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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Anti-Corruption Unit Sworn In as Investigators

Fourteen members of Cambodia's nascent Anti-Corruption Unit were sworn in Tuesday, vowing to use their full legal rights to investigate the country's graft problem.

Members include senior government adviser Om Yientang, who is the head of the unit, and his three deputies, Seang Borath, Chay Svauth and Nuon Phal.

“We have full legal rights to make corruption investigations,” Om Yientang told reporters after the ceremony, which was held at the national Court of Appeals in Phnom Penh. “We can now start to investigate complaints, confidential information and cooperation from various informants.”

The Anti-Corruption Unit was formed under a new anti-graft law, which administration officials have touted as an attack on corruption, but which critics say lacks the teeth to tackle the widespread problem.

All 14 members of the unit swore to uphold their duties or “face miserable damage or destruction and death, separated in the next life from our beloved parents, brothers, sisters and children and facing extreme poverty.”

“We will implement our profession as judicial police with dignity, conscience, loyalty, honest, humanity, independence, with respect for the constitution and the laws of the Kingdom of Cambodia forever,” the unit pledged.

Uk Savuth, who presided over the ceremony as prosecutor-general of the Appeals Court, said the unit was now empowered to arrest lawbreakers. But he warned the unit to “greatly increase” its legal capabilities in order to maintain the laws recently passed by the National Assembly.

But he also said the unit should act with humanity, to deeply interpret a case and act morally, such as delaying the arrest of a serious ill or pregnant offender.

“When we see wrong, we speak of the wrong,” he said. “When we see right, we speak of the right. We do not make decisions with rancor, incitement or hate. We implement the laws to serve justice for all, because a victim needs justice, and an offender also needs justice.”
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Opposition Decries Premier's Response in Land Dispute

Opposition lawmakers and rights groups on Tuesday criticized as unfair a letter from Prime Minister Hun Sen defending a government land concession at the heart of an escalating dispute with villagers.

Hun Sen said in a written response to lawmakers the 9,000-hectare concession in Kampong Speu province had been legally given to the Phnom Penh Sugar Industry, Co.

“The land concession to the company was legally issued by the Ministry of Agriculture,” Hun Sen wrote in July, responding to a March request for information from seven National Assembly lawmakers from the opposition Sam Rainsy Party.

Yim Sovann, a spokesman for the Sam Rainsy Party, said the letter was not acceptable. It was not the result of a proper investigation and had been based on a report made by the company itself, he said.

Chheang Kim Sun, a representative for Phnom Penh Sugar, which is owned by Cambodian People's Party lawmaker Ly Yong Phat, said Tuesday she supported Hun Sen's letter, claiming the company had followed the Ministry of Agriculture's land concession and not encroached on the land of the people.

However, villagers at the Kampong Speu concession say they are being pushed off 2,000 hectares of land as the company expands. Villagers have been protesting the concession since March, in demonstrations that have seen company equipment and buildings torched, several protesters jailed, and the blockade of a national road.

About 400 families across nine villages say they are being pushed off the land, and representatives are now saying they want compensation in order to move.

Chan Soveth, an investigator for the rights group Adhoc, said he did not agree with the premier's response.

“This response letter will encourage all land concessions in Cambodia to undertake more abuses of the land of the people,” he said.

Hun Sen in his letter also criticized the opposition and rights groups for encouraging villagers to protest.

Village representative Yu Tho, who was jailed for briefly earlier this year following a protest in Kampong Speu, said no one from the opposition party or local NGOs had incited the demonstrations.

“This is a real abuse of the people's land,” he said. “If the prime minister wants to see clearly, he should come directly to my area to see how this is affecting the land of the people.”
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Cambodian woman admits drowning 6-year-old girl for gold earrings

Phnom Penh - A Cambodian woman has been charged with intentional killing after she admitted drowning a 6-year-old girl to steal her gold earrings worth 45 dollars, national media reported Wednesday.

Police in the central province of Kampong Thom said 19-year-old Rok Rorn was arrested Monday and confessed to the murder.

She later took police to a rice field where she had hidden the girl's body, around a kilometre from where she claimed to have killed her.

'When it was quiet and a good moment, she lured the victim to take her earrings and then pushed her head into the river where she died,' the district's deputy police chief, Ke Kanchana, told the Cambodia Daily newspaper.

He added that Rok Rorn, who faces up to 20 years jail, had shown no remorse when confessing.

'Her face is not sad, and she doesn't feel sorry for the victim,' he said.

A human rights worker at local rights group Licadho said such crimes were not uncommon.

'These crimes happen to young children aged 3-5 every year,' said Am Sam Ath.

He advised parents to ensure they knew where their children were.

'They should not allow their young children to walk alone when they wear jewellery,' he said. 'They are a vulnerable group.'

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Cambodian-Americans protest deportation

Cambodian-American's in Philadelphia are upset with the scheduled deportation of Hov Ly Kol.

When Hov Ly Kol was 19, he was sentenced to 12 years in prison for his role in two armed robberies. One ended in murder.

Now, more than two years after being released, Kol is in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and is scheduled to be deported to Cambodia.

ICE spokesman Harold Ort says it's not uncommon for there to be a long lag-time between a prisoner's release and deportation.

Mia-lia Kiernan is a long-time member of the city's Cambodian-American community. She says Kol, and several others, are facing deportation now because ICE is enforcing an old policy change that made deportation for certain crimes mandatory instead of discretionary.

Kiernan says it's wrong to deport people back to a country they have little connection to.

"All they remember of Cambodia is fleeing the country when they were child refugees. In fact, most of them were born in Thai refugee camps and never even set foot in Cambodian soil."

Kiernan says there are 50 Cambodian-Americans across the country that are facing deportation in similar circumstances.

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