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday regarding a complaint filed by a company that has accused them of living on land it has owned since 1991.

Resident Tep Chhun said yesterday that he and two other villagers – Vorn Vun and Ngov Phirum – had been summoned to the court because they refused to move and accept “inadequate” compensation offered to them by Khov Sambath company.

“It was not a fair market price,” he said. “I have lived here for a very long time.”

The trio are part of a group of about 50 families that claim to have lived on a parcel of land in Tonle Bassac commune, known as T85, since the early 1990s. Meanwhile, the Khov Sambath Company claims to have purchased the T85 area in 1991 from the Ministry of Defence.

In a letter sent to City Hall in October last year, Chhay Rithysen, director of the municipal Department of Land Management, requested that T85 and a neighbouring block of land known as T87 be excluded from access to land titles under a national titling plan.

The letter also announced that land in both zones could be purchased from residents by companies at “an agreed price”.

But residents said the company has employed intimidation to coerce them into accepting inadequate compensation.

Chan Bunroth, another resident of T85, said that “summons orders ... are used to intimidate residents into accepting the small price the company offers, so that one-by-one we end up leaving”.

“Our houses are worth at least US$1,500 to $2,000 per square metre,” he said.

Hem Socheat, a lawyer for Khov Sambath Co, said that more than 400 families had sold their land to the company, and that the complaint had been filed to let people know that “the company still stands firm on its compensation offer”.

“We want the court to take legal action. We can offer only about $100 per square metre,” he said, and the holdout families wanted compensation that is “too high”.

Khun Bun Soeun, Khov Sambath Co’s general manager for the T85 area, said in August 2008 that the company was prepared to pay up to $550 per square metre for the land.

Families face bulldozers in Koh Kong

via Khmer NZ

Tuesday, 24 August 2010 15:01 Khouth Sophakchakrya

THIRTY-four families in Koh Kong province appear to be on the verge of eviction after a prominent businessman yesterday moved to destroy villagers’ crops on land claimed by both he and the families.

Perng Jerng, a representative of the families from Sre Ambel district’s Chi Khor Krom commune, said villagers tried to block military police and bulldozers yesterday in an effort to protect 100 hectares of land they claim ownership of.

“The company owner ... ordered 30 workers, including the police and military police, to bulldoze our farm,” she said.

The families, who are all from Prek Chik village, said they were assaulted as they tried to stand up to authorities.

Chhem Chhav said police kicked her and five members of her family to the ground when they tried to block a bulldozer.

“Although we were down on our knees, begging for them to stop bulldozing our cashew and jackfruit farms and our rice fields, they did not accept,” she said.

The families say they have lived on the land since 1980. Last year, however, the Supreme Court ruled that the land belonged to a pair of businessmen, Heng Huy and Sok Hong. The court later divided the land between the two, with most of it going to Heng Huy.

Heng Huy yesterday said he was entitled to clear the land and accused the villagers of trespassing on his property.

“The government provided a 779-hectare economic land concession to my company in 1993 for a sugar plantation, but they came to live illegally on my property,” he said. “Today, we just bulldozed our own land.”

Rights advocates, however, decried yesterday’s action.

“The villagers have been living on this land since 1980,” said Prom Keang, a provincial coordinator for rights group Licadho. He said the families petitioned the provincial court in May in an attempt to find a solution to the dispute.

“This is a serious violation against the court process and the people’s rights. They should have waited for the decision from the court judge first.”

Website to publish assets of senior government officials

Photo by: Pha Lina
Traffic passes the public complaints box outside the Office of Complaints on Corruption at the corner of Monivong and Kampuchea Krom boulevards yesterday.

via Khmer NZ

Tuesday, 24 August 2010 15:01 Vong Sokheng and James O’Toole

THE government’s Anticorruption Unit plans to set up a website to publicise the asset declarations of government officials and other materials related to the Kingdom’s anti-graft strategy, the body’s chairman said yesterday.

Speaking on the sidelines of a symposium hosted in part by anti-graft group Transparency International, ACU head Om Yentieng said the website would help to publicise the government’s fight against corruption.

“We need to find a way to release information to the public, and our website is a bridge to connect with the public and answer questions,” Om Yentieng said. He said he could not afford to wait for donors to help prepare the website, and would instead start one “by myself”.

“I will be spending only a few hundred dollars,” Om Yentieng said. “I am not going to die if I lose support from donors, but I will die if my people are not confident in my work.”

Ran Liao, Tranparency International’s senior programme coordinator for East and Southeast Asia, called the website proposal “encouraging”, though he said that asset declarations needed to analysed to ensure their accuracy.

“In many countries, as a first step, they have an act which encourages government officials to declare their assets and other things, but there’s no monitoring system included,” Liao said.

Transparency International, he said, plans to set up an office in Phnom Penh “soon” to help work more on this issue.

Asset declarations will be compulsory for senior officials under the new Law on Anticorruption, and Om Yentieng said yesterday that the ACU would have the power to seize assets that were not accounted for.

“If you have two houses in your asset declaration during your two-year term, and in the next term you have three or four houses, you will need to explain the financial sources,” he said.

Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Son Chhay said he doubted that this provision would be judiciously enforced by anti-graft officials.

“We just laughed our heads off when we saw the article on the declaration of assets,” he said. “Since these people have been appointed by the Prime Minister, it will be easy for them to search for their opponents.”

Son Chhay allowed, however, that the declaration requirement could be effective if government officials give a full and public accounting of their assets. “We’ve heard so much about how much they earn,” he said. “Everybody really wants to know.”

Prison death: Official fears fatal illness contagious

via Khmer NZ

Tuesday, 24 August 2010 15:01 Tep Nimol

Prison death

ONE inmate has died and four others have become ill at Ratanakkiri provincial prison, a representative of a local rights group said yesterday.

Chhay Thy, a provincial investigator for Adhoc, said 24-year-old prisoner Sok Sarin died on Thursday after suffering severe pains in his stomach and sternum, and that four inmates who shared a room with him have since displayed similar symptoms.

“Sok Sarin died when he got pain in the sternum. The prison guards took him to hospital twice, but he still could not be saved,” he said. “After he died, many other prisoners got similarly sick, and I am concerned that it might be a contagious disease.”

He said that two of the prisoners had been sent to the provincial hospital yesterday, and that two were receiving treatment on the prison grounds.

Hing Sokunthea, superintendent of the provincial hospital, said that Sok Sarin had died in the hospital from “a serious inflammatory lung disease”, and that he did not believe his illness was related to that of the other prisoners.

Ratanakkiri provincial prison chief Ngin Nael could not be reached for comment yesterday.

KRT civil parties plan appeal

Photo by: ECCC
Former Tuol Sleng prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, appears at the tribunal.

via Khmer NZ

Tuesday, 24 August 2010 15:01 Sam Rith

A GROUP of civil party lawyers at the Khmer Rouge tribunal has announced that it will appeal judgments on reparations and admissibility for its clients, becoming the first civil party group to file notice of plans to challenge the court’s rulings on victims.

A notice of appeal against the judgment by civil party group 3 was posted on the court’s website yesterday. Group 3 lawyer Kim Mengkhy said the appeal itself would be filed within 15 days.

“We are appealing because we want the tribunal’s Supreme Court Chamber to accept all civil party complaints,” Kim Mengkhy said. “We also want the court grant compensation to the victims.”

With its judgment last month against former Tuol Sleng prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, the Khmer Rouge tribunal became the first international war crimes court to complete a trial in which victims were given full participation rights. Ninety victims participated as civil parties for the duration of the proceedings, granted the right to attorney and, in some cases, the opportunity to speak before the court.

After months of hearings, however, many civil parties were surprised to learn during the announcement of the verdict that their claims had been rejected. In explaining these rejections, the court’s Trial Chamber said the civil parties in question had not been proved to have suffered directly at prisons administered by Duch, or had “failed to prove close kinship or bonds of affection or dependency” with victims of such prisons.

The claims of 24 civil parties were denied in this fashion, including clients on whose behalf Kim Mengkhy and his colleagues are appealing.

In addition to filing the appeals on admissibility, Kim Mengkhy said his group planned to challenge the judgment on reparations.

The court’s internal rules empower judges to grant “collective and moral” reparations to qualifying civil parties, and as part of last month’s ruling, the Trial Chamber announced that requests to have the names of civil parties printed in the verdict and to have statements of apology made by Duch at trial collected and published had been granted. Other requests, such as calls for a memorial stupa or funds for victims, were rejected because they either lacked specificity or were beyond the scope of possible reparation options available to the court, which cannot grant monetary compensation.

Despite the limited scope for reparations, some observers charged in the aftermath of the verdict that the judges had been unimaginative in crafting awards for civil parties, and urged the court to reconsider the decision. A number of civil party lawyers said following the verdict that they were considering appealing the reparations decision.

“We want to see stupas built with the names of the victims, the conservation of evidence and memorial buildings, further publication of the verdict, and so forth,” Kim Mengkhy said.

Mother accused of sending minor to work

via Khmer NZ

Tuesday, 24 August 2010 15:01 Khuon Leakhena and Chrann Chamroeun

A MOTHER accused of sending her underage daughter to a recruitment training centre has been arrested, along with a man accused of brokering a deal for the girl’s placement, a police official said yesterday.

Police said 43-year-old mother Ly Yan and 28-year-old broker Kao Setha were arrested on Friday after officials at the recruitment firm VC Manpower filed a complaint accusing them of falsifying documents in order to submit Ly Yan’s daughter, 16, to a training programme that would prepare her to work as a domestic aid in Malaysia.

“While the girl was spending her month at the company [for training], the company found out that the girl’s real age was 16,” said Keo Thea, director of the municipal Bureau of Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection.

“And it was learned that the suspects lied about the girl’s real age and background to make her appear to be legally able to work in Malaysia.”

According to a 1994 sub-decree on migrant labour, trainees must be at least 18 years old before being sent to work abroad.

Meas Chanpiseth, deputy prosecutor at the Municipal Court, said yesterday that charges had been laid against both the mother and the broker, but declined to elaborate further.

“We are now working on the case for which we have already laid charges ... but we cannot say what the charges are because the case is now being investigated,” he said.

On August 16, police officials said that the director of a VC Manpower training centre in Sen Sok district evaded arrest and went into hiding after he was accused of mistreating a trainee under his care.

Pol Khemra, deputy director of the Department of Police at the Interior Ministry, said yesterday that police are still on the hunt for the man.

VC Manpower also came under scrutiny last month when a woman fled one of its training centres and said she had been held against her will.

Days later, authorities announced they had found 24 underage girls being trained by the company. The Labour Ministry initially barred the firm from recruiting clients, but absolved it of wrongdoing soon after.

Oum Mean, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Labour, said yesterday that the ministry had held a training session for recruitment companies on Friday.

He said more than 30 representatives from the companies attended the seminar, at which they discussed the laws pertaining to migrant labour and were reminded “to obey the ministry’s regulations and principles related to trainee ages, requirements for training centres and departures to Malaysia”, he said.