Monday, 20 September 2010

Pictures of the Day

Russian-made BTR-60 armored personnel carriers arrived in Cambodia

Cambodian soldiers salute during a parade at Brigade Number 70 headquarters in Phnom Penh in 2009. Cambodia is buying dozens of new tanks and other combat vehicles to boost its military, the foreign ministry said Wednesday, as a deadly border dispute with Thailand rumbles on. (AFP/File/Tang Chhin Sothy)

Russian-made BTR-60 armoured personnel carriers (APC) are unloaded from a ship at Preah Sihanouk port, about 230 km (142.9 miles) west of Phnom Penh September 20, 2010. Cambodia has bought 44 APCs and 50 new T55 tanks as part of the country's effort to "strengthen sovereignty" following the tension with Thailand over the World Heritage listed Preah Vihear temple since 2008, the pro-government newspaper Rasmei Kampuchea Daily reported. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

A Russian-made BTR-60 armoured personnel carrier (APC) is unloaded from a ship at Preah Sihanouk port, about 230 km (142.9 miles) west of Phnom Penh September20, 2010. Cambodia has bought 44 APCs and 50 new T55 tanks as part of the country's effort to "strengthen sovereignty" following the tension with Thailand over the World Heritage listed Preah Vihear temple since 2008, the pro-government newspaper Rasmei Kampuchea Daily reported. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Russian-made BTR-60 armoured personnel carriers (APC) are seen on a ship prior being unloaded at Preah Sihanouk port, about 230 km (142.9 miles) west ofPhnom Penh September 20, 2010. Cambodia has bought 44 APCs and 50 new T55 tanks as part of the country's effort to "strengthen sovereignty" following the tension with Thailand over the World Heritage listed Preah Vihear temple since 2008, the pro-government newspaper Rasmei Kampuchea Daily reported. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Russian-made BTR-60 armoured personnel carriers (APC) are seen on a ship prior being unloaded at Preah Sihanouk port, about 230 km (142.9 miles) west ofPhnom Penh September 20, 2010. Cambodia has bought 44 APCs and 50 new T55 tanks as part of the country's effort to "strengthen sovereignty" following the tension with Thailand over the World Heritage listed Preah Vihear temple since 2008, the pro-government newspaper Rasmei Kampuchea Daily reported. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

AKP - Agent Kampuchea Press

via CAAI

Indian President Concludes Visit in Cambodia

Phnom Penh, September 20, 2010 AKP -- President of the Republic of India, Mrs. Pratibha Devisingh Patil, concluded on Saturday her state visit in Cambodia after spending the last three days visiting temples in Siem Reap province.

During her six-day stay in the Kingdom, the Indian president has been received in royal audience by His Majesty Norodom Sihamoni, King of Cambodia, and has held talks with Senate President Samdech Akka Moha Thamma Pothisal Chea Sim, National Assembly President Samdech Akka Moha Ponhea Chakrei Heng Samrin, and Prime Minister Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen.

Mrs. Pratibha Devisingh Patil and Samdech Techo Hun Sen have witnessed the signing ceremony of the US$15-million 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.

Mrs. Pratibha Devisingh Patil is the third foreign high-ranking leaders to visit Cambodia during the past two months. H.E. Nguyen Minh Triet, President of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam had paid a state visit to Cambodia in August, while H.E. Ivan Gasparovic, President of the Slovak Republic in early September. --AKP

(By SOKMOM Nimul)


NA President Leaves for AIPA in Hanoi

Phnom Penh, September 20, 2010 AKP -- National Assembly President Samdech Akka Moha Ponhea Chakrei Heng Samrin left here yesterday for Vietnam to join the 31st ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA) taking place from Sept. 19 to 25 in Hanoi.

According to a press release of the NA General Secretariat, Samdech Heng Samrin and other ASEAN NA presidents will hold official talks with Vietnamese NA President H.E. Nguyen Phu Trong and General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam H.E. Nong Duc Manh.

Samdech Heng Samrin will also receive AIPA Secretary General Antonio Cuenco, the press release said.

As scheduled, the Cambodian delegation led by Samdech Heng Samrin will return home on Sept. 25.

Cambodia will host the 32nd AIPA in 2011. --AKP

(By SOKMOM Nimul)


New Toll Bridge Opens to Traffic

Phnom Penh, September 20, 2010 AKP -- A new toll bridge built over the Tonle Sap River on the northern outskirts of Phnom Penh was formally put into operation this morning under the presidency of Prime Minister Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen.

The newly constructed bridge worth approximately US$43 million connects Phnom Penh with Mok Kampoul district’s Bakheng commune (Kandal province), which was cut and inserted into Phnom Penh city today.

The historic Prek Pnov Bridge is expected to lessen congested national roads 6A and 5.

The Royal Government of Cambodia has granted rights for the construction of the almost-one-kilometer-long bridge to a local company known as LYP Group under BOT agreement – the company builds the bridge and in return they will operate the bridge fee to generate income for a period of time agreed before they will then transfer the ownership of the bridge to the government. --AKP

(By MOM Chan Dara Soleil)


More EU Funding to Boost Cambodia’s Education Sector

Phnom Penh, September 20, 2010 AKP -- The European Union (EU) has funded a three-year project of approximately 31 million Euros (US$40 million) to improve the education sector in Cambodia.

The 2011-2013 funding was made known on Sept. 17 by Mr. Rafael Dochao Moreno, charge d'affaires ad interim of the Delegation of the European Union to Cambodia at the mainstreaming forum on the safety use of land in secondary schools at Sunway Hotel, Phnom Penh.

Minister of Education, Youth and Sports H.E. Im Sethy, who presided over the forum, expressed his thanks and appreciation for EU as a leading support for Cambodian development.

With an aim to improve the living condition and agricultural productivity, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has cooperated with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports in mainstreaming the curriculum on the safety use of land in secondary schools in three northwestern provinces of Siem Reap, Banteay Meanchey and Battambang.

This five-year project is funded by the EU (26 million Euros) and the Royal Government of Cambodia (1 million Euros).

To date, the EU assistance for Cambodia takes forms of infrastructure and communications rehabilitation, agricultural production enhancement, relocation of displaced persons, and land mine clearance. --AKP

(By MOM Chan Dara Soleil)


Japan Provides Trucks and Computers to Cambodia

Phnom Penh, September 20, 2010 AKP -- Japan has provided 21 trucks and 32 sets of computer to 19 municipal and provincial health departments for the human and bird flu emergent prevention project.

Speaking at the handover ceremony held here on Sept. 17, Timothy Johnston, health expert of the World Bank in Cambodia, said at the request of the Royal Government of Cambodia, the World Bank and the Japanese government have decided to provide US$3 million and US$2 million respectively to support the project of management and emergent prevention of bird flu and human flu.

The project, implemented by the National Committee for Disaster Management, is aimed at providing training to medical doctors in operative districts of the 24 provinces and municipality across the country, at supporting the follow-up, research and survey activities, and at providing equipment for the said activities, he said.

The trucks and computers are the second donation from the Japanese government, he added.

For his part, Secretary of State at the Health Ministry H.E. Eng Huot thanked the Royal Government of Japan for its technical and financial support to the development of Cambodia. --AKP

(By LIM Nary)


AusAID Improves Rural Cambodians’ Living Condition

Phnom Penh, September 20, 2010 AKP -- Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID)’s projects through its partners has helped improve the living condition of at least some 120,000 people in rural area.

According to a joint report released last Friday by Australian NGOs which have successfully implemented AusAID-funded projects – ActionAid, ADRA, CARE, IWDA and World Vision, those vulnerable people have been benefited from mine clearance, agriculture and clean water projects.

Ms. Magaret A. Adamson, Australian ambassador to Cambodia, said agricultural development, mine clearance and rural development are the first priorities of the Australian people’s aid program in Cambodia.

H.E. Sao Chivoan, Secretary of State at the Ministry of Rural Development said the Royal Government of Cambodia is committed to continue to work with the development partners, NGOs and private sector to alleviate poverty in the rural areas. --AKP

(By KHAN Sophirom)

Workers Who Make Our Clothes and Shoes—Far, Far Away—Halt Mass Strike

via CAAI

Sunday, September 19, 2010

More than half of the garment workers in Cambodia, where retail goods are manufactured for the West, temporarily ended their mass strike this week after industry officials agreed to more talks with union representatives.

Cambodian garment workers strike against PCCS (photo: Pha Lina, Phnom Penh Post)

On July 27, police in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh used electric shock batons to break up a protest by about 3,000 employees of PCCS Garments, a Malaysian-owned company that produces goods for The Gap, Old Navy, Carter's, Puma, Champion, Cross Creek and Nike, among others.

Garment workers, along with athletic-shoe makers, totaling more than 200,000, have been upset for months, since the minimum wage was increased only by $6 a month, from $55 to $61. A living wage is said to be $91 a month. The new wage, set to take effect in October, would be frozen until 2014.

Labor leaders called off the strike with the hope that new talks beginning on September 27 will lead to workers getting $93 a month in wages.

In 2008, the garment industry accounted for 15% of Cambodia’s gross domestic product and two-thirds of its exports. However, the worldwide recession led to the closing of 95 factories last year and the loss of 70,000 jobs.

- David Wallechinsky, Noel Brinkerhoff

More electricity by 2013

via CAAI

Sep 20, 2010

Electric wires are seen above a cross junction in Phnom Penh. Cambodia's prime minister Hun Sen said that nearly all of the impoverished country's 14 million people will have access to electricity by 2013. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

PHNOM PENH - CAMBODIA'S prime minister said on Monday that nearly all of the impoverished country's 14 million people will have access to electricity by 2013.

By 2009, only about 25 per cent of the population had regular access to electricity, and prices remain among the highest in the world.

'After 2013, the supply of electricity might not be enough for all people, but almost all will have access to electricity,' Prime Minister Hun Sen said while inaugurating a bridge on the outskirts of the capital, Phnom Penh.

He did not say what percentage of Cambodians would have access to electricity by 2013 nor elaborate on how he would achieve the goal.

The Southeast Asian nation's power plants use mostly fossil fuels, and the country also buys electricity from neighboring Vietnam and Thailand.

Hun Sen praised Chinese companies and Cambodian tycoons, saying they have invested hundreds of millions of dollars into coal power plants and hydroelectric dams. The government has identified 21 potential hydroelectric dam sites across the country. -- AP

Cambodia awarded MDG prize for AIDS response excellence

via CAAI

PHNOM PENH, Sept. 20 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia has been presented with a Millennium Development Goals Award for its national leadership, commitment and progress towards achievement of Goal 6 - Combating HIV, malaria and other diseases, a press release from UN Office in Cambodia said on Monday.

Cambodia has been honored within the 'Government' category of the annual Awards initiative, presented at a high-profile event in New York City, the United States, it said.

Cambodia is recognized for efforts on HIV that have contributed to a decline in HIV prevalence from an estimated 2 percent (among adults aged 15-49) in 1998 to a projected 0.7 percent in 2010.

Cambodia has also achieved the universal access target for treatment, with over 90 percent of adults and children in need receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART), due to the expansion of the Continuum of Care program established in 2003. Survival of PLHIV on ART after 12 months is estimated to be 87.4 percent in total (86.7 percent of adults and 93.9 percent of children).

"The Royal Government of Cambodia's response to HIV and AIDS has successfully scaled up HIV prevention, treatment, care and support for people living with HIV in Cambodia and generated benefits at the individual, community and health center level due to a high level of collaboration among all stakeholders, including UN agencies, civil society and development partners," said Teng Kunthy, Secretary General of the Cambodia National AIDS Authority.

Selecting Cambodia for the Award, the MDG Awards Committee was particularly impressed with the Government's successful scale-up of programs grounded in strong national leadership on HIV/AIDS, the solid National Strategic Plan (NSP) and collaborative partnerships, adhering closely to the 'Three Ones' principles one national coordinating body, one national multi-sectoral strategic plan, one single monitoring and evaluation system, the release said.

Innovative prevention programming in Cambodia over the last 10 years has included the introduction of the 100 percent Condom Use Policy which showed successes in preventing new infections. Progress has also led to impacts on the other health-related MDGs of reducing child mortality and improving maternal health.

Successful scale-up of HIV services has contributed to a nearly 50 percent decrease in HIV prevalence among pregnant women at antenatal clinics, and in 2009 more than 32 percent of HIV- infected pregnant women received treatment to reduce the risk of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, an increase from 11.2 percent in 2007.

The nomination of Cambodia for the MDG Award was a joint initiative by the UN system in Cambodia.

"We congratulate Cambodia on receiving the MDG Award. This experience shows if all the ingredients for success are in place that Millennium Development Goals are achievable strong leadership and commitment from the highest level, a sound policy framework backed up by the adequate level of resources and implementation capacity, and coordination and collaboration among all partners," said Douglas Broderick, United Nations Resident Coordinator in Cambodia. "The lessons learned here can be applied to accelerating the progress of those Goals still facing challenges, to ensure their achievement by 2015," he added.

However, "HIV is still a very real challenge in this country, and stigma and discrimination remain high, which creates a barrier to accessing services for prevention, care, support and treatment, " said Douglas Broderick.

Editor: An

Cambodia buys nearly 100 tanks, military trucks from Eastern Europe

via CAAI

September 20, 2010

Cambodia has bought nearly 100 tanks, armored personnel vehicles and other military trucks from Eastern Europe, military and port officials said Monday.

The officials said nearly 100 tanks, armored personnel vehicles, and military trucks were shipped off Sihanoukville Sea Port on Monday and will later be taken to Phnom Penh.

Chhum Socheat, a spokesman for Cambodia's Ministry of National Defense confirmed the arrivals of the military trucks, but refused to give exact number and other details.

However, he said, they were bought from Eastern Europe.

The Sihanoukville Sea Port officials said they saw around 50 tanks, and 40 armored personnel vehicles and a few other military trucks.

They said those military equipment were shipped on a large vessel of about 120 meters long and 17 meters wide.

Sihanoukville Sea Port is located in Sihanoukville Province, a coastal area and is about 230 kilometers southwest of Phnom Penh.

Last week, Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, also confirmed Cambodia is to receive a shipment of 50 tanks and 44 armored personnel carriers from an Eastern European country, but decline to give the details, just saying that the vehicles were to be "used for national defense."

Source: Xinhua

Cambodian PM to urge Obama to cancel "dirty" debt

via CAAI

PHNOM PENH | Mon Sep 20, 2010

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said Monday he would appeal to U.S. President Barack Obama to cancel a "dirty debt" of more than $300 million he said helped fuel civil conflict three decades ago.

Hun Sen, who will meet Obama in New York Wednesday, rejected a U.S. plan to reschedule payments of an estimated $317 million, a debt he said was incurred by a government that came to power in a 1970 coup backed by Washington.

"The debt Cambodia owes the United States from 1970 to 1975 is judged as dirty debt, so please cancel it," Hun Sen said during the opening of a new bridge in Kandal province.

"How can we pay back this dirty debt? Even banks would cancel this," he added.

U.S. agricultural development loans were given to the government of Lon Nol after it came to power in the 1970 putsch. Cambodia and several U.S. congressmen have argued the money was spent on arms, which were ultimately used on its own people.

Lon Nol was toppled in 1975 by the ultra-Maoist Khmer Rouge regime, under which an estimated 1.7 million people died in less than four years, plunging Cambodia into decades of poverty and political instability.

Cambodia has asked the United States to convert the debt into aid, pointing to a 2000 debt-swap arrangement between the United States and Vietnam for educational development. But the United States maintains Cambodia has sufficient funds to repay the loan.

Analysts, however, believe Washington's refusal to make any concessions is more to do with geopolitics, stemming from Cambodia's close political and economic ties with China, its biggest source of aid and investment.

In 2002, China canceled Cambodia's debts from the 1970s and in April it signed investment deals with its closest Southeast Asian ally worth an estimated $850 million.

That deal was agreed during a visit to Phnom Penh by Chinese Vice-President Xi Jinping. Days ahead of his arrival, Cambodia deported a group of asylum-seeking Uighur Muslims back to China, despite U.S. concern they would be persecuted upon their return.

Uighurs are a Turkic-speaking people native to China's far western Xinjiang region where many residents chafe under rule from Beijing and restrictions on their language, culture and religion.

The United States responded by halting shipments of about 200 of its surplus army trucks and trailers to Cambodia and has since suspended military aid.

(Reporting by Prak Chan Thul; Writing by Martin Petty)

Thai, Cambodia Urged To Talk At US-Asean New York Summit

via CAAI

EW YORK, Sept 20 (Bernama) -- Thai and Cambodian leaders should hold bilateral talks for their better understanding on the sidelines of the US-Asean summit to be held in New York on September 24 without the need of a mediator, Surin Pitsuwan, secretary general of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) said.

It is a good opportunity for Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to hold bilateral talks with his Cambodian counterpart Prime Minister Hun Sen to pave the way for solving problems in the future as both leaders have not talked for some time, Thai News Agency (TNA) quoted Dr Surin as saying.

Dr Surin added that both leaders being interviewed by the media could lead to misunderstanding.

"The two leaders will have another opportunity to meet at the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) in Belgium next month," he said. "They should take into consideration the two countries' major problem of unclear border demarcation and that technical measures should be laid out to settle the dispute. Technology (applied) and the (question of the) watershed can be negotiable."

Dr Surin also said that the two neighbouring countries should talk and rely on each other while the framework of Asean (cooperation) supports negotiations but it also depends on the resolve of both sides.

He called on the two countries to first agree on a bilateral level.

The US-Asean meeting in New York reflects the American interest and determination to cooperate with Asean in trade, investment, energy, environment, global warming and worldwide cultural conflicts, Dr Surin said, pointing out that Asean could be a good role model for other countries containing an internal conflict within its own community.

Tensions between Thailand and Cambodia regarding the border dispute flared up after the World Heritage Committee (WHC) registered the ancient Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage site in 2008.

Cambodia attempted to propose a temple management plan to the WHC, but Thailand opposed the move as a problem of the contested 4.6 sq km of land near the temple remains unsolved, leading to several military clashes along the Thai-Cambodian border.


Hands up for children

Photo Courtesy of Save the Children Australia

via CAAI

Monday, 20 September 2010 15:00 Post Staff

Children in Kampong Cham province’s O’Rang Oav district show off their paint-stained hands on Saturday during an event held by Save the Children Australia. As part of the event, which came two days before a global Millennium Development Goal summit was set to kick off in New York, more than 180 children made handprints on clothes and participated in marches to draw attention to the issue of child mortality.

KRT bribery allegation

Photo by: Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia
President of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal Trial Chamber, Nil Nonn, during the closing arguments of case 001 in 2009.

via CAAI

Sunday, 19 September 2010 20:41 James O'Toole

LAWYERS for former Khmer Rouge foreign minister Ieng Sary have filed a motion to disqualify the president of the Trial Chamber at Cambodia’s war crimes tribunal, alleging that he admitted to accepting bribes as head of the Battambang provincial court.

In a filing dated Friday, co-lawyers Ang Udom and Michael Karnavas said the admissions demonstrated that Trial Chamber President Nil Nonn had “compromised and forfeited his judicial integrity”.

“Judge Nil Nonn appears to have publicly admitted to taking bribes,” the lawyers said.

“This is exactly the sort of conduct that prevents a judge from executing his judicial affairs independently and impartially.”

The comments in question appeared in a report by PBS Frontline journalist Amanda Pike, who interviewed Nil Nonn in March of 2002 for a documentary film project.

According to a partial transcript of the interview quoted in the filing, the judge allegedly said he accepted payments from litigants on a regular basis.

“It happens to me as it does to others as well, but it is not through any effort on my part. However, if after a trial people feel grateful to me and give me something, that’s normal, I don’t refuse it,” Nil Nonn is quoted as saying.

“I’ve settled the case for them and people feel grateful. Living conditions these days are difficult for me,” he allegedly added, noting that he earned just $30 per month in salary at the time. “But if you are talking about pressuring people for bribes – no.”

Nil Nonn declined to comment yesterday.

Court spokesman Reach Sambath said he had no information on the filing, but he affirmed that Nil Nonn and other jurists took seriously their responsibilities at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, as the court is formally known.

“All judges and prosecutors at the ECCC have a strong commitment in their jobs and duty there to ensure that justice is delivered for Cambodians who were victims of the Democratic Kampuchea regime,” Reach Sambath said.

In a report released in July, the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights said questions about impartiality dog the Kingdom’s courts. In 199 trials observed as part of a CCHR court monitoring project, judges met privately with lawyers immediately before announcing verdicts in 16 percent of cases.

In 2008, lawyers for former Khmer Rouge Brother No 2 Nuon Chea unsuccessfully sought the disqualification of Pre-Trial Chamber judge Ney Thol, arguing that his involvement in a number of controversial decisions in favour of the ruling party demonstrated a lack of independence.

Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Centre of Cambodia, dismissed the latest defence filing as an attempt to “invite controversy”, saying that the problem of bribery and petty corruption at provincial courts was common knowledge in Cambodia.

“It’s publicly known,” he said.

The court issued indictments last week for Ieng Sary and three other regime figures, charging them with a number of offences including genocide, crimes against humanity and grave breaches of the Geneva conventions.

The case is expected to reach the Trial Chamber in the first half of next year.


$US14 million lost from strikes

Photo by: Uy Nousereimony
Garment workers rally together during a work stoppage at the Grantex factory last week.

via CAAI

Monday, 20 September 2010 00:17 Nguon Sovan

GARMENT worker strikes cost the industry US$14 million last week due to production halts and shipment delays, but lasting damage may have been done to the sector’s reputation, according to the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia.

Losses resulted from the suspension of production, discounts granted to buyers due to delays, expedited shipments by air, as well as damage by strikers, Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) secretary general Ken Loo said yesterday.

Estimating the industry lost $14 million during the strike, he said it had also sent the wrong messages to potential investors and buyers.

“There are future consequences from the strike – it may spoil the reputation of garment manufacturing in Cambodia and buyers may stop orders,” he warned.

Employees from an estimated 30 factories walked off the job from Monday to Thursday in an effort to boost the minimum wage up to $93 a month, according to Ken Loo.

At least 10 factories have filed lawsuits against the striking union to ask for compensation for damages, as well as court recommendations for the workers return to work, and to suspend several of the strike masterminds, he said.

Strike leader Ath Thun, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union, said he had heard about the lawsuits launched by factories, but had not received official court notices.

“Our strike was in compliance with Cambodian law,” he said. “We informed relevant authorities more than two months before the strike – we did nothing wrong.

It was the union’s right to strike as negotiation tool, he said.

“It wasn’t a demonstration or a riot – there were no burning factories – so it has not violated the law so factories should not sue us for compensation.”

While he acknowledged factories had lost business, he noted workers also lost out because they were not paid while they were on strike.

Tuomo Poutiainen, program manager at the International Labour Organisation’s Better Factory-Cambodia, said business had suffered during the strike, but added he could not comment on the damage estimate.

“It’s only GMAC that could estimate the economic losses,” he said yesterday.

He added strikes do happen occasionally and he saw nothing extraordinary or abnormal about last week’s protests.

Terrorism hearing closes

via CAAI

Sunday, 19 September 2010 16:21 Chrann Chamroeun

PHNOM Penh Municipal Court has completed hearings in the case against five men suspected of organising a failed bomb plot last year that targeted the Defence Ministry and the state-run television station TV3.

All five -- who are accused of belonging to the Khmer National Unity Front, an antigovernment group also known as the Tiger Head Movement, -- face jail terms of between 20 and 30 years if convicted under the Law on Antiterrorism.

Judge Din Sivuthy said during a hearing on Friday that the presentation of evidence in the case would conclude following testimony from two witnesses called by the lawyer for one of the accused, Loeuk Bunnhean, a former adviser to the Defence Ministry.

“So today is the last hearing. We don’t need to hear any conclusions made by defence lawyers and the other accused, because we have already heard them,” he said. “We just need the two witnesses for the accused Loeuk Bunnhean to testify.”

Uch Sophal, Loeuk Bunnhean’s lawyer, said his client should be released because the case against him hinged largely on a note he has said was part of a Defence Ministry investigation into a terrorist group, not evidence of his involvement in one.

“My client was not involved in the foolish Som Ek’s Tiger Head Movement,” Uch Sophal said, referring to the movement’s alleged mastermind.

“This note is invalid because my client was reporting to high-level officials about his investigation and research into this group,” Uch Sophal said.

Sem Aknousanak, one of the two witnesses who appeared Friday, said he had written the note in question at the behest of Loeuk Bunnhean, adding that the suspect asked him “to take notes so that he could easily report to his boss about the terrorism group”.

In his concluding statement, however, deputy prosecutor Hing Bunchea called the evidence presented by Uch Sophal “meaningless”, and claimed the prosecution had evidence implicating Loeuk Bunnhean in the Tiger Head Movement’s activities from 2005 to the time of his arrest.

Din Sivuthy denied requests from all five accused to dismiss the cases against them. He said a verdict would be read out on October 1.

Assassins trained in Kingdom?

via CAAI

Sunday, 19 September 2010 23:56 Cheang Sokha and Cameron Wells

CAMBODIAN officials have rejected claims made in a Thai media report that a group of men suspected of involvement in a potential assassination attempt on Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva had been trained in Cambodia.

On Friday, an article in the daily newspaper The Nation quoted Thai metropolitan police commissioner Santhan Chayanont as saying that a group of Cambodian-trained “men in black” were staking out Abhisit’s residence from a nearby condominium.

It also said former deputy permanent secretary of defence Bannawit Kengrien had reported hearing of an assassination plot, and that “a large number of Cambodian warriors of Vietnamese descent, who had undergone military training and were great snipers, had been brought in to do the job”.

“Although I often criticise this government, I must warn the premier about the reports of an assassination plot against him,” Bannawit was quoted as saying. “If he were harmed, the country’s image would be ruined.”

But Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said yesterday there was no official information to back up suggestions that Cambodia was involved in training would-be assassins.

“The Thai government should apprehend the suspects and show evidence,” he said. “Cambodia officially rejects this unruly information.”

He said Thai government officials were in the habit of disseminating baseless claims.

“Cambodia does not really care about disorderly comments made by the Thai officials,” he said.

Tith Sothea, spokesman for the Council of Ministers’ Press and Quick Reaction Unit, also dismissed the report.

“We consider this information absolutely exaggerated,” he said. “This is not the first time that Thailand has tried to fault Cambodia.”

Thai government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said yesterday that the report was purely the product of “media speculation”.

“We haven’t got any details of the origins of these men,” he said.

“The media in Thailand are free to speculate. They do it all the time.”

He said that security measures had increased amid rumours of an assassination plot.

“We are watching the high rises around the prime minister’s compound, because there are many men coming and going [from the buildings] including certain politicians.”

He declined to name the politicians being observed entering the buildings, and said no arrests had been made because the condominiums were private property.

Officials investigate Thai torture claim

via CAAI

Monday, 20 September 2010 00:09 Cheang Sokha

THE Ministry of Foreign Affairs has ordered officials at the Cambodian embassy in Bangkok to investigate reports that a Cambodian migrant worker was tortured to death in a Thai prison.

Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said yesterday that he had received information Khmer-language newspapers that a Cambodian migrant worker who was detained in Thailand’s Rayong province was tortured to death a few months ago.

“I passed on this information to the Cambodian embassy officials in Bangkok to investigate this case on Friday last week,” he said.

“They have received the information and will investigate as we are unsure of whether this information is 100 percent true.”

Dy Phen, chief of the Cambodia-Thailand Border Relations Office in Banteay Meanchey province’s Poipet town, said he had yet to hear about the case, but that he would order border officials to contact Thai authorities for more information.

Spokesmen for the Thai Foreign Ministry could not be reached for comment.

The unconfirmed report of torture would not be the first to have come out of Thailand this year.

In July, Koy Kuong accused Thai officers of torturing San Mony Peth, a 27-year-old Cambodian migrant worker who was detained in a crackdown on Red Shirt protesters in Bangkok in May after being accused of involvement in an arson.

Koy Kuong said at the time that the prisoner “suffered from torture” at the hands of Thai law enforcement officials.

“He suffered from torture before the Cambodian embassy visited him,” he said. “He had wounds on his chin and his chest.”

Koy Kuong said yesterday that San Mony Peth was still in pretrial detention.
“Cambodian embassy officials still visit him with his lawyer,” he said. “He is in good health.”

He said he had not received any further reports from embassy officials of torture inflicted on San Mony Peth.


Police clash with garment workers

Employees leave their work shift yesterday at Lim Lai International garment factory in Russey Keo district.
Photo by: Pha Lina

via CAAI

Sunday, 19 September 2010 23:07 Mom Kunthear and Nguon Sovan

TWELVE garment workers were injured in clashes with police outside factories in Phnom Penh and Kandal province, following the suspension of more than 200 union representatives in response to last week’s large-scale strike, labour leaders said yesterday.

Ath Thun, president of the Cambodian Labour Confederation, said the clashes had occurred as workers gathered on Saturday to protest against the suspension of union representatives by factory owners who had deemed the strike – which involved tens of thousands of workers – illegal.

“There were 12 workers injured on Saturday in the strike, and one woman got seriously injured and was sent to the hospital in Kandal,” Ath Thun said.

The woman who was “seriously injured” was involved in an altercation outside the River Rich Textile Ltd factory in Kandal’s Sa’ang district, he said.

He could not provide specific information on her injuries or those of the other 11 workers, though he said most of them were minor.

Phin Sophea, a union leader at the River Rich factory, said that more than 2,000 workers there had refused to turn up for scheduled shifts on Saturday because about 25 union representatives had been barred from returning.

“The workers threatened their employers that if our 25 union representatives are not allowed to work, we will not work on Monday either,” he said.

Kandal provincial police chief Eav Chamroeun said yesterday that police had been called to the scene during Saturday’s demonstration, and that the step was taken in order to ensure the safety of those who had shown up for work.

He said military police had intervened when demonstrators “stopped the factory owner’s car”.

“The garment workers stopped the factory owner’s car when it tried to drive out from the factory, so then military police officials came to move the strikers out of the way,” he said.

Kong Athit, secretary general of the Cambodian Labour Confederation, said yesterday that the owners of 20 factories had suspended more than 200 union representatives because of their participation in the strike.

He said factory owners had accused the representatives of organising the strike illegally, a charge he dismissed as baseless.

“We informed the relevant institutions about our plans to strike before we held the strike,” he said.

The strike, which was originally set to last for five days, was called off last Thursday after the Ministry of Social Affairs wrote a letter calling for a meeting later this month to discuss potential “benefits” for workers earning the minimum wage.

In July, government and industry representatives approved a minimum wage increase of US$5, bringing the wage to $61, far below what some union leaders had sought.

Police Blotter: 20 Sep 2010

via CAAI

Monday, 20 September 2010 15:00 Sun Narin

Bad speech leads to death by veggie knife
A 55-year-old man was slashed to death in Battambang province’s Bavel district on Thursday, in what police have called an act of “vindictiveness”. Police said the suspect, 49, and the victim were at a dance party, where the victim made a speech that was not to the suspect’s liking. The suspect then grabbed a vegetable knife and slashed the victim three times. Police said the man confessed to the attack, saying that he was angry because the victim always mocked him, and that they had been arguing “for several days”.

Drunken general sent in for questioning
A military official was arrested after firing his gun into the air following a traffic accident in Phnom Penh’s Tuol Kork district on Thursday. Witnesses said the official, a general, was “seriously drunk” when he crashed into another car. He then allegedly fired a shot into the air to threaten the other driver. Police arrested the drunken general and sent him in for questioning.

Taxi driver strangled, stabbed and robbed
A motorbike-taxi driver was found dead in a pool of water in Preah Sihanouk province’s Prey Nob district on Thursday. The family of the 42-year-old victim, who was found with wounds on his neck, said a search was launched after he did not return by nightfall, and that his body was recovered quickly. Police have concluded that the perpetrator strangled the victim and stabbed his neck before robbing him and leaving him in the water.

Neighbour suspected of abusing underage girl
A 40-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of sexually assaulting a 9-year-old girl in Phnom Penh’s Prampi Makara district on Friday. Police said the suspect offered to take the girl, the daughter of his neighbours, to school that day. While driving her to school, the man allegedly groped the girl, who then complained to her mother, who lodged a complaint with police.

Woman jumps off bridge after argument
A 21-year-old woman committed suicide by jumping off a bridge in Kandal province’s Ksach Kandal district after an argument with her mother. The woman allegedly told her mother during the argument that she was running away, and that her relatives shouldn’t try to find her. The mother told police that she assumed her daughter was simply staying with relatives, so she heeded her wishes. The woman’s body was found on Friday.

No deal for SRP chief to return

via CAAI

Monday, 20 September 2010 15:02 Sebastian Strangio

THE head of the Senate has rejected a request from the opposition Sam Rainsy Party that its embattled president be allowed to return to Cambodia under renewed parliamentary immunity.

In a letter, Senate President Chea Sim wrote that the body’s hands were tied due to the Kingdom’s constitutional separation of powers.

“The Senate will not be able to intervene with the government in order to drop the complaints … because the complaints against HE Sam Rainsy are under the jurisdiction of the judiciary, which is separate from the legislative branch and executive branch,” said the letter, addressed to the SRP’s Acting President, Kong Korm.

Chea Sim’s letter, dated Friday, came in response to a request from Kong Korm on September 11, which said the Senate had a “duty” to try to broker a political compromise that would pave the way for Sam Rainsy’s return.

The SRP leader, who is in self-imposed exile in Europe, was sentenced to two years in jail after an incident in October last year in which he helped villagers uproot wooden demarcation poles near the Vietnamese border.

A verdict on two more charges – brought against him after he released maps showing what he claims are Vietnamese territorial encroachments – is set to be handed down at Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Thursday.

Yesterday, Sam Rainsy issued an appeal to “parliamentarians of all countries”, saying that his only crime was an “unyielding denunciation of corruption and human rights abuses” and an “unwavering defence of the people who have elected me as their representative”.

Senate Secretary General Oum Sarith declined to comment yesterday, but Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said that wiping away Sam Rainsy’s charges would set a “bad precedent” for Cambodia, despite the use of such arrangements in the past.

“Sam Rainsy wants to make a wave as a celebrity in the media, but he has to take the time to show that he has principles,” he said.

Hang Chhaya, executive director of the Khmer Institute for Democracy, said that unlike earlier cases, where Sam Rainsy’s spats with the government were resolved through compromises, officials were showing “no real urgency” to broker his return.

“I hope there will be some sign of resolution and Sam Rainsy will be able to come back,” he said. “I hope the issue can be resolved quickly.”


Reforms key for labour relations

via CAAI

Monday, 20 September 2010 15:02 James O'Toole

THOUSANDS of garment workers are to return to work after a coordinated strike to protest the industry’s newly established minimum wage was called off in its fourth day last week.

Investors are breathing easier with the work stoppage at an end, but tension in the industry remains. On Saturday, unionists said police in Phnom Penh and Kandal province broke up demonstrations against the suspension of two dozen union members, injuring 12; the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, meanwhile, says it is pursuing lawsuits against union leaders in relation to the strike.

Organisers said that the work stoppage encompassed more than 200,000 of the sector’s 345,000 workers, though observers said the actual figure was likely closer to GMAC’s estimate of 30,000. In any case, as the sector moves on from the conflict, industry analysts say improvements in Cambodia’s labour-relations framework are needed to minimise disruptions on a similar scale in the future.

“The problem with Cambodia is, it’s great to see the activism and dynamism that occurred this week, but it’s in far too many cases the only action at people’s disposal,” said

David Welsh, country director for the American Centre for International Labour Solidarity.

With 237 unions operating last year in the garment sector alone, collective bargaining is a major challenge. Among the perhaps 340 factories in the garment and footwear industry, only “around 10” comprehensive collective bargaining agreements are in place, according to John Ritchotte, a labour-administration specialist at the International Labour Organisation.

Ritchotte said in an email that Cambodia was “unique” regionally in “allowing unions a relatively high degree of freedom to organise in the garment sector”. Though the presence of unions is not necessarily linked to the frequency of strikes, Ritchotte said, the fractured nature of the Cambodian labour movement presents challenges in negotiations.

An April study by the ILO found that roughly 42 percent of garment workers belonged to unions, with in some cases as many as seven unions operating in the same factory. Managers reported difficulty in accommodating the differing demands of competing unions, and said that they would often “reject all union demands, in order to be viewed as treating unions equally”.

Last week’s strike was organised primarily by the Cambodian Labour Confederation and the National Independent Federation Textile Union of Cambodia; other prominent labour groups, however, such as the Free Trade Union and the Cambodian Union Federation, opposed the work stoppage.

“GMAC is always happy and willing to negotiate with the unions representing the workers, but we need to know who to negotiate with,” GMAC secretary general Ken Loo said.

Many labour leaders have shown little confidence in such negotiations, instead reflexively relying on strikes in the event of a dispute.

The Kingdom’s 1997 Labour Law requires that strikes be declared seven working days in advance, and that parties to the dispute submit to mediation offered in the interim by the Ministry of Labour or the Arbitration Council. According to the Cambodian Federation of Employers and Business Associations, however, all 163 of the strikes recorded in the garment industry in 2008 and 2009 flouted this legislation.

Last week’s strike was announced just three working days in advance, the CLC said.

Employers bear a share of the blame for industrial unrest as well, as they have “tended not to respect” decisions from the Arbitration Council, said Tuomo Poutiainen, chief technical adviser for the ILO’s Better Factories Cambodia programme. Parties that come before the council have the option of choosing non-binding arbitration, which they had done in 90 percent of cases as of last year, according to the World Bank.

One means of addressing these issues may come with the impending passage of the Trade Union Law, which represents a significant expansion of the legal framework surrounding the labour movement. The draft Trade Union Law provides for the designation of a “most representative” union or coalition of unions in a given factory or enterprise with the exclusive right to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement.

Regulations for unions with Most Representative Status were first spelled out in a 2001 prakas and updated in 2008; the expanded procedures for MRS certification and collective bargaining included in the draft law are intended to boost the use of these practices. The law also proposes the transfer of labour-related cases to a Labour Court that has yet to be established.

Ritchotte said there was a “general consensus” among government officials, employers and unions on the efficacy of MRS unions – specifically, unions that can claim 51 percent of workers in a given establishment as members.

“If the MRS union and the employer reach an agreement that includes a ‘no strike’ clause for the duration of the contract, in exchange for binding arbitration at the Arbitration Council, this can make a major contribution to building a culture of good industrial relations in Cambodia,” Ritchotte said.

Welsh noted the “risk” that independent unions could be muscled out of MRS status by those with more powerful backing, but said that as long as the collective bargaining process is monitored and transparent, its prospects are good in the Cambodian garment industry.

“There’s real hope for a win-win situation in the sense that you’re dealing with 400 factories in a relatively homogenous industry,” Welsh said. “It’s really realistic in ways that in China, Vietnam, Bangladesh, it’s much more arduous and much tougher to obtain.”

NGO points to land rights ‘crisis’

Photo by: Will Baxter
Construction workers dig a trench to help drain water from the Boeung Kak lakeside on Saturday.

via CAAI

Monday, 20 September 2010 15:02 Sun Narin

ASEAN’S newly established human rights body should take action to address an epidemic of housing rights violations in countries including Cambodia, the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions said yesterday.

In a statement issued from Kuala Lumpur, where a meeting of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights is set to open today, the Geneva-based group said the body should tackle what it called a “housing rights crisis” in the region.

“Tens of millions of people in Southeast Asia today endure various levels of housing rights violations and insecurity of tenure. Most of them are poor and vulnerable,” Sammy Gamboa, COHRE’s Asia Programme Officer, was quoted as saying.

In a submission to the AIHCR, formed in October 2009, the COHRE said that land and housing rights violations had become “one of the most prevalent forms of human rights violation” in Cambodia.

“Tens of thousands have been dispossessed of their lands, dwellings and properties by powerful economic and political forces identified with the country’s elite and their allies in big business,” the statement said.

Specifically, it pointed to the situation at Phnom Penh’s Boeung Kak lakeside, where, rights groups say, more than 4,000 families will be displaced by a controversial commercial and housing development.

The statement also highlighted cases of land rights violations in the Philippines and Myanmar, and called on AICHR, which is meeting until Friday, to develop and enforce “additional protocols” related to housing rights.

Om Yentieng, chairman of the government-run Cambodian Human Rights Committee, said he did not have time to comment yesterday.

Meanwhile, more than 200 residents of seven villages at the Boeung Kak lakeside held a Buddhist prayer session yesterday in order to curse the development planned for the site.

Ly Mom, the community representative who organised the ceremony, said it was held so people could express their anger towards the developer.

“Only God as a witness can help us. All the authorities are afraid of the company, so they don’t dare solve the problem for the people,” she said. “We would rather die in the house than leave. We will not go anywhere because we live there legally.”

In 2008, Shukaku Inc, which is headed by Cambodian People’s Party Senator Lao Meng Khin, began filling the lake with sand as part of the proposed 133-hectare development.

Phnom Penh deputy governor Nuon Sameth could not be reached for comment yesterday.


KRT amends reparations rules

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Cham Muslims awaiting the sentencing of Kaing Guek Eav watch an earlier court hearing during which Tuol Sleng survivor Bou Meng (on screen) testified against the prison chief, also known as Duch.

via CAAI

Monday, 20 September 2010 15:02 Cheang Sokha

THE KHMER Rouge tribunal has adopted rule changes that will allow for more expansive reparations awards to recognised civil parties.

In a statement on Friday, the court said it recognised that the previous system for reparations awards was “unlikely to yield significant tangible results for Civil Parties”.

The court’s old rules required the cost of reparation awards to be borne by the accused, though as all five Khmer Rouge figures currently held by the court have been deemed indigent, the scope for such awards was extremely limited.

“The Rules and Procedure Committee sought to address these limitations by proposing additional reparations avenues that may instead utilize external resources or third party funding in support of reparations, or otherwise provide more effective forms of redress,” the statement said.

An additional proposal to allow the court to make non-binding recommendations to the Cambodian government was deemed outside the scope of the court’s authority.

As part of July’s judgment against former Tuol Sleng prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, the court’s Trial Chamber granted a pair of reparations requests from civil parties: It printed the names of accepted civil parties in the verdict and pledged to collect and publish all statements of apology made by Duch during the proceedings.

These awards were criticised as unimaginative by civil party lawyers, some of whom have appealed against the court’s decision.

Chum Mey, a prominent civil party and one of the few survivors of Tuol Sleng, said he hoped to see the court grant a common reparations award in its second case.

“We want stupas to be built at a pagoda so that we can hold ceremonies there,” he said.

Foot-and-mouth hits four provinces

Photo by: Sam Rith
A resident of Kampong Chhnang province administers traditional Khmer medicine to a cow infected with foot-and-mouth disease.

via CAAI

Monday, 20 September 2010 15:01 Tep Nimol

FOOT-and-mouth disease is currently affecting cattle in four provinces following outbreaks earlier this month, agriculture officials said yesterday.

Hah Piseth, deputy director of the Ministry of Agriculture’s Department of Animal Health, said the disease was affecting cows in Kampong Cham, Kampong Chhnang, Kandal and Prey Veng provinces. He estimated that the number of cases was roughly the same as last year.

“The ministry has provided medicine to the [provincial] agriculture departments and now the situation has been improving because we have been able to save [some cows] in time,” he said.

Around 50 cows in Kampong Cham died from the disease at the beginning of the month, and around 1,000 others were affected with foot-and-mouth and other diseases, said Mao Bunthoeun, deputy chief of Peam Prothnuos commune, located in Koh Sotin district.

“Two cows that died on Sunday were sent downstream.... We are afraid that this will cause disease to people using the river water,” he said.

Hun Ly, deputy director of the Kampong Chhnang provincial animal health office, said he had ordered his staff to educate villagers about how to treat diseased cattle.

“This virus cannot survive in acid, so we recommend that villagers use sour sauces from lemon or tamarind to clean the mouth and nails of the cows twice a day,” he said. “This will cure the disease.”

But Mao Bunthoeun said farmers would be hampered by the outbreak, warning that it could affect animals needed for the upcoming rice harvest, expected in November.

“Cows that have been cured cannot work for two months, even though farmers will need them,” he said.

Som Sarin, 27, a villager from Rolea Pheaer district in Kampong Chhnang, said that the cost of treating diseased cows was too high, and complained that the animals could only be sold for half their normal value.

“Some villagers have called veterinarians, which costs them 15,000 riels (US$3.55) for each visit, but other people have been going to the forest to search for traditional medicine for their cows,” she said.

Pagoda porn appeal expected

Photo by: Uy Nousereimony
Defrocked monk Neth Kai, 35 (wearing a mask and holding up paper), is led into Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Friday.

via CAAI

Monday, 20 September 2010 15:01 Chrann Chamroeun

A DEFROCKED monk who police say has confessed to filming hundreds of women as they bathed naked at a pagoda in Daun Penh district has been convicted in the first case stemming from the scandal, with judges sentencing him to one year in prison.

Neth Kai, 35, a monk at Srah Chak pagoda, was arrested on June 26 and remanded in custody after being accused of using a mobile phone to secretly record the videos, which were widely distributed.

Four women have filed complaints against him.

Friday’s verdict from Phnom Penh Municipal Court in one of those cases also requires the monk to pay compensation totalling US$9,456 to the victim, as well as a fine of $472.

Both the fine and the one-year term were the maximum allowed under the law.

Chea Hay, Neth Kai’s lawyer, said he believed the verdict was “unacceptable”, and that he would ask the Appeal Court to “slash down” the sentence because of the fact that his client confessed.

Nou Navy, a lawyer for the victim, also expressed disappointment with the sentence, saying that the one-year term “does not repair her reputation and the shame she has felt in society because her naked video has already been sent around via Bluetooth”.