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Thursday, December 02, 2010

Report Links Businesses With Rights Abuses

Children sit on top their inundated homes, where Shukaku, Inc., has been pumping fill into Boeung Kak lake, in early November 2010.

Government officials and businesses, backed by a biased court system, are behind many of the most egregious rights violations in the country, a new report has found.

The Cambodian Center for Human Rights found what it called a governance gap, where the authorities are unable to protect citizens from rights violations brought about by powerful business interests.

The group also found financial ties between individuals in government and businesses responsible for rights violations, exacerbating the problem. In some situations, it was hard to tell the difference between the government and business, the center said in its report, “Business and Human Rights in Cambodia.”

Land rights violations brought on by economic motives have become endemic, the report said. And land cases and their respective crackdowns have meant curbs on land and labor rights and the freedom of expression and assembly, the report said.

“Victims of evictions are rarely given an opportunity for participation or consultation beforehand and any information which is provided to residents is often incomplete and inaccurate,” it said. “When consultations with communities facing the threat of eviction do occur, they are often manipulative or coercive. Evictions are regularly conducted by armed Cambodian troops and police, while the political and economic elite benefit from forced evictions.”

Rights activists, meanwhile, face regular threats of physical violence or criminal charges when they voice their opposition to harmful developments, it said.

Victims of land or labor violations who seek to demonstrate or protest meet “public and private forces [that] collude to deny them these rights,” it said, adding that the courts were also not free of political or financial influence.

“The judicial mechanisms in Cambodia are in practice utilized by the political, economic and social elite to ensure impunity,” the report said.

Government spokesman Phay Siphan called the report an “attack from a non-governmental organization.”
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Challenges Await Newly Appointed Tribunal Prosecutor

The Khmer Rouge tribunal has named a new international investigating judge, who will step into the UN-backed court as it prepares for a complicated trial for four jailed leaders and considers more indictments.

Siegried Blunk, of Germany, will replace Marcel Lemond, who resigned in September following the end of the investigation stage in a case against four Khmer Rouge leaders.

Blunk, who was appointed by order of King Norodom Sihamoni, assumed office on Dec. 1, according to the tribunal.

Blunk will be facing tough questions at the tribunal, which is to decide on two more cases for indictments, something the Cambodian side of the court opposes. Those cases, Nos. 003 and 004, are in the hands of the investigating judges' office.

“We can say there might be new speed or new strategies in relation to the investigation” of the cases, said Long Panhavuth, who monitors the court for the Cambodian Justice Initiative. “That's what we are all waiting to see.”

The investigating judges have yet to endorse a lawyer for the defense of so far unnamed suspects in cases 003 and 004.

Meanwhile, at least one court observer said the investigating judges should move forward on those cases, following the completion of their investigation of Case No. 002 in September.

Prime Minister Hun Sen has said further indictments could destabilize the country, an opinion echoed by other Cambodian tribunal officials.

Blunk studied law at Munich University and wrote a PhD thesis in international law. He has been a judge since 1977 and has handled both civil and criminal cases, according to a tribunal statement. From 2003 to 2005, he served as an international judge at a UN hybrid court in East Timor.
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Families Deal With Shock of Diamond Bridge Tragedy

Chea Channy, far right, who was also on the bridge, escaped with other siblings. She spoke along with other family members on a special edition of “Hello VOA” Wednesday.

Family members who lost loved ones in last week's Diamond Bridge stampede say they have been traumatized by the event, which claimed at least 351 lives.

“I'm still in shock,” said Chea Channy, whose 45-year-old father died on the bridge. “Even when I sleep, I still hear their voices calling for help in my ears. I don't know when I'll forget this.”

Chea Channy, who was also on the bridge, escaped with other siblings. She spoke along with other family members on a special edition of “Hello VOA” Wednesday.

The Nov. 22 bridge tragedy shocked the nation and led to an outpouring of donations and sympathy. No one has been singled out for responsibility, in what Prime Minister Hun Sen called an accident without blame.

Family members will receive up to $12,000 each from different organizations, the government, the owners of Diamond Island, and others. But the full reality of the disaster had yet to sink in for some.

Hun Ratha, a monk, lost his 19-year-old brother, Vichet, on the bridge. Vichet had been the breadwinner, and his mother, who was working abroad, has come back to mourn him.

“She is still in great shock and finds it hard to bear the fact that her son has died,” Hun Ratha said.

But he offered some comfort to other victims: “People will eventually die. Therefore, we should learn to calm our feelings of shock. Those who died did not know in advance there would be danger awaiting them. If they had, they would not have gone there. They are now at peace.”

Some family members suggested keeping the bridge as a memorial for victims and not reopening it for public use.

“It would be good if the government kept this bridge just as a memory of the dead victims, because it is very scary to cross it again,” Chea Channy said. “As for me I dare not go there to see it again. I am afraid. The incident was too bad.”
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Cambodian King meets with Li Yuanchao

Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni (R) meets with Li Yuanchao (L front), a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, secretary of the CPC Central Committee Secretariat, and head of the Organization Department of the CPC Central Committee, at the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Dec. 2, 2010. (Xinhua/Lei Bosong)

PHNOM PENH, Dec. 2 (Xinhua) -- Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni on Thursday met with Li Yuanchao, member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, secretary of the CPC Central Committee Secretariat and head of the Organization Department of the CPC Central Committee.

Li Yuanchao conveyed greetings from Chinese President Hu Jintao to King Sihamoni, and on behalf of the Chinese government and people expressed condolences to the King and the Cambodian people over the stampede tragedy happening at the Diamond Bridge on the night of Nov. 22.

Li said that the King and the King's father and mother Norodom Sihanouk and Norodom Monineath Sihanouk are old friends of China. The special friendship forged by the Cambodian Royal family and generations of Chinese leaders is a valuable asset of two countries and has played an important role in all of times in the relationship between China and Cambodia.

"Facts showed that it is a common aspiration to develop the friendly relationship between China and Cambodia, which is in keeping with the common interests of our two peoples and is always supported by our two peoples," Li said.

Li added that "China considers Cambodia as a sincere friend and reliable partner and will continue to persist in building a good- neighborly relationship and partnership with Cambodia."

China will continue to support Cambodia's independent choice of social system and development road which is accordant with the situation of a country as usual, and would like to continue to provide assistance for Cambodia's national construction and economic development within the capacity, Li Yuanchao said.

The king expressed his profoundly thanks to China for supporting generously the development of Cambodia's social and economic undertakings during the past to present, saying the Royal family attaches great importance to the development of the relations with China.

Sihamoni said that Cambodia is pleased to strengthen and expand friendship relation and cooperation on all sectors with China in order to continue moving forward the Cambodia and China friendship relations.

Vice-minister of the International Department of the CPC Central Committee Ai Ping and Chinese Ambassador to Cambodia Pan Guangxue attended the meeting.

Li Yuanchao arrived in Phnom Penh on Wednesday on a friendly visit to Cambodia and attend the 6th General Assembly of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP) to be held here on Dec. 1-4.
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PM takes stage in Cambodia conference


KATHMANDU: Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal on Thursday addressed the inauguration programme of the sixth International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP) in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal is a member of the 11-member standing committee of ICAPP.

On the occasion he informed about the ongoing political situation of Nepal. He said that the government is heading towards ending the entire political impasse and reach its targeted destination i.e to take the peace process to its logical end and draft the constitution on time.

Ignoring criticism from all quarters, a team of five led by Nepal went for a 10 day tour to the capital of Cambodia as his capacity as the head of the nation at the invitation of his Cambodian counterpart Hun Sen.

President Dr Ram Baran Yadav, Chairman of Constituent Assembly Subhas Chandra Nembang and other political parties had advised him not to go abroad in the wake of political impasse at home.

The PM however insisted that he would cut short his tour if the need arose and went ahead with the tour.

The political convention was first held in Manila in September 2000, before moving to Bangkok (2002), Beijing (2004), Seoul (2006), and Kazakhstan (2009), arriving now in Phnom Penh for ICAPP's Sixth General Assembly this year.

ICAPP has attracted political parties of all hues and colours – leftists, rightists and centrists – from South Asia, South East Asia, East Asia, West Asia, the Middle East and the Pacific as well, making it a truly broad-based international political forum.

After Cambodia, the Prime Minister will head for Brussels to attend the European Development Day at the invitation of European Commission President José Manuel Barroso. The two-day ceremony will kick off on December 6.

The PM is scheduled to return home on December 9.
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