Thursday, 26 February 2009

Khmer Rouge foreign minister too ill to attend genocide tribunal

Monsters and

Asia-Pacific News
Feb 26, 2009

Phnom Penh - Judges at Cambodia's UN-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal on Thursday postponed a hearing for the fallen regime's ailing former foreign minister after doctors declared him too ill to attend court.

Ieng Sary, 83, was due in court to appeal an order to extend his pre-trial detention but an early-morning health check found him unfit to attend the session.

Prosecutors and defence lawyers argued over whether to hold the hearing in his absence, but judges decided to adjourn the hearing to April 1.

The former schoolteacher suffers from heart disease and high blood pressure and was rushed to hospital on Monday night after blood was found in his urine.

It was his ninth hospitalization since he was arrested in November 2007.

He returned to the tribunal's detention facility on Wednesday afternoon.

Ieng Sary's lawyers argued for his release, saying his provisional detention was jeopardizing his physical and mental health.

'Provisional detention should not be used as punishment for alleged crimes, but there is indication it might be used in this way in this case,' international co-defence lawyer Michael Karnavas said at a press conference after the hearing.

Ieng Sary is one of five former Khmer Rouge leaders facing trial for their roles in the deaths of up to 2 million people through execution, starvation or overwork during the radical group's 1975-79 reign of terror in Cambodia.

His wife, Ieng Thirith, is among the detainees.

The first stage of the trial of former Tuol Sleng torture facility chairman Kaing Guek Eav, known by his revolutionary name Duch, was held last week.

The Khmer Rouge tribunal announced on Monday that Duch's trial would resume on March 30.

He is the first detainee to be indicted for crimes against humanity.

Growing concern about new oil wealth in Cambodia

Oil wealth may not help alleviate poverty in Cambodia. File photo Michel Bührer

Human Rights Tribune

Source: IRIN

26 February 09 - Having allegedly exhausted Cambodia’s timber resources business and military elites are plundering mining resources while failing to uphold international human rights and transparency standards, a new report alleges.

IRIN, Phnom Penh - The long-term effects could fuel corruption and contribute to a "resource curse", whereby a tiny elite soaks up the profits instead of using oil and mining revenues to alleviate poverty, London-based Global Witness states in its new report Country for Sale.

Cambodia is Southeast Asia’s second-poorest country after East Timor, with 35 percent of its population living on less than US$1 a day, according to government statistics.

Revenues from the 2005 oil find, which could total more than $1.5 billion annually, according to some estimates, should be directed to achieving its 2015 Millennium Development Goals, say critics.

"I see the rise of Cambodia’s mining and oil sectors as just one part of the wholesale diversification of natural resource and state asset exploitation in Cambodia," Eleanor Nichols, a campaigner for Global Witness, told IRIN.

"Historically, the revenue generated by their misappropriation has reinforced the position and impunity of elites, further strengthening their hold on the levers of power," she said.

Global Witness has had a rocky relationship with the government, having closed its office in Phnom Penh in 2005 after threats over a report implicating top officials of illegal logging.

The Nobel-prize nominated group first monitored the country’s forestry resources in the 1990s when international donors urged logging reform.

Greater transparency demanded

The group, with several other NGOs, continues to urge international donors to demand more transparency in Cambodia’s young oil and mining sectors as a condition for aid.

Cambodia receives about $600 million in aid every year. In 2009, the national budget is $1.77 billion, with donors pledging around $1 billion.

"It is fair to say that the revenue generated would be significant for a country which still relies on donor countries to provide the equivalent of over 50 percent of the annual government budget in development aid," Nichols said.

Secretive mining contracts, mostly in the country’s remote northern provinces, allegedly require the forced, mass evictions of rural poor and indigenous people.

"On some sites, land has been taken from local people and cases of intimidation of residents are reported," Global Witness stated. "There has been no free, prior and informed consent by the local population in any of these cases."

The Cambodian embassy in London issued an angry response to the report, denying the accusations.

"The Global Witness report was fairly underhanded and failed to recognise the tireless work and vision of some in government," Michael McWalter, the Asian Development Bank’s oil and gas adviser to the government, told IRIN in an e-mail.

Oil worries

The International Monetary Fund estimated the find off the southwest coast at two billion barrels, though energy giant Chevron has been tight-lipped about numbers.

Cambodia could follow the patterns of Nigeria, Venezuela and Iraq, where mismanagement and secrecy surrounding oil contracts plunged the countries into further poverty, said Ou Virak, an economist and head of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights.

"There’s every indication Cambodia is heading towards Nigeria. We fit very well of a profile of countries facing a resource curse," he told IRIN. "The fact that all key institutions with money are headed by only a few people indicates there is no intention of having a system in place for transparency and accountability."

Donors last year asked the government to consider joining the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) a global coalition of governments, companies and civil society groups that requires full disclosure of oil, gas and mineral revenues.

The government originally considered signing on to EITI, but reportedly said in October it would not endorse the initiative.

The UN Development Programme (UNDP) hosted a conference last March to address how the government should manage oil and gas revenues to alleviate poverty.

At the conference, delegates from the Cambodian National Petroleum Authority, Supreme National Economic Council, and Norwegian Petroleum Directorate discussed the possibility of establishing an independent fund to manage revenues transparently, a model that has worked in Norway.

Former Khmer Rouge Minister accuses Nuon Chea, Brother Number Two, in middle of court hearing

Kambol (Phnom Penh, Cambodia). 24/02/2009: Ieng Thirith in front of her judges during the pre-trial hearing, at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia
© John Vink / Magnum


By Stéphanie Gée

The pre-Trial Chamber at the Khmer Rouge Court examined on Tuesday February 24th an appeal lodged by Ieng Thirith, the former Khmer Rouge Minister of Social Affairs, against the Order on the Extension of her provisional detention. Debates unexpectedly went off-topic when the wife of Ieng Sary, the former Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Khmer Rouge government who was also placed in provisional detention and was recently admitted to hospital again, concluded the hearing with a vibrant tirade in favour of her innocence. She seized that opportunity to shift the responsibility of mass murder committed between 1975 and 1979 onto Nuon Chea, often presented as the ideologist of the Khmer Rouge regime, and while she was on the subject, also had a go at Duch.

Khmer Rouge Court: short of money against a backdrop of unsolved allegations of corruption

Kambol (Phnom Penh, Cambodia). 07/07/2007: Caution, wet floor: the corridors of the ECCC administrative building.
©John Vink/ Magnum


By Stéphanie Gée

United Nations Assistant secretary-general for Legal Affairs Peter Taksoe-Jensen, who arrived in Cambodia on Sunday February 22nd, mentioned a “breakthrough” following a meeting with Cambodian deputy prime Minister Sok An to report any achievement made by the two working groups, set up both on the UN and governmental side to strengthen anti-corruption mechanisms within the Khmer Rouge court. For their part, the international Defence team for Nuon Chea, also known as “Brother Number Two”, are still demanding that light be shed on that issue, otherwise institutionalised corruption at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) might undermine the fundamental right to a fair trial for their client.

A Royal return


The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Heng Chivoan
Thursday, 26 February 2009

King Norodom Sihamoni greets assorted Cambodian government officials at Phnom Penh International Airport upon his return from Beijing on Wednesday. His Majesty has been gone for some three weeks, visiting his elderly and ailing parents, who are currently based in the Chinese capital while King Father Norodom Sihanouk receives medical treatment.

Cancer study alarms govt, hospital officials

Cambodian-Russian Friendship hospital last week.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Khuon Leakhana
Thursday, 26 February 2009

Money and attention focussed on AIDS and malaria as reports of rising cancer in developing world highlights lack of funds, treatment A recent study warning of a surge in cancer cases in the developing world has made health officials nervous, as unprepared hospitals struggle to keep up

A STUDY highlighting the developing world's growing vulnerability to cancer-related deaths has shocked Cambodian health officials, who are concerned that too few resources and too little data on the disease means it is being overlooked.

According to a recent report by health research group Axios International, cancer now kills more people each year in developing countries than either HIV/Aids, tuberculosis or malaria, and has become one of the leading causes of death in poorer nations.

"Developing countries are experiencing large and rapidly growing cancer caseloads for which their health and social service systems must rapidly become prepared," a press release this month stated.

But despite the warning, health officials say that poor information and lack of funding may prevent them from heeding the advice.

"We have no national statistics showing the number of patients with cancer," Eav Sokha, head of the department of oncology at the Cambodian-Russian Friendship Hospital, which specialises in cancer treatment, told the Post last week.

"But we know that there are a lot. They usually go to other countries for treatment because they know there are not many possibilities here," he added.

According to the World Heath Organisation, the incidence of cancer is growing in Cambodia. In 2005, the disease killed approximately 11,000 people, 9,000 of whom were under the age of 70. By 2030, it is expected to be in the top four main causes of death.

Ouk Monna, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Health, told the Post that the ministry has "never conducted any research" into the prevalence of cancer, as they do not have enough money to fund any additional projects.

"We worry about cancer in Cambodia, as well as the world," she said.

"We always make requests to other countries to provide medicine to Cambodia. Generally, we import medicine from the United States, but I don't know how much this year," she added.

According to Eav Sokha, of an estimated 21,000 cancer patients who came for treatment at his hospital since 2003, almost a quarter had cervical cancer.

"We estimate that 25 percent of cancer patients are cervical cancer patients, 19 percent have breast cancer and 16 percent have nose, ear or throat cancer, which occurs mainly in men who smoke and drink," Eav Sokha said.

Cervical cancer the most prevelant
Although cervical cancer is the most common cancer found in Cambodian women, according to WHO, vaccines now widely available at low cost in the West are still only available from private clinics for hundreds of dollars.

"Some countries have vaccinations available to many people, but Cambodia cannot do this because it needs a lot of money for this program," Veng Thai, director of the Phnom Penh Health Department, told the Post.

Ministries say they are unable to concentrate funding to address the disease, which pap smears and vaccines can now help prevent.

"Because the Ministry of Women's Affairs focuses mainly on HIV/Aids and malaria, we do not know much about cancer," said Im Sithae, a secretary of state at the ministry.

"Although it is still a big concern for us, we feel we can do nothing but educate people," she said.

Eav Phalla, 48, a patient at the Cambodian-Russian Friendship Hospital, was diagnosed with lung cancer after he became sick three months ago.

"The service at hospital has been good, the doctor and physician have taken care of me, but sometimes the medicine that I need the hospital does not have," he said.

"The doctor tells me that the hospital cannot afford this medicine," he added.

Game over for Cambo Six

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chun Sophal and Hor Hab
Thursday, 26 February 2009

THE Kingdom's sole bookmaker, Cambo Six, closed all its outlets on Wednesday in accordance with an order issued Tuesday by Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Finance Minister Keat Chhon told the Post early Wednesday that the betting chain, which has 20 outlets across the country, had been given a week to close. But in Phnom Penh, Battambang, Sihanoukville and Siem Reap, Cambo Six branches were forced to end all gambling, the company said, and could only remain open to pay winnings on previously placed bets.

"The police are forcing us to close, but we have to pay our customers," said Nancy Chau, the manager of Cambo Six's head office in Phnom Penh.

Keat Chhon said the government would sign a licence termination agreement with the company on Wednesday afternoon stipulating that the company would not receive any compensation. Its current operating licence had been due to expire in 2011.

"We are not slowing the closure process with this football betting company because we are working with them even at nighttime," Keat Chhon said.

On Tuesday, Hun Sen abruptly ordered the closure of Cambo Six at a Phnom Penh graduation ceremony.

Related Story


Watchdog slams UN over KRT

Peter Taksoe-Jensen shakes hands with Deputy Prime Minister Sok An at the Council of Ministers on Monday

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Georgia Wilkins
Thursday, 26 February 2009

UNLESS the UN reverses the Khmer Rouge tribunal's latest anti-corruption plan, they risk "lowering the bar for all future efforts to try international crimes", international watchdog the Open Society Justice Initiative said Wednesday.

Referring to a new agreement by the two sides of the court to work separately to protect the court against corruption, the New York-based monitoring group said there were no real changes made to the existing system, which had allowed for graft allegations to arise last year.

"Taken together, these provisions do nothing to alter the de facto Cambodian government veto, which has stymied genuine investigations of corruption to date," a press release Wednesday said.

Top UN legal official Peter Taksoe-Jensen met with Deputy Prime Minister Sok An to finalise the new mechanisms Monday. The two sides resolved to set up individual mechanisms that would report back to each other and agree on the type of action to take.

But according to OSJI, the new "parallel" mechanisms mean that staff is restricted to reporting corruption to its own side of the court and does not contain provisions to protect whistleblowers.

"A system where each side handles the complaints of its own staff has

already been tried and shown not to work," James A Goldston, executive director of the Open Society Justice Initiative, is quoted as saying in the statement.

"To be credible going forward, any mechanism must have the confidence of all staff that their complaints will be taken seriously, that whistleblowers will be protected and that effective action will be taken to address valid complaints," he added.

A report by a UN oversight body in August 2008 detailed allegations that the court's Cambodian staff members were paying kickbacks to their bosses. The report was sent directly to the Cambodian government, who have not released results of its review. The UN has also failed to make the report public.

The new mechanisms come after months of diplomatic wrangling over what monitoring system would satisfy both sides. The suggestion of an international, independent monitor by the UN side was turned down by the Cambodian government during talks for a mechanism that better respected national sovereignty.

"The agreement lacks details about the protections afforded to staff who alert authorities to instances of wrongdoing, and contains inadequate
promises of confidentiality," the statement said.

"In addition, it fails to offer provisions for dealing with outstanding allegations of corruption," it added.

Observers of the court say the failure to take action could be the last straw for the court's credibility.

"Allegations of corrupt practices involving the Cambodian side of the court threaten to taint the legal proceedings. This matter must be resolved and cannot be allowed to fester," John Hall, professor at Chapman University School of Law, told the Post via email.

The joint statement smacks of political COMpromise and acquescence

"It is simply unreasonable to expect Cambodian staff to come forward with complaints of wrongdoing if they must file such reports with Ethics Monitors appointed by the Cambodian government or the Cambodian management at the court," he said.

Hall added that the parallel mechanism envisaged in the Joint Statement could "chill" future complaints of wrongdoing.

"That may be convenient for those who want the accusations of corrupt behavior to simply go away. The Joint Statement smacks of political compromise and acquiescence. Hopefully as the details are announced in coming weeks, the new mechanism will not turn out to be as flawed as it appears at first sight."


Ailing former KR foreign minister next in the dock

Former Khmer Rouge foreign minister Ieng Sary appears in court last year.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Brendan Brady and Georgia Wilkins
Thursday, 26 February 2009

Ieng Sary to face the KR tribunal today for a bail hearing, in which lawyers will argue he needs proper medical attention.

DEFENCE lawyers for former Khmer Rouge foreign minister Ieng Sary are to challenge their client's second year of pretrial detention today at a bail hearing, arguing that pretrial confinement is hastening a decline in their client's already frail health.

The former regime leader was sent to Calmette Hospital Monday evening after passing blood in his urine and returned to detention Wednesday afternoon, according to court officials.

It was Ieng Sary's ninth hospitalisation since his arrest - the most of any of the five ageing suspects detained. He is afflicted with heart disease and high blood pressure, and, since 1994, has undergone four heart operations, including a double-bypass.

"We're going to make the case that it's necessary for Ieng Sary to receive not just proper medical treatment, but proper medical examinations," his international co-lawyer, Michael Karnavas, told the Post via phone.

I am stunned that they [the eccc] don't want to hear from a medical expert.

"Seeing as he is in the court's care, they are responsible to provide him proper medical attention, which is integral to provisional detention," he added.

On Monday, the Pre-trial Chamber said it would consider a request by the defence to allow the chief doctor for detainees at the International Criminal Court for the former Yugoslavia, Paulus Falk, to testify on Ieng Sary's condition via remote video link at Thursday's hearing.

But as a decision had not been made as of Wednesday, and as it takes at least 24 hours to set up the video connection, Karnavas said, it was unlikely it would be heard today, if at all.

"Effectively, they have already made up their minds," he said.

"[But] frankly I am stunned that they don't want to hear from a medical expert ... who is uniquely qualified for this situation ... and find out what the actual state of his health is," he said, adding that previously, all sides of the court had made unqualified comments on the state of his client's health.

Son has lost hope for bail
Ieng Vuth, a son of Ieng Sary and deputy governor of Pailin province, told the Post Tuesday he had "lost hope of getting him out on bail to stay at home for treatment." He said he had visited his father in prison on several occasions and had noticed a steady decline in his health.

Ieng Sary is charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes, and has been detained at the Extraordinary Chamber's detention facility since his arrest in 2007.

The 83-year-old is one of five suspects being held for their role in the murderous 1975-79 regime.


S'pore minister says Asean can help solve Preah Vihear dispute

Asean Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan said it was good that both sides had now chosen to talk to resolve the border issue. " [Cambodia and Thailand] are now finding ways to reduce tension between themselves through this bilateral arrangement."

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sam Rith
Thursday, 26 February 2009

Asean secretary general says if the bloc is asked to help with the crisis, he will send a fact-finding mission to the disputed area.

SINGAPORE's foreign minister said the Association of Southeast Asian Nations stands ready to help Cambodia and Thailand resolve their long-running border dispute. George Yeo said the 10-member bloc remained concerned at tensions over the 800 kilometres of disputed border.

"Our concern is when these disputes escalate and erupt into violence, which was what happened in Preah Vihear last year," Yeo said, speaking at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Singapore last week. "Right now, both sides are talking [but] I know Cambodia is not happy with the speed of progress."

"If Cambodia is aggrieved and wants to [refer the border issue] to Asean, Cambodia can do so," Yeo continued. He said border disputes were common, both between Asean members and around the world, and were best resolved through negotiations.

Troops from the two Asean member states clashed last year at the Preah Vihear temple complex amid escalating tensions that left several soldiers dead.

Both sides are talking [but] ... Cambodia is not happy with the speed of progress.

One of Asean's founding principles is respect for the territorial integrity of all member states. Article 2 of the Asean Charter states that member states must "respect ... the independence, sovereignty, equality, territorial integrity and national identity of all Asean member states" and push for the "peaceful settlement of disputes".

Asean Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan said if the regional body was asked to help resolve the issue, he would first send a fact-finding mission to the disputed area. But, he said, indications were that bilateral negotiations between the two nations seemed to be going well

Summit sidelines
Prime Minister Hun Sen confirmed Tuesday that he would attend the 14th Asean summit in Hua Hin, Thailand, and would meet bilaterally with Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on February 27.

Hun Sen said the talks with his Thai counterpart would tackle more than simply the border dispute - they would also cover tourism, economic issues, investment and improved trade cooperation.

"The situation is now calming down between both sides," Surin Pitsuwan told a group of journalists touring Southeast Asia February 12. "[The two countries' leaders] will meet each other again during the 14th Asean summit, and I am sure both sides will discuss this further in the lobbies set aside for this kind of discussion."

Government set to double public investment in 2009

Keat Chhon, deputy PM and finance minister, at a UN review Wednesday.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chun Sophal
Thursday, 26 February 2009

Finance Minister announces plan to spend US$1 billion mainly targeting transport, infrastructure and irrigation projects.

FINANCE Minister Keat Chhon announced Wednesday that the government would spend around US$1 billion this year on public investment. He said the money would be focussed mainly on transportation, infrastructure and irrigation.

Keat Chhon, who is also a deputy prime minister, said during a review of the United Nations Development Assistance Framework that the public investment total would be double that of last year.

"I hope that we can also discuss the implementation and achievements of the important and ongoing UN reforms intended to ensure that the UN delivers as one," Keat Chhon said.

Wednesday's joint review between the government and the UN officials - described in a UNDAF press release as "frank, open and lively" - was designed to assess how well the 23 UN agencies, funds and programs in Cambodia were helping the Kingdom meet its development goals.

Keat Chhon said the review provided a good opportunity to identify new challenges and emerging risks, thereby helping to ensure that UN support remains effective.

Douglas Broderick, the UN's resident coordinator, said the UN's duty was to be a good facilitator in addition to a financial backer.

"As the world economic crisis deepens, it is more important than ever that the UN be a stronger partner and continue to give voice to the poorest of the poor," Broderick said.

The UNDAF guides the UN's development work in Cambodia. The UN focuses its efforts on four key areas: agriculture and rural poverty; capacity building and human resources development; development of the national strategic development plan; and good governance and human rights.

US national charged with paedophilia

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Cheang Sokha
Thursday, 26 February 2009

PHNOM Penh's Municipal Court on Tuesday charged a US national with purchasing sex from an underage girl, a court prosecutor told the Post.

Deputy prosecutor Sok Kalyan, who filed the charges, said the 49-year-old man remains detained and faces seven to 15 years in jail if convicted. He said his case had been forwarded to an investigating judge.

The man, identified by Samleang Seila, director of the anti-paedophile NGO Action Pour Les Enfants as Boyasian Gerard, was arrested last Thursday by police from the Interior Ministry's Department of Anti-human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection in Svay Pak, a once-notorious child sex district 11 kilometres outside Phnom Penh. He was found engaging in sexual acts with an eight-year-old Vietnamese girl, Samleang Seila said, adding that the man is believed to have solicited sex with more underage girls there.

The self-contained brothel village catering to foreigners and Khmers had been shut down in a number of high-profile police raids in the past.

"[Gerard] had fled from his country to live in Cambodia," Samleang Seila said. "He had been convicted in his own country of a similar charge."

Gerard's defence lawyer, Ouk Saroeun, could not be contacted for comment on Wednesday.

After years of being seen as a haven for sexual predators, the government began a campaign to clean up the Kingdom's image in 2003, arresting paedophiles and other sex offenders including dozens of foreigners.

Pursat prisoners can phone home, for a price

A Pursat prison guard in a guard post outside the main building.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by May Titthara
Thursday, 26 February 2009

Under new program, prisoners can pay to use phones of prison guards to contact family

PURSAT prison has launched a new program that allows inmates to use mobile phones to keep in touch with their relatives, Nguon Lay, the prison's director, told the Post Sunday.

Nguon Lay said the program was designed to make it easier for concerned family members to keep tabs on their incarcerated relatives, noting that it enables prisoners "to tell [family members] about their situation in the prison, and when they get sick".

He said some families would have no way of knowing that a relative had been incarcerated without the service.

Prisoners must pay a fee of 500 riels (US$0.12) per minute to use the mobile phones, which belong to the prison guards, Nguon Lay said, adding that the program began about four months ago.

Heng Hak, director general of prisons at the Ministry of Interior, said he had not heard of the program and did not know whether similar programs were in place at other prisons.

"If any prison wants to create this service, they should submit a permission form to us," he told the Post last week.

Costs and benefits
Mam Sarin, 46, a former inmate at Pursat prison who was released February 18, said prisoners were allowed to make calls between 7am and 11am, and again between 2:30pm and 4:30pm. He said prisoners were charged 1,000 riels per minute to place outgoing calls and 500 riels per minute to receive calls made to the phones.

Sam Srey Nga, the wife of an inmate at Pursat prison, said calling her husband was more economical and more rewarding than making the trip from her home in Banteay Meanchey province to visit him in person.

"Before, I needed to pay a lot of money for travelling to visit him at the prison, and I could meet him only for 15 minutes," she said. "But by phone I can talk with him longer and save money."

She said she has had little difficulty reaching her husband by phone.

"I only tell the guard where I am calling from and the name of the prisoner I want to talk to, and the guard passes the phone to him," she said. "I got the private mobile number when my husband called me and told me to call that number when I wanted to reach him."

Phuong Sothea, an investigator for the rights group Adhoc, said the phone would be especially useful for relatives like Sam Srey Nga who live far away from the prison.

"They can talk to the family, and they will know the situation of their family," he said.

But he said the cost of the service should be lowered.

New spray campaign targets mosquitoes

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Khuon Leakhana
Thursday, 26 February 2009

THE Ministry of Health launched a spray campaign earlier this month to combat the rise in Culex mosquitoes throughout the capital, Phnom Penh Health Department Director Veng Thai told the Post Monday.

The campaign is set to last until mid-April.

Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema said City Hall would provide about US$30,000 for the campaign. The Culex mosquito is unable to transmit malaria or dengue fever, but Kep Chuktema said it was nevertheless "important to dissipate the mosquitoes" using pesticides.

"We think mosquitoes come into existence because of the unclean living habits of people who never manage garbage properly," he said.

The spray campaign will target drainage areas and flooded places, which often turn into breeding grounds, as well as the city centre as a whole, said Ngan Chantha, director of the ministry's anti-dengue fever program.

In addition to the spray campaign, Kep Chuktema said officials had also launched an education campaign to instruct people to keep their houses clean as well as to inform them that Culex mosquitoes are relatively harmless.

Ly Pichey, 30, who lives in Tuol Sangke commune, Russey Keo district, said he welcomed the campaign because he lives near a flooded area infested with Culex mosquitoes.

"The government should go see and spray pesticides there," he said.

Sam Rainsy lodges complaint contesting election body fine

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Meas Sokchea
Thursday, 26 February 2009

The complaint comes one day after Hun Sen threatened to strip opposition leader of parliamentary immunity if he did not pay.

OPPOSITION leader Sam Rainsy lodged a complaint Wednesday with the Constitutional Council asserting that a fine levied against him by the National Election Committee and later upheld by the council was illegitimate.

The president of the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) was recently fined 10 million riels (US$2,400) by the NEC for making derogatory comments about Cambodian People's Party leaders during last year's national election. That decision has since been upheld by the Constitutional Council and the Phnom Penh Municipal Court.

Sam Rainsy has repeatedly claimed that the matter is a penal one and can only be ruled on by the courts.

Also Wednesday, 17 SRP parliamentarians wrote to the council supporting Sam Rainsy's complaint.

The complaint comes one day after Prime Minister Hun Sen warned Sam Rainsy that he would be stripped of his parliamentary immunity unless he paid the fine. Speaking at the National Institute of Education Tuesday, Hun Sen said lifting Sam Rainsy's immunity - which requires a two-thirds vote in the National Assembly - would pose no problem for the CPP, which holds 90 of 123 parliamentary seats.

Referring to the council, the letter written by the SRP parliamentarians states: "The CC did not send the lawsuit, which was not under its jurisdiction, to the body that has jurisdiction." This amounts to a constitutional violation, the letter states.

Pit Taing San, secretary general of the council, declined to comment on the case beyond saying that the ruling of the council upholding the fine was final and could not be appealed.

Tep Nytha, secretary general of the NEC, said the NEC is allowed to levy fines against election law violators.

But Heang Rithy, president of the Cambodian National Research Organisation, said Sam Rainsy's claim that the case should be decided by the courts is correct.

Otter workshop to promote new view on conservation

Dara, the world's only hariy-nosed otter in captivity, enjoys a snack in his enclosure at Phnom Tamao Zoo.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Tracey Shelton
Thursday, 26 February 2009

Experts hope a workshop on otter protection will transform the way Cambodians think about the critically endangered species.

AN eight-day otter protection workshop that will include lectures, discussions and field training began in Phnom Penh this week, drawing experts from across the globe to Cambodia - which many called a key location for otter protection.

"This is a very important region because of the variety of otter habitats," said Nicole Duplaix, founder of the Otter Specialist Group of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, at the opening of the workshop Tuesday. "Cambodia has large lakes, mountain ranges and the Mekong delta, and many of these areas are still wild enough to protect."

Conservationists from 10 countries, students, local wildlife workers and government officials will participate in the workshop organised by Conservation International (CI).

Annette Olsen, research manager for CI, said the purpose of the workshop is to bring international experts together to discuss priorities in otter conservation, raise awareness, improve government involvement and train university students to continue the work of research and otter conservation both here and overseas.

Cambodia is home to four rare species of otter including the previously thought-to-be-extinct hairy-nosed otter, which was rediscovered in the Tonle Sap Lake.

Still more to be done
Duplaix said she was impressed by conservation efforts in Cambodia, but Forestry Administration research and monitoring manger Peov Somanak admits there are still improvements to be made.

"Poverty is the biggest problem threatening wildlife protection," he said. "Hunger makes people do things without thinking. Cambodia does not have an otter fur trade, itself, but poor people are easily persuaded by international traders and local middlemen."

Peov Somanak said another big problem is enforcement. The national status of many species does not reflect local studies or scientific research, he said. But he saw international cooperation at this workshop as a positive sign for things to come.

"If we work together and care about wildlife conservation, we can preserve our wildlife for the future," Peov Somanak said.

Regime's 'first lady' has her say

Ieng Thirith listens to court proceedings Tuesday at the Khmer Rouge tribunal.

The Phnom Penh penh

Written by Cheang Sokha
Thursday, 26 February 2009

In an unofficial partial transcript of her testimony Tuesday at the KR tribunal, Ieng Thirith unleashes on her former regime comrades.

"I know who ordered [former Tuol Sleng prison chief] Kaing Guek Eav to kill people, and I would like to say that is Nuon Chea who ordered the arrest of my students into a truck and then killed them.

"University students from Russia and France - when I returned they came along with me to live in Phnom Penh.

"At that time it happened that my students were arrested and killed. It was (Brother No 2) Nuon Chea - I want to tell. They used a nice truck and took my students then kill them.

"The military hospital was in disrepair at the time that I first arrived. I was in charge of social affairs and so I had to see the patients. When I went there I found the patients sleeping miserably on the ground so I decided to rebuild the hospital.

"The people in the area, they gave me their workers to help me, so I alone with these expert workers repaired the hospital and the pharmaceutical factory. I rode a bicycle there and had dinner with the workers, and in the evening I returned.

"Some other students worked in the pharmaceutical factory - there were four factories at that time in Phnom Penh. There were two Chinese experts working in each factory by the order of [Chinese Premier] Zhou Enlai to help me. You can ask, my remaining students were put on a truck and killed in Kaing Guek Eav's prison. It is a good time now to have my say, that Nuon Chea killed all of my students. Do not accuse me; I am the protector of my students.

"I come from a well-bred family. My grandfather was a director of a school for judges and my father was a school principal in Battambang. I am well-educated and never committed any wrongdoing, and I have never been a murderer.What I have done, I have done for my nation, my people. They took all my students and gave them to Kaing Guek Eav to kill.


"Do not link Nuon Chea with me. I suffered [at the hands of] Nuon Chea, my students were the victims. It is so unjust to believe whatever Nuon Chea says. I never knew where S-21 was. Do not accuse me of murder or you will be cursed to the seventh level of hell.

"The reason that I am here is to speak the truth. I have been waiting for years, because ... I had no idea where Kaing Guek Eav lived. I never talked to him - only after Nuon Chea brought my students to be killed did I start to know who this person was.

"So afterwards there was only one student left, the person whom I asked to guard the office. Everybody else who wanted to help build the factory or repair the hospital had been executed.

"So the educated people were asked to go to the [Phnom Penh] to help build the hospital. I myself rode a bicycle and, as minister of social affairs, I was only given a bicycle and I rode that to go build the hospital.

"I do not know why a good person is being accused of such crimes. I have suffered a great deal, and I can't be patient because I am wrongly accused. I'm sorry if I am being extreme.

"The real murderer, the guy who killed everybody is detained, I had nothing to do with Kaing Guek Eav. Nuon Chea and Kaing Guek Eav are the same person. Nuon Chea sent the orders and Kaing Guek Eav carried them out. I have to tell the truth, and I want justice to be done, and I don't want you to prosecute anyone, but you have to make a decision.

"I once again want to confirm to you that I know the murderers. You already know who my grandfather was, my father, we are from a well-bred family ... I just want to tell you that our family is well-bred and we never committed any crimes. We tried our best to train students, and when the students were brought to Cambodia they were put on a truck and then executed. I think now is the time for me to tell you the truth because you have never known this.

"Of course, if there are cruel Cambodian people, then they have to be prosecuted and investigated. Again, I don't know Kaing Guek Eav and I hate him, but I have never challenged him as leader of the regime. That is all I have to say."

Glimpsing Cambodia's lost birds

Photo by: Kyle Sherer/Ron Hoff
Ace birdwatcher and Sam Veasna Centre guide Howie Nielsen and a guide birdspot at Trapeang Pos (above). The "near mythical" Giant Ibis (inset), one of the birds that can be seen at the centre's Tmatboey site.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Kyle Sherer
Thursday, 26 February 2009

Siem Reap
The Sam Veasna Centre has been bringing tourists face to face with the Kingdom's increasingly rare fauna since 2006, but its now turning a profit - and attracting more than just birdwatchers.

The Sam Veasna Centre in Siem Reap has been driving people wild since 2006, and introducing naturalists, enthusiasts and tourists to wilderness areas in and around northern Cambodia has paid off.

The tours to see Cambodia's lost birds, and to experience what may be the swan song of several critically endangered species, are so successful that the centre, previously sustained by the Wildlife Conservation Society, became financially self-sufficient at the end of last year, and this year has started to feed money back to the society that nurtured it.

Ten years ago, Cambodian environmentalist Sam Veasna died from malaria while searching for the now-presumed extinct kouprey, and the centre was built in his honour in 2003, with support from the Wildlife Conservation Society.

The centre's aim was to increase awareness of Cambodian natural heritage, and in 2006, after being bombarded with pleas from birdwatchers, the society granted the Sam Veasna Centre the exclusive right to take tour groups into the protected Tmatboey range in Preah Vihear.

This paved the way for many other tours, and this year, to meet the demand of eager sightseers, the Sam Veasna Centre and the Wildlife Conservation Society are preparing new tour sites in Preah Vihear, scheduled to be ready for the 2010 tourist season.

World takes notice
But not only is the centre attracting more tourists, it is also attracting worldwide attention due to its discoveries of rare species.

Ace birdwatcher Howie Nielsen, a Sam Veasna Centre guide, spoke to the Post while twitching at Trapeang Pos, in Siem Reap, during a postcard-perfect sunrise.

Howie, 60, has been birding since the age of 22, when a mentor taught him to "identify birds and drink whiskey" on the banks of the Mississippi river.

He pointed out that Veasna Centre scouts are now logging sightings of critically endangered birds, as well as species that are not even listed as living in Cambodia.

"Because of the last 30 years of turmoil, Cambodia is still ‘terra incognita'," Howie said.

"Only recently have birders started noting what's going on. New birds are being added to the Cambodia list each year. We're finding things and raising eyebrows. Sam Veasna guides are seeing birds and back in New York, people are saying ‘They saw what?'"



Howie believes Cambodia is ripe for exploration.

"You see birds here that you wouldn't see in Thailand or Vietnam. I love the surprise - looking at something and not being sure what it is; never knowing what you're going to see; the element of discovery."

But, he adds, there is a risk that in a few years, the endangered species might vanish altogether.

"I think Southeast Asia is changing faster than any area on Earth. We should work to conserve and experience it before it disappears."

Nick Butler, coordinator of the Sam Veasna Centre, identifies habitat loss, such as the conversion of flood plain to rice paddy at Tonle Sap, and the clearance of flooded forests at Prek Toal, as the biggest threat to endangered birds.

"On top of that, there's always been hunting pressure, and with a growing population that pressure is increasing."

To preserve the wildlife, the centre has to show local communities they can make a greater income from tourists than from logging or hunting.

"Instead of hunting, local communities can establish guesthouses, cook, conduct tours of the village and sell locally made goods, like silk scarves," he said.

Expanding destinations
In 2008, villagers at Tmatboey generated an income of US$12,000 from Sam Veasna Centre bird tours.

Progress at the site won the centre the Equator Prize for Poverty Reduction last year, and the Wild Asia Responsible Tourist Award in 2007.

Giant ibis
While Tmatboey remains the Centre's flagship site, one of the only places where tourists can catch a glimpse of the "near mythical" giant and white-shouldered ibises, the centre also travels to a variety of other destinations including the Florican Grasslands; Prek Toal on Tonle Sap Lake; the Chhep, feeding station for vultures, jackals and leopards; Ang Trapaing Thmor; Kratie; and, most recently, Mondulkiri.

This year, Nick hopes the center can work with hotels to target Siem Reap tourists.

"The hotels will be keen to promote Sam Veasna because they know it's a genuine ecotourism agency, and it gives them something else for their guests to do apart from temples," Butler said.

"For the first time this year, we've had a tour group visiting that are not birders," he added.

"They're visiting the temples, but they're also getting an idea of what Cambodian rural life is like and seeing some exquisitely beautiful countryside that has some very rare birds. It's the complete picture of Cambodia."

Land mine victim hopes to help others with agriculture project

Photo by: kyle sherer
Gary Christ (background) and Sem Sovantha.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Kyle Sherer
Thursday, 26 February 2009

WHEN Sem Sovantha was crippled by a land mine while on patrol with the Cambodian Army in 1990, only the efforts of his fellow soldiers stopped him from shooting himself on the spot.

Now Sem Sovantha, founder and director of the Angkor Association for the Disabled, is ensuring that Cambodia's land mine victims have options beyond a bleak life of forced dependency and begging.

The organisation is raising funds to prepare a farm in Siem Reap that would allow 20 disabled Cambodians to support themselves.

The slogan of the NGO, adapted from Sem Sovantha's personal motto, is: "We don't want to beg. We want to work". But before disabled Cambodians can enter the workforce, they need to be provided training and physical support, he said.

Gary Christ, agriculture adviser to the Angkor Association for the Disabled, told the Post that in Cambodia, "Once you step on a land mine, you're on your own. There are many disabled beggars with no wheelchair, no prosthetics, nothing".

Sem Sovantha told the Post that after seeing "many disabled people living on the streets, I wanted to provide them with jobs, and skills.

When we registered in 2004, we started a music group, which performs at hotels and the temples for donations".

But in 2009, Sem Sovantha wants to decrease reliance on tourism, and make the centre and the 25 families who live there more self-sufficient. "The farm is the best long-term plan," he said.

The association has secured five hectares of land 50 minutes from Siem Reap town, but needs US$5,000 to construct a fence and cover transportation costs. When the farm is established, it will support up to 20 people.

A previous attempt to begin a farm in Battambang province was aborted last year due to its distance from Siem Reap and - ironically - problems with clearing land mines.

"We have to support the disabled, many of whom are homeless," said Sem Sovantha.

"The farm could provide them with jobs, and food," but funding for the project still needs to be secured.

"I believe that Sovantha is a leader, and has a great vision," Christ said.

"He just needs support to keep the wheels turning."

The Phnom Penh Post News In Brief

In Brief: Human trafficking ignored by courts

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by May Tithara
Thursday, 26 February 2009

Some 141 human trafficking cases were reported last year, but only 15 were heard by the courts, according to a new report by the Cambodian National Council for Women. The group said the lack of prosecutions was partly due to limited knowledge of a new law introduced last year to combat trafficking and sex crimes. It said 172 suspects were arrested in 117 cases, but the courts had to date heard just 15 cases.

In Brief: Olympic market cleanup

Written by May Tithara
Thursday, 26 February 2009

Homeowners near Phnom Penh's Olympic Market have been barred from renting the pavement space outside their houses to fish vendors. Homeowner Eung Thong said the ban would be good for the neighbourhood but would cost him the US$5 a day he had made from renting it out. Another owner, Vor Phaly, felt the ban would likely last only until the end of the month. District police Chief Uch Sokhon said: "Police have been ordered to tell house owners not to rent the sidewalk to vendors because we want this street to be clean."

In Brief: Govt poised to recover antiquities

Written by Cheang Sokha
Thursday, 26 February 2009

The government has said a delegation is ready to visit Thailand to get back seven smuggled sandstone antiquities. The announcement comes after the Thai Cabinet this week approved the return of the stolen sculptures. Khim Sarith, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts who will lead the delegation, said the seven items were among 43 pieces claimed by Cambodia, adding: "We will continue to negotiate for the remaining antiquities." The sculptures were seized in 1999 by Thai customs agents.

In Brief: Phone Call revenue

Written by Kay Kimsong
Thursday, 26 February 2009

CAMBODIA'S overseas calls reached 60 million minutes in 2008, earning US$40 million for the government, Minister of Posts and Telecoms So Khun said. Overseas landline calling has remained at the same rate, he added, even with more Cambodians using the internet to make calls abroad. "Some overseas calls go through the private international gateway 007 and some via VOIP [Voice Over Internet Protocol]. VOIP is not a high-quality service, so many Cambodians are using regular calling methods," So Khun said.

In Brief: Myanmar monument

Written by George Mcleod
Thursday, 26 February 2009

MONUMENT Books, the Kingdom's largest English-language bookstore, has launched a book and toy store in Myanmar, said General Manager William Bagley. The outlet has already opened in Yangon and is scheduled for an official launch next month. The Myanmar government does not allow politically sensitive literature, but Bagley said that Monument's focus on children's books should keep the store in the good graces of the ruling generals. "It's a policy decision to stock only children's books, so we haven't faced any problem with [censorship]," said Bagley.

Cambo Six closes its books

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Punters complete betting forms at a Cambo Six branch in Phnom Penh. The company, which was forced to close by the police on Wednesday, said it was unable to pay all outstanding winnings.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chun Sophal and Hor Hab
Thursday, 26 February 2009

Cambodia's sole licensed bookmaker receives no compensation following immediate forced closure as some punters are unable to claim winnings.

THE government fast-tracked the closure of the Kingdom's sole licensed bookmaker Wednesday after telling Cambo Six it would receive no compensation following its decision, while some customers did not receive their winnings.

Minister of Finance Keat Chhon said he signed a termination agreement with the company Wednesday, adding that the government would be free of criticism because it had agreed to cancel a licence, not a contract. Keat Chhon said the process would take a week.

But on Wednesday, Cambo Six said the police had already forced closure of all branches of the bookmaker, meaning all bets were off. Its branches in Phnom Penh, Battambang, Sihanoukville and Siem Reap remained open in some cases to pay winnings to previous customers.
Other punters went unpaid, it said.

"Due to forced closure by the authorities, we are unable to proceed [with] payout in all outlets," Cambo Six head office manager, Nancy Chau, told the Post.

The bookmaker added that this week's series of events would spell ruin.

"It will cause us tremendous damages - financially and reputation-wise," Chau said. "We know the intention of the prime minister not to renew our licence."

On Tuesday Prime Minister Hun Sen abruptly announced that the gambling entity would be forced to cease operations, claiming Cambo Six had been responsible for moral decline in the Kingdom since it began operations in early 2002. Cambo Six held an operating licence that was due to expire on January 31, 2011, prior to Wednesday's termination by the government. It currently employs 3,000 people.

It will cause us tremendous damages - financially and reputation-wise.

One employee, who preferred to remain anonymous, said that after hearing the news he would begin to look for another job, adding that some employees would find it difficult to find work due to a lack of skills. The gaming industry as a whole has experienced a downturn since the financial crisis, casino owners said, that has resulted in working hours being cut.

The employee added he was "very happy to see the government's enforcement because I don't really support gambling, though I work here".

Investment headache
Despite the premier's insistence on Tuesday when announcing the closure that the government would abide by national law so as not to "destroy" Cambodia's investment climate, Cambo Six said that complications surround the closure due to foreign investment in the company - officially, Hong Kong-based Golden Resort Group Ltd owns a 49-percent stake in Cambo Six following an investment agreement signed in June 2007.

"Our main concern is that investors - local and international - believe and understand a public tender is official until the agreement expires," said Chau.

Foreign investor
It was not immediately clear how the foreign stakeholder, Golden Resorts Group, would move forward in light of the prime minister's decision.

In announcing the acquisition of its stake in Cambo Six in July 2007, Golden Resorts Group - which has also invested in gaming in Macau - said it had originally been confident of the venture's success.

"In view of the booming economy in Cambodia, the group is optimistic that the gaming industry ... has a promising outlook," it said.


Vietnam aims to lease land for rice crops

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by May Kunmakara
Thursday, 26 February 2009

VIETNAM, the world's second-largest rice producer, plans to lease Cambodian farmland to grow rice in areas close to the border, officials said this week.

Doan Ngoc Pha, deputy director of the Agriculture and Rural Development Department of An Giang province of Vietnam, which borders Cambodia, told the Vietnamese Thanh Nien News on Tuesday that the move was aimed at stopping Cambodian rice smuggling to Vietnam.
"Vietnamese companies will be encouraged to lease land in Cambodia and ... allowed to export rice to Vietnam," Doan Ngoc Pha was quoted as saying.

Ung Samey, Prey Veng governor, told the Post on Wednesday he will meet officials in Vietnam to discuss the issue.

"My province has set aside 10,000 hectares of farmland ... for leasing at the border," said Cheang Orm, governor of Svay Rieng province, said Wednesday.

The Interior Ministry has issued instructions, however, that no land on the border can be leased to a foreign country unless it has already been demarcated with border markers.

Vietnam's embassy spokesman was unavailable for comment Wednesday.

Mao Thora, secretary of state at the Ministry of Commerce, said exact figures of rice exports to Vietnam were difficult to determine because of the high level of unofficial trade.

"The ministry has tried really hard to cover exports between ... people at the border," he said, adding that Vietnamese officials have previously informed the ministry that Vietnam imported one million tonnes of Cambodian rice last year, about one-sixth of the Kingdom's total annual rice production.

US$11 million cement plant to move ahead

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Nguon Sovan and Soeun Say
Thursday, 26 February 2009

After initial delays, a local building materials company says that construction on a new cement and tile plant will begin next month.

Cambodia's largest construction company, Khaou Chuly Group (KP Group), says it is to go ahead with a ready-mixed concrete and tile factory, despite falling local cement demand.

Construction was delayed from the last quarter of 2008 due to the economic slowdown.

"The plant will be ready in August. The total investment is US$11 million including land, buildings, machinery and heavy vehicles," said Khaou Phallaboth, president of Khaou Chuly Group.

The plant is to be located on a two-hectare plot near the Northbridge School in Phnom Penh's Russey Keo district.

We are optimistic that the economy will start to recover at the end of this year.

The company said the plant will manufacture cement and roof tiles, with construction set to commence next month.

Demand for building materials has taken a hit from the construction slump, and the country's largest cement maker, Kampot Cement, said Tuesday it was cutting output in two 10-percent phases. But KP says it is banking on a recovery.

"We are optimistic that the economy will start to recover at the end of this year - but not a full recovery, of course," he said. He added that the new plant will generate about 100 jobs, with capacity of 150,000 tonnes of ready-mixed concrete per year and 50,000 units of concrete roof tiles per day.

Ith Praing, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy, welcomed the investment project.

"It shows the evolution of the construction sector, even though there is a real estate downturn," he said.

Sat Phearum, management assistant to Grand Industrial, which has produced ready-mixed concrete since 1996, said that the local market is large enough for new players.

"Our company is not concerned about the new investment by the Khaou Chuly Group because we have many years' experience."

However, he said that demand for ready-mixed concrete has declined by 50-percent since the slowdown started in June 2008.

Souvenir sellers suffering

A souvenir vendor in the Russian Market in Phnom Penh. Fewer tourist arrivals mean tough times for market vendors.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Soeun Say
Thursday, 26 February 2009

Falling tourist arrivals are taking a toll on tchotchke vendors, with some fearing bankruptcy if business doesn't improve.

SOUVENIR store operators in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh may face bankruptcy if tourism does not recover quickly, with revenues down by as much as 70 percent in recent months, say vendors.

Mam Ros Chamroeun, the owner of Asian Silk Souvenir Shop in Phnom Penh, said monthly revenues have plunged from US$1,500-$2,000 in mid-2008 to only $400 a month currently.

"Our businesses have been kept alive by tourists," he said. "If tourist arrivals continue to drop, our businesses will go bankrupt."

According to Ministry of Tourism figures, 2.125 million foreign tourists visited Cambodia in 2008, up 5.5 percent from 2007.

But arrivals dropped 6.5 percent in the second half of the year after growing 12.6 percent in the first six months, meaning the government missed its target of 2.3 million visitors in 2008.

In January, Tourism Minister Thong Khon told the Post that the global financial crisis and ongoing political turmoil in Thailand - a major tourist gateway to Cambodia - were behind the downturn.

He said that the souvenir trade earned 20 percent to 25 percent of tourism sector revenue, estimated at $1.4 billion in 2008, or about $700 per arrival.

The official expected total revenues to climb to $1.5 billion in 2009, with a full recovery by 2011.

Thouch Kunthea, owner of Khmer Princess Souvenir Shop, also in Phnom Penh, said revenues had fallen between 50 percent and 60 percent in recent months.

"Now I am already considering leaving my business, and I think that the downturn will continue to get worse," she said. Lim Nam, the owner of Angkor Night Market in Siem Reap, said that the downturn had forced him to lower rents to attract operators. Sales in the market had dropped by 50 percent, he said.

"It is not like 2007," he said. "Sales have slumped since 2008, and we have been forced to decrease rentals from $150 to $100 per stand, but still nobody wants to rent because they cannot earn."

He said he was worried he faced bankruptcy if the market does not recover.

Men Sinoeun, executive director of the Artisans Association of Cambodia, a training and trade facilitation organisation, said sales were healthy in the first six months of last year but dropped between 40 percent and 50 percent over the second half.

"Souvenir markets are going to drop even further no matter what we do because potential buyers lost income when the world financial crisis happened," he said.

Thai separatists vow to pursue independence - 26 Feb 09


The armed conflict in Thailand's Muslim south has claimed thousands of lives, but little is known about the groups fighting the government.

Al Jazeera's Step Vaessen gained access to leaders of a key separatist group for a rare glimpse into the secretive movement.

Stronger national defence fosters regional co-operation


BANGKOK — A strengthening of national defence and security co-operation between Viet Nam and its neighbours will boost ties in the economy, trade, investment and tourism, said a senior military officer.

Viet Nam’s Minister of Defence, General Phung Quang Thanh, made this statement during a meeting with Vietnamese reporters in Bangkok prior to the third ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting in Pattaya, Thailand, from February 25-27.

Thanh said that his ministry and other relevant Vietnamese agencies had spared no effort to transform Viet Nam’s land and sea borders into peaceful areas and had provided Laos and Cambodia with assistance in personnel training to further this goal.

Viet Nam and Thailand had already completed the demarcation of their sea borders and had so far conducted 18 joint sea patrols, thus maintaining security in the region’s waters and facilitating the operations of fishermen from both countries, the minister said.

He added that, although Viet Nam and Thailand had yet to sign a protocol, the two nations would discuss a memorandum of understanding on defence co-operation and perform an exchange of visits and military personnel.

Thailand has sent a number of military students to Viet Nam to learn Vietnamese, and in return, a number of Vietnamese military trainees were given the opportunity to study the Thai language to increase the efficiency of their joint sea patrols.

"In the near future, Viet Nam plans to conduct joint patrols with other member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)", Thanh said.

Thanh said that Viet Nam planned to table a motion for a discussion of fishermen’s violations on contiguous territorial waters at the third ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting. — VNS

Alwaleed bin Talal Foundation donates $687,500 to Cambodian Muslim Community Development, revolving leadership program

Posted on Thursday, 26 February 2009
Industry Sector Government
Country Saudi Arabia
Client(s) Kingdom Holding Company

HRH Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz Alsaud, Chairman of Alwaleed bin Talal Foundation (ABTF) donated $687,500 to the Cambodian Muslim Community Development (CMCD), Revolving Leadership Program.

The grant will allow CMCD to provide leadership and educational loans over a 5-year period covering tuition at Norton University, accommodation and financial support. Students are chosen based on academic excellence. The target was to sponsor 100 high school students in the first year, increasing to 400 in fourth year. In this first year, an overwhelming 136 students were accepted into the Revolving Leadership Program.

Cambodia’s Muslim community, the Chams, face poverty and isolation. They live outside the capital Phnom Penh in communities that lack access to basic infrastructure. The CMCD has built schools, small roads, and bridges throughout Cambodia and has sponsored educational projects in Phnom Penh.

This is the second time ABTF partners with the CMCD. In 2007, ABTF sponsored 31 students to attend Norton University. Norton University, the oldest private university of Cambodia, partners with international universities such as Bangkok University in Thailand. It offers degrees in English, Law, Hotel and Tourism, Computer Science, Business, Economic Science, and MBA.

HRH through ABTF has donated to many philanthropic projects globally including, $500,000 to the Turquoise Mountain, Afghanistan, $766,848 to Leadership University College (LUC), Bangladesh, a $1 million donation to The Right to Live Society (RLS). HRH recently announcement his readiness to donate over 100 housing units with a total of SR5 million to victims of the run down slum areas in Cairo, a $235,282 donation to Oxfam’s project to Increase Market Access for Women in Senegal, a donation of over $3 million to the Darfur region of Sudan and donated $356,500 to Deworm the World Initiative.

The initiative was presented by Young Global Leaders (YGL) Education Taskforce at the Davos World Economic Forum. Last year HRH made a $360,000 donation to SOS Children’s Village in Indonesia and made a substantial emergency donation to Indonesia's flood victims. In 2006, HRH made a donation for the Yemen landslide victims and in the same year donated $1 million through the United Nations World Food Program (UNWFP) to the drought-ravaged people of Kenya. His Highness had made a SR20 million donation to Pakistan’s earth quake victims in 2005.

Other major donations made by HRH included $19 million to South East Asia's Tsunami victims, $830,000 donation to the families of the Egyptian train fire victims, 80 tons of supplies to the Algerian quake victims, $500,000 to Jammeh Foundation for Peace in The Gambia to fund a diagnostic center, one million Egyptian Pounds (LE) in support of Mrs. Susanne Mubarak campaign for the treatment of children suffering from cancer, $5 million to assist in the rescue and rebuilding efforts in the wake of floods in Morocco, $5 million to support the Carter Center Peace and Health programs in Africa, and the rebuilding of Zayzoon village in Syria after it was wiped by floods caused by the collapse of a dam.

VN, Cambodia speed up border marker planting


PHNOM PENH— The eighth session of the Viet Nam-Cambodia joint technical subcommittee for land border demarcation and marker planting was held in Phnom Penh from February 23-25.

The Vietnamese delegation was headed by Nguyen Hong Thao, deputy head of the Foreign Ministry’s National Border Committee and permanent member of the Viet Nam-Cambodia joint border committee, while the Cambodian delegation was led by Long Visalo, secretary of state of foreign affairs and international co-operation and head of the Joint Technical Committee for Land Border Demarcation and Marker Planting.

Based on the results of the border demarcation and marker planting undertaken by Viet Nam and Cambodia as well as the current situation in each country, the two sides agreed to propose adjustments to the master plan governing the matter for the 2009-12 period.

They also discussed preparations for the third session of the Viet Nam-Cambodia Joint Committee for Border Demarcation and Marker Planting. — VNS

Khmer Rouge trial: Time for soul searching

By Lao Mong Hay
Column: Rule by Fear
Published: February 25, 2009

Hong Kong, China — In 1978, some Western countries and organizations took action at the U.N. Human Rights Commission to stop the Khmer Rouge’s violations of human rights in Cambodia, but got nowhere when communist countries blocked the attempt. In the same year U.S. President Jimmy Carter described the Khmer Rouge as “the world’s worst violators of human rights.”

In the 1990s, America wanted to bring Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge leader who continued an armed struggle against the elected government of Cambodia, to justice. In 1997 the Cambodian government asked the United Nations to create an international tribunal to try the Khmer Rouge. Pol Pot then died.

Later, the Cambodian government wanted a Cambodian trial with U.N. assistance. In 2007, the U.N.-assisted tribunal was created and began work. Five surviving top Khmer Rouge leaders were subsequently arrested and charged with various crimes.

Last week, the Khmer Rouge tribunal began the trial of Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, head of the notorious S-21 prison of the Khmer regime, where over 12,000 people were tortured and killed. Duch is charged with crimes against humanity, homicide and torture.

The trials of Duch and other Khmer Rouge leaders will reveal at least some of the truth about this particular episode of Cambodia’s history, deliver some measure of justice for the victims and help Cambodia address its tragic past. They will also consolidate the “special measures” that were deemed necessary, according to the state signatories to the peace agreements concluded in 1991 to end the war in Cambodia, “to assure protection of human rights, and the non-return to the policies and practices of the past.”

However, those trials should not overlook the need for the Cambodian people themselves and others to do some soul searching.

Prior to the Khmer Rouge’s rise to power, the overwhelming majority of Cambodian people were Buddhist. Proportionally speaking, there must have been many Buddhist Khmer Rouge officials, from top leaders to the lowest-ranking cadres. After their defeat, many of them have willingly returned to Buddhism which, alongside other religions, they destroyed during their rise to power.

Cambodians should try to answer the question – which has been repeatedly heard in private but has not been raised in public – as to how these Buddhists among the Khmer Rouge could help kill some 1.7 million of their fellow countrymen in the short span of four years during their rule.

Recently, in a Buddhist temple, an elderly Cambodian who had been forced to abandon his monkhood when the Khmer Rouge came to power answered this question for a Buddhist foreign visitor: "The mighty communism simply swept Buddhism away.”

This answer begs further questions: Why was Buddhism unable to restrain those killers, temper their ruthlessness and the harshness of communism? Why, just a few years after embracing communism, did they abandon all notions of Buddhist ethics, when the overwhelming majority of the Khmer Rouge had been so nice to people during their struggle for power? Was Buddhism just skin deep, and were Buddhist ethical values – such as respect for life, loving-kindness and compassion – not the Cambodian people’s strong, deep-seated core values as these people might have thought?

Cambodians need to do some deep soul searching as to how Buddhist they were prior to the Khmer Rouge times, and even in current times, where crimes are no less ruthless. The Cambodian Buddhist clergy and the Cambodian government should inquire into the failure of Buddhism to restraint the Khmer Rouge’s extremism.

Other peoples may need to do a different kind of soul searching. When the Khmer Rouge was killing its own people many countries, mainly in Asia, did not utter a word. No Asian country was on record supporting the attempts by Western countries and organizations at the U.N. Human Rights Commission to end the Khmer Rouge’s violations of human rights.

China, for instance, which was supporting the Khmer Rouge and which could have influenced them, maintained “normal and friendly relations,” ignoring altogether the massacres that were going on and doing nothing to stop them.

Back then, the way a state treated its own people was of no concern to any other state. Rather, it was considered an internal affair of that state, which no other state could interfere in.

This particular norm of international relations cost dearly the powerless Cambodian people in the Khmer Rouge times and has continued to cost enormously other nations such as East Timor and Burma.

Based on the tragedy of the Cambodian people and others, this norm should be completely abandoned. How a state treats its own people should be the concern of other states too.


(Lao Mong Hay is a senior researcher at the Asian Human Rights Commission in Hong Kong. He was previously director of the Khmer Institute of Democracy in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and a visiting professor at the University of Toronto in 2003. In 1997, he received an award from Human Rights Watch and the Nansen Medal in 2000 from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.)

Stronger defence ties foster regional cooperation

MCOT English News

BANGKOK, Feb 26 (VNA) – A strengthening of national defence and security cooperation between Vietnam and its neighbours will have the knock-on effect of boosting their links in areas such as the economy, trade, investment and tourism, said a senior military officer.

Vietnam’s Minister of Defence, General Phung Quang Thanh, made this statement during a meeting with Vietnamese reporters in Bangkok prior to the third ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting in Pattaya, Thailand, from Feb. 25-27.

Gen. Thanh said that his ministry and other relevant Vietnamese agencies have spared no effort to transform Vietnam’s land and sea borders with its neighbours into peaceful areas, and has provided Laos and Cambodia with assistance in personnel training for this sphere.

Vietnam and Thailand have already completed the demarcation of their sea borders and have so far conducted 18 joint sea patrols, thus maintaining security in the region’s waters and facilitating the operations of fishermen from both countries, the minister said.

He added that, although Vietnam and Thailand have yet to sign a protocol, the two nations will discuss a memorandum of understanding on defence cooperation and perform an exchange of visits and military personnel.

Thailand has sent a number of military students to Vietnam to learn Vietnamese, and in return, a number of Vietnamese military trainees were given the opportunity to study the Thai language to increase the efficiency of their joint sea patrols.

In the near future, Vietnam plans to conduct joint patrols with other member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Gen. Thanh said.

Regarding the third ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting, Gen. Thanh revealed that Vietnam plans to table a motion for a discussion on violations by fishermen on their contiguous territorial waters. (VNA)

Overweight in Phnom Penh, no laughing matter

Phnom Penh (Cambodia), 19/12/2008. Physical exercise – here at the Olympic stadium – remains the best way to fight obesity, a growing problem among Cambodians
© John Vink / Magnum

By Corinne Callebaut

In Phnom Penh, people are getting bigger, just like the cars or buildings proliferating in the capital city. Following in the steps of other Southeast Asian capitals, Cambodia's main city faces a health problem caused by physical inactivity, changing lifestyles, and high-fat and sugar diet. Malnutrition continues to take a terrible toll in the Kingdom. But in the urban context, it is taking the shape of an increase in people's body fat and does not just reflect a cosmetic issue. It is also contributing to the emergence of new health problems or the worsening of existing ones like diabetes.

Both children and adults affected by overweight
No relevant statistics are available yet in Cambodia. However, one cannot fail to notice that residents in Phnom Penh are gaining weight. In the capital, seeing children and adults with fat bellies is not uncommon any more. “I have worked in this school for five years and children have been getting bigger for the last two years at least”, Narith Preth, a teacher at the Newton Thilay School IV on Monireth Boulevard, observed. “Some of them have to wear uniforms twice as large as the usual size for their age!”

The same observation was made by Dr. Jacqueline Dicquemare, chair of the association Micadev (Mission Care Development Organisation). “Many Cambodians in the capital enjoy a better economic situation. They have less children but spoil them much more. Also, controlling their eating is seen as deprivation, which may stir up bad memories”, the endocrinologist explained, who regularly goes to the Preah Kossamak hospital for medical humanitarian visits. Scenes in swimming pools paint a similar picture. At the VIP water sports centre, an employee pokes fun at the “many flabby tummies” there, more than he had ever seen before.

"In some cultures, especially in Southeast Asia, being fat is associated with being rich and this is a problem", Trisha Dunning, professor of endocrinology at the University of Melbourne, Australia, explained. "In these countries, having diabetes can even be considered as a status symbol because it is seen as evidence of a person's ability to afford expensive high-sugar food, which is not necessarily true." 9-year-old Mae Li is already quite portly for her age, but she is rather proud of her paunch. "Some children sometimes make fun of me, but most of the time, they show me more respect. They know I eat good food because my parents are rich."

Physical inactivity and bad dietary habits
The problem is nowhere near as serious as it is in Western developed countries. However, doctors are starting to be concerned. For instance, Marc Frère, a French diabetologist-endocrinologist who also works for Micadev, is alarmed by the weight gained by Phnom Penh residents. “Only a few years ago, this problem did not even exist here. Now, you see more and more overweight people, children in particular. But actually, it is not really surprising. Everybody used to cycle around, but today most people drive motorbikes or cars, even to take children to school. People have settled into a more sedentary lifestyle.”

Jacqueline Dicquemare believes the problem also stems from new dietary habits. “People in Phnom Penh are less active physically. But they have kept their old dietary habits and continue to eat a lot of white rice. This is fine when people only eat rice. But it becomes a problem when they also have other food like eggs, meat, sugar or sweet drinks, the way wealthier people do.”

Health risks
The risk is real. Excess weight may cause a cosmetic problem, but most importantly, it is a significant contributing factor for diabetes, which many Cambodians already suffer from. “Cambodia already has a high incidence of diabetes, which is close to its level in developed countries”, Dr. Dicquemare said, “although the weak life expectancy in this country [around 60 years] should result in a lower number of diabetic people, as the much more frequent Type 2 diabetes is usually diagnosed among people who are forty and above”.

The expert also cited Canadian studies which “impute this high incidence to the so-called 'thrifty gene hypothesis'. It argues that within populations exposed to situations of food scarcity for several generations, people with a thrifty metabolism had a better chance for survival because they were able to maximise fat storage. However, in situations of abundance, the same individuals suffer from a propensity for excess weight and insulin resistance which sedentary behaviour only aggravates.”

Finally, the high prevalence of viral diseases like hepatitis or HIV/AIDS also contributes to the early occurrence and deterioration of diabetes. This makes the weight gain of Phnom Penh residents a serious cause for concern.

Undernourishment much more widespread
In spite of all this, no public health policy has been initiated yet in Phnom Penh. One of the reasons is that undernourishment and its continuing ravages in Cambodia are still keeping nutrition medical experts busy. In contrast, the issue of excess weight remains sporadic and only affects urban areas.

To Dr. Ou Kevanna, director of Cambodia's National Nutrition Program, “the issue does exist, especially since men are gaining weight due to a significant increase in the consumption of alcohol, including beer, and lack of exercise. However, our priority is to take care of children and mothers suffering from malnutrition, which is still responsible for too many deaths in the Kingdom.” Nowadays, about 50% of children in Cambodia – but up to 80% in rural areas – do not get enough food, a situation that has deteriorated in the last 15 years.

Phnom Penh residents take things into their own hands
People in Phnom Penh seem to become increasingly aware of their overweight problems. They are increasingly going to the gym but also to open spaces, like the gardens in front of the Ministry of Defence, the park of the University of Phnom Penh, or the Olympic Stadium. Mrs Pheap, a 30-year-old mother of three is one of these self-conscious residents: she weighs 183 lbs for 5.1 ft and has been coming to the stadium for the last two months to exercise to the sound of techno music. “After my third child was born, I suffered depression and gained a lot of weight. The doctor told me it was because I was staying at home without doing any exercise and that I was eating too much. He said all this fat was not good for my body, so I started to come here. I have already lost 26 lbs but I still need to lose 22 more!”

And she is visibly not an isolated case. “Many of my friends are in a similar situation. They have to lose a lot of fat”, she says. Further away, 57-year-old Heng Y has been practising sport for 14 years and notes that the stadium is always full nowadays. “Since 2003, more and more people have been coming here. I think people realised they have to take care of their body for physical and mental reasons.”

But it is yet to be seen whether this sporting fervour will be enough to curb the overweight trend in Phnom Penh and whether the Cambodian capital will successfully avoid following the example of its neighbouring countries. In Thailand, 7% of children under the age of five are overweight according to UNICEF, while a recent study showed that in Jakarta (Indonesia), 16% of preschool children from the wealthiest families were obese. Although Phnom Penh and Cambodia are not there yet, the warning in these statistics should be heeded.