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Tuesday, January 06, 2009

No more KR suspects: Cambodian prosecutor

The Extraordinary Chambers’ Chea Leang breaks her silence on why the court must not seek to bring more ex-KR leaders on the docket

PUTTING more former KR leaders on the docket would contradict the original mandate of the Khmer Rouge tribunal, overstretch its duration and budget, and undermine national stability and reconciliation, according to Cambodian co-prosecutor Chea Leang, whose reasoning against expanding the trials was made public for the first time on Monday.

Since late last year, Chea Leang and her international counterpart, Robert Petit, have been at loggerheads over whether to submit more suspects for investigation - beyond the five former Khmer Rouge leaders currently detained.

"She feels that this court should instead prioritise the trials of the five suspects already detained," especially since, according to her, the tribunal's mandate "envisioned only a small number of trials", said a statement from the UN-backed tribunal released Monday.

"She maintains that this Court's mandate can be adequately filled by the prosecution of the suspects already detained," it added.

Chea Leang, who could not be reached for comment Monday, had filed her arguments December 29 to the tribunal's Pre-Trial Chamber in response to a "statement of disagreement" lodged earlier in the month by Petit after the pair failed to agree on his proposal to add additional suspects. While Petit has refused to confirm any figures, sources close to the court say that six additional former regime members have been targeted.

"There is a difference in our interpretation of what this court is about," Petit told the Post Monday, although he insisted the disagreement has not delayed ongoing investigations at the tribunal.

Expanding the docket would help the court fulfill its mandate, he said, adding: "The stability of any society can only be enhanced by improved accountability".

Petit acknowledged that expanding the docket presented "legitimate" financial concerns but was confident the move "would be supported by donors".

Long Panhavuth, program coordinator for the legal watchdog Cambodian Justice Initiative, said, "Expanding the number of suspects will improve the integrity and independence of the court, and that will attract more donor funds".

The group has urged the Cambodian side of the court to demonstrate its independence by allowing further investigation in the face of government fears that a wider roundup could expose current leaders to scrutiny.
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Where to go in Cambodia's capital

I am going to Thailand and Angkor Wat later in the year with my boyfriend. He really wants to go to Phnom Penh too, but I m a bit nervous about that. Is it a safe city, and are there things to do and see, other than just the Killing Fields, which you know who is very keen to visit? Mary Holden, Newcastle

Sunday Times travel expert Richard Green responds: Actually, the Cambodian capital is a fabulous little place and well worth a visit I’d say, even if you don’t have your boyfriend’s ghoulish streak.

It’s changing fast, with lots of property development going on, but it still has a definite charm; a bit chaotic and noisy for sure,­ but it is set on the banks of the Tonle Sap and Mekong Rivers, has some interesting colonial era districts, and the fabulous Royal Palace too.

Perhaps start at the National Museum, for some peace and quiet in its lovely courtyard, and for a break from all the traffic. After that, and just across the road is the sprawling Royal Palace complex, with incredibly ornate rooms like the dance pavilion, the Throne Hall, and the famous Silver Pagoda - with over 5 tons of silver tiles on its floor. You can only peek at a few of them from an entranceway though, as most remain covered for their protection.

You should definitely stroll over to Wat Phnom too, for a good view over some of the city rooftops. It’s the only hill the city has at just 88 feet. There are some street hawkers here, but it is usually good-natured stuff, and they are really targeting the many Cambodians who climb here to pray for good luck. Oh, and do drop in on the huge domed Central Market, just towards the river from here, for some crafty souvenir shopping.

Nearby is the grand Hotel Le Royal (, which has a smashing bar and restaurant, and peaceful gardens too. In the evening, there are tons of great bars and restaurants, but you should try out the Foreign Correspondents Club ( It’s a sundowners institution, with big armchairs, ceiling fans, and a mainly expats and backpackers crowd. There are great views from the top floor terrace, and the western food is pretty good too – pizzas from £6.

The two main Khmer Rouge era sites are the Killing Fields and the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. They are both horrific and leave a strong and lasting impression. You’ll see plenty of locals visiting here too, and if you can face it, be sure to do it at the beginning of your stay in town rather than at the end, so that the wonderful spirit and joy of Cambodia today is the impression that you leave with.

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Cambodia: 30 Years After Fall of the Khmer Rouge, Justice Still Elusive

After 30 years, no one has been tried, convicted or sentenced for the crimes of one of the bloodiest regimes of the 20th century. This is no accident. For more than a decade, China and the United States blocked efforts at accountability, and for the past decade Hun Sen has done his best to thwart justice.

Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights

Anniversary Highlights Stalled Trials for Some of 20th Century’s Worst Killers

(New York, January 5, 2009) - Thirty years after the fall of the Khmer Rouge, Cambodia's culture of impunity remains as strong as ever, Human Rights Watch said today. Under Prime Minister Hun Sen, the Cambodian government continues to obstruct the United Nations-supported court created to try senior Khmer Rouge leaders and others most responsible for the deaths of up to 2 million people during the Khmer Rouge-era.

Despite more than three years of operations and the expenditure of approximately US$50 million, the UN-backed Extraordinary Chambers of the Courts of Cambodia established to hold the Khmer Rouge accountable have held no trials.

"After 30 years, no one has been tried, convicted or sentenced for the crimes of one of the bloodiest regimes of the 20th century," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "This is no accident. For more than a decade, China and the United States blocked efforts at accountability, and for the past decade Hun Sen has done his best to thwart justice."

The Extraordinary Chambers have been deeply flawed in both design and practice. UN reports have concluded that the Cambodian judiciary lacks independence, competence and professionalism. Yet at the insistence of Hun Sen, a former Khmer Rouge commander, the Extraordinary Chambers were established with a majority of Cambodian judges and a Cambodian "co-prosecutor" and "co-investigating judge." The United Nations opposed that structure.

Prosecutors and investigating judges have conducted only limited field investigations. The Extraordinary Chambers have also been mired in allegations of corruption among its Cambodian personnel, with charges of job-selling and bribery.

Five Khmer Rouge leaders whom Hun Sen has allowed to be arrested are in detention, but no other cases have been filed against the many persons implicated in horrific crimes during Khmer Rouge rule. Human Rights Watch has called for broadening the scope of investigations beyond the five already charged.

Today, the Extraordinary Chambers published a statement in which the Cambodian co-prosecutor opposed filing additional cases. The international co-prosecutor rightly asserted in his filing with the Extraordinary Chambers that the charges fall within the court's jurisdiction and "would lead to a more comprehensive accounting of the crimes that were committed." Yet for political and policy reasons, the Cambodian co-prosecutor has opposed bringing more cases, citing "Cambodia's past instability and the continued need for national reconciliation."

"No serious observer believes there is any threat to Cambodia's stability if additional cases are filed against alleged Khmer Rouge killers," said Adams. "On the 30th anniversary of the Khmer Rouge's fall from power, the Cambodian government is playing games. This is a transparently political attempt to stop the court from doing its work."

The Khmer Rouge came to power at the end of the United States' war in Indochina. Led by Pol Pot and Nuon Chea, the Khmer Rouge was in power from April 17, 1975 to January 7, 1979. Estimates suggest that as many as 2 million of Cambodia's 8 million people were killed or died from disease, starvation, or forced labor during this period.

After the Khmer Rouge carried out numerous cross-border attacks on Vietnam in which hundreds of villagers were massacred, the Vietnamese army invaded Cambodia. It pushed the Khmer Rouge out of Phnom Penh on January 7, 1979. The Khmer Rouge retreated to the Thai border, where it received support from Thailand, China, the United States, the United Kingdom, Singapore and others for the next decade.

To force the Vietnamese army out of Cambodia, the US then led a broad international embargo on Cambodia, depriving a population that had survived inconceivable violence, deprivation, and hardship of the assistance necessary to rebuild their health and their country.

Throughout the 1980s the Khmer Rouge conducted a violent insurgency in which tens of thousands died. For geopolitical reasons, discussions of holding the Khmer Rouge leadership accountable for their crimes while in power were blocked, principally by the US and China.

At China's insistence, the Khmer Rouge was included as a party to the 1991 Paris Peace Agreements, which led to creation of the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC), the UN's largest peacekeeping effort up to that time, and national elections to form a new government. The Khmer Rouge withdrew from the peacekeeping force, but the elections went ahead without it. China pledged to withdraw support from the Khmer Rouge thereafter, which it apparently did. But elements in the Thai army continued to support the Khmer Rouge and deaths and injuries, many from landmines, mounted.

The Khmer Rouge movement fractured publicly in 1996 with the amnesty granted to Ieng Sary, the former Khmer Rouge foreign minister, by the Cambodian government. The movement effectively collapsed after the death of Pol Pot in 1998 and the defection to the Cambodian government of other top leaders, including Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan, and thousands of Khmer Rouge soldiers.

In 1997, Hun Sen and his co-prime minister, Prince Norodom Ranariddh, sent a letter to the UN secretary-general at the time, Kofi Annan, asking for an international tribunal to hold the Khmer Rouge accountable. This effort was blocked by China, which made it clear that it would veto any UN Security Council resolution to create such a court, and by Hun Sen, who with the collapse of the Khmer Rouge, lost interest in holding its leaders accountable. Instead, Hun Sen invited Khmer Rouge leaders who defected to his government to his home, toasted them with champagne, and called for Cambodians to "bury the past."

"Hun Sen has spent most of the past 10 years trying to undermine UN efforts to establish a credible tribunal, miring it in delay and fights over jurisdiction," said Adams. "Now he is trying to stop a few more cases from being filed."

Human Rights Watch said that the impunity enjoyed by the Khmer Rouge has been matched in the post-Khmer Rouge era. The Vietnamese-backed People's Republic of Kampuchea, in power from 1979 until 1993, routinely violated the fundamental rights of Cambodians. During the UNTAC period in the early 1990s, the United Nations recorded hundreds of killings and attacks by forces under the control of Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party.

On March 30, 1997, a grenade attack on an opposition political rally killed at least 16 people and wounded approximately 150. Hun Sen's bodyguard unit has been implicated in the attack. In July 1997, Hun Sen staged a coup against his royalist coalition partners in which more than 100 opposition figures were extrajudically killed. In the 1998 elections, dozens more were killed. In the past decade, many opposition politicians, journalists, labor leaders and human rights activists have been killed or attacked. No perpetrator has been held accountable, in spite of the availability of evidence in many of these cases.

"Whether it is for Khmer Rouge crimes or those of more recent times, brutal, well-known perpetrators remain free men," said Adams. "Sadly, impunity remains almost complete in Cambodia."

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Cambodia creates new body to regulate foreign marriage

PHNOM PENH, Jan. 6 (Xinhua) -- A new organization to regulate foreign marriage has been created following the lifting of a six-month suspension of such unions in 2008, English-language daily newspaper the Phnom Penh Post said on Tuesday.

The Association for People Protection (APP) was licensed by the Ministry of Interior on Dec. 12 to provide "free consultations on marriages to foreigners," the paper quoted an APP statement as saying.

The APP aims at protecting Cambodian overseas migrants, especially women marrying foreigners, said Ky Sina, president of the organization.

"The duty of the association is to help people applying for passports and visas to do this legally. Any foreigner who wants to marry a Cambodian woman will have to become a member of the APP," according to the statement.

The APP will also act as a mediator "to facilitate (dialogue) and find lawyers for both husband and wife" if they have problems later in their marriage, it added.

The foreign marriage suspension was enacted in April amid concerns over an explosion in the number of broker unions involving poor or uneducated women.

It also followed the release of an International Organization for Migration (IOM) report highlighting the plight of a rising number of Cambodian brides migrating to South Korea in marriages hastily arranged by brokers who made large profits.

Some 1,759 marriage visas were issued for Cambodians by South Korea in 2007, up from 72 in 2004, said the report.
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