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Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Corruption eclipses Cambodia progress

I wrote last week that in support of his assertion that his regime is popular, Premier Hun Sen cited the findings of a U.S.-based International Republican Institute's survey: 79 percent of Cambodians polled said Cambodia under Sen's government was moving in "the right direction" and 53 percent said they will vote for the Cambodian People's Party in the next election.

The world's nations have concluded long ago that "the will of the people, freely and fairly expressed through periodic and genuine elections" is "the basis of the authority and the legitimacy" of all governments.

Cambodia may be experiencing a period of relative political calm compared to death and destruction under the Khmer Rouge. New roads and new buildings are signs of progress. Still, documents referenced in previous columns published by Cambodian and international nongovernmental organizations should put a brake on the claims of governmental legitimacy and national progress in the "right direction."

The 2006 Report by the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights, "Human Rights in Cambodia: The Fa├žade of Stability"; the 2007 Report by Global Witness, "Cambodia's Family Trees"; the 2009 Report, also by Global Witness, "Country for Sale"; the Foreign Affairs Magazine's "Cambodia's Curse"; and Andrew Marshall's interview with some children of Cambodia's ruling elite, in "Khmer Riche" in the Sydney Morning Herald of Dec. 12, 2009, are only a few reports among many that document worrisome developments in today's Cambodia.

On Jan. 21, 2010, the New York-based Human Rights Watch's 612-page "World Report 2010" accused the Sen government of misusing the judiciary to silence critics, attack rights defenders, restrict press freedom, and trample Cambodia's own international obligations to protect refugees.

HRW's Asia director Brad Adams' declared: "Cambodians who speak out to defend their homes, their jobs, and their rights face threats, jail, and physical attacks."

At a minimum, there is a disconnect between documented human rights violations and the results of the IRI survey that might seem to support the claim that the country is moving in the "right direction."

In March 2009, an American couple from South Carolina -- James Garcia, an emergency medical technician and Cara Garcia, a registered nurse -- arrived in Phnom Penh, with $40,000 they collected from the sale of "everything we owned," and $16,000 they raised in donations, wanting to help Cambodians by opening a health clinic.

With health minister Mam Bunheng's permission, Garcia's clinic was opened in Kompong Thom province. There were 19 other clinics, but only three or four were reportedly open a few hours per week; the rest were either closed or boarded up. Garcia's clinic treated 900 patients every month.

Problems began when Garcia's requests for supplies and medications were met with an "out of medicine" response, while the Garcias claimed they saw the warehouse "fully stocked," and Cara Garcia saw medicines loaded into two SUVs.

In "Opinion: Cambodia will break your heart. And, with a corrupt Ministry of Health, it sure won't heal what ails you either," Stanford's Joel Brinkley wrote in on Dec. 9, 2009, that Cara Garcia "raged at government officials, questioned their honesty, blamed them for the deaths of patients the Garcias could not properly treat. Cambodian corruption, she kept shouting, was killing little children."

"In Cambodia and much of Asia, women just don't behave like that," Brinkley wrote. "She quickly made several powerful men quite angry."

In an e-mail to an acquaintance in October, James Garcia confirmed, "Cara got exceptionally angry over this injustice" at a "business meeting" next to the clinic. As she walked home later in the evening, three English-speaking men jumped out of a vehicle, dragged her into a ditch, tied her and "raped her for hours," then left her for dead. But she didn't die. Going to the police later, the police chief was angry "because we were disturbing his rest time."

James Garcia admitted to being "careless in speaking openly about corruption," but "we came to Cambodia to save lives," the e-mail reads. He said with friends and supporters using "personal funds and air miles" to help, "we managed to escape Cambodia. ... We have nothing left but our suitcases."

In "Does the U.S. know who it's dealing with in Cambodia? Absolutely, FBI files show," Douglas Gillison wrote in the Dec. 20, 2009,, that based on declassified Federal Bureau of Investigation records, "evidence" was "substantial," albeit not complete -- the investigation was cut short by "threats" on the life of FBI Special Agent Thomas Nicoletti by "hit teams" -- that the grenade attack on the March 30, 1997, opposition rally that killed 16 children, men and women and wounded more the 100 others, including an American man, "pointed to forces loyal to the man who is now Cambodia's unchallenged prime minister, to the party and the people who now dominate Cambodia unopposed and with whom the U.S., and the FBI in particular, have since sought warm relations."

HRW's Adams called the disconnect between U.S. human rights interests and security cooperation with Cambodia, "the height of hypocrisy and cynicism and should end. ... The only way that the Cambodian government will end its assault on civil society is if influential governments and donors demand real change and put the pressure on."

As it initiates or sanctions assaults on civil society, the Sen government and the CPP taint their claim to authority and legitimacy. In spite of threats, arrests, physical disappearances, repression and fear, it's the people themselves who are the necessary determinant of a government's true legitimacy and the catalysts to any real change.

A. Gaffar Peang-Meth, Ph.D., is retired from the University of Guam, where he taught political science for 13 years. Write him at
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No Policy of Violence on Border: General

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer

The gunfire that erupted between Thai and Cambodian forces along the border Friday was an accident, and not by order of the government, a senior military official said Monday.

The clash, in Pursat province, reportedly left one Thai soldier dead, according to Cambodian soldiers, a claim Thai authorities dispute.

Thailand and Cambodiahave steadily built up troops along the border since July 2008, when a border dispute began over Preah Vihear temple. Sporadic fighting since then has left as many as eight soldiers dead on each side.

“What’s happening occasionally is not by order of high level government,” said Chhum Socheat, a lieutenant general and spokesman for the Cambodian Ministry of Defense, as a guest on “Hello VOA.” “It’s just a misunderstanding where the Thai army entered Cambodian territory.”

Cambodian soldiers, too, have crossed onto Thai soil, he said, citing an example where two soldiers were arrested and sent back to Cambodian in January. While the situation may appear tense from the outside, he said, up close, soldiers from each side mostly get along, including playing ball together.

Border experts from both countries were working to end disputes by marking the border, he said, but since the conflict over Preah Vihear began, they have suspended their work. Both sides have been able to agree on 50 demarcations so far, with another 23 to go.

The conflict is not over Preah Vihear temple, Chhum Socheat said, but over a map Thailand has used since it lost the temple to a World Court decision in 1962.

Meanwhile, Cambodia and Thailandremain at a diplomatic impasse over the hiring of ousted Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra as an economic adviser to Prime Minister Hun Sen.

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Cambodian MoND Holds Workshop on Royal Cambodian Armed Forces Reform

February 2, 2010 Cambodian National Defence Ministry on Wednesday January 27, 2010 held a workshop on Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) reform which was highly presided over by Samdech Techo HUN SEN The prime minister of the kingdom of Cambodia at the defence ministry.

Top representatives from ministries in the government and high ranking officers including secretaries of state, under secretaries of state, commander-in-chief , commanders from military institutions of defence ministry attended in the workshop which took place for 2 days from 27-28 January, 2010.

In an opening speech by General Tea Banh, deputy prime minister and minister of national defence, Gen. Tea Banh said in accordance with Royal government’s strategic policies the workshop was aimed at reforming RCAF to become the forces with full skills and capacities.

Then General Pol Saroeun, Commander-in-chief of RCAF red a report on work sum-up and experiences which RCAF have achieved for 5 years term “2005-2009” and planning for the next 5 years RCAF reform “2010-2014”.

During 2 days meeting the seminar discussed and exchanged point of view and experiences in the past 5 years seeking new ways to improve the next step of the future reform .

After a total report of the workshop on final day by deputy prime minister Gen. Tea Banh, Samdech Techo HUN SEN The prime minister of The kingdom of Cambodia, praised and highly appraised The RCAF’s great achievements and accomplishment for the past 5 years, The prime minister also encouragingly urged top officers of defence ministry, commander-in-chief and commanders at all levels of RCAF to try all their best with both spirit and physical in implementing and accomplishing the future plan for the next 5 years reform productively and successfully in response to the need of defending national security and the country from any attempt to occupy any terrority of the kingdom of Cambodia.
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India to host multi-nation naval exercise from 4 February

New Delhi, Feb 01, 2010 (BBC Monitoring via COMTEX) -- (PTI) India will host the largest four-day naval wargame, Milan-2010, involving 12 nations in the Asia Pacific region from Thursday, in which means to counter terror threats to coastal and island territories would be debated keeping in mind the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai by the Lashker-e-Taiba (LeT).

"There would be a discussion on maritime terror and the means to counter the attacks like what happened in Mumbai (during Milan-2010)," Assistant Chief of Indian Naval Staff (Foreign Cooperation and Intelligence), Rear Admiral Sudharshan Shrikhande told reporters here on Monday.

The seventh edition of Milan, being organised by the Indian Navy at Port Blair once in two years since 1995, would have nine naval ships from eight countries and representatives from four others participating in a tabletop exercises, apart from a passage exercise at sea and a seminar on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) from February 4 to February 8.

"The amount of patrolling required for preventing the 26/11 type of attacks in other countries too is the same as in India. So, these issues will be discussed," Shrikhande said to a query in this regard.

Among other issues to be discussed would be illegal entry of foreign ships into the waters of the respective countries, just as India had experienced when a North Korean vessel anchored off Andaman and Nicobar Islands last year and had to be apprehended

Naval ships from Australia, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore (two ships), Sri Lanka and Thailand, with representatives from Navies of Brunei, Philippines, Vietnam and New Zealand would join the exercise.

A seminar on 'Navies in Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief' would be addressed by Indian Naval Chief Admiral Nirmal Verma and inaugurated by Andaman and Nicobar Lieutenant Governor Lt Gen Bhopinder Singh.

India will be represented by four or five ships including its largest Landing Ship Tank and a Fast Attack Craft in the exercise. Australia would bring its warship HMAS Glenenelg patrol boat for the wargame. However, there would be no fire power demonstration during the war game, he said.

"Milan, which started as a small effort with participation from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Thailand and

Indonesia, has today grow into a 13 navies grouping in the Asia Pacific. Only Cambodia will not be attending this time. Indian Coast Guard too will send its ships and officers for the exercise," he added.

"The message from the grouping is one of need for maritime cooperation for navies to share knowledge and expertise on their own operational circumstances and to know each other's operating procedures so that there can be coordinated efforts in times of need," Shrikhande said.

He said already Indian Navy was coordinating with Indonesia and Thailand for a structured joint patrol along each other's maritime borders for about two or three times a year.

Source: PTI news agency, New Delhi, in English 1443gmt 01 Feb 10

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Since 1964, on the Beat and Forever Learning


This fellow started at The New York Times as a City College stringer in 1962 and joined the reporting staff two years later. He reported from the city and suburbs, Germany, Vietnam, Cambodia, Texas and points in between, until December when, at 68, he lay down his quill pen to become a freelance contributor. We turned the tables and finally caught up with the writer of this biweekly feature, Ralph Blumenthal.

Why experienced journalist is an oxymoron: Most every day you start at zero, having to write about someone and something you did not know about before. That is why reporters always sweat deadlines.

How to write a news story, lesson one: My first assignment, as a cub reporter on The City College Campus, was to cover a professor’s lecture. My story saved the most important news for the last paragraph. When my student editor asked why I had left it for the end, I explained that the professor had said it at the end. He took me aside and told me the way it works: You put the most important thing first, no matter when it was said.

When New York was a newspaper town: There was a bad drought in the city in 1965, and Mayor Wagner considered electrifying the atmosphere with wires to cause rain. I got the front-page scoop. The Journal American hit back with a big red headline, calling it a hoax. It wasn’t. I miss the anarchy of the competition.

Best line: In Texas, I wrote up a prisoner who was making boots for law enforcement officials. I got to write, “Who shod the sheriff?”

What he doesn’t miss from the old days: Feeding the cumbersome 10-part books of copy sheets and mimeograph paper into the typewriter, struggling through false starts, making a mess on the paper, ripping it out and starting over. We thought electric typewriters were high tech.

Most humbling moment: Preening over a story I once handed in to the foreign desk, I couldn’t resist asking the editor, “Well, does it sing?” Here is what he said: “Just keep triple-spacing it, sonny, so we can rewrite it between the lines.”

Most embarrassing place he ever fell asleep: During an interview. I was doing a story on Newark’s Ironbound district and got an official to drive me around it. He was reeling off facts and it must have been boring because I kept nodding off. Worse, when I realized it, I kept jerking awake and shouting, “Yeah?”

Closest call: A lawyer once tipped me that a certain city official would be among those indicted the next day, and I rushed out a story. But when the charges were announced, the target’s name was missing. I was certain we would be sued. Gingerly, I called the man to apologize. He couldn’t come to the phone, his lawyer said. They were having a party and celebrating. He had expected to be indicted and wasn’t. He was ecstatic.

Most tantalizing newsroom mystery: Why is there never enough time to do it right and always enough time to do it over?

Next for the column: We go back to the old way, interviewing other people.

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Seven people found with cholera in Mekong Delta province

Seven of 45 people with acute diarrhea who were admitted to local hospitals in the Mekong Delta province of An Giang between January 19 and 28, were found to have cholera, a health ministry agency reported on Sunday.

All seven cholera patients came from Cambodia’s Takeo and Kandal provinces to An Giang for treatment, according to the Department of Preventive Health and Environment.

The department did not clarify whether all the patients were Vietnamese or not.

The Ministry of Health has warned of an outbreak of cholera, an acute intestinal infection transmitted through water or food contaminated with the bacteria vibrio, causing diarrhea and dehydration that can lead to kidney failure and death if not treated promptly.

The disease has ravaged northern Vietnam two times, in 2008 and 2009, infecting hundreds of people.

Meanwhile, in the central province of Ha Tinh, which has been hit by outbreaks of the avian flu H5N1, reported that seven people had fallen sick with fever and flu symptoms after coming in contact with sick poultry.

However, tests at the Hanoi-based National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology showed they did not have the avian flu virus.

Also on Sunday, the Nam Tra My General Hospital in the central province of Quang Nam said they had admitted 25 people with malaria over the past week from Tra Tap Commune.

The local health agency found nearly 100 people affected with the mosquito-borne infectious disease, but they had not approached the hospital for treatment. Hospital staff said they had also found patients in Nam Tra My District’s other communes.

Source: Tuoi Tre
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