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Monday, September 05, 2011

Artist Vann Nath, Khmer Rouge Survivor, Dies at 66

Paintings by human rights icon and artists Vann Nath depicting how torture devices were used hang on the walls of Tuol Sleng Prison in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, June 2011.

Family members say Cambodia's Vann Nath, one of only seven survivors of a vast and notorious Khmer Rouge torture center, died Monday at age 66.

The human rights icon and artist was hospitalized late last month after suffering heart problems and has been in a coma for days. His son-in-law told the French news agency Agence France Presse his death was "a big loss for the history of Cambodia."

Vann Nath was one of only a handful of people to emerge alive from the infamous Tuol Sleng prison, where more than 12,000 people died in the 1970s under Khmer Rouge rule. In later life he became a leading advocate for victims of Khmer Rouge atrocities.

His 1998 memoir - A Cambodian Prison Portrait: One Year in the Khmer Rouge's S-21 Prison - is the only written account by a survivor of the prison.

News of Vann Nath's death comes as an international tribunal prepares to begin the long-awaited trial of the four most-senior surviving Khmer Rouge leaders - all charged with atrocities during the group's 1975-1979 rule. The defendants, including the nominal Khmer Rouge head of state, 79-year-old Khieu Samphan, face charges of religious persecution, torture and genocide in the deaths of as many as 2 million people.

The tribunal also is deliberating an appeal by convicted war criminal Duch, the one-time chief of Tuol Sleng prison. Duch was convicted of war crimes and imprisoned earlier this year for 30 years - a sentence later reduced to 19 years because of time served in detention.
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Land rights acrimony in AusAID Asian project

A TAXPAYER-FUNDED development project is mired in controversy after the Cambodian government launched a crackdown against land rights organisations critical of the compulsory resettlement of families.

The Cambodian government has cautioned a small group of foreign organisations against stirring up unrest among those being forced off their land and has banned land rights organisation Sahmakum Teang Tnaut from operating for five months.

AusAID first assistant director general Richard Moore told The Australian the agency was concerned and had co-written a strongly-worded letter with the Asian Development Bank to the Cambodian government on August 17.

AusAID has contributed $US21.5 million ($20.3m) towards the $US141m project to renovate Cambodia's decrepit rail system, with the Asian Development Bank providing $US84m in concessional loans.

The Cambodian government is responsible for resettling and compensating people who are forced off their land.

But STT has accused the Cambodian government of ripping people off by downgrading the value of land being compulsorily acquired through the project.

Mr Moore conceded there were problems with the project and that the Department of Foreign Affairs was working through more than 300 complaints.

"We knew that managing the resettlement issues was going to be complex," he said.

STT program co-ordinator Ee Sarom said his organisation did not want to stop the development, but wanted problems highlighted. Project partners should "address anomalies and ensure the affected people are aware of their rights".

"This type of work is important in ensuring development projects are equitable, sustainable, and beneficial to all Cambodians."

AusAID and the development bank came under fire from STT and other land rights groups in May after two young children drowned at a resettlement site for residents displaced by the project.

The Cambodian government cautioned staff from the NGO Forum, an umbrella organisation, over letters it sent to AusAID and ADB officials alerting them about the situation at resettlement sites.

It also summoned staff from Bridges Across Borders Cambodia, another land rights group, to warn them about making "false" claims.
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US companies find Asean market increasingly important

KUALA LUMPUR (Sept 5, 2011): American companies expect the Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) market to become increasingly important for their businesses, according to the findings of the Asean Business Outlook Survey 2011.

The majority of companies or some 73% of the survey respondents said they expect Asean's importance to their business will increase over the next two years, with 85% of them planning to expand their business in Asean.

No company is planning on any cutback, it said.

The survey also revealed that the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement was vital for US businesses, with 80% of respondents saying that their companies used the tariff benefits of the FTAs Asean has completed with its trade partners.

"The Asean-China FTA was also highly rated with 49% of companies using its benefits," the survey revealed.

The Asean Business Outlook survey, which is now in its 10th year, seeks to understand the outlook on business growth and perceptions of doing business in Asean.

It interviewed 327 senior executives from US companies in Malaysia, Cambodia, Indonesia, Singapore, The Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam.

The survey was conducted by The American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore (AmCham Singapore) in collaboration with many other related associations and chambers.

Meanwhile, on Malaysia, the survey said Malaysia improved in a number of local business factors, such as the availability of raw materials and low cost labour in 2011.

"However, new concerns have appeared, including the availability of trained personnel for some positions and problems with laws and regulations.

"Corruption, a long-standing issue, has greatly improved, with only 35% dissatisfaction this year compared to 63% in 2010," the survey said, adding that overall, 80% of the respondents still predicted that their business will expand in Malaysia.

The survey also revealed that all respondents had predicted an increase in the housing cost as well as living cost and three quarters of the respondents expect an increase in the interest rate.

Vice President of AmCham Malaysia, Datuk Tim Garland said the American companies' positive business forecast and expansion in Malaysia were great testaments to the effective implementation of Malaysia's Government Transformation Program (GTP) and Economic Transformation Program (ETP).

"AmCham Malaysia is excited to be part of Malaysia corporate expansion in Asean and we will be working closely with all key stakeholders towards reducing regulatory barriers and improving the ease of doing business locally and in Asean, for existing and potential American investors as they share in Asean growth," he said.

The majority of respondents, he said, are satisfied or neutral towards the government’s guidelines and the fairness of their applications, and with local government institutions. – Bernama
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Cambodia makes 7th troop withdraw from border with Thailand

PREAH VIHEAR, Cambodia, Sept. 5 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia on Monday pulled out another 500 troops from the border area with Thailand, marking the seventh of such withdrawals since the two neighboring countries' military tension began to ease in July.

The troops in the Battalion No. 408 stationed along Cambodian and Thai border, some 32 kilometers west of the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple, moved back to their barracks in Siem Reap province.

The troop pullback ceremony was held on Monday with the participation of Gen. Kun Kim, deputy commander-in-chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Force, and Gen. Chea Dara, deputy commander-in-chief of Royal Cambodian Armed Forces for Preah Vihear Direction.

Kun Kim reiterated that the pullout was made at the behest of Prime Minister Hun Sen, adding the withdrawals have been made only outside the provisional demilitarized zone (PDZ) defined by the International Court of Justice.

"The pullout from the PDZ of about 17 kilometers surrounding the Preah Vihear temple must be done simultaneously with Thai troops," he said.

On July 18, the International Court of Justice ordered Cambodia and Thailand to immediately withdraw their military personnel from the provisional demilitarized zone on the disputed border near Preah Vihear temple and allow ASEAN observers access to the provisional demilitarized zone to monitor ceasefire.

The conflict between Cambodia and Thailand broke out just a week after the Preah Vihear temple was listed as World Heritage Site on July 7, 2008.

Thailand claims the ownership of 4.6 sq km of scrub next to the temple.

However, the military tension has eased since former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's Pheu Thai Party won a landslide victory in July's general election.
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