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Monday, January 23, 2012

Cambodia refuses to seat swiss judge at Khmer Rouge tribunal

The United Nations says Cambodia is refusing to permit a Swiss investigating judge to take his place on the tribunal trying suspected Khmer Rouge war crimes, blocking at least two pending cases.

A spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Friday the U.N. has been formally notified of Cambodia's decision not to appoint Swiss magistrate Laurent Kasper-Ansermet to the court.

The spokesman described the decision as a "matter of serious concern," and said it breaches the terms of the 2003 agreement between Cambodia and the United Nations that established the tribunal.

Kasper-Ansermet was to have filled a vacancy created by the departure of German judge Siegfried Blunt - who resigned late last year complaining of interference by the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

The tribunal has convicted a notorious Khmer Rouge prison warden and is hearing a second case involving three top former Khmer Rouge leaders. But as long as Blunt's post remains vacant, the court cannot bring anyone else to trial.

Blunt first came under criticism when a prosecutor complained last year that he and co-investigating magistrate You Bunleng had failed to properly investigate what have come to be known as Cases 003 and 004. Several international staff members also resigned to protest the handling of the cases.

Details of the two cases have never been officially released. Press reports, however, say both involve former Khmer Rouge military commanders who were allegedly complicit in the arrest, imprisonment and in some cases massacre of thousands of Cambodians.

Kasper-Ansermet has had his own problems with his Cambodian counterpart. Shortly after his arrival in Cambodia, he charged that You Bunleng was blocking him from releasing important information about the two suspended cases.

You Bunleng responded that Kasper-Ansermet was not yet legally accredited to the court and did not understand the legal principles of its work.

Cambodia's Supreme Council of Magistracy met last week to decide whether to approve the Swiss jurist's appointment. But U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky told VOA's Khmer service this week that Cambodia was "under an obligation" to appoint the reserve judge when there is a vacancy.

A coalition of 23 Cambodian rights and relief groups went further. In a press release Thursday, the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee argued that Kasper-Ansermet was officially appointed when he was named a reserve magistrate and that he requires no further approval.

The group also called for an independent inquiry into the conduct of the investigating judges, saying the legacy of the tribunal will be seriously damaged without one.

No such inquiry is planned, although the U.N. this week named American lawyer David Scheffer, a former U.S. ambassador-at-large for war crimes, to observe and advise on the court's work.

About 1.7 million Cambodians are believed to have died or been executed during the period of Khmer Rouge rule in the late 1970s.

Prime Minister Hun Sen has argued that going ahead with more prosecutions would deeply divide Cambodian society, destabilizing the country.
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Garment firms shifting base from China to Cambodia

Abundant supply of labour coupled with preferential market access to several markets is making the Southeast Asian nation of Cambodia one of the preferred alternatives for garment companies wishing to shift their manufacturing base outside China.

Wages in China have risen by 18-20 percent annually during the past three years, leading to an increase in the cost of production, and making several units less competitive in the international market. This has induced many garment companies to search for alternative bases outside China.

On the other hand, Cambodia’s garment industry has grown substantially over the last year. Around 300 licensed garment firms in the Kingdom exported US$ 3.3 billion worth of goods in the initial 10 months of 2011, a jump of 35 percent year-on-year, according to Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia (GMAC).

Mr. Ken Loo, Secretary General of GMAC, told fibre2fashion, “Cambodia is well positioned to take advantage of the exodus of investors and buyers looking to exit China. Firstly, there is an abundant supply of labour and there are no other industries in Cambodia that would compete with the garment industry for absorbing labour.”

“Secondly, Cambodia enjoys excellent preferential market access to most markets in the world. In particular, apparel produced in Cambodia enjoys duty free access to the EU, Canada, Japan, China, etc.,” he adds.

Informing about potential buyers and investors in Cambodian garment sector, he says, “There is much interest from buyers in EU, Japan and Canada, mainly because of the preferential market access. As for the investors, they come from all over the world.”

He mentions that the apparel sector in Cambodia employs approximately 350,000 workers.

One of the companies to recently relocate its garment production base from China to Cambodia is the Hong Kong-based innerwear manufacturer Top Form International Ltd.

The company is setting up its garment factory in the outskirts of Phnom Penh and it plans to employ 1,200 workers by the end of the current year. It proposes to produce 80,000 innerwears a month for export to the US and European markets. The Cambodian unit would account for about one-third of Top Form’s total production.

Explaining the rationale for shifting the base, Top Form’s Chairman Mr. Willie Fung says, “We took a decision to shift our manufacturing base to Cambodia for two reasons. It is an investment in low cost production outside of China, and we will be able to provide operational support from our established manufacturing base and management in Thailand.

Listing the benefits to Top Form, he says, “This will revitalize our company’s competitiveness in the price sensitive business in the global market. Moreover, it will also provide us with a growth opportunity outside of China.”



Fibre2fashion News Desk - India
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