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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Cambodia's infamous motorbike taxi drivers to learn their lessons

Asia-Pacific News
By DPA
Jan 31, 2007, 5:35 GMT

Phnom Penh - Cambodia's cavalier motorbike taxi drivers, or motodops, are to be provided with a school to try to reign in their notoriously dangerous driving, an official said Wednesday.

Ung Chung Hour, director of the Land Transport Department of the nation's Transport Ministry, said media reports detailing litanies of dangerous and sometimes drunken exploits of motodops who understand little about road rules and care about them even less had prompted him to set up a school.

'The school will teach them how to drive for free. However, at the end of the course, they will have to pay about 10 dollars to sit an exam and receive a license,' Chung Hour said.

'The idea is to encourage them to do a driving course before they start their business, the same as in more modern countries. I will be very happy if the idea runs smoothly, and I have asked the government for financial assistance to get it started.'

At least one private company has also already donated chairs for the budding students and will provide the licenses for those who pass, he added, and he hopes aid organizations will also help.
Chung Hour has tailored his own course, including writing the lessons himself. The course will cover basic road rules as well as safety modules on issues such as effects of drinking and driving in a country where prosecution for the offense is unknown.

'I want to make a difference. I want to make an achievement to public safety that is remembered,' Chung Hour said.

There are no statistics for the number of motodops operating in Cambodia at any one time as they are not licensed and there are currently no restrictions on who can up take the occupation.
The streets of major towns and cities are filled with motorbikes offering the cheap door-to-door moto taxi service and it is a popular way for provincial people seeking work in the capital to earn an interim living after they arrive.

News of the course was met with indifference by motodops surveyed Wednesday, many of whom saw it as an additional tax and worried that time spent in the classroom would take away from time that could be spent earning money.

But the rapidly increasing road toll has become a cause of concern to the government as roads improve and traffic increases, and there is increasing pressure to improve road safety measures from both the government and concerned non-government agencies.

These concerns could be at least partially allayed by ensuring taxi drivers know the rules of the road, according to Chung Hour, who says his free course will soon be followed by tougher measures.

'The course begins in February. After six months or so, when we know how long it takes to teach, we will look at imposing fines for drivers who do not have a license,' he said. Read more!

Cambodia justice 'fails children'

By Guy De Launey BBC News, Cambodia

Human rights organisations have criticised the way children are treated in Cambodia's justice system.

They say there are hundreds of under-age prisoners in the country's jails and many of them are forced to share cells with adults. A coalition of local and international groups has called on the government to pass legislation to protect the children.

Conditions in Cambodia's jails are notorious.

There can be as many as 60 inmates in a single cell, food is scarce, and standards of hygiene are poor. Life is difficult enough for adult prisoners but human rights groups say it is unacceptable that children are sharing the same conditions.

Beatings

There is only one facility in the country designed for juvenile prisoners. The rest of the rising number of under-age detainees have to take their chances with adults.

The local rights organisation, Licadho, says that children have reported beatings from prison officials and fellow-inmates alike.

An official from the United Nations' children's organisation, Unicef, warned that the problem was getting out of hand.

Sandy Feinzig has also been working with the government to introduce a juvenile detention law and a new criminal procedure code.

''This year our hopes are to get these two laws passed, which could do a tremendous amount to reduce the sentences for children, divert them into projects, provide alternatives to sentencing, all of which will lessen the overcrowding in the current prison facilities,'' she says.

The need for reform is clear. This week local newspapers reported that a prisoner in a provincial jail died from a "hunger-related disease".

A government spokesman said it was difficult to justify spending more on food for convicts, when many public sector workers earned just $20 a month.

Story from BBC NEWS: Read more!

Russia to join OIL meal in Cambodia

Last Updated 31/01/2007, 15:07:54
Cambodia is a small Country( not a Kingdoom) and also a small piece of meal. Can a small piece of meal be shared by a group of Hyena? and who get the most, less, least or not at all? but when groups of Tigers and Lions joined in, who got more power to grabe?

Cambodia says Russia has joined a number of foreign powers eyeing Cambodia's petroleum reserves. The President of Cambodia's National Assembly, Heng Samrin, says Russian officials have expressed interest in oil exploration off Cambodia's southern coast.

The expression of interest came during a recent meeting of regional legislators. He says while Cambodia welcomes Russia's overtures, no firm agreement has been made. Two years ago, petroleum was discovered by US energy giant Chevron Corporation off Cambodia's coast. Since then, firms from France, South Korea and Japan are reportedly seeking exploration licenses. Read more!

Spanish Queen to visit Cambodia


Queen Sophia of Spain will pay an official visit Cambodia on February 8 and 9 at the invitation of Cambodia's King Norodom Sihamoni, the Foreign Ministry said Wednesday. The ministry said the queen will and visit Spanish-funded projects and tour the famous Angkor Wat temple complex in the northern city of Siem Reap.


The ministry announced the visit the same day it announced Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Ray would pay a separate state visit to the king, on February 6 and 7. Calmy-Ray will also meet with Prime Minister Hun Sen, her Foreign Minister counterpart Hor Namhong, inspect Swiss-assisted repairs to the famous Banteay Srei temple at Angkor Wat and visit a children's hospital run by Swiss philanthropist Beat Richner, according to the Foreign Ministry.
Read more!

Global Challenges | Cambodia Must Focus on MSM Population To Combat Spread of HIV, UNAIDS Official Says

Jan 31, 2007

Cambodia must focus on its "hidden" population of men who have sex with men, including those who also have sex with women, to combat the spread of HIV in the country, UNAIDS Cambodian coordinator Tony Lisle said recently, IRIN/Reuters AlertNet reports. Although Cambodia has made significant gains in the fight against the disease, it still has an HIV/AIDS prevalence of 1.6%, the highest in the region, according to UNAIDS estimates.

A study conducted by Family Health International in 2004 among 1,306 MSM in the country found that there were four times as many "masculine acting" MSM -- who are locally called "short-haired" MSM and have sex with one another -- than transgender MSM -- who are called "long-haired" MSM and have sexual partners from both groups.

In addition, a recent survey conducted by the Cambodian National Centre for HIV/AIDS Dermatology and STDs in three provinces -- Phnom Penh, Batdambang and Siem Riep -- found that 58% of MSM surveyed reported having sex with female partners in the previous year. Of the 58% of MSM who reported having sex with a female partner, almost 25% said they had sex with a female commercial sex worker, and 16.6% said they had sex with casual female partners in the previous month.

A recent report conducted by Therapeutics Research, Education and AIDS Training found that "short-haired" MSM are more likely to receive money for sex -- 20% regularly and 41% occasionally. The report also found that misconceptions persist among MSM concerning HIV transmission and that male sex workers often are unable to negotiate condom use and generally do not use lubricant.

According to UNAIDS, fewer than one in 20 MSM in Cambodia have access to HIV prevention and care services. Although the government has begun to acknowledge MSM in its HIV prevention programs, nongovernmental organizations and community-based organizations have only begun recently implementing programs to reach the population, according to government researchers. "When you have a very dense network, and when you have crossovers in the network between males and females, in the presence of high risk of [sexually transmitted infections] and in the presence of low condom usage, then you have a potential for an explosive epidemic," Lisle said.

Sear Young Tan of the National MSM Network -- which aims to eliminate stigma and discrimination against MSM and promote equal access to HIV information and services -- said educating "short-haired" MSM must be an integral part of the country's HIV prevention efforts (IRIN/Reuters AlertNet, 1/30). Read more!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Cambodian official says Dalai Lama still not welcome


By DPA Jan 30, 2007, 9:55 GMT

Phnom Penh - Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama is still not welcome in Cambodia because of China's strong views on the subject, a senior Cambodian religious official said Tuesday.

Speaking at the opening of a Japanese-donated pagoda on the outskirts of the capital, Religion Ministry secretary Chhorn Iem said the ban that excluded the Dalai Lama from the World

Buddhism Conference in 2002 still stood because China's stance had not altered.

'We could not welcome him here even if he asked because Cambodia must implement the government's policy,' Iem said. 'Cambodia follows the One China Policy.'

He said the Dalai Lama, who lives in exile in India, had not filed an application to come to Cambodia since the policy was made clear.

However he said he could not predict the future, and Cambodia remained hopeful that someday political obstacles would no longer stand in the way of a visit by one of the world's most venerable Buddhists.

'I am not sure of what lies in the future. I cannot predict government policy in the future,' he said. However that policy is likely to be dependent on Beijing.

Cambodia's population is 95 percent Buddhist and Buddhism is the state religion.
China is one of Cambodia's top five donors and a powerful trade partner and investor, and although it has imposed few public strings on the vast sums of money it pumps into the country, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has repeatedly made it clear that Cambodia firmly supports the One China Policy.
Read more!

Cambodia Aids Focus, Cambodian men in Dark side of sexuality

PHNOM PENH, 30 January (IRIN) - "I don't know how my husband contracted HIV - he just did," said Phary, 27, staring blankly out the window of the two-room apartment she shares with her parents and two children in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh. Answering that question has never been easy.

Like many Cambodian women in similar circumstances, she is devoted to the memory of her husband. Few people know about her HIV-positive status, but her challenge is the here and now: how she will care for her children if her health deteriorates.

According to UNAIDS, Cambodia has the highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS in South East Asia, with 1.6 percent of adults aged 15 to 49 infected. Although the country has made significant inroads in reversing the spread of the virus - adult prevalence was one-third lower in 2005 than in the late 1990s - the outlook for women remains grim.

Cambodian women constitute a growing share of people living with the virus - 47 percent in 2003, up from an estimated 37 percent in 1998 - suggesting that significant numbers of women are being infected by their husbands and boyfriends, who probably contracted the virus in commercial sex encounters.

Compounding the problem, a UNAIDS report warned there were signs that men were ignoring the awareness campaigns centred on the sex industry, and evidence of increasing drug usage, including among commercial sex workers, in Phnom Penh.

The traditionally subordinate role of women in Khmer society manifests in high levels of sexual violence and unsafe sexual behaviour by men, exacerbated by a culture of impunity, which limits women's ability to negotiate sex and condom use.

"Women need empowerment if they are to negotiate safer sex practices," said Pry Phally Phuong, senior programme officer of the Women's Agenda for Change, a local NGO.

That is easier said than done. According to a study cited in a government report reviewing its HIV/AIDS strategy, women do not have equal access to education, paid employment, land ownership and property rights: "They are generally in a disadvantaged position in both family and society."

Prior to marriage, women are expected to be virgins; once they are married they are often blamed for not having enough sexual expertise to keep their husbands faithful.

Sophal Kheng, executive director of the Positive Women of Hope Organisation, a local NGO dedicated in providing training and support for women living with HIV/AIDS. The report also found that many women believe male sexuality necessitates several partners - men who are away from home seek sexual services, and their wives accept this as normal; marriage needs to be maintained at all costs, regardless of suffering and humiliation; and it is not possible for women to talk with their husbands about the use of condoms.

The researchers said educating men to use condoms when they have extramarital sex seemed to be the best solution.

A visit to a centre for HIV-positive women, funded by ActionAid and run by the local NGO, Positive Women of Hope Organisation, underlined just how vulnerable women are in Cambodia.
"I would never dare insist that my husband use a condom," said an HIV-positive housewife - one of the few who would speak openly. "He would, of course, question why, and even think that perhaps I was sleeping around instead."

Most women at the centre were concentrating on rebuilding their lives. "When I learned that I was HIV positive, I thought my world had collapsed. I wanted to die," said a woman who has lived with the virus for at least a decade. Her husband passed away in 1999, followed by her two-year-old daughter shortly afterwards. Since then she has relied on the close circle of friends at the centre, where she is learning handicraft skills.

The NGO was set up in 2004 to provide training and support for women living with the virus, and to help with school enrolment for their children. "It's very difficult for HIV-positive women to maintain themselves and their children," said Sophal Kheng, executive director of Positive Women of Hope Organisation. "Most of the women will never reveal their HIV status to their community, forever conscious that they will be stigmatised."

There are currently 20 women at the centre, most of whom were unknowingly infected by their husbands. The colourful handbags they make are now sold in the local markets and exported as far away as Australia, providing a flicker of optimism. "I want to stay here forever," one housewife said. "Here people understand each other." Read more!

Campaign launched in Cambodia to free innocent men wrongly convicted of murder



Published on : 2007-01-29


Monks blessed billboards in a small ceremony to launch a campaign to support prisoner Sok Sam Oeun and Born Samnang

January 28, 2007 marked three years – or 1,096 days - that Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun have spent in prison since their arrests for the assassination of prominent trade unionist Chea Vichea. One day in prison for an innocent man is too long; both men have spent the last three years in prison for a crime that there is considerable evidence they did not commit.


To mark the anniversary of their arrests, Cambodian NGOs and trade unions launched a public campaign that will continue until their release from prison.The campaign, launched at LICADHO's offices by family members of the two men, monks, human rights workers and others, involves erecting signboards outside NGO and union offices in Phnom Penh displaying photos of Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun under the slogan "They Need Justice".


The signboards feature counters that will be updated daily to show the total number of days that the two men have been imprisoned. The campaign also includes regular newspaper advertisements similar to the signboards. "The injustice suffered by these two men has gone on far too long. The courts must set them free, so that they can return to their families and their normal lives," said Thun Saray, President of ADHOC. "We are publicly counting the days that Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun are in prison, just like they must be counting every single day of their unjust imprisonment," said Kek Galabru, President of LICADHO. "Our campaign will continue until the day justice is delivered to them and they are released.


"Many individuals – including former King Norodom Sihanouk, Chea Vichea's family, and the main eyewitness to the murder – have declared that Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun are innocent. An investigating judge in the case who initially dropped the murder charges against the two men was quickly disciplined for unspecified judicial mistakes and transferred from his position, while the charges were reinstated.


In an October 2005 trial widely criticized for being unfair, Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun were convicted of the murder and sentenced to 20 years imprisonment. The two men have been waiting for 18 months since then for the Court of Appeal to review their case. The last opportunity for justice that Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun saw was on October 6, 2006 when the Court of Appeal was set to hear their appeals against the convictions.


However the hearing was abruptly cancelled at the last minute because one of three judges reportedly had diarrhea. "We urge the Court of Appeal to urgently set a new hearing date as soon as possible, and to carefully consider all the available evidence in this case,"said Kong Pisey, Acting Director of CDP representing both men. "We believe that an impartial examination of all the facts will lead to the release of Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun."


"The longer that Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun spend in prison, the more damage that is done to the reputation of the Cambodian justice system," said Thun Saray of ADHOC. "The Court of Appeal has an opportunity to put an end to this, and to finally deliver justice to these two men and their families."
Read more!

Vietnam mulls plan to bar military, party from doing business

HANOI (AFP) - Vietnam's ruling Communist Party, armed forces and police would have to shed their business interests under reforms now being considered, according to officials and reports.

An upcoming party meeting will also look at streamlining Vietnam's party and state apparatus by merging several of the 26 government ministries and 11 party committees, the central committee of the party has said.

The reform proposals, backed by a veteran party figure and state newspaper editorials, come at a time of rapid change in Vietnam, East Asia's second fastest growing economy which this month joined the World Trade Organisation.

The party's central committee last week proposed consolidating many party and state bodies to "get rid of bureaucracy, overlapping roles and responsibilities to make their structure more streamlined and effective."

The 160-member committee also agreed on "a policy to shift purely existing economic establishments under the party, armed forces, Fatherland Front and social-political organisations to the management of the state from 2007."

The reform proposals would be considered at the central committee's fifth plenum, expected to convene before Vietnam's May 20 national assembly elections, the central committee said in its report.

"The idea is encouraging," Le Dang Doanh, a senior economist with the Ministry of Planning and Investment said Tuesday.

"It's a sign of progress," he said, adding however that so far no details were available on the proposed changes.

Vietnam's military now owns many leading companies, including telecom firm Viettel, the Military Joint Stock Commercial Bank, the Thang Long and Truong Son construction corporations, and the Ba Son ship-building company.

The Communist Party, the party-controlled Fatherland Front and police forces at provincial and district levels are also involved in business activities, including hotels, manufacturing and import-export firms.

A Western diplomat said getting these institutions to shed their business interests would be "a welcome and overdue step on Vietnam's path toward becoming a normal integrated economy with a sound market economy.

"It would not be a complete surprise. Similar steps were taken several years ago by Vietnam's big northern neighbour China," said the diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity.

However, the diplomat cautioned that, even if the regime goes ahead with the plan, "it would remain to be seen how this divesture is carried out in practice" and who would end up controlling the business interests. Read more!

Monday, January 29, 2007

Morning shine of Ankor Wat' beauty


January 29, 2007
Tourism boom brings hope and worry to Siem Reap, Cambodia's tourist hub
By KER MUNTHIT -- Associated Press

Rays of morning sunrise beam behind the towers of the legendary Angkor Wat temple north of Siem Reap provincial town, about 230 kilometers, 143 miles, northwest of the capital Phnom Penh, Cambodia. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Nineteen-year-old Ra Pheap is a garbage sweeper at Cambodia's world-famous Angkor Wat archaeological site, and is keenly grateful for the influx of tourists to the centuries-old monuments.

It's because of them she has her US$50-a-month job.
Suos Samnang, a 17-year-old souvenir vendor, also knows that her livelihood is closely linked to the busloads of camera-toting foreign visitors that arrive everyday.

But as they witness the frenzied construction of hotels and guest houses to tap the flow of visitors' dollars in this once-quiet town, even these two poor country girls realize that the blessings of tourism are mixed ones.

"I am worried that this will cause more pollution and migration to the town. The number of people living here just keeps growing. The streets are getting more crowded now," Suos Samnang said.

And some experts are even more concerned than that. They fear the unregulated development -- specifically, unrestricted local pumping of underground water to meet rapidly rising demand -- may literally undermine Angkor's foundations, destabilizing the earth beneath the famous centuries-old temples so much that they might sink and collapse.

Tourism is a key moneymaker for cash-strapped Cambodia, about one-third of whose 14 million people earn less than 56 cents a day.

Last year, about half of the 1.4 million visitors who came to Cambodia went to see the Angkor monuments, architectural masterpieces built at the height of the Khmer empire from the 9th to the 15th centuries. Total tourist arrivals for Cambodia in 2005 were an impressive 34.7 per cent above 2004's figures.

The steady boom has already transformed Siem Reap into a bustling town filled with luxury hotels and vehicles. Its streets are adorned with billboards promoting the latest mobile phones, pizza and burger joints and shopping malls. Several notable old buildings have been razed to make way for visitors' lodgings and honky-tonk strips have sprung up catering to low-budget travellers.

"The identity Siem Reap had for centuries is gradually disappearing, or maybe almost disappeared," said Teruo Jinnai, director in Cambodia of the UN cultural organization UNESCO and a 10-year resident of the country. "You have restaurants, massage parlours, hotels, and it's very sad to see that."

Culture shock aside, the health and quality of life of many of its 120,000 residents is imperilled by the boom, as is plain to see when traffic snarls the roads and streets get flooded by rain because of clogged sewers.

"This tremendous growth added to population increase has been exacerbating pressure on infrastructure," said a World Bank report on Cambodia's tourism sector last year. "Energy, water, sewage and waste are all significant problems."

It noted that hotels are not legally required to have sewage treatment facilities, though larger ones do have their own plants.

"But most guesthouses reportedly dump used water directly into the river, causing noticeable river pollution," it said, adding that E. coli, the bacteria found in human feces, has reportedly begun seeping into local wells.

At least as threatening over the long run is the uptake of water, with unrestricted pumping from the water table underlying the area.

"Water is being drawn from 70-80 metres underground by hotels and treated for use," warned the World Bank, noting that no one was quite certain how this affects the aquifers, or underground layers of rocks and sand, from which it is pumped.

Already though, "one of Angkor's temples is reportedly falling into a sinkhole, suggesting that the underground aquifers may be rapidly disappearing," said the report.

Japanese Ambassador Fumiaki Takahashi, whose country has drawn up a development master plan for Siem Reap to deal with the tourism boom, said most of its hotels are pumping underground water for their own use, "and there is no control."

It is the Cambodian government's "urgent task" to control the practice, he said, because "if you take too much water, it might affect the Angkor site. In the long run, the underground water will go down and the site would sink."

The plan of the Japan International Cooperation Agency calls for tapping underground water from near Phnom Kraom, a hill near the edge of the Tonle Sap lake about 12 kilometres south of the town, to avoid depletion of Siem Reap's underground water and reduce the risk of endangering the fragile temples, he said.

Deputy Tourism Minister Thong Khon said the government is ready to accept the master plan to address existing problems and accommodate future growth.

He sees a bright future for Siem Reap, in which the province won't just be a destination for touring the temples but will also become a hub providing air links for tourists to enjoy the sandy beaches of southwestern Cambodia and ecotourism in the jungles of the northeast.

He envisions that by promoting a diversity of destinations, the crowds will be distributed around the country, and the Angkor temples won't get "too jammed up."

Meanwhile, though, the tourist hordes continue to tramp through fabled Angkor Wat and its satellite temples of Angkor Thom, Bayon, Ta Prohm and Bakheng. Even at the lesser-known 10th-century Bakheng temple, an average of 3,000 tourists climb the 68 metres just in the two hours before dusk each day to view the spectacular sunset.

Ra Pheap, the 19-year-old sweeper, said she knows the onslaught could damage the delicate monuments. She is employed by a Cambodian company that sells entry tickets to the temple site, and the visitors there are essentially paying her salary. With her earnings, she has reduced her family's reliance on rice farming and been able to help pay for Japanese-language classes for her younger brother and sister.

"I want them to become tour guides because I am confident more tourists will visit here," she said.
Read more!

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Rich Cambodian Governor begged from poor Russian citizens

Last Updated 29/01/2007, 13:05:11

It is the new culture of Cambodian Government of begging. They have been begging from every corner of the World to be rich. And they are all rich and richer, bolder and fater than ever before. The Cambodian government have been begging and borrowing billions dollars from every where. And now they are rich and still begging from poor Russsian citizens.

The CPP regime is good at begging and stealing money. Borrowing money and there is nothing for them to pay back.

The President of Cambodia's National Assembly has asked Russia to wipe out $US1.5 billion in bilateral debt. Cheam Yeap, who heads the Parliamentary Finance Commission, says the request was made by Cambodian lawmakers in Moscow during a regional meeting of legislators from around the Asia-Pacific.

He told reporters the delegation asked the Russia Government, its National Assembly and all Russian people, to give 100 per cent debt relief to Cambodia, which would strengthen its improverished state. Cambodia is one of the poorest countries with a bilateral debt to Moscow. Read more!

Cambodia: Three years of injustice

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL

Public Statement

AI Index: ASA 23/002/2007 (Public)
News Service No: 017
28 January 2007

Three years ago Born Samnang, 26, and Sok Sam Oeun, 39, were arrested, suspected of murdering trade union leader Chea Vichea. After a deeply flawed criminal investigation and a trial that fell far short of international fair trial standards the two men were later found guilty of the murder and sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment, despite the lack of any credible evidence against them.Amnesty International believes that the true perpetrators of the murder of Chea Vichea remain at large.

Since the execution style murder, the organisation has campaigned for justice in this case, which at every level has underlined the lack of rule of law and the prevailing culture of impunity in Cambodia. The unresolved high-profile murder and the continued injustice against Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun is casting further doubt over the credibility of the Cambodian government’s long-standing pledges for legal and judicial reform.

Amnesty International believes that such reform is crucial for any real improvements of the human rights situation in the country. The two men’s appeal was scheduled to be heard in the Court of Appeal on 6 October 2006, but the hearing was called off at the last minute, as one of the judges did not appear. No new date has been set. Meanwhile, the two men remain imprisoned.

Amnesty International continues to call for Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun to be released and their names to be cleared unless there is sufficient evidence to bring charges against them. If so, they should be given a prompt retrial which complies with international standards.

Amnesty International repeats its calls on the Cambodian authorities to ensure that an urgent impartial and effective investigation into the murder of Chea Vichea be launched so that those responsible are brought to justice.The organization also urges the authorities to conduct a thorough, independent investigation into the conduct of the case, including into allegations of police brutality during the initial interrogation of the two men and intimidation of witnesses.

Political interference with the judicial process was also reported, for example the first investigating judge decided to dismiss the case for lack of evidence against the suspects in March 2004, admitting that he had been subject to political pressure. The judge was then immediately removed from his position at the Phnom Penh Court. BackgroundChea Vichea, President of Free Trade Union of Workers, was murdered on 22 January 2004 after receiving a series of death threats. He was shot dead at point blank range in a contract-style killing while reading a newspaper at a newsstand near the Lanka Pagoda in central Phnom Penh.

Witnessed by several bystanders, the unmasked killer fled the scene on a motorbike driven by an accomplice. At the time of his death, Chea Vichea, around 36 years old, was a well-known and respected trade union leader who championed workers’ rights in Cambodia’s burgeoning garment industry. He was a founding member of the main opposition Khmer Nation Party (KNP) in 1995, renamed the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) in 1998.

Chea Vichea was elected President of the Free Trade Union of Workers, one of Cambodia’s largest trade unions, in 1999, when he resigned from official positions within the SRP. He successfully stood for re-election twice and served as the president for five years. He dedicated his presidency to advocating for workers’ rights, such as a living wage, reasonable limitations on working hours, and protection for workers’ representatives. Read more!

Vietnam army delegation visits Cambodia to boost ties

A delegation of the Vietnam People’s Army Friday wrapped up a five day visit to Cambodia during which senior defense officials of the two countries discussed strengthening bilateral ties.
Head of the Vietnamese delegation, Lieut. Gen. Pham Hong Thanh, held talks with Gen. Neang Phat, Secretary of State of the Ministry of National Defense of Cambodia.

They exchanged views on issues of common concern with a view to boosting mutual understanding and friendship between the two armies and peoples.

The Vietnamese delegates paid courtesy visits to Prime Minister Hun Sen and Gen. Tea Banh, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of National Defence.

They also called at the General Headquarters of the Royal Army, the High Command of Military Zone 3 and several military bases of Cambodia.

Source: VNA Read more!

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Major Earhtquakes may hit SE Asia

New Delhi: There have been increased seismic activities in the Java-Sumatra-Andaman region of South East Asia in the past one month, and scientists at the Indian Insititute of Technology (IIT), Mumbai, have warned of possibility of a major disaster in Southeast Asia in the near future.

PTI quoted D Chandrasekharam, a senior professor in IIT-Mumbai's Department of Earth Sciences, as saying that more than 52 earthquakes of varying magnitude were recorded in the region in the past one month.

"Since December 25, 2006 till January 24 morning, the entire Java-Sumatra-Andaman Island subduction zone experienced more than 51 earthquakes varying in magnitude from 4.2 to 7.5 on the Richter scale," the earth science expert said. "This appears to be a natural cyclic process but there is a possibility of it triggering a major disaster," he warned.

He, however, revealed that volcanic activities in the region had subsided after the devastating earthquake-triggered tsunami of December 2004.

The major earthquakes in the past one month include two major earthquakes of 7.1 magnitude each in Taiwan on December 26 and 7.5 in Molucca sea and two earthquakes of 4.9 and 6.1magnitude in Nicobar Islands.

Chandrasekharam claims the majority of these events are associated with 'thrust fault', an underground phenomenon that had caused the 2004 tsunami killing nearly 2.5 lakh people across several countries, including India. Read more!

Diseases from Burma spreading through Southeast Asia

Health experts are warning that infectious diseases in Burma are growing beyond the government's ability to control them, and are spreading beyond the country's borders. Ron Corben reports for VOA from Bangkok, where an international conference on the matter has just concluded.

Health experts meeting in Bangkok this week warned that Burma needs increased funding and resources to cope with rising rates of infectious diseases, including tuberculosis, AIDS and drug-resistant malaria.

Burmese residents choose to buy medicine at the drug store in Yangoon, 07 Jan 2006The experts also expressed concern about Burma's ability to meet any new health threats, such as an outbreak of avian flu.

The United Nations AIDS program has estimated that up to 600,000 people in Burma, or more than two percent of Burma's population, are infected with the AIDS virus.

Tom Lee, of the Global Health Access Program at the University of California in Los Angeles, says infectious diseases from Burma are spreading across the border into India.

Lee says HIV/AIDS rates on the Indian side of the Burmese-Indian border are as high as eight percent. He says there is also evidence in India of drug-resistant malaria from the Burmese side.

"From the border areas on the India side, it is very clear that the rates of infectious disease are extremely high, and that this is causing a problem for the Indian states there," he said.
The conference was co-sponsored by two major U.S. universities and Thailand's Mahidol University. It brought together health providers, academics and humanitarian workers from Thailand, the United States, Bangladesh and India, along with Burmese exiles and health workers from China's Yunnan Province.

Burma has been a major source of illegal narcotics into China. Heroin crosses the border into Yunnan, and the AIDS virus, spread by heroin addicts, has followed in its wake.

Andrew Moss an epidemiologist from the University of California at Berkeley, says Chinese officials, too, are starting to take note of the health threat from Burma.

"The Chinese realize they have serious public health issues on the border," said Moss. "They have realized this for a long time with HIV. The Chinese are now clear it's a pretty vulnerable border, from the infectious disease point of view."

Chris Beyrer, a professor at Johns Hopkins University, says there are fears about Burma's capacity to deal with a possible human bird flu epidemic.

"If we end up having real human-to-human transmission… the country's health infrastructure would not currently respond," he said.

Scientists fear that, if the bird flu virus mutates into a form that can easily pass from human to human, a world-wide pandemic could follow. Read more!

Muhammad Younis Khan appointed Pakistan’s ambassador to Cambodia

Saturday, 27 January 2007

ISLAMABAD, Jan 27 (APP): The Government of Pakistan on Saturday announced the appointment of Mohammad Younis Khan, a senior diplomat, as Ambassador to the Kingdom of Cambodia.

Muhammad Younis Khan, who holds a Masters Degree in Economics, joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on August 22, 1974 and has held various diplomatic assignments in Pakistan Missions abroad including Madrid (1980-84), Addis Ababa (1986), Nairobi (1987-90), Geneva (1990-93) and Moscow (1995-98). He served at Headquarters as Section officer (1974-80), Director (1984-85 & 1993-95) and Director General (1995 & 2003-2005). He also served as Consul General Dubai (1999-2000), according to a press release issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs here.

Muhammad Younis Khan has also served as Ambassador of Pakistan to Hanoi (2000-2003) & to Baghdad (2005). Presently he is serving as Director General at Headquarters since September 6, 2005. He is married. Read more!

Cambodia genocide court judges still split on procedure after latest talks

Saturday, January 27, 2007
Bernard Hibbitts at 10:30 AM ET

[JURIST] Officials at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia [official website] said Friday that after two weeks of renewed discussion of the procedural rules to govern the trials of Khmer Rouge suspects accused of involvement in the "killing fields" genocide of the 1970s, "several major issues" remain unresolved. The tribunal did say, however, that "solid" progress had been made in the latest round of talks involving the Cambodian and foreign judges [list] who will take part in the proceedings.

Tribunal judges previously convened in November to establish court rules for trials scheduled to begin in mid-2007, but they failed to agree [JURIST report] on the Draft Internal Rules [text, PDF]. Some disagreements stem from proposed checks and balances that would allow the foreign and Cambodian judges to veto each other’s decisions.

Earlier this week, press reports suggested that if the procedural disagreements are not resolved soon some of the non-Cambodian judges may resign [JURIST report].

The ECCC was established by a 2001 law [PDF text] to investigate and try those responsible for the 1975-79 Cambodian genocide that led to the deaths of at least 1.5 million Cambodians by execution, forced hardships or starvation.

To date, no top Khmer Rouge officials have faced trial and questions have been raised concerning exactly how many of the Khmer Rouge's top officials will face the tribunal, as several of those responsible for the genocide have recently died [JURIST report] and others are in failing health.

The prosecutors nonetheless face significant administrative, legal and linguistic obstacles in preparing cases for trial; their formal investigations only began in July [JURIST report] of last year. Read more!

Friday, January 26, 2007

Cambodia plans to clear 28 mln sq m of mined areas in 2007

Cambodia plans to clear mines in 237 villages covering an area of 28 million square meters in 2007, said an official of the Cambodian Mine Action Center (CMAC) on Thursday.

CMAC Deputy Director General Heng Ratana told a dozen officials from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and 10 delegates from eight African countries, who came here to draw experience of mine clearance and weapons collection.

The center expects to demine 28 million square meters of land this year, at the cost of 11.44 million U.S. dollars, he told the deputies from Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Guinea-Bissau, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Sudan and Uganda.

Meanwhile, he said, in 2006, CMAC, the kingdom's flagship demining organization, cleared around 26 million square meters of land and found 35,745 pieces of anti-personnel mines, 1,062 pieces of anti-tank mines and 113,296 pieces of unexploded ordinances (UXO).

In addition, he said, from 1992 to 2006, CMAC has cleared 170, 988,776 million square meters of land and found 346,735 pieces of anti-personnel mines, 6,573 pieces of anti-tank mines and 1,141, 172 pieces of UXO.

Later on Thursday, CMAC officials took the delegates to a demining field in Chrey Tom Village, Kdol Tahen Commune, Bor Vel District, where they listened to Ratana's introduction and witnessed the detonation of a detected mine.

The deputies came to Cambodia to attend the six-day workshop on Asia-Africa Cooperation on Peace Establishment in Africa, which was started in Phnom Penh on Wednesday under the sponsorship of JICA, co-founder of CMAC.

According to CMAC, there were more than 400 human casualties over mine and UXO explosions in 2006 in Cambodia, or 50 percent decrease over the average number of the previous six years.

Due to 30 years of armed conflicts, Cambodia has become one of the world's most heavily mined countries with an estimated four to six million of such "hidden killers" buried underground in areas as extensive as 2,900 square kilometers.

All the mines and UXO may take another 150 years for the kingdom to clear out, statistics said.

Source: Xinhua Read more!

Japan, Cambodia to join hands in conserving ancient temple complex

Cambodian and Japanese students studying archeology will excavate, restore and conserve the old sites at the Sambo Prey Kok temple complex in Kompong Thom province from 2007 to 2012, local press reported on Thursday.

An agreement for restoring the temple complex was signed by Hem Cheim, acting minister of Culture and Fine Arts, and Mr. Nakaga Watakesi, head of Washida Japan Organization on Tuesday, the Raksmey Kampuchea Daily reported.

Nakaga said that the Preah Vihear temple in northern Cambodia will be counted in the World Cultural Heritage this year, and the Sambo Prey Kok temple will copy the model from Preah Vihear temple too.

According to statistics, there are about 288 temples in Sambo Prey Kok temple complex, Nakaga added.

"Sambo Prey Kok temple represented the old history of southeast Asian countries before Angkor Wat period," he said.

Cambodian and Japanese students have already found that Sambo Prey Kok temple is as big as 10 square km and it was built in the 6th-7th century, said the report.

Source: Xinhua Read more!

Cambodia, Japan hold talks on investment treaty

Cambodian and Japanese government officials in Phnom Penh on Friday held their first round of talks to hammer out a bilateral investment agreement which aims to pick up the latter's investment speed in the kingdom.

"We want Japanese investors to invest in the sectors of copy machines, television sets, spare parts for cars and others, which they have already invested in other Southeast Asia countries," said Sok Chenda, Secretary General of the Council for Development of Cambodia.

Cambodia needs the investment from Japan to increase its employment and speed up the economic growth, said Chenda, adding that both prime ministers have been pushing the technical officials to reach the agreement as soon as possible.

Currently, Japanese investors have over 20 projects like bank, hotel resort, mansion construction, trade company and island development in Cambodia, Chenda told reporters after Friday's talks were wrapped up in the Council of Ministers.

"Investment in Cambodia is liberal. But the agreement we talk about this time is more complicated than the others. We need to be more detailed," he said.

Meanwhile, Mizukoshi Hideaki, Director of Asian Division of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, said that Cambodia is a country that strongly attracts Japanese investors.

"Cambodia is stable now and we encourage Japanese investors to invest in Cambodia," he told reporters.

"The labor price is low and we focus on garment, all kinds of spare parts, agricultural production and other sectors," he added.

According to official statistics, from 1994 to 2005, Cambodia attracted 5.49 billion U.S. dollars of agreement-bound foreign direct investment.

Japan, as the kingdom's largest aid country in recent years, is not among Cambodia's top 10 foreign investment countries.

Source: Xinhua Read more!

Cambodia: Progress in Khmer Rouge but ‘major issues’ remain: UN spokesman

26 January 2007 – A judicial review committee in Cambodia, looking to resolve differences that have stalled the long-awaited trials of former Khmer Rouge leaders, accused of mass killings and other horrific crimes during the 1970s, has made progress over the last two weeks but several “major issues” still need to be resolved, a United Nations spokesman said today.

The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) Review Committee concluded its two-week session in the capital Phnom Penh earlier today, on the draft Internal Rules for the court, Farhan Haq told reporters in New York. The UN is funding most of the $56.3 million three-year budget for the Khmer Rouge trials.

“Solid progress was made during the two-week session of the Review Committee, significantly narrowing differences on a number of issues. Nevertheless, there remain several major issues to be fully resolved,” he said.

“Such as the way in which Cambodian and international law can be integrated into the Internal Rules to ensure a transparent and fair registration process and full rights of audience for foreign defence counsel,” he added. A further meeting of the Review Committee is scheduled for March.
In a press release from Phnom Penh, the Review Committee said it was “acutely aware of the urgent need to ensure fair and open trials for the benefit of the Cambodian people,” adding that it was “committed to achieving that goal” and had been working constantly since November on the various disagreements.

Judges and prosecutors for the trials were sworn in last July. Under an agreement signed by the UN and Cambodia, the trial court and a Supreme Court within the Cambodian legal system will investigate those most responsible for crimes and serious violations of Cambodian and international law between 17 April 1975 and 6 January 1979.

The UN will pay $43 million of the $56.3 million budget for the trials, with the Government of Cambodia providing $13.3 million.

At a pledging conference in 2005 to support the UN assistance to the trials, former Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that the crimes committed under Khmer Rouge rule “were of a character and scale that it was still almost impossible to comprehend,” adding that “the victims of those horrific crimes had waited too long for justice.” Read more!

Cambodia's Landmine Legacy Pervades Present

Carmen Gentile
26 Jan 2007 World Politics Watch Exclusive

SIEM REP, Cambodia -- Twelve-year-old Van Nak remembers like it was yesterday the force of the blast that took his right arm and his father."It hit me here," he says tapping his chest with his only hand, "and knocked me over."

Van was just 6 years old when he accidentally triggered a landmine near the Thai-Cambodian border while planting rice with his now deceased dad, one of the tens of thousands of victims of subterranean explosives that litter the countryside.According to the government-run Cambodian Mine Action Center, anywhere between four and six million mines and pieces of unexploded ordnance are still laying in wait.

Others estimate the real number to be much lower, around one million."How many are really out there? Pick a figure, because no one really knows," said one landmine activist here.

The use of landmines in Cambodia dates back to the 1960s, though their usage reached truly staggering proportions during the following decade, when the ruling Khmer Rouge planted mines throughout the country to thwart invaders from neighboring nations and eliminate dissidents from within.But by the year 2000, with the bloody Khmer regime long dismantled, the country's current government had ratified an international treaty banning the use of mines and, along with several non-government organizations, was tackling the seemingly Herculean task of de-mining the country.

The international organization Mine Action Committee (MAC), for example, claims to clear about 4,500 mines a year, as well as 18,000 unexploded bombs dating back as far as World War II, when the Japanese invaded Cambodia. While the government claims to remove thousands more per year than any independent agency, some anti-mine activists say Cambodia could be doing a much better job of ridding the country of the deadly explosives."We're making some progress, though the job is far from over," said Rupert Leighton, program manager for MAC.

Leighton predicted that by 2012 Cambodia would be landmine free if the current rate of clearance continues, a prediction based on the one-million-mine estimate. Others predict it could take several decades, perhaps even a century, to rid the country of all explosives. That's bad news for Cambodia's farmers and rural residents who make up the majority of victims.

Hoping to curtail the number of those killed every year, landmine groups have reached out to communities to teach landmine removal and avoidance, particularly to children, who make up a large percentage of the victims. The program is working, Leighton said. In 2005, 850 reportedly were killed by mines. But the following year, that number declined to around 400. But some Cambodians still aren't satisfied with the progress made by the government and NGOS and have taken mine-clearing matters into their own hands.

A self-taught mine clearer who spends weeks at a time roaming the Thai-Cambodian border looking for explosives, Aki Ra claims to have cleared 20,000 himself over the last decade or so.

Aki also operates a landmine museum on the outskirts of Siem Rep, home to Cambodia's internationally acclaimed Angkor Wat Temple. The outdoor museum is little more than a smattering of photos and a collection of deactivated mines and bombs, though it's impact on visitors is monumental. Visitors who came to take in the splendor of Angkor Wat peruse in somber silence the stacks of mines from Russia, China, the United States and several European countries. Watching over the testimony to the terrors of landmines is Aki's wife Hourt, who has joined her husband on landmine clearing expeditions."Sometimes I worry about him, but since he taught me how to clear I know how good he is at his job," said Hourt. Others though, aren't as confident in Aki's skills and motivation for mine clearing."He's not a certified clearer so he shouldn't be doing it. . . . One day he might end up getting hurt or hurting someone else," said Leighton. Read more!

[VIETNAM]Samsung keen to raise investment in fast-growing Vietnam market

Samsung Electronics Co. is increasing its presence in Vietnam, one of the world`s fastest growing economies. Its Vietnamese operation Samsung Vina Electronics Co., shortly called SAVINA, has achieved 15-30 percent annual growth rates for the past several years.

Vietnam is now responsible for 5 percent of Samsung Electronics Southeast Asia region sales, but the country`s portion is expected to become larger, according to Samsung Electronics Southeast Asia Pacific president Park Sang-jin.

Southeast Asian regional revenue hit $10 billion in 2006, up from $8.7 billion in 2005. Samsung aims to earn $11.7 billion from the region this year and $20 billion in 2010.

In case of LCD TVs, sales recorded 250,000 units in 2006, up six times from 40,000 units in 2005. Figures are not available as a single business unit in Vietnam but in larger Southeast Asia Pacific market, according to the company.

President Park said during an IR seminar held late last year in Singapore, "We`re trying to give a little bit of changes in our Southeast Asian market strategies, as the ASEAN Free Trade Area or AFTA pact is to take effect in 2008."

"As the first step, we positively consider building an IT plant in Hanoi, Vietnam."

Plan for IT plant

The newly envisioned plant in Vietnam will be optimized to mass produce PC monitors and printers, as Samsung`s current Ho Chi Minh City plant is rolling out TVs.

Park added that the company`s Southeast Asian businesses will be clearly divided into TV/white-color home electronics in Taiwan, audio/DVD players in Indonesia, TVs in Vietnam, LCD TVs/PC monitors in Malaysia.

Samsung has the lion`s share of the Vietnamese market in products such as flat-panel TVs, digital light processing or DLP TVs, side-by-side refrigerators, MP3 players, DVD players and mobile phones.

The company has sticked to its premium strategy in the market, as Vietnam, with 8.4 million population, shows high economic growth rates approaching 8 percent annually.

Demands are almost explosive in Vietnam`s most populated areas such as Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Danang.

"No country can hardly catch up with Vietnam for the next 20 years, as the country excels in labor productivity. An average Vietnamese works 48 hours a week including Saturday, and there are only eight holidays in a year. About 54 percent of its workforce is under the age of 30, out of a total of 84 million population," said Yom Sang-youl, general manager at Samsung Vina Electronics.

Samsung recently slightly changed its marketing strategies to include low-end segments as well. It now sells mobile phones priced below $100 in the Vietnamese market.

The regional demand for their CDMA and GSM-compatible handsets is so overwhelming that there is a perennial supply shortage, officials said.

Samsung`s handsets are being supplied via S-Telecom, under the brand name "S-Fone," where Korea`s largest wireless carrier SK Telecom has a 86 percent share.

The country, now with about 20 percent wireless penetration rate, has a promising outlook, officials said.

Samsung`s liquid crystal display TVs are also enjoying growing popularity. The LCD TV lineup includes 26-, 27-, 32-, 37-, 40-, 46- and 52-inches with the brand names of Bordeaux, Mosel and Sonoma.

The Bordeaux TV series, whose shape resembles that of a wine glass, particularly sell well in the region as the Vietnamese puts more and more value on design, officials said.

The new TV lineup was completed with softer lines and transparent materials, enhancing their clean-cut design.

"We think Southeast Asia as key for the growth of our home electronics business. The market actually grows about 20 percent every year," said Hwang Jin-oh, an official at the company`s public relations team.

"We are riding on the Hallyu or Korean wave which draws many Vietnamese to Korean pop culture, which leads to an increased brand recognition," he said.

As its recent feat, the electronics maker won the "Vietnam Quality Award" in the manufacturing sector in November last year.

Quality award

The award, given by the Directorate for Standard Measurement & Quality under the Vietnamese ministry of science, honors enterprises` achievements in quality and performance, meaning the top-notch privilege and honor, Samsung said.

The annual Vietnam Quality Award, modeled after the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award of the United States, is given to businesses - manufacturing and service, small and large - that apply and are judged to be outstanding in seven areas such as management results, process management, management leadership and customer satisfaction.

About 500 domestic and overseas companies participated in the competition for the award this year.

The jury recognized Samsung`s efforts on the management process, ranging from manufacturing to service, which is systemized and can be rightly translated into concrete data, according to Samsung.

Further, as part of its social contribution activities, Samsung is helping Vietnamese children suffering from heart diseases and aftereffects of defoliant in the Vietnam War.

Samsung Vina Electronics, along with Samsung Medical Center, plans to fund $250,000 for children`s heart operations and medical equipment by 2007. Read more!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

U.S. ambassador praises former Khmer Rouge photographer for apologizing

The Associated Press
Thursday, January 25, 2007

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia

The U.S. ambassador to Cambodia shook hands Thursday with the former chief photographer at a notorious Khmer Rouge torture center and praised him for apologizing for his role in the regime that caused nearly 2 million deaths in the 1970s.

Ambassador Joseph Mussomeli said Nhem En had "set a good example for apologizing for his part in those atrocities," which included executions, starvation, overwork and inadequate medical care during the radical communist group's 1975-79 rule.

"Contrast what he has done with the fact that no Khmer Rouge leader has ever stepped forward to admit guilt or accept blame for the regime's brutal crimes," said Mussomeli, who posed for pictures beside an American flag at the embassy with Nhem En.

Nhem En photographed thousands of prisoners at the infamous Khmer Rouge S-21 prison before they were locked up, tortured and executed.

He asked for forgiveness and offered his apology Thursday, two days after announcing his plan to set up a museum with pictures of the former Khmer Rouge leaders.

He said he was the chief of six photographers at S-21 who worked in shifts, photographing prisoners when they were brought there, often blindfolded.

"After the blindfolds were removed, prisoners would ask what wrong had they done. I would just tell them I don't know anything and that my duty is to photograph them," Nhem En said.
Haunting photos of the victims are the centerpiece of the former prison site, also known as Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, in Cambodia's capital, Phnom Penh.

"During that era, I was merely a cog in the (Khmer Rouge) machine," he said. He called on surviving Khmer Rouge leaders Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary and Khieu Samphan to issue public apologies for the crimes committed under their rule.

No senior Khmer Rouge leader has been tried for the atrocities. The movement's top leader, Pol Pot, died in 1998, and Ta Mok, the Khmer Rouge army chief, died last July while in detention pending trial by a joint Cambodia-United Nations special tribunal. Read more!

Dispute Threatens Trial of Khmer Rouge Leaders

By SETH MYDANS

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia, Jan. 25 — _ The Cambodian judges were on one side and the foreign judges on the other this week, in a dispute that captures a decade of difficulties in bringing to trial the last surviving leaders of the murderous Khmer Rouge.

If the judges cannot agree on procedural rules soon, analysts and officials at the tribunal say, some of the foreign judges may walk out. That would cast an even deeper shadow over a process that some critics say is already so compromised as to be of doubtful value.

Seventeen Cambodians and 12 foreigners were empaneled as judges and prosecutors in the matter last July, inaugurating a United Nations-sponsored process that mixes Cambodian law with international standards of justice.

It is an awkward formula, made all the more questionable by the meager qualifications of the Cambodian judges, who were appointed by Prime Minister Hun Sen and are answerable to him.
Pragmatists say that a flawed trial is better than none at all, and that there is no choice but to proceed with the tribunal one has rather than the tribunal one might wish to have.

Three decades have already passed since the Khmer Rouge ruled Cambodia with a brutal hand, causing the deaths of 1.7 million people from 1975 to 1979 through killings, torture, starvation and overwork.

The trial, meant to be of “those most responsible” for the crimes, is expected to focus on, at most, a dozen targets. Most of the potential defendants are very old and some have already died — notably the supreme leader of the Khmer Rouge, Pol Pot, in 1998. Among those still alive, only one is now in custody; the rest live freely in Cambodia.

Robert Petit, the Canadian lawyer who is serving as co-prosecutor in the case, has been actively gathering evidence but has not said where it is leading him.

In an interview, he said he was ready to propose his first indictments once the judges had formalized the court’s rules, at a plenary session tentatively set for March. The trial itself might then begin by the end of the year.

Cambodia and the United Nations reached an agreement on the structure of the mixed tribunal in 2003, after years of negotiations over both technical and political differences.

Those differences remained at the heart of the disagreements that have stalled the process since last November.

A rules committee of nine judges is trying to resolve the differences. Sean Visoth, a Cambodian who is the tribunal’s coordinator, said, “If there is no compromise and there is no plenary, the international judges will walk away.”

The delay has revived an old concern that Mr. Hun Sen may not in fact want the trial to proceed, and may instead be creating the latest roadblocks in a long series that have impeded progress for years.

Among other things, he is believed to be under pressure from China, which presumably would be embarassed if a trial directed international attention to Beijing’s former close ties to the Khmer Rouge.

There are more than 100 procedural rules, some quite complicated, for the judges to agree on. But the core disputes appear to involve one fundamental, long-running issue: securing the trial’s independence from Cambodian political manipulation.

On the Cambodian side, control is an important concern, according to the American ambassador to Cambodia, Joseph A. Mussomeli. “The government in general tries to keep tight control over the judiciary and anything that could have negative consequences,” he said.

In a country where the politics of the present remain tangled in the past, the proper scope of the indictments is contentious. Some former middle-ranking Khmer Rouge officials are prominent in the current government, including Mr. Hun Sen — although experts say he bears no responsibility for the regime’s atrocities.

Some potential defendants may also have powerful patrons who are trying to protect them.
According to people briefed on the negotiations, the judges are at odds over a complex proposed rule that would in effect allow an indictment to proceed without the agreement of the Cambodian side. That provision is one of several balancing acts in the tribunal’s supermajority system, which in most respects gives the foreign and Cambodian judges veto power over one another’s decisions.

The Cambodian side is also seeking to limit the right of defendants to be represented in court by foreign lawyers, which it says is a violation of Cambodian legal sovereignty. Foreign analysts say the Cambodians do not want aggressive defense lawyers who are independent of any political guidance to move the case in unpredictable directions.

A British lawyer, Rupert Skilbeck, who will coordinate the lawyers’ work, said defendants would be placed at a disadvantage if they could not select their own lawyers.

“It’s important that the trials are very fair, because if they’re seen as show trials, then there will be no justice,” Mr. Skilbeck said in November, speaking to the Cambodian Bar Association, which is closely allied with Mr. Hun Sen and which opposes participation by foreign lawyers.

Mr. Mussomeli said the Cambodian government, accustomed to controlling the judiciary, might be reacting defensively to Mr. Petit, who has taken on his job as prosecutor with an energy and independence that is unfamiliar here.

In the interview, Mr. Petit sought to calm these concerns, saying he was aware of the sensitivity of his role and of the possibility that the tribunal could be derailed by an overaggressive prosecution. “We have to apply the law in the context of Cambodia,” he said. “I’m not stupid. You have to exercise discretion.”

Mr. Petit has been involved in international tribunals in Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Kosovo and East Timor, and he said he understood that in cases like these it was not possible to follow the law blindly, without reference to its context.

“We all have a sense of our responsibilities,” he said. “Our primary responsibility is to deliver justice to the victims of these crimes.” That would not be possible, he said, if the process is shut down for any reason.

He said he did not yet know how many cases he would forward to the next level of the tribunal, the investigating judges, who are to issue indictments.

“In this particular tribunal there are very specific expectations,” he said. “Everyone ‘knows’ what happened: We’ve got the evidence there, you just have to pick it up and carry it into court.” But in fact, he said, matters are not that straightforward.

“We have to grasp events of great magnitude that happened 30 years ago and be legally and morally convinced that we have cases against individual people,” he said. Read more!

Cambodia : ILO seeks explanation for PM Hun Sen’s remarks

January 25, 2007

Geneva based International Labor Organization (ILO) has asked Cambodia for clarification of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s allegations about ILO misrepresenting the state of local apparel units.

Country’s garment sector brings in maximum capital from abroad. Hun Sen had asked ILO to rectify all bogus reports it prepared on the sector. Due to US and EU imposing restrictions on import of Chinese garments, country’s apparel exports have risen to US $2.2 billion per annum in past few years.

About 3,20,000 labourers work in 286 Cambodian garment factories.ILO in turn demanded an explanation from Cambodia for Hun Sen’s comments.

Geneva headquarters has dispatched a letter in this regard to the Government and is waiting for reply. ILO is operating a project to supervise working conditions in local apparel units from 2001. Read more!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

U.S. warship to pay port visit to Cambodia for first time in over 30 years

The Associated Press
Wednesday, January 24, 2007

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia

A U.S. navy warship will dock at Cambodia's main sea port next month for the first time in more
than three decades, a high-ranking American military commander said Wednesday.

The USS Gary, a guided missile frigate with 200 officers and crew, will arrive at the Sihanoukville port in southwestern Cambodia on Feb. 9 and will stay until Feb. 13, said Adm. Gary Roughead, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet.

"The purpose of the visit is to bring our navies closer together," Roughead said after meeting with Cambodian Defense Minister Tea Banh. "We believe that it marks a beginning of a strong navy-to-navy relationship with many opportunities for the future."

Tea Banh hailed the planned visit by the USS Gary as "a new era" in military ties between the two countries.

The United States halted military assistance to Cambodia following a 1997 coup in which Hun Sen grabbed full power after ousting his co-premier, Prince Norodom Ranariddh. Hun Sen remains as prime minister.

Roughead is the second top U.S. military official to visit Cambodia in the last six months in the latest move to re-establish military links.

During a visit in July, Adm. William J. Fallon, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, said the
United States could help train Cambodian military and provide it with non-lethal assistance.

The two-day visit by Roughead, scheduled to end Thursday, was billed as a familiarization visit. He was appointed to his position in 2005.

According to his US Navy biography, Roughead is responsible for the world's largest combined fleet command, encompassing 102 million square miles and more than 190 ships and submarines, 1,400 aircraft, 191,000 sailors and marines and 30,000 civilians. Read more!

Cambodian leader slams ILO for 'untruthful' reports about garment factories

The Associated Press
Wednesday, January 24, 2007

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia

Prime Minister Hun Sen accused the U.N. labor agency Wednesday of false reporting about working conditions in Cambodia's garment factories.

Speaking at a meeting with investors, the prime minister echoed complaints from a representative of clothing industry employers protesting factory monitoring work by the Geneva-based International Labor Organization.

Damaging reports by the ILO about "any factories could create risk not just for factory owners but for the workers," Hun Sen said during a forum with businessmen Wednesday.

Since 2001, the ILO has been running a project to monitor working conditions in Cambodian garment factories.

Hun Sen called on the U.N. labor agency to correct any "untruthful reports" it has produced about industry, which is Cambodia's leading foreign exchange earner. He did not refer to any specific ILO findings but was addressing complaints raised by an unidentified investor at the meeting.

The prime miniser went so far as to suggest that some ILO staffers may be using blackmail tactics in their work.

"ILO is a good organization, but there could also be some bad people working for it," Hun Sen said. "Sometimes, some of its staffers may even try to extort money from factory owners, like, 'If you give me money, I will write a good report about you.'"

The ILO office in Cambodia did not return phone calls seeking comment.

The garment industry employs 320,000 workers in 286 factories. Garment exports have grown to more than US$2.2 billion (€1.7 billion) annually in recent years, largely because of restrictions imposed by the United States and the European Union on garment imports from China.

Investors have expressed concern about the future of Cambodia's garment industry following the accession of Vietnam, another low-cost and labor-intensive producer, into the World Trade Organization.

Exports from Vietnam to the world markets "will intensify," Hun Sen said, asking "what kind of impact will Cambodia get from such competition?"

To help the industry survive, the government has decided to offer investors tax breaks totaling 116 billion riel (US$28.6 million; €22 million) this year and 121 billion riel (US$30 million; €23 million) in 2008, Keat Chhon, Cambodia's finance minister, said at the meeting Wednesday. Read more!

Roundup: Labor report shows shrink of Cambodia's garment industry

Altogether 62 garment and shoe- making factories were closed in Cambodia in 2006, while 20 others have suspended their operation, a sign of shrink of the kingdom's pillar industry, an official report said on Tuesday.

As a result, 27,644 workers became unemployed, 20,441 of them women, while 150,000 went home to wait for their factories to re- open, if possible, said the labor report released to the media during a seminar organized by the Ministry of Vocational Training and Labor here on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the report said that from 2004 to 2006, there were 594 labor disputes, 288 of them organized by unions, or 48.48 percent of the total.

Some 557 factories were vexed with such disputes, 180 in 2006, 148 in 2005 and 229 in 2004, it said.

The report did not say the rise of labor disputes led to the shrink of the industry, but local media have widely reported that the disputes and ensuing strikes, together with Vietnam's entry to the World Trade Organization (WTO), have driven garment and shoe makers to directly close their factories in Cambodia, or close first and then transfer to the neighboring country to enjoy better operation climate.

In addition, the report said that there are currently in Cambodia 420 garment factories and 19 shoe factories with 287,005 workers, 256,934 of them women.

Earlier on Jan. 15, reports said that the number of strikes and labor disputes in the garment industry in 2006 has been the largest that the kingdom ever experienced.

Compared to 67 cases of garment strikes in 2005 in Cambodia, 2006 saw 103 such incidents, according to a recent report from the Labor Ministry's Labor Dispute Department.

Labor disputes also increased from 148 cases in 2005 to 217 last year, a number significantly higher than the one that was disclosed on Tuesday.

Some 65 percent of the disputes were resolved with ministry brokering and the rest sent to the Arbitration Council, a body that issues awards on labor disagreement.

Out of last year's strikes, 78.61 percent occurred due to employers' failure to respect the labor law, 3.5 percent due to employee demands for compensation as their factories closed and bosses ran off to dodge the responsibility and 1.4 percent due to discrimination against unions, said the department's report.

"This year (2006) was bad. Workers took industrial action, failing to seek prior negotiation with factory management. They should clarify reasons behind a strike," said Van Sou Ieng, president of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia ( GMAC), adding that strikes claimed 15 million U.S. dollars of loss for the industrialists in 2006 or 40 percent higher than the previous year.

Due to the strikes and after rounds of negotiations, the minimum monthly wage for an average garment factory worker has been increased from 45 U.S. dollars to 50 U.S. dollars starting from 2007, a good news for the employees but another burden for the producers.

Garment has been one of Cambodia's major pillars of foreign currency attraction.

In 2005, the kingdom exported 2.29 billion U.S. dollars' worth of garment and textile products,
accounting for 79 percent of its total exports.

Source: Xinhua Read more!

Spanish psychologist evaluates Cambodia's 'jungle woman'

Phnom Penh, Jan 25. (AP): Cambodia's "jungle woman" smiled for the first time, showing a childlike appreciation for a puppet show put on by a visiting Spanish psychologist, the man who claims to be her long-lost father said on Wednesday.

Hector Rifa, a doctor of psychology from Spain's University of Oviedo, was spending several days with the woman in the hope of unraveling some of the mystery surrounding her since she emerged from the forest on January 13, naked and unable to speak, after what may have been nearly two decades in the wild.

Rifa is the first foreign medical professional to meet the woman who is believed to be 27-year-old Rochom P'ngieng, who disappeared in the jungles of Cambodia's northeastern Rattanakiri province while herding water buffaloes when she was 8.

"He put on a short puppet show, and my daughter smiled," Sal Lou, who claims to be the woman's father, said by phone from the remote northeastern village of Oyadao.

"He sang and danced" to try to cheer her up, he said. When asked if this was the woman's first smile since the family took her in, he replied: "Yes."

Sal Lou's family, members of Cambodia's Pnong ethnic minority, say they are certain the woman is Rochom P'ngieng because of a childhood scar on her right arm.

With no other evidence supporting their claim and others have speculated that the woman may have a history of mental troubles and simply became lost in the jungle much more recently.

Villagers began calling her "jungle woman" after she emerged from the forest walking like a monkey. Read more!

Girl, 6, embodies Cambodia's sex industry

Story Highlights•

More than one million children in global sex trade each year, U.S. State Dept. says• 50,000 to 100,000 women and children involved in Cambodia's sex industry• Gang rape, AIDS, torture afflict the women and children in this field.

By Dan Rivers CNN

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (CNN) -- At an age when most children might be preparing for their first day of school, Srey, 6, already has undergone trauma that is almost unspeakable.

She was sold to a brothel by her parents when she was 5. It is not known how much her family got for Srey, but other girls talk of being sold for $100; one was sold for $10.

Before she was rescued, Srey endured months of abuse at the hands of pimps and sex tourists.
Passed from man to man, often drugged to make her compliant, Srey was a commodity at the heart of a massive, multimillion-dollar sex industry in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

"It is huge," said Mu Sochua, a former minister of women's and veteran's affairs who is an anti-sex trade activist.

The precise scale of Cambodia's sex trade is difficult to quantify. International organizations -- such as UNICEF, ECPAT and Save the Children -- say that anywhere from from 50,000 to 100,000 women and children are involved. An estimated 30 percent of the sex workers in Phnom Penh are under the age of 18, according to the United Nations. The actual figure may be much higher, activists say.

Global sex industry

Around the world, more than one million children are exploited in the global commercial sex trade each year, according to the U.S. State Department. The State Department believes Cambodia is a key transit and destination point in this trade.

"Trafficking for sexual exploitation also occurs within Cambodia's borders, from rural areas to the country's capital, Phnom Penh, and other secondary cities in the country," the State Department wrote in a 2006 report. "The Government of Cambodia does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so."

Sochua said that with millions of Cambodians struggling to live on less than 50 cents a day, many women turn to the sex industry. Poverty is also often what drives parents to sell their child or themselves on the streets.

"Always a child is left behind, often a girl, who is preyed on by traffickers," Sochua added.

An unlikely saviour

Srey was rescued from the life of a sex slave by Somaly Mam, a former prostitute who runs shelters for the victims of Cambodia's sex trade. Somaly has rescued 53 children, so far. Many of them have profound psychological trauma. Some clearly are mentally ill.

"A lot of them, when they arrive, have psychological problems ... very big problems. ... And they never have love by the people, by their parents," Somaly said.

One girl at Somaly's shelter appears especially disturbed. She was rescued after being imprisoned for two years in a cage, where she was repeatedly raped.

She needs psychiatric care, but there is none available. Somaly says she does her best to give this girl love and support, but that it's not easy with so many other needy children around.

Somaly herself suffered terrible ordeals when she worked the streets, including seeing her best friend murdered. She is determined to build something positive out of so much despair.

Her work has caught the attention of world leaders, celebrities and religious figures. Her office in Phnom Penh is adorned with photos of her meeting Pope John Paul II and messages of support from governments and charities.

Despite the attention, Somaly said the situation on the street is not getting better. Gang rapes of prostitutes are becoming more common, she said, and many of the attackers don't use condoms. Instead, they share a plastic bag.

"Poor women, they have been raped by eight, 10, 20, 25 men ... they hit them. They receive a lot of violence," she said.

HIV-AIDS also remains a persistent, though declining, problem among Cambodia's female sex workers.

About 20 percent of Cambodia's female sex workers are HIV-positive, according to Cambodia's Ministry of Health. This compares with the 39 percent of sex workers who tested positive in 1996, according to the Health Ministry.

To help sex workers transition to a more normal life, Somaly is hoping to expand her refuge in the countryside outside Phnom Penh, where former sex workers attend school and learn skills like weaving and sewing.

Asked what the future holds for Srey, Somaly stroked the girl's hair and paused.

Srey is HIV-positive, she said.

In such a poor country, without decent hospitals or medical care, Srey's future is bleak. Somaly just hopes she can make this girl's life bearable for as long as it lasts. Read more!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Former Khmer Rouge photographer seeks redemption through museum

Tuesday January 23rd, 2007

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) - A former chief photographer at a torture centre run by Cambodia's Khmer Rouge wants to set up a museum, featuring pictures of the notorious group's leaders, as his way of apologizing for the death and destruction they caused.

Ngem En, now 47, documented for the Khmer Rouge the thousands taken into Phnom Penh's S-21 prison for torture and eventual execution in the late 1970s. Haunting photos of the victims are the centrepiece of an existing genocide museum at the prison site, also known as Tuol Sleng.

Historians estimate that more than 1.7 million Cambodians died of execution, starvation, overwork and inadequate medical care due to Khmer Rouge policies. Ngem En wants to set up a museum at Anlong Veng, a former Khmer Rouge stronghold in northern Cambodia where he now serves as a deputy district chief.

The project would be his "opportunity to apologize to all the victims who have suffered during that era," he said Tuesday. He would exhibit pictures of all Khmer Rouge leaders who ruled Cambodia from 1975-79, including Pol Pot, Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary, Khieu Samphan and Son Sen, he said."

It was these leaders who caused destruction and misery to Cambodia."The project would "let the next generation of Cambodians understand about Pol Pot's cruel regime," he said. Khmer Rouge chief Pol Pot died in 1998 but other former leaders of the group are still alive and living freely in Cambodia. Ngem En said he has a collection of photographs he has taken or obtained over the past few decades and that as many as 1,000 pictures could be suitable for display. The project, if realized, could also help the local economy, he said.

The museum would be an added attraction for tourists coming to visit Anlong Veng, where Pol Pot died and the Khmer Rouge movement finally collapsed in 1999. The government has designated Anlong Veng, about 300 kilometres northwest of Phnom Penh, an official historical site. Tourist attractions include the house of Ta Mok, the former Khmer Rouge army chief who died in July last year, and the spot where Pol Pot was cremated. While apologizing for his work as a photographer for the Khmer Rouge, Ngem En said he had no choice if he wanted to survive."I deeply regret it but nobody could help anyone," he said.

Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Centre of Cambodia, an independent group researching the Khmer Rouge's crimes, said Ngem En's readiness to apologize publicly through his project provides an example to the remaining Khmer Rouge leaders and would help national reconciliation. He said he admires Ngem En's "frankness, courage and initiative" in undertaking a project based on his own work."

He came to us with a bunch of photographs saying that he wanted to tell the history to the public as a Khmer Rouge person," said Youk Chhang, himself a survivor of the regime. Ngem En said he does not know yet how much the project will cost and is looking for interested partners to join in the venture. Read more!

The Chinese Government had signed approval for loan to Cambodia

Cambodian children are in debt for 207 million US. dollars more. Will Cambodia be able to pay back all the Debts or Cambodia will sell its conscience to the Maoist regime like Khmeer Rough? Or will it sell the Kingdom to China to deal with debts?

Officials here on Monday signed an agreement for China to provide 207 million U.S. dollars of loans to Cambodia to develop its infrastructure construction.

Li Jun, Vice President of the China Import-Export Bank, and Cambodian Minister of Economy and Finance Keat Chhun signed the agreement in the presence of Chinese Ambassador Zhang Jinfeng.

According to a press release issued by the Cambodian Ministry of Economy and Finance, 190 million dollars' worth of preferential buyer's credit loan will go for the construction of National Road No. 8 from Khsach Kandal to the Cambodian-Vietnamese border, the Perek Tamak Bridge, the Prek Kdam Bridge, and the National Road 76 from the junction of National Road No. 7 in Snoul to Sen Monorom District, Mondulkiri Province.

Meanwhile, 17 million dollars of preferential loan will be used for the construction of the Cambodian section of the Greater Mekong Sub-region Information Superhighway.

During the ceremony, Keat Chhun expressed appreciation for China's consistent help, while Li said he expected the loans to contribute more to Cambodia's economic development and the Chinese- Cambodian ties.

Foreign loans have been one of the major economic propellers for the kingdom, which altogether received some 6.2 billion U.S. dollars of various loans from 1922 to 2005, according to official statistics. Read more!

Cambodia reopens Sihanoukville airport

Tue, Jan. 23,200

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia - The airport at Sihanoukville, Cambodia's main coastal city, has reopened with hopes high that it will further spur travel and the country's burgeoning tourism industry. A Soviet-made Antonov-24 plane belonging to a locally owned airline company landed at the Sihanoukville airport following an opening ceremony Jan. 13, said Norinda Khek, spokesman for Societe Concessionnaire des Aeroports, or SCA, a subsidiary of the French construction group Vinci.

He said the plane flew from Siem Reap province, Cambodia's main tourist hub, and that it carried 11 passengers, who were airline staff flying on the promotional trip. It was the first landing at the airport in the last three years, he added.

The airport had been closed for reconstruction.

The airport, located about 115 miles southwest of the capital Phnom Penh, is expected to serve as the first air link between Sihanoukville and Siem Reap, home to the famous Angkor temples, deputy tourism minister Thong Khon said.

He said he hoped the airport's reopening would encourage tourists to extend their stay to enjoy Cambodia's sandy beaches after touring the temples.

"This is part of our strategy in linking the two tourist destinations," he said, adding that 1.7 million tourists visited Cambodia last year, about a 20 percent increase over 2005.

Tourism has become a major source of income for the cash-strapped Southeast Asian country.
Norinda Khek said that the airport will host only domestic flights because its mile-long runway can accommodate only propeller planes.

But he said the company plans to extend the runway to 1.4 miles to handle jet aircraft by the end of the year. Read more!

Cambodia will claw poachers

BANGKOK, Jan 23 (IPS) - A regional wildlife body is aiming to spread its net wide to trap poachers and illegal loggers, now that a section of Cambodia's nature crime investigators have been armed with new legal tools. A week-long training programme held at Sihanoukville, the main beach resort in that South-east Asian nation, was geared to plug a gap that has long helped major wildlife criminals to get away -- investigations that were too weak to build legal cases.

''Prosecution has always been a problem in Cambodia. There have been very few successful cases,'' Steven Galster, director of field operations at WildAid, the global conservation lobby, told IPS from the site of the training, which ended Tuesday. ‘'We have trained them to set up long-term investigations and to build strong cases to catch the criminals.'' The skills that the 31 Cambodian officers from agencies like the police, the forest department and the customs have acquired are part of a drive by the ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network (ASEAN-WEN) to mount a counter offensive against the region's illegal wildlife trade, a multimillion-dollar industry. ASEAN, which stands for the Association of South-east Asian Nations, is a 10-member bloc that includes Brunei, Burma (or Myanmar), Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam. ASEAN-WEN was set up in December 2005.

The need to save Cambodia's wildlife is best captured in the fate of one of its prized predators, the tiger, which is on the verge of extinction. WildAid has also documented other species that have been targeted by poachers, such as pythons, elongated tortoise and pangolins. Other conservation groups like TRAFFIC, the global wildlife trade monitoring network, say that Cambodia's bears, monitor lizards, crocodiles and macaques are as vulnerable to the claws of the poachers. Cambodia's wildlife has become increasingly in demand as ‘'stocks run dry in Vietnam,'' James Compton, TRAFFIC's South-east Asia regional director, said in an interview.

The growing demand from Vietnam and China, neighbouring countries which have been enjoying a long spell of rapid economic growth, has seen the demand for wildlife and wildlife products rise, he said. ‘'(They are used) for traditional medicine, wild meat, pets and private zoos.'' TRAFFIC recently noticed Vietnamese traders on the Vietnam-Cambodian border ‘'commissioning Cambodian poachers to hunt a shopping list of wildlife species,'' Compton revealed. ‘'Wildlife trade is very lucrative and is therefore attracting the business and entrepreneurial community who stand to gain significantly from this trade.''

A study by the World Bank in 2005 offers a glimpse at the profits involved. The wildlife trade in Vietnam in 2002 was estimated at 66.5 million US dollars, the Bank noted in ‘Going, Going, Gone: The Illegal Trade in Wildlife in East Asia and Southeast Asia.' In Indonesia, the study added, an average of over 50 tigers were killed every year from 1998 to 2002. Cambodia's wildlife had been part of this supply chain in the 1970s, too, when the country, caught in a bloody civil war and drawn into the war in Vietnam, came under the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime. ‘'By the late 1970s, Cambodia's Khmer Rouge had traded 25 million dollars worth of wild animal parts to the Chinese for weapons and supplies,'' adds the Bank's study. And as Cambodia's small team of rangers working in the country's pristine forests well know, trying to fight the poachers or illegal loggers comes with a high risk, including being attacked by poachers.

In September 2005, for instance, two forest rangers were killed by loggers along the boundary of the Phnom Aurual Wildlife Sanctuary, which lies east of Phnom Penh. A daunting challenge, says the London-based environmental group Global Witness, is one posed by the corruption linked to highly-placed government officials thriving on the illegal logging trade, which has severely depleted the forests. ‘'Wherever there is a forest in Cambodia, there is illegal logging,'' Jon Buckrell, forest policy coordinator at Global Witness, told IPS. ‘'It goes hand-in-hand with systemic corruption. Illegal logging is the preserve of the powerful and well connected -- if you are a poor farmer you cannot simply walk into a forest and start cutting down valuable trees.''

Recent policy decisions by Phnom Penh are expected to worsen this environment, Buckrell said, pointing to new economic land concessions granted ‘'to create plantations'' in natural forest areas. ‘'These permits are illegal and designed to provide a pretext for companies to undertake clear-cutting operations and sell the timber.'' Cambodia's loss of an estimated 2.5 million hectares of forest cover between 1990 and 2005 has even alarmed the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Troubled by the rampant scale of illegal logging in the 1990s, the IMF cancelled a 120 million US-dollar loan. Galster, of WildAid, concedes that corruption will be an issue for the newly trained nature crime investigators, ‘'Corruption is an issue, but half the problem is the lack of skills to deal with the major criminals.'' Read more!