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Thursday, March 05, 2009

Viet Nam, Cambodia lift economic, trade ties

HA NOI — Viet Nam will boost co-operation with Cambodia, especially in human resources training in planning work in order to catch up with the global market economy, said Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung.

Speaking at a meeting with Cambodian Minister of Planning Chhay Than in Ha Noi yesterday, Dung stressed the necessity to boost co-operation between the two countries’ planning ministries in service of their economic development and trade.

On the agreements reached by Minister Chhay Than and Vietnamese Minister of Planning and Investment Vo Hong Phuc, Dung said the two ministries should increase the exchange of delegations.

Chhay Than expressed his thanks to the Vietnamese Government and people for their support for his country in the past, especially during the post-war reconstruction.

MoU signed

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on co-operation in planning and investment was signed yesterday in Ha Noi between the Cambodian Ministry of Planning and the Viet Nam’s Ministry of Planning and Investment.

Under this agreement, the two sides will closely co-ordinate in building and developing plans, thus providing an advisory service to both governments. They agreed that regular meetings between high-ranking delegations would be vital to consolidating the relationship.

According to the MoU, the two countries will also share their experience in planning work by organising training courses. Workers in the Cambodian planning sector will be offered short-term courses thanks to non-refundable aid from Viet Nam.

The education and training sector will get priority in the countries’ co-operation, said Viet Nam’s Ministry of Planning and Investment. Last year, the Vietnamese Government provided VND90 billion (US$5.2 million) in non-refundable aid for Cambodia, including VND73 billion ($4.2million) for personnel training.

The 2008 two-way trade turnover reached $1.7 billion, an increase of 42 per cent against 2007. Cambodia provided favourable conditions for Vietnamese businesses. Thirty-nine Vietnamese-run projects with a total capital of $211.2 million have been granted licences by the Cambodian Government. — VNS
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Crimes in Cambodia down 20% in 2008

PHNOM PENH, Crime occurrence dropped by 20 percent in 2008 over 2007, down to 8 an average day from 10, English-Khmer language newspaper the Cambodia Daily reported Thursday, quoting official figures.

There were altogether 2,881 crimes committed in Cambodia in 2008, compared with 3,732 in 2007, according to Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak.

Meanwhile, on average, less than one crime per day took place in the capital city in 2008, according to the national crime figures issued on Wednesday at the annual conference of the Interior Ministry.

There were only 351 criminal offenses recorded by police in 2008 in Phnom Penh, down from 357 in 2007, said the City Hall.

Considering the kingdom has a population of almost 14 million, it appears to be virtually crime-free, compared with countries with similar or smaller populations, according to the ministry.
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Norng Chanphal, a surviving child of S-21, pleads to become Civil Party at Duch trial

Ta Lorng, (Kompong Speu, Cambodia), 24/02/2009. Norng Chanphal, one of the four children who survived S-21.

By Duong Sokha
with Stéphanie Gée

Norng Chanphal is the last victim who submitted an application to become a civil party before the Khmer Rouge court as part of Case 1, the trial of Khmer Rouge torturer Duch. He did so on February 4th exactly, i.e. two days after the official deadline for applications and 13 days before the opening of the technical preparation hearing of the trial of S-21 director at the Trial Chamber. Introducing himself as a key-witness on the basis that he survived, as a child, the hell of the detention and torture centre, Chanphal caused a stir with his sudden show-up. Ka-set went to meet Norng Chanphal in the province of Kampong Speu.

Both his parents, Khmer Rouge cadres, were exterminated
A long and bumpy path in the Kong Pisey district, Kampong Speu province, leads to the small village of Taing Salath, where Norng Chanphal works. Kampot-born, Chanphal is a self-employed bulldozer driver. When we arrive on site, he decides to have a break, taking refuge under a tin roof to protect himself from the scorching midday sun. He is wearing a white shirt, stained with ochre dust, and frowns. He accepts to tell: he will, but only half-heartedly, and answers our questions with only brief sentences. He does not appear fully at ease with journalists and seems to want to avoid them.

His father, a Khmer Rouge cadre, was sent to S-21 as part of the purges organised by a regime governed by paranoia, and disappeared forever. His mother was in turn “invited” to go to Tuol Sleng to be educated there. She took Chanphal with her. He was then aged “7 or 8” years old – he does not know any more – and his little brother. He is unable to tell how long they stayed in S-21 for. Presumably, he eventually says, they were incarcerated shortly before the liberation of the capital by the Vietnamese troops on January 7th 1979.

“When we arrived [at Tuol Sleng], they ordered my mother to stand and hold in her hands a metal plate with a number on it, in order to have her picture taken, along with two other women. I was standing by her side. The guards then started insulting her, asked her for her name and drafted a statement, before sending her to the third building of the prison. My mother was gripped by fear and dreaded to be subjected to torture”, the 39 year-old qualified worker recounts, his eyes filled with sadness. The cries of pain of other prisoners and their desperate declarations of innocence stay forever etched in his memory. The day after, he and his brother were separated from their mother and placed in a room on the ground floor, amidst other children. They were never to see her again.

A child saved by the arrival of the Vietnamese troops
“Facing the imminent arrival of the Vietnamese troops, children were gathered together by the Khmer Rouge in a Jeep. As I feared my mother might not find me if we left, me, my brother and three other children went to hide under a heap of clothes which belonged to prisoners.” It is Vietnamese and Cambodian soldiers of the Kampuchean National United Front for National Salvation who discovered them several days after Phnom Penh was liberated.

In the year that followed the collapse of the Khmer Rouge regime, the Vietnamese army looked after him, and he was then entrusted to the care of Keo Chenda, then mayor of Phnom Penh. “He [Keo Chenda] introduced me to Samdech Hun Sen at a ceremony at the Royal Palace, as a child who survived S-21. Samdech then asked him to send me to the orphanage in Kolab [in the capital] where I stayed for about ten years.” Chanphal has since got married and become the father of two little girls. As for his younger brother, he is now earning a living as a lorry driver.

A late and sudden decision
Still today, Chanphal does not understand why his parents were executed by the machinery of a regime they were part of. He always kept silent over his story. He only shared it with his in-laws once the marriage was celebrated, in 1996. “Recollecting that tragedy during interviews with journalists makes me suffer too much. When, one after the other, they ask me to repeat what I have been through, I lose my temper and anger mounts... It irritates me. This is why I decided to remain silent all those years. But now, the time has come for me to talk”, he says, with a weak voice. And to do that, he has the full support of his close relatives.

Tirelessly, he reiterates his will to testify “for victims, and especially for my parents, to get justice”. He explains that given the age he was at the time of events, he did not understand who the director of S-21 was. But after having enquired and followed the news about the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, he heard that it was someone called Duch. And it is when he visited the Documentation Centre of Cambodia (DC-Cam), where he discovered a picture of himself, that he abruptly decided to constitute himself as a civil party – a decision he made of his own free will, he insists on saying – not long before the initial hearing of Duch. Chanphal assures he has evidence to produce. “I saw the tortures exerted at S-21with my own two eyes!”

Civil Party application causing quite a stir
To this day, the Trial Chamber at the Khmer Rouge court has not decided yet whether it will make an exception by taking the dossier in even though it arrived after the deadline, when Duch’s proper trial is due to open on March 30th. His lawyer, Mr Khan, insisted on the first day of the technical hearing, on February 17th, that his client be heard as a civil party. His request was supported by the co-Prosecutors, for whom such testimony could come as proof that there have indeed been children at S-21. When asked about what credibility should be given to the testimony of someone who was a child at the time of the events, which date back to more than thirty years ago, international co-Prosecutor Robert Petit answered, on the occasion of a meeting with the press on February 17th, that the Trial Chamber would be the one to decide on that, and added that “children testify every day before national courts all over the world”.

For their part, co-lawyers for the Defence questioned the authenticity of the video shot by the Vietnamese, in which children can be seen at S-21, “obviously without any emaciated faces after several days spent without eating”. The international co-lawyer for Duch, François Roux, made an ironic statement about that search for children incarcerated at S-21 and miraculously found a few days before the first trial before the Khmer Rouge court.


S-21 survivors
To this day, only three S-21 survivors were known: Vann Nath, Chum Mey and Bou Meng – in a prison where more than 15,000 people lost their lives. In December 2008, the Vietnamese government handed out to the [tribunal Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (EN/KH/FR)] a documentary film lasting about 10 minutes, with the first images shot in the bleak place after the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime. The authors of the film, who are Vietnamese, came to Cambodia mid-February to tell, at a press conference, what they saw in January 1979, and to talk about the children they discovered upon their arrival at S-21. Among these children, there was Chanphal.

Vann Nath, one of the survivors, has seen children of S-21 during his stay in the antechamber of death, he says. In the 1980s, he heard about the existence of Chanphal, a child who survived the same prison and was allegedly taken care of by an orphanage. He tried to locate him, in vain.


Also on Ka-set
-Khmer Rouge Court: no money but smooth sailing at the 5th Plenary Session (02-03-2009)
-Trial of former Khmer Rouge torturer Duch due to open on March 30th (24-02-2009)
-Initial hearing prior to Duch's trial closes with debate on role of civil parties (19-02-2009)
-Initial hearing kicks off first trial at Khmer Rouge tribunal (17-02-2009)
-Vann Nath, survivor of the Khmer Rouge S-21 prison, determined to stand up for remembrance (27-08-2009)

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