The land of heroes
Our heroes
Our land
Cambodia Kingdom

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Khmer Surin Get Support From US Group

A group of US Cambodians has begun looking for ways to encourage an increase in interest of the Khmer language in the Thai province of Surin.

That province was once part of a wider Khmer empire that encompassed parts of modern-day Thailand and Vietnam.

On Saturday, the Supporting Khmer Surin Committee held its first meeting, after a visit by some of its member to the province earlier this year. Members discussed the need to promote Khmer language in the area and the challenges faced by the so-called Khmer Surin people.

“There are many Cambodians doing business across the borders, so it will be easy for them to communicate,” said Srey Ayuthyia, the committee’s vice president, from Los Angeles.

Srey Ayuthyia said he had met with a Buddhist monk who taught the Khmer language and a number of Khmer Surin who expressed their need for more support.

While some Khmer Surin can speak Khmer, few can write it, but the there is a program that started four years ago that Srey Ayuthyia said he strongly supported.

The Supporting Khmer Surin Committee was only recently created, but its founders say they have already raised some funds to help their cause.

“We are not alone,” said Eang Bunthan, president of committee. “We are united around the world. All Khmer overseas have come together as one voice to support Khmer Surin in teaching Khmer language and safeguarding Khmer culture.”
Read more!

Tribunal To Decide on Duch Appeals in March

The Supreme Court Chamber of the Khmer Rouge tribunal is scheduled to rule on all appeals in the case against torture chief Duch in March 2011, the court announced Thursday.

The chamber must decide on an appeal by prosecutors to lengthen his sentence; an appeal by defense to release him; and an appeal by civil complainants for some kind of public reparation.

Duch was sentenced to a commuted 19 years earlier this year, but prosecutors say this was too lenient for a man accused of overseeing the torture and execution of more than 12,000 people at Tuol Sleng prison. They want a sentence of 45 years.

However, defense lawyers claim Duch was following orders of the regime and shold be released.

Tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath said the chamber had determined a detailed schedule and would begin informing interested parties and the public.

Latt Ky, a tribunal monitor for the rights group Adhoc, said the final decision must be well disseminated.

“The public needs to know the final decision on the punishment of Duch,” he said.

Survivors of the prison and those who lost family there say they want him sentenced for life, said Chum Mey, who lived through his incarceration at Tuol Sleng and has formed a support association for other victims.
Read more!

Cambodia: New Penal Code Undercuts Free Speech

(New York) - The Cambodian government's use of its new penal code against a man who shared web articles with his co-workers is a huge step backward for free expression in Cambodia, Human Rights Watch said today. The man was quickly convicted on incitement charges and sentenced to prison.

Human Rights Watch called on the Cambodian government to amend the penal code, which went into effect on December 10, 2010, to remove provisions that limit the peaceful expression of political views so that the law fully complies with international standards.

"Charging someone with incitement for sharing web articles is a profound setback for free expression in Cambodia," said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "Cambodia's new penal code should have put an end to abusive practices, not encouraged new ones."

On December 18, Seng Kunnaka, a Cambodian employee with the United Nations World Food Program in Phnom Penh, was arrested on charges of incitement under article 495 of the new penal code after he shared an article with two co-workers. While the contents of the article are unclear, it was printed from KI-Media, a website that publishes news, commentaries, poetry, and cartoons that are sharply critical of the government, including a recent series of opinion pieces lambasting senior officials regarding a border dispute with Vietnam.

On December 19, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court hastily tried and convicted Kunnaka, sentencing him to six months in prison and fining him 1 million riels (US$250). December 19 was a Sunday, when the courts are normally closed.

During the last two years, more than 10 critics of the government, including journalists and opposition party activists, have been prosecuted for criminal defamation and disinformation based on complaints by government and military officials under the former penal code.

The new penal code places greater restrictions on free expression, Human Rights Watch said. Responding to media inquiries about the case, Cambodia's information minister, Khieu Kanharith, said: "Before, using the argument of ‘freedom of expression' and opposition party status, some people could insult anybody or any institution. This is not the case now."

"A dubious arrest so soon after the new penal code came into effect shows that the Cambodian government is ready to use its new legal powers to criminalize peaceful expression and political dissent," Robertson said. "And Cambodia's pliant courts seem all too willing to throw any perceived government critic in prison after a rushed trial."

Under the new penal code, incitement is vaguely defined in article 495 as directly provoking the commission of a crime or an act that creates "serious turmoil in society" through public speech, writings or drawings, or audio-visual telecommunication that are shared with, exposed to, or intended for the public. It does not require the alleged incitement to be effective for penalties to be imposed, which include prison terms of six months to five years and fines.

The new penal code also allows criminal prosecutions for defamation and contempt for peaceful expression of views "affecting the dignity" of individuals and public officials, as well as of government institutions. It makes it a crime to "disturb public order" by questioning court decisions.

"The new penal code makes it more risky for civil society activists to criticize corrupt officials, police, and military officers who commit abuses or question court decisions," Robertson said. "This is particularly troubling in Cambodia, where the judicial system is weak and far from independent, with court decisions often influenced by corruption or political pressure."

KI-Media is a controversial website that describes itself as "dedicated to publishing sensitive information about Cambodia." The website's editors, who have never publicly identified themselves, compile information from a variety of sources, including leaked and public government documents, Cambodian-language newspaper articles, and Chinese, Cambodian, and Western wire service reports. It also posts hard-hitting commentaries, blog articles, cartoons, and poetry from its readers - most of whom are sharply critical of the government.
Read more!