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Monday, April 27, 2009

Australia in controversy over Khmer Rouge trials

By Robert Carmichael for Radio Australia

Australia is mixed up in a controversy surrounding the credibility of the Cambodian tribunal hearing the trials of former Khmer Rouge officials.

Allegations that Cambodian court employees paid kickbacks to senior staff of the hearings in return for their jobs have simmered for some time.

Most international donors have declined to release more funds to the tribunal until the Cambodian government resolves the issue.

But Australia has bucked the trend, announcing earlier in April that it would release funds.

Heather Ryan, a trial monitor for the Open Society Justice Initiative, told Radio Australia's Connect Asia program it was "inexplicable" that the Australian Government would take such a step.

She said the move undermined the negotiating position of the United Nations and others committed to trying to eliminate or reduce corruption in the court and in Cambodia in general.

The Australian embassy in Phnom Penh refused to comment, saying the matter was too sensitive.

But a spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs in Canberra said the decision was based on what he called "broad progress" in the Cambodian government's efforts to address corruption concerns, and to ensure the court could continue its work.

At present, the court is hearing the case of Comrade Duch (Kaing Guek Eav), the former commander of the notorious Tuol Sleng prison in Phnom Penh, who is charged with crimes against humanity.

The Foreign Affairs Department says Australia consulted with other donors and the UN before making its decision.

Funds blocked

But the UN Development Program (UNDP) - which holds the money in trust - has refused Australia's request to release the funds.

"We are the ones accountable for the proper use of what at the end of the day is taxpayers' money," UNDP country manager Jo Scheuer said.

"We have said for the last nine months that we need to see allegations resolved and mechanisms put up before we can resume our role, and that today is still the same position."

Lawyers for some of the defendants have used the corruption issue to argue their clients will not get a fair trial.

There have been some media allegations that Cambodian judges paid kickbacks to get their positions - a potentially fatal flaw for the tribunal.

Mr Scheuer says the UNDP has seen no evidence that happened.

"From the work we have done with the court we have no information whatsoever that anything happened on the judicial side of the national side of the court," he said.

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Cambodian foreign minister recovering after almost collapsing in US

Phnom Penh - Cambodia's foreign minister was recovering in hospital after almost collapsing Sunday during an opening ceremony for a new consulate in the United States

, a government spokesman said Monday.

Hor Namhong was rushed to hospital after he almost fainted while giving a speech at the new Cambodian consulate in the city of Lowell, Massachusetts, Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said.

'The doctors in the emergency department said he was suffering from fatigue and was recovering well,' Koy Kuong said.

Lowell is home to about 30,000 Cambodians, many of whom fled the South-East Asian country during the 1975-1979 rule of the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime and the subsequent two decades of civil war.

Cambodia has an embassy in Washington DC and consulates in Seattle, New York and Los Angeles.
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Cambodia Trenching and Drilling

Cambodia Exploration Update : Trenching and Drilling JOGMEC JV Projects

Current Exploration Highlights ·Multiple veins sets up to +900m long in trenching over gold soil anomaly,

Big Toe Prospect (Kratie South JV)

·Gold mineralisation is consistent over 1.3km of trenching and open at both
ends, Preak Khlong Prospect (Kratie South JV)

·Trenching and RC drilling completed over 3km x 1km gold/silver/lead soil anomaly, Oh Tron Prospect (Kratie North JV) .

Currently awaiting results from:

·660 metre Phase 1 RC drilling on Kratie North JV with JOGMEC ·15 trenches on Kratie North for 2,600m ·28 trenched in Kratie South for 4,700m Southern Gold Limited (ASX code "SAU") has completed its first exploration programme of the 2009
field season in Cambodia.

A substantial program of drilling and trenching exploration work has been completed with a large number of assay results expected to be received in respect of this work during May.

Exploration on three of Southern Gold's seven tenements in Cambodia, is being fully funded by the Japanese Governmentbacked JOGMEC pursuant to a Joint Venture agreement whereby JOGMEC can fully fund exploration activity to a total of US$4.5 (~A$7) million over 3 years to earn a 51% interest in these tenements ­ Phnum Khtong (Kratie North Project), and two adjoining blocks, Preak Khlong and O'Kthung (Kratie South Project), all to the northeast of Phnom Penh.

All three tenements are to the northeast of Phnom Penh (Figure 4).

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