Sunday, 2 August 2009

Opinion: Pol Pot's younger brother finds peace

Saloth Nhep bears a striking resemblance to his older brother, Pol Pot, but has lived a very different life. (Jay Mather/GlobalPost)

Cambodians appreciate, even savor, the calm in their country, rather than worrying over the deprivation of their present-day lives.

By Joel Brinkley - GlobalPost

PREK SBOV, Cambodia — Saloth Nhep enjoys watching the Khmer Rouge trial, underway in Phnom Penh. Like most Cambodians, his home does not have electricity, but he has a small black-and-white TV powered by a car battery.

What strikes him, he says, is that “the court is not Cambodian, it’s partly international. That’s unusual here.”

Both the United Nations and Cambodian government are administering the trial. Still Saloth Nhep says he hopes the defendants, aged Khmer Rouge leaders, are convicted, even though they were close friends and war-time compatriots of his older brother, Saloth Sar — Pol Pot.

The Khmer Rouge leader, Brother Number One, died 11 years ago, and at that time Saloth Nhep grieved. "When I heard the news I was very sad, and I felt my heart slow down," he said then.

Now he is 84 years old. Even with a creased face and white hair, Saloth Nhep holds a striking resemblance to his brother. Whatever anger he still holds toward his brother relates primarily to Pol Pot’s neglect of his family — not his role in the deaths of two million Cambodians.

Before joining the Cambodian communist party, Saloth Sar studied in France, and “after he came back from France, he came to see us only twice,” Soloth Nhep complained. "He did not care about family. He has never even seen the face of my oldest child.”

While the Khmer Rouge held power, from 1975 to January 1979, “I did not know the name Pol Pot, did not know he was my brother,” Saloth Nhep said. Even as the president’s brother, he was swept into the vortex of the Khmer Rouge horror. Unlike his older brother, he was an illiterate rice farmer — just the kind of Cambodian the Khmer Rouge respected.

“They treated me like everyone else; they didn’t know he was my brother. I didn’t know Pol Pot. The work was very hard, and their was no freedom.” But then in 1977 he saw a poster with his brother’s picture. He stared. He was shocked.

“What I was thinking was that he should not be leading the country this way and letting people starve to death.”

After that, he says he did not tell anyone that Pol Pot was his brother. Asked why, he just shrugged. He continued working with little if anything to eat until the Vietnamese invasion in 1979. Neither during the war nor after did he ever see his brother again.

Today, Saloth Nhep illustrates the paradox of Cambodian life, 30 years after the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime — 10 years after the last Khmer Rouge guerrilla surrendered. He lives with his extended family in a small house. The walls of his home, and the roof, are of bamboo and palm fronds. He has no toilet, no telephone, no clean water, no furniture other than straw mats and a hammock he sits in without a shirt as he dries off from his bath from a bucket. As he talks, three young children, Pol Pot’s great nieces, watch him from behind another hammock, giggling and chewing on rice cakes.

Saloth Nhep is content now. His expression at rest is serene. “The present government is better than the previous regime,” he avers. “There is freedom of travel, and we have security.” That’s all he seems to want.

For most Cambodians, life is an unending struggle to survive.

Just down the road, Tuy Khorn, 42, is trying to plow her rice paddy with a single-blade plow pulled by two oxen. The Khmer Rouge killed her husband, so she is alone. She tries her best to tie a heavy rock to the plow blade so it will dig a deeper furrow. But as soon as she ticks the oxen with a stick, and the animals begin lumbering forward, the rock falls off. Again and again.

“Some years I can grow enough rice” to last through the year, she says. “But if there’s no rain, I can’t grow enough. I don’t know what I will do if there’s no rain, maybe just go by nature” — meaning eat fruits and insects and whatever she can find in the wild.

But Tuy Khorn does not complain. The country is at peace. She needn’t worry about Khmer Rouge raiders popping out from behind the line of trees just ahead. Even now, she and most Cambodians appreciate, even savor, the calm and worry less about the deprivation of their present-day lives.

“We worked hard to achieve peace,” said Prach Chann, governor of Battambang Province. “Now we don’t want to fight among ourselves anymore. Now we can move on.”

After a long life of hard labor, Saloth Nhep does not complain, either. He is calm, clear-eyed, comfortable with himself. He now has enough to eat, and he has gained respect in his village, even with his uncanny resemblance to his notorious brother. Once, they actually elected him to a school committee.

“They can see that I behave in a good way, so they accept me,” he said. “I just live like everyone else. I never had to prove myself because I was not involved with my brother. That is hard to explain to people from far away.” He, too, is at peace.

US trade envoy to voice 'tough love' for Africa

US Trade Representative Ron Kirk

WASHINGTON — The top US trade diplomat said Friday he would have a message of "tough love" for African nations on an upcoming visit after some complained about extending export preferences to other poor regions.

US Trade Representative Ron Kirk plans to travel with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to an economic meeting next week in Kenya. Kirk will then visit Ethiopia and Senegal, while Clinton will head to six other African nations.

The Kenya meeting involves countries covered by the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), a US law giving preferential access to the world's biggest market to African states with open markets and democratic governments.

Kirk acknowledged that some African nations were concerned at calls by US lawmakers to extend such benefits to impoverished nations in other regions -- notably Bangladesh and Cambodia, major producers of textiles.

"I think some of what we may respond with is a little bit of tough love," Kirk told reporters on a conference call.

"The reality of being involved in a globally interconnected world is that those countries... that invest in their people and their education, that reform their laws, that invest in their infrastructure are the ones that are the most successful," he said.

"The United States is absolutely committed to strengthen the successful relationship with AGOA, but that should in no way impair our relationships with other least-developing countries," he said.

Bangladesh and Cambodia both export more garments to the United States than all African nations combined.

But the Asian nations in turn have been seeking greater access since the end of a global quota system in 2005, fearing being swamped by giants China and India.

Kirk said the United States nonetheless firmly supported AGOA, signed in 2000 by then-president Bill Clinton.

The legislation transformed the US ties with Africa "from principally a paternalistic and sort of humanitarian relationship to one that frankly was more balanced around mutual interests," Kirk said.

Trade between US and sub-Saharan Africa has more than tripled since AGOA but critics say that the impact has been inflated by US demand for oil from energy producers such as Angola and Nigeria.

Opinion: Identifying Cambodian injustice

A woman pushes her bike in February 2008 along a railroad track in Pursat Province, where Top Chan Sereyvudth is the chief prosecutor. (Chor Sokunthea/Reuters)

What prosecutor Top Chan Sereyvudth's true nature says about Cambodia's justice system.
By Joel Brinkley - GlobalPost
Published: August 1, 2009

PURSAT, Cambodia — Top Chan Sereyvudth is a little man, maybe five foot four, with a bit of fuzz on his chin that some might mistake for a beard. When faced with questions about his problematic behavior, he takes several steps backward with a nervous look. His is the face of injustice in Cambodia.

Top is the chief prosecutor in Pursat Province, a government lawyer charged with bringing malefactors to justice. Well, through a bureaucratic sleight of hand, he managed to have a case transferred from Banteay Meanchey Province, on the other side of the nation, into his own courtroom. This case involved a dispute with four villagers over ownership of some land. These villagers were locked in argument with none other than Top Chan Sereyvudth, who stood to gain five acres for himself.

In his own courtroom, the prosecutor managed to dispatch the villagers to jail after the court offered a preliminary judgement in his favor. In Cambodia, where courts are plagued with graft and inequity, that would have been the end of it — if not for Chhay Sareth, governor of Pursat Province.

He had been out of town during the prosecutor’s escapade, but he heard about it when scores of the victims’ friends from Banteay Meanchey began raucous demonstrations in the center of town.

“I was just informed that there were angry people in the street,” the governor told me. “I was 100 kilometers away. The case was getting bigger and bigger. I thought, if we don’t stop it, Hun Sen will hear about it!” Hun Sen is Cambodia’s prime minister.

After hurrying home, he called in the protesters, heard their story and “ordered the police to assure their security.” A few days later, the case moved to trial. By now the governor’s concern was well known, and the trial judge, In Bopha, let the four men go. When I asked him why, he chose his words carefully.

“It was determined that the crime was committed in Banteay Meanchey province and was out of our jurisdiction. So I ordered it forwarded back to Banteay Meanchey under article 290 of our code.”

As all of this proceeded, Justice Minister Ang Vong Vattana grew angry. After all, he had approved the prosecutor’s request to transfer the case. Now, what was a governor doing messing around in his courts?

“The minister of justice asked me why I got involved in this,” the governor recalled. “I told him: ‘This problem came here from Banteay Meanchey, and when someone vomits on your leg, you have to react. So I got involved.’ I respect these people, even though they came from Banteay Meanchey. I did not know this case until they came here. The prosecutor brought this case here.”

All of that happened in February and March. I spoke to the governor in early July and asked him: After all of that, why is Top Chan Sereyvudth still chief prosecutor in Pursat Province?

“I wonder why the prosecutor, who was really involved in this case, why there is no punishment, no measure taken against him,” he said. “I still wonder why. If you want to know more, I suggest you talk to the minister of justice.” So I did. But not before Top Chan Sereyvudth showed his true nature one more time.

At the end of June, Lieut. Col. Ou Bunthan, a trafficker in endangered species, sent his employee, Leang Saroeun, to pick up a wild pangolin someone had captured. Leang did as told, but on the way back the animal escaped. The colonel was furious. He summoned Leang to his house, poured four liters of gasoline over him and then lit him.

Leang's wife, Laet Heang watched in horror as her husband, ablaze, “ran and jumped into a cistern” full of water, she told me. A few days later he died. Word of this got around, of course. A reporter asked Top Chan Sereyvudth about the incident, since it occurred in Pursat.

Top said he was awaiting a police report before considering the case. But then, without skipping a beat, he pronounced: “It is slanderous to say that Ou Bunthan burned Leang Saroeun."

A few days later I asked Justice Minister Ang Vong Vattana first about transferring the land case to Pursat. The minister answered with an imperial tone: “I have the right to transfer the case, and I did it.” But didn’t Top have a personal interest in the case? “People say he was involved, but nobody has shown me the proof.”

Okay, then, was it proper for Top to pronounce guilt in the Ou Buntham case — before he had even seen the police report?

For a moment, the minister simply glared with a pinched lip, narrow-eyed stare. Then he stood up and stormed out of the room, muttering, “you waste my time.”

Today, Top Chan Sereyvudth is still Pursat Province’s chief prosecutor. Today, as every day, justice in his court cannot be had.

The Vietnamese Embassy Asks Cambodia to Focus on Investment of Vietnamese Companies in Cambodia – Saturday, 1.8.2009

Posted on 1 August 2009
The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 623

“Phnom Penh: The Vietnamese Ambassador to Cambodia, Mr. Ngô Anh Dũng [Ngo Anh Dung], had met with the Minister of the Council of Ministers, Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, to discuss existing cooperation in some important sectors with Vietnamese investments in Cambodia.

“An official of the Council of Ministers told reporters that after the meeting on 29 July 2009 at the Council of Ministers, Mr. Ngô Anh Dũng stated his intention to continue the existing work of the former ambassador, and he pointed to some important points that the Vietnamese government has requested to keep under attention, which are related to major investment sectors in Cambodia such as mines and energy where there is investment by Vietnamese companies. Therefore, the ambassador asked for cooperation and instructions from the Cambodian government. Regarding the oil sector, the ambassador said that both countries have large resources of oil and gas, because Vietnam has a lot of experience in these fields, as it has cooperated with Cuba, some countries in Africa, and Russia. As for agriculture and rubber plantations, the Royal Government of Cambodia had provided already 100,000 hectares as concession land. Also, the Viettel company is a licensed investor in telecommunications [brand name Metfone – 500,000 mobile phone users]. There is cooperation in culture, and in expanding tourism [after 5 years with tourists from South Korea topping the list, in 2009 there are more Vietnamese tourists than Korean] by combining tourism of Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam, since these three countries are similarly rich in cultural and artistic potential. Vietnam has already assisted in human resources development for Cambodia, so this is like what has already also been done before.

“In response, Deputy Prime Minister Sok An agreed that Vietnam is a country with much experience in development. Thus, Cambodia will try to ensure good and timely cooperation.”


This meeting followed several days of high level talks on Cambodian-Vietnamese cooperation, about which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Vietnam reported

Vietnam, Cambodia talk further cooperation

“Vietnamese and Cambodian leaders have met in Phnom Penh to discuss measures to boost the bilateral economic relations.

“During his three-day working visit to Cambodia , beginning on July 25, Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Trương Vĩnh Trọng [Truong Vinh Trong] held talks with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and Vice Chairman of the Cambodian National Assembly Heng Samrin on July 26.

“The Cambodian leaders highlighted the visit by Deputy Prime Minister Trương Vĩnh Trọng, saying that the two countries’ solidarity and friendship have been further reinforced and developed.

“Deputy Prime Minister Trương Vĩnh Trọng and his entourage also paid a courtesy visit to Buddhist Supreme Patriarch Tep Vong at the Ounalom Pagoda, and presented hospital beds, medical equipment and computers to the Cambodian Buddhist Center’s infirmary.
The same day, the Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Trương Vĩnh Trọng and the Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen attended a ceremony to inaugurate the Cambodian national airline – Cambodia Angkor Air, a joint venture between Vietnam Airlines and the Cambodian Aviation Administration.

“They also witness the awarding of the Cambodian Government’s license to the Bank for Investment and Development of Vietnam (BIDV) to open a representative office in Cambodia, and to set up an insurance company, and an investment development company in Phnom Penh.”

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.17, #4961, 1.8.2009
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Saturday, 1 August 2009

Mayor Bear helps Cambodian orphans

Travelling bear: Debra Long with her Mayor Bear and son Sam at the orphanage in Cambodia

Saturday 1st August 2009

THE Mayor Bear has been on an inspirational trip to help children in Cambodia.

Debra Long and her son, Sam Cain, aged 16, took the Mayor of Bolton’s mascot to an orphanage in Siem Reap, where they used the bear to help teach English to children there.

The underprivileged children loved the cuddly creature so much that he ended up staying at the orphanage.

Mrs Long, from Atherton, whose son is a pupil at Canon Slade School, said: “We had a brilliant time working with the children.

“We used the bear to teach them about the clothes people wear in England. When it came time to leave we couldn’t bear to take him with us.

“We cycled to the orphanage every day. It was a very different kind of holiday, especially for Sam, but he insisted he wanted to come and he loved it.”

Before his trip, the Bolton bear stopped off at Bridge Hair Studio, in Blackburn Road, Astley Bridge, to get his fur trimmed.

Owner Nicola Harrison, who is selling the bears at her salon, said: “People can come in and get their hair done before they go on their holidays and get a Mayor Bear to take with them.”

The Mayor of Bolton, Cllr Norman Critchley, is selling the bears to raise money for his chosen charities and he wants owners to take them on holiday and send back a picture as proof of how far they have travelled.

The owner of the bear which has travelled furthest will be treated to a champagne reception in the Mayor’s Parlour. The bears can be bought for £8.50 by calling the Mayor’s office on 01204 331057, or by calling in at Bridge Hair Studio.


Philippines, Southeast Asia, Mourn Death of Former President Aquino

Filipinos view remains of Mrs. Aquino at La Salle school in suburban Mandaluyong, east of Manila, 01 Aug 2009

By Daniel Schearf
01 August 2009

The Philippines is mourning the death of former president Corazon Aquino, who succumbed to cancer early Saturday morning. Mrs. Aquino is remembered as the icon of democracy in the Philippines for leading a "people power" movement against dictatorship. But, Mrs. Aquino also inspired democracy beyond the Philippines.

The Philippines is planning ten days of public mourning, masses and overnight vigils to honor the passing of former President Corazon Aquino.

She died Saturday at the age of 76 after a year-long battle with colon cancer. Corazon Aquino was known affectionately as "Cory" and was the Philippines first female president.

Mrs. Aquino's son, Senator Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, told journalists he never asked his mother how she wanted to be remembered. But, he said he believed Corazon Aquino would be thought of as someone who did her best to help others and never gave in to the temptation of power.

Former Philippine President Corazon Aquino in 2008 file photo

"She really put into practice defending not only the rights of her friends but even those who would oppose you, relinquishing her power as fast as possible with adoption of the 1987 constitution. And, then, I can go on and on," he said.

Corazon Aquino is widely respected for leading a peaceful and popular movement in the late 1980s that overthrew dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

The "people power" movement that swept Corazon Aquino into the presidency was felt not just in the Philippines but also across the world.

Southeast Asia in the 1980s was marked by communist governments and military dictators.

Teuku Faizasyah, a spokesman for Indonesia's department of Foreign Affairs, says Mrs. Aquino helped to inspire Indonesia's own movement to become a stable democracy.

"We are close neighbor," he said. "We watched the development in the Philippines at that time. And, certainly, there are a lot of resemblance-what happened in late 90s Indonesia and what happened in the late 80s in Philippines. People learned that by being together we were able to make a change in our political landscape."

Singapore's Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying Mrs. Aquino will long be remembered and respected both in the Philippines and internationally for her devotion to her people.

Even after retiring from politics, Mrs. Aquino actively challenged Philippines politicians she saw as corrupt.

She joined the Catholic Church and army in helping to oust President Joseph Estrada. And, until she became sick last year, Mrs. Aquino supported street protests against his successor, current President Gloria Arroyo.

But, even those Mrs. Aquino opposed had good things to say about her.

Mrs. Arroyo, who was in the United States on an official visit, praised Mrs. Aquino for helping restore democracy and the rule of law.

U.S. President Barack Obama said he was deeply saddened by Mrs. Aquino's death.

6th Thai-Cambodian Joint Commission meets in Bangkok

BANGKOK, Aug 1 (TNA) - Thailand will host the 6th Meeting of the Joint Commission for Bilateral Cooperation between Thailand and Cambodia (Joint Commmission) on Tuesday and Wednesday at the Centara Grand Hotel in Bangkok.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Kasit Piromya is heading the Thai delegation and Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Hor Namhong leads the Cambodian delegation.

The parties will review past cooperation and plan future collaboration, according to a Thai foreign ministry statement.

The meeting is a time for Thailand and Cambodia to strengthen relations, and further discuss issues raised during Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s official visit to Cambodia on June 12.

The program and activities of the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Thailand and Cambodia in 2010 are expected to be discussed.

The Senior Officials’ Meeting (SOM) will be held Tuesday, and the Joint Commission will meet Wednesday.

The countries foreign ministers will sign an agreement on transferring sentenced prisoners and cooperating to enforce prison sentences.

The Joint Commission is responsible for supervising the bilateral relations between the two countries.

The meeting will address bilateral cooperation in politics, security, economics, society, science and technology.

The parties will also consider cooperation in multilateral frameworks such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS), Emerald Triangle and the Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (ACMECS).

The 5th JC Meeting was hosted by Cambodia February 7-10, 2006 in Phnom Penh. (TNA)

Doulos crew bless Cambodia’s needy

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Having emerged from years of international isolation, residents of coastal Sihanoukville town in Cambodia welcomed Doulos crew with open arms during the ship’s recent visit there.

The crew who had spent months praying and preparing for the 18-day visit. As Doulos approached the coast and pulled into port, the crew had high expectations of all God would do.

The country’s Minister of Tourism, So Mara, was present at the quayside as the ship docked and the gangways were lowered. Along with Sbong Sarath, Governor of Sihanouk Province, he wanted to personally welcome the crew into port.

Following Doulos’ first-ever visit to Cambodia in 2007, there is now a Cambodian serving among the all-volunteer Christian crew.

The ship arrived with donations of medical supplies and educational resources from churches in Hong Kong and Taiwan responded generously.

With Doulos docked in Cambodia for over two weeks, the gifts were distributed to needy communities across the country, with orphans, schoolchildren and the sick among the many to benefit.

Back on board, the ship’s educational and Christian book fair was also busy, as thousands of people came to chose from the titles on offer.

After departing Sihanoukville on Tuesday, Doulos headed to Bangkok in neighbouring Thailand. The ship is already attracting considerable media interest there following news that a member of the royal family will visit.

Vietnam and Cambodia strengthen trade union co-operation

August 1, 2009

Vietnam and Cambodia should strengthen trade union co-operation, in line with the current global trend to emphasise the necessity of co-operation and association among trade unions.

Standing Vice President of the Vietnam Confederation of Trade Unions (VCTU) Nguyen Hoa Binh stated this while receiving a delegation from the Cambodian Confederation of Trade Unions (CCTU) led by its Vice President, Chuon Momthol, in Hanoi on July 31.

The Cambodian guest highly praised the operations of Vietnamese trade unions and expressed the wish to learn from Vietnam’s experiences in protecting labourers’ legitimate rights and interests, salary policies and measures to create jobs amid the global economic crisis.

He also thanked for the VCTU’s assistance in infrastructure and personnel training for the CCTU.

During its stay in Vietnam, the CCTU delegation worked with the Hanoi Federation of Labour and the trade union organisation of the industry and trade sector. (VNA)