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Monday, December 25, 2006

Cambodian NGOs urge ECCC to reach agreement on internal rules

Several NGOs on Monday urged the Extraordinary Chambers in the Court of Cambodia (ECCC) to hammer out a consensus of its internal rules soon in order to facilitate the start of trials of the former Democratic Kampuchea (DK) leaders.

In a press release, the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee (CHRAC), a Cambodian coalition of 23 NGO members, the Collective for DK Victims (CKRV) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) expressed their concern about the recent failure of the plenary session of the ECCC to adopt the internal rules of the tribunal, which are required to start investigating and prosecuting those who bear the greatest responsibility in the DK's alleged crimes.

"The credibility of both the Cambodian authorities and the U.N. is at stake: an acceptable agreement on the internal rules must be reached as soon as possible for the chambers to enter in the operational phase," said the release, noting that Cambodian and international judges and prosecutors have substantive disagreement about several key issues, including on already negotiated issues contained in the Agreement between the U.N. and Government of Cambodia.

In order to ensure respect of the highest standards in terms of independence and impartiality, all questions relating to the functioning of the ECCC should be solved by the chambers themselves and not be referred to other Cambodian authorities, it said.
"In particular, criteria of admissibility of defense and victims' lawyers must be objective and the list of lawyers should be maintained by the ECCC themselves, in conformity with international practice," it said, adding that victims' organizations should not be required to register with the Cambodian government prior to being able to file a complaint. Procedures relating to false testimony in the course of the ECCC proceedings should not be referred to ordinary Cambodian courts but remain with the exclusive jurisdiction of the ECCC, it said.

"The objective of the government of Cambodia and the U.N., in establishing the ECCC, aimed at guaranteeing the right to truth and justice for the Cambodian people. The accomplishment of such a historical task must prevail on any other private interest." it added.

The U.N. and Cambodia agreed in 2003 to jointly hold trials for the former DK leaders, after six years of talks. Formal trials are expected to begin in mid-2007 and the entire process will take three years and cost 56.3 million U.S. dollars.

The DK ruled Cambodia between 1975 and 1979 and was charged with genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Source: Xinhua Read more!

Vietnamese youth league begins Cambodia visit

A delegation of the Vietnam Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth Union will commence a four-day visit to Cambodia Tuesday, aiming to boost ties and interact with their Cambodian counterparts.
The Vietnamese entourage, led by Secretary of the Central Youth Union Bui Dang Dung, will meet with the Youth Association of Cambodia (YAC) in order to exchange experience in enlisting youth and discuss cooperation for the upcoming year.

They will focus mainly on fortifying cultural exchanges as well as reinforcing mutual support in the fields of economy and technology between the youth of the two countries.
Besides, the Vietnamese youth delegation is scheduled to visit Cambodian manufacturing plants, cultural sites, and the National Museum as well as have audience with several high-ranking Cambodian officials.

YAC is a non-profit organization that brings together youths and students both inside and outside of the country without discrimination as to race, nationality, social class and political affiliation. It operates in line with policies governed by the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) and has currently around 700,000 members.
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Vietnam, Cambodia work on border cooperation strategy

Vietnam and Cambodia would continue to reinforce and foster cooperation at the national level as well as among border provinces for common development, heard a conference on Monday. The conference on relations between border provinces was opened in Vietnam’s southern An Giang province Monday and presided over by Vietnamese Permanent Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Sinh Hung and Cambodian Deputy PM Sar Kheng.

The participants focused on measures to promote mutual understanding and trust between leaderships of the two countries and strengthen ties between provinces sharing the common border. Addressing the opening, Deputy PM Nguyen Sinh Hung said Vietnam and Cambodia would broaden and deepen bilateral cooperation in all fields, including politics, economics, society, defense and security to make their border areas stable in security and politics, and prosperous in economy and society, meeting aspirations of people in the areas.

He admitted that a number of difficulties and challenges still exist despite of recent great fruits gained by border provinces in bilateral cooperation. The two sides should continue promoting bilateral cooperation in all fields in an effort to turn their borders into an area of political stability, security, economic prosperity and social advancement, the Deputy PM concluded.
At the two-day meeting, government officials and leaders of sectors and border provinces of the two countries are scheduled to discuss orientations and measures to fully tap potential of border provinces for their socioeconomic development, especially in the fields of economy, trade, agriculture, rural development, energy, healthcare, culture and tourism.

They will also focus on solutions to ensure defense and security at border areas, including the completion of their border demarcation and landmark planting by the end of 2008.
The agenda will also include discussions on measures to crack down on smuggling goods and transferring counterfeit money via the borders, and to create more favorable conditions for transporting commodities and traveling for Vietnamese and Cambodian citizens at the border areas
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Extremists kill two, burn schools in South

(, Agencies)

A soldier and a Buddhist villager have been shot dead by suspected Islamic militants in separate drive-by shootings in the South, according to the police. A 32-year-old Muslim army sergeant was gunned down by two militants while driving a motorcycle in Pattani, one of three violence-torn southern provinces bordering Malaysia, they said.Also in Pattani, a 34-year-old Buddhist worker was shot dead by insurgents when he was driving a motorcycle.

The latest violence has killed more than 1,900 people since January 2004.Thailand's military-installed government, which came to power following a bloodless coup in September that ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra, has offered a number of olive branches in a bid to forge peace in the restive South. But deadly attacks have continued to rock the region.TNA reports:Suspected insurgents torched Banphabon School in Khok Pho district on Sunday night. Two buildings were damaged and the arson led to the school closure.

Banphabon School became the 16th school burned by suspected insurgents in the deep south during December. Meanwhile, Ban Takae school in Yaring district closed for the third consecutive day Monday after insurgents opened fire at a group of teachers, killing one educator and wounding another on Thursday.Teachers at the school remain worried about their safety. School director Anurak Waeni said the school will reopen after the New Year holidays. Read more!

New dam plan sparks warning

Bankok post

Vientiane _ Construction of yet another hydropower dam in China could have a big impact on downstream countries, the Mekong River Commission (MRC) has warned. MRC chief executive officer Olivier Cogels told the commission's meeting in Vientiane last week that China was building its third dam, Xiaowan dam, on the Mekong river.

Located in its southern province of Yunnan, the Xiaowan dam will be finished in 2010.
The MRC chief said he was concerned about the dam's ecological impact on the downstream nations _ Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam _ because it could intensify problems caused by two existing Chinese dams, Manwan and Dachaoshan. He said excessive retention of waters by the dams could cause a drought in countries further downstream.

Mr Cogels repeated his call for China to join the MRC for better management of the river.
''At present, the MRC can only exchange technical information on the possible impact of the Chinese dam on nations in the lower river basin. China is taking a bigger part in the negotiations but has not signed up as a member [of the commission],'' he said.
The MRC has installed 17 water detection stations along the Mekong river from China downstream to Vietnam.

These stations are designed to measure flows, water levels and water quality in the river and send online data to the four nations in the lower basin.
The information will help the countries better predict the water situation and come up with a plan to handle changes in water level and quality.
The Mekong river discharges 475 billion cubic metres of water annually and its basin covers 795,000sq km of land.

Pienporn Deetes, of the Southeast Asia River Network, said Thai villagers living along the Mekong river had been hurt by water fluctuations and losses in the fish population since the Manwan and Dachaoshan dams opened. Another dam could bring more trouble.
China, she said, stores and releases water from the dams without consulting downstream countries sharing this international river.

Chiang Rai's Chian Khong and Wiang Kaen districts were the worst-hit areas.
''Water fluctuations and degradation of the Mekong river ecology will be more severe once the Xiaowan dam is completed and starts storing water,'' she said.

She urged the Thai government to alert Beijing about the impact of its dams on downstream countries and negotiate with China about possible mitigation measures. Read more!