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Friday, October 30, 2009

Khmer Rouge trial judges accused of bias

By David Boyle for Radio Australia


The beleaguered Khmer Rouge trials in Cambodia have hit another obstacle.

Two pre-trial judges, including Australian Rowan Downing QC, have been accused of taking instruction from their respective governments in a motion filed last week.

The Extraordinary Chambers of the Courts of Cambodia were created to try the leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime, which is accused of killing more than 2 million people in the 1970s.

The Khmer Rouge tribunal has endured considerable controversy in its four years of existence and now many people believe it has become entrenched in its own politics.

The lawyers of accused war criminal, Ieng Sary, have filed a motion requesting that two pre trial judges, including Mr Downing, be removed from the court due to a public perception of bias.

Radio Australia has obtained a copy of the motion that seizes on comments recently made by the Cambodian Prime Minister, Hun Sen.

Mr Sen has alleged the two judges have been acting on the orders of their respective foreign governments.

'Fair trial'

Michael Karnavas is one of the co-defence lawyers who filed the motion.

"What we're saying is we're caught in the middle of all of this, we're entitled to a fair trial," he said.

"The average person in Cambodia believes their Prime Minister. The United Nations hasn't stepped up to the plate, to either defend these judges or to show that they've taken any action to look into these allegations.

"The judges haven't spoken up, I suspect because of their position, but we want this matter cleared."

The two pre-trial judges, Mr Downing and Dutch national Katinka Lahuis are unable to comment on either Hun Sen's comments or the motion being filed against them.

Appropriate behaviour

But a spokeswoman for the court, Yuko Maeda, says the court believes all their court officials are behaving appropriately.

"We believe all the judicial officials who work at the ECCC are performing accordingly, independently from any of the executive bodies," she said.

"This is the international standard, ECCC is following the international standard. We believe that none of the judicial officials who are working at the ECCC are influenced by any executive body."

Heather Ryan, a court monitor with the Open Society Justice Initiative, says she has seen no evidence to confirm the allegations, but says they should be publicly addressed to protect the credibility of the court.

"Many of the international players and the judges are in my view, unfortunately reluctant to speak publicly when statements like this that impact the credibility of the court are made," she said.

"I think it's part of that sort of general reluctance of commentators and officials of the courts to speak about what's going on in the court publicly. There's kind of a conspiracy of silence."

Bribery claims

An early report into the court's activities prepared for the US Agency for International Development concluded corruption was "pandemic" within the administration of local officials with bribery a widely accepted practice.

A subsequent report produced by the court, which was initially suppressed, revealed similar findings.

But there is no suggestion that these allegations relate to the judges of the court.

Lawyer Michael Karnavas dismisses any suggestion that his motion is designed further erode the tribunal's reputation, arguing it upholds expectations of transparency and due diligence.

"I haven't made these allegations, somebody else has. I'm not the one getting kick backs from the national staff. I'm not the one who is hiding the UN report, others are doing that," he said.

"So you can't blame the defence for trying to shed light and trying to make this process as transparent as possible."

Ms Ryan, of the Open Society Justice Initiatives, says the court should be concerned about mounting public scepticism over its transparency and capacity to deliver swift and effective justice.

"The court has an obligation now, if it's to preserve its obligation to the people of Cambodia to go out of its way and take additional steps to be transparent, to scrupulously deal with any allegations of misconduct or wrong doing and to ensure that people can see that they actually are serving the interests of justice," she said.

"Right now when everything is done behind closed doors people don't see that and so when statements like the one that is alleged by Ieng Sary's lawyers are made, it feeds on a kind of inherent suspicion."

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Cambodia can deny Thaksin extradition bid by Thailand: Attorney-General

BANGKOK, Oct 30 (TNA) - Cambodia reserves the right to deny a request by Thailand to extradite ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra if he stays in the neighbouring country, but substantial grounds must be provided for the denial, according to the Attorney-General Julasingh Wasantsingh.

Mr Julasingh said he did not focus on anybody in particular, but would touch only on the principle that even though Thailand and Cambodia had signed an extradition treaty, in practice the country which was asked for the extradition has the full right to deny the request.

However, that country must justify its denial in line with international practice.

As for Mr Thaksin’s case, the Office of the Attorney-General has not been informed about his whereabouts so the office could not make the request.

If the police and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirm that Mr Thaksin is in Cambodia, Thai officials would seek extradition, but it depends on Phnom Penh's decision.

He added that Thailand had formerly denied such requests from some countries, but the kingdom was able to provide strong grounds to clarify its decisions in the past.

Mr Hun Sen told reporters during attending the 15th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Thailand that Mr Thaksin could remain in Cambodia as his guest and could be his economic advisor, saying he was not interfering in Thailand's internal affairs, but that Cambodia has the right to exercise its sovereignty and make such a decision.

Ousted in a bloodless coup in September 2006, convicted and sentenced to a two-year jail term for malfeasance in the controversial Bangkok Ratchadapisek land purchase, Mr Thaksin now living in self-exile abroad and is reportedly a close friend of Mr Hun Sen. (TNA)
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Nationalist fire counters Chavalit's move

If national reconciliation was truly one of the goals Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh set himself when returning to active politics, then he could barely have got off to a worse start.


Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh's visit to Cambodia under the guidance of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra to meet Hun Sen a day before the Cambodian prime minister flew to Thailand for the Asean summit last weekend seemed to shake the Abhisit Vejjajiva government, noted a Matichon writer.

Gen Chavalit claimed his move was aimed at mending fences with the Cambodian leader to ease tensions between Thailand and Cambodia before the 15th Asean summit in Hua Hin and Cha-am.

However, the ulterior objective seemed to be for Hun Sen to discredit the Thai government, which he proceeded to do, claiming Thaksin was politically persecuted, that he would welcome Thaksin to Cambodia any time and would not extradite Thaksin to Thailand even though the two countries have signed an extradition treaty.

Gen Chavalit, upon agreeing to become chairman of the Puea Thai Party, declared four strategic goals for the party:

- To prove to Thai society that Thaksin is loyal to the country and monarchy;

- To mend social divisions in the country;

- To solve the unrest in the lower South; and

- To mend fences with neighbouring countries.

These four goals are aimed at shoring up the image of Puea Thai, with Thaksin as its guiding light, and they have the ultimate objective of winning the next election and returning Thaksin to his former glory without having to serve his two-year jail sentence.

Puea Thai can also rely on its staunch allies, the red shirts, to continue to hold rallies to disrupt the government's administration with the aim of forcing the government to quit as soon as possible. The opposition party believes the Democrats and their coalition partners are seen in a negative light for being linked to various graft allegations involving spending programmes under the second stimulus package.

Unfortunately for Puea Thai, Gen Chavalit's move to involve Hun Sen in the attack on the Thai government has provoked a strong reaction from many Thai people, who have condemned both Gen Chavalit and Thaksin as "letting the enemy in". They believe Gen Chavalit's move at the behest of Thaksin will only further strain relations between Thailand and Cambodia, not mend fences as claimed by Gen Chavalit.

So Gen Chavalit's declared move to mend fences with neighbouring countries seems to have failed at the first attempt.

Puea Thai's other aim has been to prove to Thai society that Thaksin is loyal to the country and monarchy by attracting a number of retired generals to the party. These former generals and Gen Chavalit himself should be enough to assure the Thai people that Thaksin is loyal because soldiers have to swear to protect the country and King, Puea Thai believes.

Again, Puea Thai might not be able to shake off people's doubts that Thaksin is disloyal to the monarchy as long as the red shirts continue to demand the resignation of Privy Council president Prem Tinsulanonda. Their stance that Gen Prem should not act as His Majesty's representative also raises eyebrows since everyone knows it is the King's prerogative to appoint anyone to be his personal adviser and act on his behalf.

Meanwhile, the Democrat Party, as the leading party in the coalition government, has to respond to Gen Chavalit's move. The strategy is to claim that Puea Thai is using dirty political tricks by involving foreigners to attack Thailand.

As the country's leader, Mr Abhisit has to act diplomatically by claiming Thailand and Cambodia remain friends. However, Mr Abhisit might also worry that the Cambodian leader has received misleading information so he does not want Hun Sen to become a pawn in someone else's game.

Meantime, core executives of the Democrat Party came out in force to condemn Thaksin and Gen Chavalit's move as "betraying the country", a phrase which the country's respected elder recently warned Gen Chavalit about when he was considering joining Puea Thai.

The government has also appointed a national public relations commission to clarify the issue to counter the red shirts' satellite TV People Channel.

Gen Chavalit's next move to visit Malaysia and Burma with the aim of using the foreign stage to paint a bad image of the Thai government might not be so successful now the Democrats know of his intentions and are ready to counter them with effective public relations campaigns, concluded Matichon.

Govt must change tack

If the government cannot come up with something concrete soon to show the people it is working on their behalf, it's unlikely to win the next general election.

It's more than likely the Puea Thai Party will win the election and be able to form a single-party government, noted a Thai Rath writer.

Even though Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has told the media the Democrats are ready for the coming election and the party will gain more or less the same number of seats as Puea Thai, the Thai Rath writer thought this was only political posturing designed to show the people, Puea Thai, the red shirts and the coalition parties the Democrats are ready to dissolve parliament at any time.

However, it is widely believed both the Democrats and the coalition parties are not ready to dissolve parliament and contest a new poll. Since the coalition government wants to stay in power for quite a while yet, it must work even harder to show its achievements and solve the protracted problems facing the country.

The trouble is that this coalition government does not project an image of unity from the different ministries under each coalition party's supervision.

Even within the Democrat Party itself there seem to be conflicts judging from the continuing saga of the failed appointment of a new police chief.

This is different from Puea Thai, which plays politics both inside parliament and out with Thaksin phoning in and Twittering practically every day.

So it is not surprising that a recent poll showed that Mr Abhisit's popularity continues to decline while Thaksin has gained at his expense.

If the Democrats do not change the way they administer the country, the situation will worsen and there might come a time when Mr Abhisit has no choice but to dissolve parliament even if the party is not ready to contest an election.

Former prime minister Chuan Leekpai, now chief adviser to the Democrat Party, recently remarked there should be more discussion and consultation, not just among the Democrats but with their coalition partners as well.

Since taking charge of the country 10 months or so ago, Mr Abhisit seems to have accepted multitudes of outside engagements to speak practically every day. It's got to the stage where he hardly has time to talk and coordinate with ministers from different parties. So it is inevitable that small issues easily turn into bigger ones.

The Thai Rath writer recommended that apart from adjusting his working style by paying more attention to his coalition partners, Mr Abhisit should think about a cabinet reshuffle as now there has been sufficient time to judge which ministers need to be moved out to bring in more capable replacements to shore up the government's image.

Miscellany

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva revealed he would not hold a meeting of the Police Commission to appoint a new police chief any time soon, even though he really wants to convene one as soon as possible. There are still differing opinions and information, but the situation was improving, he said.

Meanwhile, Puea Thai Party spokesman Prompong Nopparit accused the government of pulling the strings behind the Council of State's decision that the government can proceed with stripping Thaksin Shinawatra of his police rank and royal decorations.

Mr Prompong issued a threat that if the government went ahead with stripping Thaksin of his rank and decorations, it would inflame the red shirts to come out to rally against the government. He warned the government to be careful in proceeding with such a step as it was no way to nurture reconciliation.
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Cambodia's Mysterious 'Jungle Woman' Sick, Stressed Out

A woman dubbed the "jungle woman" after emerging naked and unable to speak from the wilds of northeastern Cambodia two years ago is sick and apparently suffering from mental illness, a doctor said Friday.

Hing Phan Sokhunthea, chief of Rattanakiri province hospital, said the woman, believed to be 28-year-old Rochom P'ngieng, was taken home Friday after four days in a hospital even though she remained weak and the cause of her nervous distress remained unclear.

She was brought from the jungle in early 2007 after being caught trying to steal food from a villager. Her case attracted international attention after a local family claimed she was their daughter, who was 8 years old when she disappeared in 1988 while herding buffalo in a remote area.

However, the relationship was never proven, and it was never established how she could have survived in the wild for 19 years. Some villagers suspected she was not Rochom P'ngieng, but someone else suffering from mental problems who had been lost in the jungle for a much briefer time.

The man who claims to be her father, Sal Lou, said Friday by telephone that the woman still does not speak any intelligible language.

He said his daughter was hospitalized Monday after she refused to eat any rice for almost a month.

"She was very sick and her condition looks worse than when she was first found," he said. "She is very skinny now."

He said he decided to take her back home after her condition didn't improve and she kept trying to run away.

The Rattanakiri doctor said a preliminary diagnosis found she suffered from a nervous condition.
"We wanted her to stay longer in the hospital, so that we could learn more about her mental state, but her father took her back home without letting us know," said Hing Phan Sokunthea.
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Voices: No cause for celebration

On Sept. 20, the Empire State building was lighted red and yellow to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. At the same time, this event was either being celebrated on the south White House lawn or across the street, depending on whom you talk to.

Celebrating the 60th year of the most murderous regime in history. Chairman Mao and his successors have murdered at least 20 million of their own people, not counting Tibet, Korea (1950-54), various “wars of liberation” in South America, Africa, Southeast Asia as well as Tiananmen Square. This regime’s murderous endeavors far surpass Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, Vladimir Lenin, Leon Trotsky, Pol Pot of Cambodia, Idi Amin and other murderers throughout history.

And now the owners of the Empire State building and our government are sanctioning celebrations of this communist government that is undoubtedly assisting, aiding and abetting terrorist organizations around the world, while our young men and women are combating terrorism in many far and distant places. Shades of Vietnam! While we were fighting against communism in that country, our government was cutting grain deals, doling out foreign aid, etc. to the communists in Europe who were supplying the communists in Southeast Asia.

John P. Fitts

Noel

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