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Monday, March 02, 2009

22 attacks conducted against journalists in Cambodia

PHNOM PENH, Twenty-two cases of violence against journalists were recorded in the second half of 2008 and the first two months of 2009 in Cambodia, said English-language daily newspaper the Phnom Penh Post on Monday.

These included cases in which journalists were detained and cases in which threats or accusations were made against them "by individuals, groups, authorities and court institutions," the paper quoted a press release from the Club of Cambodian Journalists (CCJ) as saying.

Meanwhile, the CCJ decried unprofessional behavior on the part of some journalists, who accepted bribes or used unethical means to advance the aims of the groups that they supported.

The press release also urged the Ministry of Information to use more discretion in issuing press cards.

"Some media pass holders are not journalists," said CCJ secretary general Prach Sim.

Over 300 newspapers are registered with the ministry, but only 10 are publishing daily and 30 can get printed on regular basis.
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Cambodia's ex-king cites progress against his cancer

PHNOM PENH (AFP) — Cambodia's former king Norodom Sihanouk says he is showing progress in his most recent fight against cancer, according to a royal letter posted on his website.
The 86-year-old, who left for Beijing in July last year to receive medical treatment for other illnesses, said in late December that his Chinese doctors had found a new cancer in his body.

Sihanouk said in a letter dated February 27 that after treatment, "today I went to hospital to have it checked with modern equipment (PET Scan) and saw that this cancer has shrunk."

However he added that he needed to prolong his stay in Beijing for further treatment.

Sihanouk was first diagnosed with B-cell lymphoma, a cancer affecting blood cells crucial to the immune system, in 1993.

The cancer began in his prostate and recurred in 2005 in his stomach.

Sihanouk has suffered from a number of other ailments including diabetes and hypertension.

Despite giving up his role as monarch, Sihanouk remains a prominent figure in Cambodia and often uses messages on his website to weigh in on matters affecting the country.
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Cambodian, Thai officials hold meeting on border issues

PHNOM PENH, Officials of the secretariat of the General Border Committee (GBC) of Cambodia here on Monday held a meeting with their Thai counterparts to find a solution for the long-running border dispute.

"We pledged to solve our border issues with a bilateral and peaceful deal on basis of the exiting mechanism that both sides have already agreed with, and we also agreed to avoid armed clashes in the future," Neang Phat, secretary of state at the Cambodian Ministry of National Defense, told reporters during the break time of the meeting.

"We will report what we agreed with at the meeting to both defense ministers and they are going to have a meeting in April," he said, adding that the meeting on Monday will help facilitate the troops of both sides to keep restraint and lead to a latest bilateral deal on the border issues.

Meanwhile, Hor Namhong, Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, told reporters here on Sunday that Cambodia and Thailand have agreed to resolve their border dispute by using a memorandum of understanding signed in 2000.

"I think if Thailand has a clear stance and is willing to use the 2000 MoU, there will be no further difficulties in the future," he said upon his return from the 14 ASEAN Summit in Thailand.

The MoU states that the Joint Border Committee (JBC) of the two countries should use maps drafted in 1904 and 1907, which was ratified by Siam (as Thailand was then known) and France, Cambodia's former colonial power, to delineate the common border.

Tension between Thailand and Cambodia ratcheted higher in 2008,when troops from both countries clashed near the Preah Vihear temple at the border area and soldiers on both sides died in their fighting in October. An uneasy peace was restored days later.
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Judge: Cambodian genocide court faces funds crunch


PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Funding for some operations of Cambodia's genocide tribunal, already tarnished by corruption allegations, may dry up by the end of the month and cause local staff to walk out, a judge said Monday.

The warning by Judge Kong Srim, president of the Supreme Court Chamber, raised the prospect of yet more disruption to the long-delayed U.N.-assisted tribunal, which is seeking justice for the estimated 1.7 million Cambodians who died during the brutal 1975-79 reign of the communist Khmer Rouge.

Political and procedural disputes between Cambodia and the United Nations have delayed the tribunal's launch . It has been 13 years since Cambodia asked the U.N. to help establish the special court, which still has not heard any testimony, and many fear the defendants — already old and infirm — could die before they face justice.

The judge's statement came as it was revealed that defense lawyers want to question the country's prime minister and former king, which could revive an uncomfortable debate about the roles each played during Cambodia's holocaust.

Kong Srim told reporters the tribunal would not have sufficient funds to pay Cambodian staff salaries this month.

"It hardly seems reasonable for judicial officers and staff to be expected to continue working without remuneration," Kong Srim said. He added, however, that Cambodian and U.N. officials "are confident that this problem will shortly be resolved." He did not explain how.

The U.N. Development Program, which manages the funds contributed by international donors for the Cambodian side of the court, froze disbursements last July pending an investigation into allegations that the Cambodian personnel were forced to pay kickbacks to obtain their positions,

Aid donors have warned they will reconsider their pledges if the allegations of corruption are not satisfactorily resolved.

The allegations, which were originally leveled two years ago by the Open Society Justice Initiative, a New York-based watchdog group monitoring the tribunal, have been publicly denied by Cambodian and most U.N. officials.

A report surfaced last week on the German legislature's Web site alleging that a top U.N. tribunal official had acknowledged the kickbacks and accused a senior Cambodian administrator of corruption.

The head of public affairs for the tribunal refused to comment on the report, which has been removed from the Web site.

"I can't comment on a document I haven't seen about a meeting I was not at," Helen Jarvis said Monday.

Legal maneuvering ahead of the trials meanwhile continued.

According to confidential documents obtained Monday, the defense team for Nuon Chea, the main Khmer Rouge ideologist, is seeking court permission to interview Prime Minister Hun Sen and former King Norodom Sihanouk.

The documents also request testimony from Senate President Chea Sim and Assembly President Heng Samrin. Both men, along with Hun Sen, were members of the Khmer Rouge but defected to Vietnam before the regime was ousted.

"They are likely in possession of much relevant information to the pending judicial investigation," one of the documents said. All have denied any role in atrocities.

The defense team said that the 86-year-old former King Sihanouk, who briefly served as a symbolic head of state after the regime took power, had "rare access to the Khmer Rouge leadership, their strategies and policies" and was "privy to a range of sensitive information."

Son Arun, Nuon Chea's Cambodian attorney, confirmed the authenticity of the documents but said he had not personally filed the request.

The tribunal's first trial, scheduled to begin March 30, is for 65-year-old Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, who headed the Khmer Rouge's largest torture center. Later trials will be held for Khieu Samphan, the group's former head of state; Ieng Sary, its foreign minister; and his wife Ieng Thirith, who was minister for social affairs.
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