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Monday, June 11, 2007

Army: Casinos serving as drug storage points

The army suspects Cambodian casinos near the Thai border are laundering money and serving as a storage point for illegal drugs destined for Thailand.

Drug traffickers are thought to be using casinos as a new channel to smuggle goods to Thailand. The drugs could be sent from Burma to Laos and then Cambodia, or produced in Cambodia itself, where they are hidden in casinos, according to the army.

The gangs just wait for the right time to send the drugs into Thailand, its big trade partner.

"These casinos are threatening our national security," said deputy Burapha Task Force

commander Walit Rojanapakdi. The casinos are just opposite the border provinces of Sa Kaeo, Chanthaburi and Trat.

Nine casinos are near the Poipet-Klong Luek checkpoint in Sa Kaeo's Aranyaprathet district; one near the Ban Laem checkpoint in Chanthaburi's Pong Nam Ron district; and three near Trat's Khlong Yai district, according to the Burapha Task Force report.

Col Walit said the government had tried to warn Thais against gambling in the casinos, but they did not pay attention to the warning.

"We can do nothing more," he said. "What we're doing now is gathering information on drug smuggling [from the casinos] into Thailand," he said.

Thais are the biggest group gambling in the casinos, followed by Vietnamese, Malaysians, Taiwanese and Filipinos. About 1,000 to 3,000 Thai gamblers visit casinos at Poipet in Cambodia every day. The Chanthaburi-Trat task force suspects some casinos opposite Chanthaburi province are a favourite hideout for criminals.
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Cambodia's oil bonanza muted by uncertainties

PHNOM PENH, June 10 (AFP): Two years after discovering oil off its coast, uncertainty clouds Cambodia's nascent petroleum sector, with analysts saying it is impossible to gauge the extent of the country's fuel deposits or their impact on one of the world's poorest economies.

Predictions of vast new wealth are now being reconsidered, with some international institutions already drastically scaling back previous estimates of a billion barrels of oil.

Even Prime Minister Hun Sen has tempered earlier claims that the country would begin tapping oil by 2010, saying last week that Cambodia's petroleum prospects were now "uncertain".

"Oil under the sea is still a dream," he said Wednesday.

Diplomats have reacted with caution to Cambodia's possible petroleum windfall amid rising hopes that annual revenues would dwarf the current budget and pull the country out of poverty.
"Whether Cambodia will ultimately benefit from its future oil revenue is uncertain," said US Ambassador to Cambodia Joseph Mussomeli.

Analysts agree that it is too early to tell how oil could impact Cambodia, where 35 per cent of the population lives on less than 50 US cents a day.

"The exact size of the reserves, how much is entirely recoverable, is still unknown," said International Monetary Fund advisor Jeremy Carter.

"One has to hold off from making very large-scale assumptions about what will happen," he said.
Momentum, however, is building after the US energy giant Chevron announced two years ago that it had struck oil in four of five wells dug in the waters off Cambodia's southern coast.

While Chevron confirms the presence of oil and continues drilling, the company has not released any data from Block A, one of six open to exploration in Cambodia's water in the Gulf of Thailand.

But the sheer size of estimated deposits-the government has tentatively put petroleum reserves in Block A alone at 700 million barrels-has other internationals rushing into talks for exploration and production rights.

The government has divulged very little about these negotiations.

But companies from Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Kuwait, as well as China's state energy giant CNOOC, have all bid for rights in other blocks, said Te Duong Tara, executive director of the Cambodian National Petroleum Authority (CNPA), at a conference in February.
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Bloggers are still skeptical of Khmer Rouge after agreement

After continuous delays in the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia’s (ECCC’s) tribunal proceedings, the United Nations and the Cambodian Bar Association reached an agreement last week on how much the CBA can charge volunteer tribunal attorneys. Although this is a step forward in securing transitional justice for Cambodians, international bodies and the Cambodian government are still debating over when the actual trial will begin.

Cambodian bloggers, in response, are still skeptical over promises of reconciliation.

According to Details are Sketchy, the ECCC’s endeavors will never be good enough to heal the trauma so engrained in Khmer society. The trial, likewise, should be considered purely a justice initiative, rather than a form of emotional therapy for victims.

Can a trial at this late stage ever hope to ease such venomous hatred? Probably not. For all the KRT hopes to contribute, it will never be able to completely slay the demons of Cambodia’s past. Only time can do that.

KI Media, citing Stanford Review writer Allison Rhines, notes that this agreement is merely a small step towards a grander agreement on the tribunal, and that more pressing issues sit on the table.

The registration fee dispute has been only one in a long string of many minor issues that have stalled progress toward an international trial for the last decade. Agreement on whether to organize a court to try the leaders of the Khmer Rouge was reached only in 2003, at the culmination of five years and eleven rounds of negotiations. Last summer, the UN officially allotted three years for the undertaking; almost a full year of that time has already been spent on bureaucratic hang-ups.

Rhines also observes a possible “foot-dragging” strategy on the part of the Cambodian government—perhaps a tactic for former Khmer Rouge officials currently in the government to avoid accountability for their crimes. She argues that the political rhetoric of “justice” is hindering any real push for reconciliation.

Since this latest milestone, all sides have publicly stated their commitment to justice; however, in the face of continued bureaucratic and political maneuvering, it is unclear just how genuine their commitments are.

The coming task is monumental: the ECCC’s future meetings between international and local judges entail combing a list of over 100 laws, as tribunal blogger Stan Starygin notes in a recent Voice of America article. Cambodian judge You Bunleng assured the public that future talks are merely “technical discussions,” but bloggers are still questioning the extent of these discussions.

Similar meetings have failed to reach full agreement on the rules, which are imperative for the functioning of the courts. The latest round of talks only became possible after the Cambodian Bar Association relented on high fees for the participation of foreign lawyers, which had caused the UN-appointed international jurists to cancel a meeting at the end of May.

Political opposition leader Sam Rainsy also spoke out against the continued delays—perhaps a reflection of the current government’s affiliation with the Khmer Rouge regime—when he said that the Cambodian people require large-scale justice to move forward. According to Rainsy, Cambodia’s genocidal shadow will not disappear as long as the CPP is in power.

…I have a little hope that our current Khmer leaders are willing to allow the Khmer Rouge Tribunal to proceed fairly. It means that only democrats and people who are not linked to the Khmer Rouge crimes and are not absorbed in Khmer Rouge ideologies can urge for the proceedings of the tribunal for the prosecution of the former Khmer Rouge leaders whose hands are stained with blood of Khmer citizens to move forward with transparency.

Time is running out for justice, Rainsy argues, because most older Khmer Rouge leaders will die soon.
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