Saturday, 26 April 2008


Caption: Madonna. 2008 Tribeca Film Festival - Premiere of 'I Am Because We Are' at the BMCC Tribeca Performing Centre. New York City, USA - 24.04.08

MADONNA is considering adopting a second child, with Cambodia and the Palestinian territories top of her list of targets.

Despite the furore surrounding her long-drawn-out adoption of Malawian David Banda, the singer insists she has not been put off, and is planning to add to her family with director husband Guy Ritchie.

She still faces an adoption hearing in Malawi next month (May08), 18 months after she took custody of the three year old.

But Madonna says, "I've been visited every six weeks by social workers who come into the house and make sure that you're being a good parent and that David's (Banda) health is thriving."

And (the social workers) ask you all kinds of invasive questions and you have to put up with it and endure it.

"I've been fingerprinted about 20 times and undergone psychological evaluations and I think everybody who goes through adoptions has to do this. I'm not alone. But you know, I would do it again."

In a segment of Madonna's interview with U.S. TV host Ann Curry not aired on the Today Show on Friday (25Apr08), the superstar revealed she is now looking to work in orphanages in other parts of the world - including Cambodia and Palestinian territories.

ECCC cleared of mismanaging funds in independent audit

Friday, April 25, 2008
Nick Fiske

[JURIST] The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) [official website; JURIST news archive] was cleared of financial mismanagement in an independent audit [PDF text; summary, PDF] released Friday. The review was ordered by the ECCC Project Board in hopes that it would quell concerns raised by some foreign donors after the court made a formal request for an additional $114 million [JURIST report] last month that would increase the court's budget from $56.3 million to $170 million and allow it to continue operations until March 2011, past its originally scheduled completion date in 2009. The audit found:

Combating the dual challenges of a past which has left behind a nation still struggling to achieve modern management practices and the daunting task of meeting the expectations of the international community has been an uphill task for the ECCC.

In this critical phase of its operations it was encouraging see that there is a willingness and commitment to meet the expectations of the international community. A great deal of standardization has happened over a very short period which has replaced the ad hoc arrangements that used to be the norm when ECCC commenced its operations. The recent reviews and audits have also helped in highlighting areas of weaknesses which have been improved upon.

Robust HR systems have been developed and implemented to address previous shortcomings, to give effective support to the judicial process and to minimize the risk of questionable HR practices occurring in the future. There is however a degree of hand-holding and capacity building necessary to support ECCC to continue to meet expected international standards. Zero tolerance for non-compliance with HR systems and the Code of Conduct will also support ongoing improvement in the performance of the ECCC.

The ECCC currently has five former Khmer Rouge [JURIST news archive] leaders in custody charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity for their roles in the Communist regime of the 1970s, but to date, no top officials have faced trial. AFP has more.

The Khmer Rouge is generally held responsible for the genocide of an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians [PPU backgrounder] who died between 1975 and 1979. The ECCC was established by a 2001 law [text as amended in 2005, PDF] to investigate and try surviving Khmer Rouge officials. In December 2007, Cambodian students and Buddhist monks held protests [JURIST report] over concerns that the trials were moving too slowly and that many former Khmer Rouge leaders in UN custody could die before facing justice.

Child Labor In Cambodia

25 April 2008

According to the latest estimates, fifty-two percent of children aged seven to fourteen-years, or more than one-million-four hundred thousand Cambodian children work. On average, they spend more than twenty hours a week working, mostly in agriculture.

“Excessive and inappropriate work not only stunts the normal development of individual children, it has significant consequences for society as a whole,” said U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia Joseph Mussomeli. “Children who have to work to support their families rather than attend school," he said, "don’t acquire the knowledge and skills they need to obtain quality employment in the future, contributing to a cycle of poverty in their own families, and holding back economic growth in the entire country,” he said.

Ambassador Mussomeli spoke at ceremonies inaugurating the launch of a new U.S.-funded effort to help Cambodia battle child labor, the Children’s Empowerment through Education Services project. Since 2001, the U.S. government has been working together with the Cambodian government to combat child labor through education. In that year, the U.S. Department of Labor funded the International Labor Organization’s International Program on the Elimination of Child Labor to provide education and other services to children engaged in exploitive labor, or at-risk of doing so.

Since then, the U.S. has continued to support other committed organizations, such as World Education and Winrock International, with a total investment of nearly thirteen million dollars to stop child labor. More than thirty-five thousand Cambodian children have been saved from dangerous and exploitive labor.

The four-million dollar U.S.-funded Children’s Empowerment project will withdraw and prevent more than eight-thousand children in four Cambodian provinces from exploitive labor in agriculture. It will also support schooling for the children and provide income generating activities for their parents.

“The Cambodian government has taken many positive steps to reduce child labor since our partnership began, and we applaud these efforts,” said Ambassador Mussomeli. “We all understand," he said, "the importance of taking care of young people and investing in their development."

Cambodia Country for sale

Almost half of Cambodia has been sold to foreign speculators in the past 18 months - and hundreds of thousands who fled the Khmer Rouge are homeless once more. Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark report

Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark
The Guardian,
Saturday April 26 2008

Sang Run, his hair stiff with sea salt, chugs out into the Gulf of Kompong Som in his weather-beaten turquoise boat, looking for blackling. He scours the shallow, blue water, waiting for a shoal to appear, before skimming his net across the water. He does the same every day, taking his catch to auction on Independence Beach in Cambodia's southern port city of Sihanoukville.
It looks like a scene Sang Run was born into. But 20 years ago the beach was deserted, and he was a schoolteacher in Mondulkiri, a forested province hundreds of miles away in the east of the country. Back then, he could talk all day about palm sugar and betel nuts. He was something of an amateur botanist, but had never seen the sea - nor had any of the group who today gather around his silvery haul flapping in the sand on Independence Beach. Former nurse Srey Pov, who runs a Khmer restaurant along the beach, also came from a province many miles away. She still cannot swim, she says, shrugging. Heads nod around her. Cambodia is a nation that would drown if their boat tipped over; it is also a country whose citizens mostly do not belong to the places where they have ended up.

The Khmer Rouge saw to that, eviscerating the kingdom after coming to power. It was a movement that drew inspiration from Mao's Cultural Revolution, collectivising all the land; but it grew to love terror more than ideology. The ferocity of the regime sent more than 300,000 rushing into exile. At least two million urban Cambodians were route-marched into the paddy fields to near certain death. Worst hit was the Eastern Zone, bordering Vietnam, where Sang Run came from. Its people were derided as "duck's arses with chicken's heads" as the Khmer Rouge grew to mistrust the Vietnamese and accused Mondulkiri people of being disloyal - too sympathetic to their neighbours across the border. Their names were added to those who were to be purged; the catalogue of "crimes" became so long, so general, that anyone could stand accused. The wave of random violence and retribution that scythed through the countryside for three years, eight months and 21 days killed one in five of the population.

Sang Run's family all vanished, but he survived, hiding in the forests, living off what he could pluck and hunt. When the Vietnamese invaded in 1978 - overthrowing the Khmer Rouge a year later - Sang Run found his way, like thousands of others, to Cambodia's 300-mile long shoreline. Stretching between Thailand and Vietnam, the region had been a Khmer Rouge stronghold, controlled by Pol Pot's notorious commander, Ta Mok, who was known as The Butcher. In the 80s, when the fishing shacks and noodle stores went up along the Sihanoukville coast, there was no development plan. There had never been a tradition of thriving fishing communities along the coast - few Cambodians lived there except in the old French colonial towns. The shoreline had been empty - miles of palm-fringed beach front interspersed with the few port towns, including Kep, Sihanoukville and Ream.

Survivors began to build new lives there, learning to love the sea. Some took boats to a nearby archipelago of 22 coral-fringed, uninhabited islands, building up clusters of villages on atolls with names such as Rabbit, Snake and Turtle. Within 10 years, the whole coastline had been patchily settled by newcomers, among them a former farmer, Soch Tith, a stocky man with corncob hands, who was sick every time he got in a boat, but still found his way to faraway Koh Rong, the largest of the islands - 7,800 hectares of jungle. There he cleared small patches to grow fruit.
By 2006, these communities had schools, political representation, and many householders even had papers, stamped by the Sihanoukville governor, Say Hak, which guaranteed them the permanent right to stay under the 2001 Cambodian Land Law. The central government in Phnom Penh had in the 90s designated the entire coast and its islands as State Public Land that could not be bartered or developed.

Then, during the past couple of years, a disturbing wave of rumours swept the coastal communities. Sang Run says that in September 2006 he heard that Snake Island, half a mile out to sea, had been secretly sold to Russians. He did not check. Cambodians ask little from their government; a wariness of authority is a legacy of years of blood-letting under Pol Pot. In any case, it was a familiar story. Shortly after Hun Sen, Cambodia's prime minister, came to power in 1985, frenzied landgrabbing began: influential political allies and wealthy business associates raced to claim land that the Khmer Rouge had seized, gobbling up such large chunks of the cities, forests and paddy fields that Cambodians used to say the rich were eating the country. By 2006, the World Bank estimated that 40,000 had been made homeless in Phnom Penh alone. But, until now, no one had bothered with the coast. Sang Run paid no particular attention to the Snake Island rumour. He should have - it signalled a radical new course for the Cambodian government.

Three months later, Sang Run was out in his boat at 7am when disaster struck his village. He arrived back at 11am to find bulldozers had flattened his home and those of the 229 families who lived beside him. He heard from neighbours that it had happened in an instant. Uniformed men, sent in by governor Say Hak, used electric batons to chase terrified residents from the burning ruins; three of Sang Run's neighbours were knocked unconscious. Village Number One - a mundane name that failed to capture the beauty of its uninterrupted sea views and vegetable gardens that ran to the beach - had been erased. Sang Run heard that a hotel was planned, although no information was given to the people evicted from their homes for a further 18 months.

Nurse-turned-restaurateur Srey Pov tells us that, by early 2007, rumours were buzzing around Sihanoukville's covered market that virtually every island in the region was up for sale. Over the following months, Koh Russei and Koh Ta Kiev, Koh Bong and Koh Ouen, Koh Preus, Koh Krabei and Koh Tres were all snapped up by foreigners, who then started negotiating for mainland sites, too, among them public beaches with names such as Serendipity, Occheuteal and Otres. In February, 47-year-old Srey Pov was evicted, too, her Independence Beach restaurant shut down to make way for another rumoured hotel. "All I've got left is the chairs and tables," she says - they're stacked up in the cramped living room of her Sihanoukville home. Former farmer Soch Tith, on Koh Rong, was the last to hear that last month his island had been sold, too, to a British developer.

What none of these people knew was that the troubled kingdom of Cambodia, a precarious debtor-nation underpinned by more than £500m of hand-outs from the international community, had suddenly found itself a refuge for cash and speculators fleeing paralysed western financial markets. As London and New York, overcome by the US sub-prime crisis, began grinding to a halt last year, many in the City had moved on, transferring liquid assets to the east.

Foreign fund managers had started pitching up in Phnom Penh wearing linen shirts and khaki drip-dry jungle wear, alerted by the country's unexpected boom in tourism that in 2006 had seen one-and-a-half million visitors overcome the west's collective memories of Cambodia's recent past to travel to the temples of Angkor Wat. Enticed also by indicators that suggested the feeble economy was turning a corner, super-rich, predominately British, French and Swiss speculators, fuelled by a high-risk machismo, came hunting for profits of 30% or more. Their interest was land speculation: buying up large sites in developing countries that they would then sit on in the hope that, with the influx of tourists, land values would soar.

Hun Sen and his ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) have, in effect, put the country up for sale. Crucially, they permit investors to form 100% foreign-owned companies in Cambodia that can buy land and real estate outright - or at least on 99-year plus 99-year leases. No other country in the world countenances such a deal. Even in Thailand and Vietnam, where similar land speculation and profiteering are under way, foreigners can be only minority shareholders.
There were other inducements. Many foreign funds - hedge funds, property funds, private equity funds - operating on the outer margins of the financial world thrive on complexity, risk and maximising profit. In Phnom Penh, they found an ideal partner in the prime minister, who has created a unique business environment. Since the mid-90s, Hun Sen and the CPP have declined to enforce money-laundering legislation and have concerned themselves little with the probity of investors. Foreign businessmen were offered nine-year tax holidays, and were allowed to hold their cash in US dollars in banks outside the country.

"Only recently, no one would touch us," Brett Sciaroni, a Phnom Penh-based US lawyer who acts for many new western investors, tells us. "We were dirt. And suddenly we were gold." John Brinsden, a British banker, now vice chairman of Cambodia's national Acleda Bank, agrees: "In 2001, only 200 people came to the government's investment conference. At our most recent, we ran out of chairs."

In July 2007, Hun Sen, gambling on his people's tenuous connection with the land, changed the designation of the southern islands so they could be sold. The forests, lakes, beaches and reefs - and the lives of the thousands of residents - were quietly transferred into the hands of private western developers. Arguing that Cambodia could become a tourist magnet to challenge Thailand, the prime minister began a fire sale of mainland beaches. By March this year, virtually all Cambodia's accessible and sandy coast was in private hands, either Cambodian or foreign. Those who lived or worked there were turfed out - some jailed, others beaten, virtually all denied meaningful compensation. The deals went unannounced; no tenders or plans were ever officially published. All that was known was that more than £1,000m in foreign finance found its way into the country in 2007, a 1,500% increase over the previous four years. It was as if Alistair Darling, the British chancellor, had decided to raise some extra cash by trading the Isles of Wight, Man and the Hebrides, throwing in Formby Sands, the entire Cornish coastline and Brighton seafront - before trousering the proceeds.

It was abundantly clear to observers, including the World Bank and Amnesty International, that by making these private deals, Hun Sen was denying prosperity to most of his people, causing the country's social fabric to unwind like thread from a bobbin. Today, more than 150,000 people are threatened with eviction. Forty-five per cent of the country's entire landmass has been sold off - from the land ringing Angkor Wat to the colonial buildings of Phnom Penh to the south-western islands. Professor Yash Ghai, the UN human rights emissary to Cambodia, warned, "One does not need expertise in human rights to recognise that many policies of the government have... deprived people of their economic resources and means of livelihood, and denied them their dignity." He added, "I believe that the deliberate rejection of the concept of a state governed by the rule of law has been central to the ruling party's hold on power."
It was Hun Sen who, as early as 1989, realised the power of land. Rhodri Williams, a researcher for the Geneva-based Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions, points out that, as Hun Sen privatised the land, "he simultaneously cut off the rights of 360,000 exiled Cambodians, awarding prime slices to political allies and friends." The exiles were Cambodians who had fled the Khmer Rouge into Thailand and beyond in 1975; they had titles to the land, but this counted for nothing when they returned to claim it. Hun Sen said Cambodia should start again.

Although he bathes his speeches in socialist values, even his closest aides told us that Hun Sen was more often than not a pragmatist. He joined the Communist party in the 60s and enlisted in the Khmer Rouge in the 70s, before defecting to the Vietnamese-backed government in the 80s. In the 90s, he embraced the free market. Tourism was not a promising prospect in the early days - the remnants of Khmer Rouge, violently hostile to outsiders, were too much of a risk. When western travellers did begin to explore, they were taking their lives in their hands. In 1994, Briton Mark Slater, Frenchman Jean-Michel Braquet and Australian David Wilson were kidnapped while riding a train through Sihanoukville, and all of them executed. Two years later, Christopher Howes, a British de-mining expert, together with a Cambodian colleague, were murdered as they worked 10 miles north of Angkor Wat.

By 2006, the country seemed safer, and was finally becoming a tourist destination. That September, the CPP received its first foreign offer in the coastal area: a Russian investor living in Phnom Penh wanted to buy an island. This deal would become the template for every developer to come. Alexander Trofimov created a Cambodian shell company to buy Koh Puos, or Snake Island. With cash apparently no object, he proposed to stunned government officials that he would link the island to a mainland beach - known as Hawaii - with a 900-metre suspension bridge. "He also asked to buy Hawaii beach," the official who oversaw that meeting told us. "And we gave it to him." No figures were published. The official claimed he didn't know them.

Locals who used the beach and island were kept in the dark. No one quizzed Trofimov. He produced a book of cut-and-paste designs that he said would encompass a £150m resort consisting of 900 tightly packed villas, a dolphin aquarium, two hotels, a shopping centre and a marina - all crammed into an egg cup-sized island. It was enticing stuff for the CPP, although the project faltered when Trofimov was accused of having sex with underage girls, and jailed this year. However, two more Russian businessmen seamlessly emerged to take up the reins, representing a Cypriot-holding company that, it later transpired, had owned the Koh Puos project from the off.

Arnaud Darc was quick off the mark, too. A quietly spoken and likeable French businessman, Darc had arrived in Cambodia in the 90s, building a hotel and restaurant business in Phnom Penh. In 2006, after hearing from a French colleague working at Sihanoukville's provincial airport that the runway was likely to be extended, he identified two massive beach-front sites totalling more than 220 hectares that he liked the look of. He brought in Jean-Louis Charon, a Parisian real estate tycoon, whose Nexity company is the largest in France, and whose name brought in "40 French high-net worths", as Darc described them; they raised £12.5m to be held by City Star, a foreign-owned investment company. "The maths was easy, and the returns potentially fantastic," Darc said. City Star's land values quadrupled as soon as the Cambodian government confirmed the airport rumours, a spokesman for the Sihanoukville governor's office told us.

The investors could have sold up and come away rich. But this was development with a difference. City Star investors wanted more, but did not want to go to the trouble of constructing anything. They were speculating on the future value of the land, believing that by adding only modest infrastructure, perhaps attaching big-name hoteliers, they would reap vast profits in seven to 10 years. Darc's group continued buying, snapping up 333 hectares on Koh Russei and Koh Ta Kiev, two islands off Ream. Such was the appetite for easy money that City Star raised a further £30m in a matter of days from a second group of French high rollers last July, this time to buy in Phnom Penh.

Darc's model appealed to British investors behind LimeTree Capital, a Hong Kong-based private equity group that in 2007 bought up chunks of beach front near Ream; sites it planned to leave idle for many years until prices peaked. This spring, a third entrepreneur, Frenchman Alain Dupuis, through his Cambodian company LBL International, bought Koh Sramaoch. Soon after, Koh Tonsay, or Rabbit Island, was auctioned off to Chinese investors; 14 fishing families were evicted to make way for a casino and a golf course.

On the mainland, Sang Run returned to the beach to find his village in Sihanoukville destroyed to make way, supposedly, for a hotel. A few hotels have been built, but generally the sites remain empty. The Cambodian economy has grown by more than 24% over 18 months and land values have in some cases risen by more than 100%, so there are fortunes to be made from doing nothing but wait.

Australians Rory and Mel Hunter were the only investors who made an attempt to incorporate into their plans the people whose land they were buying. An advertising executive, Rory had come to Cambodia to work for an agency in Phnom Penh. During a week-long vacation in 2006, he and his wife, Mel, had set out on a diving trip around the Koh Rong archipelago and fell in love with the twin islands of Koh Bong and Koh Ouen, attached to one another by a coral reef and cupped in a shallow strait - they were known collectively as the Sweethearts. "We dreamed of a beautiful resort where people could immerse themselves in a new part of Asia," Mel said. They began negotiations with two village men to buy their houses and those owned by 60 other families. "They thought we were nuts," Rory said. "The two head guys wanted £7,500 each. We agreed and signed the contract in a boat out in the strait. We helped take down their tin shacks, and slowly relocated all the families and their homes to Koh Rong, across the strait." They worked for weeks to clear 20 years of debris, while beginning negotiations with the government to buy the islands themselves.

The Hunters drummed up backing from a handful of British speculators, including a currency broker who (preferring we didn't use his name) tells us why he leapt at the opportunity. "I loved the deal from the start. Let's be honest, who wants 6%? I wanted a deal that would wake me up in the night, sweating. We could make good money," he says over drinks in Phnom Penh, his City suit exchanged for shorts and a T-shirt. "There was a buzz about Cambodia you don't get elsewhere. It's Cambodia, the killing fields and all that stuff. Something different to show your mates back home. I show them the visa in my passport. I have something they don't."

But the Hunters' enterprise would soon be challenged by a cascade of deals involving neighbouring islands. While they worked on retraining local fishermen on neighbouring Koh Rong, British property developer Marty Kaye bought the ground from under their feet. Kaye, who had spent much of his career working on construction in Hong Kong, had spotted the island while planning an £800m luxury tourist development on a nearby Vietnamese island, Phu Quoc. He told us: "I was walking down the beach on Phu Quoc, seeing where we were going to put the golf course, and I spotted another island. No one knew what it was. We looked on Google Earth and it seemed to be Koh Rong, in adjacent Cambodia. I said, 'Let's see if we can get anywhere on Koh Rong, too.'"

Kaye, who runs Millennium property fund, began negotiating. "Here was a chance to buy an undeveloped island almost as long as Hong Kong," he said. "Nowhere else in the world could you create your own kingdom from scratch - unlike the car-crash planning of Thai islands like Koh Samui." The Cambodian government gave him 18 months to produce more details, and he worked on an outline plan whose initial development would cost £100m. When the government signed the deal, it made no mention of the census it had just carried out recording how many thousands of people (the government won't reveal the figures) live on the 7,800-hectare island.
Kaye is not worried: "Two guys and a lawyer will see everyone. But what most of them don't understand is that even if they have papers, they are not worth anything. All of them are registered only locally, not in Phnom Penh, so they will have absolutely no case. Others are just squatters with no papers at all." It helped that Kaye's Cambodian partner was tycoon Kith Meng, a multi-millionaire with interests in banking, mobile phones and real estate - and a close friend of the prime minister, Hun Sen.

"Kith Meng wants everything done yesterday," Kaye said. "We are going to move as fast as we can. It's fantastically exciting, the opportunity to zone the whole island, to see where the luxury exclusive villa plots will be, for the Brad Pitts, etc." It is an investment that gives the present residents of Koh Rong just over a year to make a solid case for keeping their homes or finding new ones.

If they are evicted, places in the area to make a new home are becoming scarce. With all the big islands sold, even smaller outcrops have gone, too, including a clump of rocks known as Nail Island, bought by Ukrainian entrepreneur Nickolai Doroshenko, who has transformed it into a James Bond-style lair, complete with a giant fibre-glass shark that soars over the fortress-like construction. He already owns Victory Beach, in Sihanoukville, a restaurant stuffed with live snakes and a bar that advertises "swimming girls".

The sale of the century continued with the mainland beaches. At the end of January, the Sokha Hotel Group, run by Sok Kong, a Cambodian oligarch and Hun Sen ally, was confirmed as the new owner of the lion's share of Occheuteal Beach, the largest and most popular public dune in the region, which was closed off to make way for a 1,000-room hotel and golf course. The deal was originally negotiated in June 2006 when, local fisherman told us, bulldozers and 10 trucks of armed men demolished 71 homes and 40 local restaurants.

Not wanting to be left out, Say Hak, Sihanoukville's governor, acquired a small island for himself, on which he built a villa and jetty; while Sbaung Sarath, the wife of his deputy, bought half of Sihanoukville's public Independence Beach in February 2008, evicting scores of families in the process. Among them was Srey Pov. She travelled to Phnom Penh with 27 other families to protest, but returned with nothing. "The developer issued a warning," she says. "They threatened to pay the city authorities to get rid of us. We knew what that meant." Independence Beach now languishes behind high fencing, as Srey Pov feared, waiting for the five-star tourists who will enjoy exclusive access to the powder-white sand.

Days later, Sbaung Sarath struck again, securing part of Sihanoukville's Otres Beach, one of the last public dunes, where Queenco, a London-listed casino company, also announced in February that it had bought 56 hectares. Queenco declined to comment on its Sihanoukville project, but it has already had consequences - 100 fishing families have been evicted. They have built a row of makeshift bamboo shacks, held together with plastic sheeting and whatever rubbish they could recycle, along a 200-yard stretch of a nearby main road. On the day we visited, they were drying out from an overnight storm that had filled their ramshackle homes with rainwater.

Aom Heat, 63, used to have a wonderful view over Otres beach and the gulf beyond. She was forced off her land last April. Now all she can see are the hubcaps and exhaust pipes of lorries that tear by. She and many of her neighbours had arrived on Otres Beach after fleeing the Khmer Rouge in the early 80s, building a fishing village they christened Spean Ches, or Burning Bridge. "When the eviction notices were served on us in September 2006, we were determined to fight," she says. She could not bear to lose everything again. "We lodged a complaint with the Senate Committee on Human Rights that ruled it was a matter for the courts." But the Sihanoukville governor's men did not wait for a court order. They turned up at the seaside village in April last year, Aom Heat says, and, "they burned down 26 houses and bulldozed 86 more, destroying all the pots and pans, clothes and food supplies. We were in a blind panic." Thirteen injured men were arrested and jailed, including one of Aom Heat's sons. Although made homeless, they were charged with "wrongful damage of property", and nine of them found guilty without witnesses or evidence produced. Despite having served their time while waiting for the case to be heard, the men were thrown back into jail pending an appeal from the prosecution, who complained they had been dealt with too leniently.

No one can agree what impact the foreign land sales will have on the Cambodian economy because so little information is made public. Although Cambodia is nominally a democracy that has held three general elections to date, and has a nominal opposition party, the CPP parliamentarians and cabinet are remote and dismissive of their people. They are not required to report on their interests or assets, making it impossible to deduce how much Hun Sen and his cabinet have personally benefited - although the World Bank reported last year that corruption, coupled with a lack of transparency, was "choking economic growth".

Since the land sell-offs, members of the government and its allies have been splashing huge sums around. A Korean developer told us that when he marketed Phnom Penh's first skyscraper, the 42-storey Gold Tower project in February, all two dozen £750,000 penthouse suites were bought within 24 hours by "an honour roll of the CPP and its friends in the military". There are other telltale signs, such as the canary yellow Hummers and hi-spec Range Rovers with blacked-out windows that rumble around Phnom Penh, in a country where the average annual income is less than £150.

Simon Taylor, the director of Global Witness, an international NGO that was forced to leave the country last year, having accused the CPP of running a logging racket, paints a depressing picture: "A shadow state has grown up, a government that misappropriates public assets, extorts from businesses and manages an extensive illicit economy. It is administered by senior ministers who are fluent in the jargon of good governance and sustainable development." One of Hun Sen's closest advisers, who requested anonymity, disagrees, telling us: "Hun Sen believes that liberal democracy is unsuited to a country whose skills have been drained and demographics wildly skewed by the Khmer Rouge."

Everything comes down to how much money you have in your pocket, according to Doug Clayton, from Leopard Asia, a fund of Swiss and British bankers that is about to invest £25m in Cambodia. "This kind of money opens any door," he says. How does Clayton pitch the Hun Sen brand back home? "Candidly? In investment circles, no one knows anything about this place. It's off the radar. In our pitch I talk up the new economic figures. I talk up stability." Clayton adds: "When the dust settles, the government here will probably end up looking something like the one in Singapore." There, Lee Kuan Yew served as prime minister from 1959 to 1990. Cambodian pollsters, looking to the general election that will run this July, predict a clear CPP victory, putting Hun Sen at the helm for many more years, too.

What will this mean for people such as Sang Run, who is now surviving in a makeshift home behind Independence Beach? Has the legacy of the Khmer Rouge been purged? Naly Pilorge, director of Licadho, a local human rights NGO, thinks not: "Everyone claims Cambodia has come through the period of barbarism, but the sadism is still bubbling beneath the surface. Extreme violence, greed and disregard for the most basic human rights - of giving people a place to live - are still with us daily. The methods of the past are being used to dictate our future."

UN Insists Tribunal Strengthen Management

By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
25 April 2008

Khmer audio aired April 25 (958KB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired April 25 (958KB) - Listen (MP3)

The UNDP called on Khmer Rouge tribunal administrators Friday to improve some of their operations in order for the courts to continue to meet international standards, but said a recent review had found some improvements.

A UNDP-sponsored review in February made “positive findings,” said Cambodia’s UNDP director, Jo Scheuer, said at a Press conference Friday. “The special review team noted significant improvement in all of these areas and there is no recent allegation of mismanagement in the ECCC.”

But that did not mean the management system of the courts was now perfect, he said.

The independent Open Society Justice Initiative said in 2006 the courts were facing allegations of corruption.

The corruption allegations and previous findings of poor management practices are important because donor countries like the US say the tribunal, known officially as the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, must meet international standards before more money is promised.

“There is a need for continued capacity development support to the ECCC, [so that] systems are further strengthened in order to continue to meet international standards,” Scheuer, said Friday, referring to the tribunal by its official acronym.

“The report also identifies some areas that need to be further strengthened, such as in goal setting and performance evaluation, in the conduct of job interviews, job classification and the definition of appropriate minimum qualifications for recruited positions,” he said.

The tribunal’s administrative director, Sean Visoth, said at the press conference the tribunal was “capable and committed.”

“I am not satisfied with the results of this review,” he said. “But I was always confident to say [the courts were] maybe not perfect, maybe not the best possible, but capable and committed.”

As administrative director, he had never “resisted nor rejected” proposals to address shortcomings in the courts.

“The ECCC has suffered considerable damage, including to the morale of the staff, on this issue, over the past eighteen months, following certain broad-brush allegations that were raised in late 2006 and early 2007,” he said. “These included recruitment of unqualified staff, excessive salaries and supposed kickback by judges and other officials for appointment at the ECCC.”

Cambodian judges have strongly denied they pay kickbacks in order to sit in the courts.

France Adds $1 Million to Tribunal Budget

By Chiep Mony, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
25 April 2008

Khmer audio aired April 25 (928KB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired April 25 (928KB) - Listen (MP3)

The French government has announced it will give $1 million to the Khmer Rouge tribunal, which continues to face a budget shortfall in its attempts to try five jailed former leaders of the regime.

“For France, justice is one of the crucial issues,” said Rama Yade, secretary of state for the French Foreign Affairs Ministry, before concluding a brief visit. “Impunity is shameful.”

Tribunal officials have said they will need as much as $114 million on top of the $56 million budgeted for the courts, if they are to continue proceedings to their conclusion, perhaps as late as 2011.

Tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath said Yade had pledged the $1 million, expected later this year, during meetings with tribunal officials.

“A pledge is encouragement for the Khmer Rouge tribunal, even though only 25 percent of its budget is pledged to support the Cambodian side” of the courts, he said.

The European Commission has contributed about $1.5 million to support the Cambodian side of the hybrid tribunal. The Cambodians have had to take sharp measures to extend their operations in the face of dwindling finances.

In March, Khmer Rouge officials led by chief administrator Sean Visoth met with donor country representatives in New York, to fill them in on the progress of the tribunal.

Donors have been reviewing the proposed extended budget of the tribunal, and following the visit tribunal officials said they were revising their proposed funding needs.

A new budget proposal would be completed by late May, Sean Visoth said Friday.

Khmer Krom Group Requests Visit to Detained Monk

By Heng Reaksmey, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
25 April 2008

Khmer audio aired April 28 (785KB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired April 28 (785KB) - Listen (MP3)

The Khmer Kampuchea Krom Human Rights Organization has requested from the Vietnamese government permission to see a monk that has been detained since May last year.

Tim Sakhorn, who was defrocked by Cambodia’s Buddhist leadership before his detention, for allegedly fomenting unrest between the countries, was reportedly taken from a Takeo province pagoda and transferred to Vietnam.

Vietnamese authorities have said he was arrested for traveling without proper documentation. He is being held in a prison in An Giang province, officials have said.

Ang Chanrith, executive director of the Khmer Krom advocacy group, said he had written a request to the Vietnamese Embassy to check on Tim Sakhorn’s condition, and to bring him some food.

Vietnamese Embassy officials

Sam Rainsy Predicts Leadership Change at Polls

The leader of Cambodia’s longtime opposition party speaks Wednesday. He was the featured guest at a dinner reception in Falls Church, Virginia, just outside Washington D.C. Also pictured is Marong Kuy. (Photo by Stephane Janin)

Audience participation made the appearance a lively and interactive affair. Here, Saunora Prum asks a question. (Photo by Stephane Janin)

Many attendees traveled hundreds of kilometers to meet Sam Rainsy and listen to the former finance minister speak. (Photo by Stephane Janin)

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
25 April 2008

Khmer audio aired April 25 (1.75MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired April 25 (1.75MB) - Listen (MP3)

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy told a gathering of supporters in Virginia Wednesday the Cambodian people were ready to vote for a change in national leadership when elections come in July.

A failure of economic policies would lead to the change, he said, speaking at a dinner conference during a two-week trip to the US to gather support for his party ahead of the election campaign.

“So the people this time will not endure until death, as in the Khmer Rouge regime,” he said. “They truly will resist, and resist peacefully through the vote, to vote out the corrupt group that is making people poorer and poorer.”

Cambodia’s economy has grown at a rate of 9 percent to 10 percent over the last five years, but Prime Minister Hun Sen and his government are now facing inflation that has beleaguered the nation in recent months.

Cambodian People’s Party lawmaker Chiem Yeap said Sam Rainsy’s comments were made only in a bid to gain popularity ahead of the elections.

“We, the ruling party, have tried hard to defend the reputation and protect the confidence of all the people, who vote continually for the CPP to win,” he said. “And we are not concerned about anything at all.”

Sam Rainsy told his supporters in Virginia that Cambodia was facing many issues, including land eviction, land disputes, corruption, the discovery of oil, border demarcation, poverty, unemployment, inflation, deforestation and a decline in the fish harvest.

A Cambodian-American living in Alexandria, Va., Sophal Chhuong, said he supported Sam Rainsy 100 percent.

“What I am concerned with is the election, because there should be close monitoring that will not allow, for example, that I vote for the Sam Rainsy Party but Hun Sen wins,” Sophal Chhuong said.

Keang Vang, another Cambodian-American, who lives in North Carolina, said he spent 10 hours driving to hear Sam Rainsy speak on Wednesday.

He wanted to push Cambodia’s leaders to think about the country, he said.

“Neighboring countries like Vietnam and Thailand are moving well, but not Cambodia, so Cambodian leaders should unify and help rebuild the nation,” he said.

About 34 percent of Cambodia’s 14 million live under the poverty line, with 85 percent of them dependant on agriculture. More than 8 million people are registered to vote in July’s elections.

Sam Rainsy Reacts against Hun Sen’s Speech in Kratie

Posted on 25 April 2008.
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 557

Khieu Kanharith: Sam Rainsy Has Ambitions like Pol Pot

“The Sam Rainsy Party issued a statement on 24 April 2008 condemning Samdech Dekchor Hun Sen’s speech in Kratie of 22 April 2008 as a threat against voters.

“The statement recalls Samdech Prime Minister Hun Sen’s speech, which said that there will be instability if the Cambodian People’s Party [CPP] looses power after the upcoming elections in July. The Sam Rainsy Party considered the speech to be a threat against voters, creating a bleak atmosphere in society.

“Mr. Khieu Kanharith, the spokesperson of the royal government of Cambodia, said that Sam Rainsy has an ambition to divide the people according to stereotypes, while he has not yet power; his present ambitions are not different from Pol Pot’s ambitions.

“Mr. Khieu Kanharith explained that Samdech Prime Minister Hun Sen’s speech in Kratie is just a response to Mr. Sam Rainsy, who tells citizens in different areas of the country that, if he wins the elections, he will take the land and property of the rich and give it to the poor, and he will replace old investors with new ones. These politics of Mr. Sam Rainsy, of removing the grass and its roots, will lead to instability in society if he wins the elections.

“Samdech Prime Minister Hun Sen’s advisor Mr. Om Yentieng said that Sam Rainsy’s statement goes beyond the limit. The speech of Samdech Prime Minister Hun Sen is just describing a strategy that Samdech has seen, and he estimated its consequences.

“Mr. Om Yentieng said that the CPP has never discriminated among the citizens, and the CPP is also the party that liberated the citizens from the brutal genocidal regime.

“Sam Rainsy Party Deputy Secretary-General Ms. Mu Sochua said that the speech of Samdech Hun Sen in Kratie would frighten the voters.

“She said that this serious speech of the head of the royal government is like a war warning.

“She said that if other parties had made that speech, the CPP would have considered them to be agitators.

“The Sam Rainsy Party stated that Prime Minister Mr. Hun Sen’s speech, during an inauguration of buildings in Kratie on 22 April 2008, saying that there will be instability if the CPP looses power after the upcoming elections in July, is a threat to voters, and it is also creating a bleak atmosphere in society; it contradicts the obligation and duty of the royal government to guarantee calmness in order to promote the political rights of voters before the election day.

“Mr. Khieu Kanharith said that Sam Rainsy’s thought is that anyone who is not at his side will become his flesh-and-blood opponent. He divides people into stereotypes – those who support him are good, but those who do not support him are enemies.

“Mr. Khieu Kanharith added that if Mr. Sam Rainsy is elected to lead the royal government, and then he starts to confiscate the property of the rich for the poor, or to remove old investors and replace them with new ones, there will be chaos in society.

“Citizens who are rich are because of their hard work with their business. Therefore, if Sam Rainsy has the ambition to take their property for others, will they agree? Disagreement would lead to turmoil or to other reactions.

“Mr. Khieu Kanharith stated that the CPP is a party that has led the government of the country since when the citizens had nothing, until they became richer and live with stability and peace in the country.

“Thus, what Mr. Sam Rainsy has mentioned, is just a step toward a dream situation which is very far to reach.”

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.7, #1624, 25.4.2008

Poverty, user fees and ability to pay for health care for children with suspected dengue in rural Cambodia

7thSpace Interactive

User fees were introduced in public health facilities in Cambodia in 1997 in order to inject funds into the health system to enhance the quality of services. Because of inadequate health insurance, a social safety net scheme was introduced to ensure that all people were able to attend the health facilities.

However, continuing high rates of hospitalization and mortality from dengue fever among infants and children reflect the difficulties that women continue to face in finding sufficient cash in cases of medical emergency, resulting in delays in diagnosis and treatment. In this article, drawing on in-depth interviews conducted with mothers of children infected with dengue in eastern Cambodia, we illustrate the profound economic consequences for households when a child is ill.

The direct costs for health care and medical services, and added indirect costs, deterred poor women from presenting with sick children. Those who eventually sought care often had to finance health spending through out-of-pocket payments and loans, or sold property, goods or labour to meet the costs.

Costs were often catastrophic, exacerbating the extreme poverty of those least able to afford it.

Author: Sokrin Khun and Lenore MandersonCredits/Source: International Journal for Equity in Health 2008

Suu Kyi party says Myanmar junta trying to force 'Yes' vote

YANGON (AFP) — Aung San Suu Kyi's pro-democracy party said Friday that Myanmar's ruling generals were doing everything in their power to force a 'Yes' vote at a referendum on their proposed constitution next month.

The junta says approval of the charter in the May 10 vote will usher in multiparty elections in 2010, but pro-democracy activists say it simply entrenches the role of the military which has ruled since 1962.

In a detailed statement attacking the charter and the process by which the generals are trying to get it approved, the National League for Democracy (NLD) said the vote would fall well below international standards.

"The authorities are trying every way to make this referendum not free and fair," said a statement from the NLD, which is headed by detained Nobel peace prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

"For the people who have the right to vote, we would like to encourage again all voters to go to the polling booths and make an 'X' ('No') mark without fear."

The NLD and other pro-democracy groups in Myanmar have already publicly called on people to vote "No" on May 10.

The NLD said Friday that the polling process was open to vote fraud, citing a lack of transparency in the ballot count and the lack of a provision holding vote officials to account for any wrongdoing.

It said full details of the constitution were not given on state TV and press, people did not have enough time to study the 194-page law -- which was only released on April 9 -- and it had not been widely distributed.

France said Friday it hoped the referendum would be held under clear and transparent conditions.

"It is good that there is an election" but "it should be held under transparent, clear and democratic conditions," Human Rights Minister Rama Yade said during a visit to Cambodia.

While the junta's English-language newspaper the New Light of Myanmar extols the charter in bold headlines, the NLD said its organisers had been harassed, arrested and interrogated while trying to campaign against the constitution.

"From studying it, the referendum law and related procedures, we found there is no freedom and justice from the beginning," it said.

The proposed constitution reserves one quarter of seats in both chambers of parliament for military members, while some key ministries including home affairs would also be controlled exclusively by the army.

Aung San Suu Kyi would be barred from running for president under the new constitution because she was married to a foreigner.

While the constitution needs a simple majority to be approved, amendments must be approved by 75 percent of parliament, making it difficult for civilian lawmakers to pass amendments without military support.

The referendum will be the first balloting in Myanmar since 1990, when Aung San Suu Kyi led the NLD to a landslide victory that was never recognised by the junta.

She has spent 12 of the past 18 years under house arrest or in prison.

Khmer Rouge trial will be bankrupt by September, officials say

25th April 2008
by Mohit Joshi

Phnom Penh - The tribunal set up to try surviving leaders of Cambodia's disastrous Khmer Rouge reign will be bankrupt by September without a new cash injection, officials said Friday.

Up to 2 million Cambodians perished under the 1975-79 regime and victims have waited nearly 30 years for justice up to an international standard, but although five former leaders have been arrested by the court, hearings are yet to commence.

Originally budgeted at 56 million dollars, UN and Cambodian representatives of the joint UN-Cambodia tribunal told a press conference Friday that it needed at least 117 million dollars more to continue past September.

"We hope and believe the international community will help," government tribunal coordinator Sean Visoth said at a Friday press conference.

It was unclear what would happen to the elderly defendants currently in jail awaiting trial if the money does not appear, but they also face civil cases over their alleged crimes.

Due a post-war baby boom, most Cambodians were born after the Khmer Rouge era and allegations of graft, corruption and money problems within the court have shaken local confidence in the legal proceedings.

Due to Cold War politics, the United Nations recognized many of the five currently detained as legitimate leaders of the country until the end of the 1980s rather than the Vietnamese-backed government which overthrew them, further undermining local confidence in the process in some quarters.

Vietnam and Cambodia make pledges on traditional ties

The NhanDan
April 26, 2008

President of the Vietnam Fatherland Front (VFF) Huynh Dam had a series of high level meetings with Cambodian dignitaries on April 24 as part of his four-day visit to Phnom Penh.
The most notable meeting was with King Norodom Sihamoni.

Dam also paid courtesy visits to President of the Senate and President of the People’s Party Chea Sim, Prime Minister Hunsen and Head of the Cambodian Buddhist Sangha, Great Most Venerable Tepvong.

During the meetings, King Sihamoni and Cambodian leaders expressed gratitude to Vietnam for its assistance in overthrowing the Khmer Rouge genocidal regime in the past as well as the current national reconstruction.

The hosts also expressed their desire to facilitate ties between the United Front for Construction and Development of Cambodia (UFCDK) and the Vietnam Fatherland Front.

All parties agreed joint efforts should be made to encourage people from the two countries to strengthen cooperation and promote traditional solidarity in the interest of the two nations and for peace and stability in the region and the world.

VFF President Huynh Dam thanked the King and other Cambodian dignitaries for the Cambodian people’s support in Vietnam’s struggle for national liberation and reunification as well as the current national construction and defence.

“The Vietnamese people always respect friendship with Cambodian people and work towards a much better relationship, which has stood the test of time, in the future,” concluded the VFF leader.

The Vietnamese delegation is scheduled to leave Phnom Penh for home on April 26.


Audit says management of Cambodian tribunal has improved after calls for reform

The Associated Press
Published: April 25, 2008

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia: Cambodia's Khmer Rouge genocide tribunal is making significant progress in improving management problems that led to accusations of corruption, donors said Friday after a new audit.

Allegations of kickbacks and malpractice have dogged Cambodian members of the tribunal. An earlier audit initiated by the U.N. found shortcomings in its management.

The long-delayed U.N.-assisted tribunal to judge former Khmer Rouge leaders has also been plagued by political wrangling and inadequate financing.

Trials are scheduled to start later this year for atrocities committed during the 1975-79 rule of the communist Khmer Rouge, who are blamed for the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million people from starvation, disease, overwork and execution.

The tribunal has Cambodian and international staff who work jointly at every level, including prosecutors, defenders and judges.

A new audit scrutinizing the Cambodian side's operations shows reforms have been effective, two diplomats from the United Nations and the European Commission said.

"This special review has shown that we (now) have a system that can work," Rafael Dochao Moreno, charge d'affaires of the European Commission's mission to Cambodia, told reporters.
Jo Scheuer, country director for the U.N. Development Program, said the audit showed "significant improvements."

He said various audits since 2006 on management of the funds for the Cambodian side have shown "no questionable financial transactions, no misallocated resources and no incomplete or missing documentation in support of disbursements" of money.

He also added that previous auditors have found "no conclusive evidence" to support the allegations of kickbacks being paid by Cambodian personnel in exchange for their jobs.

Scheuer and Moreno are members of a committee made up of representatives of the nations and agencies funding the tribunal. It commissioned the independent review by a private Indian auditing firm to look into hiring and recruitment practices, salary scales, project assurance and a code of conduct for the tribunal's Cambodian staff.

The tribunal has been seeking additional funds for operations through March 2011. It told donor countries in January it would need US$170 million (€108 million), a sharp increase from the originally budgeted US$56.3 million (€36 million).

Rama Yade, the French minister of state for foreign affairs and human rights, told a news conference Friday that her government has pledged an additional US$1 million (€630,000) to the tribunal for this year.

BRIEFING: A time for change in election season

Agence France-Presse/Getty Images A Cambodian woman, standing among her belongings, is one of the thousands displaced after a fire destroyed more than 200 homes in a slum of the capital Phnom Penh on April 11.

The Washington Times
By Steve Hirsch
April 25, 2008

Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy this week predicted that the opposition will gain strength in planned national elections, even though the vote "will be manipulated."

The country is to hold national elections July 27, and they are widely expected to be won by Prime Minister Hun Sen and his ruling Cambodian People's Party.

The elections come against a background of a poor human rights record, runaway inflation and a slow-moving international genocide tribunal for Khmer Rouge leaders. An estimated 1.7 million people died during the brutal 1975-79 Khmer Rouge regime.

The State Department has described Cambodia's human rights record as "poor," citing reports of arbitrary arrests and prolonged detention, a weak judiciary, and government restriction of freedom of speech through defamation and disinformation suits.

According to the department's human rights report for last year, "corruption was endemic and extended throughout all segments of society, including the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government."

Sam Rainsy, who heads a party of the same name — the Sam Rainsy Party — in an interview with The Washington Times on Wednesday described the Cambodian government as "a facade of democracy" where all powers are concentrated in Hun Sen's hands.

He also cited "shady business deals" and said the country's most thriving industries are deforestation, land speculation, gambling and prostitution.

The July elections come as Cambodians are facing soaring inflation and food costs — with low-grade rice reportedly selling last month in Phnom Penh markets at about 50 cents a kilogram, compared with 30 cents a few months ago.

In the past six months, basic food items have more than doubled in price, Sam Rainsy said.

About 300 supporters of the Sam Rainsy Party rallied in Phnom Penh a few weeks ago to protest inflation and demand wage increases, and Sam Rainsy said there will be another protest May 1.

Sam Rainsy also said the poor are being pushed off their land in Phnom Penh as land prices rise, and their expulsion is being compared to the Khmer Rouge's forcible evacuation of cities in 1975 — although in this case, only the poor are being expelled.

He predicted that the election will be rigged and said large numbers of voters who do not support Hun Sen's CPP will be stripped from election rolls.

Human Rights Watch last month said politically motivated criminal charges against at least three opposition party officials were part of a CPP campaign to weaken political rivals.

"Politically motivated criminal charges have ... long been a weapon of choice of the CPP against its political foes," the organization said.

Brad Adams, the group's Asia director, said that for those who follow Cambodian politics, "this is deja vu."

Sam Rainsy said he needs to do his best to make sure this election won't be "as bad" as previous elections.

Outside observers have cited progress since the last National Assembly elections in 2003, pointing to a decrease in political violence in an example.

The State Department, discussing local elections last year, acknowledged there were problems, but said most observers agreed they "were the least violent and best organized elections ever held in the country."

The ruling CPP won 70.4 percent of the positions in that election, while the Sam Rainsy Party won 23.4 percent.

A U.N. Development Program report on those elections cited "a seeming general consensus among national and international observers that the elections were conducted in a peaceful atmosphere and were largely free and fair, particularly when compared to previous elections in Cambodia."

How well his party will do in the elections, Sam Rainsy said, depends on how transparent and honest the election turns out to be.

He is certain, though, the opposition "will get stronger."

"Our voice will be stronger, our influence will be stronger, and we will use them to push the Khmer Rouge tribunal to move forward," he said.

He said the party could gain substantial power if it were to prevent the CPP from maintaining a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly.

When asked whether most Cambodians believe democracy is a real possibility in the near future, he answered indirectly:

"In 1990, if you asked Russians ... is the Communist Party going to disintegrate, is the Soviet Union going to disintegrate ... most of them would say no."