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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Abhisit says 2000 Thai-Cambodian MoU precludes UN, third country interventions

BANGKOK, Oct 31 -- Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on Sunday countered criticism that the 2000 Thai-Cambodian memorandum of understanding (MoU) related to the survey and boundary demarcation and three documents dealt with by the Thai-Cambodian Joint Boundary Commission (JBC) meeting that might put Thailand at risk of losing its territories.

Speaking during his weekly TV and radio address, Mr Abhisit said his government has continued to defend Thailand’s territorial integrity.

Even United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon acknowledged during the ASEAN-UN summit, held in Vietnam last week, that third countries should not interfere in the Thai-Cambodian territorial dispute as the two countries signed an MoU with their Joint Boundary Commission (JBC) in operation, Mr Abhisit said.

He said those who are dissatisfied with the MoU and JBC should understand that the existence of these two would help prevent third country and the UN from interfering into the territorial dispute between the two countries.

He quoted Mr Ban as saying during the summit that negotiations must be held by Thailand and Cambodia.

The Thais should not worry that the country would lose some territory to Cambodia because the Thai constitution stipulates that approval must be given by Parliament before any government can make an agreement with that country.

He said the Thai parliament would only ratify this Tuesday minutes of the previous meetings between the two countries.

However, future meetings on the issue between the two countries must be approved by the Thai Parliament again, Mr Abhisit said.

His remarks were made as activists of the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) last Friday petitioned the Central Administrative Court, asking it to stop parliament from considering the proceedings. The court is expected to rule on the injunction Monday.

The PAD also threatened to rally at Parliament this Tuesday, the same day that MPs consider the border commission's proceedings.

The PAD Yellow Shirts have claimed that documents originating from the MoU signed by Thailand and Cambodia in June 2000 related to the survey and boundary demarcation recognises a French map with a scale of 1:200,000 sq km which put Thailand at risk of losing territory. (MCOT online news)
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Clinton: US will help end sexual slavery

SIEM REAP, Cambodia—Pledging to do more to help end the scourge of sexual slavery, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton visited a rescue and rehabilitation center for child prostitutes in northern Cambodia on Sunday.

Before touring the famed 12th century Angkor Wat temple complex, Clinton met with a group of about 50 victims of human trafficking at the U.S.-funded facility in Siem Reap and promised them continued American support.

"I am so proud of you," she told the girls and young women, most of whom are between 17 and 23. They receive an education and vocational training that includes weaving and sewing lessons.

"You motivate me," she said.

Clinton listened as one young woman, Vann Sina, recounted her story of being abducted at 13 and forced to have sex with 20 to 30 men a day for more than two years before being rescued from a brothel.

"To be a victim is very hard," she said, recalling how she did not understand what she was meant to do when she was told to "sleep" with a customer. "I cannot forget. Sometimes I dream and I get very scared."

The Siem Reap center received a $336,0000 grant from the State Department last year to fund its operating costs and Clinton said she would make sure money continued to flow.

"I wanted to come here today to see you for myself," Clinton said.

Clinton was the first sitting secretary of state to visit Angkor. She was thronged by tourists as she strolled the grounds of the massive site with her aides, accompanied by a bevy of security agents and photographers.

On a tour of northern Cambodia, Clinton is about as far away as one can get from the intense political battle going on back home. Her husband and fellow Democrats are campaigning frantically ahead of Tuesday's midterm elections.

A self-proclaimed ex-politician, Clinton is barred from partisan political activity while serving as America's top diplomat.

The former first lady, New York senator and presidential hopeful is in the midst of a two-week, seven-nation tour of the Asia-Pacific. She won't be back at work in Washington until a week after Election Day.
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Thailand, Cambodia to hold talks on economic cooperation

BANGKOK, Oct 31 -- Thailand and Cambodia will confer on economic cooperation between their border provinces next month, according to Thai Deputy Commerce Minister Alongkorn Ponlaboot.

Speaking at Suvannabhumi Airport on his return from the 17th ASEAN summit ending in the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi Saturday, Mr Alongkorn said that senior officials in the border provinces officials of the two countries will meet Nov 30 and discuss possible economic cooperation.

The upcoming meeting is considered as positive sign toward “improving relations both at the provincial and national levels,” Mr Alongkorn said.

Cambodia’s commerce minister discussed economic cooperation between the two countries with Mr Alongkorn at the sidelines of the ASEAN summit. Both agreed that a summit should be held in February.

Both countries agreed Saturday in the Thai resort of Pattaya to cooperate on seven issues during the seventh General Border Committee meeting. The cooperation included allowing citizens of both countries to cross the border freely, removing land mines and to oppose every type of terrorism affecting the two neighbours.

Thailand and Cambodia both claim a 1.8-square-mile (4.6-square-kilometre) parcel of land near the cliff-top Preah Vihear temple, named by UNESCO a World Heritage site in 2008 after Cambodia applied for the status.

The World Court ruled in 1962 that the ancient temple belonged to Cambodia, although its main entrance lies in Thailand. The exact boundary through the surrounding grounds remains in dispute, with occasional military skirmishes claiming a number of lives.

In another related development, the next ASEAN summit will be held in 2011 in Indonesia. Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said during the closing address that ASEAN must strive forward and to continue following its principle.

ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) members include Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. (MCOT online news)
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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Cambodian minister hospitalised

BANGKOK - CAMBODIA'S Defence Minister Tea Banh was hospitalised in Thailand on Saturday because of pains caused by gallstones, Thai officials said.

Mr Tea Banh is expected to stay at a Bangkok hospital for one or two days, Thai Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon told AFP, adding that his condition was not serious.

He was in Thailand to attend a meeting on border relations in the coastal resort city of Pattaya, about a two-hour drive from Bangkok, at which the two nations agreed to boost cooperation on migration and landmine removal.

According to the Thai government-owned news website MCOT, Mr Tea Banh began suffering pain after playing a round of golf on Friday but continued with the meeting. -- AFP
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Benefit dinner to support Cambridge School in Cambodia Nov. 7

Cambridge — Coming up on Sunday, Nov. 7 is a benefit dinner to support the Cambridge School in Cambodia. The Cambridge School in Cambodia is a school near Phnom Penh in Cambodia that was built by the Cambridge for Cambodia organization, a volunteer group of Cambridge students and citizens. Three years ago, our community raised $24,000 to build a school in rural Cambodia. This number is made even more significant by the fact that this money came from the Cambridge community. Penny drives, bake sales, an online auction, a film benefit at Harvard, and benefit dinners at The Elephant Walk restaurant raised this large sum. And now, the Cambridge School in Cambodia exists in the village of Kauk Rovieng in Cambodia. Last February, 13 Cambridge citizens, including two teachers and eight students from our high school and middle schools (including myself) travelled to the school for the official dedication. We brought the students supplies – among them the ever-popular Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone translated into Khmer. We received a very big welcome by the entire village and learned a tremendous amount.

On Sunday Nov. 7, we will be holding another benefit dinner at The Cambridge Elephant Walk restaurant. All money raised from the ticket sales will go towards the funds needed each year to support the high tech education that includes instruction with two desktop computers that have internet access. The money is donated to our school through the American Assistance for Cambodia – the same non-profit organization that built our school and more than 450 other schools in Cambodia. The Cambridge for Cambodia organization also aims to raise enough funds to purchase two more computers for the Cambridge School, as well as the solar panels needed to power them. Our goal is to not only bring education to the village of Kauk Rovieng, but also technological advancements.

Last February during school break, a group of us travelled to Cambodia. We delivered medical supplies to local hospitals, visited the school, and met with local advocates working to address important social issues existing in Cambodia today. Among them was, Somaly Mam, known world-wide for her fight against the sex trade industry. Students from this trip, including myself will be there at the event on November 7th to share our stories with those who attend. We will also have a film and slide shows from our amazing journey.

It is our hope that people in the Cambridge community will join us again to support our school in Cambodia. Tickets for the event can be bought online at We are grateful to the many Cambridge businesses who have joined in our efforts to create this school in Cambodia. We’ve learned a lot from our travels and benefited along with the Cambodian students. If you want to learn more about our volunteer project, please visit our website: The Elephant Walk restaurant is providing a delicious traditional Cambodian meal for our benefit. We hope to see you there!

Lucy Flamm is currently senior at The Cambridge Rindge and Latin School in Cambridge.

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Cambodian bomb and landmine casualties up 11 per cent this year

Phnom Penh - The Cambodian authorities said 223 people have been killed or injured during the first nine months of this year by landmines and other explosives left over from war, an increase of 11 per cent from the same period last year.

Figures released by the Cambodia Mines/ERW Victim Information System showed landmines killed or injured 98 people, while 125 fell victim to other unexploded ordnance.

The organization distinguishes between landmines and other explosive remnants of war due to the different approaches required to deal with distinct types of weapons still present in the countryside.

Of the 223 victims, the report said 49 people died, another 39 lost limbs, with the remainder suffering other injuries.

In one of the worst incidents, a farmer and three friends were killed in August when a rocket-propelled grenade he was using as a comedy microphone exploded after he threw it to the floor at the end of his song. Three others were injured.

More than 60 per cent of casualties this year were men, most of whom were harmed by landmines. Boys comprise another quarter of victims, but most of them fell victim to unexploded ordnance used as toys.

Decades of conflict left unexploded ordnance that remains a serious risk in some areas of Cambodia, one of the most heavily mined nations in the world. More than half of this year's incidents took place in the far western region.

The latest figures raised to 63,743 the number of people killed or injured in Cambodia by ordnance since the ouster of the Khmer Rouge government in 1979
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Friday, October 29, 2010

PM surprised by PAD claims

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said his government is protecting the national interest by observing the 2000 Thai-Cambodian memorandum of understanding that governs the survey and demarcation of the land boundary between the two countries.

He made the point in response to the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) which filed a complaint with the Administrative Court yesterday, accusing the government of jeopardising Thai territory by its observance of the MoU.

Mr Abhisit, who was attending the 17th Asean summit in Hanoi yesterday, said his government had neither a hidden agenda nor vested interests.

The cabinet intended to protect the national interest in its request that parliament approve three proceedings of the Joint Commission on Demarcation for Land Boundary or the Joint Boundary Commission (JBC) of Thailand and Cambodia, he said.

The JBC was formed to implement the 2000 MoU, but it cannot begin its task without approval from the Thai parliament.

Mr Abhisit said he was surprised by the PAD accusation. He denied his government had used the widespread flooding in the country to mask the submission of the three JBC proceedings to parliament.

He said the proceedings were submitted to parliament publicly and the proposal took its normal pace after it had been shelved for a long time.

He said he was not worried about the PAD's planned rally on Tuesday to oppose the process but he warned participants to abide by the law.

Yesterday afternoon, PAD representatives accused Mr Abhisit's government of violating the laws of good national administration.

The group also accused the prime minister of violating the 2007 constitution by supporting an implementation of the 2000 MoU.

The PAD claimed seeking parliament's approval for the JBC's proceedings will lead to a loss of national territory.

Section 1 of the charter states that Thailand is one indivisible kingdom.

The PAD said that approval of the JBC's proceedings would lead to a temporary border agreement between the two countries and the agreement would allow Cambodia to challenge earlier settled sections of the boundary.

It also complained that the 2000 MoU recognised the French-made map at 1:200,000 scale. This put Thailand at a territorial disadvantage as the borderline in the map drawn by France encroached on Thai territory, the PAD claimed.

The PAD filed its complaint with the Administrative Court and asked the court to revoke the JBC's proceedings, the 2000 MoU and cabinet resolutions endorsing the negotiation framework for the JBC and supporting the proposal of the JBC's proceedings to parliament.

The PAD also sought an injunction to stop parliament from considering the proceedings. The court is expected to rule on the injunction on Monday.

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Cambodia’s mystical magical caves

Matt Lundy Special to the Star

KAMPOT, CAMBODIA—The Cambodian children hop between jagged rocks like little mountain goats, even though they’re wearing the same cheap, plastic flip-flops that we are. Our sandals have a thick lubrication of trail mud and perspiration, to the point where every few steps they slip right off. And yet the children – who likely make this trek daily – are goading us on, higher up the mountain and then deeper into the cave, saying “It’s so easy!”

My girlfriend and I didn’t plan on coming to Phnom Chhngok in Kampot, but our driver, Sarath, is ferrying us around to all the hotspots in this part of southern Cambodia, even if our attire is completely inappropriate. Minutes earlier, when we arrived at the closest village to the caves, a group of boys surrounded the car, led by a 10-year-old named Opp, who asked our names in the perfect grammar of an English composition professor. This is the point when we find out our driver is now useless to us: the youngsters, locally known as “the Cave Boys,” will be taking us into the limestone peak’s bowels.

As we make our way to the base, we cross through rice fields that are punctuated with palm trees, a scene that looks like b-roll footage from an old Vietnam War flick. Opp points to rice crabs that scurry along the paddies’ shallow floor and to far-off mountain ranges that have never seen a day of logging. We have about 300 stairs to climb now – it’s a luxury that there are stairs – but our footwear has been rendered useless by the mud trails, not to mention our wits are at half-mast following last night’s generous flow of Angkor beer.

About halfway through the climb we pay a one dollar entry-fee to a middle-aged man who is surrounded by gaudy statues of elephants and religious icons. The steps are then gradually replaced by uneven rocks – likely the result of lazy construction – that are made more difficult by their wetness, a by-product of Cambodia’s monsoon season.

When we finally reach the top and descend into the cave, it opens like a limestone blanket and reveals a 1400-year-old Hindu temple, made out of mud brick. It’s a little surprise “the Cave Boys” and Sarath failed to mention, but seemingly appropriate for the cities of Kampot and Kep, two Cambodian dark horses that delight visitors with their unexpected natural beauty.

Some veteran travelers have anointed Sihanoukville, a resort town on the Gulf of Thailand, as Southeast Asia’s “new Phuket.” But when real Cambodians want to escape the motorcycle mad streets of Phnom Penh and head south, they invariably go to Kampot and Kep, laid-back cities crammed with fresh seafood bodegas, densely forested mountains, and a host of accommodations to please any price range.

When we get back to the car, and after saying our goodbyes to “the Cave Boys,” we ask Sarath about how Kampot has changed in the past five years and where it’s headed.

“Kampot, it used to be very dirty,” he says. “But the city cleaned up the boardwalk on the river and many guesthouses are being built. I think the future will be good for Kampot. More people come here now.”

With its crumbling French Colonial architecture, sparse traffic, and stray dogs sleeping in the shade of noodle shop tables, Kampot looks like a Wild West relic. But a closer look reveals a city with gorgeous sunset views along the river, guesthouses that rarely exceed 15 bucks a night, and close proximity to some of Cambodia’s crown jewels: the Elephant Mountains and its jungles, Bokor National Park, and some of the world’s finest pepper plantations (just ask the French, who still import Kampot pepper, decades after Cambodia’s independence).

After sampling some fresh peppercorns straight off the plant, we go to Kep, a seaside town on the Gulf of Thailand just 30 minutes from Kampot by car. Formerly a coastal playground for Cambodia’s elite, Kep has developed into a chilled-out vacation spot with accommodations ranging from thatched-roof huts that please a backpacker’s wallet, to proper luxury resorts with all the frills you’d expect in the Caribbean. And although Kep Beach is popular with locals who come to swim and picnic, the beach itself has seen better days. When you come to Kep, you come to gorge on mounds of fresh crab meat, just pulled out of the water.

But for those, like me, who need a white sand beach lined with palm trees and a hammock, go to Rabbit Island, just 20 minutes from Kep by boat. Sarath tells us that the island reportedly got its name after King Sihanouk stocked it full of rabbits so that he and his buddies could hunt them on vacation, though no outside literature can back that up. Rabbit Island is a postcard-perfect retreat that is highly accessible, and yet totally rustic. The little overnight huts might not have running water, but cold cans of Angkor are available, because it wouldn’t be Cambodia without them.

After we leave Rabbit Island, Sarath drives us through the countryside on the way back to our guesthouse. My girlfriend and I aren’t talking, but not because anything bad has happened. We just look out the windows of our driver’s beat-up car – at the kids riding over-sized bikes, roosters crossing dirt roads, pigs being led by a leash – and realize why Cambodians overwhelmingly come here to escape.

Matt Lundy is a freelancer writer based in Phnom Penh.
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ATF 2011 Phnom Penh exceeds already all of our forecasts in terms of success

By Luc Citrinot, eTN

PHNOM PENH (eTN) - Cambodia will play host to the ASEAN Travel Forum next January for the second time in its history. Phnom Penh is getting ready to provide a memorable welcome to all delegates as explained by His Excellency So Mara, Secretary of State, Cambodia Ministry of Tourism.

eTN: How does the preparation of the ASEAN Travel Forum (ATF) look?

SO MARA: I am very pleased to say that we can already see all the signs of success even before we started to send the invitation to hosted buyers and media. We first thought that we would get 350 sellers. We then planned to have 400 sellers, but now we already received more than 480 requests. We have now to find solutions to accommodate all the requests and look at ways to expand the exhibition area to welcome more sellers. We are now in discussion with the Organizing Committee, as well as with the owners of Diamond Island Convention & Exhibition Center, ATF['s] main venue for the mart. For the buyers and media, we expect to host 400 buyers and 100 media. And we already received over 860 registrations. We might increase now the total number of hosted buyers with the deadline for final approval being set up for the first week of November.

eTN: What will the Ministry in Phnom Penh do to welcome ATF delegates?

SO MARA: We want to give a lasting memory to delegates about Cambodia’s traditional sense of welcome. We already blocked 1,500 rooms in Phnom Penh for the event with new prestigious venues including the brand new Sofitel Phnom Penh or Diamond Island Convention & Exhibition Center. All official meetings with ASEAN Ministers of tourism + 5 [China, India, Korea, Japan, and Russia] as well as with the tourism representatives from Saudi Arabia and UAE, will be hosted in the brand new Council of Ministers building, which is equipped with the latest high-tech facilities. This will be the first time that such meetings will take place in an official government’s building. Among the highlights, all ministers will receive a courtesy call from our Prime Minister and be granted an audience with our King. For all delegates, we prepare a lot of surprises, including the presence of world-famous VIPs and stars.

eTN: What do you expect from the ATF in terms of image benefits?

SO MARA: We first expect to show that Cambodia is fully back on the world tourism stage and that it is a must-see destination along [with] all other ASEAN countries. ATF gives us the opportunity to show that Cambodia is today at peace and a safe destination, thanks to strong political stability under the current government. We hope also to highlight that Cambodia offers a great diversity of holiday opportunities. Beyond the iconic temples of Angkor, which remains our country’s “signature,” the Kingdom of Cambodia is also a premier destination for beach tourism or eco-tourism.

eTN: How far has Cambodia tourism come this year?

SO MARA: We are likely to reach a new record in tourist arrivals. In 2009, we recorded a moderate growth of 1.7 percent to 2.16 million travelers. Until August of this year, total arrivals are up by 14.6 percent. We now forecast 2.42 million travelers for 2010 and estimate that tourist arrivals should reach 2.75 million in 2011. A very positive trend is Siem Reap. After two years of stagnation, international arrivals at Siem Reap airport were up by almost 17 percent from January to August 2010.

eTN: Do you try to diversify Cambodia's image by promoting new destinations?

SO MARA: Our three main destinations for visitors are Siem Reap/Angkor temples, Phnom Penh, and Sihanoukville in the south. However, we want to create a new icon along our coastal area as we believe that we have some of the best pristine beaches in Southeast Asia. We indeed look to qualify one of our beaches as one of the world’s most beautiful beaches. We want also to put more emphasis on eco-tourism, especially in the northeastern provinces of our country where rare animals and endangered flora species can still be discovered and observed. There are also other secondary destinations we want to push up such as Kep/Kampot as a beach resort destination or Preah Vihar temple for cultural tourism. We just completed a road to the temple, making it an easy destination, only two hours away from Siem Reap.
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Thai Talks Continue as Thaksin Fades From Picture

From left to right: Myanmar's Prime Minister Thein Sein, Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, Laos' Prime Minister Bouasone Buphavanh.

Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Thai counterpart met on the sidelines of a UN-Asean summit in Hanoi on Thursday, the third meeting in just over a month, in an effort to reconcile an ongoing border dispute.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said in September he had high hopes for the meetings, following the resignation of Thai fugitive ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra and the restoration of diplomatic ties.

That resignation has paved the way for talk of cooperation on both sides.

“The meeting was to affirm confidence and cooperation between Thailand and Cambodia, because we have to make the relationship on several issues, especially the borders,” Abhisit told VOA's Thai service. “From this talk, we confirmed cooperation and want to jointly find solutions to these problems without resorting to violence. We did not talk in detail, but we see a need to cooperate and to solve the problems.”

Hun Sen shared similar sentiments in a public speech, saying the meeting was “an essential one that creates confidence and cooperation.”

Relations between the two neighbors have soured since July 2008, when Preah Vihear temple, which sits next to a disputed strip of land on the border, was added to a World Heritage list under Cambodian management. Relations worsened when Thaksin, who faces a criminal sentence at home, was appointed an economic adviser to the government.

“I've told Abhisit that no matter how we are at odds with each other, and for whatever matter, we cannot move away from one another,” Hun Sen said after their first meeting.

But Cambodia has insisted that Thaksin, who was ousted in a bloodless coup in 2006, is a secondary factor in the relationship.

“Whether Thaksin is working as an adviser is not a key problem between Cambodia and Thailand,” Ouch Borith, secretary of state for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told VOA Khmer. “For Cambodia, we don't see Thaksin as a problem, because he wasn't working solely as a Cambodian adviser. He also works and has business in Africa.”

Ouch Borith said problems over the border in 2008 had occurred prior to Thaksin's appointment, which Thailand used as a “pretext to cause problems with Cambodia.”

Thaksin's importance in the ongoing dispute remains in question, but Asean Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan, who is from Thailand, said he was no longer relevant.

Ongoing talks between Hun Sen and Abhisit “is certainly a good sign,” he said. “And I think both sides are very much committed to an improved relationship.”

The two leaders met first in New York and then again in Brussels, and participants of those meetings said both the border and economic cooperation were discussed.

With Thaksin slowly moving away, relations have improved, but political observers have said that whether Hun Sen is shaking hands with Thaksin or Abhisit, he has nothing to lose.
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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Chinese premier meets counterparts in Hanoi ahead of summits

HANOI, Oct. 28 (Xinhua) -- Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on Thursday met separately with the prime ministers of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos in Hanoi ahead of a series of summits between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and its partners.

At the meeting with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, Wen hailed Vietnam's preparation for the upcoming meetings, saying that China would join with Vietnam to ensure the success of the meetings at a time of profound changes going on in the international situation.

Wen called for proper handling of the issue of South China Sea, saying it is of vital importance to the sound and stable development of China-Vietnam relations.

He noted that China and Vietnam have established a negotiation mechanism to solve the issue, and he hoped the two countries would discuss and sign an agreement on basic principles guiding the solution to the issues of the sea as early as possible.

Dung agreed with Wen's remarks.

Expressing the high importance China placed on the summits, Wen said China would strengthen communication and coordination with Vietnam and work with all sides concerned to push forward East Asian cooperation.

Wen said friendship and cooperation have remained the mainstream of China-Vietnam relations since the establishment of the bilateral diplomatic ties 60 years ago. He said sound and stable development of the relationship is of vital importance to both sides and the region.

The premier vowed that China would maintain high-level contacts with Vietnam, establish a hotline between leaders of the two countries, and strengthen consultation between all departments to enhance their mutual trust, deal with disputes appropriately and promote common interest.

Wen also called for an early signing of a five-year trade cooperation plan between the two countries. He urged the two sides to promote pragmatic cooperation in all areas, develop a balanced and sustainable trade relationship, and further strengthen cultural cooperation.

Dung said the Chinese premier's attendance at the summits shows the importance China attached to East Asian cooperation and its support to Vietnam. He also congratulated Wen on China's successful holding of the Shanghai Expo.

He said Vietnam attached high importance to promoting the comprehensive strategic partnership of cooperation with China, which was also a priority of Vietnam's foreign policy.

Vietnam would maintain high-level exchanges of visits and friendly exchanges at all levels with China, strengthen the two countries' political mutual trust, deepen cooperation in such areas as trade, agriculture, investment, infrastructure construction, press and communication, enhance coordination and cooperation in regional affairs, and make an active contribution to the peace and common development of East Asia, the prime minister pledged.

Wen also met with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on bilateral relations and issues of common concern, saying that the China-Cambodia bilateral friendship had stood the test of time.

Hun Sen agreed with his Chinese counterpart and told him that his government holds that the issue of the South China Sea should not be internationalized or multilateralized.

The issue should be resolved through bilateral consultations by the countries concerned, he said.

Wen praised Hun Sen's position on this issue. He reiterated that China would, as ever, work with the countries concerned to earnestly implement the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, enhance mutual trust and friendly cooperation, safeguard the peace and stability of the South China Sea, and try to resolve related bilateral disputes appropriately.

Wen said that being good neighbors, good friends and good partners, China and Cambodia have maintained a high level of mutual trust despite rapid and profound changes in international and regional situations, having promoted and deepened cooperation in various fields and having supported each other on key international and regional issues.

The Chinese premier said that China would like to make concerted efforts with Cambodia to upgrade and enrich bilateral ties comprehensively. He also noted that China would support the Cambodian government to promote development in agriculture and infrastructure as well as human resources.

Hun Sen said his government is grateful to China for its gracious help in Cambodia's national reconciliation and economic and social development, noting that relations between China and Cambodia have withstood the test of time and thus have much room for further development.

Chinese enterprises are welcome to participate actively in Cambodia's economic development, he said.

In the meeting with Laotian Prime Minister Bouasone Bouphavanh, Wen said China was willing to work together with the Laotian side to build on the bilateral friendship and boost exchanges and cooperation.

Wen urged the early signing of a blueprint for bilateral economic cooperation, saying China attached great importance to cooperation with Laos in infrastructure, human resources development and poverty elimination and was willing to offer support and assistance in these areas.

China would adhere to the policy of pursuing peace and friendly ties, equality and mutual development with its neighbors, and was willing to carry on the high-level exchanges between the two countries and between the Communist Party of China and the Lao People's Revolutionary Party, he said.

China was also willing to work together with Laos to push forward the relations between China and the ASEAN, Wen said.

He also called on the two sides to make use of the coordination function of the joint economic commission and the cooperation mechanism between China's southern province of Yunnan and the nine northern provinces of Laos to facilitate bilateral trade and investment.

Both countries should also make the best of the opportunities of the China-ASEAN free trade area to conduct mutually complementary cooperation and further vitalize bilateral economic and trade ties, Wen said.

Bouasone thanked China for its support and assistance over the years, and reiterated Laos' adherence to the one-China policy.

Laos stood ready to work closely with China to deepen exchanges and cooperation in various fields and give full play to the China-ASEAN free trade area to upgrade economic and trade cooperation, he said.

Wen arrived in Hanoi on Thursday afternoon. He is expected to attend the 13th summit between China and the ASEAN; the 13th summit between ASEAN, China, Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK); and the fifth East Asia Summit. He will also attend a meeting with the leaders of Japan and the ROK.

The summit meeting between ASEAN and China, the first since the launching of China-ASEAN free trade area on Jan. 1, is expected to invigorate the increasingly strong bilateral ties between the two sides.

Bilateral trade increased 44 percent in the first nine months of this year, registering a record high of 211.3 billion U.S. dollars.

"This is the eighth time I have attended ASEAN summit meetings. The situation has changed a lot, but I am still very confident that the meetings will succeed as expected," Wen told reporters on the plane.

"China is developing very fast and both sides have benefited from the bilateral cooperation. Bilateral trade between China and ASEAN has surpassed 200 billion U.S. dollars as of now and is very likely to surpass 300 billion dollars by the end of this year," he said.

Briefing reporters before Wen's visit, Assistant Foreign Minister Hu Zhengyue, described the visit as "an important event" by the head of the Chinese government to strengthen ties with neighboring countries.

"As a key member of Asia, China has vehemently supported and actively participated in East Asia cooperation," he said.

China would, as ever, attend the summits with a view to boosting friendship, cooperation and common development, he said.

Apart from enhancing cooperation and exchanging views on regional issues, the East Asia summit is expected to formally invite Russia and the United States to become members of the forum.
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UN condemns police beating of protestors in Cambodia (Roundup

Phnom Penh - A senior UN human rights official condemned 'excessive force' she said was used by police against several dozen peaceful protestors who were trying to meet with visiting UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

'I have expressed concern in person to the Ministry of Interior about this incident and the excessive use of force used against the petitioners and Mr Suong Sophorn specifically,' said Kyung-wha Kang, the UN's deputy high commissioner for human rights, who arrived in Cambodia Tuesday with Ban's delegation.

A prominent local human rights group, Licadho, said earlier that Suong Sophorn had been beaten unconscious and dragged away by police who used electric shock batons and walkie-talkies to beat protestors.
Kang said the local UN human rights office had contacted the police, who later released Suong Sophorn 'as promised.'

'I have also received the petition of the [protestors] on behalf of the secretary general,' she said.
The protestors are to shortly be evicted from their homes in central Phnom Penh to make way for a large development by a well-connected company. They had unsuccessfully petitioned Ban to meet them to discuss their plight.

Licadho director Naly Pilorge said the beatings, which took place close to a hospital that Ban was visiting, was indicative of the government's approach to human rights and its international reputation.

'Either they don't understand the harm that this sort of incident causes to Cambodia's reputation, or they don't care, or perhaps they just think they can get away with it,' she said.
Earlier Thursday, Ban visited Phnom Penh's S-21 prison, where more than 14,000 people were tortured and marked for execution during the Khmer Rouge's rule of the country in the late 1970s.

Ban referred to the Khmer Rouge rule as a 'terrible chapter' in the country's history.
'But I want you to know that your courage has sent a strong and powerful message to the world that there can be no impunity, that crimes against humanity shall not go unpunished,' he said.

It has been an eventful trip for Ban.

On Wednesday, Cambodia's foreign minister said Prime Minister Hun Sen told Ban he would not permit any further prosecutions of former Khmer Rouge cadres, a statement that set off a storm of criticism about political interference in the judicial process.

But the government later appeared to moderate its tone when Minister for Information Khieu Kanharith said Hun Sen had merely expressed his desire to see no further prosecutions.
'We don't say forbidden because you cannot dictate, you cannot impose your will on the court,' Khieu Kanharith said.

Hun Sen also told Ban to close the UN human rights office because he deemed it was acting as a mouthpiece for the opposition and told him to sack the UN's country head for human rights, Christophe Peschoux.

Khieu Kanharith reiterated that position.

'It is time to close down the office,' he said. 'Both [the office and Peschoux] have to go.'
Ban left Cambodia Thursday after a three-day visit for Vietnam, where he is to attend a summit between the United Nations and the 10-member Association of South-East Asian Nations. He is to conclude his Asian tour in China. .
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United Nations-Backed Tribunal in Cambodia Dealing With Mass Killings

The United Nations-backed tribunal in Cambodia dealing with mass killings and other crimes committed under the Khmer Rouge three decades ago is crucial in the world's fight against impunity, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in the South-East Asian nation today.

As many as 2.2 million people are believed to have died during the 1975-79 rule of the Khmer Rouge, which was then followed by a protracted period of civil war in the impoverished country.

Under an agreement signed by the UN and the Government, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia was set up as an independent court using a mixture of Cambodian staff and judges and foreign personnel. It is designated to try those deemed most responsible for crimes and serious violations of Cambodian and international law between 17 April 1975 and 6 January 1979.

"You are helping the people of Cambodia continue the process of reconciliation and build a peaceful and prosperous future," the Secretary-General told the Court today.

"Your work is vital in the world's fight against impunity."

He said that it is nearly impossible to describe what took place in Cambodia in the 1970s, underlining the need for accountability for the "shocking" crimes.

"As a young person at the time, I was horrified" by the sheer scale of the killings and the incomprehensible inhumanity, Mr. Ban said.

He acknowledged that, as with all UN-assisted criminal tribunals, it is impossible to try all offenders.

"Nevertheless, putting the senior Khmer Rouge leaders on trial, even 30 years after, is itself a powerful message, a message that impunity will not be tolerated - neither by the people of Cambodia and their Government, nor by the United Nations and the international community."

The Secretary-General pointed to some key accomplishments the ECCC has made so far.

In its first verdict handed down in July, the Court found Kaing Guek Eav guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Also known as Duch, the head of a notorious detention camp run by the Khmer Rouge was given a 35-year prison term.

"This victory is significant - not only for the many thousands of people who died or were imprisoned in Toul Sleng prison, but also for survivors everywhere," Mr. Ban, who will visit the Genocide Museum at the prison site, said. "They can see justice being done."

He noted that Cambodians want to see justice done, with 31,000 people having attended Duch's trial, with many more having watched from afar.

In September, the ECCC indicted the four most senior members of the Democratic Kampuchea regime who are still alive for crimes against humanity, genocide, and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, as well as for violations of the 1956 Cambodian penal code, including murder, torture and religious persecution.

"Let us send a power signal to anyone, anywhere, who might commit such crimes in the future," the Secretary-General said.

Earlier today in the capital, Phnom Penh, he discussed the need for the Government's full cooperation and respect for the Court and its independence with Prime Minister Hun Sen, stressing that this is vital to enable the body to enjoy international support and to leave a strong legacy in Cambodia.

The ECCC, he stressed, was set up to be fully independent and that even the Secretary-General should not seek to influence its decisions in any way.

Human rights were also a focus of their talks, with Mr. Ban expressing appreciation for the Cambodian Government's cooperation with all human rights mechanisms. He also emphasized the importance of creating political space for public debate, including on human rights.

The Secretary-General underlined the essential public advocacy role of the UN Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights stressing the notable role and value of its Phnom Penh office.

Other issues discussed between the two men today included the important role the UN has played since 1993 in the area of elections in Cambodia, the situation in Myanmar and the partnership between the world body and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Mr. Ban is in the region for a four-nation trip that started in Thailand and will also take him to Viet Nam and China.

Source: United Nations
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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

On Human Rights, Send in Experts

This post was co-authored with Emily Alinikoff.

What can the United States effectively do when it comes to promoting human rights? How can it best work through the United Nations to make a difference for victims in Afghanistan, Iran or Cambodia?

These questions are very much on the minds of Obama administration officials. When the administration decided to join the UN's Human Rights Council despite skepticism and outright hostility from the Council's conservative critics, the administration promised to work from within to promote reform, increase attention on the most serious human rights crises and reduce political bias against Israel.

There are signs the strategy is starting to work. Thanks to an energetic if quiet campaign to build cross-regional coalitions, U.S. diplomats have managed to extend the Council's scrutiny of human rights violations in Sudan, Somalia and Cambodia, secure new fact-finding mandates on freedom of association and women's rights, protect the independence of the High Commissioner on Human Rights, and deny Iran a seat on the Council. On Israel, however, it remains largely alone in opposing resolutions censuring the government for its attacks in Gaza and the humanitarian aid flotilla, in opposing resolutions critical of the government's action in Palestine, and in trying to remedy the imbalanced attention it receives.

After 18 months of extensive research into the work of the Human Rights Council, we have found that the U.S. strategy to invest in the Council's independent experts is a sound one. These volunteers are chosen by governments for their professional expertise to investigate human-rights situations around the world, make recommendations for corrective action and report to the world on their findings. In operation since the late 1970s, they have been called "the crown jewel" of the U.N. human rights system. Yet no one had put that proposition to the test of independent and rigorous examination.

After our own examination of how governments respond to the thousands of communications and dozens of field missions carried out by these independent UN experts, we found convincing evidence that they serve as catalysts for rights, prompting governments to reexamine and correct actions that violated human rights across a broad range of categories. By shedding light on issues like the fate of the disappeared, mistreatment of political prisoners, fair access to health services and violence against women, these monitors tackle the hard issues and elevate them to the highest levels of political power. That alone has an impact in creating a public record about abuses that some would like to hide, increasing pressure for remedies, and perhaps most importantly giving a voice to victims.

Some governments respond to this pressure through legislative reforms or executive action, and often in ways that directly benefit the victims. In Cambodia, the UN's monitor intervened to obtain better treatment and ultimately freedom for a journalist accused of defamation. In Afghanistan, the UN expert persuaded authorities to release hundreds of illegally detained prisoners. In Georgia, Indonesia, Spain and Colombia, U.N. experts uncovered unacceptable conditions for the displaced, abused women, prisoners and innocent civilians and influenced governments to take action.

We also found that too many governments ignore or deny the experts' allegations or block efforts to gain access to the country or to victims. State cooperation was particularly bad when it came to responding to an expert's written allegations of violations, with more than 50 percent of communications receiving no reply versus 18 percent that generated some positive movement toward a remedy. Yet even when they are denied country visits, like in the case of North Korea or Burma, these UN experts help amplify the voices of a beleaguered community of human rights defenders, mobilize advocacy and publicize first-hand testimony of victims.

The lack of state cooperation, however, is not the only challenge the independent experts face. A serious lack of resources, inadequate professional staff, insufficient training in the political and diplomatic skills needed to prompt officials to take action, and the absence of any systematic process for following up their recommendations stands out as the main weaknesses. With additional resources and political will, these are solvable problems. Fortunately, the five-year review of the Council, which just got underway at the end of October in Geneva, offers a good opportunity to address them.

In the meantime, given the generally positive track record of the UN's independent experts, the United States should continue to lead efforts to create and fund new mandates. Later this fall, the UN will take up resolutions on Iran and Burma, opening the door for appointing independent experts and commissions of inquiry to deal with the longstanding and deteriorating human rights situations in these countries. For the sake of victims there and around the world, the international community should send in the experts.

Ted Piccone is Senior Fellow and Deputy Director for Foreign Policy at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. Emily Alinikoff is a Senior Research Assistant in Foreign Policy at Brookings. The authors have recently released the report, "Catalysts for Rights: The Unique Contribution of the UN's Independent Experts on Human Rights."
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Cambodia's poverty crisis

Rapid urban development in Cambodia has resulted in changes in Phnom Penh with Cambodians missing out on the economic growth, 13 years since the end of civil conflict.

Presenter: Sen Lam

Speakers: Pou Sothirak. former Cambodian Industry minister and ambassador to Japan and senior visiting research fellow at Singapore's Institute of Southeast Asian Studieg.

SOTHIRAK: The issues of poverty in Cambodia has been a very serious one and before Cambodia was thrown into war conflicts, but after that we have peace, but as the country emerged, there is a lot of problem concerning how to improve the livelihood of the people. The government have been working very hard. There has been good economic progress in the mid 2005, 2006, 2007, double digit growth, but unfortunately, this growth is narrow based and it did not trigger down to the base.

LAM: Is the government to your mind, is it conscious of the importance of letting it trickle down, spreading the wealth a little bit?

SOTHIRAK: The government is I think conscious, however, at this stage of development, Cambodia mainly rely on export, particularly government. Definitely there are some improvement in term of getting employment, but basically the poor does not live in the city. They live in the rural area and 90 per cent of them are based on farming.

LAM: Well, you mentioned the garment factories and the garment factories, of course, have been closing due to a slump in demand, particularly from the United States. Have the poor in Cambodia been hard hit by the two years of economic crisis, the world economic crisis?

SOTHIRAK: Oh definitely. Cambodian has been affected by the global downturn, particularly when America stopped buying. There is a lot of lay off. And this is again an economic policy that rely on export solely to be sustainable, and therefore the livelihood of the people at large are not protected.

LAM: Well, Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party was returned to government in the 2008 elections, largely with the support of the poor I might add to win outright majority after years of political bickering and uncertainties in parliament. Do you think the poor has benefited from the two years of total CPP government rule?

SOTHIRAK: At the moment, the government has been doing a lot of infrastructure work at the village level, building roads and water reservoirs and digging wells as well as building school and rural people have seen this work with the government and I think that's in large part this is how the CPP is still very top choice for the people. They see this infrastructure work.

LAM: So the people, actually the poor in Cambodia, they do see the Cambodian Communist Party as the way out of their poverty?

SOTHIRAK: It's the Cambodian People's Party, not the Cambodian Communist Party.

LAM: Yes, that's right. I beg your pardon. Yes, the CPP ? .

SOTHIRAK: Yeah, they have seen the Cambodian People's Party under the leadership of Prime Minister Hun Sen have been working for them to solve some of the critical problem, particularly rural connection between cities and rural area.

LAM: It's well documented that corruption has been a major issue in Cambodia. To your mind, is the government doing enough to address this?

SOTHIRAK: Oh corruption is a very peculiar and very difficult issues. Yes, Cambodia is still seen widespread corruption, and this is due in part because of the low salary of the civil servants and therefore many public services such as health care or education has been hard hit because of this low salary. And I think the government have already been establishing. There is a law, anti-corruption law and now there is a unit, that there is an agency that deal with anti-corruption established and there is a no shortage of political will to try to combat corruption, but corruption itself is already widespread and its deep rooted and I think to solve these corruption issues, first of all, government need to pay a lot of attention to good governance, meaning ensuring the judicial system is working to protect everybody and equally in front in the name of the law.

LAM: In otherwords, a strong and professional independent judiciary?

SOTHIRAK: Exactly. Secondly, the civil servants. The civil servant need to be pay more and at the same time, they have to have some kind of check and balance, so that if there is a corrupt case, these individuals, they will put into, will be punished accordingly.

LAM: Well, it's been said that Cambodia is still a long way from meeting the UN's Millennium Development Goals and of course one of those goals is eradicating poverty and one way of doing that is, of course, providing education. I understand that half the children in primary school in Cambodia don't finish their education. Is something being done to address that?

SOTHIRAK: Yeah, that is very clear that one of the major difficulty to eradicate education, to eradicate poverty is to try to bring up the level of education and at the moment, there are in the rural area a lot of drop out rate and they don't have enough school and also because of the teacher with low salary, the teacher sometimes teach only half day. So these are the major problem that the government need to address.
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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

UPDATE: Man accused of posing as colonel faces 16 years in prison

A Richlands resident accused of falsely wearing the uniform of a decorated Marine colonel faces more than 16 years in prison and up to $605,000 in fines, officials said Tuesday.

Richlands resident Michael Hamilton had his initial appearance in Wilmington federal court Tuesday morning on charges including falsely wearing the uniform of a decorated Marine colonel and embezzling more than $30,000 in disability payments from the VA.

During the court appearance, Magistrate Judge Robert Jones read Hamilton's charges to him. The charges include:

Making materially fictitous claims to the federal government for which he faces five years imprisonment and fines of not more than $250,000.

Embezzling more than $30,000 in disability payments from the Veterans Affairs Department, for which Hamilton faces not more than 10 years imprisonment and not more than $250,000 in fines.

Wearing a colonel's uniform to a veteran's ceremony, for which he faces not more than six months imprisonment and $5,000 in fines.

Wearing medals not awarded to him, for which he faces one year imprisonment and $100,000 in fines.

Hamilton was released on a $5,000 unsecured bond upon the condition that he refrain from using any firearms.

Jones ruled that he would not have to undergo a mental health examination.


A Richlands man accused of posing as a decorated Marine colonel and embezzling more than $30,000 in VA disability payments will have his initial appearance in court today.

Michael Hamilton, 67, will appear in a Wilmington federal court before Magistrate Judge Robert B. Jones at 10:30 a.m.

Hamilton is charged with wearing the uniform of a Marine colonel unauthorized and three counts of wearing military medals unauthorized at an April 24 event in Jacksonville honoring Vietnam veterans.

Hamilton was indicted this month on federal charges that included making false statements to federal authorities and receiving more than $30,000 in disability payments for service-connected ailments related to his false claims.

Among other things, Hamilton has stated that he was involved in secret operations in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, was awarded two Navy Crosses, three Silver Stars, five Bronze Stars and eight Purple Hearts and rose from the rank of private first class to full colonel in eight years. As prviously reported by The Daily News, Hamilton’s military records indicate he served for a year and was never deployed.

At a first appearance in June, Hamilton’s lawyer, public defender Andrea Stubbs, said she believed he was competent to be tried as a sane person.

Following the appearance, he was required to surrender possession of any firearms, including handguns in his home and a rifle collection, report for probation on a periodic basis, sign a $5,000 unsecured bond and complete a mental competency examination.
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UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon lands in Cambodia on Asian tour

Phnom Penh - UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arrived in Phnom Penh late Tuesday on an official visit as part of a four-nation Asian tour.

He is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Hun Sen and other senior officials on Wednesday, and will also visit the hybrid UN-Cambodian tribunal, which earlier this year convicted former Khmer Rouge security chief Comrade Duch of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

A number of civil society groups have sought meetings with Ban to discuss different issues including a huge eviction planned for central Phnom Penh, which will see around 30,000 people moved off land to make way for a development.

The Office for the UN's Resident Coordinator in Phnom Penh confirmed it had received 'numerous requests from civil society' groups to meet Ban, and said those requests had been forwarded to his office for consideration.

'It is under discussion and they are considering the possibilities,' said UNRC spokesperson Aimee Brown.

During his two-day stay in Phnom Penh, Ban is scheduled to visit S-21 genocide museum, which was the former prison run by Comrade Duch in the late 1970s.

Ban is scheduled to depart on Thursday for Vietnam, where he will attend a summit between the United Nations and the regional Association of South-East Asian Nations bloc. He will then head to China as part of his four-nation tour.

His trip began in Thailand, where he met Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and senior officials.
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USC to help Cambodia develop tourism

Cambodia’s Tourism Minister Dr Thong Khon and Vice-Chancellor Professor Greg Hill sign the memorandum of understanding.

THE Cambodian government has enlisted the services of the University of the Sunshine Coast to help build up its fledgling tourism industry.

Eco-tourism will be the focus of the partnership, which was inked through a memorandum of understanding at USC yesterday. USC will help establish tourism educational institutions and plan sustainable tourism policies.

Cambodia's Tourism Minister, Dr Thong Khon, who was at the signing ceremony, said it was hoped the partnership would be a key element of the impoverished South-East Asian country's sustainable tourism push.

“Cambodia is a beautiful country and we have a lot of tourism potential – both natural and cultural,” he said.

“So far our government has made a lot of effort to protect and preserve our natural and cultural assets, but we need more experience.

“That's why we called for the assistance of the international community, especially the Australian government and USC, to support us on this matter.”

The partnership, which has been in development over the past 12 months after Cambodian government officials visited USC last year, may involve tourism master planning for the country's entire coastline.

“There is big potential for USC, short and long-term, with this project,” said Dr Bill Carter, a USC associate professor in heritage resource management.

Dr Carter, of the university's Sustainability Research Centre, and USC tourism lecturer Dr Gayle Mayes recently returned from what has been described as a successful research trip to Cambodia.

Dr Carter said the benefits for USC could include boosting the professional development of its staff, opening up research and business opportunities, and delivering a student exchange program between the countries.
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Monday, October 25, 2010

Lake Residents Seek Audience With Ban Ki-moon

More than 100 residents from Phnom Penh's Boeung Kak lake area gathered in front of the UNDP offices on Monday to request a meeting with the UN secretary-general on his upcoming visit.

Ban Ki-moon is expected to arrive Wednesday for two days of official talks with Prime Minister Hun Sen and others, and lake residents said Monday they hoped he could help resolve an ongoing dispute with development company Shukaku.

Residents said in a letter they wanted “to stop the forced eviction from their homes and lands.” UNDP officials accepted the request and said they would forward it to Ban's office.

“We want to meet Ban Ki-moon to help us be free of forced eviction,” lake resident Sam Vanna said Monday. “We need government development projects for a modern city, but we want to live in the Boeung Kak area.”

On his visit, Ban is expected to address ongoing issues with the UN-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal, and he is scheduled to visit the Tuol Sleng genocide Museum.
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Arisman 'seeks Cambodian visa'

Fugitive red shirt leader Arisman Pongruengrong has reportedly recently filed an application for a Cambodian visa from the country's consulate in Sa Kaeo's Aranyaprathet district.

Mr Arisman, who allegedly entered Cambodia earlier, reportedly wants to obtain a Cambodian visa so he can extend his stay in the country.

Sa Kaeo governor Sanit Intharasuksri said he had contacted the Cambodian consulate to tell its staff that Mr Arisman might have used a fake exit stamp from Thai immigration when applying to enter Cambodia.

Thai immigration officials have no record of Mr Arisman leaving or re-entering the country, so it was not possible for him to obtain the stamp legally for the visa application.

Mr Sanit said he had been told by Cambodian officials that they may not have realised the Thai immigration stamp on Mr Arisman's passport could be a fake and processed the application without question.

Informed sources say Mr Arisman has been in hiding Siem Reap with his bodyguard. He allegedly hired someone to file the visa application in Aranyaprathet on his behalf.

The Department of Special Investigation has indicted 25 red shirt protesters and pro-Thaksin Shinawatra politicians, including Mr Arisman, on terrorism charges, which carry a maximum penalty of death.

Mr Arisman led hundreds of protesters in storming the parliament during the red shirt demonstration on April 7.

A week later, scores of police raided a Bangkok hotel, where Mr Arisman and other red shirt leaders were staying, but police failed to arrest him after he was lowered from the third floor to supporters waiting below.

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Drug-law alarm bells

Articles of a draft drug-control law expected to be finalised by the end of this month are
consistent with procedures used in Vietnam and China, and could result in drug users
being compelled to perform forced labour, Human Rights Watch has warned.

Joe Amon, director of HRW’ s health and human rights division, said both Vietnam and
China “ have reportedly offered assistance to Cambodia on drug policy” .

“ There is a real danger that Cambodian centres will follow the Chinese or Vietnamese
model – longer periods of detention and detainees forced to labour for private
companies,” he said.

A recent version of the draft law includes an article stipulating that treatment periods at
government-run centres can last for up to two years.

Amon said on Sunday that the present law did not specify minimum or maximum periods
for rehabilitation, but that “ the current practice is to detain people for three to six months,
sometimes a year” .

Rights groups have reported that detention periods for drug users are longer in China and
Vietnam, though Amon said this approach had not worked.

Neak Yuthea, director of the department of legislation, education and rehabilitation at
the National Authority for Combating Drugs, confirmed that Cambodia had looked to
Vietnam while drafting drug-control and rehabilitation policies.

“ We learnt from Vietnam about how they proceed in their centres and how they care for
their addicted people so that we will apply it to Cambodia,” he said.
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Saturday, October 23, 2010

Spirits blamed as girls faint in Cambodia


Teachers of 10 teenage girls who collapsed one after another at their rural Cambodian school blamed the mysterious ailment on angry spirits on Saturday.

The girls, aged between 14 and 18, were treated in hospital after fainting but doctors could not ascertain why the youngsters were struck down, said Ruos Lim Chhee, head of the high school in Pnov, northern Cambodia.

He said that all of the girls were found to be healthy, with no signs of food poisoning, although two were a little low on glucose.

"We are afraid we are under a spell because we didn't offer any traditional dancing and music to the spirits on the opening day this year," he said.

"But we have just offered fruits, boiled chickens and wine to the spirits today, and we hope the students will get better and the spirits will take care of us."

Mil Khim, a teacher who witnessed the string of incidents on Thursday, said one of his students started to complain of chest pains early in the morning and then suffered convulsions before falling unconscious.

"The strange phenomenon lasted only a few hours, as eight seventh graders and two from eighth and ninth grade fainted subsequently," he said.

Cambodians in rural areas often believe supernatural forces are behind unexplained events.

"We think that perhaps the spirits are angry because the doctors, teachers and even police found no trace of poison or physical weakness," said district governor, Pech Sophea.
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British orphanage head in child sex claim in Cambodia

PHNOM PENH — The British founder of a Cambodian orphanage is facing prosecution for sexually abusing children at the home, officials said Saturday.

Nicholas Patrick Griffin is accused of abusing "many" children, both boys and girls under the age of 15, said Sun Bun Thorng of the government's anti-human trafficking department in Siem Reap, northern Cambodia.

Around 70 children housed at the orphanage, near the historic Angkor Wat temples, will be removed for their own safety, he told AFP.

The 52-year-old was arrested earlier this week and officials said they expect to uncover more cases as the investigation progresses.

Sun Bun Thorng said Griffin was the founder of Cambodia Orphan Fund, which according to its website aims to "create projects that will help Cambodian people break the poverty cycle and help themselves to a positive future".

The orphanage takes children up to the age of 18.

Griffin, who is believed to have left the UK in 2006, faced several charges of child molestation in 2008, but these were dropped due to lack of evidence, Sun Bun Thorng said.

Chheng Vanna, deputy director of social affairs in Siem Reap, said that her department helped police investigate institutional abuse at the orphanage.

"We will have to move the children because since the founder will be in detention, nobody is going to support them," she said.

Cambodia is engaged in a major drive to net foreign paedophiles as it looks to shed its image as a haven for sex criminals.

In a separate investigation another Briton, Matthew John Harland was charged with "purchasing child sex and committing indecent acts" with four girls aged from 12 to 16 in Phnom Penh, according to the victims' lawyer Peng Maneth.

She said the 36-year-old's trial was delayed on Friday after allegations emerged that he paid a bribe of 15,000 dollars to a court official.

Samleang Seila, country director of anti-paedophile group Action Pour Les Enfants, said the Harland case was the first exposure of alleged corruption in court.

Cambodia has jailed dozens of foreigners for child sex crimes since 2003 or deported them to face trial in their home countries.
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Clinton, Gates to hold talks in Melbourne

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is to visit Australia as part of a two-week, six-nation tour of the Asia-Pacific region.

The tour, starting next week, takes in Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Australia and New Zealand, the State Department announced on Friday.

In Melbourne, Mrs Clinton will be joined by US Defence Secretary Robert Gates for annual consultations between the US and Australia.

Despite warm relations between the two countries, Mrs Clinton will become the highest-ranking official from the Obama administration to visit.

She called off a scheduled visit in January to focus on relief after Haiti's earthquake; President Obama has twice called off trips to Australia due to domestic concerns.

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ADB-Funded Cambodian Rail Line Reopened to Help Regional Trade

By Prak Chan Thol

PHNOM PENH, Oct. 23 (Reuters) - Cambodia has reopened a stretch of railway destroyed during the country's war and officials described it as a step towards boosting regional trade through rail links with neighbors.

The Asian Development Bank is contributing $84 million to a $141 million project to repair 650 km (400 miles) of railway linking Cambodia's capital, Phnom Penh, to its borders with Thailand and Vietnam by 2013.

The first section officially opened on Friday runs 120 km (75 miles) southwest from Phnom Penh to Touk Meas in Kampot province, near the border with Vietnam.

Kunio Senga, director general of the Asian Development Bank's Southeast Asia Department, told a news conference the rail link would lower the cost of staple commodities that poor Cambodian families depend on and would help position the country as a sub-regional transport hub.

Tauch Chankosal, secretary of state at Cambodia's Ministry of Public Works and Transport, said a study was under way for a rail link between Phnom Penh and Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, possibly with financial help from China.

''The estimate is about $600 million,'' he said of the construction cost. ''The funding is not yet finalized.''

Toll Holdings Ltd of Australia has signed a 30-year concession to operate and maintain the railway, which was frequently mined and attacked by Khmer Rouge guerrillas leading to the deployment of cars mounted with machine guns in front of locomotives in the 1980s and 1990s.

Wayne Hunt, CEO of Toll Global Logistics, said the priority was to get freight operating. He said the firm had already invested $5 million and planned to employ 600 people eventually.

The 110-kilometre section that opened Friday runs south from Phnom Penh to the town of Touk Meas. Once it is completed in 2011, the full southern line, which is 250 kilometres long, will link the capital with the port of Sihanoukville.

Reconstruction of the northern line, which runs 390 kilometres north-west from Phnom Penh to the Poipet border crossing into Thailand, is scheduled to finish in 2012.

Once that is completed, the final link in the Singapore-Kunming chain will be the railway between Phnom Penh and Ho Chi Minh City in southern Vietnam.
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Friday, October 22, 2010

Clinton to visit Asia next week

WASHINGTON — US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will head next week on a visit to Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Australia and New Zealand, the State Department announced Friday.

Clinton will also travel to Hawaii where she will hold talks with Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara, whose government has been trying to weather tensions with China, State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said.

President Barack Obama's administration has described Southeast Asia as a key diplomatic priority, saying that the dynamic region was neglected by former president George W. Bush due to his focus on Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Obama administration has sought to build relations with Malaysia, seeing it as a potential force for moderation within the Islamic world.

Political relations were rocky when Malaysia was led by Mahathir Mohamad, who was known for his strident criticism of the West. The United States sometimes riled Malaysia with past calls to expand democratic freedoms.

Despite warm relations between the United States and Australia, Clinton will become the highest-ranking official from the Obama administration to visit.

She called off a scheduled visit in January to focus on relief after Haiti's devastating earthquake, while Obama has twice called off trips to Australia due to domestic concerns.

Clinton will visit Hanoi for the annual East Asia Summit. The United States has warming relations with Vietnam, where experts say that concerns about a rising China have trumped memories of the war against the United States.

However, Crowley said that Clinton would skip a meeting of foreign ministers of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Japan. Obama is expected to attend the full summit in Yokohama.

Clinton will meet Maehara in Hawaii and send her deputy, Jim Steinberg, to the APEC talks for foreign ministers, Crowley said.
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Cambodia opens first line of restored rail system

PHNOM PENH (AFP) – A new rail line opened in Cambodia Friday, a crucial first step towards restoring the country's devastated rail system after decades of civil war and neglect.

The newly rebuilt 120 kilometre (75 mile) stretch connects Phnom Penh to the southern town of Touk Meas, near the border with Vietnam.

It is the first part of a planned 650-kilometre (400 mile) countrywide rail network that will run from the northern border with Thailand via the capital to the southern seaside town of Sihanoukville.

The total cost of restoring the Cambodian network -- expected to be operational by 2013 -- is 141 million dollars, of which the Asian Development Bank (ADB) is providing 84 million dollars.

"This new railroad represents another important step for Cambodia in overcoming its legacy of conflict," said Kunio Senga, director general of ADB's southeast Asia department.

The link connecting Cambodia's capital and Touk Meas is also a "major step" towards a wider plan to create a rail system stretching from Singapore to China, according to the ADB.

Countries in the region are supporting the pan-Asia train network as a cheap way of transporting goods.
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Project puts trains back on Cambodia's rails

PHUM KSENG, Cambodia (AP) — The railroad is many things to people in Cambodia: playground, garbage dump, open-air toilet, livestock grazing ground, a dry path for traversing swampy terrain.

What it has not been for many years is working transportation for either people or freight. In fact, train service was halted completely last year.

That may change soon. Development specialists have persuaded the government to privatize the system, which officially reopened Friday with one freight line between Phnom Penh and Touk Meas, near the Vietnamese border.

Eventually, they promise, a refurbished railroad will revive Cambodia's economy and drag it out of decades of poverty and chaos. It would be an important missing link in a proposed regional rail system that would stretch from Singapore to Kunming, China.

"It's a powerful symbol of Cambodia's reconstruction and redevelopment," said Lachlan Pontifex, an aid expert with the Australian government, which is helping to fund the $141.6 million effort.

While an efficient transport network holds out great promise for Cambodian businesses, the reclaiming of railroad land could sink thousands into deeper poverty. Many people who live and sell goods alongside the rails — often barely subsisting — fear they will be evicted from their homes. Others, like the operators of makeshift carts that ferry people along the tracks, known as "bamboo trains," will lose a meager but reliable livelihood.

Cambodian and foreign backers said they are trying to minimize the disruptions, spending millions to compensate those affected.

French colonial rulers laid the first rails across the rice paddies and wetlands in the 1920s. By 1969, track stretched from the Thai border to the capital Phnom Penh and continued southwest to Sihanoukville, on the Gulf of Thailand.

Then Cambodia plunged into chaos, beginning with a U.S.-backed military coup and ending in the tyrannical Khmer Rouge regime. After the Khmer Rouge's ouster in 1979, the southern line was still an occasional battleground. Stations crumbled, locomotives rusted and the system ground into dysfunction.

In the past dozen years, the country has seen a sputtering economic boom, which clogged the roads with people and goods.

But the railway remained best avoided. A train ride between the capital and the provincial city Battambang, about 185 miles (300 kilometers) northwest, took more than a day, at a time when a taxi ride took less than four hours.

The Cambodian government shut the system down in November 2009 and awarded the Australian company Toll a 30-year joint venture contract to refurbish and operate it. Toll received an $84 million loan from the Asian Development Bank and others.

Earlier this month, after $5 million in investments in new rails, signs, locomotive repairs and workforce training, the freight service to Touk Meas began operating ahead of Friday's inauguration. The entire railroad — including new spurs directly to the ports — is to be operational by 2013.

"Upgrading the infrastructure will improve competitiveness in Cambodia's economy and promote direct investment in Cambodia itself," said Putu Kamayana, director of the development bank's Cambodian office.

For now, only freight will travel the rails, and the main beneficiary in the short run is likely to be Touk Meas' cement industry. Officials said the competition is already pushing down shipping costs, and should decrease costs for goods like fuel oil or rice.

Of greater concern to the thousands of Cambodians living on or near the rails, however, is what will happen to them. On Phnom Penh's outskirts, scores of families live in tin-roof shacks sometimes just an arm's length from passing trains.

As many as 3,650 families could lose either their homes or their livelihoods. The Asian Development Bank said more than $3.5 million has been budgeted to compensate people who will be moved.

That's small consolation to villagers like Khun Sarom, 38, who with his family of five runs a shop out of a bamboo-floored house just a few yards (meters) from the tracks in Phum Kseng, a village about 50 miles (80 kilometers) south of Phnom Penh. He said he's lived in his house for 20 years, earning about $5 a day selling cigarettes and pirated DVDs but has no title to the land. He said he knew very little about the rail project and had no idea whether he would get any money or land if he was evicted.

"I guess it's good, as long as I'm not kicked out," he said.

North of Phnom Penh, Prak Pheam, 31, said the railroad would put his bamboo train, a rickety carpet-sized contraption powered by what looked to be a lawnmower engine, out of business. He said he earns $25 in a good week, and had hoped he would get some money for losing that income. But he said only a handful of bamboo drivers have been told they would receive anything, and no one really understood how the money was being handed out.

"It's unfair that I'm not getting money," he said. "I'll have to go back to the rice fields. Or get a job on a train."
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Briton on child sex abuse charge in Cambodia orphanage

The British founder of a Cambodian orphanage is facing prosecution for sexually assaulting a boy in his care.

Nicholas Griffin, 52, was held when police raided his isolated base in countryside near Siem Reap, in the north-west of the country.

Up to 100 children were moved to a safe house in an operation that involved British and local investigators.

Mr Griffin, originally from Wales, left Britain in 2006 before founding the Cambodia Orphan Fund, one year later.

He faces a potential 10-year jail sentence over a claim he sexually assaulted a 15-year-old boy.

Fortress-like building

He was originally held on suspicion of breaking child labour laws and his orphanage licence.

The orphanage manager, a Cambodian man, has been charged with the illegal removal of a child to the orphanage.

Jim Gamble, of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (Ceop), said Cambodian police are now examining claims of "institutional abuse" within the orphanage, which occupies an unusual fortress-like building.

Mr Gamble added: "The UK and Cambodia may have different legal systems and law enforcement practices, but we share a clear, joint commitment: to prevent harm to children."

He said the operation demonstrated the value of the organisation's international child protection network.
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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Flooding impacts provincial prison

Severe flooding in Northwestern Cambodia has left Banteay Meanchey provincial prison under more than 70 centimetres of water and created increasingly worrisome humanitarian conditions at the facility, prison officials and rights workers said.

Thean Chhorvoan, acting director of Banteay Meanchey provincial prison, said floods hit the detention centre beginning last Saturday and had been rising ever since.

“On Tuesday, the water level rose to a half-metre, and as of Thursday, the level of water has risen to 70 centimetres, even though authorities have used four generators to pump out water from the prison around the clock,” Thean Chhorvoan said.

The area around the prison was also flooded, he added.

Thean Chhorvoan said yesterday that administrators had no immediate plans to evacuate inmates from the prison because they had succeeded for the time being in diverting the floodwaters from the prisoners’ sleeping area.

But Chea Sothea, a prison monitor for local rights group Licadho, said inmates were having trouble sleeping as water seeped into their quarters.

With the prison’s latrine flooded, she added, inmates had been forced to defecate in plastic bags, creating an extremely unsanitary environment that had led several prisoners to fall ill with diarrhea.
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Police arrested 10 murder suspects

Meanchey district police have apprehended 10 men suspected of involvement in the brutal murder of three family members whose slashed and beaten bodies were found in their home in Phnom Penh’s Chamkarmon district on Tuesday.

The three victims – 16-year-old Ry Nalin and her parents, 52-year-old Ry Saron and 46-year-old Ne Sovannary – were found in their home in Village 7 with their hands tied behind their backs and their throats cut. The house had also been robbed.

Mean Heng Tith, deputy district police chief, said 10 male suspects aged between 16 and 35 had been arrested and temporarily detained for questioning in connection with the incident.

He said all 10 suspects live in Meanchey district’s Chak Angre Leu commune but declined to provide any further details because of ongoing investigations.

He also stressed that no one had been charged.
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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Groups Warn of Abuse Increases in Land, Resource Deals

Villagers in the provinces of Koh Kong and Kampong Speu have alleged that sugar plantations operated by Ly Yong Phat have pushed them off their land.

Government land concessions and the exploitation of natural resources are creating an increasing number of rights violations and other pressures on villagers, a group of local non-governmental organizations said Wednesday.

“Land concessions are affecting Cambodian villages and communities in some provinces,” said Thun Saray, president of the rights group Adhoc, speaking at a national conference for advocacy in Phnom Penh.

The number of land issues has increased over the last nine months, he said, leading to an increase in rights abuses.

An Adhoc study of land issues in Phnom Penh and the provinces of Kampong Speu, Koh Kong, Oddar Meanchey, Preah Vihear, Stung Treng and Banteay Meanchey found 272 ongoing land disputes. As a result, it found 128 people had been arrested and more than 100 had evaded detention. Fifty-five people remain in custody, facing criminal charges related to protests in the disputes.

Wednesday's conference brought together hundreds from across Cambodia, some of whom were representatives of villages feeling the strain of land concessions.

“Now there are 31 families with land issues with the Heng Houy [sugar plantation],” Phoa Ngeng, a resident of Chi Kar Krom commune of Koh Kong province's Sre Ambel district, said.

People there live in fear, she said, with at least one or two people summoned to provincial court every day. She called on the national government to stop providing land concessions to private companies to prevent rights violations.

Heng Houy, the head of the company, has said he obtained the concession legally and had purchased land legitimately from villagers.

Ongoing disputes create the loss of farmland for villagers and other livelihoods, villagers at the conference said. Meanwhile, minority villagers have been pushed from homes and forests that are an important part of their culture.

Meanwhile, exploitation of resources, including for hydropower, have increased the burdens on some villagers.

For example, the Srepok and Yali hydropower dams in Vietnam have created poor living conditions for people downstream.

Kong Chanty, a resident of Stung Treng province's Sesan district, said Wednesday that the dams have pushed more than 1,000 families from 18 villagers from their homeland.

“Now we have moved the houses to a near area, and we lost villages and the land, the farming fields and our ethnic culture,” he said.
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Ban Ki-moon Expected Later This Month

Ban Ki-moon, right, Secretary General of United Nations meets with Hor Namhong, deputy prime minister and foreign minister of Cambodia, left, at United Nations, September 2010.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is expected to make an official visit at the end of the month, and observers say they hope he will address human rights issues as well as the Khmer Rouge tribunal.

“The impression about this trip is that it is to focus on the Khmer Rouge tribunal,” said Ou Virak, director of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights.

However, if Ban is traveling with the vice chairman of the UN's Human Rights Commission, rights abuse could be on the agenda, he said.

The UN may be pushing for more funding at the tribunal, which has struggled financially all year, while it must also push for independence at the court, he said. The court also needs a proper mechanism to fight allegations of corruption, Ou Virak said.

Koy Kuong, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Ban was expected Oct. 26 through Oct. 28, but he did not outline details for meetings.

Earlier this year, Ban made an appeal to donors to fund the UN-backed court, which has tried one former Khmer Rouge, and is preparing a case for four more.

Further indictments have proven difficult, and critics say the government has hampered the work of the court, especially with the refusal of six senior government officials ignoring summonses from the international investigating judge.

A diplomat in New York said donors are waiting to see a strategy for winding down the court before they commit to more funding.

Seng Theary, founder of the Center for Justice and Reconciliation and a participant in the trials so far, said she hoped Ban's visit would relieve the pressures of funding, as well as political interference, for the court.
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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Life term sought for Khmer Rouge jailer sentenced to 19 years for war crimes, other offences

By The Associated Press

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Prosecutors have appealed for a life sentence against the former Khmer Rouge jailer who in July received what many considered a lenient penalty for war crimes, crimes against humanity and related offences.

Cambodia's U.N.-backed genocide tribunal convicted Kaing Guek Eav — also known as Duch — and sentenced him to 19 years after considering that he co-operated, showed some expression of remorse and was not in the Khmer Rouge's inner circle.

Tribunal spokesman Lars Olsen said Tuesday prosecutors have filed documents seeking to have the court impose a stiffer sentence. The appeal was lodged Oct. 13 but posted publicly by the tribunal Tuesday.

In announcing their intention to appeal in August, the prosecutors said the original judgment "gives insufficient weight to the gravity of Duch's crimes and his role and his willing participation in those crimes."

The tribunal is seeking justice for the estimated 1.7 million people who died from execution, overwork, disease and malnutrition as a result of the radical policies of the 1975-79 communist Khmer Rouge regime.

Duch's lawyer had also announced his intention to appeal the court sentence and seek his client's release, but it is unclear whether he has officially done so.

Duch (pronounced DOIK) was the first defendant to be tried. He supervised a prison where as many as 16,000 people were tortured before being taken away for execution.

Also found guilty of torture and murder, Duch was originally sentenced to 35 years. Time served reduced the sentence 11 years, and he was compensated five years for illegal detention in a military prison.

Four more defendants are expected to go on trial by the middle of next year: Nuon Chea, the Khmer Rouge ideologist; Khieu Samphan, its former head of state; Ieng Sary, its foreign minister; and his wife Ieng Thirith, who was minister for social affairs.
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Parents, daughter murdered in Phnom Penh

A mother, father and their 16-year-old daughter have been found murdered in Phnom Penh’s Chamkarmon district, their bodies apparently slashed and bashed with knives and bats.

Municipal Police Chief Touch Naruth said the bodies of the three victims –Ry Nalin and her parents, 52-year-old Ry Saron and 46-year-old Ne Sovannary – were found in their home in Village 7 with their hands tied behind their backs and their throats cut.

He said the three victims had multiple injuries inflicted with a variety of weapons.

“The suspects used a rope and killed the victims by stabbing them with a knife, [and also attacked them with] an axe and a bat. It is a cruel murder,” he said.

The killings bring to five the number of multiple murders reported in Cambodia since July.

The most recent such case occurred on October 9, when a 47-year-old woman, her 24-year-old daughter and a 17-year-old waitress were shot dead in Kandal province’s Takhmao the full story in tomorrow’s Phnom Penh Post or see the updated story online from 3PM UTC/GMT +7 hours.
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