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Saturday, July 10, 2010

U.S. Chooses Abusive Cambodian Military Units to Host Joint Exercises

Despite its own reports documenting abusive behavior by Cambodian military units, the U.S. State Department agreed with the Department of Defense to allow Cambodia to host a military exercise for international peacekeepers.

The “Angkor Sentinel” exercise, part of the 2010 Global Peace Operations Initiative, will host 1,000 military personnel from 23 Asia-Pacific countries. It also will feature a two-week field training exercise hosted by Cambodia’s ACO Tank Command Headquarters in Kompong Speu province.

The problem with this, says Human Rights Watch (HRW), is that the ACO Tank Unit has been involved in illegal land seizures, which have been noted by the State Department and by Cambodian and international human rights organizations. In 2007, soldiers from the unit destroyed villagers’ fences and crops and confiscated land.

HRW officials point out that the Angkor Sentinel exercise is likely to include elite Cambodian military units, such as Prime Minister Hun Sen’s personal bodyguards and Brigade 70, “both of which have been linked to a deadly March 1997 grenade attack on the political opposition, and Airborne Brigade 911, which has been involved in arbitrary detentions, political violence, torture, and summary executions.”

“For the Pentagon and State Department to permit abusive Cambodian military units to host a high-profile regional peacekeeping exercise is outrageous,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The U.S. undermines its protests against the Cambodian government for rampant rights abuses like forced evictions when it showers international attention and funds on military units involved in grabbing land and other human rights violations.”
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Cambodia To Host Large Scale Military Exercise Next Week

PHNOM PENH, July 10 (Bernama) -- Cambodia will conduct its first ever large scale military exercise next week, a part of the United Nations Peacekeeping framework for strengthening peace and security, China's Xinhua news agency reported Saturday.

Chhum Socheat, spokesman of the Ministry of National Defence said that the military exercise codenamed "Angkor Sentinel 2010", will be conducted from July 17 to July 30, with 26 countries and more than 1,000 forces participating.

Among some of the participating countries are France, Indonesia, the Philippines, Australia, India, Italy, Germany, Japan, Mongolia and the United Kingdom.

Of those forces, the largest number will be coming from Cambodia as a host country and from the United States, the co-organiser of the exercise.

Chhum Socheat said the military exercise, which is part of the Global Peace Operations Initiatives (GPOI), a UN-US peacekeeping-training programme will be conducted in two separate exercise.

The first field exercise will be held in Kompong Speu province, about 50 kilometers from Phnom Penh and the second exercise will be conducted in Phnom Penh as part of the far command from headquarters.

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Cambodian diplomat sidelined with health problems in Long Beach

By Greg Mellen, Staff Writer

LONG BEACH - Song Chhang had hoped to be celebrating this weekend in Washington D.C.

He certainly didn't expect to be in a bed in a nursing facility considering his life and wondering what the future holds.

"I still have so many things to do," the 72-year-old says wistfully.

There are stories yet to tell. He wants to see how things turn out in his Cambodian homeland. But now, he just doesn't know.

Chhang is a prominent if rather low-key Cambodian in Long Beach. He is French and American educated, the former Minister of Information for Lon Nol's government during the Cambodian civil war. In the United States he helped craft the legislation that paved the way for 150,000 refugees to flee Cambodia after the fall of Pol Pot's brutal Khmer Rouge regime, under which upwards of 2 million Cambodians died.

He returned to Cambodia around 1994 and was part of the Cambodian People's Party until he was ousted in the late 1990s.

This weekend, Chhang had looked forward to speaking at a special dinner among diplomats and fellow Cambodians to recognize the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Cambodia and the United States.

The actual date of the beginning of Cambodia-U.S diplomatic ties was in July 15, 1950. That year, the U.S had sent its first ambassador to Cambodia to recognize its impending independence before the country's final separation from France in 1953.

Although relations have been rocky at times and even severed, in recent years the relationship has improved.
Later this month, there will be events in Cambodia to mark the anniversary, including a performance by Long Beach resident Sophiline Shapiro's Cambodian classical dance troupe of "Seasons of Migration."

Although he'd love to take it all in, instead, Chhang will have to hear second-hand from his bed at the Regency Oaks Skilled Nursing Care facility.

Initially, Chhang thought he suffered a stroke, but he says doctors are still doing tests.

Chhang traces his health problems to overextending himself in a recent visit to Phnom Penh for a reunion of war correspondents, or the "old hacks," as they called themselves. Before his ascension to Minister of Information, Chhang was a press liaison.

At the reunion, Chhang helped oversee the installation of a small memorial to the 37 journalists who died covering the civil war between 1970 and 1975. He was also part of a group that traveled south of Phnom Penh to plant a tree in memory of an NBC team killed there.

Chhang says he wrote and made eight different speeches over the reunion events.

Now he hopes to get out of his bed and do whatever he can to help his country. He had planned a speech about refreshing sometimes rocky relations between the U.S. and Cambodia before his country falls too much under the sway of China.

And he wishes to see a day when a more "spiritual leadership" comes to his country. That's would make the old man happy.
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