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Friday, January 02, 2009

Cambodian Court Must Act on Murder of Trade Union leader murder case of union Leader Chea Vichea

Amnesty International calls on the Supreme Court to dismiss the case against Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun, and ensure that they are released without delay and their names cleared. In view of the human rights violations perpetrated during their detention and trial, including torture or other ill-treatment, unfounded and inadmissible 'evidence' and deeply flawed court proceedings, this is the only fair and just outcome for this case, the organization said.

Amnesty International believes that the true perpetrators of the murder remain at large, while Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun have spent almost five years in prison after a seriously flawed criminal investigation and a grossly unfair trial.

Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun had alibis for the time of the shooting on 22 January 2004. Instead of conducting a thorough, impartial investigation, police officers threatened and detained people who would provide these alibis, and intimidated other witnesses. Born Samnang repeatedly stated that police beat, coerced and bribed him into making a confession; despite this the Municipal Court accepted the confession as a central piece of evidence on the basis of which both men were convicted. On 1 August 2005, the Municipal Court sentenced them both to 20 years imprisonment for murder; on 6 April 2007, the Appeal Court upheld the decision, despite the prosecutor's acknowledgement there was insufficient evidence.

Amnesty International repeats its calls to the Cambodian authorities to conduct an impartial and effective investigation into the murder of Chea Vichea so that those responsible for it are brought to justice.

The organisation also urges the authorities to initiate a thorough, independent and impartial investigation into the conduct of the case - including allegations of torture or other ill-treatment by police during the initial interrogation of the two men, intimidation of witnesses and political interference with the judicial process.

Background
Chea Vichea, President of Cambodia's Free Trade Union (FTU), was murdered on 22 January 2004 after receiving a series of death threats. He was shot dead in an assassination style killing at a news-stand in central Phnom Penh. Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun were arrested shortly afterwards on suspicion of his murder.

Chea Vichea was a well-known trade union leader who championed workers rights in Cambodia’s burgeoning garment industry and a founding member of the main opposition Khmer Nation Party (KNP) in 1995, renamed the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) in 1998. He was elected President of the FTU, one of Cambodia’s largest trade unions, in 1999, when he left all official positions within the SRP.

Since Chea Vichea’s death another two FTU activists have been killed in Phnom Penh. In May 2004, Ros Sovannareth, FTU President at the Trinunggal Komara factory, was murdered. Thach Saveth was sentenced to 15 years in prison for his murder in a one hour trial described by observers as grossly unfair. On 24 February 2007, Hy Vuthy, FTU President at the Suntex factory, was shot dead. No one has been brought to justice for this killing, and by September 2008, a Phnom Penh court official told media that the investigation had been closed for lack of evidence. Moreover, numerous other trade union members have been victims of harassment, intimidation and violence.

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Child trafficking in Cambodia

Caring investigates child trafficking in Cambodia. Despite stricter legislation, the problem is still rampant. On one side are parents who want to foster a child, and on the other, Cambodian parents' poverty which pushes them to sell their own.

Child trafficking, a loose term with negative connotations, is essentially when young offspring are given away to wealthy foreigners in exchange for money.

For lucky adopters, the actual sum is inconsequential. Exhausted after costly and upsetting attempts in their own countries, many gratefully look to smaller, developing nations in their bid to find a child, countries like Cambodia, where widespread poverty forces many locals to consider desperate ways to make ends meet.

Dazzled by the promise of a better life for their loved ones, parents and families readily relinquish control and sign away their offspring. But an increasing number of abuses of the system by rogue adoption agencies has prompted many Western governments to immediately suspend all adoptions of Cambodian children.

In France, the government has only just recently lifted the ban that had been in place for some five years, but French authorities are enforcing stringent tests and vetting on would-be parents.

In Cambodia, there are as yet few laws against the widespread corruption and not enough incentive to make parents stop this tragic practice of selling their children.
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Cambodian gov't urged to invest more in agricultural sector

PHNOM PENH, Jan. 2 (Xinhua) -- A well-known expert has called on the Cambodian government to devote more resources to the rural sector in efforts to mitigate the effects of the global economic crisis, the Phnom Penh Post reported on Friday.

While the tourism and garment sectors continue to struggle for access to international markets during the slowdown, Cambodia's agricultural sector holds the best hope of weathering the crisis, Kang Chandararot, president of the Cambodian Institute for Development Study, was quoted by the English-language daily newspaper as saying.

"We face a difficult situation, but the government should use most of the (nearly) 1 billion U.S. dollars of donor aid to develop our rural areas as a top priority," he said.

Greater improvements in rural development would cut poverty and reduce dependence on loans from banks or microfinance institutions, he said.

"While direct loans from banks and microfinance institutions provide necessary support, aid through the rural development and agriculture ministries should be used to modernize our agricultural methods," he said.

Such aid should be used to renovate Cambodia's aging water systems, find new seedlings and fertilizers, and improve rural markets, he said.

Cambodia used to be the major rice and some other rural products exporter in the region but years of war has made it lag behind Thailand and Vietnam in the past decades.

Currently, garment, tourism and infrastructure are the pillar industries of the kingdom.
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Cambodian monks force nation's first rock opera off air

PHNOM PENH (AFP) — Cambodian monks have persuaded authorities to ban the country's first rock opera, which features actors dressed as clergy who break into song and dance, saying it insults Buddhism.

In a letter sent to the ministry of cults and religion, as well as to the media, the Supreme Sangha Council of Buddhist Monks also demanded an apology from the show's director, writer and actors.

"Where Elephants Weep", a modern take on a traditional Cambodian love story that merges pop and rock music with more traditional and historical Cambodian tunes, played in Phnom Penh from late November through early December.

It tells the story a Cambodian-American man who returns after the demise of the 1970s Khmer Rouge regime to reconnect with his roots. While he is a monk, he falls into a doomed love affair with a pop singer.

The last straw came when the show was aired by a local television station last week, prompting the monks' council to write to complain.

Cambodia is predominantly Buddhist and monks are expected to be austere and eschew worldly pleasures such as entertainment.

"Some scenes in the story insult Buddhism," the letter said in asking the ministry to "ban the performance and airing of the opera."

The council objected to many scenes, including one in which the actor "left the monkhood and slept with a woman, but a moment later (he) put the robe back on to be a monk again..." said the letter, dated December 30.

The show "oppresses Cambodian Buddhist monks, causes more than 50,000 monks to loss their honour, value and to express frustration," it added.

Religions minister Min Khin duly stepped in and the television station was ordered not to go ahead with a second broadcast planned for New Year's Day.

The show had a successful US preview last year and, after its run ends in Cambodia, it is expected to tour South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan before returning to the United States.

Organisers behind the opera were not immediately available for comment.
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