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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Document links RCAF shake-up to land deals

PHNOM PENH, The official record of a Council of Ministers meeting held the day after the Jan. 22 dismissal of RCAF (Royal Cambodian Armed Force) Commander-in-ChiefKe Kim Yan said that the government has ordered an investigation of the former military leader and his business associates over several land deals across the country, national media reported Saturday.

CPP (the Cambodian People's Party) and military officials have repeatedly claimed that the ouster Ke Kim Yan was solely to promote reforms within the military, but according to the minutes of a Jan. 23 meeting of the Council of Ministers, land issues were also at play in the decision, the Cambodia Daily newspaper said.

According to the meeting minutes, "The Council of Ministers has been informed and commented on the termination of the position of commander-in-chief from HE Ke Kim Yan based on two reasons:

"First, reforming the RCAF rank and file by adhering to work effectiveness in the military rank and file.

"Second, involvement with land issues by a top, powerful person in the military rank and file .. and doing business by using the name of military for personal gain."

The minutes go on to describe a resolution by the Council of Ministers to have both military and government bodies investigate Ke Kim Yan's land dealings.

However, newly appointed RCAF Commander-in-Chief Pol Saroeun and Defense Minister Tea Banh both said they are not looking into Ke Kim Yan's properties.

"Anything relating to Ke Kim Yan has ended since his termination from the position of RCAF high commander," Tea Banh told the Cambodia Daily.
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Cambodia's KRouge trial to test court's credibility: HRW

PHNOM PENH (AFP) — Cambodia's UN-backed genocide tribunal must resolve claims of political interference if it is to meet international standards when its first trial starts this week, a rights group said Sunday.

The court will on Tuesday formally open the long-awaited trial of the Khmer Rouge regime's former prison chief, Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, who is the first of five leaders detained by the tribunal.

But the run-up to the trial has been marred by claims that the government is interfering to stop the prosecution of further suspects, as well as allegations that Cambodian court staff paid kickbacks for their jobs.

"Any hint of political manipulation at the tribunal will undermine its credibility with the Cambodian people," said Sara Colm, Cambodia-based senior researcher at Human Rights Watch.
"Until allegations of corruption and improper interference by the government are investigated and resolved, the tribunal?s integrity as a legitimate and independent court will remain in question."

Duch, 66, faces charges of crimes against humanity, war crimes, torture and pre-meditated murder for his role in running S-21, the Khmer Rouge's notorious main prison, during the 1975-1979 regime.

The other Khmer Rouge members awaiting trial are "Brother Number Two" Nuon Chea, former head of state Khieu Samphan, ex-foreign minister Ieng Sary and his wife Ieng Thirith, who was the minister of social affairs.

But rows between international and Cambodian co-prosecutors over international prosecutors' wishes to bring more suspects to trial have dogged the tribunal.

The Cambodian government has been accused of trying to scupper further trials amid fears that it could target former Khmer Rouge members currently in top posts in Prime Minister Hun Sen's administration.

"By allowing political considerations to block additional indictments, the Khmer Rouge tribunal is failing the most basic test of its independence and its credibility," said Colm of the New York-based rights group.

Colm urged stakeholders in the tribunal, including the government and the international community, "to ensure that the court is able to act independently and free of political interference or consideration."
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