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Thursday, October 25, 2007

China gives Cambodia more patrol boats

PHNOM PENH, Oct 25 (Reuters) - China is giving Cambodia nine naval patrol boats to safeguard oil installations in the Gulf of Thailand, another sign of Beijing's deepening ties with the Southeast Asian nation, military officials said on Thursday.

"These boats will enable us to prevent maritime crimes such as terrorism, but also to protect natural resources within our sea territory," said General Nim Sovath, who attended a signing ceremony in the Chinese city of Guangzhou this week.

An army-run Cambodian TV channel heralded the deal as evidence of stronger military cooperation with China, which provided Phnom Penh with six naval patrol boats in 2005 to help combat people and drug smuggling.

Beijing followed up the next year with $600 million in aid and grants -- a sum equal to the annual amount given by Cambodia's traditional donors.

Cambodia is expected to take possession of the vessels, believed to be worth around $60 million, early next month.

Even though Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen spent much of his life fighting Pol Pot's Beijing-backed Khmer Rouge, he has worked hard in recent years to build ties with China as a counterweight to Vietnam, which lies between them.

The improved relationship also works well for Beijing, keen to negotiate access to friendly deep-sea ports in Southeast Asia, its main fuel gateway.

Sihanoukville, Cambodia's only such port, will be the processing centre for oil and natural gas expected to flow from its "Block A" chunk of the Gulf of Thailand by 2010. U.S. oil giant Chevron Corp (CVX.N: Quote, Profile, Research) is leading exploration drilling.
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Cambodian tribunal summons former Khmer Rouge prison photographer

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia: Cambodia's genocide tribunal has summoned a former photographer who captured thousands of haunting images of prisoners before they were tortured and executed by the Khmer Rouge, the photographer said Tuesday.

Nhem En, 47, said the tribunal's judges ordered him to appear before them on Nov. 1 "in regard to the criminal case of Duch," referring to his former boss, Kaing Guek Eav, who headed the Khmer Rouge's notorious S-21 prison and torture center.

Duch has been detained by the U.N.-backed tribunal on charges of crimes against humanity committed when the Khmer Rouge regime held power in Cambodia from 1975 to 1979.

The group's radical policies caused the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million people from starvation, overwork, disease and execution.

Up to 16,000 suspected enemies of the regime were tortured at the prison before being executed in an area near the capital, Phnom Penh that later became known as the killing fields.

Only about a dozen of the prisoners are thought to have survived. The prison is now known as the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and is frequented by tourists.

Nhem En photographed thousands of prisoners before they were locked up, tortured and executed and their images are the centerpiece of the museum.

He has denied any involvement in the atrocities and said his job was merely taking pictures of the prisoners after they were brought to the prison.

"I will not oppose the summons. I support the tribunal to try the former Khmer Rouge leaders," Nhem En said.

Besides Duch, Nuon Chea, the former Khmer Rouge ideologist, is the only other suspect detained by the tribunal, which has charged him with crimes against humanity and war crimes.
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Cambodia requests more funds for genocide tribunal

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia: Cambodia appealed Thursday for more money to fund a U.N.-assisted genocide tribunal, saying the trials of former Khmer Rouge leaders would likely drag on longer than originally expected.

The appeal follows international pressure for greater transparency at the tribunal, a hybrid court jointly run by Cambodian and United Nations staff, amid accusations of mismanagement and kickbacks.

The trials, which have been plagued by delays, are expected to start next year.

The tribunal was originally projected to complete its work by 2009.

"There is a budget shortage for the operation of the tribunal, which could extend into 2010," Cambodia's Foreign Minister Hor Namhong told reporters Thursday.

The tribunal's head of public affairs, Helen Jarvis, said the US$56.3 million (€39.5 million) originally budgeted for the tribunal would not be enough, mainly because of delays in adopting rules at the tribunal.

"The original budget was just for three years until mid-2009 and we need to envisage going a bit longer than that," Jarvis said. "The extra funding and time we will need ... will be fully justified in our budget appeal."

She said fundraising meetings would take place in Cambodia and New York by the end of the year.

Of the US$56.3 million budgeted for the tribunal, there was still a US$7.5 million shortfall, she said. She declined to say how much more money would be needed, over and above the amount already budgeted.

She said the Cambodian tribunal funds will last until the first quarter of 2008 while the U.N.'s portion will last until later that year.

The radical policies of the Khmer Rouge, when in power from 1975 to 1979, led to the deaths of 1.7 million people from hunger, disease, overwork and execution.

The tribunal has so far detained only two senior former Khmer Rouge officials on charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes.

U.S. Ambassador Joseph Mussomeli said Washington was mulling over whether to donate funds for the tribunal but that no decision would be made until the tribunal has properly addressed the "serious" allegations of mismanagement and corruption in its administration.

"No one is going to want to spend American taxpayer money on an administrative process which is not transparent," he said, adding the tribunal's "administrative problem is so huge and so obvious."

A U.N.-commissioned audit last month slammed the Cambodian side of the tribunal for mismanagement, including hiring unqualified staffers.

Earlier this year, the New York-based Open Society Justice Initiative alleged that Cambodian judges and other court personnel had paid off government officials for their positions at the tribunal — claims the Cambodians dismissed as groundless.

"The bottom line is that the Khmer Rouge tribunal needs more money," Mussomeli said. But "even those donors who have been most generous in the past will have a difficult time giving more funding to the Khmer Rouge tribunal unless the administrative issues are fixed."
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