The land of heroes
Our heroes
Our land
Cambodia Kingdom

Friday, September 21, 2007

Russia signs accord with Cambodia on WTO admission

Russia signs accord with Cambodia on WTO admission

PARIS (AFP) — Russia on Friday signed an agreement with Cambodia on Moscow's future membership of the World Trade Organisation, Russia's economic development and trade ministry said in a statement.

The ministry did not give details of the accord, which it said was signed by top officials from the two countries.

Russia, which has struggled for over a decade to join the 150-nation world trade body, is hoping to wrap up its membership negotiations this year. It is the only main world economy not to have joined the world trade watchdog.

However deputy Prime Minister Alexander Jukov cast doubt on whether Russia would meet its goal when addressing an economic forum in Sochi on Friday.

"I think that we will not enter the WTO before the end of 2007," he said.
Read more!

Nuon Chea Said to Have Ordered Torture


PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Detained former Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea allegedly ordered the murder and torture of civilians when the communist group ruled Cambodia in the 1970s, a U.N-backed genocide tribunal said in a statement Friday.

The 81-year-old former Khmer Rouge ideologist was arrested and charged Wednesday with crimes against humanity and war crimes in connection with atrocities that caused the deaths of some 1.7 million people during the Khmer Rouge's 1975-79 rule.

The detailed detention order made public Friday by the tribunal's co-investigating judges said Nuon Chea "planned, instigated, ordered, directed or otherwise aided and abetted in the commission" of crimes that include "murder, torture, imprisonment, persecution, extermination, deportation, forcible transfer, enslavement and other inhumane acts."

It also charged that he exercised authority and effective control over the group's internal security apparatus, including detention centers. Nuon Chea is the second, and highest-ranking, Khmer Rouge leader detained to appear before the panel.

Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, who headed the former Khmer Rouge S-21 torture center, was charged on July 31 with crimes against humanity. Prosecutors have recommended three other suspects for trial, but have not named them publicly.

"Many documents and witness statements" have implicated Nuon Chea for the crimes he has been charged with, said the order. The judges said he faces life imprisonment if convicted. Cambodia has no death penalty.

The document also cited Nuon Chea's response to the allegations, including his claim that leaders such as he had no direct contact with lower level Khmer Rouge units and were unaware of what they may have been doing.

He also said that all real power was in the hands of the group's military committee, of which he was not a member.

The order said Nuon Chea's provisional detention was necessary to prevent any pressure on witnesses or destruction of evidence, and that the crimes with which he is charged could provoke public ire that might endanger his own safety if he were free. It also said he might try to flee.

The order gave Nuon Chea's birthdate as July 7, 1926, making him 81, a year younger than the age given by his family. Some Southeast Asian cultures count age by regarding a person as 1 year old at birth.

Earlier Friday, a lawyer picked to represent Nuon Chea acknowledged he faced a "heavy burden" in defending his client.

Son Arun, a private attorney, said he met with Nuon Chea for the first time Thursday.

"There are many things for me to do, many documents for me to research. This is a heavy burden, but I am happy to take up the job," Son Arun said.

Nuon Chea can also choose a foreign lawyer — an arrangement offered by the U.N.-backed Cambodian genocide tribunal, it said in a statement Friday.

The tribunal statement said Nuon Chea has claimed he does not have money to pay for his legal fees. If it is determined he cannot afford the legal fees, the tribunal will pick up the costs, the statement said.

Son Arun is a member of the Cambodian Bar Association and has worked in private practice for over 11 years. He has represented defendants charged with serious crimes, including terrorism, the statement said without elaborating.

Son Arun said he was surprised to learn on Wednesday that Nuon Chea wanted him as his lawyer.

Khmer Rouge chief Pol Pot died in 1998 and his former military chief, Ta Mok, died in 2006 in government custody.

Nuon Chea's senior-level colleagues — Ieng Sary, the former foreign minister, and Khieu Samphan, the former head of state — live freely in Cambodia but are in declining health. They are also widely believed to be on the prosecutors' list.

Trials are expected to begin early next year.

(This version CORRECTS Corrects throughout that tribunal statement is detention order sted indictment)
Read more!

Debris from exploded aircraft falls near Preah Vihear Temple, Cambodia

A loud explosion in the sky rocked Preah Vihear province on Wednesday, with debris from a small unmanned aircraft falling 17 km from the province's historical temple, local media said on Friday.

After the explosion, a piece of debris weighing around 20 kg fell on Ta Mey village in Choam Khsan district, said Nuth Teng, a provincial army bureau chief, adding that the unmanned aircraft may have belonged to the Thai military.

Cambodian aviation officials assumed that the debris came from a remote controlled aircraft, saying that it could be a Thai training plane, reported Cambodian-language newspaper the Moneaksekar Khmer.

Witnesses at the time thought the sound was an airplane exploding in mid-air, reported another Cambodian-language newspaper the Kampuchea Thmey.

"It may have accidentally shot out from a (military) exercise in Thailand," Nuth Teng said, adding that investigators after the incident tried to collect and reassemble the craft but were unable to say exactly what it was, reported English-language newspaper the Cambodia Daily.

Thai officials denied at the time that such an incident had occurred, it added.

Cambodian Defense Minister Tea Banh has yet to show any reaction to the issue, reasoning that he had not been fully informed of the incident.

The explosion did not kill or injure any villagers.

Source: Xinhua
Read more!

Cambodia Braces for a Mining Invasion

Cambodia’s once-abundant natural resources, whose timber reserves already were stripped to fund its disastrous civil war, are ripe for more exploitation. Saddled with a weak and often corrupt government, it is now in danger of seeing its mineral rights looted, as even officials charged with protecting the environment say the time has come to sacrifice some protected areas to mining development.

Environment Minister Mok Mareth said in a recent interview that a balance must be struck between conservation and development, hinting that the balance would fall on the side of development. "There are too many people worried that it may destroy all the resources, all biodiversity, all ecosystems," he said. "Of course, it's right. It destroys some part, not all. We have to understand that."

In considering exploitation, the ministry obtains binding guarantees that companies will respect the environment and not harm indigenous rights, he claimed, adding that Cambodia was in the process of changing from "100 percent conservation" to a system that can accommodate development.

"We're in the phase of what we call transition," he said.

The issue of how that transition is handled came to the fore in recent weeks when, through a little-known Australian firm, Indochine Resources, two flamboyant Australians won the right to explore for unnamed minerals in 180,000 hectares, or 54 percent, of Cambodia’s Asean-heritage listed Virachey National Park. The concession itself was as big as 254,600 hectares.

Both the Cambodian Environment Ministry and the World Bank, which has funded the management and conservation of the park to the tune of nearly $5 million, were caught by surprise.

The two are geologist Jeremy Snaith and David Evans, who in April became known across Australia as the “bananas in pajamas” after their nude antics aboard a Sydney-Abu Dhabi flight and subsequent arrest for sexual harassment and drunkenness forced them out of their company, Jupiter Mines. That an area so large and so sensitive was now in the hands of men ensnared by a drunken slapstick scandal gave pause to some. The World Bank, for one, announced it was seeking clarification from the government.

“[W]e continue to encourage the government of Cambodia to make good choices when they pick business partners… to ensure that their partners are committed to socially and environmentally responsible development,” a World Bank official wrote in an email.

A rumor in Phnom Penh held that a more reputable Australian mining firm also seeking the concession had been beaten out by Indochine Resources. The case is only one chapter in an unfolding story in Cambodia, which devotes a surprisingly large share of its territory to conservation. According to a 1992 review by the UN's World Conservation Monitoring Center, Cambodia's set-aside level of 26.3 percent was far higher than the land reserved for conservation in Thailand (16.3 percent), the US (11 percent), Indonesia (10 percent) or Australia (5.3 percent).

The country’s 32 environmentally protected areas, such as Virachey National Park, cover more than a quarter of its landmass. These areas also contain gold, copper, chromium and bauxite, creating the potential for Cambodia’s regulators to see dollar signs without foreseeing desolation.

Critics question whether Cambodia has the means, or even the desire, to control how and where mines are dug, or to determine whether the environmental damage they cause is acceptable. Global Witness, the environmental watchdog, has contended that the country’s natural resources until now have formed little more than a cash cow for the country’s elite and that exploiting Cambodia's resources in the absence of the rule of law will not necessarily lead to development or increased prosperity.

For their part, government officials have in recent months repeatedly and rather ominously from the point of view of environmentalists, said that riches to help lift Cambodia out of poverty should not be beyond reach simply because they lie buried beneath the turf of an endangered species.

Environment chief Mok Mareth maintained that the 47,845 square kilometers of land devoted to protecting the environment are hardly sacrosanct.

Critics who feel his ministry is weak and routinely shoved aside in favor of more muscular industrial interests simply do not understand, he added.

"When we developed that," Mok Mareth said of Cambodia's system of protected areas, first created in 1993 around the time that the UN mandate period ended, "we didn't know all the potential of our natural resources, our richness. So we need to have the exploration.”

Cambodia is hardly different from much of the rest of the world, where many protected areas are also routinely open to mining. Authorities permit mining in about 78 percent of South Australia's 332 protected areas, according to the state's regional government.

In Cambodia, however, the matter comes down to a question of management. At a 2004 workshop, Environment Ministry officials and conservation NGOs found that mining was already occurring in nine protected areas and threatening 13 of them.

Since then, the government has lifted a prohibition on mining in protected areas and has invited companies like Indochine Resources as well as BHP Billiton, Southern Mining Company and Oxiana Ltd to explore for minerals sometimes in parts of sanctuaries believed to be crucial for protecting biodiversity.

All four companies have promised to be good to Cambodia's environment. But such deals are being struck even though many of the country's protected areas are under-funded, understaffed, lack comprehensive management plans and most importantly, do not have zoning to protect their most environmentally sensitive areas. These problems, outlined by the 2004 workshop, persist to this day, NGOs say.

Seng Teak, country director for the Worldwide Fund for Nature, said last week that certain core zones must be protected from mining, as the viability of other ecosystems depends on them.

It's called a core zone, he said, "You can't touch that area from a biodiversity point of view."

Mok Mareth said, however, that a consensus with other ministries had emerged that even future core zones were not necessarily off limits for exploitation.

"We got already the reaction, even from the Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of Industry, Ministry of Agriculture and others," he said.

"They also raised the concern: If I accept conservation of this area, a core zone, if we can find a billion dollars for the mining there, how can we exploit these millions of dollars in this area?”

“We did not define any core zones to date," he added.

However, Seng Teak said Cambodia is simply not yet ready to deliver its protected areas into the hands of mining companies.

"I think it may be too early to bring the companies in to invest in the protected areas. It has to have clear zoning," he said. "The right to use the resources should be based on a clear land use plan first."

In weighing development against conservation, the government is poised to make a fateful decision, Seng Teak said.

"The crossroads is balancing the two, because the government sees economic development as a priority and conservation second," he said. "It's a challenge to make that decision."

Read more!

Cambodia celebrates International Day of Peace

The Cambodia Peace Forum held a festival to celebrate the International Day of Peace here on Friday, with a theme of "Peace Starts from Everyone of Us".

A group of Cambodian teenagers, in traditional white fashion which symbolizes peace, performed Khmer dance at the celebration.

During the ceremony, Thida Khus, Executive Director of Silaka and one of Cambodia's long-term peace workers, made a speech about process and experience of peace building in Cambodia.

"Nobody knows better than the Cambodians on what conflict and war brought. The road to recovery is still paved with pain, mainly due to our confusion of the value of life, and our embrace of materialism and coercive power," Thida Khus said.

"When we come to believe that we cannot live without each other, and to learn that when one person is treated with injustice, it is injustice for all, then, and only then are we moving closer to the road of peace," she added.

The Cambodia Peace Forum is made up of local and international NGO's organizations, student movements and civil society members, a press release said, adding that since 2003, the Cambodia Peace forum has met and continues to meet to prepare workshops and programs of promoting issues of sustainable peace within the homes, villages and provinces whilst reflecting on stories from local to international news.

The International Day of Peace, established by a United Nations resolution in 1981 to coincide with the opening of the General Assembly, was first inaugurated on the third Tuesday of September, 1982.

Beginning on the 20th anniversary in 2002, the UN General Assembly set Sept. 21 as the now permanent date for the International Day of Peace.

Source: Xinhua
Read more!