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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Cambodia tells diplomats it is no 'banana republic'

PHNOM PENH — The Cambodian government has told all foreign diplomatic envoys to avoid criticising the country, insisting it is not a "banana republic", in a letter seen by AFP Wednesday.
The foreign ministry letter sent to all diplomatic missions in Cambodia asked them to "avoid interfering in the internal affairs" of the country, regardless of the power of their home nations.

"There have been many occasions, in which some heads of diplomatic missions behaved like a 'proconsul' of his/her country to the Kingdom of Cambodia. They indulged themselves to criticise or to give lessons to the Royal Government of Cambodia," the letter said.

"Such behaviours are not acceptable for Cambodia as a sovereign country and a member of the United Nations. Cambodia is not a BANANA REPUBLIC," it added.

Asked about the letter dated April 26, foreign ministry spokesman Koy Kuong told AFP it was issued to remind all diplomats not to "exceed the limit of their mandate".

Cambodia last month threatened to expel a United Nations envoy if UN agencies continued "unacceptable interference" in the country.

The move came after UN agencies in Cambodia urged "a transparent and participatory" process as parliament debated an anti-corruption law that was criticised by the opposition and rights groups.

Ranked one of the world's most corrupt countries, Cambodia passed the anti-graft law in parliament on March 11, more than 15 years after legislation was first proposed, but only days after the draft was shared publicly.
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CAMBODIA: Strict penalties planned for acid attacks

Source: IRIN
Reuters and AlertNet are not responsible for the content of this article or for any external internet sites. The views expressed are the author's alone.

PHNOM PENH, 28 April 2010 (IRIN) - Keo Srey Vy's brother-in-law had been planning to sell his child so he could buy a new motorbike. When she threatened to tell the police, he went to the restaurant where she worked as a cook and doused her face with acid.

She reported the attack to police, but gave up after they demanded a bribe to investigate.

"I didn't consider revenge, but I wanted a law that would catch him and bring him to justice, and that law did not exist," Keo Srey Vy, who is severely scarred, told IRIN. A year after the attack, she may have reason for hope.

While countries such as Bangladesh and India have enacted severe laws and banned the open sale of chemicals, Cambodia had not taken any serious steps to curb the crime.

Under a new draft law on the use and management of acid, perpetrators of acid attacks would receive life sentences, the government said. Attacks resulting in minor injuries would come with a minimum five-year sentence.

"The law that we have today is not enough," Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said. "I think that stronger punishment will make them [perpetrators] more afraid of the law."

Statistics on acid attacks are unreliable since many cases go unreported. For most years since 2000, the Phnom Penh-based Cambodian Acid Survivors' Charity (CASC) [http://cambodianacidsurvivorscharity.org/index.htm] recorded 12-24 attacks. But between December 2009 and January 2010, 11 cases were recorded, raising the national profile of the problem.

Comprehensive law

The new law, according to the drafting committee, includes improved medical care and social integration programmes for survivors. The opening of a state-run medical centre for acid survivors is also being considered, although funding resources remain unclear.

Drafting committee deputy chairman Ouk Kimlek, who is also deputy national police commissioner, told local media the committee was planning to create "an acid foundation to generate money from all sources and NGOs to help provide skills and capital for them". He did not elaborate on the level of the government's contribution.

Rights groups believe acid attacks abound in part because the caustic chemicals are readily and cheaply available. The draft law thus stipulates that importers and sellers of acid have to be at least 20 years old and licensed to carry out any transaction involving the chemical.

To assist police in criminal investigations, vendors would also have to record the details of anyone who buys acid. Retailers who fail to comply would be subject to fines and lose their licence to sell the product.

Enforcement

Local rights and survivors' groups hailed the legislation as a necessary step in curbing attacks but sceptics questioned the government's ability to ensure police enforcement of the new law.

"We have impunity in Cambodia for rape and murder; most victims are paid compensation, or the criminal is never caught," Pung Chhiv Kek, president of the local rights group Licadho [http://www.licadho-cambodia.org/] said. "If you have a good law but it's not enforced, it's useless."

Illegal out-of-court settlements are common practice in Cambodia, and rights groups say they undermine efforts to discourage the crime.

"They pay US$200 or $300, which is hardly anything. When you have to eat, buy medicine, feed your family, [financial compensation] is never enough," said Chhun Chenda Sophea, CASC's programme manager. "They need to enforce the law strictly. If it's being enforced, then people will be scared of committing the crime."

Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak agreed, saying the new legislation needed to coincide with an effort to "make the court system more responsible".

The government has yet to set a deadline for completion of the final draft, which needs approval from two government offices, followed by a vote at the National Assembly.

Meanwhile, Keo Srey Vy sold her home to pay her medical fees, and now, at 36, she depends on the CASC. Three of her children live with her mother, and another boards with an NGO.

"I was very happy to hear about this new law because it can help reduce this crime," she said. "I believe that if people know about the law, they wouldn't dare attack people."
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Cham Son Seeks Tribunal ‘Justice’ for Father

Cambodian Muslim, known as Chams visiting Choeung Ek S21 prison of Khmer Rouge



Sann Math Ly was a villager leader, well known, and he was unhappy with the Khmer Rouge and their treatment of the Chams.

Ly Sukei’s father was a well-educated Cambodian Muslim who died at the hands of the Khmer Rouge in 1975.

Now Ly Sukei is one of 228 Chams filing as civil parties at the Khmer Rouge tribunal, as the UN-backed court prepares to try at least four jailed leaders of the regime for genocide and other atrocity crimes.

“I filed a complaint to find justice for my father,” Ly Sukei told VOA Khmer at his home in Kampong Cham province, where many Chams lived and died under the Khmer Rouge.

He remembered the day soldiers came looking for his father, Sann Math Ly, in the village of Svay Klaing in Krouch Chhmar district.

Sann Math Ly was a villager leader, well known, and he was unhappy with the Khmer Rouge and their treatment of the Chams.

By 1975, the Khmer Rouge were shuttering mosques and forcing Muslims to cut their hair, burn their Qurans and eat pork. They were not allowed to prayer or wear head-coverings. Anyone who refused was the target of arrest.

“A group of around 20 armed Khmer Rouge cadre surrounded my house, and one of them ordered me in the Cham language: ‘You, go call upon your father,’” Ly Sukei said.

As his father left the house and walked toward the waiting soldiers, he made a sign behind his back telling his son to go home and not follow. Ly Sukei, who is now 44, never saw his father again.

Sann Math Ly became one of an estimated 500,000 Chams killed under the Khmer Rouge. Tribunal judges are now trying to determine whether such killings can be prosecuted as genocide.

Ly Sukei has been haunted by that day and has frequently followed the tribunal process by TV and radio. He wants to know what happened to his father.

“He was killed without any reasons, so I cannot do nothing,” Ly Sukei said. “I must allow him to rest in peace.”

Now a father of five, Ly Sukei has tried to find out more about Sann Math Ly and even searched for his photograph among those hung at the Tuol Sleng torture museum. He found nothing there and expects to find little else.

Still, he attended the tribunal proceedings last year against Kaing Kek Iev, or Duch, who underwent a trial for atrocity crimes committed at Tuol Sleng when it was a torture center for the Khmer Rouge. Ly Sukei said he has faith the tribunal can at least help him.

“I just want one word from the tribunal: that’s ‘justice,’” he said. “For those killed, including my father.”
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Rare Khmer Bronzes To Show in Washington

An art exhibition of Cambodian bronzes to open in Washington next month, featuring Khmer sculptures and ritual objects from late prehistory through the Angkorian period.

An art exhibition of Cambodian bronzes opens for the first time in Washington next month, featuring Khmer sculptures and ritual objects from late prehistory through the Angkorian period.

Thirty-six masterworks from the National Museum of Cambodia’s collection of some 7,000 bronzes will show at the Smithsonian’s Sackler Gallery under “Gods of Angkor: Bronzes from the National Museum of Cambodia.”

“This exhibition presents the stunning accomplishments of Khmer bronze casters,” Louise Allison Cort, the gallery’s curator of ceramics, said in a statement. “These bronzes are among the most exquisite expressions of Khmer ideals of religious imagery and ritual implements.”

The works include a rare and highly valued urn and bell, seven diverse bronze figures, ritual paraphernalia and Buddhist and Hindu sculpture.

The exhibition, a collaboration between the Freer and Sackler galleries and the National Museum of Cambodia, explores significant developments in bronze casting, as well as cultural and religious developments that coalesced during the Angkor period into a recognizable Khmer style.

The exhibition will show from May 15 through Jan. 23, 2011, in Washington and is scheduled to travel to the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles in February 2011.
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