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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Dutch war crime lawyer joins team to defend detained Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia: A Dutch war crimes lawyer has joined the defense team of one of the top leaders of the brutal Khmer Rouge regime ahead of his trial by Cambodia's U.N.-backed genocide tribunal, the lawyer said in a statement.

Michiel Pestman said he would be defending Khmer Rouge ideologist Nuon Chea alongside his Cambodian lawyer, Son Arun.

"I will do everything that I can to ensure that our client receives a fair trial. It is essential that he has a proper defense," Pestman said in the statement, issued by the tribunal.

Nuon Chea, 81, also was known as "Brother No. 2," reflecting his position as right-hand man to Pol Pot, the late leader of the Khmer Rouge.

The group's radical policies when it held power from 1975 to 1979 caused the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million people from starvation, overwork, disease and execution.

Nuon Chea is the highest-ranking Khmer Rouge leader detained by the U.N.-supported Cambodian tribunal aimed at seeking justice for the Khmer Rouge crimes.

Nuon Chea has denied any guilt, but the tribunal has charged him with crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Pestman is a partner at the law firm of Boehler Franken Koppe Wijngaarden in Amsterdam, the tribunal said, adding that his domestic experience included defending those accused of terrorism and other serious criminal offenses in Europe and elsewhere.

From 1993-2001, he was a member of a team representing defendants from Bosnia and Herzegovina at the genocide trials at the International Court of Justice. Since 2003, he has represented a war crimes defendant before the Special Court for Sierra Leone in the trial against government militia leaders, according to the statement.

Nuon Chea is one of two defendants indicted so far before the tribunal

Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, who headed the former Khmer Rouge S-21 torture center, was charged on July 31 with crimes against humanity. Prosecutors have recommended three other suspects be indicted, but have not named them publicly.

Both Duch and Nuon Chea have appealed their pre-trial detention orders.
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Japanese firm plans to invest in natural resources, telecommunications, infrastructure in Cambodia

The president of Japanese corporation Marubeni has announced that it plans to invest in natural resources, telecommunications and infrastructure in Cambodia, local media said on Thursday.

The firm's president Nobuo Katsumata announced the plan here on Wednesday during a meeting with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen at his house in Kandal province's Ta Khmao district, the premier's advisor Eang Sophallet told Cambodian-language newspaper the Koh Santepheap.

Katsumata said his firm will enlarge its existing operations from imports and exports to natural resources, physical infrastructure, transportation, and telecommunication sectors.

The Japanese firm launched business operations in Cambodia in 1955, withdrew from the country in 1975 due to political instability, and restarted its involvement in 1992.

Hun Sen expressed welcome towards the Japanese firm's business plan, saying Cambodia is pushing its economic growth with the use of the natural resources available.

"Cambodia is advancing to a stage in which its natural resources will be used to develop its economy," Hun Sen said.

He also underlined that the firm will be able to assess the business opportunities as it has started its operation in Cambodia for 15 years.

Japan has been Cambodia's largest donor country for years and started to enhance its investment in the kingdom this year after both sides signed their investment agreement to guarantee protection and security for Japanese investors in Cambodia.
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World Bank Confronts Cambodia Corruption

Far from "Smiling Past Corruption" (Review & Outlook, Oct. 11) in Cambodia, the World Bank is confronting corruption head on in that country. In fact, it was bank staff in Cambodia who first raised concerns about corruption in projects there. Following World Bank investigations, in June 2006 the bank suspended the government's right to draw funds for three projects where we had identified problems.

In response, the Cambodian government agreed to new anti-corruption measures for each project, including intensified audits and the hiring of an international procurement agent. In February 2007, after the government completed all the anti-corruption measures and made substantial progress in hiring the agent (who has now been selected), former President Wolfowitz agreed to lift the suspension on the affected projects. The bank cancelled over $2.5 million in project funding, and the government subsequently repaid the World Bank $2.89 million and agreed to incorporate anti-corruption action plans into all existing and future bank legal agreements. The bank's Institutional Integrity office has initiated the process of debarring firms involved in the affected projects, working through the Sanctions Committee.

Cambodia, which suffered a genocide, needs help both to strengthen its capacity for good governance as well as to build the foundations for inclusive growth. Today, our projects are helping build roads, bring water to poor communities and enable poor people to secure ownership of their land and homes for the first time.

While in Cambodia in August, the new World Bank president, Robert Zoellick, coordinated with the donor community to make the case to the prime minister and other senior officials on the need to stay the course on governance, anti-corruption and strengthening the legal system. The Institutional Integrity office will visit Cambodia this month to follow up.

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Russian arrested for child sex in Cambodia

Phnom Penh - A Russian businessman has been arrested and charged in Cambodia for allegedly having sex with at least six under-age girls, some as young as 12, police and court officials said Thursday.

Alexander Trofimov was seized at his home in the popular seaside town of Sihanoukville on Wednesday, said Major General Bit Kimhong, director of the Interior Ministry's anti-trafficking department.

Trofimov, 41, was arrested after his six alleged victims and their parents filed complaints, Bit Kimhong told AFP.

"He was arrested on charges of committing debauchery," the major general said, referring to a criminal charge covering a wide range of sexual offences that carries a maximum of 20 years in jail.

Police say Trofimov had sex with five of the girls in 2005, the oldest of whom was 16 at the time, and the sixth earlier this year.

Trofimov was transported to Phnom Penh municipal court where he was charged on Thursday with debauchery after he was questioned by the court officials for more than one hour, said investigating judge Iv Kim Sry.

"The court then decided to place him in jail pending more investigation," the judge told AFP.

Trofimov is the chairperson of the Koh Pos Investment Company, which last year was granted permission to build a $300-million (about R2-billion) resort on Koh Pos or Snake Island, an area Cambodia is trying to develop as a luxury tourist destination.

His arrest comes as neighbouring Thailand hunts suspected Canadian paedophile Christopher Paul Neil, who allegedly raped as many as a dozen young boys and posted photographs of his acts - some thought to be committed in Cambodia - on the Internet.

Cambodia has struggled to shed its reputation as a haven for paedophiles, putting dozens of foreigners in jail for child sex crimes or deporting them to face trial in their home countries since 2003.

More than 10 foreigners were arrested last year in a crackdown on child sex crimes, doubling the total number detained in 2005.

But officials, including foreign diplomats, have begun urging authorities to also target Cambodian paedophiles, who are thought to make up a large percentage of sex offenders.
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