Monday, 13 September 2010

Cambodian garment workers hold a strike to demand a raise in their monthly salary

Ath Thorn, president of Coalition of Cambodia Apparel Workers Democratic Union, speaks during a strike at the Chinese-owned Pine Great Cambodia Garment Co. Ltd. in Phnom Penh September 13, 2010. Cambodian labour activist Moeun Tola blames the Gap Inc and other big Western brands for sinking Cambodian workers in low wages. Inspired by labour disputes in China, he is pushing back.Thousands of Cambodian garment workers began a five-day walkout on Monday to demand better wages and benefits, a sign recent labour unrest in China may be spreading to factories elsewhere in Asia that supply the world with low-cost goods. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

A Cambodian garment worker speaks on a loud speaker as she leads a strike in front of a factory on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Monday, Sept. 13, 2010. Hundreds of Cambodian garment workers Monday held a strike to demand their monthly salary raise to US 93 dollars from the current $61. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Workers listen to their leader speak during a strike at the Chinese-owned Pine Great Cambodia Garment Co. Ltd. in Phnom Penh September 13, 2010. Cambodian labour activist Moeun Tola blames the Gap Inc, Nike Inc and other big Western brands for sinking Cambodian workers in low wages. Moeun Tola and thousands of Cambodian garment workers began a five-day walkout on Monday to demand better wages and benefits, a sign recent labour unrest in China may be spreading to factories elsewhere in Asia that supply the world with low-cost goods. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Chhun Vy stands next to her colleague during a strike at the Chinese-owned Pine Great Cambodia Garment Co. Ltd. in Phnom Penh September 13, 2010. Cambodian labour activist Moeun Tola blames the Gap Inc, Nike Inc and other big Western brands for sinking Cambodian workers in low wages. Moeun Tola and thousands of Cambodian garment workers began a five-day walkout on Monday to demand better wages and benefits, a sign recent labour unrest in China may be spreading to factories elsewhere in Asia that supply the world with low-cost goods. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Ean Vichara (R) stands with her colleagues Hun Try (C) and Pov Nub during a strike at the Chinese-owned Pine Great Cambodia Garment Co. Ltd. in Phnom Penh September 13, 2010. Cambodian labour activist Moeun Tola blames the Gap Inc, Nike Inc and other big Western brands for sinking Cambodian workers in low wages. Moeun Tola and thousands of Cambodian garment workers began a five-day walkout on Monday to demand better wages and benefits, a sign recent labour unrest in China may be spreading to factories elsewhere in Asia that supply the world with low-cost goods. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Cambodian garment workers hold a strike to demand a raise in their monthly salary from US $61 to $93, in front of a factory on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Monday, Sept. 13, 2010. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Cambodian garment workers buy watermelons during a strike to demand a raise in their monthly salary from US $61 to $93, in front of a factory on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Monday, Sept. 13, 2010. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Vietnam and Cambodia strengthen defence co-operation

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A delegation from the Vietnamese Ministry of Defence has paid a two day visit to Cambodia to discuss measures to boost bilateral security and defence co-operation.

The delegation led by its Deputy Minister Nguyen Chi Vinh also discussed preparations for the ASEAN Defense Ministerial Meeting with its partners (ADMM+).

During their stay in Cambodia, the delegation held talks with General Neang Phat, Secretary of State of the Cambodian Ministry of Defence on September 13. Mr Phat praised Vietnam’s role as ASEAN president and affirmed that Cambodia will work closely with Vietnam to organise the ADMM+ in Hanoi on October 12.

Lieutenant general Vinh applauded Cambodia’s role at the ADMM+ and said the meeting was a measures to boost security and defence co-operation between the two countries. He also emphasised that ADMM-4 in May, 2010 completed a legal framework for ASEAN to expand security and defence co-operation.

On the same day, Mr Vinh met with Prime Minister Hun Sen and Minister of Defence, General Tea Banh.

Cambodia garment workers begin big strike over pay

Cambodian workers are seen on strike outside a garment factory in Phnom Penh
via CAAI

PHNOM PENH — Tens of thousands of Cambodian garment workers began a week-long strike Monday -- the latest mass walkout by employees in Asia who are demanding a bigger share of the region's economic success.

About 60,000 workers seeking higher wages joined the action at more than 40 factories, out of a total of about 470 across the country, said Ath Thun, president of the Cambodian Labour Confederation.

"We will continue the strike until there is an appropriate negotiation," he told AFP.

From Bangladesh to China, workers in several Asian countries have staged walkouts in recent months as they seek better job conditions.

Cambodia's garment industry -- which produces items for renowned brands including Gap, Benetton, Adidas and Puma -- is a key source of foreign income for the country and employs about 345,000 workers.

The strike follows a deal between the government and industry that set the minimum wage for garment and footwear staff at 61 dollars a month.

Unions say the salary is not enough to cover food, housing and travel expenses, and want a base salary of 93 dollars.

They had hoped more than 80,000 workers would join the walkout. Ath Thun said threats by employers to fire strikers were partly to blame for the lower than expected participation.

Manufacturers have warned that the strike will result in a loss of production and a drop in orders from buyers, harming Cambodia's standing among investors.

"It will badly affect the reputation of the industry because the unions in question do not obey the law," Ken Loo, secretary general of the Garment Manufacturers' Association in Cambodia (GMAC), told AFP last week.

Cambodia, where more than 30 percent of the country's 14 million people live on less than 50 US cents a day, relies on the garment industry as its largest source of income.

The industry was hit hard last year when the global economic crisis saw exports drop to 2.69 billion dollars, from 3.1 billion dollars in 2008.

But during the first seven months of this year, exports increased 13.4 percent to 1.63 billion dollars, according to Ministry of Commerce.

CAMBODIA: Communities fight back against land grabbing

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Monday 13 September 2010

Photo: Rebecca Murray/IRIN
Many Cambodians struggle to keep their land

KOH KONG, 13 September 2010 (IRIN) - Forced evictions and land grabbing are nothing new in Cambodia, according to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), but it is new for communities to fight back.

"If we don't have our land, we cannot live," Yi Kunthear said. In August, she was reportedly beaten unconscious by sugar plantation workers while trying to defend her land. "We will block our land if the company tries to take it again."

Kunthear, 25, grew up on her family's small farm growing rice, cassava and cashew nuts in the rural district of Sre Ambel, Koh Kong Province. But in 2009, the Supreme Court ruled that her family's land, along with that of her 34 neighbours, belonged to Heng Huy, a local businessman.

On 27 August, Sre Ambel villagers blocked the road as Huy's bulldozers rolled in, joined by Kompong Speu provincial farmers also made landless by Senator Ly Yong Phat's giant sugar company purchase.

According to Cambodia's revised 2001 land law, if farmers prove they have worked their land for five years, they are entitled to own it; nevertheless, about 90 percent of the country's 14.5 million inhabitants do not hold title deeds to the land they live and work on, the OHCHR reports.

Village documents show Sre Ambel's farmers have worked the land since the 1980s. However, Huy says he bought the title for the 779ha land concession in 1993.

And while national organizations such as the Community Legal Education Center (CLEC) have defended the landless in court, Sre Ambel's farmers have stepped up their resistance by registering a lawsuit in Koh Kong's provincial court against the Heng Huy Company, along with its UK buyer, Tate & Lyle.

Challenging the EU

Community representatives from sugar-growing provinces - an industry dominated by ruling party member Phat - have challenged the European Union's "Everything But Arms" tax-free policy for Cambodian sugar exports.

They are supported by national human rights watchdog, Licahdo, the grassroots activist Community Peacebuilding Network and land-rights INGO, Bridges Across Borders Cambodia (BABC).

Photo: Rebecca Murray/IRIN
Yi Kunthear was beaten while defending her plot of land

"The EU is effectively subsidizing land grabbing in Cambodia by giving preferential treatment to companies that have produced goods on stolen land," David Pred, BABC executive director, told IRIN. "Large-scale land concessions for sugar production have displaced and impoverished thousands of Cambodian families in three provinces."

Earlier this month, the EU Charge d'Affaires in Cambodia, Rafael Dochao-Moreno, said the EU was gathering information to better understand the policy's impact, although it was not investigating possible human rights violations.

Forced evictions

Recent executive sub-decrees in Cambodia have seen fertile, forested public land reclassified as private state property, explained Chum Narin, CLEC's land and natural resource programme head, who is involved with the Sre Ambel case.

Thousands of families around Phnom Pehn's Boeng Kak Lake will be uprooted to make way for developers, according to the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee (CHRAC), a coalition of over 20 organizations working on this issue.

Some 133,000 people - 10 percent of Phnom Penh's inhabitants - are believed to have been affected by such evictions since 1990, according to a 2009 Licahdo report.

And more than 250,000 people in the 13 provinces where CHRAC works have been hit hard by land grabbing and forced evictions since 2003, it says.

Numerous protesters and petitions have targeted the Prime Minister Hun Sen but to little effect. However, grassroots community networks - from the Koh Kong farmers to the indigenous in Ratanakiri - are beginning to grow.

Dam Chanthy is a local activist from the remote, mineral-rich province of Ratanakiri. She became outraged at the exploitation of the region's indigenous people, especially after she witnessed one company trade a litre of wine for a hectare of land.

Now Chanthy, who has escaped attempts on her life, travels around the province to raise awareness about land law, land prices, and promote health and indigenous culture, mainly through the Highlander Association.

"We believe the best way to effect human rights change here is to support and nurture the development of grassroots Cambodian civil society," says Pred.

"The people's organizations and networks that have emerged in recent years are demanding justice and accountability in increasing numbers. They are going to be a force to be reckoned with."

President arrives in Cambodia

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President Pratibha Patil being welcomed on her arrival at Phnom Penh airport in Cambodia on Monday
Reaffirming India's 'Look East' policy and seeking to enhance ties with ASEAN countries, Indian President Pratibha Patil arrived here Monday on a six-day visit to Cambodia.

Patil was welcomed by Kong Sam Ol, deputy prime minister and minister of the Royal Palace of the Kingdom of Cambodia at the Phnom Penh International Airport.

Tuesday, Patil will be received in Royal Audience by King Norodom Sihamoni at the Royal Palace. She will also receive courtesy calls by Senate President Chea Sim, National Assembly President Heng Samrin and Prime Minister Hun Sen, Xinhua reported citing an official statement.

Patil and Hun Sen will preside over the signing ceremony of two documents, including a Memorandum of Understanding for Cooperation between the National Auditing Authority of Cambodia and the Comptroller and Auditor General of India.

The two leaders will also sign an agreement for Stung Tasal Water Resource Development Project (Phase 2) between Cambodian government and the Export-Import Bank of India.

Besides presiding over a ceremony for Mekong-Ganga Cooperation (MGC) Asian Traditional Textiles Museum, Patil is expected to discuss with officials here topics including anti-terrorism cooperation, foreign investment and infrastructure development projects.

She will encourage the delegation of 40 businessmen accompanying her to take advantage of 'mutually advantageous opportunities'.

Patil is also slated to visit the popular Angkor Wat temples.

Cambodia garment workers strike, seek higher wages

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Reuters - Monday, September 13

By Prak Chan Thul

PHNOM PENH, Sept 13 - Cambodian labour activist Moeun Tola blames the Gap Inc , Nike Inc and other big Western brands for sinking Cambodian workers in low wages. Inspired by labour disputes in China, he is pushing back.

Moeun Tola and thousands of Cambodian garment workers began a five-day walkout on Monday to demand better wages and benefits, a sign recent labour unrest in China may be spreading to factories elsewhere in Asia that supply the world with low-cost goods.

A wave of worker disputes in China, mostly at foreign-owned factories, have raised questions over whether other low-cost Asian manufacturing centres will also see higher wages as their workers become more assertive.

In Bangladesh, thousands of textile workers demanding a rise in wages to $72 a month from $43 clashed with police last month and at least 500 people were injured. In Vietnam, thousands went on strike in April at a Taiwanese-owned shoe factory.

In Cambodia, activists such as Moeun Tola say Gap, Nike, Wal-Mart Stores Inc and other big brands are socially responsible so they should be putting more pressure on Cambodian factories that pay as little as $50 a month.

"Big companies like Nike, Adidas and the Wal-Mart have a code of conduct when putting in orders in Cambodia and can make sure no workers are violated or get poor pay and that they can have contracts that last longer than just a few months," he said.

The Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union, representing about 40,000 workers, expects about 80,000 people to go on strike seeking a $93 monthly wage -- a 50 percent increase from the $61 agreed in July under a four-year pact between the government and several unions.

That was up from a previous monthly wage of $56.

Chheng Chanvy, 25, has camped under a tent for days outside a factory in Phnom Penh to protest monthly wages as low as $50 paid by her Chinese-owned employer, San Lei Fung Garment & Woolen Knitting Factory Ltd. She said workers were no longer paid on a monthly basis, but by the volume they produced.

"We don't get a salary. We are paid by the quantity of work, so we earn around $50 to $90 a month," Chheng Chanvy said. "This is not enough. My family spends almost all of that on water and electricity bills," she said.


Her factory, San Lei Fung, has been singled out by U.S. human rights advocacy group the National Labor Committee as a "sweatshop" that supplies U.S. brands.

San Lei Fung officials were not available for comment.

Although labour costs in Cambodia, Vietnam, Bangladesh and Laos are considerably below those in China, the ripple-effect of higher factory wages could pressure these countries to strengthen infrastructure to stay competitive as alternatives to China.

Peter Brimble, chief economist for Cambodia at the Asian Development Bank, said the strike comes at a difficult time for an industry that shed almost 30,000 jobs in 2009 after a slump in sales to the United States and Europe.

Textiles are Cambodia's third-biggest foreign currency earner, employing an estimated 300,000 of Cambodia's 13.4 million people and sending cash back to impoverished villages where many people live on less than $1 a day.

"It's not the right time," Brimble said of the strike.

But some labour activists say the industry is bouncing back. Cambodian garment exports rose 12 percent in the first half of 2010 from a year earlier, hitting $1.25 billion, according to the Economic Institute of Cambodia, an independent think-tank.

Cambodian workers need at least $71.99 per month to survive, the Cambodia Institute of Development Study said. About $57 goes to basic needs and another $15 for their dependents, it said.

But Ken Loo of the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia said wages were fair and most workers content.

"This is not a complaint by the majority of workers, therefore, it is not a valid complaint," he said. (Additional reporting by Ruma Paul in Dhaka; Writing by Jason Szep)

What is the political legacy of Cambodia's PM Hun Sen?

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September 13, 2010
By Kavi Chongkittavor, The Nation (Thailand)

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen can be very passionate and nostalgic. During the opening speech last week in Phnom Penh during the two-day Asialink Conversation on Cambodia conference (hosted by University of Melbourne and Cambodia's Development and Research Institute), the region's longest reigning leader gave some rare and impromptu comments on his role during the peace process in Cambodia nearly two decades ago. Sitting just behind him at the podium was former Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans, who worked closely with him during the 1990s to secure peace in his country.

Hun Sen recalled those days with candor much to the delight of Evans, the diplomatic corps and younger audience. During the visit to Svay Rieng, he recounted, one of the Australian delegates, Michael Costello, was too tall for a Cambodian bed size so a special bed was prepared for him. The prime minister mentioned and praised Evans four times off the cuff, staying away from the prepared speech, for his tireless efforts in bringing all protagonists in forging the difficult peace agreement As never before seen, Hun Sen was very reflective, wanting to leave a lasting legacy of his governance and contribution to Cambodia.

The once war-torn country has become one of the region's most dynamic economies with gross domestic annual product rising since 1993 from US$2.4 billion to US$10.3 billion in 2008. These are amazing figures for a country that used to struggle for daily survival. He pointed out that the poverty rate has decreased by 50 percent in 1993 to 30 percent in 2007 then to 27.4 percent last year. Other impressive statistics in the same period also include the three-fold increase income per capita from US$229 to US$739. Again, Cambodia is the only least developed country that is a member of the World Trade Organization (October 2004).

In his vision, he sees Cambodia as a major hub of regional development and stability. His triangular strategy of strengthening peace and security, integrating Cambodia into the regional and global community together with economic and social reforms has been well received by economists and international organizations. With Cambodia's participation in various regional cooperation schemes, the country is poised to attract major investments from aboard.

In addition to rich mineral and energy resources, Cambodia also has a unique geostrategic location overseeing one of the busiest sea-lanes of communications in the South China Sea. The country has been pursuing multi-pronged foreign policy in engaging all great powers including China, the U.S. and Russia. Phnom Penh also has adopted a high profile on issues related to international peace and security

For the time being, China has the strongest foothold in Cambodia. After decades of animosity during the Cambodian conflict, China has become the country's biggest development partner, in both civilian and military areas, delivering all-around assistance programs for the country and its 14 million people. Hun Sen was quite open about the role of China. He repeatedly said that China has a special habit of speaking less but doing a lot. He stressed that he could work with the Chinese leaders as China offered more assistance without conditions.

Thousands of Chinese companies have invested and contributed to Cambodia's rapid economic growth in the past five years. China's investment jumped twofold from US$461 million in 2007 to US$930 million in 2009. In the first quarter of this year alone, it reached US$234 million. Bilateral trade over a decade increased seven-fold from US$138 million in 1998 to US$946 million in 2008.

To balance China's growing influence, Cambodia has also intensified cooperation with the U.S., which celebrates the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations this year. While Washington continues to criticize Phnom Penh's dismal human rights and impunity records, it has not stopped the full-swing normalization process with Cambodia and its armed forces. The recent Cambodia-U.S. joint training and exercise in peacekeeping operation was a good case in point. It is part of broader military to military relations that also includes counter-terrorism, defense reform, demining and civil-military operation.

Projecting his international image, Hun Sen highlighted his country's contribution to international peacekeeping and security. The time has come, he pointed out, for Cambodia to give back to the global community for its helping the country to progress and achieve peace. He said that Cambodian troops have been successfully deployed as peacekeepers in Sudan, Chad and the Central African Republic and Chad. Soon, they will also go to Lebanon for the third time.

Phnom Penh-based diplomats saw how Hun Sen has consolidated his leadership and power. “He oversees Cambodia's most prosperous time,” observed one diplomat, “he wants to leave a good legacy for future generations. He wants to be Cambodia's LKY (Lee Kuan Yew).” However, some diplomats pointed out his elder son, Hun Manet (32), a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, is being groomed to become a political leader to fill his father's shoes. During the Asialink conversation on Cambodia, Hun Manet participated actively in the discussion on security issues in the region, in which he showed a good understanding of issues related to regional security and ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations). Recently, he led the Cambodian delegation to the Shangrila Dialogue in Singapore.

With its unique political standing, Cambodia often serves as a tipping point of any ASEAN endeavor — for good or for worse. After all, Cambodia is the freest country among the new members joining ASEAN after 1995 (Vietnam, Laos and Burma). Cambodian media is indeed freer than the majority of ASEAN members. Media-related associations are mushrooming, reflecting dynamic media environment in the country. The government still needs to open up more space for freedom of expression and show restraint in using defamation laws against journalists.

At its choosing, Cambodia can either be a push or pull factor between core and new ASEAN members, depending on issues involved. Last year Phnom Penh's strong objection derailed the Thai proposal appealing for Aung San Suu Kyi's pardon. During the recent ASEAN ministerial meeting in Hanoi, its last minute change of heart hampered the progress of Singapore's proposal of ASEAN plus eight. This reflects Hun Sen's vintage style of diplomacy.

Admittedly, Hun Sen is the most versatile ASEAN leader who knows the organization well. No other leader has invoked the ASEAN charter and principles as frequent as the Cambodian leader, who is not afraid to speak out or criticize the grouping. Its ASEAN membership was delayed for two years due to the domestic political crisis when it was admitted in 1999.

Now Cambodia is looking forward to the ASEAN chair in 2012 immediately after Indonesia's turn next year. Phnom Penh has given a top priority to this event as the next general election is scheduled in 2013, which Hun Sen wants to use as a showcase of his leadership and legacy.

Johnnie Walker Cambodian Open returns for fourth year

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Monday Sep 13th

The fourth staging of the Johnnie Walker Cambodian Open will be held at the Phokeethra Country Club from December 9-12, 2010. Officials announced today that the US$300,000 Asian Tour tournament will continue to serve its multi-pronged objectives to develop the game and also promote tourism in the emerging nation which is world famous for its Angkor Wat temples.
Since its historic inauguration in 2007, several of Cambodia's leading amateur golfers have enjoyed the opportunity of competing alongside Asia's greatest players and the vision is for them to eventually contend and win their national Championship.

Johnnie Walker, who will title sponsor the tournament for the fourth consecutive year, believes its extended commitment will continue to shape the landscape of golf in Cambodia.

"As in the spirit of Johnnie Walker where our "Keep Walking" slogan has inspired many people to follow their dreams through perseverance, passion and commitment, we believe our commitment to the Johnnie Walker Cambodian Open will inspire young Cambodian golfers to shoot for the stars," said Johnnie Walker South East Asia General Manager, Sam Fisher.

"We have enjoyed tremendous success over the first three editions where many great Asian Tour players have graced the fairways of Phokeethra Country Club and we hope their continued presence will inspire the local golfers. It remains our dream that one day, a Cambodian golfer will win the Johnnie Walker Cambodian Open."

American Bryan Saltus claimed a memorable triumph in the first edition in 2007 before Thai legend Thongchai Jaidee produced a popular victory in 2008. Last year, Australian Marcus Both prevailed at Phokeethra.

Asian Tour Executive Chairman Kyi Hla Han expressed his appreciation to Johnnie Walker for its title sponsorship. "Sponsorship is crucial in any sport and the Asian Tour is privileged and honoured that an international brand such as Johnnie Walker continues to support professional golf at the highest level in Asia," said Han.

"Johnnie Walker has for long been a terrific partner of golf around the world and through its continued support of Cambodia's national Open, we are confident of further raising the profile of the game in Cambodia."

Over the years, local amateur golfers including Seng Vanseiha, Kem Sam Rach, Eth Sarath and Nep Savath have enjoyed the experience of competing in the Johnnie Walker Cambodian Open.

Although none have succeeded in making the halfway cut, officials believe it is only a matter of time before they do so.

Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra Golf & Spa Resort & Phokeethra Country Club Managing Director Supachai Verapuchong said: "We remain fully committed to the vision of promoting golf and tourism in Cambodia. It is an honour for our golf club to host this prestigious event for a fourth successive year and we will endeavour to prepare our championship course to its best for the stars of the Asian Tour."

DAP News. Breaking News by Soy Sopheap

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Cambodia Strongly Supports Vietnam for Hosting First Meeting of ASEAN Defense Ministers +8 Partners

Monday, 13 September 2010 09:44 DAP NEWS / VIBOL

CAMBODIA, PHNOM PENH, SEPTEMBER 13, 2010-Cambodia government has fully supported Vietnam to host first ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting plus 8 partners (ADFM) in Hanoi on 11-13 October this year.

Eang Sophallet, assistant to Prime Minister Hun Sen said that Vietnam –Cambodia cooperation has been cooperated broadly and especially defense –defense ministry, and government and government.

Cambodian side asked Vietnamese side to give more support to train human resources for Cambodian troops and both defense ministries will strengthen further bilateral cooperation for mutual benefits,” Eang added.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and Deputy Prime Minister Tea Banh has strongly supported for the Vietnam’s role as ASEAN Chairman to host the first ASEAN Defense Ministers plus other eight partner including Russia , China, The United states, South Korea, Australia , New Zealand, India, and Japan,” said Vi Tien Trong, director of institution of international cooperation and foreign affairs of Vietnam Defense Ministry told reporters in a press conference in Phnom Penh, where accompanied the senior Vietnamese delegation led by Vice minister of defense of Vietnam’s visit.

“We are coming here to seek the support for the meeting and hope Vietnam will do it successfully, and Cambodian side expressed full support for Vietnam, said Trong.

The military cooperation among our ASEAN partners plus other eight countries need to cooperation to strengthen relationship tie to contribute peacekeeping mission, security and anti-terrorism, marine security and humanitarian affairs and disasters,” Trong added.

When asking about the sensitive issues of Spratly Island, and other issues in South China sea, Torng said that Vietnam’s stance so far has depended on existing mechanism of international laws to deal issues. We will not use forces to deal the issues, and use peaceful deal, Trong said.

For Asean region, each country has own problems, and we could deal it alone. So, we need to cooperate with other partners to help to deal them, Trong noted.

Cambodia Strengthens Land Titling to Collect Tax Collection

Monday, 13 September 2010 07:22 DAP NEWS / VIBOL

CAMBODIA, PHNOM PENH, SEPTEMBER 13, 2010-Cambodia in collaboration with Canada on Monday conducted the workshop on land valuation to strengthen land titling to collect the tax revenue of the government.

“Through this workshop, the participants will gain a better understanding of land assessment framework, practice and skills and the differences between appraisal and assessment, Lisa Wishart said in her opening remark of workshop.

“These skills are important to building a strong transparent land administration system in Cambodia. They will be important in the implementation of Cambodia’s new land tax which will bring much needed revenue to the system and help finance the government’s on going operation,” She added.

She continued that they will be important to the sustainability of the land tilting system as once a land tax system is in place there will be a strong incentive to transfer the title should the land be sold. No one wants to pay tax on land they no longer own. A strong land valuation system therefore helps to address and prevent land grabs and conflicts, she added.

Roath Sarin, secretary of state for ministry of urbanization and construction and land management went on that the main pillar of land policy including land titling, urbanization, and land distribution.

“We have clear purpose to strengthen the safety of land , strengthen land market, and also prevent the deal of land conflicts,” he stresses.

Revenue from land tax will do and contribute good governance. We also will soon value land for providing benefits of land sale, land buying and land tax collection of land, and proper compensation for new resettlement under transparency and effectiveness,” He said, adding that thanked government of Canada for their contribution of this process.

Cambodia registered over one million of land titling in the country. Land conflicts occurred when the price of land grow rapidly in the past few past years. Even the gobal economic crisis hit the country but the price of land and real estate downed very low rate.

In Phnom Penh, price of land costs from 1,000 -1500 US dollars per one square meter.

UN-Cambodia Court Meets on Amendment of Internal Rule.

Monday, 13 September 2010 05:57 DAP NEWS / VIBOL

CAMBODIA, PHNOM PENH, SEPTEMBER 13, 2010-The UN-Cambodia court on Monday met at the Cambodiana Hotel for amending the internal rule in a move to strengthen participation from the victims and allow ECCC to work effectively.

Speaking at the five day meeting, president of judge of ECCC Kong Srim said that “the amendment is necessary for ensuring the ability of ECC in dealing with complaints in case 002 because this case participated largely from victims. It also is very complicated and the 4128 victims filed complaints,” He added.

Acting international vice president Judge Motoo Noguchi, continued that The majority of this week will be devoted to discuss to amend internal rules concerning victims s participation and reparation, in particular with a view to making the existing reparation system more meaningful and effective for real and sustainable benefits for victims.

Mooto added that “without such support, the chambers cannot function. It is as simple and stark as that. “The time will not wait for us, he said, adding that the court is mandated to comply with international recognized standards of due process and fair trail rights.

He noted: We met as strangers four years ago, but now I feel we are a solid team which together strives to accomplish our common goal of bringing justice to the people of Cambodia. This case will now move to appeal process before the Supreme Court chamber. The recent judgment of trail chamber on its first case marked an important milestone in the history of ECCC.

As this is the first court at the international or hybrid level with such a mechanism, we are eager to learn from our won past experience and keep improving so that we can remain confident that our procedure are fair and meaningful to the extent possible under various legal and practical constraints.

“I trust that the ECCC’s proceedings will become most balanced and trustworthy with appropriate degree and mode of victims ‘participation depending on the stage and with highest level of continued interest and support from Cambodian people and civil society,” Motoo stresses.

Dim Sovannaron, media official for ECCC told reporters at the meeting that in 2010, we lacked budget of 7.4 million US. In 2011, we are in shortage of 37 million US dollars. The meeting last week, donor will support strongly for the court, he added.

Dim added that Duch did not include in case 002 because Duch already sentenced in case, 001.the case 002 will be processed in first semester of 2011. Case 002 has four top leaders of Khmer rouge including Ieng Sary , deputy prime minister and foreign minister, head of state Khieu Samphan, president of National assembly Nuon Chea, social minister Ieng Thirith all charged with war crimes, and crimes against humanity.

AKP - Agent Kampuchea Press

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Indian President Arrives in Cambodia

Phnom Penh, September 13, 2010 AKP -- President of the Republic of India, Mrs. Pratibha Devisingh Patil arrived here today to begin her week-long state visit, at the invitation of His Majesty Preah Bat Samdech Preah Boromneath Norodom Sihamoni, King of Cambodia.

She was welcomed at Phnom Penh International Airport by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Royal Palace H.E. Kong Sam Ol and many other Cambodian high-ranking officials.

As scheduled, the Indian president will be received in Royal Audience by His Majesty the King at the Royal Palace, said a press release of the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

Besides, Mrs. Pratibha Devisingh Patil will respectively receive courtesy calls by Samdech Akka Moha Thamma Pothisal Chea Sim, President of the Senate, Samdech Akka Moha Ponhea Chakrei Heng Samrin, President of the National Assembly, and Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen, Prime Minister.

During the visit from Sept. 13 to 18, the Indian president and the Cambodian premier will preside over the signing ceremony of two documents including the Memorandum of Understanding for cooperation between the National Audit Authority of Cambodia and the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, and the Agreement for Stung Tasal Water Resources Development Project (Phase 2) between the Royal Government of Cambodia and the Export-Import Bank of India, the press release added. --AKP


Samdech Hun Sen Receives Chinese Construction Company Delegation

Phnom Penh, September 13, 2010 AKP -- Prime Minister Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen received here on Sept. 11 a visiting delegation of China Communication Construction Company led by its Vice Chairman Mr. Chen Feujian.

In the meeting, Mr. Chen told the Cambodian premier of his company’s intention to invest in Cambodia in the fields of infrastructure development and construction and other fields, according to Ieng Sophalet, assistant to Samdech Techo Hun Sen.

Mr. Chen Feujian further said the state-owned China Communication Construction Company is among the 500 leading companies in the world. It has established two branches in Cambodia for 30 years, he said, adding that the company will bring about new technologies to contribute to Cambodia’s development.

In reply, Samdech Techo Hun Sen welcomed the Chinese company’s intention to bring new technologies and the presence of its two branches in Cambodia.

The prime minister also recommended the Chinese company to pay attention in building infrastructure in Cambodia. --AKP

(By CHEA Vannak)


Japan To Consider More Assistance to Cambodia

Phnom Penh, September 13, 2010 AKP -- Japan will consider providing more assistance on human resource development for Cambodian dolphin preservation, Khmer Rouge Tribunal and investment.

The remarks were made known during a meeting here last Friday between Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister in charge of the Office of the Council of Ministers H.E. Sok An and visiting State Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Japan H.E. Osamu Fujimura.

Cambodia has been working hard to preserve the country’s increased dolphins to around 160 as these mammals have been playing a key role in attracting both national and international tourists. Human resource for the preservation of these dolphins remains insufficient.

Regarding the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, which is undergoing financial lacking, Japan is a key donor for the trial – having funded 45 percent of the total funding for its operation so far. More funding and time are further needed in order to ensure a proper completion of the historic trial process.

In terms of the investment to Cambodia, Japan has remained the biggest donor for Cambodia, but its investment is still limited if compared to other countries.

The Japanese side represented by H.E. Osamu Fujimura promised to forward the proposed assistance for his government’s consideration. --AKP

(By MOM Chan Dara Soleil)


Australian Ambassador: Cambodia, a Model Country of Post-War Success

Phnom Penh, September 13, 2010 AKP -- Australian Ambassador to Cambodia Margaret Adamson has said Cambodia would have more progresses in the future as it has obtained remarkable and successful achievements over short period of time.

Ambassador Margaret Adamson, who is going to finish her diplomatic mission in Cambodia by the end of September, was speaking in Phnom Penh last Thursday while meeting with Information Minister H.E. Khieu Kanharith for a leave-taking visit.

She said she was delighted to have fulfilled the diplomatic mission in Cambodia, and thanked the Royal Government of Cambodia as well as the leaders and friends for their close cooperation and assistance that contributed to her successful mission.

The outgoing ambassador shared the same view with Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen, the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia, that “Cambodia is a model country of post-war success.”

She expressed her happiness to see the Australia-Cambodia cooperation progressing day after day in several areas such as agriculture, tourism, investment, and cooperation between the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and the National Radio of Cambodia (RNK).

In reply, Information Minister H.E. Khieu Kanharith thanked the outgoing ambassador for her efforts to accomplish the diplomatic mission and promote the cooperation between the two countries. --AKP

(By Ravuth M.)


IMF: Cambodia To Achieve Economic Growth between 4.5 Pct and 5 Pct in 2010

Phnom Penh, September 13, 2010 AKP -- The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has estimated that Cambodia’s economic growth this year would reach from 4.5 percent to 5 percent in 2010 against only 2 percent in 2009.

At a press conference here last Friday, Mr. Olaf Unteroberdoerster, IMF senior economist to the Asia-Pacific Region, explained IMF’s estimation by the increase in garment export and foreign tourist arrivals in the second trimester of 2010.

However, the construction and investment sectors have not yet returned to normal this year, while the agricultural field, especially rice cultivation, would be affected by the late rain in the current rainy season, he said.

The garment, tourism, construction and investment sectors are the main pillars for Cambodia’s economic growth. This year, the Royal Government of Cambodia has set down strategies to improve the agricultural field, particularly rice growing, since the four above-said fields were hit by the global economic crisis in late 2008 and in 2009.

The prediction of Cambodia’s GDP by IMF is quite similar to what the royal government has forecasted.

According to IMF, Cambodia would achieve a 6-percent or 7-percent economic growth in 2011. --AKP

(By Noeu)


Construction of New Chroy Changvar Bridge To Begin in 2011

Phnom Penh, September 13, 2010 AKP -- The construction of the new Chroy Changvar Bridge, Phnom Penh, is expected to begin next year.

The contract agreement for the construction of the new bridge spanning the Tonle Sap river was signed here on Sept. 11 by Public Works and Transports Minister H.E. Tram Iv Tek and representative of the China Road & Bridge Corporation.

The 719-long and 13.5-wide new Chroy Changvar Bridge will be built in parallel with the actual Chroy Changvar Bridge, also known as the Japanese-Cambodian Friendship Bridge, with a US$27.5 million loan from the Chinese government, said an official of the Cambodian Ministry of Public Works and Transports, indicating that the construction will last 38 months.

Meanwhile, a US$46.25-million agreement on the rehabilitation of the National Road 41 linking National Road 4 in Kampong Speu province and Chum Kiri district of Kampot province, was also signed. --AKP

(By SOKMOM Nimul)


Australian Company Seeks Investment in Agro products

Phnom Penh, September 13, 2010 AKP -- The Australia-based MKK Company is seeking an investment opportunity in rice and banana planting for export in Cambodia, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries’ official said.

The investment project was raised by MKK Chairman Mr. Alastair JM. Walton during the meeting with Cambodian Agriculture Minister H.E. Chan Sarun in Phnom Penh on Sept. 10, said Mr. Hong Narith, cabinet chief of the agriculture minister.

Mr. Alastair JM. Walton told the Cambodian minister that his company has conducted a study on this investment project for two years, he said.

In reply, H.E. Chan Sarun welcomed the project and recommended the company to send more experts to discuss in detail with Cambodian experts.

Earlier on the same day, the agriculture minister also met with outgoing Australian Ambassador to Cambodia Ms. Margaret Adamson.

On the occasion, H.E. Chan Sarun recalled and thanked Australia for its assistance to the development of Cambodia’s agricultural field. --AKP

(By KHAN Sophirom)


PPWSA Wins Stockholm Industry Water Award 2010

Phnom Penh, September 13, 2010 AKP -- World standard water supply and self-dependency of Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority (PPWSA) on Sept. 8 won it the Stockholm Industry Water Award 2010 given by His Majesty of King XVI Gustaf of Sweden.

According to the Internal Award Jury, “The PPWSA has successfully fought corruption and shown this can be achieved in a developing country on a large-scale basis using simple but effective management techniques that are based on well-accepted business principles and strategies.”

PPWSA General Director Ek Sonn Chan who led the delegation for the award at Sweden’s Stockholm city returned to Cambodia three days later with more commitment: “Our authority will expand the water supply with the same price and standard quality to the suburb of Phnom Penh Capital and Kandal provincial town located adjacent to Phnom Penh.”

To date, the Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority provides 24-hour service which is covering 90 percent of approximately 1.3 million dwellers of the capital.

“We continue to reduce water losses due to leakages in pipes and pumps from 5.9 percent now to 4 percent in 2020 which will allow us to achieve the same status as Singapore and Tokyo cities,” said H.E. Ek Sonn Chan upon his arrival at Phnom Penh International Airport, adding that the Capital City of Cambodia is fortunate to be located near the joint of four rivers, namely Upper Mekong, Lower Mekong, Tonle Sap and Bassac – ever-lasting water sources.

Let alone the Stockholm Industry Water Award 2010, PPWSA received two other international awards, one in 2004 and the other one in 2006. --AKP

(By MOM Chan Dara Soleil)

Pure win

Photo by: Uy Nousereimony

via CAAI

Monday, 13 September 2010 15:00 Uy Nousereimony

A representative of the Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority smiles on Saturday next to the Stockholm Industry Water Award, which was given to authority head EK Sonn Chan during a ceremony in Stockholm earlier this month.

Garment strike: the big picture

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
An employee sews at a local garment factory

via CAAI

Sunday, 12 September 2010 15:50 James O'Toole

LABOUR leaders say more than 80,000 of Cambodia’s garment workers plan to take to the streets today for a five-day strike to protest against the country’s newly established minimum wage.

The dispute is one that has played out across the region in recent months. China’s coastal provinces have been hit with a wave of strikes that has made international headlines, and Vietnamese garment factories have seen work stoppages as well.

In Bangladesh, home to the lowest garment-sector wages in the region, an 80 percent increase in the minimum wage was not enough to stave off protests and rioting by workers who say the new minimum – US$43 – remains unacceptably low. In Cambodia, the wage was increased by $5 in July to $61 a month.

Though Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia officials say there is no possibility for a new round of negotiations at this time, the dispute in Cambodia underscores a dilemma facing a number of developing countries that depend on low-cost garment exports: how to keep costs low and competitiveness high while at the same time providing workers with basic livelihoods.

“The win-win situation is to raise both productivity and wages,” said Chikako Oka, a fellow at the London School of Economics who has studied the Cambodian garment sector. “A trickier question is which one comes first and whether one follows the other.”

The wage conundrum

The garment sector has been an engine of the Kingdom’s prodigious economic growth since the 1990s, accounting for 70 percent of Cambodian exports in the first six months of 2010 and up to 90 percent in recent years. As of July, there were 297,000 workers employed in the garment industry and another 48,000 in footwear.

These figures alone do not reflect the industry’s importance to low-income Cambodians – the United Nations estimated last year that 1.6 million Cambodians depend on the garment sector for remittances. The industry was battered by the economic crisis in 2008 and 2009, when the UN estimated that 60,000 jobs were lost.

Tuomo Poutiainen, the International Labour Organisation’s chief technical adviser for its Better Factories Cambodia programme, said the effects of the crisis were still shaping wage negotiations throughout the region. Many workers are agitating for a higher minimum wage in part because of debts incurred as they lost their jobs or overtime hours as orders plunged, he said. In Cambodia, workers have also been hit with high levels of inflation that have dwarfed wage gains.

Since 2006, when the wage was last revised upward, Phnom Penh’s Consumer Price Index has risen 36 percent, including a 51 percent increase in food and beverage prices, according to the National Institute of Statistics.

These figures have led some economists and rights workers to call for more frequent adjustments of the minimum wage, so that increases are felt in real terms. In a 2009 study, Kang Chandararot of the Cambodia Institute of Development Study estimated that the basic monthly needs of garment workers, including an assumed monthly remittance of $15, were roughly $72.

He suggested a proportionate increase in the minimum wage, noting the beneficial effect of remittances on Cambodia’s rural economy. But although the minimum wage has been set at $61, the take-home pay for most workers exceeds this figure. GMAC secretary general Ken Loo said the most recent industry data showed an average monthly wage of $94, as workers benefited from bonuses for attendance, performance and seniority.

“I don’t understand why they are so bent up on this minimum wage issue, because most of the workers, with the exception of very, very few, those that maybe just joined the industry – most of the workers are not drawing minimum,” Loo said.

He estimated that the number of workers earning the minimum pay was below 20 percent, though workers earning above the base level will likely benefit from the minimum wage increase on a pro-rated basis.

Life in the garment industry is undoubtedly arduous, with many workers on the job 10 hours a day over a six-day work week. But in an industry where education levels are low and perhaps 90 percent of workers are women, garment factory wages may be the best option for many; according to the World Bank, Cambodia’s gross national income per capita last year was $650, or about $54 a month.

The fight to compete

Cambodia’s garment industry benefited from trade preferences earlier this decade, but with Vietnam’s accession to the World Trade Organisation in 2007, the removal of trade safeguards on Chinese producers last year and the emergence of the low-cost Bangladeshi industry, the pressure to compete is increasing.

The Kingdom’s producers have struggled in part with the high cost of electricity – more than double that in Vietnam – and the need to import fabric, though worker productivity is also a concern. Productivity measurements vary, but Poutiainen said it is “generally acknowledged that the productivity levels in Cambodia are lower than the neighbours and competitors”.

Despite this, base wages in recent years have remained close to the regional average. Cambodia’s 2007 minimum wage of $50, calculated in terms of Purchasing Power Parity, was $156. This fell below the PPP$204 per month in China, but ahead of Indonesia, Vietnam, India and Bangladesh.

Cambodia has also maintained a good reputation with companies that favour “ethical sourcing”, Oka said, thanks to its favourable record on labour compliance. A 2007 study on the Cambodian garment sector funded by the United States Agency for International Development lauded this record, but noted that a focus only on labour standards “potentially diverts attention from more systemic issues regarding the sustainability of Cambodian garment exports” as regional competition intensifies.

An increased focus on productivity may do more to increase the incomes of the Kingdom’s garment workers than minimum wage increases, said Mona Tep, director of Cambodia’s Garment Industry Productivity Centre.

She suggested an increased use of the performance incentives and bonuses that form a significant percentage of take-home pay for workers in Vietnam and elsewhere. So far, use of these measures has been limited, and more recently, Poutiainen said, anecdotal evidence suggests “a decrease in the application of incentive schemes” as factories look to cut costs.

Another challenge to productivity improvements is the high percentage of foreign factory owners and managers in the Kingdom, researchers say.

The relative lack of Cambodians in management positions may diminish workers’ motivation by dimming their assessments of their prospects for advancement, and cultural and language differences can lead to miscommunications that slow down production.

“Chinese supervisors tend to talk loudly when they interact with workers doing their jobs. However, [this] can lead workers to feel that they are being insulted,” the ILO noted earlier this year. Foreign managers on temporary assignments may also have limited incentive to increase productivity, Mona Tep said. Increased training opportunities for Cambodian managerial candidates could solve this problem and redirect wages paid to foreign workers into Cambodian hands.

Foreigners were 2 percent of the garment sector workforce but 10 percent of the wage bill in 2007, the USAID study said. Training for “value-added” activities that many factories currently don’t perform, including specialised design, printing and embroidery, is another potential source of revenue and productivity increases.

The question of whether minimum wage increases should proceed or follow rising productivity remains open to debate. Kang Chandararot argues that minimum wage gains can lead to greater productivity, generating greater job satisfaction and better health among workers.

Loo said, however, that wages should be dictated by market forces and should come only after productivity gains. The increase in labour costs that will come with the minimum wage bump “may not be ideal for the industry at this point”, he added, with the Kingdom already struggling to compete with low-cost exporters.

The average unit price of Cambodian garment exports to the US in the first five months of this year was nearly double that of Chinese exports. It was slightly greater than the unit costs of Vietnamese and Bangladeshi exports, despite a lack of high-end garments produced here. Debate over the minimum wage is sure to play out further among academics and on the streets of Phnom Penh this week. But in any case, Mona Tep said, this is only one element in the larger challenge of preserving the Cambodian garment sector.

“We need to focus on a bigger picture,” Mona Tep said. “Minimum wage is one thing, but how can we become competitive – that’s the most important question, because if all the factories go away, what’s a minimum wage for?”

The Building put on notice

Photo by: Will Baxter
The Building, home to about 2,500 families in Phnom Penh’s Chamkarmon district, was a hive of activity yesterday. Its residents may soon be given their marching orders, according to city officials.

via CAAI

Sunday, 12 September 2010 20:21 May Titthara and Sebastian Strangio

CITY authorities have warned that residents of the iconic Bassac apartment block in Chamkarmon district could be forced to vacate the building if it is deemed "unsafe" by municipal housing experts.

In a letter dated last Thursday, Governor Kep Chuktema described the 1960s-era apartment complex as "ruined" and said residents might be forced to relocate.

"To avoid danger, City Hall orders all villagers who are living [in the building] to stop repairing the building or adding onto the existing building without permission from expert officials," the letter said.

Residents should also "prepare to leave the building to find a new place to live" once experts made a final announcement about the state of the structure, it said. It did not say when such a decision was expected.

The grime-streaked apartment block, designed in the early 1960s by Russian architect Vladimir Boliansky and then-municipal planning director Lu Ban Hap, is one of the few remaining examples of the Khmer modernist architecture that transformed the capital during the 1960s and early 1970s.

Today, the Bassac structure – better known as The Building – is home to about 2,500 families, many of whom have lived there since moving into the abandoned edifice in the 1980s.

Residents said yesterday that they were concerned about the new announcement from City Hall, fearing a fate similar to that of the adjacent Dey Krahorm community, which was violently evicted by police and construction workers in January, 2009.

"I don’t think that the authorities are thinking much about residents’ safety. What they are thinking is just to give the land to businessmen," said Sem Sinoun, 45, who said she had lived in The Building since 1979.

Ear Kry, a 64-year-old resident of Village 2, which occupies the southern half of the 300-metre-long apartment block, also said she had little doubt about the true meaning of the letter.

"They pretended to issue a letter not allowing villagers to repair their homes because they want it to fall down," she said, alleging that officials had taken bribes from businessmen to ready the building for development. Since Dey Krahorm’s eviction last year, the Bassac apartment complex’s future has remained uncertain.

In the aftermath of the eviction, Srey Sothea, the chairman of developer 7NG, which now owns the site, said the company had its eye on acquiring the Bassac apartment complex, though no plans had yet been put into motion.

Then, in October, Chhay Rithysen, director of the Phnom Penh Department of Land Management, requested that seven areas in Tonle Bassac commune, including The Building, be exempted from systematic land titling.

Yeng Virak, executive director of the Community Legal Education Centre, said he feared residents would be forced out, and that many had a right to titles under the 2001 Land Law.

"I strongly believe that these people have a claim to possession rights over the place," he said. "I don’t think that the building is public. It’s lost that function already."

The authorities’ stated concern about safety was positive, he said, but they should focus on helping the community "rebuild the building" rather than force them to move.

Khat Narith, Tonle Bassac commune chief, said the complex had aged badly, and that residents could not continue to make modifications to the structure.

"I don’t know where City Hall wants to relocate them, if the expert officials announce an emergency," he said. Chhay Rithysen declined to comment yesterday. Neither Governor Kep Chuktema nor his deputy Pa Socheatvong could be reached for comment.

Split decision

via CAAI

Sunday, 12 September 2010 21:28 James O'Toole

CAMBODIAN and foreign judges of the Khmer Rouge tribunal’s Pre-Trial Chamber have issued a rare split decision on the controversial issue of political interference at the court and the question of whether the matter warrants an internal investigation.

In a ruling published on Friday, international judges Rowan Downing and Catherine Marchi-Uhel called such an investigation “imperative... to ensure that the charged persons are provided with a fair trial”. Cambodian judges Prak Kimsan, Ney Thol and Huot Vuthy said, however, that the court's Co-Investigating Judges had been right to conclude that no investigation was necessary.

In the absence of a super-majority of judges, the request for an investigation by lawyers for former Khmer Rouge Foreign Minister Ieng Sary and Brother No 2 Nuon Chea was dismissed.

Michiel Pestman, a lawyer for Nuon Chea, said the decision reinforced “serious” concerns about interference at the court.

“The big question is in the end, when the trial starts, whether the court will be able to deliver a fair trial according to international standards, or whether we’re going to have a trial in the usual Cambodian tradition where the government decides the outcome,” Pestman said.

Per requests from defence teams in the court’s second case, the international Co-Investigating Judge Marcel Lemonde sought testimony last year from King Father Norodom Sihanouk, and six senior members of the Cambodian People’s Party: Senate President Chea Sim, National Assembly President Heng Samrin, Minister of Finance Keat Chhon, Minister of Foreign Affairs Hor Namhong and senators Ouk Bunchhoeun and Sim Ka. Cambodian Co-Investigating Judge You Bunleng did not sign off on the summonses.

A summons issued for Sihanouk in July was returned by Royal Palace Minister Kong Som Ol along with a note that read: “I refuse the receipt of this letter”. A second summons sent to the Royal Palace was also ignored, and Lemonde eventually concluded that securing testimony from the King Father would not be feasible in view of his Royal immunity.

The six CPP officials also ignored their summonses, leading Lemonde to defer to the Trial Chamber the question of whether “coercive” measure were warranted to secure the officials’ testimony.

Friday’s decision focused largely on comments made last October by Information Minister Khieu Kanharith, who said foreign officials at the tribunal could “pack their clothes and return home” if they disagreed with the government’s stated opposition to the summonses for the six ruling party officials. Prime Minister Hun Sen said at the time that he too opposed the summonses, citing concerns about procedural unfairness for the defendants.

Downing and Marchi-Uhel wrote that the context of Khieu Kanharith’s remarks “greatly contributed to the belief that it may amount to an interference or reflect other efforts to prevent the testimony of the six Officials” at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, as the tribunal is formally known. In a rebuke to the Office of the Co-Investigating Judges, Downing and Marchi-Uhel recommended that an investigation of possible political interference be conducted by the Pre-Trial Chamber rather than the Office of the Co-Investigating Judges (OCIJ).

“Although the OCIJ is the natural investigative body within the ECCC, they have repeatedly refused to investigate this matter and may not, in these circumstances be the body most suitable to conduct an investigation into these allegations of interference,” the international judges wrote.

The Cambodian judges said, however, that Khieu Kanharith’s statements “cannot obstruct, prevent, or threaten directly or even indirectly the appearance of the six high-ranking officials before this Court”. The Information Minister, they added, “did not assert that he expressed his opinion in the name of the Government”.

Pestman called the arguments from the Cambodian judges “embarrassing”.

“They came up with ridiculous excuses which are an embarrassment to the court and to the international community that helped set up the court,” Pestman said. “The international community was wrong to accept a majority of Cambodian judges.”

Michael Karnavas, co-lawyer for Ieng Sary, said in an email that the decision “highlights how political the ECCC is and why the accused have legitimate reasons to be concerned”.

Trial monitors have long called for the court to confront the issue of political interference, citing the refusal of government officials to cooperate with Case 002 as well as opposition from Cambodian court officials to pending investigations in Cases 003 and 004. In a report published earlier this month, the Open Society Justice Initiative said political interference should be of “immediate concern” to the United Nations and donor countries.

UN court spokesman Lars Olsen noted that Friday’s decision did not mean that the Pre-Trial Chamber’s international judges had concluded definitively that political interference had taken place.

“They say that in their view, the threshold for where you should do an investigation to find out if there has been political interference has been met,” Olsen said. Defence teams upset by Friday’s decision would have the opportunity to raise the matter again before the Trial Chamber, he added.

Anne Heindel, a legal adviser at the Documentation Centre of Cambodia, said the defence teams would likely take this opportunity, with their arguments ironically gaining traction from the split between the international and Cambodian judges in Friday’s decision.

“They’re going to pound this continuously, and the more the court refuses to deal with this, the more legitimate of a challenge it appears to be,” Heindel said. She noted that obvious interference by Kong Som Ol had been ignored, but added that the court would have difficulty doing a comprehensive investigation of political interference even if it chose to do so.

“This court doesn’t have the capacity to do much about it internally,” Heindel said. “If it comes to a head, it will be the UN that has to get involved and take some action.”

In a separate Pre-Trial Chamber decision published Friday, a request from defence lawyers that the court dismiss You Bunleng due to his alleged lack of independence from the Cambodian government was dismissed.