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Thursday, June 02, 2011

Tribunal Controversy Hurting Its Work: Rights Advocate


                             ECCC (Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia).


The current public dispute between the Khmer Rouge tribunal’s international prosecutor and two investigating judges is hindering its pursuit of justice for victims of the regime, a leading rights advocate said Monday.

Pung Chhiv Kek, founder of the rights group Licadho, told “Hello VOA” that disclosures made by the prosecutor, Andrew Cayley, regarding controversial Case 003 were “the right thing to do.”

Cayley issued a public statement claiming judges Siegfried Blunk and You Bunleang should do more investigation into the case, including interviewing its two unnamed suspects and visiting alleged crime sites.
The two judges rebuked his statement, saying he had exceeded his duties as prosecutor and divulged confidential information. Cayley has filed an official appeal to the judges’ order that he revoke portions of his statement.

Pung Chhiv Kek, however, said Monday that the tribunal was suffering from a lack of transparency and information, especially in its function to bring national reconciliation to victims of the Khmer Rouge.

“Many people who are Khmer Rouge victims want to get more information so that they can participate as civil party,” she said. “The victims have the right to know.”

The court’s work on cases 003 and 004, which Prime Minsiter Hun Sen opposes, has been shrouded in mystery, unlike the much-publicized work in Case 001, which tried prison chief Duch, and Case 002, which is moving toward trial for four jailed Khmer Rouge leaders.

Case 003 “had been in the dark, until it was broken out by Andrew Cayley,” Pung Chhiv Kek said. “They were not sure if the case was being looked into or not. We didn’t even know the names of the possible suspects. That was completely different from cases 001 and 002.”

Disagreement between the prosecution and investigating judges had been anticipated from the early stages of the tribunal, she said, but the current controversy could harm the mobilization of funds that the court needs to keep functioning.
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State Department Sees More Engagement on Horizon

Cambodian Ambassador Hem Heng shakes hand with US Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell, (file photo).


The US wants to see a peaceful solution to the current border conflict between Thailand and Cambodia, a senior US State Department official said Tuesday.

Kurt Campbell, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, told a forum at the Center for International and Strategic Study in Washington, that the US also encourages more dialogue between the two sides, and Indonesia, which has acted as an interlocutor in the dispute since February.

Campbell’s remarks were part of a renewed engagement effort by the US in Southeast Asia, including initiatives with Asean. However, he acknowledged that the US has had less engagement with Cambodia and Laos than other countries, but he said he hoped to see an increase in coming years.
“We have put in place a schedule of strategic engagement which frankly has been remarkably productive,” he said. “We look to take these to the next step in the course of the next year or so.”

The US has worked “closely” with Indonesia, he said, to help solve a the border dispute, which has led to two sides to deadly clashes in February and April.

As the current head of Asean, Indonesia has tried to mediate the dispute and to send a monitoring mission to the border.

Meanwhile, officials are now awaiting a clarification from the International Court of Justice on a 1962 decision over Preah Vihear temple that could help delineate disputed border areas.
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Delay on Sesan River Hydrodam Unlikely: Officials

Cambodian fishermen move their fishing net from the Mekong River as they catch fish on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.


Government officials say any delay on the construction of a hydropower dam on the Sesan river in Stung Treng province is unlikely, even though residents along the river say they want more impact studies conducted.

Prach Sun, secretary of state for the Ministry of Environment, told VOA Khmer the government has already conducted an impact study, but that it would still deal with river communities on the issue of compensation.

Last month, representatives of communities living on the Sesan in Ratanakkiri province, 40 kilometers from the proposed dam site, appealed to the government to delay construction of the dam, saying they were concerned about their livelihoods and the amounts of resettlement packages.

However, the project, a joint venture between Vietnamese company EVN International and Cambodia’s Royal Group, has already been approved, with construction expected to begin later this year or early in 2012.

That would force more than 1,500 families to resettle, according to reports by the 3S Rivers Protection Network. But even more could be affected in other ways.

The Rivers Coalition in Cambodia reported in 2009 that at least 38,000 people in 90 villages, including a large number of ethnic minorities, could lose fish resources, as the dam would block migration between the Mekong river and the Sekong, Sesan and Srey Pok tributaries.

“At our downstream community, the company did not come down to do any studies on the dam’s impacts,” Phat Sunith, chief of Kampun commune in Sesan district, told VOA Khmer. “They did come ask our people what we do for a living, so we received no information.”

Tek Vannara, program manager for the Culture and Environment Preservation Association, a member of the Rivers Coalition, said resettlement plans are “crucial” for communities that will be affected by the dam.

“If they know the information clearly, they can make clear decisions as to whether they should build their houses, get their children married or farm on their land,” he said.

Representatives of both companies have been tight-lipped so far on the proposed dam’s construction.

However, Danh Serey, deputy director of the environmental impact assessment department of the Ministry of Environment, said the companies had followed all the requirements set by the ministry when they conducted their impact studies.

He said Cambodia needs energy to boost its economy. The electricity generated at the Lower Sesan 2 would supply the provinces of Ratankkiri and Mondolkiri before it is transmitted to Vietnam, he said.
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Former Khmer Rouge Prisoner Finds Herself in Photo

A tourist walks past photos of former prisoners displayed at Tuol Sleng genocide museum, a former Khmer Rouge prison known as S-21, in Phnom Penh.


On an organized tour through the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum last week, a woman from Kampong Cham province had a startling surprise. Among the photos that many people presume to be executed prisoners from Tuol Selng, know to the Khmer Rouge as S-21, the woman found a photograph of herself.

In fact, she had been a prisoner at another Khmer Rouge site, S-24, the functional government prison now known as Prey Sar.

“In fact, she is alive,” said Dim Sovannarom, a spokesman for the UN-backed tribunal, which organized the tour. “She is a living witness. This means that not all photos seen at the [Tuol Sleng] museum are dead.”

The 57-year-old woman, Mom Kim Sein, said she was kept by the Khmer Rouge at S-24, where prisoners were tortured, forced to work and given meager food rations. She remembers the day her photograph was taken there.

Last week, she had attended a court-sponsored tour with about 400 people from Kampong Cham province. It was then that she saw her own photograph, she said.

Chhang Youk, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, said many people mistakenly assume the photographs in Tuol Sleng are those of prisoners who were later executed after a stint at the prison.

In fact, he said, the Vietnamese forces that ousted the Khmer Rouge in 1979 gathered photographs and other materials from other prison sites and gathered them at Tuol Sleng.

More than 60 people have so far been able to identify themselves in the photographs, he said.
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